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:
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.
This is a fairly common feature on mid-range and up machines, but many older and low-end machines don’t include it.
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.
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):
I know have been a quiet blogger lately. Those of us who do it often know that passion for blogging waxes and wanes. I try not to force the waning periods either here or on social media, since it is in those waning, quiet spaces where I get refreshed and work on longer projects.
The last couple months I have had a bit of an obsession with knits. I can’t stop sewing or wearing them. I love how easy they are to sew, to satisfy my maker itch while I work on bigger patternmaking projects and manage a home renovation. For the first time I’m sewing most of my summer wardrobe and filling all those “basics” holes. And it feels good!
When Heather of Closet Case Files asked me to test her new Sallie jumpsuit pattern, I had the fabric (and the dye) ready to go before the pattern was in my hands. A 70s knit jumpsuit? Yes, please!
I love testing patterns for Heather but this one was a real treat. Both Sallie and Heather have been some of my favorite sewing bloggers. When they came along many sewing blogs were focused on technique tutorials and commercial pattern reviews. The sewing blog landscape has certainly changed but I loved how they mixed a storytelling voice with style and technique. It helps that they both inspire me with their bohemian chic and breezy way of putting things together!
Fandom aside, I have been dreaming of a tie-dye jumpsuit for three summers now. I’m not sure where I got that itch but I’m glad I finally scratched it.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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 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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!)
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
You want a form to mimic your body so you can use it as a fitting tool.
You are a blogger or shop owner who needs a prop for styling and taking photographs.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
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.
For the bra I threw in a few luxury treats, like silk ribbon, hardware detailing, and silk channeling.
(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.
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…
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.
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
Masking or painters tape
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!