New Year Catch Up

Happy (belated) new year, y’all!

2015 was quite the blur. Mine started and ended with a house renovation and we are finally finished! In this photo from two months ago was the first time my kitchen looked like a kitchen after many months of having no floor right down to the dirt.

my kitchen reno in progress | Cloth Habit

Have you been through a reno? Once you pull the string on one, oy, does it keep unravelling. What started out as a simple kitchen idea turned into changing the foundation piers under the house, ripping out 80 years of plumbing, re-wiring, ripping out two walls… and of course redesigning my sewing workroom to a space I loved.

The thing that nobody tells you about renovations–whether you do it yourself or as we did with a contractor–is that the actual work isn’t as tiresome as the onslaught of decision-making. Decision exhaustion is a thing! I knew I got there when choices over period-appropriate door plates kept me up at night.

So of course I needed distractions that had nothing to do with my business or my house, like…

Knitting

I want to knit all the things!

I bought my first ball of yarn in November and I’m gobbling up everything I can learn about knitting. It’s rejuvenated my excitement in making things and been a great de-stresser in the evenings (and I’ll admit, in the mornings too).

After my hat I started in on this seed stitch cowl pattern from Purl Soho…

Purl Soho's gradient seed stitch cowl | Cloth Habit

It’s fairly mindless knitting once you get into a rhythm, and seed stitch is an awesome pattern for getting comfortable with both knits and purls as a beginner. But boy, is it lonng, and I had to force myself not to start other projects so I could actually finish this before the short Austin winter disappears!

Meanwhile I couldn’t get enough of sock patterns, and got a bit feverish collecting them on Ravelry. It makes sense the bra making lover would dig knitting little things, right? This is my first pair, knitted from a wool silk sportweight yarn, because… silk.

first pair of knitted socks | Cloth Habit

This is the first of several pairs I started while holiday traveling. [Grins sheepishly at all the little knitted toes I’ve collected…] We were squeezed into the back middle row of economy for both international flights so having something to do with my hands was a relief!

I want to knit all the socks | Cloth Habit

Bra Making

I’ve been hinting here and there about a new pattern. I don’t have a firm release date but I can tell you that it’s nearly done and all I need is some space to round out the instructions. In the meantime, I’ve been playing around with some personal patterns for myself.

t-shirt bra experiments| Cloth Habit

I’m on a quest to perfect a basic t-shirt bra, which two years ago I swore I’d never make. Then my stash of store bought t-shirt bras started wearing out. The bras I make last longer than they do, so I knew it was time to conquer the thing that I call the “fall back bra”. And I’m pretty close to getting the fit and feel I want. Sometimes it takes a few tries! Stay tuned for more thoughts on making t-shirt bras…

Teaching

Annnd… I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching at this year’s Camp Workroom Social! Want to join me for an intensive weekend of bra making next October?

Copyright 2015 Esvy Photography
Copyright 2015 Esvy Photography

It’s going be be a blast of a weekend of camping and making, with courses in sewing, knitting, surface design, and fitting. Registration is open, and there are still some spots left in my class. I’ll be writing more about Camp next week so you can get a feel for what it’s all about!

Now back to packing and getting ready to move… Happy weekend!

Video: An Easy Seam Tape for Bras

How to make an easy seam tape for bras | Cloth Habit

There are many ways to finish bra cup seams and I love experimenting with different techniques. Most of the time I line bra cups with a sheer lining because I love the way lining feels and it’s an easy, neat way to hide cup seams. You can even line the insides of foam cups if the seams are bothering you.

But what if you don’t want a lining? Enter seam tape!

This is my favorite way to cover and neaten foam cup seams, and it’s also a common treatment for ready to wear bras that don’t have a lining, both foam and non-foam. I’ve had a lot of questions about how I make seam tape for my foam bras (like this one) so today I’m going to show you! This weekend I was working on a new bra and I shot a spontaneous video to show you exactly where this mystery tape comes from, and how I use it.

Hilarious video note: before anyone shouts at me, I realized after I finished I was pronouncing “tricot” wrong. It’s one of those words I often write but rarely say out loud. I’ve heard some (American) sewists pronounce it “TREE-coh” and others “tree-COH” but never “tree-COOO”.

