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!


Turkey So Good

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

I wanted to say how thankful I am for such lovely readers, and for all your kind and beautiful sympathies on our loss. It’s been a tough ride but your comments meant so much to me. So many of you are fellow pet parents and understand…

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. There’s nothing richer than being around a bit table with family and friends! I’m thankful for so many things, not the least of which is turkey. Every year we do something different for Thanksgiving but I always find a way to be the one who brings the turkey.

turkey so yumm!

So pretty… (and so gone by now!)

I love filling my house with those big roasty smells. I wrote down my own recipe years ago and called it “Turkey So Good”. There are a million ways to get a good roast but my “secrets” involve first soaking the turkey in a brine over night, which is usually just a simple soak with kosher salt and lemon. Sometimes I get more involved and add all sorts of herbs and loads of garlic. Then I begin roasting the turkey breast side down till it is nearly done. For the last 30 minutes I flip the bird over and turn the heat up–that way I still get all the nice crispy skin on the breast side. Flipping a hot turkey is a two-person job but worth the moist meat!

Now because food is on my brain, I’d love to your about your favorite holiday treats. Do you have a specialty you like to cook or bake?

{p.s. I promise I’ll get back to sewing posts soon. I just finished making a muslin of a jacket, which I’ve been meaning to sew for oh, about a year? I wish winter lasted longer here because I love, love, love making jackets.}


Run Free


Gosh, the last two weeks have been full of highs and lows. I know I don’t write much about my personal life here but I want to tell you about our friend Freda.

It seemed like just a month ago when I was taking pictures of our pets after making my kitty-puppy dress, and thinking about the best way to shoot her. Shortly after that, Freda suddenly fell ill with a serious illness that the vet thought was lymphoma. We thought it might be something like kennel cough that goes away in a couple of days–nothing like a death sentence. We kept hoping for the best, and hoping she would improve enough to have some proper tests.

Freda has been our companion since 2004, since our first apartment in Austin. We travelled a lot back then and took her with us everywhere we went. She got to visit Belgium, Germany, New Mexico, North Carolina, most of it when she was young–it was so hard to leave home without our first kid!


She was a very special border collie, bred from working stock dogs, and had all the sought-after qualities in herding collies. Even from eight weeks old she was already herding leaves in the yard. But Freda was so much more than that–I have never loved an animal so much. She was our friend, our favorite “child”, a free spirit and one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever known.

She loved fetching and hunting for frisbees, balls and even socks, but nothing held a candle to a plain ole stick.


I’ve had many pets throughout my life but after Freda, there was no greater dog than a border collie! (Okay, Aussie Shepherds are pretty cool, too.) She took care of her baby sister Pearl (they came from the same dame)…


They were BFFs until we got our third dog Jakey, a wild energetic guy keeps everyone busy. This was one of our “family Christmas photos”–the only time we were able to get all three of them to sit still. Jake was still a puppy so he was easy to grab!

family photo!

After our initial vet visit she improved for a week, thanks to steroids, and we were able to have a few more fun days of playing all kinds of stick, ball, frisbee with her… but sadly, last week she took a sudden turn for the worse. We were in and out of the vet with infections and all sorts of worries. By the weekend, she just couldn’t hang on.

I’m sure those of you who have lost pets know how difficult it is… I’ve been trying to keep my hands busy but everything is a trigger right now. Freda “talked back” to all the neighbor dogs and every time there’s a barkfest in our neighborhood I’m a mess… Freda brought so much joy to us. So much love. We are thankful she didn’t suffer long but it was very shocking to lose our companion so suddenly. She was only nine. Life is so short… so short.

Run free, Freda… may the fields rise to meet you…

freda running


Blue Jeans Baby


Hello, hello! Hello, November and goodbye to my favorite month of the year. Am I in the minority in that I love autumn? I can finally spend blissful hours in my garden without sweating or getting attacked by mosquitoes. But it’s more than the weather; I love the transitions, slowness and more contemplative emotions of fall. It’s also the time of my birthday, so I was born for it.

