Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Tale of Two Tops, and a Shelf Bra

Lots to talk about! I am going to show you pics from a room in our home that has been a long time coming. I normally don't discuss such things on my sewing blog but this room was a nightmare to pull off. It was an addition to the home by the previous owners and made with hemlocks from the property. I'd give you a full tour but will let it just serve as a backdrop. It has cathedral ceilings and very wide hemlock floors and is a large room with wood everywhere. This is usually not my style but we loved it's warmth and the way it took to our antiques. Why is it such a big deal? It was built around a monster of a hot tub, a hot tub that could not be sold to anyone anywhere. a hot tub that could not be given away, a hot tub that my husband and I no more wanted than the man in the moon. The hot tub went in first and the room was built around it. We were ready to take a sawsall to it and call it a day. We had a vision for this room and it did not include a hot tub. One night we met a lovely young woman and the subject came up. Long story short, the very next morning her electrician brother and her other carpenter brother came in at 8:30 AM and got to work. It was a big deal. An entire wall of fixed glass and slider had to be taken down. The room has three walls of glass. By 5:30 the tub was out the door with ONE QUARTER INCH TO SPARE IN THE MOVE and on its way to a new home. Nobody died. We were thrilled and so were the new owners. Yay. So now we have this lovely room  to see the beautiful lake and woods and it's on to sewing! Yay!

I just finished two more tank tops from that pattern I developed. It is a comfortable trapeze shape with a low back. My challenge here has been to use some small pieces of favorite fabrics I found in my recent reorganization/purge of my resources which brings me to a little sidebar here.

What exactly is Covid Sewing? Well, it has its phases and this is how I've experienced it. 

* First was the initial thrill to be out of work and move my way through a queue of projects I had been dieing to get my hands on. I did that pretty quickly and am sure you all experienced that initial high as I did. 

* Just as that pile dissipated, the call came for mask making. I read many posts, watched videos but didn't quite catch the bug. The next thing I knew my family needed these masks and I started to sew them. I think I sewed every style and tie type out there. I probably made about fifty before everybody had their masks, and my sewing passion had been sucked into some black hole of despair. It seemed each masked made, as I sat at the machine, was a reminder of the isolation we were in and the horrid politics being affiliated with something just so human and non political. 

*I lost my sewjo. I'll admit it. I had big anxiety setting in and not much was helping me sleep better as I desperately missed my children's and grandchildren's hugs, laughs and visits and vice versa. Our world was changing. Planned celebrations never happened and that was grieved. My BFF mourned the loss of her big 70th birthday celebration. I totally got it. We lost the joy of making it through 50 years of marriage and sharing that joy with family and friends. But we found a new way to celebrate and moved on. I mention this because it was all part of the funk and anxiety that contributed to my not sewing at all for several weeks. Big funk. But I made decisions to turn it around and did. 

* Next phase of Covid Sewing was a massive cleanout and reorg of my sewing space. That and some personal changes really got me back into wanting to sew. But what to sew? No weddings, no parties, no trips............I found in my resources some great pieces for great dresses for such events but also found some small pieces of lovely fabrics and thought I could use those to make smaller more day to day garments or accessories. These would not be earthshaking garments  but I would give them my best shot. This is the phase I am in now. It's working for me. I've also been watching lots of videos. particularly Peggy Sagers and really enjoy her and find her very inspirational. I am now at what I hope is the final stage of the Covid sewing experience. I am now thrilled again to be sewing. 

*Oh, one more part of the Covid experience that has to do with sewing sort of: modeling one's garments for the blog. This means sporting Covid hair. OMG, I just can't take my hair and am ready to either just shave it off or wear a scarf of interest. I've been watching scarf wrapping videos, I think I am liking this idea! Now for those tops!
This top originally had this sort of trapeze shape which I like a lot for comfort. I do think on the next one I will try something with more curves for a change. It has the low back which I like. I brought the facings to the front. with some leftover Irish linen. The body of the garment is Kaufman "washer linen" which I think is a rayon linen blend if I remember right. It's comfy and doesn't wrinkle much. This little number was a PITA to make and fought me every bit of the way. I measured and remeasured before sewing on those facings and the neckline facing came up over an inch short at center front.  Ackkk! I slept on it and fixed with a little arrow thingy that looks like the facing is intentionally running underneath. 

This is an outside shot with lots of shadow.
I also did slits at the side seams. 
This was a lot of fuss. I can see wearing this around day to day with jeans and such, a simple summer top, no biggie and used up that 1/2 yard of linen blend. 
This next one I really like.

Is this label fun or what?  I just love them and could not resist. They are made by a company in New Zealand and when I left them in my cart after duely fainting from the shipping costs, they contacted me via email to refer me to US sources so I would not pay the outrageous shipping. Great service! They have many clever labels and I have no affiliation. You can find them here: Kylie and the Machine.  at Stylemaker. 

Here is another big surprise with  this top. It has a built in shelf bra. This is the first time I did this and will definitely do it again. It was so easy to do but it is a learning curve. I do have questions. 

There are lots of videos and directions online for making shelf bras. Basically you cut a lining or even the same fabric in the same pattern as your top but about a third of the top section. It needs to include enough to go under the bust and have a bra band that can  be sewn on and then turned once. There are no measurements so it takes some futzing to figure it all out. You sew in the cups which I stole from a sports bra I had and stitch them down. Then you cut away the lining from the cups. Why? I am not sure. Then you attach elastic on the bottom edge, turn and stitch again. Drop this into your top and then bind the neck and armhole. Done. I've simplified here but that's because I really don't know much about this and will pose a few questions here and perhaps some can help. I saw lots online that was different. 