Supplies mentioned in video:
Sheer tricot (see below for sources)
Fabric spray adhesive
Wonder Tape

Where to Find Tricot

I don’t buy premade tape but cut it from sheer tricot, which can go by many names. What you want to look for is any kind of sheer nylon lining. I don’t know of any sources where you can buy tricot tape that’s wide enough to fold into thirds and still cover the seam, but why buy premade tape when cutting your own is so easy? I use the same tricot to line cradles, bridges or cups, so I always have some extra to cut out seam tape. It takes me all of a couple minutes with a rotary cutter and a ruler!

Sheer cup lining: Bra-makers Supply, Blackbird Fabrics (what I often use)
15 denier tricot: Sew Sassy, Fabric.com, and many many more (Google it! it’s also called nylon chiffon by some retailers)
40 denier tricot: Sew Sassy

Note that 40 denier tricot is more opaque and a little bit weightier than 15 denier. It can be easier to work with if you dislike sewing sheer nylon, and it makes a suitable cup lining or seam tape material.

In case you were wondering, the bra in the video is a new pattern! I’ve been taking my sweet time refining this pattern, and I’ll definitely be showing you more about it in the New Year. It’s also the bra I was using for my second dyeing video, which I promise will be coming soon. I made a big mistake when filming (I chopped my head off!) and had to go back and refilm.

Learning to Knit

knitting my first hat | Cloth Habit

Look ma, I knit a hat!

I always knew that the second I got into knitting, I’d have a hard time stopping. It’s like the Tetris of handcrafts. And sure enough, once I started this I was having a hard time putting it down.

It all started with a late night browsing of Purl Soho, which is a rabbit hole of beauty. I’ve bought Liberty fabrics and Sashiko kits from them in the past, and every time I’ve shopped there I ended up buying more than I should have. (Embroidery threads are sooo beautiful, aren’t they?) Sure enough, an hour later I ended up with a mini stash of quilting fabrics and yarns.

For my first project I started out with their Learn to Knit kit which includes a pattern, needles and enough yarn for a hat and handwarmers. The hat is a simple flat project, and it involves just one stitch (the knit stitch) over and over.

knitting my first hat | Cloth Habit

This project is perfect for total beginners because it limits the number of tasks you have to concentrate on until you get to the finish line. That’s a good thing when you know absolutely nothing. I got halfway into the project before I really understood how to hold the needles and keep my yarn from falling down! Finding those basic rhythms are so awkward and slow at first.

I’m an absolute newbie, and I kind of like that. Every term was alien to me. What the heck is cast on? Gauge? My beginner pattern said “slip a stitch knitwise” as if I knew what knitwise meant. I even confused stitches and rows. (I thought each stitch was a row.) And that’s what Youtube is for, right?

Learning to knit and my first hat | Cloth Habit

While my pattern had great pictures and instructions on how to knit and hold the needles, it’s hard to learn from photos alone. Watching someone knit is infinitely more helpful! So I signed up for a Craftsy class, Knit Faster with Continental Knitting with Lorilee Beltman. For the total newbs, continental knitting is a style in which you tension the yarn in your left hand and “pick” the yarn with your right needle. I’m a leftie and I’d heard this style is a bit more “hand neutral” than the English style I tried to learn many years ago.

This course doesn’t have projects, but Lorilee teaches all the basic stitches and the class is paced perfectly for a total beginner. She explains everything as if you had no previous knowledge, and knits verrry slowly while phrasing through the rhythms. That’s super helpful if you want to knit along and practice.

Needles are another topic that need explaining, and the class helped with that. My kit included beech wood needles but knitting with these was harder than it needed to be. I felt like I was forcing the yarn off the needle with every stitch, and poking my ribs with the ends which wasn’t exactly relaxing. Halfway into my hat I ran out and bought a pair of metal circular needles, and whoa, what a difference!

knitting my second project in lovely seed stitch | Cloth Habit

I’m already at work on my second project, another Purl Soho pattern made with seed stitch which I just love.

Any other newbs out there afraid of knitting? It really only takes a couple of knitting sessions until you get the swing of things. It definitely helps to work with lovely yarn you like to look at and touch. I blame fugly yarns for losing interest the last few times I’ve tried to learn!

Details:
Pattern: Purl Soho’sLearn to Knit Hat and Handwarmers
Yarn: Worsted Twist (included in kit)
Needles: Size 7, 24” circular needles
Helpful beginner links/videos: Long Tail Cast On, How to Slip a Stitch, How to Join Yarn Ends (you will probably do all of these in your first project)

Is That Bra a Demi, Balconette, or Full Cup?

