Posts Tagged ‘bra-making’

Lingerie Friday: Cutting & Tipping Underwires

cutting underwires

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 Amazon.com. The 3/32″ size seems to work with most wires.
 

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.

cut-underwires-before-after

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:

colored-plastidip

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.

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.

cut-underwires-before-after

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:

colored-plastidip

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 Amazon.com. The 3/32″ size seems to work with most wires.

White to Ivory: Dyeing with Tea

bridal-bra

I am working on a design idea for a bridal lingerie set, but had the hardest time finding ivory elastic to match my chosen lace. White just looks like an eyesore next to ivory, and I didn’t want a contrasting color.

white-ivory-nylon

I’ve learned through my elastic dyeing experiments that pale colors don’t always turn out as well as darker ones. And ivory has been the hardest color to get. It doesn’t matter what color or how little dye I use, there’s no in between white and a mottled greige that looks just plain wrong.

Tea dyeing turned out to be a perfect solution. I could have also tried coffee, which is far more common in this house! Tea is a really low-commitment, no mess dye, with no need for separate pots or gloves.

I’m just starting to read about natural dyes, especially those that don’t need any mordants or additional chemicals to assist in helping the dye bonding process. These are called “substantive dyes” and include stuff like tea, coffee, onion skins, tumeric and ooh, pecan shells, which are overrunning my garden right now. (We have eight mature pecan trees.) I see a dyeing experiment coming up this fall! But, and a big but, from everything I read, these dyes are the most permanent on wool, and a little less so on cotton. And there isn’t much information about using them on nylon.

But really, all I wanted to do was just “off-color” my notions. I tried a few different teas–PG Tips, chamomile and Lady Grey. The first elastic came out kind of icky gray-ish tan. The chamomile didn’t add much color. The Lady Grey seemed to have more red or warm colored tea leaves in it and that gave me my best results.

tea-dyeing-nylon

First I made the tea by steeping one teabag in a pot for about 1 minute. Just one teabag, because I really just wanted to dim a white color, not go any shade of pale brown. I let things cool down a bit before dunking my notions. In my experience, anything with spandex starts to curl above 140°. When it was ready, I immersed my wet and elastic and notions and stirred them about until they looked like it had just taken on a slight stain.

IMG_1396

I think this will work just beautifully. For all I know, I may have just stained (rather than actually dyed) these elastics, which is just fine. I’m pretty sure they will never fade back to blinding white. If you know the secret to that without using bleach or high heat, pass it on to me, because a few of my white t-shirts would thank you!

Have you ever dyed with tea?

Good Dye Reading:

*Dyeing with Tea

*About Natural Dyes and *some interesting science about mordants

*Handbook of Natural Dyes by Sasha Duerr

(p.s. Thanks to everyone for the kind wishes and suggestions on my WordPress commenting problems. My problem was very simple, and I think I got it solved. I was on Akismet’s spam list, and one of my gracious readers helped me get through to Akismet support. There are sometimes more problematic reasons behind why one’s IP (the address that identifies the network from which you work) would be flagged by spam filters, but thankfully none of those sticky reasons were my situation. Computer is all clear, network is all clear!)

Lingerie Friday: Art Deco Lingerie (and Foam!)

art-deco-set-flat

Maybe it was all the Gatsby craze in the air. Or the Krypton set designs in Man of Steel. Blink and you’ll miss it, but I think there was an homage to the Spirit of Detroit statue–one of my favorite hometown attractions–in the “history of Krypton” scene. The rest of the movie bored me to pieces, but at least those set designs were cool. Neo-futuristic art deco. I can just hear the design team storyboarding: steel, industry, pittsburgh, steel, crumbling, detroit in the 20s…

Don’t you love how I manage to pitch Detroit hallmarks in some of my posts? It’s a part of my childhood.

Anyway, I love art deco and its mix of strong geometric symmetry with organic forms. Back in the spring, I scored some groovy rayon jersey with gold and black organic lines with no particular thought as to what it would be, but eventually it kept screaming art deco.

