Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rockabilly Tuesday: Retro Halter Top (with Tutorial)

(So excited to share this, for some ridiculous reason...)

Since I've primarily been a 'taker' of the internet craft community, using numerous tutorials and free patterns over the years (and immensely grateful for those who shared their skills and knowledge), I decided it was my turn to give for once. So here's a little tutorial on making a Rockabilly Halter Top. It's a bit rough/unrefined, for it's basically just me doing what I do (winging it) only documenting it along the way.

So... there's one major issue I have with halter tops. Okay, there's actually a couple. One, they hurt my neck, which makes me wonder at how very well endowed ladies like the style, when I find I have to tie them quite tightly in order to get proper support... which actually brings me to the primary issue. A lack of support. I never go bra-less, even when there's supposed 'built-in' bras in shirts and dresses (shelf bras? Please! Might as well just be all out there). Ahem. Anyway. And I don't even own a strapless bra... they are equally useless in my opinion. But solution for the halter! Build it around one of my old bras! (I knew I kept that ratty thing for a reason!)




  • Fabric (about 1 yard)
  • interfacing (for lighter weight fabric)
  • contrast fabric/bias tape
  • Old bra (to be sacrificed to the cause of having a nicely supportive halter top)
  • scissors
  • measuring tape
  • ruler, cutting mat, and rotary cutter (optional)
  • thread
  • pins
  • "pattern" (I required a calculator and pencils to make this draft)
  • iron and board
  • bias-tape maker (optional)



You want one with cups that are still in tact, without underwire poking through or stitching coming apart (it's the cups that we're reusing).

Remove straps and trim close to cups. I've left the center front in tact because I like the fit of this bra, and it's good guide for spacing.

(And bonus, mine just happens to match my fabric perfectly! Not that it will ever be seen...)


This piece is drafted to fit a 36D bra (more or less, some alterations were needed, as outlined below in the sewing directions).
Halter Top Piece Part 1

Halter Top Piece Part 2
I don't have capabilities to scan to pdf, sorry. These are two 8.5in x 11in pieces of paper. (And they are pieced together as below.)

This is the basic shape you want. Just measure across one cup/breast from the side of the cup to the center/sternum and add seam allowance for the body of the piece. And then extend for the tie/center bow. Measure the length of the cup from where it joined the strap to the bottom edge to get the height of the piece at its widest point. It should taper somewhat to the center front of the bodice.
Halter Top Piece (Taped together)


(I use a rotary cutter, ruler and mat for the strips of fabric, since I  already have the tools from quilting.)
  • 4 of the bodice pattern from the fabric (or 2 from fabric and 2 from lining)
  • 3 strips of 4.5 inch wide out of fabric (1 for band, 2 for straps)
    • This will give you a finished width of about 1 3/4 inches 
    • I used 42" wide fabric, and since my underbust is 36, this will be plenty for the band (I am using fasteners rather than tying it, and ties will require extra length, possibly two pieces).
  • 1 strip of contrast for binding (2 inches wide for a finished width of 1/2")


If you desire, depending on the weight of your fabric, you may wish to interface the band and the straps. I opted to use lightweight fusing interfacing on the band only. We'll see how it sits in the finished product.


Center Front seam from dot to bottom edge

1. With right sides together, sew Center front seams (1/2" seam) of bodice and lining pieces. Clip at angle to dot. Press open.
Press Seam Open

2. Pin right side of lining to outside of bra cups, smoothing fabric over form of cup and leaving at least 1/2" for seam allowance around cups.(Notice there is a bunch of excess on outside, simply due to not extremely accurate pattern drafting.)

Pin cups to lining piece
Sew cups to lining (be sure to avoid underwire or crunch! there goes your needle).
Stitch along edge of cups but watch out for underwire!
3. With right sides together, pin ties together (make sure right side of bodice goes with right side of lining, and left side with left side). Stitch 1/4" seam to dot on top edge of bodice. Clip to dot.

