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!

A “Be My Valentine” Set

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-detail-2

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!

Details:
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.

Supplies:
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

Adventures in Cutting Mats

caring for a cutting mat | Cloth Habit

Over the last month I’ve been in a mood to upgrade and tend to my sewing tools. I acquired some new marking tools, sharpened my shears, cleaned and oiled my sewing machines, and biggest of all, DIY-ed a proper cutting height table from an old dining table top. That last one has been a life-saver!

While I was at it, I had a good look at my rotary cutting situation. I’m not a big rotary cutter user. I love my shears and always feel like I have so much more cutting control with them, especially when going around tight curves. However, there are times when a rotary cutter comes in handy, especially when I’m cutting lace, or more recently, five yards of silk bias binding.

I kept feeling like I was missing out on some big secret because my cutter never seemed to cut all the way through fabrics. It did not matter if I had a new blade or a more expensive blade. Any time I used it I’d have to run back through the pattern piece with my scissors to cut any bits the rotary skipped.

After awhile I began to think the problem might be my cutting mat.

I had two large Olfa green cutting self-healing mats that I could piece together for one large mat if needed. I liked that because it made for easier storage, but my new cutting table allows me have a “full-time” cutting mat!

While wading through the many choices in cutting mats, I came across a few interesting discoveries but I wanted more technical information on mat types. I wrote Mike Barnette, owner of cutting-mats.net, a big online shop devoted to drafting and cutting tools. I figured that might be the place to get the lowdown!

Self-Healing Mats

Most of us are familiar with “self-healing” mats but did you know these mats don’t technically heal? The scratches remain but close back up by virtue of the surface being softer.

Mike told me, “Most self healing mats have a hard plastic core with layers of other plastic materials.” Usually the top and bottom surface is a softer vinyl layer. “When the knife blade is removed from the cut, the vinyl layer appears to ‘heal’ itself.”

Among self-healing mats, there are various qualities and thicknesses. For instance, most Olfa mats advertised for rotary cutting are 1.5mm thick. These are the standard type you find in craft stores. Olfa also makes a more “professional quality” self-healing mat that is 3mm thick. Thicker means longer-lasting and Mike advised me to pay attention to the thickness above all else. If you are a crafter or sewist that uses a mat daily, you may want to look into a mat that is thicker than the typical 1.5mm hobby mats.

Solid Plastic Mats

A step up from the self-healing mats are those made from solid plastic instead of multiple plies of poly material.

According to Mike, these “hard surface” mats are made from solid polyethylene plastic (they do not have a vinyl surface). He says that these mats can have some self-healing properties, although they are not advertised as such.

Prolonging a Mat’s Life

Most importantly, I learned that all mats have a lifespan (just like needles and pins–we all change those, right?) and eventually lose their cutting mojo. According to Mike, “many variables affect a mat’s lifespan, including type of material being cut, type of knife used, sharpness of cutting blade, cutting pressure by user, or how often mat is rotated during repetitive cuts.”

His top piece of advice? “ALWAYS change your blade often. It makes no sense to pay $100-300 for a cutting mat and not change a $3 blade.”

To preserve the lifespan of a mat it’s important to:

  • Change blades often.
  • Rotate the mat regularly.
  • Clean regularly with warm soapy water. (I also find a lint roller useful, which helps pick up “invisible” fibers.)
  • Don’t use more cutting pressure than is necessary. I’m in the habit of pressing extremely hard in order to cut and I’m going to have to train myself to cut a little more lightly or whatever is required by a certain fabric.

choosing and caring for a cutting mat | Cloth Habit

I had already purchased my mat before my emails with Mike but I am very happy with my choice so far. It is a Mega Mat in the exact size of my cutting table. (I later learned that Mike’s company will cut custom mats to your size at no extra charge.) My new mat is a solid plastic mat, and about 2.5mm thick, and is advertised as “pinnable”, which I think just means the plastic is soft enough to hold a pin.

While not as thick as some Alvin self-healing mats or very thick solid plastic mats I hope this provides me with some good cutting for a few years! Just by virtue of being new, I could immediately tell the difference in cutting. My rotary cutter works SO MUCH better. I’m ready to start cutting some bias tape!

