Learning Lingerie

My first attempt at lingerie
My first attempt at lingerie

After a few trials, and many errors, I have finally finished my first attempt at making lingerie.

I’ve been inspired by a wonderful book I bought on Amazon – The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Stanford. It covers knickers, bras and camisoles, amongst other things, and contains lots of helpful information on choosing fabrics, tips and techniques for sewing lingerie and applying lace, and a really helpful list of suppliers. It also has paper paper patterns in the back of the book for each of the projects.

The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie
The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers & Laura Stanford, published by Kyle Books

As I’d never made lingerie before, I thought I’d start with something simple – a camisole made in a silk crepe remnant, and matching mini briefs.

Silk Camisole
Silk Camisole

The camisole was quite straightforward. It was cut on the bias and required French seams and the application of lace at the front of the bodice and round the hem.  The book gave instructions for a reverse hem which allows you to quickly add a trim whilst preventing any fraying. You have to press a 5mm hem to the right side of the garment then lay the lace trim along this edge, aligning the decorative top of the lace trim with the raw edge, and then top stitch 2-3mm from this edge. It sounds simple now, but took me ages to figure out – I think I was having a blond moment!

The camisole also required a hand-finished shell edge. I hadn’t done this before but it turned out really nicely. I used silk embroidery thread to sew this stitch, which gives a lovely finish.

Shell edging and fine gold  rings and sliders from MacCulloch & Wallis
Shell edging and fine gold rings and sliders from MacCulloch & Wallis

One of the biggest problems I came across was sourcing supplies. The camisole required 12mm rings and slides for the straps and I really wanted to use brass findings for a more luxurious finish. These were difficult to source in the UK, and quite expensive. In the end I bought them online from London-based  MacCulloch & Wallis, who can always be relied upon for any manner of sewing-related items. They arrived in a couple of days and are excellent quality – far, far superior to the clear plastic ones that were available in my local haberdashers.

I made more stupid errors with the shoulder straps, cutting them shorter than the book instructed. I also had problems with turning the straps – can anyone tell me whether there’s a secret knack to using a rouleau loop turner? It never seems to work for me, so any advice would be very gratefully received.

The camisole turned out beautifully and was an excellent project for using up a remnant of gorgeous fabric.

My first attempt at making the mini briefs can only be described as disastrous! The pattern pieces had to be cut on the crosswise grain and I got my wires crossed and cut them on the bias. I thought this would be ok as the elastic would pull them in, but this was not the case. As I worked with the briefs they got larger, and larger and LARGER!!!  Briefs they certainly weren’t! By this time I was in a bit of a fix as I didn’t have a lot of fabric left – not enough to make another pair of mini briefs, but I really wanted a matching set. I went back to the book and found I could just about squeeze out a pair of tie-sided minis, which turned out really nicely – in the end!

Tie-sided minis
Tie-sided minis

I learnt loads from this project – working with difficult fabrics (cutting out with a rotary cutter definitely helps, and machine sewing on top of a sheet of tissue paper), shell edging, applying a gusset and attaching elastic are all valuable new skills. It’s definitely inspired me to sew more lingerie, in fact I’m hoping to work my way through the book. But firstly I think I will definitely have to spend a few hours sourcing fabrics, trims, decent lingerie elastic and fastenings. That involves shopping – what a pity!  🙂

Has anyone else had a go at making lingerie? If you can recommend any suppliers for lingerie notions please let me know.


A Visit to Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair

Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair
Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair
Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair – a fantastic place to source vintage fabric, textiles and sewing patterns.

I’m currently on a quest to source vintage trims and fabrics for the 1920’s and 30’s inspired lingerie and loungewear I’m endeavouring to make. So last weekend I took a trip to the IACF Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair for inspiration.

Browsing antique fairs is one of my favourite pastimes, and I’ve made it my mission this year to visit as many as possible. I can’t resist stalls selling any form of vintage clothing or textiles, and my husband usually abandons me whilst he looks out for furniture he can revamp, or all manner of ‘manly’ things! This time he was on the hunt for a pocket watch which he could place on the dashboard of the 1973 VW Camper he’s restoring.

It’s strange how antique fairs seem to vary geographically. I’m a frequent visitor to the IACF Fair at Ardingly where there is a huge European influence, with lots of shabby chic and traders selling large items of furniture brought over from abroad. Shepton Mallet was quite different – there were far fewer large items and the emphasis was more on what I would describe as ‘proper’ antiques. This may have been partly due to the weather – the wind was very cold and most of the dealers had wisely chosen to stay under cover.

Many of the stalls were under cover
Many of the stalls were under cover.

My first find was a gorgeous 1930’s sewing pattern which I snapped up for a bargain price. I can envisage this made up in a gorgeous silk fabric. The instructions on the pattern envelope are sketchy so it will be quite a challenge to see how this turns out when I get round to making it up. Our ancestors must have been incredible seamstresses to cope with such brief instructions, unmarked pattern pieces and incredibly intricate design details.

1930s sewing pattern
This wonderful 1930s sewing pattern is going to be challenging

There were numerous stalls selling vintage lace, trims and textiles, so much so that I was slightly overwhelmed by the choice! Some stallholders had painstakingly removed panels of embroidery or beading from antique garments which were beyond restoration and these were just stunning to look at and examine in such close detail – the amount of work and hours these must have taken is just beyond belief.

La Cammionette Bleue
There are always beautiful treasures at La Cammionette Bleue

There were so many potential treasures that I was reaching that stage of indecisiveness where there was a good chance I would come home empty-handed, apart from my gorgeous sewing pattern. Luckily I came across one of my favourite traders; Liz runs La Cammionette Bleue and specialises in vintage and antique textiles and costume – she always has beautiful finds on her stall and is friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable about her stock. Three yards of beautiful fabric caught my eye, and it turns out it was original 1930s fabric – just perfect for what I had in mind! It shall soon be either an elegant  1920s kimono, or ‘Coolie Coat’ as it was then known, or an item of pretty loungewear. This find was enough to spur me on to purchase some vintage lace trim as well.

My beautiful 1930s fabric and lace trims.
My beautiful 1930s fabric and lace trims.

I didn’t go home laden with packages but I bought enough to get two more dressmaking projects underway. If you love textile crafts and have a penchant for vintage textiles I would strongly recommend that you pay a visit to an antiques or vintage fair. Part of the thrill is never knowing what you will find, and even if you come home with a full purse, your creativity will be fired by all the gorgeous items you’ve spotted.