Pin Ties and Stitch
Turn ties and press.
Front Ties Finished

4. With wrong sides together, pin lining and bodice along top edge and bottom edge. Baste within seam line (seam allowance is 1/2", so just under 1/2" away from raw edges).
Baste Raw Edges of Bodice and Lining together

5. Baste edges of front to back close to edge of cups. Trim excess fabric so that 1/2" seam allowance remains (sorry, guys, the drafting was a wing-it sort of deal, so my pattern is not precisely to shape even if you have the same bra size I used).
Stitch seam close to cups, Trim 1/2 away

6. Make bias tape/binding with strip of contrast fabric (I was lucky enough to have this amethyst silkessence fabric that matches the dark stripes in my plaid perfectly... woo! for massive fabric stash!). (Or just buy a package of bias tape, if you want to be like that). Cutting on the bias works better (the fabric will stretch rather than pucker and twist and piss you off), but I find actually using bias cut fabric (cut on the diagonal) a waste of fabric, so I just cut a strip off and run it through my beloved bias-tape maker with iron to press it. Fold it in half, leaving one side larger than the other.
Handy-Dandy Bias-Tape Gizmo!
7. Trim the upper edge of the bodice close to the basting stitches. Apply your bias tape to the upper edge of the bodice, by sandwiching the fabric in the bias tape fold, with the larger side of the bias tape on the lining/inside of the bodice. Stitch close to the edge of the tape from the front side of the bodice (since the back side of the bias tape is larger, you do not have to worry so much about it being caught in the stitching). Tuck end of bias tape under at center front of bodice for a finished edge.
Stitch close to edge of bias tape
Finished Contrast Trim!

8. Fold strap in half lengthwise, with right sides together. Press. Repeat with other strap.

9. Unfolding part of strap and placing right sides togther and aligning edge of strap with bottom of top, pin strap to outer edge of top. Stitch, keeping the basting stitches on the seam allowance side (so they won't show on the finished garment).
Pin Right sides of straps to outer edges of top, sew!

10. With right sides together, stitch strap closed, starting at point where you stopped stitching the strap to the bodice. Finish off end of tie by pivoting near corner.

Finish straps, picking up stitching line where left off at top of bodice (pin)
Trim corner.
Finish end of strap. Clip corner.

Turn strap and Press. Repeat for other strap.

11. Turn under seam allowance of strap on inside of top.
Turn under seam allowance on inside of bodice to finish strap.

Slip stitch closed or pin and top stitch in the ditch on the machine.

'Stitch in the Ditch' means sinking the stitches right into that seam
Repeat for other strap.
Almost Done!

12. Apply interfacing to band. (Sew together pieces, if using more than one for band.) With right sides together, fold band in half and press. Unfold.
I like fusible lightweight pellon because it's easy. Just iron, no sewing and puckering!

13. With right sides together and raw edges even, and matching centers, pin band to bottom edge of top. Stitch.
Pin Right Side of Band to bottom of Bodice. Sew!

14. If tying band in the back, finish Band same as with straps. If using fasteners, you can leave the ends of the band open because they will likely have to be trimmed to fit.
Finish Band by picking up stitch line where left off (at pin)
Fold under seam allowance on inside and pin. From right side/outside, stitch in ditch.

15. Tie Bow.

Try on, tying halter straps at back of neck and adjusting. Mark fit at center back. Trim excess fabric. Fold under and finish edges. Sew in hook'n'eye (recommend heavy duty pant/skirt ones).
Heavy duty fastener, and Voila! Ready to Rock it!

16. Boogie, Baby!


ROCKABILLY SONG OF THE WEEK: I've Been Everywhere by Johnny Cash

COVETED ITEM OF THE WEEK: I think I found new dress inspiration with Living Dead Souls brand of awesome punk-rockabilly-goth style! Especially this and this, and this. Oh! And definitely this!

ROCKABILLY SLANG OF THE WEEK:  "I'm Booted." (Def: I'm hip or I understand.)


Previous Rockabilly Tuesday Posts:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rockabilly Tuesday: Making it up!

So this week seems like a bit of a cop out on the weekly posting to a theme, I know. But I really only have so much free time, and therefore there's no new project this week. But if you keep tuning in, very shortly there will be not only a new project but (hopefully) a tutorial (depending on whether it's worth sharing).

