Pretty as a Picnic II

Following up from what turned in to an accidental review, here is my finished pair or Pretty as a Picnic knickers, pattern taken from The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie.

Pretty as a Picnic Briefs

Generally, I am still pretty happy with the fit and style of the finished knickers, my only grievance being that they were a touch on the big side when made up in my normal size 10. It is also a style that I don’t generally wear. I prefer a smoother silhouette under clothing and find the ‘puffy’ feel of this style not that comfortable. Non the less, I enjoy the look of the knickers and they are an easy, quick as satisfying little addition to my lingerie draw.

When looking back over my toile, it is clear to see the areas where I struggled to apply the elastic, as discussed in the previous post. This was mainly down to my inexperience which is very clear to see in the wonky stitching and badly finished off elastic! Partly, I think it wasn’t helped by the method I was using to apply the elastic of folding over the seam allowance and then sewing the elastic directly onto the wrong side of the leg holes and waistband. I have seen much better results since this creating pair using a 2 pass zig-zag/folding over the elastic instead, as seen here.

Pretty as a Picnic Briefs

Pretty as a Picnic Briefs

As for the finished knicker, I made them up in a floral print cotton lawn I had lying around from a previous project with a cute white picot elastic, adding a small bow made from a piece of crochet lace to finish it off. The over all style is very sweet, and I would definitely consider revisiting and tweaking this pattern at some point in the future to try and get the fit a little snugger and the finish a little neater!


This was a brilliant first knicker to introduce me to the marvellous world of lingerie making and ultimately, the pair that got me hooked. So although they may not be my favourite pair, the experience of making them is one I will always be thankful for!


Pretty as a Picnic I

Today I have decided to take the first look back at previous lingerie makes of mine and thought why not go waaaaaaaay back – all the way to the first pair of knickers I ever made and the lovely little book they came from. These sweet little low-rise knickers are the ‘Pretty as a Picnic Cotton Mini’, which is the first make that can be found in ‘The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie’ by Katherine Sheers and Laura Stanford. It was the initial project created to hold your hand through your first make and introduce you to many of the different elements used within lingerie making and for the most part it was very successful in doing that.

Pretty as a Picnic

There were many things that first drew me towards the book, the main one being the pretty but varied collection of garments within it. There is a nice mix of modern styling, vintage inspired pieces and some every day staples meaning that no matter what had attracted you to making your own lingerie there was probably something you would want to create in the pages of this book. I also loved that all of the patterns were included on sheets – no need for you to have to draft them out yourselves or worry about having to grade a base size to accommodate your proportions.

The main thing that I loved about this book above all else was how incredibly detailed and helpful its instructions for making up the individual garments were. Each item comes with a full step by step guide to its construction, complete with a combination of photographs and illustrations to show you the whole process from start to finish. On top of this, the book includes instructions on how to measure yourself, making toiles and amending garments, a little bit of a description about different fabrics commonly used in lingerie, suggested lay plans to cut all your pattern pieces and – most helpfully of all – a glossary detailing almost every method of  hand and machine sewing, seaming, using elastic or adding trims you will (nearly!) ever need when making lingerie. The information in that glossary alone is, in my opinion, worth purchasing the book and it is a source I still turn to now if I’m ever stuck on a project.


For all it’s merits, there were however a few sticking points I found consistently with all of the projects I made from this book and it is the combination of these sticking points which ultimately lead to me leaving this book behind before I had even made up any of the bras it featured. My first major problem was sizing. I don’t know if anyone else found this with this book, but the difference between the sizes (at least between the 8/10/12 which I was looking at) seemed to be huge. This lead to me consistently finding that a size 8/10 was coming up to small when I toiled it, but then when I made up the garment in a 10/12 for my final project it was too big. Granted, during these first few projects it never really occurred to me to just trace in-between the pattern lines if I needed an in-between size, but then I don’t think this would occur to your average lingerie sewing newbie either.

I can’t much comment on the bra patterns other then to say they are all non wired and come in a size range of 32-36 A-D, meaning my size was not included in their range. When I first purchased this book I did so with the intent to work my way through most of the projects in the book, there by building a good skill base before moving onto more complex projects. However, the more confident I got with my skills I quickly realised there is no point in trying to make a well fitting bra if you can’t fit it and so moved on to find other patterns.


Finally, the biggest issue I had with this book was some of the construction techniques featured in the patterns seemed to go against almost everything else I had ever read about making up lingerie and more importantly were just… a bit of a faff. The technique that most comes to mind with this is during the make up of the Pretty and a Picnic briefs. To sew the elastic at the waistband and legs it is first suggested you hand tack the seam allowance under and then zig-zag the elastic into place in one pass, rather then using the fold over method seen more commonly. To me, as an inexperienced elastic sewer, this just lead to really messy and obvious gaps of elastic at the edges where I had not sewn it very precisely and elastic that just flipped up from the underside. This, combined with the fact that it was advised you pre-cut and then pinned your elastic into place, just lead to a very messy finish on my knickers and I ended up unpicking and re-sewing my elastic a good couple of times before I was satisfied with the outcome.

