The benighted moulage experience*

Earlier this month I signed up for a moulage/sloper drafting class at a local quilt shop. I’ve always wanted a personalized sloper designed to my measurements, but I’d never gotten around to drafting one on my own. I attended the first class meeting before my sciatica interruptus put me flat on my back for a week and kept me from the next class. I decided to opt out of attending the remainder. This was made easier by the fact that the class I had gone to had been painfully slow and rather frustrating to me, and that I’ve never felt at home at that store, which is one of those places where they’re all quilting fanatics who not-so-subtly look down on garment sewers (I’m not mentioning the store name, because I think someone who’s less mental than I probably wouldn’t even notice most of this stuff, and as my grandmother used to say, bless their hearts, they mean well.)
This always seems to happen to me when I take sewing classes. I’ve tried a few crafty classes through my local parks & rec, and one class at Canada College – which has a truly admirable slate of fashion design classes and is basically in my backyard; it should be my nirvana, except I hated the experience of the one class I took and haven’t tried it again since. I always feel like the classes move too slowly and are too pedantic and repetitive. (Canada has to cater to both hobby sewers and folks who are getting their degrees and want to work in the fashion industry, which is a tall order, so I don’t fault them at all.)
I think it has to do with the way I approach learning new things. I like to do my research, and learn how things work before I try them. Then I sign up for a beginner level class to confirm my research, and then I’m frustrated and bored. Despite having never made my own moulage, I already knew 75% of what the moulage instructor was saying, because I’d already read about it. Knowing and doing aren’t the same thing, certainly, but when it’s a hobby, why pay to listen to someone tell you something you already know?
The good thing is that now I’ve got the book on which the class was based (Suzy Furrer’s Building Patterns: The Architecture of Women’s Clothing) and there’s no reason why I can’t finish the moulage on my own. Unfortunately, I was counting on the class to motivate me to finish asap. Anyone want to come to my house and stand over me until I’m done?
*Good band name, y/y?

Cup size yet again

A while ago I posted about bra cup sizes and how I’d realized that I’d been wearing the wrong size bra. Since then I’ve settled on a bra size that’s a band size down and a cup size up from what I had worn for the past few years, and been pretty happy with results. At that point I was still trying to work out in my head why we use this relative size scheme where the cup sizes don’t mean anything by themselves – they’re relative to the band size, so a 36D and a 38D aren’t the same – in fact, a 38D and a 40C are the same, total volume wise.

I just ran across this informative blog post from Butterfly Collection that explained it in a way I could easily visualize. Basically all cups of the same letter are, in theory, the same depth but different widths. In other words, the depth – the amount your bust protrudes from your chest, e.g. as seen in profile – is the same in a 36D as a 38D, but the 38D is wider. This results in a larger total cup volume. The blog post has great illustrations of this.

This also reiterates why the standard sewing advice if you’re a C cup or larger is to use your upper bust measurement to choose your bodice size and do a full bust adjustment to accommodate your bust. Assuming your bodice size is correct for the rest of your measurements, you don’t need any more width all the way down your torso, you just need depth at the bust (which manifests itself in the pattern as added length, and a little both of added width, but only at the bust, not at the shoulders or the abdomen).

I’ve never been that spatially gifted, but sewing is definitely helping my 3D visualization skills!

Thinking about cup sizes

[Drafted this post and then I saw this news article today – 600 year old linen bras found in a castle in Austria (!)]

I’ve been on a bra-fitting odyssey recently; hang with me for a second and it’ll wind back around to topics sewing-related. I knew the supposed factoid that more than half of American women are supposedly wearing the wrong size bra, but as it always goes you figure that must mean other folks, not you. But I was monkeying around online and found a bra size calculator (at that gave a different size than I usually wear. So I ordered some bras to try and a couple worked pretty well – they are one band size down and two cup sizes up from my previous size.

So apparently I was one of the woman wearing the wrong size bra. It’s a different silhouette that to be honest I’m not used to yet – I feel like I’m all boobs now when I look at myself in the mirror. The received wisdom is that it’s better to look busty than chunky, but I’m already chunky so I’m not sure I want to be both!

If you’re interested in bra sizing the blog is a great place to get info. The usual advice about how to figure your bra size is to add 4-5 inches to your underbust measurement to get your band measurement, but this blogger convinced me, at least, that that is nutballs, and you should forget adding inches and just start from the exact underbust measurement. This reminds me a lot of how a lot of new sewers start with a pattern size that matches their full bust measurement, but then learn that for most of us that results in something that’s way too big in the shoulders and it’s better to start with a smaller size and do a full-bust adjustment (AKA the famous FBA).

All this got me thinking about cup sizes in sewing patterns. Most sewers know that the big American pattern companies use a B cup in their drafting, although they now offer some patterns in multiple cup sizes, and the indie pattern companies all have their own tendencies and figure types.

But here’s the thing – the way cup sizing works is a little weird. In bras, cup size is relative to band size. A 36D is equivalent to a 38C is equivalent to a 40B in absolute volume of the bra cups, or at least it’s supposed to be. So as lovely as multiple cup size patterns are, they don’t really make sense if you think about it. If, say, you’ve got sizes 16-22 and cup sizes B, C, and D all in the same pattern, the pattern will have different tissue patterns for each of the cup sizes, ranging across the size range. But, according to bra sizing, a 16 D should have the same room in the bust area as the 18 C, although with different shape in the rest of the bodice, the shoulder, etc. In my experience with cup size patterns, that’s not been the case.

It really does your head in if you think about it too much. Figuring out how to grade a pattern, for pattern designers (or clothing designers), is a question of how to fit the most people possible, not to do it the right way for every person. As sewers, we have to somewhat reverse engineer the patterns to fit us, not some abstract average. I’ve learned more about my body and its variations since sewing than I ever did before, and sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been easier to just learn how to draft patterns from scratch from my measurements. Learning how to draft is considered an advanced skill, but it seems like it can’t be as hard as some of the complex alterations I’ve seen people have to make to patterns.