Drafting Patterns with Software

Pattern Drafting Software | Cloth Habit

If you’ve scooted around these parts for awhile you may have noticed that I like to make fancy-dancy illustrations for my tutorials. Most of the time, those illustrations are scaled down versions of actual patterns that I either drafted on my computer or scanned and then turned into a digital pattern.

Many readers have been interested in how I draft or what program I use to do those things, so I thought it’d be fun to open up the subject of pattern drafting software.

I use Adobe Illustrator, which is a vector program. I’ve been using Adobe software since the 90s and feel very comfortable with the tools in Illustrator so it was easy to teach myself how to draft in it.

Drafting in Illustrator | Cloth Habit

However, my ease with Illustrator did not make me a good patternmaker. Even if a computer or some online program automatically drafted a pattern after inputting your measurements, there is still the work of learning to to fit, learning what makes for a good pattern. Whether you like drafting old-school on a big piece of paper or in software, the end results can have the same greatness or the same mistakes depending on your skill or the method of drafting you use.

A pro for paper drafting: A drafter can view the pattern in “real life scale”.

Pros for computer drafting: The ability to copy, paste and repeat very quickly. (No more tracing pattern to make adjustments.) Lines and curves can be measured down to millimeters which makes tasks like walking a pattern and matches notches very quick and accurate.

So let’s talk about the types of software you can use for pattern drafting.

CAD VS. VECTOR

In the software industry, CAD is short for “computer aided design”. CAD is a type of modeling software that is used in many fields including architecture design, interior design, 3D modeling and pattern drafting.

Adobe Illustrator and other vector drawing programs are not technically “CAD”, although some like to call it that, short for “computer aided drawing”. If you have ever tried to import a CAD drawing into a vector program or vice versa, you know the chaos that ensues! They are two totally different languages with different purposes.

Three Types of Software Tools

Among options for pattern drafting software, I’d boil them down to three types:

1. CAD-based software for the fashion industry.
There are many different companies making professional pattern software. The biggies are Gerber, Lectra and Optitex. These are all based on CAD technology, very specialized, and cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Scaled down CAD software for home sewists or custom clothing makers.
Software of this nature is based on CAD technology but has less options in order to make it more affordable.

A few programs of this type:
Wild Ginger PatternMaster
PatternMaker
FashionCAD
Telestia Creator

Some of these programs work by measurement input. You put in measurements, it forms the pattern blocks for you. Others offer full-fledged tools to draft from the ground up. Some of them include additional “style libraries” to add on to your blocks. The market for these kind of programs varies from home sewists to custom apparel and smaller garment companies.

One very important caveat about all of the CAD-based programs: they are based on Windows and only run on a Mac when you own a copy of Windows and run it through Bootcamp or an emulator. (Both of which really slow down my computer…)

3. Vector drawing software.
While vector software is not created specifically for drafting, it is a wonderful tool that puts a highly accurate ruler and pen in your hand. With this kind of software, you draw the patterns as you wish. There are a lot of little tools within a vector program that speed up the process over paper drafting.

The main options:
Adobe Illustrator
CorelDraw
Inkscape (free)

Another option: Adobe just released Illustrator Draw, a free iPad version of Illustrator. It used to be called “Adobe Ideas”, which I used quite a bit last year. It’s actually pretty sweet and has all the important tools you need for drawing. I drafted a pair of pants on it!

Despite its cost I keep using Adobe Illustrator since I am so familiar with how it works and have collected a lot of plugins over the years that increase its functionality. I’ll admit that I was never attracted to the CAD-based programs because I’m such a Mac girl.

In my next patternmaking post, I’ll explore some different ways you can use Illustrator (or any vector program) to draft patterns, along with some of my favorite tricks.

Have you tried using a patternmaking program? And if so, do you feel comfortable working in it? I’d love to hear what others use.

Made: Strapless Bra & Knickers

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Happy October y’all! My favorite month of the year. Unfortunately, unlike the pumpkin patch, apple-dunking hayride-loving October I grew up with, Austin is still experiencing some seriously hot summer weather. So I have some days left to squeeze in my new tank dress and this strapless set.

And if you followed along with my progress, it must have seemed like this took all summer to make. It did, with a lot of breaks in between. I laid it aside a few times to make about 12 other lingerie sets. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I’m going to take a small break from making lingerie. Maybe a week, ha. I just love this set and am so glad I put the time getting the fit just so. I feel a little bit like a 40s starlet when I’m wearing it!