So this is what became of my jeans project. Since my last post about these, I took a long & scenic route to fitting. I’d take them apart, re-cut and stitch them back together, preen in front of the mirror, pin out here and there, take them apart again, then take a few days off and distract myself with a fun dyeing project so I didn’t get overwhelmed. Wash, rinse, repeat.


I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what’s going on with this outfit. I have had one of those months where I feel like throwing my clothes out and starting all over. It doesn’t help that most of my winter clothes are in our attic, stored from our move this spring. What I really wanted to do was roll up the jeans and wear a long tunic–a favorite style of mine–but then you wouldn’t get the all-important booty shot!


This month I’ve been working on a lot of pattern drafting projects. These kinds of projects are slow and full of learning, and really excite me, because they involve learning the fundamentals of fit and not just fixing symptoms. So while fitting these jeans, I went down some very fascinating rabbit holes reading about pant design. I read online and off, including stuff from arcane men’s drafting journals.

One of my very scenic side roads involved watching the videos in my long-ago purchased Craftsy Jeanius course, and then spending an evening making a pattern from one of my favorite pairs of wide-legged jeans. They are a totally different style than what I’m working on but the resulting pattern was very educational! (The front leg of this pattern was so much narrower than the back, for instance, while almost every draft I’ve seen makes front and back nearly equal.) I still plan to make up the pattern I got from my jeans, but that will have to wait for another rainy day. If you have been frustrated with jeans patterns, but already have a pair that you love, I’d recommend trying this class as one way to start.

So I left this project with a head full of fitting ideas, but for now this is how far I got. I love some things and am bothered by others, which I will fix the next go-around. Because of all my unpicking, recutting and re-stitching until I had just a shred of a seam allowance left in some parts. The waistband and fly are attached by something like 1/8″, and I couldn’t fit a fly that covers the zipper. Don’t tell the jeans that, because they seem to be holding up just fine! Unfortunately, I also had no length left for hemming so had to settle on an odd ankle length.

The scenic route was totally worth it! Drafting my own was worth it. I’m not sure I had a clear idea of the style I was after, hence the scenic route, but the process got me a lot closer to learning about my fit, and I ended up with a couple of potential patterns which won’t require starting a major fit process all over again. Win win!

Alrighty, who hasn’t tried jeans yet?

Pattern: self-drafted (starting with Bunka Pants & Skirts, with details like the yoke and pockets copied from other jeans)
Stretch denim: Gorgeous Fabrics, but at least five years old!
Pocketing: B. Black & Sons
Rivets & Button: Cast Bullet


Like Cats & Dogs


These days I rarely buy fabric unless I have at least some inkling of what I’ll be making with it. And I’m particularly cautious with prints. Without a clear vision they end up lonely souls in my stash for years and eventually start feeling really dated. Stripes are totally excepted. And apparently so is a cat and dog print that looks straight out of a 1960s French children’s book.

It might look better as a wall hanging than an actual garment, but that happens to the best of us, right? This is definitely one of those things that could border on twee pretty quickly, and I’m not sure I can pull of twee even ironically. I tried. Kittens and puppies are my weakness. We have a lot of animal companions–three very energetic border collies and a herd of rescue cats. Perhaps some day I will introduce the dogs if they actually sit still, but I warn you that this will move me far out of the category of “sewing blogger with cute cat” into something much more like a zookeeper. Somehow we manage it, city folk on a small farm.

cat & dog dress

snow & peanut

And when my clothes aren’t covered in animal hair, they should be covered in animals! Snow and Peanut are the cuddlers in the family.