To someone completely new to the world of sewing or specifically sewing lingerie I would say this book was a brilliant resource to build your confidence and give you all of the info and advice you need to get you through those crucial first few projects. However, don’t be afraid to challenge the suggested instructions to find your own way of making up your garments or trying to customise the patterns so they fit your own body better. These are all things that I was a little intimidated to do in these early stages for fear of doing things ‘wrong’, but you soon discover graded patterns are not one size fits all and the more you embrace this and adapt them to your own needs the more you will ultimately get out of them!

In my next blog post I will look more closely at my own pair of Pretty as a Picnic Knickers, the things I did well, the things I didn’t and the things I learnt.

Has anyone else ever had any success with the treasure trove of information in this book?


Bonus High Waisted Brief

Every bra needs a friend and so to accompany my recently completely Marlborough bra I made up this pretty high waisted pattern found in ‘The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie‘.

High Waisted Briefs

I’ve made a couple of the patterns from this book before and have generally had good outcomes – with the exception that I find their knicker sizing very generous! With most of their patterns I struggled to get a size 8 to fit but then found the 10 much to big, so ended up having to go for a 10 and then just take in the seams as needed.

High Waisted Briefs Back View

This pattern was no different and I found it fit me really nicely everywhere other then the waist which was much to large and waaaaay to high! To fix the problem I took about 2cm off the top of the waist so that it sat nicely on the smallest point of my torso and then took a little bit off the sides and put a little extra tension in the waist band elastic.

These small but really simple amendments made a huge difference in the shape and fit of the pattern and made these little (big?) knickers a wonderful companion for my Marlborough.

Has anyone else ever made up any patterns from The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie? Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my previous lingerie makes and my thoughts on how well they went and would love to hear from anyone else who has used this book!




Finished at last!

I finally got round to putting the finishing touches on my first Marlborough bra (and first underwired bra ever!) last week, so now it’s time to reflect on how well I feel the bra came together. I will break these thoughts down into two different sections; Construction and Fit. The Construction will focus entirely on how well I feel I have made the bra, what went well and what did not and what I will change when making my next bra. The Fit will focus on how well I think this pattern fits my body and any future amendments I would make if sewing with this pattern again.


As far as the general construction is concerned, I am actually really pleased with the way this bra has turned out. I think it is generally quite neat and tidy, its symmetrical, there is only one tiny little tuck (at the bridge on one side, so small you can’t even see it in the photos) and the tensions on all of my elastics are about where they need to be. The only area that I personally felt was a bit iffy was my underwire channel. From the front the stitching looks fine, but from the back I think it is a little messy and the actual attaching of the channeling to the bra could be more accurate. However, for a first attempt I was still pretty darn pleased with myself and have no doubt this will improve with time.

Marlborough Bra Front View

The other major issue I had with the design of my bra was using contrast thread on the elastics. Originally I thought it might be nice to have completely contrasted stitching, which is why I used black thread everywhere (that and a hearty dose of laziness and not wanting to change my threads) However after having initially sewn the the strap elastics to the back of the bra in black and then unpicking and sewing them again in red I think it makes for a much neater and more professional looking finish. Not to mention using a cotton that nicely blends in can hide a multitude of wobbly stitching sins.

Marlborough Bra Back View

The third thing that I feel could have been more careful/consistent throughout was cutting down my seam allowances. Though you can’t see many of them on the final bra there are some areas, such as at the underarm elastics and around the underwire, that you can see the unevenly cut seams through the fabric on the front of the bra. This is once again something that I think I will become neater given practice, but slowing down and taking my time over it and also investing in smaller pair of super sharp scissors may help!

Marlborough Bra Inside



Based on my toile, I was a bit sceptical on how well this bra was going to fit, but was actually pleasantly surprised by the final outcome. Over all the bra is super supportive and very comfortable and the couple of reservations I have were based mostly on personal preference rather then any issues with the actual pattern itself.

I found the bra sat quite high under my arms and so if I were to make it again I would definitely take a good cm or so, maybe even more out from under the arms so it sat lower. I would probably also then convert it from being a 3 hook and eye fastening to just 2, as considering that it isn’t a long line bra it did feel like it was taking up a lot of room on my torso unnecessarily.

I also felt like the bra didn’t have quite as much forward projection as I would have liked in the cups so my bust looked quite wide when I had the bra on. This is something that I may be able to rectify by either lining the side of the cups, adding a side sling for extra support or just using a less stretchy fabric all together. All of these are options I would be interested to experiment with in the future to see how they impact the general shape, style and support the bra provides.

My main concern when I first finished the bra was the width of all of the elastics suggested for my size and a general feeling that they were all too cumbersome on such a small frame. My feelings towards them have chilled a little with time and I no longer think they are as oversized as I did when I originally completed the bra. I do however feel like they are still a lot chunkier then I would generally look for and it definitely pushed the bra into the sensible/supportive category rather then a delicate/pretty item for me.

Over all, I am incredibly pleased with the fit of the Marlborough and would love to make it up again with some of these amendments in mind to see how differently the bra looks and feels. Overall this offered a pretty good start to my underwire adventures!

Has anyone else made up the Marlborough in a size similar to my own? What were your thoughts on its fit or did you struggle with anything when making it up?