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 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!)


By the way, it’s probably obvious I recommend WordPress for blogging! For beginners I recommend starting with 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

Choosing dyes for lingerie fabrics at 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!


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 | 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.

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.


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

Sallie jumpsuit | Cloth Habit

Ahoy, and Happy July!

I know have been a quiet blogger lately. Those of us who do it often know that passion for blogging waxes and wanes. I try not to force the waning periods either here or on social media, since it is in those waning, quiet spaces where I get refreshed and work on longer projects.

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.

Sallie jumpsuit | 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.

Sallie jumpsuit | 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…

Sallie jumpsuit | 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.

Sallie jumpsuit | 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.

Sallie jumpsuit | 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?

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!

Fitting a Moulage

drafting a moulage | Cloth Habit

When I’m really craving a learning challenge I like to try out a new patternmaking method. It’s so much fun pulling out rulers (or in my case, Illustrator) and giving my analytical side something to circle around for a little while.

For my latest challenge I tackled a pattern fitting project I’ve been wanting to try for a few years–a moulage!

What’s a moulage, you ask? The term literally means “molding” or “casting”, and its use in garment making has origins in French couture. Sometimes “moulage” refers to an actual pattern, a skin-hugging hip length bodice that is fitted precisely to a person’s body. Often it refers to the whole process of manipulating fabric on a dress form as a method of developing women’s patterns and designs—aka draping or draping on the stand.

The art of moulage at Christian Dior:

Now you all want to go out and take draping courses, right?

So let’s turn back to the moulage as pattern. My favorite vintage patternmaking book, Dress Design: Flat Patternmaking & Draping, calls the moulage a “French lining pattern”. I suspect that it became known as a moulage precisely because it was connected with dress form draping. Couture houses have a long tradition of creating personalized dress forms that represent their wealthiest or most regular clients, and to get there, a form would be padded out to “map” a client’s body, thus quickening fitting times.

My goal in drafting one is exactly that–I’d like to pad out an older dress form to better replicate my body.

The Pattern

Kenneth King moulage book | Cloth Habit

For my draft I pulled from my shelves Kenneth King’s book, The Moulage. He has been publishing this for several years as a CD book. Thankfully I printed it back when I first bought it because Macbooks no longer have CD slots!

If you are interested in other sources of moulage drafting, Suzy Furrer’s Craftsy course and her patternmaking book are places to learn. Her drafting method is nearly identical to Kenneth King’s; they learned from the same teacher and couturier. (The vintage book I mention above has a drafting method for a similar pattern but is not as thorough.)

In both Kenneth and Suzy’s methods, the moulage becomes a foundation for drafting a less fitted “sloper”, a bodice with a bit of ease, which then becomes the foundation for other garments. I don’t have a need for a bodice sloper, and if I didn’t already have one, there are other (easier) ways of drafting one without having to start with a moulage.

The Fitting

So how did mine turn out?

Drafting the moulage was actually the easy part. I had fun with it! The part that needs the most attention is measuring as it relies on a few really accurate points. Thankfully I had most of these measurements recently taken and just had to double check a few more.

fitting a moulage | Cloth Habit

This is my 2nd fitting. In my first try-on everything was surprisingly close but it all needed to be taken in at various points. Adjusting it all is actually fairly easy since there are so many seams. My pattern has 16 pieces in all, 8 in the front and 8 in the back.

With all these seams and lines it’s been helpful in seeing imbalances on my body. For instance my right shoulder is lower, which causes that diagonal wrinkle near the armpit and pushes a bit of excess fabric into the neckline:

fitting a moulage | Cloth Habit

And my right hip is slightly higher. You can see in these photos that after moving around a bit fabric tends to get hung up on my right hip. (The pants back is a photo from a fitting I did in the fall but illustrates the point!)

fitting a moulage | Cloth Habit

For these fittings, I used an inexpensive cotton twill that I found at Joann Fabrics. It was a perfect test fabric! Twill has a tighter weave than cotton muslin, which gives it a bit more shape and substance. (Muslin has a tendency to squish into the flesh a bit.) Any kind of tighter cotton woven, such as cotton twill or cotton drill, would fit more smoothly.

So where will I go from here? I’m going to tweak some of the remaining issues (a little too much length in back, uneven shoulder and hip), which means I’ll end up with separate right and left patterns. Might sound crazy to some, I know! If you happen to take the Craftsy course, students are often encouraged to move on to their slopers when they achieve “good enough”, since the moulage is just a starting point.

However, I’m going for as perfect as possible for my dress form. For my final version I’m using cotton coutil, a traditional corset fabric. It’s a an unusual choice for a dress form cover, but coutil has a really tight weave with a gorgeous smooth surface. I want a cover that will last a long time!

Have you ever tried a moulage? I’ll admit it’s kinda freaky looking at myself in a body envelope but I’m having so much fun with it!

A Guide to Dress Forms

Guide to Dress Forms | Cloth Habit

Let’s talk about one of sewing’s favorite subjects—dress forms!