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

You all asked some great questions about making this kind of bra and one of them was: is a 3-piece cup better for strapless bras?

In my experience, yes. A three-piece is the most common type of cup in RTW strapless bras and probably for a good reason. A single horizontal or vertical seam is more difficult to contour closely at the neckline especially as the cup gets higher over the breast as a strapless bra does. Think of cup seams like darts. The more seams you have the more “dart” possibilities. The more darts, the more a pattern can fit smoothly around a very curved area without distortion. (This is a basic principle in patternmaking, not just for bra cups.)

When I made my muslins I had to try on my cups in foam pin out little darts along the upper piece to get a smooth, non-gaping neckline shape. Then I took these adjustments back to my pattern.

So let’s talk about the bra!

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

strapless-bra-inside

There are a lot of different fabrics going on here but thankfully I had most of them in my stash, like the lace, lining, and powernet. I listed my sources at the bottom in case you are curious.

As per my usual bra-making routine, I dyed many parts to match. Thankfully, I lucked out and was able to find some wonderful 5/8” plush elastic that matched perfectly! (I did did a total nerdy happy dance when I opened the packages and saw the color.) And it is a nice, firm elastic which is great for a strapless band. I used the same elastic on top and bottom of the band, which ended up being a good call for support but it also feels super comfortable.

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Unfortunately the very day I finished this my cups got a bit crushed when one of my kitties decided it made a good afternoon nap cushion. I usually have to hide all my sewing projects from them in a drawer somewhere but sometimes I just forget…

The matching knickers were a fun addition. They are slightly higher waisted with a lace inset. I have about 20 underwear styles at this point I’ve been playing with. Some have been winners and others a bit meh, but this one is definitely a winner for a future Cloth Habit pattern!

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

lace inset knickers | Cloth Habit

Overall, I’m supremely happy with how this all turned out!

Details:
Bra & knicker patterns: self drafted
Cup & knicker lycra: Girl Charlee
Cup foam and sheer lining: Bra-makers Supply
Powernet: Fabric Depot Co.
Galloon lace: LaceAndTrims
Bra & knicker elastic: Lace Heaven
Wires & other notions: from my collection
Lace, lining and powernet were all dyed to match with Dharma Acid Dye

Bra Making: Add Boning to a Strapless Bra

Oh hey, remember my strapless bra project? This week I had a little “me sewing time” after over a month away, and finally worked on finishing it up!

Have you ever used boning in a strapless dress or bra? It’s is one of those little extra things that can add shape and staying up power. A couple of readers have asked me if boning is absolutely necessary and I guess my answer would be—it depends on how serious you are about your bra staying up!

Without bones, a bra slips a bit into “bandeau territory”… the battle of constant pulling up throughout the day. A longer line band helps, as does gripper elastic, but boning is the key to keeping those sides up.

So let’s add some bones…

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

Here’s what you need:

  • Plastic bones. I bought plastic boning by the roll at Vogue Fabrics for use in various projects. Corsetmaking Supplies sells smaller sections by the dozen. Google “plastic boning’ and you’ll probably come up with more options, but make sure the boning is 1/4″/6mm. If it’s wider than that you’ll have a hard time fitting it into the channeling.
  • Extra underwire casing
    I am using my own homemade channeling but any wire casing will do as long as it is wide enough to contain the boning after stitching down the edge of each side.

You’ll notice my bra is almost finished. I still have to add the hook & eyes but I wanted to add the boning at the very end so that the bones extended over the elastic and covered most of the side seam.

1. Lay your boning on your the side seams and mark off the length you want. Make sure to leave some room above and below the boning to close the channeling. Then cut.

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

2. Round off the ends of the boning with a nail file. This prevents sharp corners from poking through. You can also use your scissors to created rounded ends on the plastic—easy!

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

3. Now it’s time to add your channeling. Line up the channeling so that it is centered over your side seam and stitch down each side, leaving the ends open.

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

You’ll notice I left a part of the ends unstitched. I did that so I’d have some room to fold under the channeling before closing it off. My homemade channeling is thin enough to do that but most channeling isn’t, so go ahead and stitch all the way down!

4. Insert your bones and test the length. Do you have enough room to close off the channeling with your machinef foot? If not file or cut a bit more off the ends.