I used swimsuit lining for my bra. It was one of the suggestions I found. Because it had four way stretch, I found my boobs wanted to drop a bit and if I hiked it up, the whole thing wanted to pull down the outer garment. Would a two way stretch on the horizontal be better? Would a woven work for more lift? 

The directions had me turn things in a way that seemed wrong. I read them over and over to make sure I got them right. When we line a garment, we want that lining to look all finished and smooth with no construction showing. When we put on a bra, next to our skin is all the inner workings of the bra. This was sort of weird combo of both. When I put on this top, would it be ok to make the shelf bra so it is all pretty and the construction is all between the garment and the lining? Or should I be looking at the guts, like a regular bra? Is it like a swimsuit? 

Is there a particular reason why you cut away the lining from the cups? My lining was super stretchy so it didn't seem to make much difference.

If anyone can help me with this I'd appreciate it. I have to say that they hold me up just as well as a standard bra. I would definitely like to do this again with other sleeveless tops. It is just so very comfortable to wear. I wear a C cup for what that's worth. 

I mentioned watching Peggy Sagers and love how she just slashed those patterns and it so inspires me. I am going to make a three part outfit, casual summer pants, tank and odd little cover up next. I love how she shows us how to knock off these very expensive outfits and also explains why they are expensive. Thanks for making it through to the end here. I hope your Isewlation is going well. We are all doing OK here, and staying safe and occupied. I officially apply for Covid unemployment next week so that should be fun. Take care all and stay safe!..............Bunny


  1. Love seeing your new tops, Bunny. you are just cute as a button and pull off the scarf so well.Thanks for the info on the shelf bra.

    1. Thanks, Judy. I definitely recommend the shelf bra effort. Just wish I knew more about it. I have to keep researching. I've been covering my Covid hair a lot with scarves.

  2. Love both tops! Your fix for the facing dilemma looks like it was meant to be; it's just right!

  3. My sewing experience is similar to yours. Finished a wip, then started a tunic. Got sidetracked with making masks (not my favorite sewing) & friends needed them. Finished th tunic but can't really wear it now as it has long sleeves and it's starting to get hot here. Reorganized my sewing/craft room and became inspired again.

    1. I am so glad you are re-inspired. I am sewing a little less excited clothing but glad I am still enjoying it as much. I wish the same for you.

  4. Word: Isewlation. I LOVE it. I have been going through the same sew-jo issues as you, but am just now at the clean-out and reorganizing stage starting with clearing out some long overdue non-sewing projects from my sewing room/office. Feels good to get those out of the way so I can move on to something fun! I like the idea of the scarf wrapping to disguise the Covid hair. More projects to use some of the pretty, small pieces of fabric we all seem to accumulate.
    Thanks for the link for the tags, some cute stuff there.
    Hang in there. We will ALL get through this time in our lives and hopefully will be the better for it.

    1. Yes, Gayle. There is a reason for everything, I believe. Sometimes the world just needs some readjusting and only time will tell. Aren't those labels fun? Glad you liked them. I will definitely be buying more, particularly as gifts for sewing friends.

  5. Thanks for this. Looking at sewing a backless top and I am going to need some support :-)

    1. Well, the shelf bra definitely takes care of that issue. I like things with low backs as I feel it is one of my features that hasn't quite succumbed to the ravages of time. I love your pun!

  6. Lovely to read your blog post today from over in Australia. Winter is setting in here in the south with single digit temps however we rarely get below zero. In the north it is sunny then further in north Queensland it is tropical. Many people go north for the winter but with Covid some state borders are still closed with a 2 week quarantine period, so we are wintering at home this year. Luckily our Govt got organised, with all the states working together, integrating the private and public hospital systems, lock down etc and so we only have just over 100 deaths for our 25,000,000 population. I am looking forward to physical shopping/browsing fabric, etc. once again with some things finally opening up now. I have cleared and reorganised my sewing fabric and notions - wonderful! That is such a beautiful room you have. I love the wood it has character, so warming and different from pale painted walls. Interesting reading about the construction of your top and will keep the style in mind when I sew summer clothes again. I find I cannot wear low backs as get sunburnt too easily now but I might sneak one in to wear when I am inside :) Well those labels are cute and the postage won't be too expensive from here. My Covid hair is growing longer and actually doesn't look too bad - the waves/curls are coming back. Hopefully we can all celebrate milestones soon, birthdays, births (we have a new grandaughter, born April 6th), anniversaries, etc.
    Thank you, Sam the Aussie

  7. I really like that blue top. I’ve envied lots of folks with extra time during this crises as I am a (home healthcare, not icu, don’t start thanking me) nurse and working through it all. I am grateful for my stable income.
    I’ve been studying and slowly working on bra making for the past year. Wearing a fabulous one I made this minute. I combed my support groups and sources quickly and not too much info on shelf bras. They’re not intended to function as real support. The most important element of support in them is that rib cage elastic, so that looks good in yours! I would think you would want to hide as much as you could in the middle of the garment, so the “outer layer” is essentially against your skin. It’s prettier, and less stitching exposed to the skin. In bra making as opposed to shelf bras or bralettes, stable fabrics are used for both cups and the bras bridge and frame. Only the back should be stretchy. If you use a fabric with too much stretch you can line with a stable tricot or lining, or you can use the same fabric as a lining with direction of greater stretch (dogs) opposing each other. You don’t want your shelf to be too hot, so you’ve got to keep that in mind. You did say it is working for you as is, so I wouldn’t push it too far. Enjoy your new room, sans tub!

    1. Thanks, Barbara, for your imput. It's really helpful. I did use a rather solid elastic and it felt supportive and did not move around. I used the same measurement I have on a couple of very good sports bras I like. That's an interesting concept, that of the bra front being stable and the back being stretch. I will have to give that some thought. Thanks so much.


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