Watson Sew Along #9: Inserting Bra Cups and Elastic

Sewing in the Cups & Elastic | Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

Happy February everyone! I hope you had a fantastic weekend.

We’re getting close to finishing the bra! Today we’ll be sewing in the cups and attaching elastic. I took a few extra photos to help with some of the tricky parts, and will be back tomorrow with all the finishing touches.

Insert the Right Cup

With a washable marker or chalk pencil, mark the center front point where the two cups will meet on the cradle.

inserting cups in the Watson Bra | Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

With the right side of the band facing up, begin sewing in your cup from the underarm.

inserting cups in the Watson Bra | Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

Pin the cup in, matching the cup seam to the cradle notch. (I sew in my bra cups without pins. It’s a great way to stitch convex to concave curves, especially when sewing with 1/4″ seam allowances.)

As you near the center front, make sure that the edge of the bra cup meets your center front mark:

inserting cups in the Watson Bra | Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

This is a tricky intersection that requires sewing accuracy. If it looks like your cup piece is too long, either the cup fabric stretched out in sewing, which can easily happen because the stretchier fabric is being pushed by the foot, or your elastic has an edge that added width to the seam allowance. Remember how I adjusted for that extra elastic edge in my cup pattern? If this happens to you, unpick the stitches back to the notch and re-pin the cup, easing in the excess, or simply allow the cups to overlap at front.

Insert the Right Cup and Topstitch

Line up the left cup so that the edges meet together at the dot.

inserting cups in the Watson Bra | Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

Backtack a couple of stitches to secure, and sew all the way around to the end.

inserting cups in the Watson Bra | Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

Trim away the little diamond in the seam allowance between the two cups. This will help create a cleaner seam when you topstitch. Be careful not to trim into the actual seam.

inserting cups in the Watson Bra | Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

At the center front the two elastics will overlap underneath the topstitching. Don’t trim these elastic ends away–they anchor the seam allowance and allow for neater topstitching.

From the right side of the bra, fold your cup seams toward the cradle and topstitch them down, 1/16-1/8” away from the seam. For help in topstitching at the center front, use a fabric marker to mark the corner where you’ll turn your stitch direction.

inserting cups in the Watson Bra | Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

Finish topstitching around the rest of the cradle.

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

And what it looks like on the inside:

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

Don’t go crazy if you don’t get this part neat on your first try. I mentioned in the Facebook group that bows and trims are the bra-makers secret to hiding goofs!

The steps are the same for sewing in scalloped lace cups. When joining the two cups at center front, they should meet right at the bottom point of the scallops. This is what it will look like when finished:

inserting cups | Watson Sew Along

Stitch in Hem Elastic

Apply your hem elastic using the method in this tutorial. For the first pass, I used a 2.8 width, 2.0 length zig-zag. For the second, I used a 3-step zig-zag with a 5.0 length, 1.0 width.

add band elastic | Watson Sew Along

Stitch in Underarm Elastic

For my narrower underarm elastic, I used a 2.8 width, 2.0 length zig-zag on the first pass, and a 3.2 width, 2.0 length zig-zag on the second.

When applying your underarm elastic, it’s important that the area where the cup folds through the strap ring ends up with a finished width of 1/2″ (13mm). In order to make this happen, the second elastic will overlap the first elastic right at the strap fold. To make this easier, begin stitching the elastic about 1/2 to 5/8″ (13-15mm) down from the top of the cup, leaving an unstitched portion:

add band elastic | Watson Sew Along

When stitching your second finishing zig-zag, wrap the unstitched elastic and the edge of the cup fabric over the neckline elastic. The two will completely overlap at the top:

add band elastic | Watson Sew Along

And how this might look on the scalloped cup:

add band elastic | Watson Sew Along

Another little tip: In both these cups, you’ll notice that I left some extra elastic past the end of the cup. This extra length will give me something to grab onto when I secure the loop through the strap ring.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the finishing touches–the straps and the hook & eye!

Watson Sew Along #8: Sewing the Bra Cups & Frame

sewing the bra, part 1 | Watson Sew Along

At last we get to sewing everyone’s favorite–the bra! I’m going to jump right into it, because this is going to be a picture-heavy post. Today we’re going to make the straps, put together the cups and sew the frame of the bra. I’ve also included some hopefully helpful tips for sewing with slippery tricot.

Assemble the Straps

Attaching the straps to the bra is the very last step in sewing, and doesn’t need to be done till the end, but I like to assemble them at the beginning. It makes me feel like I have everything ready to go!