So I drew out an idea for a bra.

lingerie-sketch

It’s been a long time since I’ve drawn or sketched figures or fashion ideas, but there was a time I really enjoyed it. I took a few semesters of fashion illustration many years ago, but I’ve just never gotten that fast at it, and really get frustrated with colored pencils. If only I was better at watercolor…

Jersey doesn’t always work so well as an underwired cup fabric so I decided it was time to pull out foam cups. I’ve had these in my stash since I bought my very first bra-making kit.

foam-cup-covering

They are an unusual shape from what I’m accustomed to wearing, but I thought it was time I played around with them. For the cups, I wanted a two-piece cup cover with silk banding along the neckline. It is possible to drape a four-way stretch fabric completely over a cup without any darts or seams, but not only did I want to use two fabrics, both of them had limited two-way stretch. So I needed to make shaped cup pieces:

foam-cup-bra

To come with these pieces, I did a little draping experiment with some scraps of my fabric. Starting from the bottom of the cup, I pinned and smoothed the fabric, going upward until it wouldn’t lay flat anymore. Once pinned in place, I used a thin marker to draw around the cup edge and the line where the cup fabric stopped being smooth. This gave me the bottom piece. Then I did the same for the top piece, pinning from the neckline down. Once I had these two pieces, I traced the cut fabric shapes to paper and smoothed the lines out a bit till the seamlines matched. In words that probably sounds complicated but it really wasn’t! It’s just like draping, except on a really small and easy scale.

I started with my own frame and band and then figured out how to rotate the cups into the cradle. That part can be a bit of a puzzle at first. I pinned and repinned until I found the center bottom.

foam-cups-frame

I took lots of construction photos because I thought some would be curious about the process. But I think it’s a bit more fun to look at finished! I went for a little bit of bling in the form of gold hardware and silk accents…

deco-bra-details

The bottoms are a simple high-waisted shorty that I’ve made a few times now, but for this one I’ve added a ruching detail with to the back. I think I was a bit conservative in the ruching–I might go for even more in the next pair.

art-deco-set-collage

knicker-detail

Speaking of foam cup bras, many moons ago I promised a tutorial on how to use cut foam with a bra pattern. And some of you have kindly written me and asked, whatever happened to that?. I promise, I haven’t forgotten! I learned so much from running the sew-along about what steps to cover, what I actually have time to do, what I still don’t know about bra-making (because there is always more to know!) and so on, that I had to scrap my original tutorial. And guess what? I’ve just finished writing up a new one with lots of photos of the process. This time I got a friend to help me photograph because it’s really hard to sew and stop and shoot, over and over, by myself. (I end up unpicking a lot of seams when I do.)

So stay tuned. It should be ready in a week or so, and I’ll definitely be giving a heads up beforehand!

Details:
Patterns: self-drafted
Main fabrics: Rayon jersey (Stitched Austin), stretch silk charmeuse (Dharma Trading)
Powermesh: local Joann’s
Foam cups: Bra-makers Supply
Dye for silk ribbon and charmeuse: Jacquard Acid Dye, Jet Black
Trims, tricot lining and other notions: mostly Fabric Depot Co.

Lingerie Friday: The Frameless Bra

frameless-bra-2

I love fashion etymology. My friends have been getting an earful education in lingerie definitions–things like nursing sling, cookie (you know, that insertable floating foam thing in bra cups), and longline. The distinction between a tanga, a boyshort, or a cheeky. (For example, the Ladyshorts pattern is drafted in a style of cheeky.)

Outside of poetic retail descriptions that often lump really different styles under the same terms, there are many distinct cuts and styles in underwear. In the first chapter of Bra-makers Manual II, Beverly Johnson reminds her readers that there really aren’t any standard naming conventions–in lingerie or in any apparel category. “The more a bra style evolves,” she writes, “the more specific its definition becomes.” She uses the example of padded bras, which twenty years ago referred to any bra with any kind of foam or fiberfill lining, but are now a distinctive (extra-padded) idea in the sea of foam-lined bras.

Among underwired bras, one could at least divide them into two main types: those with a frame and those without. The frameless bra is sometimes known in sewing as a “partial band bra”.

frameless-bra-cups

In frameless bras, the underwire and its casing are sewn into the cups, since there is no frame or cradle running under the cups. The wings and bridge have to be completely finished before sewing them into the cup. The cup seams are different than a framed bra, since there needs to be enough room for the wire to go into the cup. One of my patternmaking books calls it the “hook-up bra”, which I’m guessing means that the wings and bridge are “hooked up” to the cup?

