In 2019, when I was writing a round-up of the first year of activity on the @SewOver50 account Tina @bricolagedk gave me her very honest, and touching, response as to why she was so happy to be a part of our community. She had a very different reason for joining in to many. Living in Denmark, she was struggling to adjust to a new and altered body-shape after a mastectomy, RTW clothing just wasn’t right any more so she wanted to start sewing her own again after many years but found a lack of patterns and information available. She contacted Judith directly and, when Judith shared the question with everyone, the response was extraordinary. I’ll let Tina explain in her own words,
“You posted my request and I got an amazing response. People gave me drafting tips, and told me of helpful sewing tools for hurting hands and weak arms. A couple of post mastectomy sewers also contacted me. Others from the SO50 community gifted me patterns, and translated patterns for me from languages I didn’t understand. They told me of patternmaking books with drafting tips for asymmetric sewing. But most of all, everyone was extremely supportive, and in less than a year I have gone from feeling so alone and insecure about how to sew for my changed body, to being part of a very supportive, helpful and inclusive community.”
Over the following two years Tina has amassed a huge number of resources which could be of use to the many women affected by a breast cancer diagnosis, or know someone else who is and whom they would like to help and support by sewing articles for them. After all her hard work Tina is very happy to share them with our community, we are indebted to her wonderful act of generosity and ‘giving back’ to the SO50 community which responded with open arms to her. I am very happy to be able to publish them all here on my blog as a means to make them available to you.
Tina has already given her own headings or categories to each topic, and provided the links which you see here. They include not just everyday clothing and ideas how to adapt them but things like comfort cushions, post-op gowns, turbans, as well as ideas for self-drafting too. She also suggests various hashtags which might link you to other women in the same situation.
Sew let’s begin…
To meet other post mastectomy sewists
Check out the tag #sewoverbreastcancer on Instagram, there are currently well over one thousand posts using this hashtag, and if Facebook is your thing then join Facebook group Sewing Flat and Asymmetrical https://www.facebook.com/groups/275875773308157
Pattern adaptation, Breast dart removal-here are two methods
1. ease moved into the waist seam
[You can find the Seamwork Instagram account here @seamwork as a starting point to finding and using its resources.]
2. for leaving the waist seam width unchanged try
@Inhousepatterns https://www.inhousepatternsstudio.com/blog/how-to-eliminate-a-bust-dart https://www.instagram.com/p/CSMTMB-IRki/
The book ‘Fast Fit – Easy Pattern Alterations for Every Figure by SANDRA BETZINA‘ has a chapter on sewing and pattern alterations for a post mastectomy chest
Twig and Tale are a New Zealand based pattern company which now offers instructions of their popular Fable dress to enable a flat-fronted version.
If you enjoy sketching as part of planning your projects then @mybodymodel has a customised fashion croquis template made to your own measurements with a no chest option. It helped Tina to test what designs might look and feel good on her post-mastectomy body. https://www.instagram.com/p/B4QSbiknDpi/ https://www.mybodymodel.com/
@Sewcialists #AllChestsWelcome was a theme month with lots of resources for sewing post mastectomy
Venus mensch has a created tutorial on how to adapt a bra pattern to one cup after single mastectomy
@venusmensch_mk :🦋 Here’s the link to her video tutorial demonstrating how to hack a bra pattern into a post mastectomy bra that is flat on one side. The same technique works for a flat chest.