Over the last month I’ve been shopping for a new form, both by doing a bit of online “window shopping” and by asking questions of various dealers and makers. It’s been a fun process!

The first time I went shopping for a dress form, circa 2002, I had access to very little information about them. The little that was out there on the internet about patternmaking and draping seemed to reinforce the mystique of, or my need for, a dress form. I was convinced that I needed one for any kind of serious sewing work.

Of course this was fueled in no small part by my lifelong romantic ideals of fashion designers all draping away on their dress forms. When I was a teenager, I used to imagine that a vintage Wolf form was something Molly Ringwald’s Pretty in Pink character might have kept in the corner of her bedroom. And I adored that character (what she did to that prom dress!).

I now own two dress forms. I bought one for personal use and one for professional pattern work and display photography. However, neither fills the specific need I have at the moment.

So before I dive into dress form specifics, let’s talk about all the reasons one might want a dress form:

  1. You are a professional custom dressmaker or fashion design student who needs a form, or several forms, for patternmaking and draping. Chances are you already know what kind of forms work for you, based on your training, your clients, or what your school recommended to you.
  2. You often make very fitted patterns with a lot of design details, and want a form to assess style lines, or play with the drape of fabric.
  3. You draft your own patterns but prefer draping as part of the drafting process, rather than only working with flat patternmaking. It helps you visualize ideas.
  4. You want a form to mimic your body so you can use it as a fitting tool.
  5. You are a blogger or shop owner who needs a prop for styling and taking photographs.
  6. You are a collector! Or you simply want a fun clothes/jewelry showpiece in your house.

Do any of these stand out for you?

Knowing what you really want to use it for can help you choose from among the various dress form styles.

So for example, when I look at this list, I’m most drawn to a form that works for both blog photo styling and makes an interesting collector’s piece. I’d also like the ability to pad the form for fitting purposes in the future. So I’m interested in looks as much as function.

Clearly I don’t prioritize having a form for fitting or draping purposes, which is probably the biggest reason many sewists want a dress form. The truth is, even if I had a better form or a totally customized body cast I don’t think I would use it very much for fitting. I prefer to fit directly on my body, and I can often visualize what flat pattern adjustments are going to do.

However, if you have trouble visualizing adjustments or pattern lines, a form might be a helpful tool!

Types of Forms

Now let’s have a look at some of the different form types out there.

1. Professional form with cast iron base. These kind of forms are usually made with papier mache, padded with a few layers of cotton wadding and covered in linen. These are usually available either as a classic dressmaker form with a skirt cage or as a full body with legs.

Among these kind of forms is a huge variety in quality, and I’ll talk more specifics about these forms in my next post.

Guide to Dress Forms | Cloth Habit

2. Display form. These forms are often designed to look just like sewing forms but they are really produced for display purposes. The form is usually made from either foam or fiberglass, and have a more simplified body shape to them.

Some dress forms cover a middle ground between professional sewing form and display form. For example, Urban Outfitters is selling this dress form, which was probably produced as an inexpensive form by one of the major form makers:

Guide to Dress Forms | Cloth Habit

Although it is advertised as a sewing tool, it doesn’t have collapsible shoulders, is made from foam, and the stand has a height pedal that is purely decorative. You’ll also notice that the body shape is quite simplified, with absolutely no butt.

3. Adjustable form. These are the forms with dials that allow you to expand and contract the form as needed for different measurements.

4. Handmade form. There are a lot of fun methods for making a totally customized body form: plaster-casting, duct-tape and papier mache. Among these methods I’d include the mother of all crazy inventions, the Uniquely You form, which is a compressible foam form that you squeeze into a custom-fitted cover. Whoever first came up with the name “torpedo boobs” for this form deserves a sewing hall of fame star! I own one of these babies, too. A story for another day.

An important thing to keep in mind is that most dress forms can’t totally replace the work of fitting on an actual body. Bodies move and breathe. Most of these forms need work in order to replicate important body measurements and posture.

If you don’t need to do a lot of heavy fitting work, almost any of these will work for light sewing purposes. What you choose depends on budget, how much you need to fit precisely, or whether or not the form is for other non-sewing purposes.


So after all this you may wonder what I’ve chosen for myself! As I mentioned I have a very specific need and I’ve narrowed it down to a few options. I’ll share more about that, along with what I loved and disliked about particular forms, in my next post.

Do you have a form? What do you use it for? What do love or wish you could change about it? And if you’ve blogged about your form, do share a link. I love reading dress form posts!

Be My Valentine Lingerie

Valentine lingerie set | Cloth Habit

On our first date, Derek took me to see Amelie in Prague, in one of those old European theaters whose screens still have curtains that close during a halfway intermission. We were the only two people in that tiny theater, and the experience was made especially mysterious by the fact that we were seeing a movie in French with Czech subtitles. I didn’t understand most of what was being said, but who needs language in a magical movie like Amelie?

Afterward we wandered around the empty city—it was October, and fairly tourist-free—in search of a shop that would sell us a hot chocolate to warm our hands, and ended our evening around four in the morning on Charles Bridge, with only the sound of a flock of birds flying overhead.