First I loop one end of the elastic through the slider, giving me enough stitching room so that I don’t hit the ring as I am sewing.

sewing bra straps | Watson Sew Along

To secure the loop, you can use a bartack stitch or a back and forth straight stitch. Over time I’ve come to prefer the straight stitch because it is easier to sew and gives a neat result that is still secure. I set my stitch somewhere around 1.0 in length and stitch across the elastic.

To reverse the stitch, I turn the elastic around so that I can stitch forward again. Then I sew another line right next to the first line of stitching, and secure by backward stitching a couple of stitches.

sewing bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Trim the elastic close to the stitches and finish looping your straps through the rings. If you need some extra step by step photos, see this tutorial.

sewing bra straps | Watson Sew Along

Assemble the Cups

With a regular straight stitch, sew the inner and outer cup pieces together. If you prefer a neater finish you can serge the edges, as I have done.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

Then turn the allowances toward the outer cup and topstitch from the right side. Use a longer stitch—I set my stitch length between 3.2 and 3.4.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

Topstitching tip: Use your foot as the guide to topstitch 1/16 to 1/8” (2-3mm) away from the edge. On my foot the inside edge of my toe is exactly 1/16” from the needle, so as I am topstitching I make sure the seam is following that edge.

Add Neckline Elastic

Apply your neckline elastic as per the instructions. For my first pass, I used a 2.8 length, 2.0 width zig-zag. For the second pass, I used a 3.0 width and 2.0 length zig-zag.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

You’ll notice that I am using a lingerie elastic that has a rounded piping edge to it. This piping sticks out about 1/8″ past the edge of the seamline. I had to remove 1/8″ from my neckline allowance to account for the “piping”; otherwise the cups would create a bulky overlap at the center front because of the extra elastic width. (Oh yes, it’s true–bra-making develops sewing accuracy!)

If you are making the scalloped lace cup variation, you’ll want to stabilize the edge of the lace with a narrow and thin elastic. A 1/8-1/4” clear elastic is ideal for this purpose.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

For my bra, I used some thin black neckline elastic that I had left over from an old bra kit, but I apply it in the same way that I use clear elastic. From the wrong side of the bra, line up the elastic so that it is in a straight line just inside the bottom of the scallops. Use a small zig-zag to secure the elastic, and pull very gently as you are sewing.

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

If this is your first time sewing thin or clear elastics to lace, you may want to practice on a scrap to get comfortable with it. You’ll also need to play with your zig-zag width to find one that will fit onto your elastic.

Here you can see what it looks like from the right side. My lace is very open so the elastic is visible:

sewing the cups | Watson Sew Along

Line the Cradle + Tricot Sewing Tips

Baste your lining piece to the cradle, staying inside the seam allowances. If you decided to use a fusible knit interfacing instead of a lining, then apply your interfacing.

lining the cradle | Watson Sew Along

If you are new to sewing with slippery and delicate lingerie fabrics, it might feel tricky basting the lining smoothly to the outer fabric. It gets easier with practice but I wanted to share a few possible tricks to avoiding wrinkles and skewing fabrics.

First, the wrinkles are usually the result of sewing two different fabric types together. Fabrics with 4-way stretch can “grow” as they are being handled or stitched. When stitching a stretchy fabric to one with less stretch or no stretch, the stretchier fabric will want to stretch out further than the other layer.

1. Instead of basting, use temporary spray adhesive to join your two layers for easier sewing. This solution came via Maddie, and it’s genius! Many bra-makers use it to keep delicate layers together in sewing.

lining the cradle | Watson Sew Along

2. Before basting, pin your two layers together from the side of the lining. Allow the stretchy outer fabric to relax and spread outside the lining if it wants to. After basting, trim away the excess from the outer fabric.

3. Baste with the lining on top and the stretchy outer fabric on bottom. This allows the feed dogs to ease the stretch fabric into the lining.

4. Loosen the foot pressure if your machine has this option.

5. Use a long basting stitch with a 4-5 stitch length.

6. Stop and raise your presser foot every couple of inches to let the fabric relax. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I do this all the time when sewing knits and silks. I think I’ve gotten addicted to the knee lift on my sewing machine.

7. Try a teflon foot or a glider foot, if you have one. Sometimes the foot pressure can really drag on fabrics. Occasionally I sew on a vintage Bernina 830 and it is guilty of dragging on silks and tricots; switching to a teflon foot helps.