 

exploring the differences between various styles of bras | Cloth Habit

(Journelle, Fleur Du Mal, Araks, La Perla – see the Polyvore set)

When I first started making my own bras, I was dead set on having a “demi bra”. Mind you, I had no idea what that really meant but the bra in my imagination was something other than the patterns I had tried.

I’ve realized since that what I really wanted was a bra that felt “designed”, that had colors, textures and feelings–good design ideas. And for some reason the term demi conjured up prrretty.

I’m guessing that for some of us, a demi might anything that isn’t a full cup bra. “Demi” and even “balconette” are often used fairly loosely by retailers and designers which makes them even harder to pinpoint. All of the bras in the image at the top were ones that either a shop or designer listed as “demi”. And they all have different coverage and design shapes.

So today I want to refine these bra terms a bit more, the way I understand them–through their neckline shapes.

Full Cup

A true full cup bra is one that covers much of the top half of a breast.

Illustration of full cup bra features | Cloth Habit

(photo: Retro full cup by Wacoal)

In these bras, you may notice that the upper part of the cup is higher–almost equal in height as the lower cup–and the straps are quite centered, starting higher up on the chest. (I really love the above example by Wacoal–goes to show you that a full cup doesn’t always mean beige and boring.)

Typical features of a full-cup bra:

  • longer wires in front and sides
  • high gore (bridge)
  • wider band at side seam (as a result of longer wire)
  • centered straps

You can take the same exact wires from a full cup bra and create styles with a lower neckline. This involves moving the strap position, or in the case of a strapless bra, removing the strap altogether.

Full cup wires with different necklines, illustrated | Cloth Habit

In these styles the height of the center front stays the same as the full cup bra, but the neckline gets slightly more “squared” as the strap extension is lowered or removed.

The Half Cup

This is the style many associate with “demi”.

The word “demi” means “partial” or “half”. While most of the bras I’m illustrating in this post are technically “partial” in coverage, a half cup has a particular look. It is usually a low-cut cup with a squared neckline that encourages little bit of cleavage.

Illustration of half cup bra features (lower wires, squared neckline, straps further apart) | Cloth Habit

(photo: Melisande by Huit)

Some brands are really known for this style, such as Agent Provocateur, Simone Perele and Huit. Also take a look at half cups over at Bratabase (a bra review community) for examples in DD+ brands.

Typical features of half cup:

  • Wires are often at equal heights in front and sides.
  • Usually have a vertical dart or seam, or two vertical seams for larger cups. (The yellow Huit bra in my example is an exception with its horizontal seam.)

There’s a reason for the vertical seams, from a patternmaking perspective. Vertical seams make it easier to create a low and more open neckline while keeping the bottom of the cup a little bit more shallow, thus forcing the breasts upward.

I’ve made a couple of bras with a half cup style, one of which was this mint bra I made way back for the Bra-making Sew Along.

The Balconette

Here’s another term that’s used quite broadly–search for balconettes and you will find a range from very low-cut half cup styles to fuller-cup bras with a more revealing neckline.

I tend to think of a balconette as any bra that creates a sweetheart neckline.

Illustration of balconette features (lower wires in front, sweetheart neckline) | Cloth Habit

(photo: Paris by Miss Mandalay)

Features of a balconette:

  • A lower bridge, and the front is lower than the sides.
  • Often 3- or 4-piece cups with seams in opposing directions (the extra seaming allows for a more shapely, contoured neckline).

The Plunge

A plunge bra often has a “v-neck” appearance to it, just like a full cup bra, except of course that it plunges down between the breasts. Underwired plunge bras have dramatically shorter wires in the front.

Illustration of plunge bra features (lowest wires, plunging v-neck, low gore) | Cloth Habit

(photo: Iana by L’Agent)

Features of plunge bras:

  • Lowest wires of all, often with a slight diagonal tilt in the front.
  • Narrower bridge (gore), especially in push-up bras.
  • In bralettes or soft cup bras, there is often no bridge (like the Watson, which is a plunging style neckline).

It’s all about the neckline

In this illustration I’ve laid all these styles on top of each other so you can see how their necklines compare:

 

Differences between bra styles and comparing bra cup necklines | Cloth Habit

One thing to notice is that a bra’s neckline shape and coverage is really determined by two things: the wire height (if it’s a wired bra) and the strap position. Both of these are really easy to change in a bra pattern!

Shorten the front bridge and wire, and you start plunging the front neckline into more of a v-shape. Move the straps downward and outward, and you start creating more of a balconette or half cup. (For some ideas on how to do these things you might like my posts on cutting wirescup alterations, or design alterations.)