Do you have any secret tips to happy rotary cutting? I’d love to hear them!

Watson Sew Along: Attaching Bra Straps & Closures

attaching straps and closures | Watson Sew Along

It’s our last day of the sew along! I hope you have enjoyed making your own lingerie as much as I do! Along the way I’ve covered many lingerie sewing techniques, materials and some of the “whys” behind them. I hope these give you confidence in sewing your next lingerie projects!

Today we are going to put the finishing touches on the bra by adding the straps and attaching the hook & eye.

Adjust the Back

Hook & eye closures come in a few different widths, so your chosen closure may be slightly smaller or slightly bigger than the pattern’s. On a scoop back strap attachment, this is easy to adjust near the end of the bra. It’s simply a matter of changing the point where the strap elastic joins the center back.

Place your hook & eye closure next to the end of the band. Mark a spot slightly under the top of the closure.

attaching bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Trim away the excess, curving gradually into the original strap point at the top of the band. Repeat the same step for the other side.

attaching bra straps | Watson Sew Along

If you are using uncut hook & eye tape, simply cut your tape to fit over the center back.

Attach the Straps

From the right side of the bra, line up your strap elastic with the cut edge of the fabric. Stitch it in with a small to medium width zig-zag, taking a few backward zig-zags at either end to secure.

attaching bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Sew this elastic in flat without pulling or stretching. The zig-zag should be on the inner side of the elastic, toward the bra. I use a 3.2 width, 2.0 zig-zag.

Underneath the strap, away the excess fabric close to the stitches.

attaching bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Secure the Strap Rings

Thread the top of the cup through your strap ring and from the wrong side of the cup secure the fold with two lines of stitching. Remember how I left some extra elastic hanging off the end of the cup? This gives me something to hold onto and keep the fold taut as I am stitching:

attaching bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Secure with a small straight stitch, about 1.5 to 2.0 in length. To make stitching easier, stitch one forward line of stitches, turn the work around—just like I did when I assembled my straps—and stitch the second line back over the first. If you are having trouble with this bulky fold slipping out of place, try starting your stitches in the center of the fold, rather than the edge of the elastic. Use the handwheel for assistance.

Trim away the excess fabric near your stitches.

attaching bra straps | Watson Sew Along

For the scalloped lace cup version, the steps are the same. Since the width of the strap fold will vary based on the size of your lace scallops, that extra elastic hanging off the end is convenient for giving you more “loop length”.

attaching bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Attach the Hook & Eye

Start by sewing in your eyes. From the left side of the bra with the right side of the band facing up, slip your eye closure over the ends.

Hook & eye tape have little “envelopes” which slip over the ends of the bra band. Sometimes these envelopes will be heat-sealed, and to make attaching easier, pry them open. The envelopes will overlap your fabric by about 1/8” to 1/4”.

attaching a hook and eye | Watson Sew Along

Set your stitches to a small zig-zag. I use a a 1.5 width and 1.0 length. Slip your eye tape over your ends and arrange them under the presser foot. Line them up in such a way that the left side of the zig-zag will end just near the edge of the eye tape. Stitch across the tape, securing with backward zig-zags at each end.

attaching a hook and eye | Watson Sew Along

Tip: It helps to go slowly, and to start stitching a little bit away from the end of the tape, then backtacking. In the above photo you can see that I arrange everything while the foot is still up. Once I get it all into the proper position, I keep both hands on the layers and drop the foot with my knee lift.

attaching a hook and eye | Watson Sew Along

Attach the hooks to the right side of the bra, with the wrong side and the hooks facing up.