Stitch the Band to the Cradle

Stitch your cradle to the band pieces with a straight stitch.

sewing the band | Watson Sew Along

Fold your seam allowances toward the cradle, and from the right side topstitch them down about 1/8”-3/16” (3-5mm) away from the seam. If you prefer a neater finish to your side seams, you can serge after stitching, then topstitch.

For neat side seams in wired bras, I often hide the seams in the lining but for an easier but pretty approach, I also like stitching a piece of satin ribbon over the seam allowances. I stitch down each side of the ribbon, and this takes the place of the topstitching:

sewing the band | Watson Sew Along

Again, I regret using ivory fabric in photos but you’ll have to believe me–that’s a satin ribbon over the seams!

That was a long post for today but we have a great start on the bra! I’ll be back Monday with the final steps but if you’d like to get a head start, you can sew in the cups to the band and then add your hem elastic.

Have a great weekend!

Watson Sew Along #7: Cutting & Sewing the Bikini

cutting & sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Alrighty, it’s finally time to do some sewing!

You may have noticed that I’ve changed up the schedule a bit. I decided to save the dyeing tutorial for a future day. That gives us room to focus on sewing the bra and keeps things a bit simpler for the beginners. Sound good?

Today we’re going to cut and sew our bikini. It’s very short and sweet, just as a bikini should be. You can probably make five in the amount of time it took me to write this post!

In this tutorial I’m going to be sewing the bikini a little bit differently than the method that is illustrated in the pattern. Instead of leaving one seam open, both crotch seams are enclosed inside the lining. You can use either method–your choice! I use both and it depends on how fast I want to sew. For the pattern I chose the faster method because it was easier to illustrate without the benefit of photos.

Cut Your Pieces

Cutting is simple! you need to cut four pieces: front, back, crotch and crotch lining.

cutting the bikini | Watson Sew Along

In underwear, crotch linings are often cut from light cotton jersey. The lining is there for breathable, absorbent protection. If you are already cutting your bikini from a rayon or cotton jersey you can use your main fabric as a lining. For other fabrics like lycra, lace or mesh, you can use a scrap of jersey from your stash. If I want a quick pair, I often just cut it from my main fabric (even if it’s mesh). For this pair I’m cutting my bikini from a lingerie stretch fabric in front and a stretch mesh in back. I happened to have some matching ivory cotton jersey in my scrap bin to use for the lining, so I’m getting lucky with the matching!

Sew the Crotch Seams

Sew the back to the crotch pieces with a 3/8″ (1cm) seam allowance. Arrange the layers like this, from bottom to top: the crotch lining should be right side up, the back should be right side up, and the outer crotch piece right side down.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Pin the layers together then stitch or serge. I like to baste this seam first, which keeps the layers from shifting around with the serger foot. If you don’t have a serger, a straight stitch will do just fine. This seam doesn’t need to stretch. If using a straight stitch, trim down your seams afterward to about 1/4″(6mm).

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Roll up the back piece between the two crotch pieces.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Take your front piece and roll this up, leaving the crotch seam free. Lay the rolled front piece next to the rolled back piece. The right side of the front crotch seam should be facing the right side of the main crotch piece:

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Roll up the crotch lining (the bottom piece in the photo above) so that it meets the other two layers. You’ll basically have a little taco. (Some people call this a burrito method but I live in Texas and this seems more like a taco!) Pin these seams together and serge or straight stitch, just like the first crotch seam:

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Pull the rolled pieces out from one side of the crotch, and keep pulling until the crotch seams turn inside out. And voila–completely enclosed seams!

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Stitch the Side Seams

With right sides together, stitch the side seams with either a serger or medium width zig-zag. (Medium is about 3.2 width and 2.2 length.) Turn the bikini right side out.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Add Your Elastic

Add your elastic to front and back using the method in this tutorial. I like to start one end of my elastic near the side seams but not right on top of the seam. This keeps the side seam from getting bulky. On the first pass, I used a small zig-zag with a 2.6 width and 2.0 length.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

When you reach the beginning of your elastic overlap and stitch the two ends together about 1/2″ (13mm). Stitch backwards a couple of zig-zags to secure.

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

Trim your threads and any seam allowances that cause bulk or stick out from the elastic, then fold your elastic to the inside and stitch your second pass of zig-zags. On the second pass of this pair I used a 3.2 width and 2.0 length.

Repeat these steps for your other two openings, trim any excess threads, and you’re done!

sewing the bikini | Watson Sew Along

On Friday we start sewing the bra!

