Sewing, What I wear

Making my own camisoles

Camisoles thedreamstress.com3

UPDATE:    Want to make your own singlet camisoles  from my pattern?  You can now buy the  Wonder Unders Pattern  (which includes knickers & slip) through my pattern line: Scroop Patterns.  Get it here!

The empire of things that I am making for myself because trying to buy them makes me too grumpy is expanding…

I’ve already developed a pattern to make my own sewn-not-knitted socks/stockings (OK, so I still buy most of my everyday pairs, but the idea is sound!).  And I make my own knickers.

And now, camisoles (or as they say in NZ, singlets):

Camisoles thedreamstress.com3

Actually, come to think of it, I’ve been doing this one longer than either of those.  It’s just that my first three years worth of  singlets were boring black or boring white, so not really worth showing!

Buying singlets drives me absolutely batty.  In Wellington your singlet choices are pretty much Glassons (but I hate the way theirs fit), Bendon (ditto), Kirkaldies (too expensive), Cotton On (OK, but rather poorly made and even though they get pretty good ethics ratings for a high street shop, I’m still not comfortable with their labour practices) and Farmers.

All but the last  involve either going to a mall (my life goals include never setting foot in a mall again) or parking in the CBD (major hassle).  I used to get mine at Farmers, because you could go to Farmers in Kilbirnie (a suburb) and parking is free and easy.  Plus, as long as you’re in Kilbirnie you can go to Wellington Sewing Services, and Stitchbird, and three awesome op-shops, and it’s totally worth the trip!

But now I’m boycotting Farmers, because    Farmers Kilbirnie persists in putting their lingerie section in a corner of the store that is all glass, and fronts right on to the sidewalk.  So as you try to pick unders, the whole world watches you.  Or at least the part of the world that hangs out in a dead corner of Kilbirnie, watching people pick lingerie, and let me tell you, it is NOT a happy experience.

For over 5 years now I’ve been complaining to Farmers Kilbirnie about the fact that the ONLY part of the store that you can look into from outside is women’s underwear, and every time I do they say “Oh, we know, it’s terrible, we’re so sorry about it, we’re working on a solution.”   Sometimes they say they are looking into view blocking screens.  But it’s been five years, and nothing has changed.  You know what an easy solution would be?  PUT A DIFFERENT SECTION OF THE STORE IN THAT CORNER.  Like housewears.  Mens clothing.  Kids clothing.  The twee gift stuff.  Even women’s clothing.  Anything but lingerie!

So anyway, I’m now totally boycotting Farmers, because even if it doesn’t change anything, at least it means I don’t have to pick out bras and camisoles while being ogled by the guy with the ‘Spare Change’ sign.  (the fact that I voluntarily choose to share the ones I make on this blog is an entirely different thing – it’s a choice, and most of you reading are doing so for sewing interest!).

So, with no camisole supplier, I make myself lots of boring white and black camisoles, and the occasional exciting ones, like these:

Camisoles thedreamstress.com1

The fabric is a Karen Walker print, and (in case you can’t see) it has paisley whales.

Paisley whales!

Also, it’s buttery soft and delicious and super fun to work with.  And I got so excited about it that I bought about 6 meters, so I’m set for paisley whale knickers and camisoles sets for the next decade of my life!

Camisoles thedreamstress.com4

I based the pattern of my favourite camisoles, tweaking the fit till I had it exactly where I wanted.  I even make versions with built-in bralets, which theoretically could be used for days when it is too hot to wear a bra, but since it is Wellington, really get used for days when every single additional layer between you and the outside world helps.

Camisoles thedreamstress.com5

Since this is Wellington, I wear these a LOT.  They go under merino layers every single day of winter, to cut down on wool irritation, and in spring (and, lets face it, half of summer) having an additional layer or two under your T-shirt or blouse is helpful too.

Camisoles thedreamstress.com2

I like that I can make these with materials entirely from locally owned businesses (Fabric Warehouse and Made on Marion), and that they cut down just a little bit more on our reliance on sweatshops.  And they are fun and quick and satisfying to make.

And that is pretty much everything remotely interesting I can think of to say about camisoles!


  1. Lyndle says

    Those whales are cool! Awesome fabric. Where did you get it? And is that fold over elastic?
    I totally hear you on Kilbirnie Farmers. I mean, really. All you want is to buy knickers and there’s Creepy Guy watching. Eerk.

  2. Elise says

    greenpeace.orgVery cool. And It’s so neat that you are working and doing your part to help make the textile industry a kinder place to the earth and its people.

    Feel free to edit or delete, but I’d really like to recommend Boden, as it’s high-quality clothing is ethically sound. And (important to me) its depictions of young girls is respectful and fun, rather that sexual and pouty.

    Greenpeace has a neat website that judges the efforts made by clothing companies to be better to the earth. I wish I knew of one that was trying to help people.

  3. I may have to try making camis when I get my serger! I’m picky about fabrics and colours, and the ones with the built in bras are just a pain because apparently companies don’t design for H cups. :/

  4. Deanna says

    Paisley whales! These are so cute and cheery! You think of the best things.

  5. Paisley whales, how cool is that? They look great with blue elastic. By coincidence I have a paisley singlet on today too (green and cream paisley from the last Fabric Warehouse pop up sale), but I’m wearing it on its own because I’m one of those people you see walking down Lambton Quay in a singlet in June – it’s probably because I grew up in an uninsulated villa. Wellington must have been quite a shock to the system when you moved here from Hawaii.

    The best thing about sewing is not having to go clothes shopping. Also you can get exactly what you want without being limited to whatever happens to be in fashion and/or available, but not having to go clothes shopping is the key benefit.

  6. Kirrily says

    Your undies look great. Thanks for sharing them despite the intimacy of what they are.

    I would like to try making some but would be really interested in bamboo fabric for these and also for nighties (nightgowns? Sleepwear? Now there is another question about naming. Negligee is a beautiful word, but not what I wear, and although a lovely word, it has that ‘for the male gaze’ connotation which panties – ugh – have for me.)

    Have you any idea where to source this?

  7. Claire Payne says

    Paisley whales indeed! I’d call the camisole/singlet a ‘spaghetti strapped vest’ coming from the UK. It got very confusing at college when waistcoats were referred to as vests. I should have a go at making my own knickers. Now that I make my own clothes, I find that the quality of everything in the high street shops and malls is so dire that I wouldn’t use them for dusters. There is nothing like good quality natural fibre fabric. All this cheap polyester rubbish really winds me up. Hooray for sewing! And hip, hip hooray for sewing paisley whale vests and knickers!

  8. I’ve been making my own camisoles for decades! Couldn’t find ones that fit, I’m finicky about quality and details. Mostly, they are of silk, using less than a yard, with lots of hand sewing. It’s very satisfying to finish dressing and know that you are perfectly coordinated and finished even if you are the only one to know it!

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