I hope this analysis helps you understand bra styles a bit more and perhaps narrow in on why you like certain styles more than others!

For example, I often find myself creating plunge like bras because I like low wires (more comfortable on my sternum), I don’t need high wires but I like my straps a bit high and more centered.

What about you? Do you have a favorite style?

Curate Your Old Blog Posts and Sewing Photos

big white shirt

(My first-ever blogged sewing project.)

When I was a child, I loved keeping diaries. Sometimes I’d write poems, or chronicle what I did that day, or wax about my first crush on a boy in Algebra class named Derek. (I ended up marrying a Derek!) I was particularly into composition notebooks because that’s what my hero Harriet the Spy used. Like Harriet I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and composition books seemed more “writerly” than Hello Kitty diaries with locks on them.

I have a couple of boxes in storage that are full of those diaries from different periods of my life, and every so often during a spring cleaning I go back through some of them. Not only are they a window into my past but sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised to find something that has potential to be a real piece of writing.

It struck me recently that I never do this with my blog entries. When was the last time I went back and read through my own archives?

I’ll admit that I often forget to reflect on what I’ve enjoyed or accomplished in the past because let’s face it, blogging (and even more so social media) is all about the now. Instagram is all so… instant.

So today I’m thinking of ways to value what you’ve previously worked at.

Tend Old Blog Posts

If you blog, there’s a good chance you have some oldie but goodie posts hanging out somewhere deep in your archives no one can find. These might not necessarily get pulled out by a “related posts” or “favorite posts” widget into your sidebar.

Why not curate an intentional list of these in a menu or sidebar? They might be:

  • A favorite project of yours that really shows off your skills or changed your sewing life.
  • A hot topic or opinion that generated a lot of discussion.
  • The story behind your blog’s name.
  • Your five favorite pattern reviews.
  • Your most-visited tutorials. You can look at stats to see what those are.
  • The post where you wrestled with pants-fitting. I LOVE THOSE KIND OF SEWING POSTS. I’m certainly not the only one who does. I’ll search through your archives to find them! I glean a lot from others’ fitting processes.

It doesn’t matter how often some of these posts are still visited, of if your blog mission has changed. I love going back and reading what sewing bloggers consider to be their favorite projects and seeing how they evolved. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about! We all love a good story.

And if you have a particular post or series that readers visit often, tending these is just as important as creating new posts. For example, my Bra-making Sew Along posts are a couple of years old but still the most-visited on my website. A few bits of information are out of date but most of the actual tutorials are timeless and useful to first time bra makers.

So I’ve been tending these by fixing grammar mistakes, updating links or information. I’m also in the process of re-editing a few photos (because I’ve learned so much about photo editing since then!). I leave the comments open so readers can ask new questions.

Create a Portfolio

Another way to highlight past favorites is through a photo portfolio. And if you blog or use Instagram you probably have a mile of them you’ve forgotten about!

creating a portfolio in WordPress | Cloth Habit

I created one for the purpose of highlighting professional work (it’s a work in progress), but you don’t have to be a pro to have a portfolio.

Even if it is just for you and no one else, a digital portfolio is a wonderful way to cherish your previous hard work, and a healthy self-reminder when you ever feel as if you can’t keep up: you create more than you think you do.

Of course you can create off-blog portfolios in Pinterest or Flickr but it’s easy to add one straight to your blog, especially if it’s a WordPress blog.

Both self-hosted and wordpress.com blogs have a built-in gallery creator. To use this you would need to create a separate page for your portfolio, then use the Media Uploader to create a gallery that you insert onto that page.

create a sewing portfolio | Cloth Habit

If you want to get fancy and have those gallery photos open into a big lightbox, you can turn on Jetpack’s Carousel.

Those with self-hosted WordPress blogs have even more options. Many WordPress themes offer their own gallery page templates which may offer more advanced features than the standard WordPress gallery.

The super tinkerers out there might want to try a gallery plugin. These are good options for those who really want a professional portfolio and better image management. Photo Gallery and Envira are two of my recommendations.

You can even curate Instagram photos into a gallery! Some full-blown gallery plugins offer Instagram integration but there are simpler options, like Enjoy Instagram, that only focus on Instagram. This lets you curate a portfolio from of a particular hashtag.

These are just a few ideas for valuing your past work.

