Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 1

This summer I have planned a few foam-lined bras for my wardrobe. One of these is going to be strapless style I can wear comfortably underneath my low-backed tops and dresses. Comfort being a key word, because I have never found a strapless that doesn’t make me squeam.

I like using foam linings when I want a supporting bra but also want to use an outside cup fabric that’s really light or stretchy. For example, I made these bras from rayon jersey scraps because I loved the print, and the foam gives them shape and support.

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

I’ve been promising a tutorial on these forever, so here we go! Over the next three posts, I’ll be sharing how I adapted a bra pattern for a foam lining, along with a few construction tips. Some of these techniques can also be used for making foam cups to insert into a swimsuit or bodysuit, too!

Today I’m going to cover materials…

Materials You Need

  • bra pattern
  • sheet foam, approximately 1/8 yard
  • materials and notions for making one bra
  • sheer or light tricot lining (optional, for making seam tape)
  • manila folder, cardstock, or sturdy paper on which to re-trace some of your pattern pieces (avoid tissue–it is impossible on foam!)

Patterns: To follow along with these tutorials, you can use any underwired bra pattern that fits, provided the cups fit in non-stretch fabric and the bra is a full frame (aka full band) style. Frameless bras require slightly different pattern adaptations.

For cup fabrics, the world is your oyster. You can try a lycra/spandex type fabric, lace, any knit, or even something like a satin woven! For this tutorial I chose a blush stretch silk charmeuse, scraps of which were in my stash.

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

Where to Buy Foam

Sheet foam suitable for bra-making goes by a few different terms. These foams can have either a brushed or satin tricot finish on the outside. Sometimes they have some spandex/lycra content for a little bit of “give”. They can be anywhere from 2-5mm thick (usually around 1/8″), and some are spongier than others. I’ve sampled foams from four different retailers, and in my experience most of these them adapt to the body and eventually flatten a bit with wear.

Here’s where you can find them (links go to the page with sheet foam products):

  • Bra-makers Supply (“laminate foam” and “stretch spacer foam”)
  • Make Bra
  • Fabric Depot Co. (“tricot-bonded poly filler”)
  • Sewing Chest
  • Spandex House (spacer foam–I recommend asking specifically for a foam for bra-making, as they carry various types)
  • Sew Sassy (“polylaminate foam”)
  • Sewy (“spacer foam”)
  • Spandex World sells spacer foam but I’m not sure if it is suitable for bras. (I’m guessing they are more appropriate for surfwear and running pants.) You may want to ask for samples.

Sew Sassy and Fabric Depot also sell a poly fiberfill fabric. These are a wadding bonded to a satin-y tricot, and offer many of the same benefits as sheet foam.

*Interesting factoid: Spacer foam is a distinct type of foam that looks and behaves a lot like laminate foam, but the foam is not heat laminated to tricot. The foam core and outer layer are knitted together on the same tricot machine, which allows for a more “breathable” foam. Some lingerie brands even market this technology in their bras.

Consider the Silhouette

If you have a bit of extra foam to play with, might want to sew up a trial cup in foam to see what shape it takes. I find this kind of fun, actually. The pattern may have a good fit and shape in softer fabrics but in foam the shape will be slightly different. Sometimes I even tape together a printer paper version of my cups to get a rough idea of the silhouette:

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

I added a second seam to the bottom piece of a two-piece cup for a rounder cup. Adding this seam is actually very easy!

Of course paper isn’t going to tell you everything but it’s still a good way to visualize in 3D. I also tape up a paper cup and hold it up to myself so I can see if my strap attachment point is located in a comfy place.

Tomorrow I’ll share my pattern adaptations and get started on the sewing!

p.s. Just in case anyone asks–this tutorial is not for a seamless bra or a push-up bra. There are many styles and techniques to foam bras so hopefully this tutorial will give you ideas you can experiment with!


Spring Cleaning

Last week I started to catch up on my blog reading and was completely sidetracked by the wonderful Wardrobe Architect series on the Coletterie blog. I’ve been reading others’ experiences in following along and I just knew I’d get sucked into it! Since January, Sarai has been writing on a number of topics on personal style and wardrobe curating.

Over Christmas, I was already thinking it was time to do major wardrobe (and fabric stash) overhaul, so this series couldn’t have come at a better time. At first I wanted to overhaul my closet just to conserve space, but then it became an itch to gesso the entire canvas. I had a free Saturday last weekend, so I went into Spring Cleaning Overdrive and spent a good six hours taking apart my closets from top to bottom.* I even went after my makeup, accessories, and lingerie.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

Before: It’s not that messy, but I really can’t find my scarves in there…. it’s all a jumble.