Watson Sew Along #6: Cutting a Scalloped Lace Cup

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Cutting scalloped lace for lingerie is one of my favorite things to do. It involves a little bit of creativity and some lace detective work. It’s a bit like cutting plaids, but thankfully lingerie pieces are tiny!

I’ve made the Watson in a few scalloped laces for fun, so today I want to share how I cut the cup pattern for them. (We’ll start sewing the bra later this week!)

Stretch laces vary quite a bit in stretch, weight, and “openness” or tightness of their design. Sometimes they stretch in all directions, and other times they stretch very minimally in one direction. When you are cutting the Watson from these laces, you may not be able to get your pieces in the proper stretch direction so this will probably change how it fits. It’s experimental! For a lace that stretches very minimally in one direction I usually go up a cup size.

Pattern Alteration

Normally when I cut a scalloped lace piece for an underwire bra, the pattern neckline has a straight edge. The Watson’s neckline has a slight curve so we need to alter the pattern in order to cut it on a straight line.

On your inner cup piece, draw in the seamlines where the bottom of the cup and neckline intersect. These seam allowances are 1/4” (6mm).

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Draw a line 3/4” down from the top of the cup (this is your fold line for the strap) and then draw the the neckline seam that intersects with this fold (1/4” or 6mm from the outer edge).

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Draw a straight line connecting these two cross marks, going all the way through the cup:

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Cut out your cup piece, cutting along that new line. I mark the cup for scallops, so I don’t forget!

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

You’ll notice that straightening the neckline, as I am doing in this alteration, makes the neckline slightly shorter. It also makes a funny point to the top of the cup, which means I’ll might have to do some adjusting when I get to the strap loop. I’ll show you what I mean when we get to sewing the bra.

Cutting the Lace

Now this is the part where you get to play detective (because this is Watson, after all!). Lay out your lace and move your pattern pieces around until you find the motifs you want over your cup pieces.

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Once you get the your new inner cup piece in a good area, line up the edge of the neckline piece so that it is even with the bottom of the scallops. Move it around until you get that bottom seamline mark (marked in blue) lined up with a low point of the scallops:

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

It’s important that the bottom seam meets a low point because this is where the two cups join at the center front. Once you have the pattern piece where you want it, trace and cut.

Some decorative laces will have a mirrored design, which means that you can flip your piece to the other scalloped side and cut a perfect mirror of your first piece. If your lace doesn’t have mirroring sides you can move your pattern piece around until you find a similar motif. When I want to get a really good mirror, I often take my first cut piece and flip that over instead of a paper pattern.

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Once I get this piece lined up over its mirror, I trace around it with a chalk wheel. To save time I often by bypass chalk tracing and use a rotary cutter and run carefully around the first cup, being cautious not to cut anything away from it.

Done cutting!

cutting a scalloped lace cup | Watson Sew Along

Next up: cutting and sewing the bikini!

Watson Sew Along #5: Cutting the Bra

cutting out the bra | Watson Sew Along

Alrighty, it’s time to get down to cutting! In this post, I’ll be going over the basics in cutting the bra. I also wanted to give you some creative options so I’ll be following this with a separate post on cutting a variation of the cup in scalloped stretch lace.

Check Your Stretch Direction

Before you start cutting, double check your fabrics to determine their direction of greatest stretch. This will help you lay out your pieces in the proper direction. In specialty lingerie and spandex fabrics, the greatest stretch can be in either direction. In several of my lycra and powernet fabrics, for example, the greatest stretch runs down the selvage, which is the opposite of many jersey knits.

Trace & Cut

Before laying out your pieces you’ll want to snip out the notches so you can mark them on the fabric. Weigh your pieces down and trace around them with chalk or pen. Use the chalk or an washable marker to mark the notches.

cutting out the bra | Watson Sew Along

I keep a variety of marking tools around because some nylon fabrics have difficulty accepting chalk. In those cases I use a ball-point pen. Don’t let that scare you! You’re going to be cutting these lines away so they won’t show. I’ve also been playing with a heat-erasable gel pen, which I discovered via quilting blogs. (You gotta love quilters because they have the best fabric-marking ideas!)