The whole night I felt like I was in a movie of my very own. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true. Just like the main character, I’m a diehard romantic and it couldn’t have been a more poetic evening.

I’m thankful I married another diehard dreamer so I wanted to make a set for Valentine’s day. Of course, this is all a roundabout way of talking about sewing!

Valentine lingerie set | Cloth Habit

We haven’t been out on a Valentine’s Day in a few years. To be honest, I usually forget! Still, as life gets busier and as our marriage gets older, it’s good to have reminders to stop what we’re doing and just be together, the two of us. It’s not always about going out. Sometimes it’s just staying in, making a fire, talking and watching a film.

Even though that was the gist of our “date” this year, I still wanted to finish this just in time for Valentine’s night. It felt like a dreamer thing to do. Make a lingerie set for nothing other than staying in on a cozy winter night…

When I was drafting my strapless bra, the cup pattern fit so well that I started drafting a few other bra cups off of it. I ended up with a little stack of cup patterns that I’ve been slowing sewing up and this is one of those. I wanted something that would show off lace but at the same time feel feel comfortable and supportive and this design was the perfect candidate.

Valentine bra | Cloth Habit

Ignore my dress form, which does not fill out my bras!

I knew that the basic block/shape was going to fit based on a few measurements but I quickly taped up a paper cup so I could see if I had the strap point in a good position. This is actually neat little trick I’ve been doing for my bras. And I’m very happy with the fit! I love designs that have higher strap extensions. They make me feel much more “contained”, if that makes sense. (Here’s another example of a pattern with a higher strap point.)

The lace shorties are another pattern I am working on. I’ve made these several times but this is my first time posting about them. They’re a great excuse to use the same lace I’m using in a bra.

Valentine lingerie set | Cloth Habit

For the bra I threw in a few luxury treats, like silk ribbon, hardware detailing, and silk channeling.


Valentine bra | Cloth Habit

(And by the way, some of you asked about this… I am working on a tutorial for making your own silk channeling.)

And there you go… love and sewing!

Lace: somewhere off of Ebay…
Cup lining: Bra-makers Supply
Elastic and stretch mesh (lining the band): Fabric Depot Co.
Except the lace, all materials were dyed with Washfast acid dyes.

Guest Post: Make Your Own Bra Pressing Curve

I love making up sewing tools. There are times a tweezer works better than a bone folder, and a rubber hammer works better than an iron. I have a pencil that works great for spaghetti straps and probably do “wet finger” pressing on silk more times than I care to admit.

It’s really fun and easy to make your own pressing tools, and this week I’m pleased to share a guest tutorial on making your own bra pressing curve from my fellow lingerie-making addict Maddie Flanigan! You may know her from her blog Madalynne, gorgeous sewing photography and brand-new bra making workshops in her Philly studio. So let me step aside as Maddie brings on the drill…


Make Your Own Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Based on a similar item sold at Bra-makers Supply, my bra pressing curve has become a
valuable tool. I first came across it when Beverly Johnson mentioned it during her class
on Craftsy. She said it was easy to make and she was right. All it took was a trip to the
hardware store and about 30 minutes. I use it mostly to press cross cup seams without
touching other parts of the bra.

All supplies except for round ball can be sourced at most hardware stores such as Home
Depot and Lowes.

  • Power drill
  • 3″ wood round ball
  • 5.5″ x 5.5″ wood square
  • 1 1/4″ diameter wood dowel
  • Dowel center pins
  • Brad point or dowelling drill bit
  • Just like bra making, sourcing all those little bits can be intimidating. To make it easier, you can buy a dowel kit such as this one.
  • Regular drill bit
  • Pencil
  • Masking or painters tape
  • Wood glue

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Prep: Most likely, your hardware store will sell long, rectangular pieces of wood, not one that is exactly 5.5″ x 5.5″. The same goes for dowels. Having it cut down isn’t a hassle. The hardware store should do it for free. Ask to have extras pieces cut so you have a spare in case you mess up.

Step 1: Using a pencil, mark the center of the sphere, the center of the dowel at the top and bottom, and the center of the square at the top and bottom as well. Mark all of these points with a cross mark.

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Step 2: Mark the center of the dowel pin and then place it next to the drill bit as shown. Using masking or painters tape, wrap the drill bit at the point where the center point is on the dowel pin. Why? Because you don’t want to drill too far into the ball or the dowel.

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Step 3: Use power drill to drill a hole into the ball and the dowel at both top and bottom. To ensure that you drill straight down, use a quick grip clamp or have someone hold the ball and the dowel while you drill.

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Step 4: Connect the ball with the dowel by placing a thin coat of wood glue on the dowel pin and inserting one end into the ball and the other into one end of the dowel.

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Step 5: The final step is to connect the dowel/sphere (which is now one) to the wood square. Using a regular drill bit, drill from the bottom of the square block up through the bottom of the down with a regular screw.

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit

Make a Bra Pressing Curve | Cloth Habit