By digging around my blog, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some things I’d forgotten about! It’s fun to go back and read that the first entry I ever wrote, if only to remember how I came up with this blog name. (My friend Hannah helped me out with it, because I’m terrible at titles!)

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By the way, it’s probably obvious I recommend WordPress for blogging! For beginners I recommend starting with wordpress.com which is easy to set up and make pretty. (Blogger has way fewer options in creative layout and comment moderation, and Google doesn’t seem to spend time improving it as a web product.)

Video: Dyes for Lingerie Fabrics

Learn about the best dyes for lingerie fabrics and trims | Cloth Habit

Today I have a special treat for you guys. A few months back I started writing up a dyeing tutorial. The whole time I kept thinking, this should really be a video. It was time for me to break out the camera and lights and try something new!

If you have been following along with my bra making adventures, you know how much I love dyeing my lingerie fabrics. I started doing this because it wasn’t easy to find matching notions and fabrics.

Bra making kits are one solution to that, and for many they are an easy way to jump in and get going. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone else curate those decisions for you, isn’t it?

But I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a color perfectionist. My husband and I are in the middle of a kitchen renovation and picking a white paint that won’t clash with the white appliances has been an entire process in itself! (I have to go back to the swatch in the morning, in the afternoon, at night by the kitchen light. Because light changes everything!)

Dyeing gives me more choice but also lets me get closer to those colors I have in my brain. And honestly, I just love playing with dyes.

In this first video I introduce you to a few types of dyes.

It’s easy to get confused by the various brands and dye types out there and how to use them. So before you reach for that cute little packet of dye at the craft store, check this out!

Watch

In my next video I’ll show you exactly what an acid dye “recipe” is, and dye materials for one of my bra sets. It’s super simple, and much quicker than you think!

Where to Buy Acid Dyes

I mentioned three brands of acid dye but there are more. Here is a list of acid dyes with links to where you can purchase them:

And that’s it for today.

I’m still working on part two so if there is something you want me to show (or explain) about dyeing bra materials, let me know!

Reader Question: Sewing Machines for Lingerie

what to look for in sewing machine features for lingerie making | Cloth Habit

Hi Amy, I’m interested in sewing lingerie. Do you recommend a sewing machine or are their special features I should look for?

Over the past year or so I’ve received many questions about how to choose a sewing machine for lingerie or bra making. Some of you feel your old machine is just not up to the job, and some of you are brand new to sewing and possibly picking out a machine for the first time.

I’ll share some features that I appreciate in lingerie sewing but I think it’s important to start here: you don’t need a specialized machine to make lingerie (or bras).

On my particular machine I have sewn leather, wool, fur, silk and delicate lace. Unless you want to start your own lingerie business and plan on doing production sewing (making 100 or so of the same thing in the same fabric over and over), a good domestic sewing machine is all you need!

So what’s good? Well, that depends on your experience and budget.

If you are brand new to sewing and inexperienced with sewing machines, I recommend visiting a local sewing machine dealer. Nowadays a lot of us just want to press buy and get it right on our doorstep! But hear me out: Where you buy your machine is often more important than what brand you buy. A good machine dealer can help walk you through machines, may offer free classes on the one you choose, give you a better price than you’ll get online (true for all three machines I have bought), and more importantly technical support when things go wrong. And trust me, occasionally things do go wrong.

If you have experience with a machine you probably have a good handle on a few things you like or don’t like about your current machine. If this is your situation, test-driving a few machines with your favorite fabrics is going to be your best guide.

For lingerie and bras in particular, here are a few features I would look for:

1. Adjustable foot pressure

If I were to pick one feature I couldn’t live without, this would be it. I have turned away many a beautiful vintage machine because I couldn’t adjust the foot pressure.

Adjustable foot pressure is a great thing to have for any kind of sewing with knits and lightweight silks. I find it invaluable for sewing stretch lace and other light lingerie knits. Loosening foot pressure can help the foot glide over fabric rather than push it and cause mismatched or wavy seams.

2. Easy to fine-tune zig-zag length and width

Some vintage and really low-end sewing machines only offer a few predetermined zig-zag stitches. For underwear and bras, you’ll be using zig-zag stitches a lot! And you’ll want to change and fine-tune the settings for each project.

3. A 3-step zig-zag

This is a fairly common feature on mid-range and up machines, but many older and low-end machines don’t include it.