I purged my closets one other time in my life, before I was married and right before I moved to Europe in my early 30s, but there was no rhyme or reason to it other than that I needed to fit all my belongings into two suitcases. I lost some treasures in the process like my favorite 70s rust color suede jacket with the huge pointy collar and brass snaps.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

AFTER (left): I can see!

I like how Sarai began the series with some very thoughtful and introspective exercises before moving into more practical ones. I’ve always been a big believer that style is a very personal thing, and expresses so much in self image, lifestyle, social dress codes, and cultural and spiritual values, whether intentionally or not. Or it reacts to those things. Digging a little deeper into the “why of you” is such a great place to start.

I’m sort of a 10,000 leagues-under-the-sea personality so I’ve always loved exploring the deeper matters of what fashion expresses. Over 10 years ago I kept a journal about clothing and its meanings, and loved writing into my own style personality, invariably quoting social theorists, Yeats or the Bible as I went along. I wrote about why I was drawn to certain colors and fragrances and what they meant to me philosophically, or how certain landscapes, my religious upbringing, or interest in Celtic history were naturally expressed in my clothes.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

Celtic knotwork from my old journal. It’s as addictive as Tetris.

So I love to experiment with fashion but I don’t always know what I’m doing. When I first started this blog, I had just read through some personal style books in an attempt to get better at making conscious wardrobe choices. I think it was all connected to turning 40. What I really wished for was a French godmother to teach me all those French dressing tricks–or as I would put it, the non-tricks–to being a woman of a certain age. I pretty much have the non-tricks down with my hair–I don’t fuss with it–but would love to have more of that knowing with my clothes. One of my favorite books was Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred, which inspired me to start the blog with a goal of sewing ten classic pieces.** I ended up making six of them but it also got me thinking–just because I’m turning 40, do I need to start thinking classic? I tried ballet flats and just don’t like them. Am I getting old with the Chucks high tops? (My favorites now are Supergas.)

And then there was climate confusion. My first full summer in Austin was quite a shock. I didn’t know how to dress or groom in this climate, at all. I missed sweaters, coats, layering–and drapey layering is one thing that has always been a part of my personal style. I couldn’t quite bring myself to wear flip flops. It took a lot of confidence and practice to adjust to bearing skin all the time, wearing strappy shoulder dresses, shorts and sandals eight months of the year–and feeling good in those things.

Although my wardrobe has fleshed out with more summer clothes and in the process I’ve discovered my love of billowy, drapey silk blouses and tanks, it’s still top-heavy with the impractical–too nightlife for my lifestyle, too hot for summer, or just plain ill-fitting.

I look forward to re-thinking some of this with my newly blank canvas. Well, it’s not entirely blank. But I managed to whittle down the party dresses to three. And I left myself with no white tee-shirts or tanks. There is a time a t-shirt must come to an end and transform into one of my husband’s motorcycle rags. I’m excited to plan out a thoughtful wardrobe that starts with a few needed basics and then builds into a little capsule collection for summer.

Have you ever done a major wardrobe purge?

*I used this Wardrobe Detox advice as I was picking through everything. Good stuff!

**Wait, I just realized I passed my three-year blogiversary! I’d totally forgotten about my first post.


Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup

For most of my early adult life, my knowledge of bra styles began and ended with seamless t-shirt bras. Truth be told, I didn’t like spending money on bras but living in Europe had an effect on my tastes. Now and then I’d get sucked into a candy-colored lingerie boutique or an old-world department store like KaDeWe in Berlin and splurge on something I thought was a bit more exotic. A pretty French lace bra. Back then, even Nordstroms in the U.S. was mostly a sea of seamless bras, except for the occasional lace number by Elle Macpherson–one of the lingerie brands that I think changed the game of somewhat affordable, la-la lingerie.

One thing I learned in my lingerie explorations that “foam bra” didn’t necessarily equal push-up or seamless bra.

Molded Foam Bras

There are bras in which foam is simply a support or modesty lining, and then there are those which use foam as a shaper or extra padding. You are probably familiar with the Wonderbra-style pushup bras, which are a molded foam-cup bra in which the foam has more thickness in the bottom. I call that a “plumper bump” (totally non-technical name I just made up!) The bump is there to push the breast volume upward, and it can sometimes be quite extreme. I recently saw a Wonderbra that had what I swear was a 1″ thick plumper bump in the bottom of the foam cup, and this was a 36G.

This is one of my bras, a Calvin Klein push-up with a plumper bump.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

Hopefully you can see the plumping part by its shadow.

A bra can also add push-up effects with a floating foam cookie. These bras usually have a sheer lining pocket into which you can insert the cookie if you want to add volume to the cup or take it out if you don’t.

This is an example of a Cosabella seamless foam bra with a removable foam cookie.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

I should mention that without the cookie, this particular bra doesn’t really add much “size” or volume. The molded cup is fairly thin.

