I began sewing lingerie about a year ago. Actually, I lied, I began thinking about sewing lingerie about a year ago. Sewing only woven fabrics up until that point, I had limited experience with elastic, hooks & eyes, tricot, ect. Yes, I worked in technical design for the two years prior and for one of those years, I handled intimates, but the information I learned about the product was theoretical – it was knowledge I learned from other tech designers and through the trade – not by actually sewing a bra and learning from mistakes.
Since last summer, I have picked up many tips and tricks through books, sew alongs, articles, and blogs. I have gained the most knowledge though by studying information, which even went as far as making flash cards that I flipped through during breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and then applying it to my projects. Beverly wrote in her manual that a scoop back band provides the most support – so I wrote it wrote it down, recited it over and over, and then did – I drafted a scoop back, sew up a bra, and wear tested it to see if she was correct. Knowledge to practice, knowledge to practice – that was and still is my motto.
My latest piece of knowledge was from Norma’s recently released Ebook, Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction. I discovered Norma and her brand, Orange Lingerie, a long time before I started following her. I don’t remember where or when that was – what I remember is when Amy interviewed her back in January and I clicked to her site and thought, “I know her!”
Norma, who sewed and designed from age 9 until she graduated from college, put the hobby aside to pursue a career in finance. In 2010, she left her position at a major Wall Street firm to study custom bra making (she attended Beverly Johnson’s Bra Making School!). Today, she owns Orange Lingerie, a custom made bra company that provides individually tailored bras. Through Norma’s precise measuring and fitting a close-to-perfect fitting bra is almost guaranteed.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading, rereading, and virtually highlighting (I love this feature of the Kindle) important snippets of her book. So much was covered in Beverly Johnson’s manual and because Norma studied under her, I was looking for overlapping information. But there wasn’t any. Because I have read many bra making books, the beginning was basic – the anatomy of a bra, tools used for sewing bras, and how a bra should fit. But that information is necessary to include because just like an introduction or a conclusion in an essay, it makes the rest of the book understandable to people who haven’t had as much experience as me. I got really deep into the book in the construction chapter. I’m still trying to fine tune my skills and I found a lot of information that I could put to practice (knowledge to practice – remember, that’s my motto). How to apply the elastic on a scoop back, how to draft a facing pattern for the bridge, how to ensure symmetry at the top of the bridge, and the stitch width of both the first and second pass of elastic – she covered all of this and more. One of my favorite tips, and I’m sure all of the OCD seamstresses out there will love this too, was, “…no one but you will examine the bra’s topstitching from under your sewists microscope. The only reason to tear out topsitching is if (a) there is an obvious fold or pucker in the fabric, (b) there is loose seam allowance on the wrong side of the fabric or (c) it looks bad from 3 feet away.” I’ve been reciting “three feet away” a lot because I have an unnecessary urge to make my topstitching perfect. Life and bras are so much easier at three feet away!
Norma’s book made me a more well-rounded bra maker but it is her that inspires me. She worked a 9-5 just as I do and threw it all in to pursue her passion. Not many people have the balls to do that and I commend her for it.