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Apr 15, 2010

Gloves and Girdles and G-Strings, Oh, My!

Another day, another impulse purchase!

Yesterday on Amazon I ordered a copy of "How to Make Hats and Accessories: Instructions for Making 1940s Fashions." A reprint of the original 1946 book, it provides instructions on making not only period hats, but also gloves, muffs, handbags, belts, and more.   Do any of you know it?

I'd been wishing I could make Cathy a pair of elegant gloves -- not that this would be easy of course.  From what I understand, gloves are challenging for even advanced sewers, requiring tremendous attention to detail.

I was looking online for glove patterns when I stumbled upon the "How to Make Hats..." book (I really enjoy period hats.)

But I started thinking...are there some things it just doesn't pay to sew oneself, either due to the time and difficulty involved or because ready-to-wear versions are satisfactory and easily accessible?

When I purchased my first sewing machine last June, I originally thought it might be fun to sew some cute men's Speedo-style bathing suits.  Guess what: I've sewn more than half a dozen dresses but not a single men's bathing suit. (I did make one extremely humbling attempt I wouldn't dare show you.)  I lost interest I guess.  As a swimmer, I also know that excellent quality racing suits are relatively inexpensive and made out of long-lasting, chlorine-resistant fabrics one probably couldn't even find at Spandex House.  And I only need one or two.

I also thought it might be fun to make all sorts of underwear, but other than a few pair of boxers early on, I never did.  I have way too much underwear as it is (as you may recall from my makeover week) and the Y-front styles are very complicated.

So readers, I ask you:  Are there some things you simply will not bother sewing for yourselves?  I've read many reviews on Pattern Review for things like brassieres, men's briefs, corsets...   And clearly a lot of people make handbags and hats.

It seems like many sewers truly enjoy the challenge or find it cheaper to make these things themselves because, say, they're a difficult fit.  I've even heard of people sewing their own diapers.

Where do you draw the line?  Will you sew any type of garment or accessory you need if you can?  Do you do it to save money or for other reasons? 

Dig in!


  1. Hm. Difficult question. I will say that the most involved and difficult things I've made have been soft toys. Dolls especially are labor intensive, and it can take a week just to sew on the hair, let along embroider the face. But there's just something about a handmade doll that's attractive, and there are so many patterns for them out there that are more attractive than your run-of-the-mill store bought doll. The effort and time that go into making a doll are enormous, but IMHO, the results are almost always worth it. (And we'll see if I still think so after I make Evie's new birthday present-- a baby doll from a vintage -30s mail-order pattern!)

    And for the record, I've heard from my mom that making diapers is incredibly easy--and she didn't do disposable diapers for at least the first three out of six of us.

    I think I would avoid making my own socks and panties. Socks and panties are cheap, easy to find, and not worth the effort of making, IMHO. Bras I might make myself. Pants, jeans, and skirts I do make. Shirts, too. I'm considering making my own coat. Even shoes I might try my hand at making. (I am required to buy custom-built shoes because my feet are always swollen. I can find how-to books, and I'm sure that I could make my own shoes for less than the $600 they want for me to have custom shoes.)

  2. Hmmm, I would not sew underwear...(a camisole or nightie perhaps), no plain t-shirts and no oven mits or even plain aprons - I would rather just buy those things as making them would bore me!

    Cheers from Cherri!

  3. I'd try sewing anything once. You're right, there are things that are really labor/detail/supply intensive that might make it less desirable to make.

    Underwear and swimwear like you said requires certain fabrics and elastics. Corsets require all the eyelets, laces, boning and busks. ect.

    I hate to rain on your parade, but gloves are one thing I don't intend on doing again any time soon. You'll probably want to use your straight stitch throat plate if you have one and a stilleto. Seam allowances are 1/8" and there are lots of curves and pieces that can easily get mixed up if you're not careful. In the end, I ended up hand sewing the gloves.

    I remember reading somewhere one author's parameters about what she would or would not sew. Because she sewed as a business she determined that she would only sew (for pleasure) garments that she and her family would get lots of use from or wanted a custom fabric choice. As an example custom made tailored winter coats. Classic styles like khaki slacks, polo shirts, basic blouses ect she would avoid because just the materials cost vs. retail price usually is a no brainer. She really dedicated her time to projects that were unique, get a lot of wear and get a certain level of appreciation from her family.