Cut and Sewn Foam

The previous two examples are bras made with a molded foam cup, but there is yet another type of foam bra. In the bra industry, any kind of bra with a seamed cup is normally called “cut-and-sew” style, and that also includes designs which have a seamed foam lining. Seamed foam bras were popular before the Wonderbra trend of the 90s made molded bras ubiquitous, but they are still quite common especially among mid-range and luxury brands. Are they more expensive to produce than molded bras? I don’t know.

An example of an Elle Macpherson strapless bra with cut-and-sew foam:

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

The outside of a Stella McCartney bra with cut foam.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

You can’t even see the foam on the inside, which is completely lined with silk charmeuse. So luxurious!

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

If you were take apart any of the above bras, you’d find that the foam thickness and flexibility really vary. My personal favorite seamless t-shirt bra is made from what Chantelle markets as “memory foam” (which I think is probably a lightweight spacer foam with a bit of spandex). I like it because it does feel light and invisible under t-shirts (that and it really fits me well).

One of the common misconceptions about “foam bras” is that they are all push-up or volume-adding bras. Most of the time, foam is really just an extra layer of support, or the entire layer of support. A true push-up bra has a lot of little tricks in it, not just in the thickness of the foam–wire shape, bridge and the mold over which the cup is formed all play a part in pushing your volume around. Bra-makers have been trying to patent these ideas since bras were bras!

Where to Find It

On the bottom of my Bra-making Supplies page, I included a list of stores that offer sheet foam for bras. My favorite comes from Sew Sassy–it’s light, flexible and very soft. Many bra-making suppliers also sell molded cups.

Aside from my one experiment with a molded cup bra, I much prefer making seamed bras. In my experience they have more potential for a totally custom fit. But as you can see from my (worn) examples, there is a place and reason for all sorts of bras in my lingerie drawers.

Next week I’m (finally!) going to share a seamed foam cup tutorial. I think I’ll be breaking this down into three posts, as I wanted to include as many photos as possible. See you then!



Lingerie Friday: Where Do You Find Your Fabrics?

Over the last year I’ve gotten many great emails with all sorts of questions about bra and lingerie making. Some readers have asked about techniques, and others about patterns and fitting. I love getting these kinds of emails and if I don’t know the answer, I hunt for it. So I thought it was about time I started to dedicate some regular posts to your questions.

Your #1 question, by leaps and bounds: Where do you find your bra and lingerie fabrics? To which I often reply, all over the place! There are some tips in this post of the Bra-making Sew Along, and I often include my sources at the bottom of my sewing projects, but I have never centralized it all in one place. So today I published a new page on my site to make your research a bit easier.

Lingerie Friday: Where to Find Bra Supplies | Cloth Habit

Click above to visit the new page! For the rest of today’s post I’ll share a few shopping tips along with some of my personal favorites.

Where Do I Start?

If you are brand new to bra-making, I highly recommend starting out with a bra-making kit. You may not like the colors or the fabrics in a particular kit, but it’s a very good way to get used to all the little tidbits you need, especially while you experiment with construction and fitting. After a bra or two you will get a feel for the fabrics and notions you prefer and need. On the supplies page, I noted all the stores which sell bra-making kits. Some of these kits are specifically designed for making a company’s particular patterns. I’m able to use most of a kit in my own self-drafted bras and what I don’t like I stash away for “bra muslins”.

Annnd, because I’m a rather small size, I’m often able to get two or even three bras out of one kit.

My Personal Favorites For Basics

I buy most of my basic bra supplies from Fabric Depot Co. in Texas and Merckwaerdigh in Netherlands. I stash several basics in white and dye them. This practice works for me because I love to dye and I’m a bit of a perfectionist with color!

From Fabric Depot Co.: strap elastic, plush band elastic, tricot linings, medium weight powernet for firmer bands. All of these things are top quality but in limited colors. Most of her elastics are nylon-based and not polyester so I am able to dye them. For strong, supportive bra cups, I buy the “opaque stabilized tricot”. This is very much like the Duoplex that Bra-makers Supply uses in their kits, and it takes nylon dye beautifully!

From Merckwaerdigh: hook & eyes, neckline elastic (for the stabilizing the top of a lace cup), underwire channeling. I love her channeling. She sells a ton of colors of these products but I usually buy white!

Underwires: I buy my personal bra wires from Sew Sassy, as I like their wider shape. For larger cup bras, my favorites come from Sewing Chest UK. Most of their wires are very firm gauge steel, which means they hold their shape well, and come in a great range of shapes and lengths.

Laces: I’ve turned into a bonafide lace huntress. These days I trawl Etsy and Ebay for both stretch laces and non-stretch “tulle” laces for for more supportive cups. On my resources page I mentioned some of my favorite shops and some search tips.