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

5. Close off the ends. I stitch forward and backward with a small-length straight stitch (between 1 and 1.5). Here’s a close-up…

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

On a side note, I used to try a narrow zig-zag or bartack stitch to close off wire channeling but it is really difficult to do neatly over that many layers with my machine. The straight stitch works just fine.

And from the outside…

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

That’s it! I promise I’ll be back with some details on the finished bra. I had to make a pair of undies to go with it, of course!

Bra Making: What is Sister Sizing?

Have you heard the term “sister sizing”? It’s a great term for explaining how bra sizes shift in band and cups. The basic idea is this: Sister sizing refers to the same cup but on a different size band. As a bra band size gets smaller, the same cup volume will have a bigger letter, and vice versa.

In other words, a B is not a B is not a B. A 36B is a full cup size larger than a 34B. So I’m not just “basically a C cup”. Nor is someone else “an F”.

The use of cup size in non-bra sewing patterns like blouses or dresses can make this a bit more confusing for sewists. Your cup size in dress patterns (like Simplicity’s Amazing Fit series, for instance) might be completely different from what you need in a bra. Dress patterns use the difference between the upper chest and full bust measurements to determine cup size, but bras are more dynamic in their sizing.

So how can sister sizing help you?

If you can’t find your size in a bra pattern, there’s a good chance the pattern has a “sister size”, and you can find the equivalent cup on another band, and simply alter the band to your preferred fit (a very easy adjustment!). For example a 28F on a 32 band would be a 32DD or 32E.

Sister Sizing for Bras | Cloth Habit

(Note: in the U.S. and UK “DD” is usually the cup size above “D”. There are other double letters, too, but most bra patterns use the normal alphabet. I personally find the normal alphabet less confusing!)

Obviously I didn’t fill out the chart with all the possible bra sizes and cup letters, but hopefully you get the idea!

——

There are some exceptions to the sister sizing “rules”, both in lingerie brands and in home sewing patterns. These exceptions do what I call “jump grading”, where the cups on the same band size will jump by two cup sizes after D cups. I won’t go into details of how that works because it can get confusing unless you’re really into the nerdy ins and outs of bra grading. Suffice it to say, there are a few upscale brands that use this kind of size grading (Empreinte, Prima Donna) and Pin-up Girls patterns use this method as well.

Whatever size you start out with, there will always be a good chance that a bra pattern doesn’t fit the same way as your size in your favorite brand. That’s just the nature of the beast. There are many measurements that go into bra drafting, not just the bust and ribcage, and no measuring method is going to capture them perfectly. Before you try online bra calculators remember that you are making a bra, which is a bit different than buying one. Find a starting size by using the pattern’s measuring suggestions, and then go from there to make a “you size”!

Some tips for fitting a bra pattern:

1. Fit a wire before you do anything else. A good-fitting wire solves other fitting problems further down the road.

2. Try to stick with the same band pattern, tweaking it until it is firm enough for you, in the fabric you want to use.

3. You may end up needing to try different cup sizes. Sewing has a way of tuning our eye to fit issues we never noticed before and bras are no different. Nearly everyone I’ve fit has had to go up at least 1 cup sizes, usually two, from their “usual” size. And my top tip: it is better to start large in the cup and take in adjustments, than starting too small and trying to figure out where the room needs to be.

Have you had trouble fitting a bra pattern? I’ve got more pattern fitting posts in the pipeline so I’d love to hear what ails you.

Book Shelf: Sew Lovely

Sew Lovely books | Cloth Habit

I’ve got a small shelf devoted to books about lingerie design and sewing. And I mean small, since lingerie sewing is a niche craft and not nearly as well-explored as, say, tailoring jackets, hand quilting or fitting pants.

That doesn’t stop me from collecting whatever I can find, if just for the inspiration, funky illustrations and that little bit of lingerie history.

Sew Lovely was an independent line of patterns for intimates, nightgowns and lingerie in the 60s and 70s, designed by Laverne Devereaux. Her booklets and patterns were some of the early entries into sewing lingerie or patterns with stretch. There are two booklets: Girdle and Bra and Slips and Panties. They’re small things, the weight of some patterns, but surprisingly there is a lot of technical information packed within each.

Have I mentioned how much I love the 70s? The best period in fashion illustration, ever. EVER.