    In the end I think it's still useful to do anything once. Learning how hats and gloves go together is helpful. The same goes for undergarments, corsets and even shoes. You'll have a different appreciation for the RTW versions after you've given it a shot.

  4. I'm a beginner and have a day job so I'll probably stick to the basic outer wear clothes for quite a while. I'd like to try to branch out with the lingerie contest on PR, but I don't think I would ever take the time to make socks or try to figure out how to do a bra (although Marilyn Monroe had this awesome "bridge suspension" bra I like).

  5. Knickers and gym gear. I have tried to sew both and figured I can buy it easily in much better fabrics than I can buy myself.
    Much better to invest the time in a tailored jacket where there really is a payback. Mind you, I don't make many of them either, but have never regretted the time I have spent on the ones I have made!

  6. I refuse to sew t-shirts (so far, although being a short person and long ones being the fashion I may have to!) and I've tried underwear and might do it again. I doubt I'll bother with a bra, minus the '40s pattern I've got. One thing I really do want to try though, is to make a couple of slips out of real silk and pretty lace. One white slip just doesn't cover all the bases sometimes.

  7. t-shirts...jeans...underwear

    I'm mostly a skirt and blouse sew-er, with the occasional simple dress or pair of pants.

    I have fantasy dreams though, of sewing coats and jackets and corsets and super fancy dresses in special fabrics

    Some of the basic stuff I intend to sew for myself though - I tend to over heat rather quickly, and I have a love affair with sheer shirts. More of ten than not, if you put me in a stretchy knit camisole, with a sheer blouse on top, I get too hot.

    So....I have plans for making some simple, bias cut camisoles, in some kind of magic non-knit fabric, in a variety of fabrics.

  8. I want to try sewing gloves because I have a ton of crazy designs I want to make but I fear that may be a while before I am skilled enough to do so. I do have a really pretty pattern for lots of different styles of gloves though. I would also like to sew undies just because I think it would be nice to have really pretty custom made pretties all for myself. Although the only pattern I have found and tried is from one of the big four and they fit weird so until further notice that is out. One day though. One day.

  9. I think I'd try anything once. I do make my own bras and panties and my kids undies, too. It's fun! I haven't attempted jeans yet but am planning to.

  10. I agree with you, Peter, about professionally made swimsuits - I am an avid cyclist and, given knowledge about what makes a good pair of cycling shorts and jersey, there's no way I'd have the ability to come close to replicating what I spend a fair amount of money on. That being said, I'd certainly attempt making a bra, panties, and t-shirt once, if only to have the experience. If I were a less-standard shape and build, I'd be much more open to the making of such garments, but as it is, I can wear off-the-rack sizes well. The only issues I run into with fit are pants, dresses, and blouses.

    The thing that is so unappealing about making bras/panties (and corsets), as was pointed out, is the sheer (ba dum dum chhh) amount of other notions you need. Lace, underwires, special soft elastic... if I started making my own and really began to love it, it'd be cost effective in the long run, but I just don't have the time or the means to take the plunge in the first place right now.

    Boxers would be a fun thing to learn to make for my lover, but though he'd probably like the pair that I made, would prefer store bought. Just because I appreciate every stitch on my garments, doesn't mean he would. Also, while I would have no problem with anything happening to said boxers (like getting eaten by my elastic-devouring washing machine), there would be the assumption that said undies were special (because I made them) and not to be ruined.

  11. I really feel that we each find our own passions and things we enjoy making and if we do feel passion, price and effort is moot.

    I started making lingerie when I looked at what I received as a bridal gift and figured I could do that for a friend who was getting married. A bit of lace, elastic, sheer fabric, how hard could it be? Well, I've now made gifts for 7 of my friends as they got married and I love it. I love making cheeky lace panties and thongs, pretty little outfits, it's all so much fun. I've even made the odd piece of, ah, mens wear. I've now moved into making bras. I was actually afraid that after thinking about making bras for months, plotting on where to buy the many supplies, that I would get too frustrated with the first one and give up, but no, it really does excite me. Of anything the frustration is that Fabricland doesn't carry good elastic for the band so I can't make another bra until I order more online. Pout.

    What I won't do? Repetitive work. My mom sells her work, she can make 1,000 bibs or table runners and to her the variation is in the fabric patterns. I have no clue how she makes so many and have them all look the same.

