Learning to Knit

knitting my first hat | Cloth Habit

Look ma, I knit a hat!

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

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

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

knitting my first hat | Cloth Habit

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

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

Learning to knit and my first hat | Cloth Habit

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

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

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

knitting my second project in lovely seed stitch | Cloth Habit

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

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

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

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


exploring the differences between various styles of bras | Cloth Habit

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

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

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

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

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

Full Cup

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

Illustration of full cup bra features | Cloth Habit

(photo: Retro full cup by Wacoal)

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

Typical features of a full-cup bra:

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

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

Full cup wires with different necklines, illustrated | Cloth Habit

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

The Half Cup

This is the style many associate with “demi”.

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

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

(photo: Melisande by Huit)

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

Typical features of half cup:

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

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

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

The Balconette

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

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

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

(photo: Paris by Miss Mandalay)

Features of a balconette:

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

The Plunge

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

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

(photo: Iana by L’Agent)

Features of plunge bras:

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

It’s all about the neckline

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


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

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

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

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

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

What about you? Do you have a favorite style?

Curate Your Old Blog Posts and Sewing Photos

big white shirt

(My first-ever blogged sewing project.)

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

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

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

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

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

Tend Old Blog Posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Create a Portfolio

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

creating a portfolio in WordPress | Cloth Habit

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

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

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

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

create a sewing portfolio | Cloth Habit

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Video: Dyes for Lingerie Fabrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Where to Buy Acid Dyes

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

And that’s it for today.

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

Reader Question: Sewing Machines for Lingerie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Adjustable foot pressure

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

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

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

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

3. A 3-step zig-zag

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

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

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

4. A straight stitch foot

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tie-Dye Sallie

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

Ahoy, and Happy July!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pattern Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you a jumpsuit fan, too?

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!