I never really noticed the difference between the two types before I started making bras. When I looked through my older purchased bras, nearly all of them were frameless. So by default, that’s what I made for my first-ever bra. Since then I’ve veered into all kinds of new styles. I just love longlines, and that you can’t do with a frameless bra.

There are pros and cons for each. I find that the frameless bra is just a bit easier to sew, but it is also harder to modify into new styles. I tend to put more plusses under the frame bra since it can be a foundation for all sorts of other styles (bodysuits, longlines, strapless). On a frameless bra, there is a limit to how wide the band can be which is a con especially for larger cup sizes. A too-narrow band wouldn’t put enough balancing force in the back, causing the front to drop down. I have been thinking of the band as a lever. Wearing it more tightly is one solution but then there is the potential for pinched skin and pushing the elastic–and fabric stretch–to its limits. Then the straps want to absorb some of the pressure. All that to say, a wider band can alleviate strap pain, pinching, and help with a little smoothing.

But I still dig the frameless style, so I had a go at designing one of my own.

red-leopard-set

Last summer I spied a cute little leopard bra in one of my favorite lingerie shops and wrote it down on my “project idea list”. Oh that long wishlist. The muse did strike eventually, when I found the right fabric, an unusual jacquard mesh. I made the knickers right away but kept them neatly folded in a sewing drawer until I could get around to a matching bra. I’m just that particular about finishing. My studio is happily strewn with bits of lace lying about like lines of half-started poems. I also have notebooks full of just lines, phrases I hear right in that half-dream state when I’m about to fall asleep.

I’m so glad I experimented with this pattern. I drafted the cup with a single dart and used a plunge wire for a demi style. It’s the shortest cup I’ve made so far, but I really love how it fits and it has turned out to be a good style for me. The undies are a simple high-waisted knicker (the same pattern from which I based my bodysuit).

red-leopard-set-collage

Now how did I end up putting levers, red leopard and poetry in the same blog post?

Details:
Patterns: self-drafted
Main Fabric: leopard mesh from Etsy
Lining Fabrics:stretch mesh and sheer tricot lining, Fabric Depot Co.
Plush and strap elastics: Fabric Depot Co., a few from stash
Elastic and Lining Dye: Rit “Scarlet”

Sheer Rosettes Bodysuit

sheer-mesh-bodysuit

I’ve never owned a bodysuit that didn’t function in some way as a practical top, but they appeal to me as “grown-up” fashion lingerie. Or a harkening back to an time when undergarments were more than just the very basics. Like slips–does anyone still wear slips? When I was a teenager, it was still common to wear them under skirts. When my mother took me shopping for my first nude slip and pantyhose, it felt like a coming of age experience. We were in the women’s, not the junior or kids, section. Slips kept unlined skirts and dresses from dragging. Pantyhose (we called them either that or just “hose”, although some folks might like the more vintage-y sounding “stockings”) functioned a bit like shapewear, while adding just a touch of color. It was all about finding the right “nude”. My friends and I were recently reminiscing about this–when we wouldn’t of been caught dead with bare legs in a skirt, no matter how hot the weather!

So bodysuits… Way back in February, I posted some of my inspirations and soon after jumped into drafting one. I started with a variation on one of my bra patterns and went from there.

bodysuit-on-form

bodysuit-inside

I’ve got a few different bodysuit styles I’m eager to try but I really wanted to get some practice with underwired shelf bras. They’re not too difficult if you’ve gotten the hang of making a bra. This technique for putting in these bra cups is almost the same as one might do for a swimsuit. (Though as much as I love this Zimmerman swimsuit, one of my original inspirations, I just can’t imagine swimming in underwires.) I played around with holding different color linings underneath, but the nude was definitely best for a sheer look.

If I were going to a desert island and I had to pick one lingerie fabric, it’d probably be sheer mesh. Okay, maybe silk charmeuse. Ask me again in a few months. But I seem to be sewing with mesh a lot lately. This is a very light, silky soft stretch mesh I bought from Britex on a trip to San Francisco a couple years ago. You can see from my sidebar that I also used it for samples of my Ladyshorts. I still have a lot left so who knows what else it will become!

bodysuit-sheer-mesh

bodysuit-details

Lately, I’ve been adding in silk details where I can, like these little silk ribbon rosettes and handmade snap tape from silk charmeuse–which makes it a lot easier to slip on and off. I think this is what I love the most about making lingerie–sitting down at the end with a needle and thread and adding the special details.