    What I might do but am presently intimidated by? Jeans, pants, coats. I know, I've made a bathing suit but I am scared of pants.

  12. Gloves are probably one of the few things I WOULDN'T sew, mainly because I can buy them in my size and I only wear one pair of winter gloves (but in my knitting days, I did KNIT gloves). And I don't really wear hats, except in the bright sunshine, but I'd be happy to learn--I have a big head circumference and have a hard time finding RTW ones.

    I have a terrible time finding well-fitting ANYTHING, actually, even in stretchy items--T-shirts, underwear, etc. I copied a maternity underwear pattern from ready-to-wear, then tweaked it to fit my flat behind. The underwear I've made are the ONLY ones I own that really fit.

    I certainly can't easily buy a bathing suit that fits, since I need a supportive underwire one with G cups. So that is definitely on my to-do list, and I bought a book "Making Beautiful Swimwear" to help.

    Bras in my size are often crazy expensive ($90-$130 each)--I've only made two of my own so far but they are worth their weight in gold and I plan to make more.

    And store-bought all-in-one diapers are insanely pricey--$18 each for bumGenius! My mother has sewed 67 so far for my baby-to-be, and it hardly took her any time. That's $1200 worth of reusable diapers (for about $150 worth of materials).

    So... I guess I'll sew just about anything! I find that even when I make something that I COULD buy RTW (like a knit top) I find the fit and look is so much better and so much more ME that the old RTW items suddenly seem ill-fitting.

  13. i am up for sewing just about anything brassieres and jeans included. Haven't tried yet but it is fast approaching the top of my list.

    As for gloves I bought a modern glove pattern, vogue i think, at one of them super sales. (I looked at the shapes and ignored the ugly embellishments) It uses stretch leather which you could definitely find in NYC. I feel like that might give you a little room for making some mistakes and still getting a good fit or it could be the complete opposite!

    Would love to hear what you think of the book once you get it, it looks right up my alley!

  14. Great post, Peter!

    I'm all about trying new things, and after spending TONS of money on swimsuits, I thought I'd make my own. Epic fail. Three times. I'm not giving up, tho. Once I'm ready, I'll try it again. Never, never, never, never give up!

    I've got some cute slips on tap for summer sewing. As Lisette said, one white slip just doesn't cut it. Plus, think of all the embellishment opportunities!

  15. I am up for sewing anything the first time. For me learning and/or trying something new is fun -- but I make no promises to repeat anything. I can't stand to make multiples even in quilting squares, but I'm trying to learn.

    My goal is to be able to learn to sew as great a variety as possible. As a beginner I have a long way to go.

  16. I would probably give just about anything a go though I see no reason to sew my own panties or jeans for different reasons. I would pass on the panties simply cause not that expensive to buy. I would pass on jeans because it just seems like too much work.

    I have been chomping at the bit to try creating my own gloves but given my current project plans that would be a good year or more down the line.

  17. I recently just finished testing a lingerie set and I'm still on the fence about this issue. Quite honestly, sometimes I feel like I don't want to waste the time on underclothes because I'm so concerned about the outward look that it seems so silly. But as I've thought more about this, I would rather have underclothes that were made from natural materials, especially when so many RTW unmentionables are made from synthetics, which tend to irritate my skin. I don't know. I just picked up a vintage pattern too to try for slips and such. We'll see huh?

  18. I also enjoy sewing things just to see what it's like and it's fun to figure out how garments are constructed. Although attaching elastic to stretchy knits can be challenging, a men's bathing suit is nothing more than two pieces of fabric with a little bit of lining.

  19. this reminds me of the Yarn Harlot's postings on product vs. process...sometimes, it's all about the finished product; sometimes, it's all about learning!

    On the bra-making front: Summerset's 2nd blog, hooks and wires, has a four-part tutorial on bra-making. (her main blog is pins and needles)

  20. I won't sew basic things that I can find in my size easily - for instance, basic t-shirts and bras. I'm interested in sewing things that I can't find for myself - whether it's vintage styles or a well-fitting pair of pants. The gloves issue is interesting... I don't wear gloves at all, because I'm a pianist and have giant hands, so I don't fit into women's gloves at all. Vogue has some beautiful glove patterns. I do knit, but I won't knit gloves because they are too fiddly (all those tiny tubes!) I might sew underwear, because I think the price it goes for is outrageous (and I have fancy taste.) Slips definitely, since they seem to be totally disappearing from stores now, and I would like nice materials.