Cut your pieces, making sure to cut your lines away. Here is where I question my choice of ivory-colored fabrics for photo purposes but hopefully you can see my faint chalk lines.

cutting out the bra | Watson Sew Along

Snip your notches (just a tiny amount—remember your seam allowance is only 1/4”). If your fabric has an open texture, such as lace or mesh, those little cuts won’t be visible, so you can just leave your notch marks un-snipped.

cutting out the bra | Watson Sew Along

Tip for Cutting the Cradle & Lining

I have a favorite trick for cutting out bra cradles and linings. Since tricot linings tend to be slippery and slightly more difficult to cut, I like to cut them as a single layer rather than on the fold. This means that I need to trace two sides of my cradle pattern so I have one piece, which you’ll see below. To make cutting even easier, I place the lining on top of the main cradle fabric, trace the cradle onto the top layer, remove the pattern, and cut the two layers together using a rotary cutter.

cutting out the bra | Watson Sew Along

Ready to trace…

cutting out the bra | Watson Sew Along

If you have chosen to use a fusible interfacing instead of a lining for the cradle, you can do the same thing. Just place your interfacing glue side down on to the wrong side of your cradle fabric, trace onto the interfacing and cut them together. Then fuse. Alternatively, you can blockfuse: in blockfusing, you fuse a rough cut of interfacing big enough for your pattern piece to a piece of fabric, then cut the pattern from the pre-fused piece. I’m a fan of blockfusing in all kinds of sewing. It really makes cutting so easy!

Finish cutting your band pieces from your chosen fabrics and that’s it!

cutting out the bra | Watson Sew Along

The Role of Bra Linings

Before I sign off, I had a few questions about whether or not one could leave out the lining on the cradle. It may help to explain the role of linings.

In supportive bra designs, linings serve two purposes: they help the bra last longer and very importantly, they stabilize areas of stretch so that they have less stretch, or no stretch. One of those areas is the space between or underneath the cups. This stabilization keeps the cups in place and in underwired bras, helps the wires stay in position.

Bras that are designed to slip over the head, such as a camisole-style bra, tend to be less supportive. Their bands need to be stretchier by design in order to slip on without a hook & eye. The Watson is designed to have a firm band fit, which includes a stable front cradle. However, if you wished to create a softer bra and leave out the lining, I recommend testing this first because it will change the fit. The band will be looser and stretchier, and the cups will shift around and possibly want to spread apart. This also depends on size—small cups have less weight so it’s easier for the cups to stay in place.

I hope this helps make sense of linings!

How to Sew Lingerie Elastic

how to sew lingerie elastic | a tutorial from Watson Sew Along at Cloth Habit

We’re almost ready to cut! Before we get to cutting or sewing, I thought it would be useful to review the basics in sewing lingerie elastic. It’s very simple but you’ll be doing it over and over again.

If you are brand new to sewing elastic, you don’t need any special equipment, just your regular zig-zag foot. To make things easier to understand for beginners, I included a short video at the end.

Basic Elastic Technique

basic technique for sewing lingerie elastic | Watson Sew Along

Except for the straps on the bra, all of the elastic is applied using the same “stitch, fold and stitch” method that is commonly used for lingerie elastic.

1. Align the non-decorative edge with the edge of the fabric. You want the wrong or plush side to be facing up.

Sewing Lingerie Elastic | Watson Sew Along

If your elastic does not have a plush backing, it might be harder to distinguish the wrong from right sides, in which case you can use whichever side you like better.

2. Stitch the elastic to the fabric, using a smaller zig-zag. As you are stitching pull the elastic gently (see tips at bottom for what I mean by gently).

Sewing Lingerie Elastic | Watson Sew Along

Try to get your zig-zags as close as possible to the decorative edge. It will almost look like your needle is going over the edge of the elastic.

Sewing Lingerie Elastic | Watson Sew Along

Don’t worry if you veer off a bit. It takes practice and you won’t notice these minor things in the end.

2. Once you are done, you can trim down the fabric close to the stitches. I don’t always trim. It depends on the weight of the fabric, how much bulk it might add, and whether or not it is peeking out from the elastic.

Sewing Lingerie Elastic | Watson Sew Along

3. Turn your work around and fold the elastic over that the wrong side is facing up again, and stitch again getting as close to the edge as you can. On this second pass you usually want a slightly wider zig-zag, or a 3-step zig-zag for certain elastics.

Sewing Lingerie Elastic | Watson Sew Along

Stitch Lengths

The Watson instructions include suggested stitch lengths and widths for every step and I’ll be reiterating those when we sew.

As you gain more experience, you’ll learn that every elastic is different and sometimes you need to adapt your stitches to the elastic. Take a look at some of your favorite RTW undergarments and see what stitches are used and where and on what kind of elastic. Try to replicate these on scraps of fabric and see if you like them.