Details:
Bodysuit pattern: self-drafted
Stretch mesh: Britex
Lining fabrics: nude 15 denier tricot in the cups and stretch mesh in the band, both from my stash
Channeling, ribbon and charmeuse dyed with Jacquard Acid Dye in Black

.

It Takes 50 People to Design a Bra

Have you seen this National Geographic video called “Bra Business”? My husband and a reader recently shared this with me; it’s a quick look at how a Maidenform sample-maker develops a new molded bra prototype from patterning to fit models right in NYC. There’s even a little sewing in there, along with the help of a 405° heat molding machine:

I love that it takes “50 people in 7 departments over 6 months to lock in the design of one new bra”. Puts some perspective on fitting our own bras, right? I’m not a huge fan of molded bras but I admire the precision, how each millimeter counts, in bra manufacturing. They might be small but in the history of the bra business these little things, down to underwire angles, have been secrets or even patents.

Back to Basics

bras and undies

Hi again! So this week we just got back from a trip to my favoritest city, San Francisco. It was a much-deserved get-away after all the moving and house fixing we did this spring. And all that good food and fog must have gone to my head because I came back really looking forward to an Austin summer.

Before we left, I finally finished up the last of my hand-dyed lingerie sets, so I thought you might like to see what became of my dyeing adventures.

hand-dyed cotton bra

Remember the neon lemon elastic? My original intent was to dye this cotton knit somewhat of an ecru color but instead I experimented with a mink brown.

cotton lingerie sets

On these next set of pieces I was experimenting with a cotton/modal knit and a Tencel knit. Both modal and Tencel are dreamy lingerie fabrics. They’re just a bit silkier than cotton, which tends to cling–Velcro, anyone? I’m waiting for a new shipment of Tencel jersey to test some more dyeing, because I think it might just be my absolute favorite.

As you can see, most of these are fairly simple styles. A few months ago a friend and I got to talking about 70s lingerie and how understated it was–feminine and flirty with a little bit of French insouciance. So I took that as a challenge to come up with simple bikini and bra styles that were easy to make and wear. Nothing screams 70s more than a little hipster bikini and triangle bra, dontcha think? Surprisingly, I spent way more time working on the bikini patterns than the bras. It took me five samples before I came up with my idea of a perfect bikini style. Maybe I imagine Annie Hall wearing these under her Saturday clothes, a little slouchy tee and wrinkled jeans. I’m a Woody Allen nerd, what can I say…

I hope you had a great week and happy June!

P.s. Is anyone else getting sidetracked by all the swimwear sewing going on around blogland? I think it might be time to finally pull out that oh-so-soft lycra I’ve been storing for the last year and get cracking on a swimsuit.

This Week in Dyeing

picking flowers

Sometimes I need a little blog break for mental sanity. The last couple of weeks I’ve tried hard to spend less time on the internet, more time using my hands, for things like… picking flowers! May signals the end of the early spring wildflowers in Austin, so I’ve been rummaging around the garden dead matter in search of the last bluebonnets, poppies and sweet peas. And then of course taking bunches of photos of the pickings (my other favorite pastime).

poppies

Who doesn’t love poppies…

The explosion of spring color inspired me to keep up my dyeing adventures. Pale peaches, mink browns, lemons… And mint is next. Except I can’t decide if I want a seafoam mint or a kind of pale cucumber-y mint.

I won’t lie, dyeing takes time, especially if you’re as exacting about color as I am. And all that stirring can get laborious, but it’s so worth the results. Washer-dyeing is a way out of all the stirring, but unfortunately, my washer is front-loading and doesn’t pause on a soak or agitate cycle. For these fabrics, I used fiber reactive dyes from Dharma Trading. They’re carrying some lovely colors inspired by the Pantone palettes for spring and fall. One of my Pantone favorites at the moment is “Linen”, a sort of peached-up ivory. It reminds me my fading roses…

dyeing cotton

The funny thing with dyes is that they mix really differently than I am used to with paint. And if I’m using a mixed rather than primary color, some parts of the dye can “stick” faster than other parts. Dyeing fans always say it’s part science, part art, and now I can see why. So my “linen” came out more pink than I had hoped but I found a way to use it. These are cotton and modal knits I’d stashed for possible t-shirt projects, but they’re very soft for some simple summer lingerie. I’ve got my eye on some Tencel knits, too. I love soft knitted underwear especially in the hot months.