Triple zig-zag stitch is a very good machine feature for bra and lingerie sewing | Cloth Habit

A 3-step zig-zag (or triple zig-zag) takes 3 steps up and 3 steps down. For most lingerie and elastic, a regular zig-zag works just fine but a 3-step is extra strong, and useful for areas where you want extra durability in your zig-zag stitches.

4. A straight stitch foot

A straight stitch foot is useful for sewing 1/4″ or 6mm seams. Similar feet go by different names. Look for a foot that has a 1/4″ or 6mm distance between the needle and the edge of the toe. This might be a straight stitch foot, 1/4 foot, or a patchwork foot (this is what I use for my Juki). Whatever it is called, this will be slightly narrower than the “all-purpose foot” that comes with your machine.

The great thing about feet like this is that you can use the foot as a seam guide wherever you are sewing 1/4″ or 6mm seams, which are typical on bras. I also use them to achieve neat topstitching rows.

Examples of straight stitch feet for 1/4" seams | Cloth Habit
On the left is my Juki’s patchwork foot and on the right is a generic industrial straight stitch foot that can screw on most industrial and vintage machines.

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And that’s it! Just four features I’d consider essential in lingerie or bra sewing.

Of course those aren’t the only things I’d personally look for if I was shopping for a machine right now. For example, I prefer to have a knee lift so that when I am sewing tight curves I can keep my hands on the fabric while occasionally lifting the foot. And good machine light is super important to me! But these features are things I have learned to appreciate with experience.

In case you are curious about the machines I use, I have several but I use a Juki Exceed for all of my lingerie sewing. It has served me happily for about five years. I occasionally use a vintage Bernina 830 that I pull out for regular sewing when I’ve had to service my Juki. It is a fantastic vintage machine that will last forever, but it’s a great example of one that has no presser foot adjustment or triple zig-zag. These were two of the missing features that drove me to a newer machine.

If you sew lingerie, what machine features are important to you? Any tips to offer my international readers?

Other sage sewing machine advice (not just for lingerie):

Tie-Dye Sallie

Tie-dye Sallie jumpsuit from Closet Case Files | Cloth Habit

Ahoy, and Happy July!

The last couple months I have had a bit of an obsession with knits. I can’t stop sewing or wearing them. I love how easy they are to sew, to satisfy my maker itch while I work on bigger patternmaking projects and manage a home renovation. For the first time I’m sewing most of my summer wardrobe and filling all those “basics” holes. And it feels good!

When Heather of Closet Case Files asked me to test her new Sallie jumpsuit pattern, I had the fabric (and the dye) ready to go before the pattern was in my hands. A 70s knit jumpsuit? Yes, please!

I love testing patterns for Heather but this one was a real treat. Both Sallie and Heather have been some of my favorite sewing bloggers. When they came along many sewing blogs were focused on technique tutorials and commercial pattern reviews. The sewing blog landscape has certainly changed but I loved how they mixed a storytelling voice with style and technique. It helps that they both inspire me with their bohemian chic and breezy way of putting things together!

Fandom aside, I have been dreaming of a tie-dye jumpsuit for three summers now. I’m not sure where I got that itch but I’m glad I finally scratched it.

Tie-dye Sallie jumpsuit from Closet Case Files | Cloth Habit

I really dig this pattern. It’s easy to make, such an easy-breezy style to wear in summer and the style reminds me of a couple of 70s Stretch-n-Sew Patterns I inherited from my grandmother.

Tie-dye Sallie jumpsuit from Closet Case Files | Cloth Habit

Derek had to force me to stop putting my hands in the pockets. What is it about pockets? I usually leave them out of knits but I really love having them in jumpsuits and these are the perfect hand length.

And not till I saw these pictures did I see how I managed to get some strong dye effects across the butt…

Tie-dye Sallie jumpsuit from Closet Case Files | Cloth Habit

For this project I wanted to play with simple tie-dyeing. I started with an undyed cotton spandex jersey, stitched the jumpsuit up with dark thread and played with some basic folding and tyeing.

Tie-dye Sallie jumpsuit from Closet Case Files | Cloth Habit

Then I prepared a dye bath with black fiber reactive dye and let the whole thing soak for about an hour. Some tie dyeing projects require 24 hours but you can still get great permanent tie-dye colors in an hour. And you’ll notice that the black dye largely turned out dark saturated blue which I love. Getting a good black in tie-dye will take some experimenting…

Pattern Notes

My version is close to the final pattern. during the testing process Heather made a few changes for better fit and construction. This jumpsuit is meant to fit quite slim around tummy and butt but after wearing it about my cotton jersey softened up quite a bit, so it falls more loosely from the waist than it did when I first put it on.