Gold and silver hardware: Sewing Chest UK and Bra-makers Supply. As some of you have discovered, dyeing the nylon-coated rings and sliders isn’t the easiest thing in the world–some dye colors take to them better than others. While you can find pre-colored nylon rings, I just pass in favor of silver and gold. They are a bit more expensive but such a lovely extra touch on a bra. Clear plastic is always a neutral option but I just don’t like plastic. I also rescue the hardware from old bras.

Lingerie Friday: Where to Find Bra Supplies | Cloth Habit

It never hurts to ask: Many of the shops that specialize in bra, lingerie or corsetmaking are one-woman run businesses. And they often have product in their inventory that they don’t list online or in their catalogs. If you are having trouble finding something close to your favorite underwire, or want a different color of something, or more or less of a certain fabric, call or email them. I have found some great products this way, and all of the women behind these shops are super friendly.

Swatches are My Best Friends

When I was first learning about bra fabrics, I collected swatches. This was a great way to get a feel for a fabric before committing to yardage. I recommend swatches before purchasing just about any type of tricot or powernet/stretch mesh. The quality, weight, stretch and drape of these fabrics vary wildly, and oh, how I wish sellers would include gram or ounce weights in their descriptions. (Hint, hint–I know you’re reading!)

But I’d love to help you navigate. I look forward to doing just that in an upcoming series of posts that will help demystify lingerie fabrics. Next week, I’m going to talk foam, foam, foam.

Is there a fabric or notion you have had trouble finding? Or is there a fabric in one of your favorite store bras you wish you could find?

♥ Amy

p.s. I also recommend checking out Dixie’s Big Fat List of Bra-making Supplies!


Spring Fever & Studio Visit


Patternmaking Rulers | Cloth Habit

Where does March go? It often feels like such a river of activity. Some of you may know that our fair city turns into almost two cities during South by Southwest (in numbers of people, traffic jams, and restaurant openings). And it is always the same week as my man’s birthday, which also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day. Then there is the nonstop everything-is-greening up and I become obsessed my wildflower garden and keeping the weeds out, which seem to be on steroids this year.

The last couple of weeks I have been trying to catch little snippets of time to sew, for the most part I’ve been using my sewing time deep in the hidey hole of drafting and grading bra patterns (I’m really working on large cup sizes–which has been a huge learning curve but I have the assistance of a very helpful fit model). So I thought I’d share some snippets from my new studio! Wanna see?

Studio Visit | Cloth Habit

On the left are fabrics I’ve dyed for lingerie samples. My friend sold me some bonafide store racks so I could hang and see all the fabrics that were normally squished into a closet.

After a month of begging my husband let me buy this amazing vintage hardware store cabinet. We’ve always wanted an old library card catalog to store “little bits”, and this is the next best thing!

Studio Visit | Cloth Habit

I was torn about whether to put this at home or in my studio but now I have a place to store all my elastics, findings… or old bras that I keep to either investigate and salvage findings…

And the icing on the cake: a new machine!

Studio Visit | Cloth Habit

You may remember that a month or so ago, I busted my Juki F600 topstitching a pair of jeans. It is still in the process of repair so Derek gave me his blessing to hunt for a new one. At first I was looking for a rental to tide me over, but after spending an afternoon at Austin’s Northwest Sewing Center trying out the Juki TL-2010, I was sold and bought the floor model right off their hands (better price).

Studio Visit | Cloth Habit

This is a straight-stitch only machine. It is traditionally marketed as a quilter’s machine, but I think it makes an amazing dedicated dressmaking machine if you already have another for zig-zag stitching. I have always wanted an industrial machine and could certainly fit one in this space, but I think this machine makes a great substitute. It doesn’t go as fast as an industrial but at 2000 stitches per minute is much faster than most home machines, which do about 800 stitches per minute. It also takes industrial machine feet and attachments, which is a big bonus for me as I’ve collected quite a few.

I started moving into this space two months ago but it has taken me some time getting used to organizing sewing and project time outside the house. The positives: It’s HUGE. Way more space than I needed, actually, but it’s so great to spread everything out. And it makes the possibility of hosting open studios or lingerie sewing workshops (a goal of mine) much more imminent. And when I’m home I don’t obsess (as much) on sewing and get important stuff done (taxes. laundry. see how easy it is to sew instead?). I spend more time in my garden. The negatives: I can’t just get some wild idea and run over to my sewing machine or cutting table with my pjs on. And I still would rather work on fitting projects in the privacy of my home.

But… if you have tried to start a business or art practice from home, I’m sure you know how difficult it is to separate the personal household work from business work or “studio time”. My hobbies, creative work and my household keeping are all blended so I have always struggled with time management, and having a separate physical space is helping me organize.