The Triple Zig-zag

This stitch is sometimes called a 3-step zig-zag. It does exactly that–takes 3 straight stitches up and 3 straight stitches down. You can see the difference between the 3-step and a regular zig-zag on the left:

Sewing Lingerie Elastic | Watson Sew Along

Most modern machines come with with a 3-step zig-zag, but if yours doesn’t don’t worry. I’ve made many bras and underwear without it, and never had a popped stitch on them. The best place to use this stitch is on a firm, plush elastic. It is often used and the top and bottom of bra bands, and very occasionally on underwear.

You don’t need to use it everywhere, and one reason has to do with preventing elastic fatigue. In manufacturing they do a lot of testing for the best elastic tension and stitch type for each elastic and how it interacts with the weight of the fabric. The more stitches and thread you put into an elastic, the more you impact its ability to rebound. A firmer plush elastic can handle the heavy stitching, but lightweight and very stretchy elastics will lose a lot of their rebound with a 3-step. This is the most frequent cause of wavy edges—when an elastic has stretched further than the actual length of the opening and is not able to rebound back to the original or smaller size.

In general, I recommend only using the triple zig-zag on elastics that are 3/8″ or wider, have a plush backing and are fairly firm.

How Much To Pull?

I like to sew in elastic by feel. In bra-making, this is a very good skill to develop.

If you have never tried this before, try this: cut a piece of your lingerie elastic exactly 5 3/4″ or 14.6cm. Stretch it out to 6″ or 15.2cm. This is what 5% reduction feels like, and is a good idea of how much to stretch on most elastics as you are sewing.

I don’t calculate this any of this ahead of time; it’s more intuitive and I promise you don’t have to think about it that much and soon enough you’ll get a feel for how much tension you like.

Most elastics work best with anywhere from 3-8% reduction. In other words, the length of the elastic is 3-8% less than the actual seam line it is covering. I’d say that 8% is on the extreme end. The harder you stretch on an elastic as you are stitching, the more thread you put into a smaller space in the elastic and reduce its ability to rebound and continue flexing with wear. For the hem on a bra band, I put very little tension on the elastic. (It probably works out to about 3% but I haven’t measured that.) For underwear and the lighter bra elastics I pull a little bit more.

Watson Sew Along #3: Bikini Alterations

Bikini Alterations| Watson Sew Along

Today we’re going to give the bikini some love. I know that the bra is the star of this pattern but it’s always fun to make a matching set. I never feel complete if I don’t make bottoms to go with my tops!

I like a few different styles of underwear. My go-to is my Ladyshorts pattern but I love bikinis, too. I made about 20 of these to get the fit just so. (I’m obsessed with underwear patterns, what can I say.) However, we all have our preferences. Some of us like a a lot of leg, a lower leg, a higher waist, a very low slung waist. So I am giving you permission to experiment with your pattern, just like I experiment with all of mine. The alterations I’ll be demonstrating are essentially style changes.

Adjusting the Rise

If you are tall or prefer a slightly higher waist, you can simply raise the waistline.

Trace off or print out a new pattern. Before you cut, use a ruler to draw new lines up from your side seams and waist. It’s really as simple as that!

Adjust Bikini Rise| Watson Sew Along

Don’t forget to true your pattern after any alteration. By checking that the waist meets the side seam at a 90° angle help the side seams meet at a smooth curve and not a jagged “V”.

Add More Leg Coverage

This bikini is not “full butt coverage”. There are all sorts of bikini styles! This one shows a bit of cheek. How much or how little will also depend on where the widest part of your hips are located. If you want more coverage, here’s the way to do that:

1. Lower the side seam. I’d suggest no more than 1″ (2.5cm). 2. Draw a new smooth curve as illustrated:

Adjust Bikini Coverage | Watson Sew Along

You want to make a subtle curve on the back piece. Don’t extend the “cheek” area more than you extended the side seam; otherwise you may create too much length in the back leg line.

For example, if you don’t draw the side seam down but only enlarge the back, you end up with more fabric across the back but a longer leg seam:

adjusting bikini coverage (with caution)  | Watson Sew Along

Because that new line is longer, it can have the opposite effect of what you wanted, and the leg might rise up even higher. There’s an art to the leg line! Just something to think about.

Raise the Leg

This would be a good alteration if the front of the bikini is cutting into your thigh or you just want a slightly higher leg cut:

Raising Leg Line on Bikini | Watson Sew Along

Moving Front or Back Seam

The location of the crotch seams can be anywhere you want them. If you don’t like where they are sitting, you can move either of them! This is an example of how you’d move the front seam:

Moving Bikini Crotch Seam | Watson Sew Along

You can also completely eliminate one of the seams and cut the front or back as one with the crotch lining. I do this all the time when I want to make a really quick pair, and I’ll show you how when we cut the bikini. I’ll also be showing you how to sew the crotch lining in a way that hides all seams.