Sew Lovely books | Cloth Habit

In older books you come across some unfamiliar fabric terms, and that is especially true of technical fabrics made with nylon or spandex. Some fibers became so popular or so heavily marketed by Dupont, the original nylon manufacturer, that the fiber name itself became synonymous with a certain type of knit. Back then Antron was a popular nylon fiber for apparel; today it is Tactel and Supplex. Lycra was still new and Lycra® with a capital “L”, and not the catch-all term for any fabric with spandex. “Lastex” (yarn-wrapped latex) was still popular in swimsuit fabrics.

One of the more interesting fabrics the book lists for bra-making is “nylon marquisette”. Marquisette is a sheer net fabric with a leno weave. It was common in vintage clothing as a sheer overlay material, and stiffer nylon marquisettes may have been used as lining materials in bras. While bra fabrics haven’t changed very much–my vintage 60s bras contain materials nearly identical to what manufacturers use today–the fabrics tend to be much softer than they used to be. Most bra linings are warp knits (tricot), made on machines that can knit sheer and soft but very strong materials.

This book has a nice, balanced mix of construction methods and light patternmaking. Now that I’m thinking about it, many of my vintage sewing books mix “how to stitch” equally with patternmaking. The skills of altering existing patterns, using them as tools to create new styles, seemed much more integrated into sewing than they are now.

I particularly liked the section on girdles. Yes, girdles! Think Spanx if that makes it sound better.

Sew Lovely books | Cloth Habit

There are some basic illustrations to adjusting a pattern for a gusset, which I haven’t seen in many other lingerie or patternmaking books. I often call the piece that connects the front to back of underwear a “gusset” but a real gusset is much more than that lining piece. A gusset is a rhombus-shaped piece added for movement. It can create a better fit in leggings or any kind of underwear whose leg line reaches the thigh. (Look at your yoga pants!)

This book would make a lovely addition to a sewing collection, especially if you love vintage treasures or lingerie. You never know when you might find some tricks hidden in pages somewhere. There are a many ways to finish a bra cup neckline and this book has a couple of methods that are still in use!

Sew Lovely books | Cloth Habit

Of course there are many areas of bra-making that can be refined and I would use it in conjunction with a more modern book—or tutorial on the internet!

——

Book Details
Title: Sew Lovely Girdle and Bra
Author: Laverne Devereaux
Published: 1971
Garments covered: Bras (non-wired), Slip Panty, Body Shirt, Basic Panties, Girdle.
Patterns included: none
Patternmaking/Fitting/Sewing Techniques: Mostly sewing techniques in a step-by-step construction order. Some easy pattern adjustments for different styles. No fitting.
Where to find: You can find copies on Ebay, Amazon, AbeBooks, Etsy, etc. for pretty cheap.

Favorite Tools: Scissors I Couldn’t Live Without

two favorite scissors | Cloth Habit

In my younger sewing years, I hated cutting. All those chores from ironing a tissue pattern to laying out the fabric were the boring tasks I had to do before getting to the fun job of actual sewing, sitting down at the machine and stitching. Then something shifted over the last few years and, dare I say it, I might love cutting more than the sewing!

The whole cutting/fitting/tracing process goes down a lot smoother if you actually like the materials and tools you are using. I discovered I didn’t like tissue paper, or Swedish tracing paper, or pinning tissue to fabric. I didn’t like using wax paper and wheels to transfer markings. So I went looking for better methods and tools, or ones I’d enjoy using. At the very least, a good pair of scissors went a long way toward pleasurable cutting.

I have quite a stash of cutting tools, including a few truly out-there scissors–like a ginormous pair designed for cutting oak tag pattern paper but feels more like hedge trimmers–but these are the two I use and love the most:

1. Kai 9” professional shears

Kai Scissors | Cloth Habit

For 20 years I’d been using the same pair of Gingher dressmaker shears which my sister bought me as a college gift. They’re great scissors, but after 30 minutes of cutting with them my wrists got very fatigued.

These fit my hand perfectly. I love the angle of the handles, the material grip around them, the weight. They come in different blade lengths and I almost could have gone with the 8″ because I can’t open these all the way with my small hands. (Good things to think about before you buy those ginormous length tailor shears!)

2. Tailor point scissors

tailor point scissors | Cloth Habit

These kind of scissors have a sharp point ending which makes them very useful for snipping into tiny areas (bra seams!). I keep these by my machine or on my cutting area to snip notches, cut loose threads, and trim or grade seam allowances.