So the fabric. It was billed as a Japanese cotton knit with a price to match. And I bought a yard with no clue what it would be. My first instinct was a flirty mini skirt. Then I remembered I’m not 16. Definitely not a t-shirt, because that seemed a little meh, but I finally decided on something like a glorified t-shirt dress, but a little boxy and with actual dress details like darts and such. This was my inspiration and pattern:


[Dress by Pipit/Anthropologie, Style Arc Kristin pattern]

Shift dress patterns are pretty simple designs and easy to come by. Vintage 60s patterns are full of them! Once you have one that fits it can really become a base for so many other design details. (Which Colette really banked on with their Laurel pattern.) I’m a sucker for Style Arc patterns so I went with their Kristin dress, which I have made a few times and have a feeling I will use it for a bunch more ideas. I posted one of my earlier versions in a grey doubleknit, mostly hidden under my red cape. Each time I’ve made it I’ve changed something simple to come closer to the fit I like. Style changes like lengthening sleeves and hem length, changing the bust darts, adjusting for a small bust adjustment. Style Arc is just a little bit busty on me, but not too bad. The shoulder and sleeve fit is fantastic. I’m already working on another version, a hip length top from the pattern with a long back opening. On this one, I did a semi-exposed zip using this crazy multi-colored teeth zipper I’ve had in my stash forever.



The pattern is really designed for a woven or a ponte/doubleknit, and as I expected, the fit in a thin cotton knit turned out a bit bigger than my previous makes, and after a few wears the lack of spandex or rebound made it grow even more. It’s also not the best thing to wear with tights. It sticks!

Still despite the dubious print and fit, this was one of my most worn summer dresses, and what you’re seeing here is my first without bare legs and sandals. My friend Steph came over and helped me do a bit of winterizing with a 60s restyle (including some good ole hair teasing, which I really have to try more often!). I think the dress will go back to the closet till the warm weather returns!

And I’ll leave you with this cuteness. Love it when they ham it up…


Pattern: Style Arc Kristin
Fabric: cotton jersey, Tessuti
Zipper: stash
Hair & (non-cat) photos: Stephanie at Hold Vintage


Lingerie Friday: Cutting & Tipping Underwires

cutting underwires

When I first started making bras, I was surprised by the discovery that no two underwires are the same. I simply thought I’d buy a wire in my current size and presto!–I’d have one that fit just like my store-bought bras. But when I started taking apart my old bras I discovered that they were different in widths/diameters, curve shapes, lengths, and wire gauges. Some were really lightweight steel, others quite thick.

Underwires are the foundation of modern bra drafting. They determine breast diameter, circumference, and depth, and lingerie companies don’t go around picking wires out of a pile. There are a lot of specs and sizing research that go into wire manufacturing. What brands design depends on the style, their target demographic, costs and fit profiles. I’ve been on the phone with a few manufacturers and the choices are mind-blowing if I wanted to make them to order. So are the costs for a small independent retailer. I mention all this because it puts my attempts to find the “perfect” wire into perspective! It also makes me thankful for the independent shops that continue to source them.

And even though many shops now carry a variety of different wire sizes and shapes from plunge to strapless, I’ve been wanting to just cut my own. One of my favorite handmade bras recently bit the dust, so I pulled out the wire and found it rather out of shape…

bent underwire

I cut it out because I really wanted to trace it off, before it got too late to discern any possible shape. The builders at my local hardware store directed me to copper wire cutters which would be great for picture-hanging wire but not the wires I’m cutting. I already talk about lingerie far more than is publicly acceptable so I had to make up something about “really thick steel jewelry!” to tell them why I needed a vise and plumber’s cutters!

cutting underwires

The vice and cutters cost me about $15 total. I needed the cutters anyway, because I do cut jewelry chains occasionally.

It’s very easy to cut existing wires. If the wires you bought are too long, even just a smidge in the front or sides, you feel it, right? Why not have a totally customized wire? Just mark off the spot you want the wire to end and snip. Definitely wear glasses for this–the snipped part will fly across the room! Here’s a set of wires, one before cutting and after (black tips). I took off about 3/8″ on each side.