The hook side is tricker because the hooks will be so close to the foot. If your machine has the option to move the needle position, this will come in handy. Move your needle all the way to the right and set the stitch to the same zig-zag you used for the eyes. Arrange the layers carefully underneath your foot and slowly stitch across the tape.

attaching a hook and eye | Watson Sew Along

If your machine does not have a needle-adjusting option or you can’t get close enough to the edge of the tape without hitting the metal hooks, try switching to a narrower foot and use a straight stitch instead. Use a small stitch length, about 1.5-2.0 in length and backtack at either end to secure.

attaching a hook and eye | Watson Sew Along

And you’re finished! Congratulations–you’ve made a bra! (Or two.)

finished lace bra | Watson Sew Along

finished bra | Watson Sew Along

Have you made a Watson set? Show it off! You can upload your project photos to the Cloth Habit Flickr Pool, or on Instagram, use hashtags #watsonbra or #watsonbikini. I’ll be featuring some of your work in a blog post next week!

Thank you all so much for sewing along, and for all your helpful comments, questions and shares here and in the FB group!

Watson Sew Along #9: Inserting Bra Cups and Elastic

Sewing in the Cups & Elastic | Watson Sew Along

Happy February everyone! I hope you had a fantastic weekend.

We’re getting close to finishing the bra! Today we’ll be sewing in the cups and attaching elastic. I took a few extra photos to help with some of the tricky parts, and will be back tomorrow with all the finishing touches.

Insert the Right Cup

With a washable marker or chalk pencil, mark the center front point where the two cups will meet on the cradle.

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

With the right side of the band facing up, begin sewing in your cup from the underarm.

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

Pin the cup in, matching the cup seam to the cradle notch. (I sew in my bra cups without pins. It’s a great way to stitch convex to concave curves, especially when sewing with 1/4″ seam allowances.)

As you near the center front, make sure that the edge of the bra cup meets your center front mark:

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

This is a tricky intersection that requires sewing accuracy. If it looks like your cup piece is too long, either the cup fabric stretched out in sewing, which can easily happen because the stretchier fabric is being pushed by the foot, or your elastic has an edge that added width to the seam allowance. Remember how I adjusted for that extra elastic edge in my cup pattern? If this happens to you, unpick the stitches back to the notch and re-pin the cup, easing in the excess, or simply allow the cups to overlap at front.

Insert the Right Cup and Topstitch

Line up the left cup so that the edges meet together at the dot.

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

Backtack a couple of stitches to secure, and sew all the way around to the end.

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

Trim away the little diamond in the seam allowance between the two cups. This will help create a cleaner seam when you topstitch. Be careful not to trim into the actual seam.

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

At the center front the two elastics will overlap underneath the topstitching. Don’t trim these elastic ends away–they anchor the seam allowance and allow for neater topstitching.

From the right side of the bra, fold your cup seams toward the cradle and topstitch them down, 1/16-1/8” away from the seam. For help in topstitching at the center front, use a fabric marker to mark the corner where you’ll turn your stitch direction.

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

Finish topstitching around the rest of the cradle.

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

And what it looks like on the inside:

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

Don’t go crazy if you don’t get this part neat on your first try. I mentioned in the Facebook group that bows and trims are the bra-makers secret to hiding goofs!

The steps are the same for sewing in scalloped lace cups. When joining the two cups at center front, they should meet right at the bottom point of the scallops. This is what it will look like when finished:

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

Stitch in Hem Elastic

Apply your hem elastic using the method in this tutorial. For the first pass, I used a 2.8 width, 2.0 length zig-zag. For the second, I used a 3-step zig-zag with a 5.0 length, 1.0 width.

add band elastic | Watson Sew Along

Stitch in Underarm Elastic

For my narrower underarm elastic, I used a 2.8 width, 2.0 length zig-zag on the first pass, and a 3.2 width, 2.0 length zig-zag on the second.

When applying your underarm elastic, it’s important that the area where the cup folds through the strap ring ends up with a finished width of 1/2″ (13mm). In order to make this happen, the second elastic will overlap the first elastic right at the strap fold. To make this easier, begin stitching the elastic about 1/2 to 5/8″ (13-15mm) down from the top of the cup, leaving an unstitched portion:

add band elastic | Watson Sew Along

When stitching your second finishing zig-zag, wrap the unstitched elastic and the edge of the cup fabric over the neckline elastic. The two will completely overlap at the top:

add band elastic | Watson Sew Along

And how this might look on the scalloped cup:

add band elastic | Watson Sew Along

Another little tip: In both these cups, you’ll notice that I left some extra elastic past the end of the cup. This extra length will give me something to grab onto when I secure the loop through the strap ring.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the finishing touches–the straps and the hook & eye!

