champagne bralette (madalynne barrett)

I don't know about you but sometimes, when I'm nervous about something, I'll sign up to pattern test for it, or something like that, so that I am forced to just do it already! This is how I ended up making today's project. When Maddie reached out and offered me a bra kit in exchange for a post on her new free(!) bralette pattern, I jumped at the chance to do some bra sewing with stretch mesh, a fabric I'm not at all comfortable sewing. If I had just purchased the kit myself, I would have avoided sewing it for ages, which would have been such a bad idea--as usual, I had psyched myself up over nothing and was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was to make this bralette, even in mesh!

Having the kit was super nice since all the fabric and elastic and rings are all collected for you, so there's no need to track them down yourself. It's also really fulfilling to make something that looks just like the instructions. I have lots of fabric left, but not enough elastic to make a second bra. I'll probably snag some lingerie elastic at my Joanns and make another one since this one is so nice to wear and relatively simple to make. Alternatively, I think I might have enough to make some matching undies, so that's another possibility!

As far as fit, I really have no complaints! I will say that I made a size medium, and the size range is XS-XL, so it isn't super size inclusive; the XL bust measurement is only up to 38.5". Since I don't have much experience with either larger busts or lingerie sewing, I'm not sure how much of that is just that this type of bralette isn't practical for larger busts. I do think that this style is flattering on smaller busts like mine (although the models in the anthropologie shoot are very busty wow).

The construction is very clever and leaves you with a nicely finished bralette. The center cut-out requires a little bit of precision sewing but nothing too tricky; actually, I thought it was going to be a lot more confusing than it ended up being. I also appreciated a few of Maddie's little informational tidbits included in the instructions, which are very chatty, as if you are sitting next to her at one of her classes. I've always been confused about elastic application--do you stretch it? how much? etc--and she made the great point that for a lot of knit patterns with elastic, the pattern already includes negative ease, so you don't need to worry that much about stretching the elastic. Um hello that is so obvious in retrospect but I had never thought of it that way!

I actually have a few other patterns that call for this type of mesh that I've been avoiding--the Orange Lingerie Berkeley bra (for which I also have a kit) is in lace and mesh and maybe now it's finally time for me to tackle it! Or... maybe not.

You can download the Barrett PDF pattern here for free and pick up the same kit as I used (and the one seen in pattern instructions!) here for $38.


ps: my sewing room is covered in glitter!

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#RoyalWeddingSewAlong Constructing the Bodice (McCall's 7684)

Today we start the actual construction of our dresses! Yay!

The first thing to do is sew all of our darts: front and back bodice darts on lining and outer fabric, so eight total. One tip is to shorten your stitch length as you get about an inch away from the dart tip, and to curve it slightly so by the time you reach the dart tip, you are practically parallel to the edge of the fabric and can just sort of fall off the edge. This will help avoid a bubbly dart tip!

When all your darts are sewn, press them (always towards the center). You may want to use a pressing ham if you have it, but it's not necessary if you don't.

Next, we'll make the straps. These have a lot of marks and notches on them so double check you got them all! Follow the instructions from the pattern, matching two sets of straps right sides together, sewing long edges, and turning right sides out, and press. The strap on the left is mid-trim, the one on the right is turned and pressed:

Okay--I'm diverging from the instructions here, so bear with me for a bit. The next step (according to me, but not the instructions!) is to attach the waistband on front and back bodice pieces. These pieces are easy to get upside down since they're pretty rectangular, so make sure to match notches!

Repeat for lining.

The reason I'm using attaching the waistband pieces now instead of how the instructions would have you do it (sew waistband backs to front and attach it to the completed bodice) is because it means there is no extra unpicking of underarm staystitching, etc. if you decide to take in or let out your side seams at some point!

I'm attaching the straps in a bit of a puzzling way, but it should all make sense in the end. I'm going to sandwich the straps, pointing down, between the front bodice and front bodice lining, right sides together, all notches aligned, so that the lining, fabric, and straps are all parallel at the top. (Hint: the angled end of the strap goes towards the back.) Do the same for both straps.

Now you can easily sew all the way across the top of the garment, pivoting at the marks at the top of the neckline to sew across the straps (this will give you crisp corners at your strap/bodice join).

Once you've sewn across the whole top, you may want to just take a quick peek to see what you've done: gently tug the straps out of the bottom and you should see that they are nicely installed in between the bodice front and lining.

