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.
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?