Watson Sew Along #8: Sewing the Bra Cups & Frame

sewing the bra, part 1 | Watson Sew Along

At last we get to sewing everyone’s favorite–the bra! I’m going to jump right into it, because this is going to be a picture-heavy post. Today we’re going to make the straps, put together the cups and sew the frame of the bra. I’ve also included some hopefully helpful tips for sewing with slippery tricot.

Assemble the Straps

Attaching the straps to the bra is the very last step in sewing, and doesn’t need to be done till the end, but I like to assemble them at the beginning. It makes me feel like I have everything ready to go!

First I loop one end of the elastic through the slider, giving me enough stitching room so that I don’t hit the ring as I am sewing.

sewing bra straps | Watson Sew Along

To secure the loop, you can use a bartack stitch or a back and forth straight stitch. Over time I’ve come to prefer the straight stitch because it is easier to sew and gives a neat result that is still secure. I set my stitch somewhere around 1.0 in length and stitch across the elastic.

To reverse the stitch, I turn the elastic around so that I can stitch forward again. Then I sew another line right next to the first line of stitching, and secure by backward stitching a couple of stitches.

sewing bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Trim the elastic close to the stitches and finish looping your straps through the rings. If you need some extra step by step photos, see this tutorial.

sewing bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Assemble the Cups

With a regular straight stitch, sew the inner and outer cup pieces together. If you prefer a neater finish you can serge the edges, as I have done.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

Then turn the allowances toward the outer cup and topstitch from the right side. Use a longer stitch—I set my stitch length between 3.2 and 3.4.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

Topstitching tip: Use your foot as the guide to topstitch 1/16 to 1/8” (2-3mm) away from the edge. On my foot the inside edge of my toe is exactly 1/16” from the needle, so as I am topstitching I make sure the seam is following that edge.

Add Neckline Elastic

Apply your neckline elastic as per the instructions. For my first pass, I used a 2.8 length, 2.0 width zig-zag. For the second pass, I used a 3.0 width and 2.0 length zig-zag.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

You’ll notice that I am using a lingerie elastic that has a rounded piping edge to it. This piping sticks out about 1/8″ past the edge of the seamline. I had to remove 1/8″ from my neckline allowance to account for the “piping”; otherwise the cups would create a bulky overlap at the center front because of the extra elastic width. (Oh yes, it’s true–bra-making develops sewing accuracy!)

If you are making the scalloped lace cup variation, you’ll want to stabilize the edge of the lace with a narrow and thin elastic. A 1/8-1/4” clear elastic is ideal for this purpose.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

For my bra, I used some thin black neckline elastic that I had left over from an old bra kit, but I apply it in the same way that I use clear elastic. From the wrong side of the bra, line up the elastic so that it is in a straight line just inside the bottom of the scallops. Use a small zig-zag to secure the elastic, and pull very gently as you are sewing.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

If this is your first time sewing thin or clear elastics to lace, you may want to practice on a scrap to get comfortable with it. You’ll also need to play with your zig-zag width to find one that will fit onto your elastic.

Here you can see what it looks like from the right side. My lace is very open so the elastic is visible:

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

Line the Cradle + Tricot Sewing Tips

Baste your lining piece to the cradle, staying inside the seam allowances. If you decided to use a fusible knit interfacing instead of a lining, then apply your interfacing.

lining the cradle | Watson Sew Along

If you are new to sewing with slippery and delicate lingerie fabrics, it might feel tricky basting the lining smoothly to the outer fabric. It gets easier with practice but I wanted to share a few possible tricks to avoiding wrinkles and skewing fabrics.

First, the wrinkles are usually the result of sewing two different fabric types together. Fabrics with 4-way stretch can “grow” as they are being handled or stitched. When stitching a stretchy fabric to one with less stretch or no stretch, the stretchier fabric will want to stretch out further than the other layer.