Turn your fabric inside out again (like how you sewed it) and press press press, trim trim trim! You also may want to understitch your lining (tutorial here, I really can't improve on Threads magazine.).

Your bodice front should look like this, with little straps sticking out the top:

And the interior:

Now we'll do the same thing for each of the bodice backs. Sandwich the strap ends (with the front bodice attached, now) between the back fabric and lining pieces, right sides together.

Sew across the top, clip, press, understitch, etc:

and turn out:

Now we'll attach the front bodice to back bodice at the side seams in another puzzle-y way: matching front fabric for back fabric and front lining to back lining on either side, sew the side seam, making sure to align the waistband seams and the transition from fabric to lining. I like to put a pin right at the seam join so that they are together going under the needle. Do the same for the other side.

If your pressing, clipping, and understitching was good for the last few steps, it should be fairly easy to simply press the lining down into the inside of the bodice, and have a completed bodice ready to go!

Here's my completed bodice:

Any questions? As usual, leave a comment or send me an email!


ps: next week, skirt!

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Snow Leopard Bikini (Evie La Luve Maxine)

Helloooo! It's tricky to find a location to photograph a bikini so I really wanted to photograph this one while I was on my cruise--what better spot than on a ship in the middle of the ocean?

This is my second suit made using Spoonflower's Sport Lycra, and the second using a design by Peacoquette! My Beverly bikini is also Spoonflower, using Peacoquette's gorgeous tropical palm print. The bottoms of this suit are also the same as that Beverly suit--I used the Evie la Luve Maxine bottoms for both. I love the high rise, full coverage front, and cheeky back of this pattern. I don't actually think I would love it for underwear but it makes a great high-waisted bikini bottom!  It's easy to use an underwear pattern for swim by adding a full lining and swim, not lingerie, elastic. (Here's a tutorial on how to do it from Ohhh Lulu, but it's really not hard!)

The top is a simple wrap top that I traced off of an old American Apparel bikini top I purchased in maybe 2008? The bulk of the top is just making miles and miles of strapping! The "cups" are triangles with side pleats, and then there is a bunch of string holding it all together. It is as confusing as you would expect to put it on! I always have to try a few ways before I get it right, made more confusing by the fact that it was originally advertised as one of those wear-it-multiple-ways things. It's comfortable to wear and flattering on a small bust, and very simple to make.

At this point, I'm pretty good for swimwear, I think... at least until my next cruise!


ps: it seems like my bernina doesn't have a three-step zig zag? i used this wavy stitch which works similarly but i don't prefer the look, i like the zig zag more. anyone with a bernina 153?

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#RoyalWeddingSewAlong Preparing your Fabric (M7684)

Welcome to week one of the sewing part of the Royal Wedding Sewalong! By this point you should have your pattern (in my case, McCall's 7684), fabric, and notions... we're ready to start.

Gather all your fabric and first, before you do anything else, make sure to wash it! I had a lot of questions about if I always make a muslin, and the answer is no. But do I always wash my fabric? Yes! Always! My general rule is to launder your fabric however you intend to launder your garment in the future, so if you want it to be wash-and-wear, wash your fabric in the laundry machine, if you plan on dry cleaning your dress, you could dry clean your fabric.

I have three layers to my dress--an outer poly chiffon and a nude cotton voile I'm using as both a lining and an interlining. All three are getting chucked in the washing machine and then the cottons will be dried in the dryer to shrink them as much as they will shrink. When the dress is complete, I'll be able to wash it in the washing machine and hang it to dry.

Once your fabric is dry and pressed, we can start to cut out our pattern pieces! Use this chart from the instructions to determine which pieces you'll need:

This dress has a lot of mix-and-match options, so you'll only need, for example, one of the two bodice fronts. The skirt lengths are all on one pattern pieces, but you can cut the skirt to the view you've chosen, the cut lines are marked on the skirt pattern pieces. You can cut out all the pattern pieces if you think you'll use them all eventually, or just the ones you need, and don't forget, if you made a muslin last week, and made a bunch of changes to it, don't use the original pattern piece! You may want to consider using your muslin, disassembled, as your pattern (as long as the pieces haven't been warped). I'm using my altered paper pattern pieces, since I clipped a lot into the seamlines of my muslin.