  21. I don't sew bras or knickers and in my humble opinion homesewn jeans never really quite look like bought ones. to be fair I am a standard fit in all these things.
    T shirts and tops I do sew because I always have to shorten them anyway.
    I make all my nightgear from knits and have not bought a robe for decades. They are really easy to make out of nice fabric.
    Coats and jackets are the best things to make for the time invested. Oh and evening dresses.

  22. I've been loving your blog for months, but this post has pulled me out of the shadows...

    I've sewn quite an array of things over the years (I started sewing "seriously" in high school). At first, I hated the machine and even did a whole madrigal costume by hand (with all flat-felled and french seams! I was a little nuts). For years I only wore a bra I sewed myself (it was extremely odd-looking, but all-cotton and did not itch... still, I wear commercial ones now). I sewed two dozen diapers for baby 1 but didn't like the fabric much over time (50% hemp, got too stiff for my taste) and bought diapers for baby 2 (no time to sew). I've sewn menstrual pads (not a winner) and nursing pads (FABULOUS, totally worth it). I've also sewn my own wedding dress (silk lace appliqued and beaded onto silk chiffon over silk shantung - it was exactly what I wanted and took forever) and a friend's (simpler, but wedding dresses are never really simple). I tried panties (because I wanted organic cotton and didn't want to pay through the nose; didn't work well, but have been thinking of trying again). I've sewn really simple bow ties (quilting fabric, for one-time laugh value) and a standard silk tie (not worth it, in my opinion, but interesting to know how it's done).... Honestly, I'm not sure what the strangest thing I've sewn would be. But that wasn't the question, was it? :) Anyway, there's not much I wouldn't try once; sadly, little of my actual wardrobe is sewn by me. I also really like doing quilts - I can play with color and pattern that I would never ever wear. Stuffed toys are also big fun.

    I've been wanting to do undershirts for my husband (again, because I could afford good fabric, and get rid of his old ratty ones, or turn them into knitting fodder...), but anything that repetitive gets old fast (although the diapers were kind of satisfying to just make a whole stack of) and I'm not sure I'd do well on the neck binding (I was impressed with your t-shirt a few weeks ago).

    I've knitted socks, but don't really like wearing wool socks and don't really like knitting cotton... How do you SEW socks???

  23. Welcome, MakingTime -- and everyone else, of course!

    For socks, you'd have to buy the appropriate knit fabric. I'm sure there's a way but I think that where I draw the line. I will not make my own socks! LOL

  24. Late to the party today, but I have to add never say never. I've made a lot of different things, but no lingerie and it really doesn't interest me except maybe a slip (ok, I have a pretty one planned to go under a wrap dress). I never thought I'd make jeans, but I'm seriously considering it, probably as a fall project. I do think I'd make t-shirts, too.

    But swimwear. Um, never.

  25. Brassieres is where I draw the line. I'll sew corsets, but the marvel that is a fabulous underwire, I'll leave to the structural engineers at Maidenform...

  26. Pyjamas. I will never sew them. I don't see the point. I also will probably never sew gym clothes for the same reason you won't sew swim suits.

  27. Sewing menstral pads and diapers. No freakin' way.

  28. I generally don't do kids clothes anymore. I can get a whole year wardrobe for my kids at Target for like $100. I would probably spend $200 just on fabrics for the same clothes, not to mention my time. I do make a few dresses for DD every now and again, but I won't go near tee shirts and pants anymore.

  29. This threads magazine link may provide you with some inspiration. I have yet to download the free patterns, but it's one I'd like to try.
    There's also an interesting gallery of gloves.

  30. sorry, here's the link.

  31. I said I'd never make t shirts, but I've made some pretty basic knit tops that probably qualify as t shirts. I still haven't made (and have no desire to me) any type of underwear - bras or otherwise. That's just me, though. i can understand how some would find it a fun challenge.

  32. I've never made blouses, a notion I got from my mother who thought they were so much work it was cheaper & easier to buy them.

    Diapers wouldn't be hard with a machine but my late grandmother hand hemmed several dozen while expecting my dad in 1924 and definitely hated the experience.


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