Anyway, this week features... my first attempt with make-up in the Rockabilly/Pin-up style. Normally, all I wear is powder to cut down on the dark circles around my eyes. But in anticipation of Halloween (yes, I'm one of those nerds who is already excited about the holiday even though it's only May) I finally purchased a set of make-up supplies, including a nice brush set, lip pencil, liquid eye liner, red lipstick, and neutral tone eye shadows, and mascara. Prior to this, I had costume make-up (cheap Halloween set as well as a Ben Nye white foundation), a dark purple lip stick, a blush set, a plum eyeshadow set. Oh yeah, big plans for Halloween! It's going to be awesome!

Anyway, for this playtime, I read several different tutorials. Here are links to a few:


The common denominators/key elements seemed to be THE EYELINER and RED LIPS.


FOUNDATION: Consensus seems to be go natural or use as an exact a skin tone match you can find, if you use foundation. Whatever makes you comfortable.
  • My Execution: Concealer for those dark eye circles, powder to even it off. 
EYEBROWS: As far as I can tell, thin-lined and arched. Dark.
  • My Execution: Not a fan of over-plucked/shaped eyebrows, as you can probably tell. I did try to clean up the arch and darken them a little.
EYESHADOW: Most seem to suggest (depending on skin tone) a white or cream over the entirety of the eye, lid all the way to brow. And then bring in neutral tones. Specifics vary, probably due to what looks best for which eye shape/type.
  • My Execution: Cream as the base, Neutral tone lid, slightly darker along the crease. I also employed the whole 'white in the water line' along lower lid to open up ones eyes.
EYELINER: Runs from corner near nose above lash line and beyond outside edge of eye in 'cat' style. Some people do theirs thin, some progressively thicken as they work their way out, and some apply a near theatrical amount (which I am not going to criticize because I associate any make-up usage with dressing up in costume).
  • My Execution: First time using an angle brush and liquid liner, so a little uneven, but I didn't have to start over with eyeshadows.
LASHES: Some people use falsies for this look. Most use mascara for the every day. Many recommend eyelash curlers (which I have not yet succumbed to.)
  • My Execution: First time using mascara. Not sure how I did. But I didn't notice any of the dreaded 'clumping' I hear tell so much about.
RED LIPS: This is obvious if you consider that a woman did not leave the house in the early-to-mid-20th century without lipstick, and neutral tones were not in vogue until the 70s and later. Also look at those gorgeous pin up girls. Red, full lips pouting at the world.
  • My Execution: Okay. I do not have full lips. I actually have rather thin lips. Not sure what the rule is here, but I took the lip pencil (a slightly darker shade than my lipstick) and drew it along the outside edge of my lip line, brought it in to fill in my lips a little and then applied the lipstick over top.
BLUSH: I found conflicting views on the blush. Some say anywhere but the apples of the cheeks. Some say only on the apples of the cheeks. Some say not directly on the cheekbones.
  • My Execution: I just went with what I know and have... cheekbones. Of course, this probably from watching my mother apply her blush. It definitely works for prominent cheekbone faces. But I think it does come off as a little more '80s look than '50s.

Well, how did I do?

Any tips?  

ROCKABILLY SONG OF THE WEEK: I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone by Elvis Presley

COVETED ITEM OF THE WEEK: Lauren Top I know, another from Pin Up Girl Clothing, but I love the cut and style of this top.

ROCKABILLY SLANG OF THE WEEK: Ginchiest (def: coolest!)

Previous Rockabilly Tuesday Posts:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Robot Half-Apron

So while (as my friend would put it) "sweating my tetas off" at work the other day, I decided that a full apron (dinosaur and owl not withstanding) is not the best idea for summer. But having become accustomed to pockets (and having ready scissors of various sizes, pens, thumb drives, and highlighters, tissues, sticks of gum, candies...), I decided I  needed a half-apron.

My mom gave me this awesome set of fat quarters with a robot theme. But not being a quilter, I hadn't used them for anything and they've been sitting around for a couple years. I had to piece them to make them work, and throw in some leftover red star fabric from the Doctor Who Quilt.