I also made a few changes simply for my personal wearing taste. Both versions of the top are lined, which provides a nice clean finish to the edges, a casing for the elastic and in the camisole version, a way to secure the straps. For most of my summer knits I like as few layers as possible in my climate so I had to change a few things to eliminate the lining. I finished the edges of the camisole and created the straps in one go with my coverstitch binder. For the elastic casing I stitched in a separate strip on top of the seam allowance.

Tie-dye Sallie jumpsuit from Closet Case Files | Cloth Habit

I love that this pattern includes two tops, one of which is more “bra-friendly”. But on that note, allow me to pause for a moment to talk bras (of course!). I am wearing my own custom strapless bra underneath this. I know that I am petite up top so you might be thinking, what does she have to worry about? Let me tell you that I do need one if I want to wear tops like this.

Fitting my own was so worth the extra work because I can barely feel this bra in comparison to all the others I have worn. I won’t lie; it was work from draft to fit but I can testify that a comfortable strapless does and can exist and is worth trying if you love bra-making!

I’m digging this pattern so much that I have two more planned. One is going to be a little more glam. (I basically want to copy Heather’s black version!) Jumpsuits are funky alternatives to dresses, which I wear a lot in summer, and in our heat I need all that insta-dressing I can get!

Are you a jumpsuit fan, too?

Details:
Pattern: Sallie by Closet Case Files
Size: 8, with a few adjustments
Dye: fiber reactive dye in “New Black” by Dharma Trading
Fabric: undyed cotton spandex jersey (bought at wholesale)
Waist elastic: Fashion Sewing Supply

Choosing a New Serger

It’s that time of year in Austin. It’s getting hotter and hotter and all I want to wear are knits! So this month I’ve been sewing up a bunch of knit projects, and decided it was about time to upgrade my serger.

Meet my new addition!

my new serger, a Juki MO 1000

I’ve been thinking about upgrading for awhile now. I bought my first serger, a Babylock Imagine, about 13 years ago. It is still a fantastic little machine. I bought it barely used on eBay for an absolute steal–I felt so lucky!

I loved how lightweight and easy it was to set up but over time a few specific things started driving me crazy. Two of them were fixable but others weren’t. I wanted a machine that had better lighting and wouldn’t bounce around my sewing table.

At first I thought it’d be natural to upgrade to another Babylock (you bet I love that jet air threading!). Then I started looking at Juki sergers. They get great reviews and I already own two awesome Juki sewing machines (an Exceed F600 and a TL-2010).

Testing the Juki MO 654DE

Over Christmas I bought and tried the Juki MO 654DE for about a week.

Juki MO-654DE

It’s a super quality serger for the low price, and I understand why the Juki portable series are so popular. It’s lightweight, easy to set up and makes great seams. Contrary to the horror stories I’d heard about threading sergers, I found manual threading to be quite a breeze! Juki machines are all very good about including thread guides with little guide dots so I never got confused about what went where.

However, the deal breaker was the lack of space around the foot and knife. There is a knife cover that goes right up to the edge of the foot and when you pull it away, the machine locks as a precaution.

Juki MO654DE knife cover

This made it impossible lift the presser foot and slip some materials just under the knife to give them a head start. This is a little trick I do for seams on some bulky or slippery knits. If I merely place some of these fabrics at the head of a serger foot and allow the feed dogs to pull them under, the top layer gets pushed back and the seam misaligns.

There were other things that bothered me, including how much I needed to tweak the presser foot pressure, thread tension and differential feed to get mesh knits to stop twisting. I sew these fabrics a lot. On my Imagine, I never had to adjust differential feed, and it also had automatic tension.

After this experience, I knew it might be a good idea to visit a dealer and do some test drives!

And the Winner is… Another Juki!

Before going into the dealer I researched a few machines, including a Babylock Enlighten and a Janome 1200D. I really liked the Janome, at least from what I read about it, but sadly the dealer did not have it in stock.

After looking at some Brother and Singer models I gravitated toward another Juki that I hadn’t heard about–the MO 1000. While pricier than the MO 654DE, it was less than the other two models I was considering.

What I brought with me to practice on: lightweight stretch mesh, sweatshirt knit, cotton jersey, rayon jersey, wool gabardine, and silk crepe. Even without changing needles it handled them all beautifully.

I loved this machine!