My other big issue is light–there are no windows with natural light. But I love taking pictures in the privacy of my own space so much more than “location shooting”. I was kind of shocked at how cool my iPhone photos turned out, even at their usual jacked up ISO, which inspired me to join Instagram. Maybe it will force me to practice impromptu photography a bit more. Anyone have tips for a newbie Instagrammer?

Happy spring!


Peaches & Lace (Again!)

Peaches & Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

It’s been months since I made a bra just for me, so I decided to revisit one of my favorites. Ever since making my first couple of bras, I’ve rarely made the same pattern twice for myself. I count my experiments as a journey to becoming a better lingerie patternmaker–I’ve tried different underwires, cup styles, band styles, fabrics, and pattern drafting methods, and sometimes at the expense of whatever might be my dream fit.

Just like my new pair of jeans that I can’t seem to take off, I do have a couple of favorites and and one of them was the fourth one I ever made. It was messy in that I was still figuring a lot of stuff out, like how to properly get the strap elastic stitched to the cup without tearing the lace. And the band was way too big. Still, any time I wanted an “invisible bra” that felt like nothing next to my skin, this was the one I reached for, and I kept wearing it way past its expiration date. It took me two weeks to get up the nerve to cut out the underwire! It was pretty bent out of shape, but I knew it had been part of the magic fit and I wanted to trace off what I could of its shape and length so I could cut others like it.

Then I went about trying to remake my original. Luckily I had just enough lace, lycra and tricot lining from my original Merckwaerdigh kit to cut the cups and add a little lace panel to the bikini.

Peaches & Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

This time I removed the side seam from my original pattern, and added a seam under the cup. This let me cut the entire band from lycra and use lace and lining in the center.

Peaches & Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

That also meant I needed to shorten the band to remove some stretch because I no longer had a lined (and stabilized) cradle going around the entre cup. Other than that, I had to do a some tweaking to the pattern for fit. I’ve gone up in cup size… or maybe I haven’t and just noticed some things that were off in my original fit.

I normally prefer my strap adjusters in front, and have been playing around with different methods of making a loop at the top of the cup for the strap ring. One method involves making extending the underarm elastic past the top of the cup, and looping it over the ring, securing the elastic back on itself. With narrow or lightweight elastics, however, it’s easy for that loop to get stressed, or to stress the top of the cup. Norma Loehr’s book has a good tip on using some kind of tape to stabilize the loop. I always have a little bit of silk ribbon left over from my trims, so lately I have been using it as a “loop stabilizer”! I take a little strip of the ribbon, lay it underneath the elastic and loop the two together as one. I’m going to trim this down so the ribbon is hidden, but I left a bit hanging out so you can see what I mean:

Peaches & Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

If you don’t have ribbon lying around, I’m sure other things would work–twill tape, tricot tape or any stable tape narrow enough to get hidden behind the elastic.

Peaches & Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

My favorite bra, back in action!


Bra pattern: Pin-up Girls Classic
Bikini: self drafted
Fabrics: Lace, tricot lining and lycra leftover from bra kit
Elastic & notions: stash and dyed to match
Dyes: Dharma Acid Dyes Silver Grey and Peach Blush


The Jeans that Broke the Machine

Handmade Skinny Jeans | Cloth Habit

Ahoy! Long time, no talk, and I have so much to share. This past month was full of sewing shenanigans. My Juki had a tantrum and is still sitting in her box awaiting someone (anyone) who can fix her, I started on a new lingerie dyeing project, and the biggest news of all–I have a new dedicated sewing space! It’s very exciting but means I have to be more organized and intentional with my sewing time because this space is outside our home.

Before I run over myself and you with newsy news, I’ll share my new pair of jeans, and I apologize in advance for my sheepish photographs. I’m out of practice (I didn’t take a single photo for over a month and it was awesome!). I even put on Prince’s Sign O The Times, one of my great loves in high school, and brought out some big lights to make it feel a little more fun but as you can see I’m feeling a bit shy!

Handmade Skinny Jeans | Cloth Habit

While we were traveling over Christmas I went on a bit of a pants-drafting extravaganza. I refined my jeans pattern, drafted some trousers for myself, then even started in on a couple of pairs for my man. I couldn’t wait to get home and sew up my new and improved jeans but what do you know, just as I was topstitching over a particularly chunky seam, I suddenly heard a snap… then CAAAHRUNCH. After carefully disassembling the housing around my machine, I discovered that the one plastic part in the timing mechanism, a little gear, had snapped in half. Apparently my beloved Juki is not the infallible creature I thought she was. I should probably mention I was trying the “go fast and it will go over the hump” technique rather than cranking the handwheel. So other machines had to get involved.