All of this dyeing led up to samples of several lingerie projects. And that’s another place my hands have been–sewing, sewing, testing, more sewing. I love making things for myself but over the last year I got an itch to do something more with my sewing and designing. It was an itch that wouldn’t go away. My business ideas are still in the nascent stages but the more I plunge into them, the more I realize that designing clothes and patterns is something I’ve dreamed about for many years. I would never have guessed it’d be lingerie!

Anyway, promise I’ll be back with some of the finished projects. Some of them aren’t too exciting; I’m working on developing my distinct style and then there’s just a lot of me trying to improve at handling elastic and stretch. And then some of them are downright secrets until they’re ready. And that’s what lingerie is about, right?

Lingerie Friday: Dyeing the Notions

It’s been awhile since my last Lingerie Friday! We are still settling in and finding new rhythms after what feels like eons of moving and sorting and unpacking. This week I’ve been dreaming up color ideas for future lingerie projects, and so I’ve been playing around with dyes again. I never aspired to be a painter, but I went through a phase where I was completely taken with mixing paint colors. I would spend hours mixing watercolors and gouache to get exacting shades of olive, lilac, pale pale coral. It was inevitable that I’d fall for dyeing, and I have fallen hard.

I’m dreaming about yellows at the moment, specifically lemon-y or acid yellows so I’ve been experimenting with a few dyes. My friend Stephanie came over and took some photos of me in the “lab”.

Dyeing Elastic & Notions for Bras | Cloth Habit

Ingredients: Dharma acid dye in “Fluorescent Lemon”, vinegar, hot water. For the small amounts I am dyeing, I use a Pyrex jar. Don’t forget the gloves and “not-for-cooking” spoon.

What I’m dyeing: bra rings & sliders, hook & eye, and a few samples of elastic and stretch mesh. I wash these in a mild soap to remove any residue. (You never know; some fabrics have surface treatments.)

Before I commit to larger amounts, I’m dyeing just these little bits to see how it turns out. A teensy bit of powder dye goes a long way for so little… even a sprinkle is almost too much. I add the hot water to the dye…

Dyeing Elastic & Notions for Bras | Cloth Habit

The nylon-coated rings take the longest to accept dye. They usually sit and take on barely a pale stain until I add the vinegar. The water has to be hot. They tend not to dye well if the water doesn’t stay hot. If I’ve already added vinegar and they’re still being stubborn, I take the rings out and microwave the dye water to heat it up a bit.

Dyeing Elastic & Notions for Bras | Cloth Habit

Oops, here’s what happened when I didn’t take the rings out before re-heating the water in the microwave. Melted nylon!

The rest of my samples seemed to take mere seconds. I used to pull fabrics out and rinse them as soon as they got to the intensity I wanted. But I’ve since learned that the time in the acidic hot “bath” is also important to how colorfast the dye will be. I’m still experimenting, but if there is still some dye left and I don’t want the notions to take up any more, I transfer them to another pot/jar with just hot water and vinegar for about 20-30 minutes.

Dyeing Elastic & Notions for Bras | Cloth Habit

Since I had a bit of dye left, I threw in another set of rings and sliders to make up for my melted ones. This lemon is super neon! (It really does glow in the dark.)

Dyeing Elastic & Notions for Bras | Cloth Habit
Note that I’m dyeing nylon (and my elastic is nylon), so I’m using an acid dye. You can also use RIT, as it contains a form of acid dye along with another type of dye for cottons and such. With either an acid dye or RIT, the heat and acidic pH (via vinegar) are the key to encouraging the dye to bond and this works for nylon as well as silk. I love the “professional” acid dyes. They’re much less expensive than all-purpose dyes and the colors are more brilliant and predictable. I still happen to have a bottle of RIT not-fluorescent “Lemon” waiting for my next experiment…

Happy colorific lemon-y weekend everyone!
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