The Ginghers are more common in shops but Kai makes a very similar pair called “rag quilt scissors”. I recently added the Kais because I’m often misplacing my other pair, and I’m glad I tried these out. They have the same blade length and style but are a bit lighter and less slippery in my hands.

clipping threads | Cloth Habit

Y’all probably know this but even the best cutting tools make for frustrating cutting when the blades are dull. I was cutting with my original Ginghers for years before I thought to sharpen them and what a difference it made! It doesn’t matter if you cut paper with one pair and fabric with another, your fabric scissors are going to dull eventually. Do you remember what it was like when you bought your first *real* kitchen knife and cut down a tomato? Like cutting through soft butter. I really need to sharpen my knives more often, too…

Have you found a favorite pair of shears, and did it make your cutting a lovelier experience?

Studio Peeks: On Teaching + My New Pattern

My honey and I are enjoying a breezy holiday in our favoritest city in the U.S. I’m feeling super chilled out and getting what seems like a personal living room concert from Beyonce & Jay Z, who are live for two nights at Giants Stadium. Her voice is just incredible, no? Especially when blasting across an entire city.

But it took me a few days to get chilled. When we left Austin I was smack in the middle of finishing one of the most labor-intensive creative projects I’ve taken on in a long time, and it was so hard to stop. I can almost smell the finish line…

My new lingerie pattern…

Cloth Habit | new lingerie pattern

Behind that yellow bra you can see what became the beginnings of this pattern. This is as close as I have to a picture right now! I took this photo last summer and at the time I was experimenting with all sorts of design ideas.

It’s taken me over a year to develop this pattern! Patternmaking [well] and grading is hard work. Selling stuff is work, too. My Ladyshorts took me a month of solid concentration but I wanted to improve many things for my next pattern. I went back to the drawing board and did some hard research on sizing and even developed my own drafting and grading system. All the while I had a lot of doubts and reassessments. Did I really want to make a product from my ideas? Do I want to do all this stuff myself or hire others to do parts of it for me? Or am I interested in creating my own handmade line of lingerie with no sewing patterns at all? Do I want to have a business? Or am I just happy to make lingerie for myself, and occasionally blogging about it?

I’m glad I wrestled with these questions and took my time because it got me thinking harder about what I loved doing, what I was actually good at, what I wanted to learn more about and what I’d rather leave to others. And all the while I was wrestling with how to take my design and sewing further.

Perhaps you are someone who, like me, started out doing a craft or an art form as a hobby or pleasurable release in your free time but it evolved beyond that. You may have started blogging about it, and I believe blogging is a unique hobby, craft and time-skill in its own right. But what if those weren’t enough? I knew I didn’t want to be a professional blogger. My sewing and designing inhabits this strange world in between “hobby” and “profession”, and lately I’ve taken to calling it my “practice”. Visual artists use this term and I rather like it what it connotes–it helps make sense of what I’m doing almost every day.

Once I began working on my pattern in earnest, one thing became very clear for me. I love to teach and share what I learn. My friends would argue that I seek out new learning experiences just so that I can turn around and teach them. Patterns are one avenue through which to teach skills. Whenever I began to have doubts about whether the world needed one more indie pattern company–and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in those self-flagellating doubts about entrepreneurialship–I reminded myself about my passion to teach. I reminded myself how much I love patterns as tangible teaching tools. I love instructional design.

Whenever I’m learning something new, I appreciate sewing patterns that are designed to get your feet wet by introducing some basic skills and design elements but happily produce a good result from the first or second try. Some pattern designers are especially good at introducing simple basics–Colette’s Hazel, Sewaholic Renfrew and Grainline Scout come to mind–that are really helpful with basic skill-building and easy variation. Eventually, many sewists reach a point where they want to take a lot of creative liberties with a pattern, draft their own design elements, change up techniques and order or sewing, refine their fitting skills, etc. It’s very natural to progress to point of needing and wanting to deviate from a “follow this to get that result” and perceive patterns as mere jumping off templates.

Cloth Habit | On Teaching

Bras present a particularly unique learning challenge in that there are lots of little bits of materials and notions, and the fitting itself can fill an entire book. (And has.) I liken them to making something more like a handbag with all its unique notions and potential materials, except one doesn’t have to fit the handbag to a body. What I love about my new pattern is that it takes a little bit of the fitting frustrations out of the process, since it is not an underwired bra, and introduces basic sewing techniques and fabrics used in bras, but allows for a little bit of design fun. Plus it’s just hands-down my favorite bra to wear. I’ve made it many times for myself and feel a bit old world in it.