Prosthesis and prosthesis pockets
The Sewcialists has ceased to publish new articles and posts but their resources are still available. Here is a blog-post on sewing a prosthesis https://thesewcialists.com/2020/08/14/allchestswelcome-do-it-yourself-breast-prosthesis/
Another option is Knitted knockers which offers a pattern for a soft crochet prosthesis https://www.headcovers.com/blog/how-to-knit-or-crochet-a-breast-prosthesis-with-free-patterns/
Sew soft breast forms, if you do not want to go flat while the scars are healing http://mastectomysolutions.com/sew-your-own-breast-forms.php
There are lots of options for a variety of bras and bra-making including
@bramakerssupply https://www.instagram.com/bramakerssupply/ a tutorial on how to make a soft prosthesis. I found it by searching Mastectomy on their website https://www.braandcorsetsupplies.com/2014/05/09/do-it-yourself-breast-form/
You can use this pattern https://www.instagram.com/p/BzwhkDEAbLY/ from @patternunion https://www.instagram.com/patternunion/
https://www.patternunion.com.au/product-page/vintage-liner-bra it can be used for creating a prosthesis
and a tutorial for how to add a prosthesis pocket to an ordinary bra pattern https://www.braandcorsetsupplies.com/2018/10/14/draft-mastectomy-pocket/?fbclid=IwAR2f53F71r446ucbkTlC0JS0y5viHXAA41sJMW6xApcnxaaHa8kb1JehmZM
@threadsmagazine details adding a prosthesis pocket to an RTW bra https://www.instagram.com/p/B1WfsmZD4AL/ they have a better how-to on their website https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2009/01/25/adapt-a-bra-to-accommodate-a-prosthesis
Mastectomy Bra patterns
There are two free patterns for single mastectomy bras available from @tetayteta https://sujetadorlola.es/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Patrones-LOLA.pdf Both patterns are free to use for noncommercial purposes. There are no sewing instructions to the patterns though https://sujetadorlola.es/ scroll to the bottom of the page for downloads https://www.instagram.com/p/CHc8GCkBCBa/
@Anna.bonny mastectomy patch https://www.instagram.com/p/BfNs2Url0VH/ free pattern
@michelles__armoire https://www.instagram.com/p/CVG0v_SBrH6/ free pdf sewing pattern for a mastectomy bra with prosthesis pocket https://michellesarmoire.com.au/collections/patterns/products/lourdes-mastectomy-bra
Pain relief pillows for post-surgery can be very helpful.
Heart pillow pattern to ease post-surgery pain
There are sewing instructions for the Sewcialists pillow https://www.instagram.com/p/B4plHVWgg0B/ pattern in photo no. 2
Other website resources for comfort pillows include:
Immediately after surgery a pain relief pillow will help when in bed, and could make the car journey home after surgery a little more comfortable.
After a single mastectomy: http://www.stitchedtogetherstudios.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Love-Pillow-Pattern.pdf
Pain relief pillow for double mastectomy: http://previvingandthriving.com/mastectomy-must-haves/
Post op clothes
A front closing camisole
https://www.instagram.com/mellysews/ has a free pattern and tutorial for a front closing camisole so you won’t have to lift your arms after surgery. Try typing in the search word mastectomy on her website https://mellysews.com/post-surgery-camisole-mastectomy-surgery/ is the pattern and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uCw73CPTjA is a tutorial for the front-opening camisole.
A front closing bralette, in a soft fabric without wiring or tight elastic can also be very comfortable without rubbing or chafing. Tina adapted the Delvine bralette by Primrose Dawn Designs for example.
A gown or robe will be very useful
@madeit_patterns #tranquilitygown with drain bag vest. Free pattern
If you need post mastectomy op drain bags, there is a tutorial below or use the vest from madeit patterns. Drain bags can also be sewn into a dress, top, hoodie, cardigan, shirt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOLqkRvG5A0
Chemo turban pattern
Chemo turban pattern for wovens https://brimmingwithlove.com/ free pattern
https://www.instagram.com/molliejohanson/ Blog on 10 different free chemo hat sewing patterns https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/chemo-hat-and-turban-sewing-patterns-2977862
Also, Sewcialists has a free beanie pattern which would be suitable for chemo patients too.
https://www.instagram.com/p/B5NRrtzH2ag/ @sygal.dk The text is Danish but the pattern is free
Sewing instructions (use google translate) http://sygal.dk/2018/02/20/moenster-til-hue-i-jersey/
The release date for the Sewing Guide to Cancer and other pesky long-term illnesses is postponed to February 2022
Tina has also been interviewed and written about her illness a couple of times so the links below specifically refer to those occasions.
Some Links to where Tina has been interviewed or written about sewing for a post mastectomy body
Tina talks to Maria on the Sew Organised Style podcast specifically about sewing for her post-mastectomy body. https://seworganisedstylepodcast.com/2021/09/29/bricolagdk-tina/
A loooong story of illness: https://thesewcialists.com/2019/11/08/who-we-are-sewing-after-a-unilateral-mastectomy/
Designing for a post mastectomy body; https://www.mybodymodel.com/sketch-sew/designing-for-my-post-mastectomy-body-with-my-body-model-croquis-by-tina/
I do hope you will be able to access the many and varied resources which Tina has accumulated (a few are not in English but hopefully Google Translate can help here whichever language you need to access them in) and I want to thank her on all our behalves for the sheer effort she has put into researching and collating them, and for now being only too willing to pass them on for us to use. Many of the resources are free for anyone to access and not for commercial use so please be mindful of that and to credit the source where it’s due if you use any of them yourself, now or in the future.
Until next time,