Handmade Skinny Jeans | Cloth Habit

For this pair I decided to go skinny. I only had 1 5/8 yards of this denim, which contributed to the decision to cut them narrower, and thankfully I was able to scrape all the pieces down to the belt loops. I think I could have made them even skinnier especially around the knees because the denim really started to loosen up in wearing.

With my recent pants & jeans projects I’ve been taking the time to baste up the pattern without details to make sure it fits in the fabric, then unpick and re-cut the pattern with all the alterations. It’s a bit like making a muslin, except I plan on using the muslin to make the final jeans. It’s also been a good way to visualize where I want the back pockets, how much of a “V” I want the yoke to make in the back, and how deep the front pockets should be. It’s amazing how the placement of these little details can change the look.

When I basted these up I also noticed just a slight amount of leg twisting. I’ve had this trouble before with twill fabrics and realized that this particular denim had a very strong skew to its weave which is really hard to cut around. I’ve learned that there is an art to cutting out twill fabrics. If you fold your denim in half you can usually see how skewed it is–no amount of pulling on the bias or artful folding will get the fabric perfectly square across and down the grain. That is just a consequence of twill weaves. When cutting on a fold, at least one of the pieces will end up off grain, which I have learned the hard way! Now I cut them in a single layer, and line up the pattern grainline with the selvages. It takes extra time but it’s worth it.

I decided against rivets on these and just went with the red topstitching. I went through about 20 rivets trying to insert them on my last pair, and I thought I’d bought the good kind. I probably just need some practice.

Handmade Skinny Jeans | Cloth Habit

I had so little fabric left for the waistband that I decided to cut it down the selvage and use the selvage as a finish on the inside.

Handmade Skinny Jeans | Cloth Habit

Handmade Skinny Jeans | Cloth Habit

Overall I’m very pleased with these–at the very least they have been keeping my legs warm in what has turned out to be a verrry cold Texas winter!

Happy sewing, all!

Stretch Denim: Hotpatterns (aging in my stash)
Pattern: self-drafted


Goodbye 2013 & Looking Forward

Hello all and Happy New Year! I know, I am late but it’s still January right?

Goodbye 2013 | Cloth Habit

This was actually a double rainbow but the rest disappeared in camera!

This year Derek and I whisked away to a very special Christmas with some friends in Portugal. We’re fond of spending the holidays in Europe but this was our first time visiting this beautiful country. The Algarve is reminiscent of our fair Texas climate, with a bit more rain and streets lined with orange groves in season. And the Atlantic smashing against cliffs.

We spent most of the holidays indoors storytelling, catching up on summer blockbuster movies and eating. Boy did I eat. Our friends and their children are marvelous cooks. Clams and mussels (the size of those mussels–gorgeous) drowned in broth… homemade pizza… lots of dairy… pork with plums on Christmas day, with a little bit of Port to finish of course. Yum!

Since coming home, I got ambushed by a nasty strain of flu so it has taken me forever to catch up with myself. But I love doing year-end reviews, so here we go…

Looking Back

The year started off with a bang when I hosted the Bra-making Sew Along. This was a huge challenge for me, both in time and in organization, but Im so glad I pushed myself to try something like it, and it is still the most-visited section of my site. I really love teaching and I want to improve my skills in this area–helping others become better at sewing and fitting.

Most of my year after that was completely lingerie obsessed. I drafted at least ten different lingerie patterns, taught myself several patternmaking approaches, proper grading techniques, and thought way more about the physics of elastic than I care to admit. These were some of my favorite personal projects:

Goodbye 2013 | Cloth Habit

Over the summer I also explored starting a business making custom lingerie. It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve been able to fit and design bras for a few friends. Here’s a sneak peak at one of them, my own nursing bra design:

Nursing Bra | Cloth Habit

This and many of my bras were hand-dyed in some way, and my experiments in dyeing lingerie fabrics opened up a new world of creativity with dyes and color mixing. During a few trips to Dharma Trading in San Rafael this year I loaded up on enough dye supplies to warrant a need for a separate dyeing studio!

Dyeing in 2013 | Cloth Habit

My top five of everything else:

Favorites of 2013 | Cloth Habit

1. My most-worn item was my Cascade skirt. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect hot Texas weather piece.
2. My 2nd most worn were both pairs of my Maritime shorts. I probably should’ve made 5 pairs.
3. I ended the year a little obsessed with pants which gave me the confidence to conquer the Clover pattern. Look out guys, I’m going on pants-making foray this year.
4. I drafted and made my first pair of jeans! After years of swearing them off…
5. My first project of last year, a wool and cashmere red cape, was definitely my most labor-intensive project, and even now a year later I wish I would’ve gotten more detailed shots. I spent hours handstitching and testing out every bound buttonhole method known to dressmakers. It’s so pretty that I wish I had more opportunities to wear it!