Now I’d love to hear from you: Did you have a favorite pattern for teaching you new skills? Did you feel happy about your finished project and did it leave you hungry for more in a good way?

p.s. My pattern launches in September! If you’d like some early peaks, consider subscribing to my e-letter, The Lingerie Maker.

Bra Making: Fitting a Strapless Bra

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

A few weeks ago I reunited with my Juki, the machine I busted sewing in belt loops five months ago! It turns out there is one person in the whole country that can fix the gear I broke and he’s a very busy guy. I have an older Bernina on which I can sew lingerie and all its requisite zig-zags but the Juki is still my love, probably because it is the machine with which I’ve had the most daily relationship. We talk shorthand with each other, ya know? I missed it so much that I brought it home instead of the studio and have been on an elastic sewing marathon ever since.

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

I’ve been finishing up some lingerie sets this week but in the midst had a chance to work on my strapless pattern. I’m taking my time with it because I want it to be right. Which meant sewing up a few tester bras…

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Truthfully, I’ve grown quite fond of sewing up bra muslins. It’s kind of an excuse to relax a little bit, and even practice a few techniques without worrying about things going wrong. And as you can see, a bra muslin doesn’t have to be all that jazz. I use scraps, and make sure to use the same band fabric I plan to use in the bra. I used to leave out the elastic but these days I always put it in because it changes the fit. Here I stitched it in the spot I want it to be, but without folding it under, and that is all you need for a quick test:

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Anyway, after three fittings I’m feeling very happy with how it all fits and stays up. I drafted this from the bottom up, since I have gone up a cup size and it was time to do some refitting. I’m also testing my own method for drafting and grading bras, so anything that gives me an excuse to practice is a good thing.

The 3-piece cups are a pretty typical pattern for strapless and bustier-type bras and very similar to the bra I made in my foam cup tutorial. They have a top piece and a split lower cup. At first my cup was quite tall, as I was playing around with a longer wire. In the end I felt much more comfortable with a wire that had a bit of a regular length in front. The band is a little bit longer than a typical bra band and this is what took a couple of fittings to get right. I might share more about band adjustments in another post; perhaps they’d be useful for others wanting to adapt a regular band to a strapless one!

So that’s all for today. I’m off to collect materials–the fun part! I’ve got boning and some great satin lycra and want to dye a few things so it will all pull together, including a little bit of this lovely lace.

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Happy weekend!

Bra Making: Designing a Strapless Bra

Hello all! So I have been a little quiet here on the blog and elsewhere online, but I’m working on some really fun projects, which include lingerie patterns and even a mini collection of handmade pieces. I have a hard time stopping mid-process to write about it, but promise I’ll give a sneak peak soon. First let’s dive into my obsession du jour:

bra-illustration

As you have probably picked up from my previous hints and attempts at a bustier, I’ve been working my way towards fitting a strapless bra this summer. I needed one like yesterday! They aren’t just for formal occasions but super functional in my climate–under summer tops with narrow straps or bare shoulders, which I’m wearing almost daily now. I’ve never found one that fits me properly, but in all fairness they harder to fit. I knew this would be a fun project to engineer. I’m not going to write any tutorials for this but thought y’all might like to follow along as I design one for myself!

First I made a list of what I don’t like about the ones I’ve owned:

  • The wires often poke too much under my arms. (RTW strapless wires are usually higher and often stronger than regular wires, and don’t splay as much.)
  • If the cup fits, the wires are often too narrow, resulting in more poking.
  • The bottom of the cup often collapses because the band won’t stay up where it needs to be. I looked inside every one of my strapless bras and they all had this little flat folded spot in the foam at the bottom of the cup. This could be the result of the wires being too narrow for me, but the most likely culprit is the band not holding the bra up enough.

To get some strapless ideas, I had a look through some of my favorite online shops. And I’d basically boil them all down to two types: the no-holds-barred structured torsolette with boning, corset-type seams, and firm powernet fabrics (examples: one, two, three). Or 2. The seamless “everyday” kind with molded cups and one piece of fabric that covers the entire outside of the bra for a smooth look (examples: the popular Fantasie Smoothing bra). There is a rare breed in between, with cut-and-sew cups and retro-inspired design. These tend to be my favorites! I’ve pinned a few of these to my Lingerie Design board if you want some ideas.