And that’s it for today!

Watson Sew Along #2: Bra Fitting Alterations

Watson Sew Along Day 2 | Fitting the Bra

I love being a student in the finer points of bra-fitting, but once in awhile I need a respite from the underwires and the structure. One of the things I love most about this pattern is that it is very easy to fit with a few simple adjustments.

Over the next two posts, I’ll walk through a few common pattern alterations. These might help some of you who have already made the Watson or want to make a quick test bra during the sew along. Today I’ll focus on the bra but I’ll be back after the weekend with a few bikini suggestions, too!

Marking Your Pattern

Because bras use such precise seam allowances it is a good practice to mark in your seamlines. I often stress this, since fudging 1/8″ here or there can add up in a bra.

Marking Seam Allowances | Watson Sew Along

When you make adjustments, you’ll be making them from the seamline. Afterwards, fix or true the seam allowances for these new seams. On this bra, all seams are 1/4″ (6mm) EXCEPT the band hem, which is 1/2″ (13mm) and the strap fold line, which is 5/8″ (16mm).

Marking the seamlines can also help you remember the elastic allowances or change them. For example, if you want to use a 3/8″ (10mm) plush elastic at the top of the band, you add an additional 1/8″ (3mm) to the seam allowance on this pattern. If you wanted to use fold over elastic at the neckline, you’d remove the 1/4″ allowance.

Measuring for Straps

To find your best strap length, measure from your shoulder to your bustline and multiply this measurement by two. The result is one strap length, and you need two of these. It may need to be shorter, depending on how high the cups are on your chest, but you can refine this length later on.

Fitting the Band

This pattern is drafted for a fairly firm powernet with about 35% stretch. If you are using a lighter or stretchier band fabric–such as stretch lace, lycra, jersey or a lightweight stretch mesh, this may result in too big of a band fit.

If your band is too big you can try one of the following:

  1. Go down a band size or even two sizes.
  2. Double your fabric (but test the stretch of your fabrics when doubled).
  3. Try a stronger band fabric.
  4. Adjust your band pattern piece.

Adjusting Band Length

You can determine how much you want to shorten the band by pinching out the excess and measuring the amount you pinched. Or you can adjust your band with a little math! Remember that you only need to adjust your band piece by half of the amount you pinned out, since there will be two of them.

Adjust Bra Band | Watson Sew Along

Adjusting Angle of the Band

If you are experiencing gaping along the underarm, you may need to adjust your band so that it is shorter along the top.

adjusting for underarm gape | Watson Sew Along

If the bottom of your band feels too tight but everything else seems to fit, the band may be too angled for your body shape. You may notice this particularly in the longline bra. You can adjust the band so that it is longer at the hem:

relieve tightness at bra hem | Watson Sew Along

Adjusting the Strap Position

In the front of this bra, the straps should be quite centered above the breast, going to the middle of the shoulder.

If you find that your straps are sliding away from the middle of your shoulder (or sliding off your shoulder), try narrowing the strap distance in the back.

Adjust Bra Strap Placement | Watson Sew Along

Adjusting Cup Volume

If your cups are too big, you’ll notice wrinkling in the cups.

Many times these will look like vertical wrinkles in the top half of the cup as the breast settles in the bottom of the cup. If this is happening to you, your cup has too much overall volume for the fabric you are using and I’d recommend going down a cup size.

If the ripples are minor and you are happy with the overall fit of the cup, you can simply take in the cup seam, much like you’d take in a princess seam. You want to take in each seam equally on both sides in order to keep the seam lines the same length. This adjustment will flatten the curves a bit:

Adjust Cup Volume| Watson Sew Along

Tip: There’s no need to get fancy with your curves; stretch knit patterns need very simple lines.

Lowering Cup Height

If your cup is too high on your chest AND you have wrinkling in the top of the cup, first try going down a cup size. However, if you are fully filling out your cup and the cups are still too high for either taste or proportion on your torso, you can try lowering the height of the cup. First mark in the strap fold seamline, which is 5/8” from the top of the cup and cut away this part:

Adjust Cup Height| Watson Sew Along

Try moving the strap attachment seam about 1/4″ but no more than 1/2″. There is a limit to how much you can lower the cup before the strap attachment point starts landing right on top of your breast. This bra has triangle-style cups that are meant to go all the way over the top of the breast.