Looking Forward

My continuing goals for this year include going deeper into the study of patternmaking and the fundamentals of fit. I still like working with home patterns but these days tend to buy them more for style ideas than for their techniques. Sewing techniques in themselves don’t challenge me enough anymore, but drafting really tickles my brain! That will probably mean that I’ll be sharing more in-process posts since my projects will go a bit more slowly. I love to share what I’m learning about patterns and fitting.

On the blogging front, I don’t have any major plans other than Stay True to Thyself. I have to admit that by the end of the year I started to suffer a bit from internet burnout. My internet/blog-reading habits were overtaking my ability to keep in touch with my closest friends, and that’s never a good thing. This year I”m going to work at keeping a healthy balance with my online life…

I hope you all had a fantastic New Year, and that 2014 brings more sewing pleasure and beautiful fabrics!


Black & Red & Winter All Over

Winter Clovers | Cloth Habit

Well hello, winter. What happened to fall? Texas did not get one. It went from t-shirt weather to freezing overnight. Not just frost but ice freezing. Sad ice freezing that hit my tropical plants (my poor dear frangipane) before I had time to rescue.

And I can’t believe the holidays are here already. Time feels especially blurry because I seemed to have missed November entirely. Between the death of our dog, which also happened the same night the freeze storm came in, and the sudden cold, my immune system got shot to bits. I spent the better part of last week indoors, shlepping around in my bathrobe, barely making appearances in public, and subsisting on a diet of chicken soup and Nyquil. It was Icky. But I’m finally feeling good enough to take some photos of my latest projects. It’s so nice to have color back in my cheeks!

So while I was stuck in my bathrobe, I got itchy to take on some challenge I wouldn’t have time to work on otherwise. I’d already made this top and had begun to fit a jacket, but on a whim decided I must have some red pants. I felt inspired to dig out Colette Pattern’s Clover, that pattern that has gained somewhat of a reputation of being the Mount Everest of pants-fitting.

Winter Clovers | Cloth Habit

And I think I got pretty darn close to what I wanted. Firstly, I have really been wanting more streamlined and simple pieces in my wardrobe, including a lot more black. I’ve been tempted to wear black almost every day since October. Or red, another winter color I adore. I love pulling out the red-red lipstick in winter.

I almost made the pants in black because I happen to have some great black twill trouser fabric, but I thought that might’ve been overkill or at the very least hard to photograph. So I dug through my stash and was happy to find some long-forgotten red stretch poplin with the right weight and stretch.

Both of these projects–actually most of my projects as of late–have become an excuse to work out more complex sewing matters. I like to keep my mind engaged, so the last few months I’ve been getting into deeper study of fitting concepts and how they apply to human anatomy. I think this is going to be the year I pad out a dress form…

The top is based on Kristin’s Style Arc dress, which I have made a few times before. I went on a bit of a muslin-fest for this one–not for style, but to try out different ways of removing excess back length. I think that my problems in the back fit of garments have mostly to do with the slope of my shoulders and the neckline. Maybe a little bit of swayback in there, but I have tried every swayback alteration known to mankind and they do not solve the whole problem. So I’m keeping at it. Aside from all that I cut it down to a hip length, added a semi-exposed zipper to the back, et voila–simple little boxy top that goes with everything.

Winter Clovers | Cloth Habit

Then there are the Clovers. I have a love/hate relationship with any pants with a slim taper all the way to the ankle. I don’t think like wearing them with flats because I feel like a big ice cream cone, so I fitted them around heels. Let me make a little wardrobe change…

Winter Clovers | Cloth Habit

Winter Clovers | Cloth Habit

I couldn’t decide which shoes I liked best. My favorites are the shazaam shoes with a bit of ankle flash, but it’s just too cold for them now.

With a style like cigarette-y pants, there can be a wide interpretation of how they should fit–skinny or just skimming the body? And it’s open to either, since this pattern is drafted with zero ease. (I measured.) They do need be taken in further if one wanted skinny. For me, the style of fit depends on the fabric, particularly the drape. Cotton stretch fabric has no drape, and if it’s not super skinny it can get “crunchy-looking” so quickly–they end up looking like chinos with skinny pants delusions. I made these with about 12% negative ease but they still got a big saggy. Pretty typical for cotton or stretch denim, I guess.

In addition to fit alterations, I made several style changes to the pattern, like making the waistband a bit wider which I think looks better on me, and adding welts to the front for some detail to break things up.