1. Instead of basting, use temporary spray adhesive to join your two layers for easier sewing. This solution came via Maddie, and it’s genius! Many bra-makers use it to keep delicate layers together in sewing.

lining the cradle | Watson Sew Along

2. Before basting, pin your two layers together from the side of the lining. Allow the stretchy outer fabric to relax and spread outside the lining if it wants to. After basting, trim away the excess from the outer fabric.

3. Baste with the lining on top and the stretchy outer fabric on bottom. This allows the feed dogs to ease the stretch fabric into the lining.

4. Loosen the foot pressure if your machine has this option.

5. Use a long basting stitch with a 4-5 stitch length.

6. Stop and raise your presser foot every couple of inches to let the fabric relax. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I do this all the time when sewing knits and silks. I think I’ve gotten addicted to the knee lift on my sewing machine.

7. Try a teflon foot or a glider foot, if you have one. Sometimes the foot pressure can really drag on fabrics. Occasionally I sew on a vintage Bernina 830 and it is guilty of dragging on silks and tricots; switching to a teflon foot helps.

Stitch the Band to the Cradle

Stitch your cradle to the band pieces with a straight stitch.

sewing the band | Watson Sew Along

Fold your seam allowances toward the cradle, and from the right side topstitch them down about 1/8”-3/16” (3-5mm) away from the seam. If you prefer a neater finish to your side seams, you can serge after stitching, then topstitch.

For neat side seams in wired bras, I often hide the seams in the lining but for an easier but pretty approach, I also like stitching a piece of satin ribbon over the seam allowances. I stitch down each side of the ribbon, and this takes the place of the topstitching:

sewing the band | Watson Sew Along

Again, I regret using ivory fabric in photos but you’ll have to believe me–that’s a satin ribbon over the seams!

That was a long post for today but we have a great start on the bra! I’ll be back Monday with the final steps but if you’d like to get a head start, you can sew in the cups to the band and then add your hem elastic.

Have a great weekend!

Watson Sew Along #7: Cutting & Sewing the Bikini

cutting & sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Alrighty, it’s finally time to do some sewing!

You may have noticed that I’ve changed up the schedule a bit. I decided to save the dyeing tutorial for a future day. That gives us room to focus on sewing the bra and keeps things a bit simpler for the beginners. Sound good?

Today we’re going to cut and sew our bikini. It’s very short and sweet, just as a bikini should be. You can probably make five in the amount of time it took me to write this post!

In this tutorial I’m going to be sewing the bikini a little bit differently than the method that is illustrated in the pattern. Instead of leaving one seam open, both crotch seams are enclosed inside the lining. You can use either method–your choice! I use both and it depends on how fast I want to sew. For the pattern I chose the faster method because it was easier to illustrate without the benefit of photos.

Cut Your Pieces

Cutting is simple! you need to cut four pieces: front, back, crotch and crotch lining.

cutting the bikini | Watson Sew Along

In underwear, crotch linings are often cut from light cotton jersey. The lining is there for breathable, absorbent protection. If you are already cutting your bikini from a rayon or cotton jersey you can use your main fabric as a lining. For other fabrics like lycra, lace or mesh, you can use a scrap of jersey from your stash. If I want a quick pair, I often just cut it from my main fabric (even if it’s mesh). For this pair I’m cutting my bikini from a lingerie stretch fabric in front and a stretch mesh in back. I happened to have some matching ivory cotton jersey in my scrap bin to use for the lining, so I’m getting lucky with the matching!

Sew the Crotch Seams

Sew the back to the crotch pieces with a 3/8″ (1cm) seam allowance. Arrange the layers like this, from bottom to top: the crotch lining should be right side up, the back should be right side up, and the outer crotch piece right side down.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Pin the layers together then stitch or serge. I like to baste this seam first, which keeps the layers from shifting around with the serger foot. If you don’t have a serger, a straight stitch will do just fine. This seam doesn’t need to stretch. If using a straight stitch, trim down your seams afterward to about 1/4″(6mm).