But yay! work apron! (Although, the pockets take a little getting used to because they sit lower than on my other aprons.)

PS I  know you're all jealous of my bright fuschia 100% silk blouse obtained from the Free Pile in a cute little thrift store in the Adirondacks!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Introducing...Rockabilly Tuesday

Doing a weekly post theme seems like a good way to lend some consistency to life...

As for Rockabilly, it's a style I'm toying with adopting for the summer. Because when I think of a subculture that goes with the season, it's the first that pops into mind (with beach parties, cute retro swimsuits, and classic convertables, etc.).  I am no expert on the style (which will only make this a more exciting journey/learning experience), but don't feel quite like a total 'poser' since I have more than a passing knowledge of 40s and 50s fashions and have stalked Pin Up Girl Clothing for a number of years.  Also, I love me some Johnny Cash, Charlie Feathers, Johnny Burnette and Wanda Jackson. (And have seen more than a few Elvis movies).

For this first 'Rockabilly Tuesday' of the Summer, I happily present...

 Butterick 5896

Prior to buying some nice denim, I wanted to try the fit of the pants in the pattern to see if I liked the style. According to the finished garment measures, my not skinny self requires a size 16. So I cut out a size 16. Too big! I had to take it in over an inch on each side seam. However, this was mostly due to the fact that I opted to use this black (with white stripe) suiting with apparently a pretty good stretch to it. In fact, these pants don't really need the zipper and hook-n-eye that I installed, as they are capable of being pulled on. That being said, however, before you go thinking you can make these to wear like leggings, I'm what's called a 'slim fit' in pants (for patterns anyway) because my hip-waist ratio isn't large. And these pants are quite obviously designed for some wonderfully curvy pin-up gals.

As for the top, I again opted to give their finished garment measurements the benefit of the doubt, and made a size 14. This seems to have worked out mostly well (a little snug in the bust, but hey, I'm used to that). I generally make a size 14 from the major brands of patterns (Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, etc.) but there is still variation in the sizing/fit by specific designer and style of the garment. It is interesting to note that the last time I actually purchased a garment, I took an 8/10 off-the-rack (and a size 12 in clothing I have dating to the early 1990s). Someone's lying to make us feel better, aren't they?

Back on topic. I think I like this pattern and will give it a go in some denim. Maybe dark denim with a top in this pink plaid I have.

Random note (that nobody really cares about but me): This was the last of what could possibly be my favourite fabric ever, the cotton WWII fighter planes hawaiian print in med blue. And it took some creative piecing together of remnants for the facing to squeeze this out of the remainder of fabric. Now, there really is only scraps left. This cropped top rounds off the project count at 6: Hawaiian Shirt for my dad (Simplicity 3852), Dress for me (New Look 6557-my first and much loved dress pattern), 50s Hawaiian Dress for me (Simplicity 4559 Out-of-Print), Blouse for me (Simplicity 4077 Out-of-Print), Glasses Case (I covered one acquired at the dollar store) for my dad, and now this Rockabilly Top.
ROCKABILLY SONG OF THE WEEK: That Certain Female by Charlie Feathers

COVETED ITEM OF THE WEEK: These Flats! I was considering saddle shoes or converse, since I need flats if I want to Rockabilly up my work day. But now...

ROCKABILLY SLANG OF THE WEEK: D.D.T. (Drop Dead Twice) - Response: What, and look like you?

Well, until next week...(if I can keep this going)... Stay hip!


Monday, May 6, 2013


(Oh, crap! When did the month turn over?! Well, I obviously was a failure at sticking to my project list last month, so here we go again...)
  • New Steampunk Outfit (continuing from March's start on the Plaid Voile costume)
    • Harness Vest
      • Draft
      • Mock-up?
      • Finished Version
    • Style Wig
    • Hat
      • alter Vogue Pattern V7464
      • Make Hat & Veil
      • Trim with Flowers and cameo
    • Costume Prosthetic for leg
  • Casual Steampunk Dress?
  • Mystery Project (Been neglecting this even though I promised myself I'd work on it consistently last month)
    • Phase I
    • Phase II (about 10% completed)
  • Rockabilly/Retro Swimsuit