Winter Clovers | Cloth Habit

Fitting these was an entirely strange ball of wax. I honestly don’t think I could have tackled this pattern unless I had the experience of fitting my jeans. Between that and viewing a lot of finished Clovers online, I got a fairly good idea of what to tackle. There was a consistency to the fitting problems which pointed to some issues with the back shaping and length, which also had an incidental effect on the front. I feel a post coming on about fitting stretch pants and differences in trouser pattern shapes. Would you like to hear some pant-shaping theory?

Phew, that was a long post. That’s what happens when I’ve been in a sick cave for two weeks. I burst with thoughts!

Winter Clovers | Cloth Habit

Top: Style Arc Kristin as a base
Pants: Colette Clover
Fur coat (at top): BurdaStyle, written about here
Fabric: Cotton stretch poplin and rayon doubleknit from stash
Zipper: Pacific Trimming


Burda, Meet Burda

Burda Style Magazine | Cloth Habit

{Burda Style December 2013 and U.S. premiere edition}

I credit Burda magazine for being one of the resources that got me excited about sewing again. For most of my twenties, any time I’d pick up sewing, I’d quickly get very restless and bored with patterns. I had these images in my head but no idea how to turn them into reality. Adding to this mix was a long dusty period where American sewing patterns were so out of tune with style, and local sewing stores turned into craft and quilt emporiums but I wanted… fashion! So I turned to patternmaking classes. I figured I might as well learn to do it myself. Discovering Burda became a cup in the desert. Their style was better in tune with fashion, European, and lookee, a ton of patterns in all one magazine!

After five years of subscribing, it no longer seems like a novelty. Their fashions might seem “normal” now, but there was a time when one could still make a distinction between European and American style. I call it the Pre-Zara era. Now we have global street style (global hipsters…), you know? So much has changed, as the craft of garment sewing flourishes, and with it a flourishing of independent pattern companies and their designers.

And honestly, sometimes I wonder if I need this many sewing patterns. Anything I could want to sew has already been published in Burda and I probably have it somewhere in the stash. But I was more than a little curious about the new American edition. So I picked up a copy from Joann’s last week to compare to my monthly magazines. Here’s a quick lowdown on the differences:

  • US edition has four pattern sheets with 20 patterns. It also includes 20 free downloads of the patterns not included on the sheets. (40 patterns in total.) Seven plus-size patterns.
  • The Europe issue has two sheets with 17 patterns (and two or three variations on each of those). Six of these are plus-size.
  • All of the patterns in the current American Burda were published last winter (between the November and December 2012 issues). So they are running a year behind (for the moment?).

The US edition feels like a Burda re-boot. Since it is the premier edition the first few sections offer an introduction to using and tracing the patterns, and a beginner’s guide to using a serger.

I’m not quite ready to give up on my European subscription but the new magazine has merit. I like the friendlier format with the ability to trace off some patterns and download others. The digital option keeps the pattern sheets less crowded and confusing.

Much easier on the eyes:

Burda Style Magazine | Cloth Habit

The US version doesn’t have all the line drawings on one page, as the European issues do. I wish they’d include this as that is the only way I find stuff in the vast Burda-verse:

Burda Style Magazine | Cloth Habit

Overall, both editions are still incredibly cost-effective. Where else can you get 20-30 patterns for less than the price most independents are charging for single patterns? Of course it’s only valuable if you enjoy Burda patterns in the first place. It’s true that Burda repeats its styles over and over, sometimes with really minor variations. I don’t particularly like their “ethnic/folklore/hippie chic/gypsy” patterns they seem to publish every two months. But hey, those styles must have a following…

Burda Style Magazine | Cloth Habit

I know that Burda puts off beginners, especially North American sewists who didn’t grow up learning from it, who don’t have the same “pattern magazine” tradition that other countries have. I don’t mind tracing off patterns as that’s part of its value–more patterns, less paper cost. In many ways, I really have to thank Burda for making me a better sewist and helping me develop an eye for a good pattern. For example, I don’t mind that I have to add seam allowances. In fact I prefer doing so, because with Burda I know exactly where the seamlines are, and have more control over how much allowance I add. I like small allowances in waistbands, facings and pocket openings, and learning to do that has improved my sewing immensely. And I rarely have to check the accuracy of the drafts–the seams match, they meet at 90 degrees important places, etc.–like I do with some patterns. I love trying new styles from independent companies but some really do suffer from poor pattern engineering.

There are two things Burda does very well and frequently: jackets and trousers. In my collection of issues, they’ve published every style of jacket imaginable: trench coats, duffel coats, anoraks, blazers, and in many variations. Same with trousers and jeans. If I’m looking for a pattern or a particularly classic style, even if it’s just to research changes to another company’s pattern, I shop my Burda “library” first.

Burda Style Magazine | Cloth Habit

Burda Style Magazine | Cloth Habit

Some day I’m going to tackle that Lagerfeld pattern (white jacket on the right). That issue been sitting out on my coffee table for two years!