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Roll up the back piece between the two crotch pieces.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Take your front piece and roll this up, leaving the crotch seam free. Lay the rolled front piece next to the rolled back piece. The right side of the front crotch seam should be facing the right side of the main crotch piece:

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Roll up the crotch lining (the bottom piece in the photo above) so that it meets the other two layers. You’ll basically have a little taco. (Some people call this a burrito method but I live in Texas and this seems more like a taco!) Pin these seams together and serge or straight stitch, just like the first crotch seam:

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Pull the rolled pieces out from one side of the crotch, and keep pulling until the crotch seams turn inside out. And voila–completely enclosed seams!

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Stitch the Side Seams

With right sides together, stitch the side seams with either a serger or medium width zig-zag. (Medium is about 3.2 width and 2.2 length.) Turn the bikini right side out.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Add Your Elastic

Add your elastic to front and back using the method in this tutorial. I like to start one end of my elastic near the side seams but not right on top of the seam. This keeps the side seam from getting bulky. On the first pass, I used a small zig-zag with a 2.6 width and 2.0 length.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

When you reach the beginning of your elastic overlap and stitch the two ends together about 1/2″ (13mm). Stitch backwards a couple of zig-zags to secure.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Trim your threads and any seam allowances that cause bulk or stick out from the elastic, then fold your elastic to the inside and stitch your second pass of zig-zags. On the second pass of this pair I used a 3.2 width and 2.0 length.

Repeat these steps for your other two openings, trim any excess threads, and you’re done!

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

On Friday we start sewing the bra!

Watson Sew Along #6: Cutting a Scalloped Lace Cup

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Cutting scalloped lace for lingerie is one of my favorite things to do. It involves a little bit of creativity and some lace detective work. It’s a bit like cutting plaids, but thankfully lingerie pieces are tiny!

I’ve made the Watson in a few scalloped laces for fun, so today I want to share how I cut the cup pattern for them. (We’ll start sewing the bra later this week!)

Stretch laces vary quite a bit in stretch, weight, and “openness” or tightness of their design. Sometimes they stretch in all directions, and other times they stretch very minimally in one direction. When you are cutting the Watson from these laces, you may not be able to get your pieces in the proper stretch direction so this will probably change how it fits. It’s experimental! For a lace that stretches very minimally in one direction I usually go up a cup size.

Pattern Alteration

Normally when I cut a scalloped lace piece for an underwire bra, the pattern neckline has a straight edge. The Watson’s neckline has a slight curve so we need to alter the pattern in order to cut it on a straight line.

On your inner cup piece, draw in the seamlines where the bottom of the cup and neckline intersect. These seam allowances are 1/4” (6mm).

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Draw a line 3/4” down from the top of the cup (this is your fold line for the strap) and then draw the the neckline seam that intersects with this fold (1/4” or 6mm from the outer edge).

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Draw a straight line connecting these two cross marks, going all the way through the cup:

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Cut out your cup piece, cutting along that new line. I mark the cup for scallops, so I don’t forget!

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

You’ll notice that straightening the neckline, as I am doing in this alteration, makes the neckline slightly shorter. It also makes a funny point to the top of the cup, which means I’ll might have to do some adjusting when I get to the strap loop. I’ll show you what I mean when we get to sewing the bra.

Cutting the Lace

Now this is the part where you get to play detective (because this is Watson, after all!). Lay out your lace and move your pattern pieces around until you find the motifs you want over your cup pieces.

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Once you get the your new inner cup piece in a good area, line up the edge of the neckline piece so that it is even with the bottom of the scallops. Move it around until you get that bottom seamline mark (marked in blue) lined up with a low point of the scallops:

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

It’s important that the bottom seam meets a low point because this is where the two cups join at the center front. Once you have the pattern piece where you want it, trace and cut.

Some decorative laces will have a mirrored design, which means that you can flip your piece to the other scalloped side and cut a perfect mirror of your first piece. If your lace doesn’t have mirroring sides you can move your pattern piece around until you find a similar motif. When I want to get a really good mirror, I often take my first cut piece and flip that over instead of a paper pattern.

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Once I get this piece lined up over its mirror, I trace around it with a chalk wheel. To save time I often by bypass chalk tracing and use a rotary cutter and run carefully around the first cup, being cautious not to cut anything away from it.

Done cutting!

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Next up: cutting and sewing the bikini!

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