On the instructions sheet of your pattern, you'll see that there is a little chart showing how to lay out your pattern pieces on the fabric.

 Here is the layout for view A, the short view that I'm making. There are a lot of permutations shown here, but it's basically suggesting how to lay out your pattern pieces depending on fabric width and chosen size. The first set is for 45" wide fabric in small sizes, the second sew for 45" wide fabric in large sizes, and the second two are for small and large sizes on 60" wide fabric.

These cutting layouts can be a bit confusing so I'll try and walk through a few examples.

The top row (small sizes on 45" fabric) show two separate sections of fabric. On the left, the fabric is folded in half lengthwise (see where it says FOLD on the bottom, and both selvedges together at the top) so that the front skirt and front bodice can be cut on the fold. Other pattern pieces are fit around those two pieces, which are important because they need that fold. On the right, the fabric is laid flat (see, the word SELVAGE at top and bottom) because it's most efficient fabric-wise to cut the back and side front skirt panels individually instead of cutting both at once through a folded piece of fabric.

The third row (small sizes on 60") has a third option: rather than just folded or flat fabric, it's folded at an offset from the center. You can see that on the right; the diagram still has FOLD at the bottom, but it has a staggered top and some pattern pieces shown just on that one layer that sticks out.

I sometimes follow this, and sometimes do not. In this case, I have a lot of pretty wide, directional fabric and I'm doing my own thing. I think if you are a beginner to printed patterns, it's smart to follow the pattern layout--it should ensure that all of your pattern pieces fit onto the fabric allowance the pattern calls for! Pin your pattern pieces ensuring that they are on grain.

If your fabric is folded accurately, the pieces cut on the fold (front bodice and front skirt) will be on grain if they are on the fold.

For the other pieces, ensure that the grainline marking (it says GRAINLINE right on it) is parallel to the fold or selvedge (whichever is closest and easier to measure :). Here the grainline is just at the end of the ruler, and it is 5" from the fold all the way down its length, so you know it is parallel.

Once your pieces are all pinned down nicely, cut carefully around the lines that correspond with the size you've chosen!

Do the same for lining.

All your fabric is cut and it's time to move on to marking. This little chart on the instructions sheet shows all the markings under "notches and symbols" and some of these need to be marked by notching, and some by marking with a pencil.

Since you have your scissors handy from cutting out all your pieces, clip your notches--this means that wherever you see triangles on the seamline, clip a tiny bit into the seam allowance like so:

Here there are two triangles so I've made two little snips, just to the apex of the triangle.

Wherever you see a mark on your pattern, mark your pattern pieces in your preferred manner--I've always used a little fabric pencil and the pin method. Poke your pin directly through both layers of fabric exactly where the mark is:
 Then peel the fabric open and mark right where the pin pokes through.
I don't actually know if I learned this somewhere, or if I made it up, but it is described in my 1963 McCall's Sewing Book, so it's a legitimate way to do this, even if it feels to me like cheating. Finally, all my pattern pieces are cut in lining, interlining, and fashion fabric, and marked. Step one of prep is done, it's time to get out my sewing machine.

I need to attach my interlining to my fashion fabric. If you are making view D with the lace-overlay bodice, you'll be doing this too, but if you are using an opaque fabric this is unnecessary. What I'm doing is just basting (that's sewing with a long stitch length, either by hand or machine) the outer fabric to the interlining at a 1/2" seam allowance, so that we can treat the two layers of fabric as one going forward.  I'm using my walking foot, which is great for this type of thing:

And the longest stitch length my machine has:

This stabilizes lighter fabric and/or provides opacity to sheer fabrics such as mine. The only pieces I'm interlining are the front and back bodice and waistline pieces, for opacity, and the sleeve straps, for structure--I want the skirt to be more sheer, so no interlining there! Here's what the basting stitches look around the edge of the back shoulder:

If you aren't using an interlining, you'll want to staystitch your neckline and armscyes. This ensures the fabric doesn't stretch or warp as you handle it. Follow the instructions regarding direction of staystitching and use a basting stitch at a 1/2" seam allowance so it is invisible when you sew up the garment. It will look just the same as the picture above when you are done.

Next week we'll move on to construction and get this pile of flat pieces into three dimensions!

As always, feel free to comment below with any questions, or send me an email at!


ps: this is the most boring week. haha

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