Mended Underwear, 2017  

Mended Underwear, 2017 

This morning I set about mending underwear-- bloomers that are wonderful to wear with dresses and skirts. I've sewn a few pairs over the years--for winter using soft merino wool and in finely ribbed cotton jersey for summer, trimmed with lace (see photo). Good design, good material--worth mending! 

The channel that holds the elastic at the waist had come unstitched in incremental sections on two pairs. A third pair of bloomers had a couple small runs in the lightweight knit fabric, leaving horizontal lines of thread like a ladder missing the vertical threads. Usually when getting dressed in the morning, extracting one of these pairs of underwear from the drawer I'd notice the flaw and reflect, "this needs repair." Meanwhile they were wearable.

Yesterday I washed three yards of navy blue linen fabric in warm water to pre-shrink it and added the unmended bloomers to the laundry load. Hanging them to air dry overnight, the cotton jersey fabric was slightly crisp in the morning, a perfect texture for sewing. Swapping the red thread in the sewing machine to black, I alternated between a zigzag stitch to close the gaps in the elastic channel and a straight stitch to repair the runs in the material (sewing a virtually undetectable fisheye dart to encase the fray). With a few snips of thread it was done! Kind of cathartic.

Sketching A Corset

Sketches for a Corset, 2013
More than a decade ago after a year of searching from afar for an apartment in New York City that fit my budget, moved sight unseen into a tiny, tiny sublet in SoHo. It looked out over a churchyard providing a view of sky and trees, and against its amber-hued brick wall, of photoshoots with fashion models posing for photographers. Within hours of arriving in the city had found a job. Early that evening walking along Lafayette Street joyful and reflective, urgently wanted to write about what I'd come to understand that day. With everything in boxes, had left the apartment with neither a pen nor paper. What to do? Turned toward a woman who was walking along the same stretch of pavement. "Pardon me," I began and asked whether she happened to have a pen or pencil to lend momentarily--and oh, a scrap of paper? Explained that I'd an idea I wanted urgently to write. 

She rested her large messenger bag on the trunk of a parked car. From the bag she extracted a fresh yellow legal pad and a pen. "Keep them," she said handing them to me, "I know how that is!"

As ideas churn, will draw or write on any available paper--the back of a business card or receipt, a random flyer, in the margins of a newspaper or the inside of an envelope. Began recently to carry a 3x5 pad of post-its. Sketches made at various times are easily assembled later into a group. Am playing with ideas for an Edwardian corset now in progress.

Corset Detail

Detail: Corset Back
A Victorian corset. Gradually almost all the overhead lights in this lovely brownstone flat ceased to function. Practically a Victorian night scene: hand-stitching the corset binding by lamplight, wearing a long chemise and a woolen shawl. Amused.

The looser a garment, the more one-size-fits-all a pattern is. A corset is the antithesis of a muumuu! It's hyper-individualized according to measurements. (After a day of wearing a corset donning a muumuu is appealing.)

Adventures in Underwear

7 pairs of underwear: silk, cotton, rayon, elastic
Began by making hats. Then underwear. Now there's a mini-stack of underwear in the closet and a hall tree with hats by the front door.

It is happiness-inducing to begin getting dressed each day with handmade underwear!

These are from different years--the deep purple from the initial year, fuschia made last year and printed silk jersey undies assembled this winter using fabric salvaged from cutting long underwear tops.

(Tend to write much more before editing down to the essentials. Ah, the many philosophical musings about self-reliance in draft form!)

Under It All There's Silk

Silk Underwear, 2012
I've a dear mother who is both loyal and critical. (It is criticism in a constructive vein, she'd insist.) She's worn a silk top (photo, with matching undies) since it was made for her and phoned to ask whether I'd sew her another. High praise indeed!

With its warmth and absorbency, silk is beneficial in winter. And when grey skies, shorter days and lower temperatures might lead to the doldrums, the sleek, airy luxury of silk provides elegant armor.

Wore It Home!

Camisole in merino wool, 2011
Was cold in the studio yesterday. Over the summer I'd drafted a pattern for a camisole/undershirt. Having made a number of these in summer weight fabrics it was pretty simple to sew one in light, soft merino wool. There is shirring at the center and the fabric drapes away from the body at the waist. Wore it home!

Thoughts about this project are evolving. More about this to come. Am for now writing and drawing ideas.

(Ah, the photo looks less vivid than the actual setting. The walls ought to be lighter, etc.)

Underneath It All

(Warmth in Winter, 2011)

This winter was a cold one! Have been reading pioneer era literature (children's, young adult and adult) with descriptions of winter and the layers worn to preserve warmth. Winter has been inspiring me to make undergarments. 

Left to right: boy shorts, camisole, bloomers, long underwear, slip, bra.

The Modern Garter

Garter: cotton/lycra, nylon, elastic
Why did garters go out of fashion? Tights, which replace a garter and stockings, are aptly named.

The solution: modernize! Plush garters are sewn to a band of gentle lace and soft jersey with an adjustable hook & eye closure. Here is a modern garter belt. The little bow in the front was a last minute consideration. It is a small detail yet it seemed to balance the design.

More Lingerie

Softer than ever...
This was the prototype for bras that will be sewn in silk knit. After working with this less costly material, however, it seems impossible that silk could outdo it. It has a luxurious texture and the color is a neutral mossy olive. (Made bottoms to match.)
After sewing the set, I happily discovered there was fabric enough for a second top. The silk jersey can wait!
(Bra top. Rayon with elastic trim, 2009)