To coat the wire ends, I used Plasti-Dip. Plasti-whaa, you say?

It’s basically a liquid rubber tool dip, and makes a perfect soft coating for the end of cut wires. It first became popular as a colored rubber coating for tool handles and auto wheel rims. A design-savvy friend informs me that dip-painting silverware was all the rage last summer, right next to overdyed Oriental rugs. Plasti-dip latched onto this trend and has a Pinterest board devoted to crafty dipping ideas. Chairs, jewelry, toothbrushes, kitchen appliances, shoes (great if you wanted some Comic-Con boots). Stopping short of small pets, it seems everything was getting dip-dyed. Or dip-rubbered, that is.

I also tried Household Goop, which I’d read about on a few corset-maker sites (it’s often used to tip bones), but I found it a little difficult not to “goop” a big messy blob on the end of the wire. If you make a mistake, both the Goop and Plasti-Dip are easy to peel off after a few picks with a utility knife.

Even though wires are invisible, I’m kind of a color fanatic. I like the idea of dipping my wires in a fun color, and Plasti-dip has a color mixing kit, which I bought because I think I’m going on a silverware dipping binge at some point! It took two or three dips to get a nice smooth end that properly covered the raw metal:


Presto–my perfect wire!

One more tip for using Plasti-dip: Once you dip your wires, it starts to dry rather quickly but takes about an hour for the dip to fully settle and dry. Find a way to hang your wires upside down, so that the dip forms a nice rounded edge at the tips.

Update: Since writing this post, I’ve had a few occasions where the Plasti-dip coating peels off while inserting it into wire channeling. (The same with Household Goop.) Lately I have been trying heat shrink tubing as suggested in the comments below. I don’t file the edge of the wire, since the tubing seems to form enough of a smooth edge. You can find heat shrink tubing at hardware stores. I purchased mine on The 3/32″ size seems to work with most wires.


In Process: Jeans Fitting

I spent a good rainy indoorsy Sunday sewing up and fitting my jeans.

Just for a good laugh, here’s version 1.0:


What is going on with that waistband? you might wonder. It’s a cautionary tale about pattern drafting. I know that I should always measure twice, double-check my calculations. In this case, I drafted the waistline in metric but accidentally added ease in imperial, about three inches too much! Oops. I like to draft in metric as it’s more precise–it’s also what my pattern book used–but I think in imperial. It’s sort of like learning a language; I’m not quite at the point where I dream in metric, so I switch back and forth with my rulers to “translate”.

I took apart my pieces and cut out a version 2.0 with a completely new pattern adjusted to zero ease with a little bit of negative ease in some parts, including the waist. On my first pattern I drafted the hip and thighs with about 2.5cm total ease, which is a really small amount for a non-stretch woven, but this denim has 35% stretch–and it fit like it had almost 10cm of ease. So rather than take in adjustments willy-nilly here and there and everywhere, I figured it was easier to recut.

On version 2.0, some things improved and others seemed to get worse…


There’s some excess here and there, especially around the seat and the front crotch length. Ahh, that dreaded crotch fit. I have fit this area before with success in pants and shorts, but working with stretch fabric is a different beast. And jeans curves are shaped very differently than other pants. If you have ever examined your RTW jeans you might have noticed that the front fork is often much shorter and the curve is flatter than you think it’s going to be. Really slim stretch jeans and pants often have the inseams and outseams closer to the front around the seat/crotch area than trousers. This could have been my first problem–I used a slim trouser draft that wasn’t specifically for jeans.

But thinking about the differences gave me an idea I want to try but it will have to wait until next weekend.

The glorious mess…


At the bottom is Leo. He snuck in this room overnight and did some kind of happy claw dance on my fabric, which left snags I had to cut around. I think he’s plotting his next move.

So jeans 3.0 will have to wait but at least I got to play with topstitching! (Thanks to readers who suggested that I use regular thread in the bobbin. That really helped.)