Next I drew out some ideas on my handy-dandy bra template. I drew this up so I could think quickly through bra designs and future patterns.

Planning a Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Kitty bomb!

I think I am going to go with a 3-piece cup. A two-piece vertically-seamed cup could work but it is harder to fit in a taller cup with more coverage. The taller the cup the more contouring it needs along the neckline, especially if it is strapless. Perhaps in a future post I’ll explain how that works!

Planning a Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Then I need to figure out the band. This is really the crucial part. A lot of strapless bras have such narrow bands of lightweight fabric, and rely too much on gripper elastic to hold it in place, like the bra in the above photo. (My current and very ill-fitting strapless.)

Finally, I need to do some overall re-fitting due to size changes, and try different wire lengths. Normally I cut my wires down to something much shorter than a full cup wire. I like them short in front and at the sides, but I’m not sure my usual short cups will work so well in a strapless. I’ll get to work on the fitting this weekend and report back on what I came up with. Stay tuned!

Still Life With Lingerie

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

I love coming up with unique ways of shooting my lingerie sets, probably as much as the sewing itself! Sometimes I shoot them on a lightbox (basically like shooting on top of one big light), sometimes in a window, or on my favorite throw. At times I still feel like a baby with a big camera and have so much to learn, but really enjoy composition and thinking about proportions within a frame. Before my sewing blog days, one of my weekly hobbies was floral photography, which inspired me to take some photo courses and upgrade my camera. I not only loved taking photos of my garden but then bringing picked flowers inside and assembling all sorts of still lifes in front of a big back light. It seems like shooting lingerie has replaced my still life hobby.

And I also particularly love trying to capture the textured and often gossamer nature of laces and lingerie fabrics. Feels like peering into the deep throat of an iris. I saved this particular lace for over a year and probably pulled it out 15 times just to roll it through my fingers. I do that a lot–it’s kind of dorky but I’m so tactile!

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

The lace and all notions came from a Merckwaerdigh kit, and while I was at it decided to have a whirl at a different bra pattern, Merckwaerdigh Mix30. I’ve had this pattern in my collection for ages but never got around to the bra, in part because I already have two personal bra patterns with vertically seamed cups. But sometimes it’s fun to veer off and try something new. I need some reason to justify my crazy lingerie pattern collection!

I started with a 75C (US 34C) cup, which I arrived at by comparing with one of my best fitting cup patterns, so I got very close to a perfect fit. All the band sizes in this pattern are a 75/34 so you have to remove or add length to arrive at your particular band size. My preferred band length is somewhere between a 30 and 32 but whatever length I use depends on fabric choice. Since I already have a few tried-and-true band patterns, I used my own frame (bridge, cradle, band), and simply added the same design details, such as the scalloped back band with camisole-style straps.

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

The pattern’s design uses lycra on the outer cup and bridge, and lace on the inner cup and band, which lends itself to a pattern blocking look. I really didn’t want to this to get that busy looking so I went all lace, and lined the entire cup with sheer tricot.

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

When I use these kind of lightweight fabrics and sheer linings, the cups end up very soft with just a slight amount of give and lend a natural shape, which I like. I have a lot more of these sorts of bras than those with stand-up-on-their-own cup fabrics. The particularly good aspect about this bra’s design is the long strap extension which is not only very comfortable but helps keep the top part of the bra from sagging.

Speaking of lace and softness, many readers have asked me how seamed or lacey bras look under clothes. Oddly I had never stopped to think about all this–I was blissfully unaware of “show through” until people asked. I bought my first lacey seamed bra when I lived in Europe, in a place where seamless bras were few and far in between. So maybe it is a cultural preference for suggestion? But now that you asked, I don’t really notice the seams–it just depends on the weight of the top I’m wearing. What I do notice is color and so I like to have a lot of pale neutrals. This bra is definitely something for dark clothes.

However, I do like playing with seamlessness in undies.

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

These are a hipster style and were an experiment in making a pair that were cut entirely from one piece folded over and seamed at the front. Tulip bikini–that’s what I’m calling this!

Details:
Bra: Merckwaerdigh MIX30 (using my own band)
Bikini: Self-drafted
Lace & most notions: Merckwaerdigh bra kit
Fine stretch mesh: (band lining and underwear fabric) Fabric Depot Co.
Dye: Washfast acid dye, National Blue (strap elastic and mesh)

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