First, it is quiet, at least quieter than my Babylock and other machines I tried. It has a nice hum that purrs more than chops. And when it is going fast it does not move. The base is firm and stable.

It has push button threading! I think this is the first non-Babylock machine to offer this feature.

Juki MO-1000 push button threading

It has a nice removable waste catcher. I never thought about this as a feature but it will save me space. (I usually keep a plastic tub next to my serger.)

Juki MO-1000 waste catcher

It’s easy to clean on the front and the sides by swinging out the housing, and very important to me feature–a bright enough LED light.

Juki MO-1000 led light and insides

Overall I’ve been very pleased and more importantly I felt like I knew what I was doing as soon as I started sewing on it. That sort of thing is intangible but if you’ve been sewing for awhile, you know what I mean! I swear I’m not trying to stick with Jukis, but I keep gravitating toward them. They’re doing something right.

Final Thoughts on Machine Shopping

Those of you who are research fanatics like me, I can’t recommend highly enough visiting a dealer to try some machines if you want to upgrade. There’s a good chance you have favorite materials–bring a bag of those scraps with you. There’s no better test than sewing with your usual suspects.

Another plus for dealers–the price. Thankfully the dealer I often frequent is not a “hard seller” where I feel as if I’m being talked into something. I’m not a good haggler so I’ll usually take the price as given or ask to buy the floor model. But even with my meek ways, I got a better deal than the price that’s going on Amazon, for example.

In addition, the salesgirl who walked me through the machines also gave me some new priceless tips on serging I’d never tried before. I figured out a lot of things on my own over the last ten years but all through trial and error. Perhaps a course would have sped that process up!

What serger do you use? I’d love to hear!

The Magic of Edgestitching

Edgestitching bra seams | Cloth Habit

Do you press seams when making a bra?

I’ve been asked this question a few times. You may be surprised to know that iron pressing isn’t necessary in making bras. The only time I have pressed during the making of a bra is when I have made my own underwire channeling. That’s it!

But wait, you ask, how can you get smooth cup seams without pressing?

It’s easy to get into the habit of treating every seam the same way. After all, home sewing instructions place a lot of emphasis on pressing as the way to a truly flat or smooth seam. It’s the key to a professional look and all. And while that is true for many garments, there are other techniques that often get overlooked as being equally important.

Let me explain. Many home sewing patterns place too little emphasis on understitching and edgestitching. Both of these stitch techniques are common in industrial sewing and important to flat seams.

In bra manufacturing, irons rarely if ever touch a bra. One reason is that most bra materials don’t respond well to pressing. Nylon and polyester knits just don’t hold a crease. (Not to mention it’s easy to melt nylon with your iron if you’re not careful! Ask how I know that one.) Unless you are using a woven fabric from a natural fiber, most bra fabrics will flatten and fold with the aid of *stitching* more than the aid of heat.

Let’s call this “stitch pressing”–pressing with a stitch rather than with an iron.

Edgestitching bra seams | Cloth Habit

Edgestitching is a form of topstitching in that it shows on the right side of fabric. Instead of just being decorative, it actually serves to flatten a seam and is done very closely to the seam. To edgestitch, you want to stitch about a needle’s width away from the seam, and catch the seam allowance while doing so. A “needle’s width” is about 1/16” to 1/8” (2-3mm) but no more than that.

For bra cups with seams, you have two choices:

1. Turn both seam allowances to one side of the bra cup and edgestitch them down on one side of the seam. This is how I usually sew cups made from lightweight bra fabrics and laces.

Edgestitching bra seams | Cloth Habit

2. Open the seam allowance and edgestitch along each side of the seam. This works well if the bra fabric is denser and the seam needs less bulk. Normally, I edgestitch from the right side of the cup but if the seam allowances won’t stay open I often edgestitch from the wrong side of the bra with the seam allowances facing me. This helps to keep those bulkier seams open and truly flat:

Edgestitching bra seams | Cloth Habit

While you are edgestitching, use your hands to flatten the seam as it is going under foot. If you gently push the side that you are edgestitching away from the seam, your seam will be flatter than any amount of pressing would achieve—and will stay that way permanently!

Now some of you have wondered whether pressing helps smooth a cup seam that has ripples. As many you know from hemming knits, once ripples are there, they stay there, since the stitching has stretched out the fabric. If ripples are ailing you, I wrote up a few tips for smoother cup seams in this issue of my newsletter.

And p.s. A happy happy spring sewing everyone! I’ve been gardening more than sewing the last couple of weeks but who can resist roses!