These are the most common adjustments I use in bra-making but if you have a particular fitting question not addressed, don’t be shy about asking!

Watson Sew Along #1: Gather Fabric & Supplies

Watson Sewalong Day 1 | Cloth Habit

Hello everyone and welcome to the Watson Sew Along!

I’m excited to get started, and today we’re going to jump in with a little preparation and gather up our supplies.

Find Your Size

First things first… If you haven’t done so yet, you’ll want to measure yourself and find your size using the suggestions in the pattern. If you haven’t measured yourself in a while, it’s worthwhile to re-take your measurements.

Quick measurement tip: when taking the measurement under your bust, exhale all the way and take a very close fitting tape measurement. This is how I now measure others for their bands and I tend to get a better fit this way. For example, when I fully inhale and measure, my underbust is 30″. But when I exhale all the way, I measure about 28”. I use the smaller measurement to determine my band size.

Print & Assemble Your Pattern

printing the pattern | Watson Sewalong

For the bra pattern, you’ll only need 4 or 5 pages. Don’t forget to check the Bra Printing Guide so you know which pages to print off for your size. Most of the bra pattern pieces fit entirely on one page but in some of the larger sizes, you’ll need to tape two pieces together using the page notches as a guide.

Gather Fabric and Notions

gathering materials | Watson Sewalong

I’m going to be making a cream-colored set with black trim. Very ooh la la, and hopefully easy to photograph!

Before every lingerie project I print out a checklist and collect everything together in a little baggie as I go. It makes gathering all the bits and bobs so much easier. Download a printable checklist here!

You’ll need:

  • cup and cradle fabric*
  • cradle lining or interfacing
  • band fabric (if different from your cup fabric)
  • strap elastic
  • 1/2” plush back elastic
  • 1/4” plush back elastic
  • 1/2” rings and sliders
  • hook & eye (I recommend a 3-row for the longline version)
  • main bikini fabric
  • 1/4″ lingerie elastic

Note on elastic widths: The pattern can be easily adjusted for wider elastics if you prefer them. If you wish to use a wider strap elastic, make sure to buy your rings and sliders in the same width as your strap.

*For the scalloped lace variation of the bra, you’ll need:

  • at least 1 yard/meter of stretch lace
  • 1/2 yard or meter of narrow clear elastic to stabilize the edge of the lace scallops

When buying stretch lace, make sure the trim is at least 6 1/2″ wide. The cups will be laid out a bit like this:

galloon lace variation | Watson Sewalong

And if you want to use lace in the longline version, you’ll need to measure across the widest part of the cradle so that you get a wide enough lace:

galloon lace variation | Watson Sewalong

Tools & Supplies

tools & supplies | Watson Sewalong

Some of these tools are completely optional but they are extremely helpful in lingerie making. Be sure you have a few good marking tools, machine needles, and thread!

  1. Tailor’s chalk or chalk wheel – for tracing around patterns onto fabric
  2. Ball point pen – for tracing onto fabrics that don’t tend to accept chalk wheel marks. You can also use a fabric-marking pen.
  3. Pencil – for marking in seam lines
  4. C-Thru ruler – this is my preferred tool for marking in seam lines. I use several of these rulers for patternmaking; the B-50 is my favorite for bras.
  5. Pattern weights – for weighing patterns to fabric. (I don’t know where to buy the weights in the photo as I have had them for years, but I also use cheap washers from the hardware store.)
  6. Silk pins – These are inexpensive glass head pins, and they are wonderful for lingerie sewing. Fine pins won’t snag as easily on lycras, laces and delicate lingerie fabrics.
  7. Size 11/75 stretch needles – I buy these by the box because I use them so much in lingerie making. If you can’t find a stretch needle look for a size 11 ballpoint needle.
  8. Polyester thread*
  9. Sewing shears or rotary cutter (if you are a fan of rotary cutting)
  10. Embroidery or tailor point scissors – these are great for trimming seams and clipping threads.
  11. Serger thread* – only if you plan on serging either the bikini seams or the bra cup seams.
  12. Card stock – I like to print out bra patterns to card stock, which makes the patterns much easier to trace onto fabric. You can also trace the paper patterns to oak tag (manila folder paper), heavier weight drawing paper—anything that holds an edge.
  13. Straight stitch foot (you can see mine here) – For neat lines of topstitching and edgestitching. Your machine may call this a “patchwork foot” or “1/4 foot”.

*For extra soft seams, you may want to try a finer polyester thread or wooly nylon in your serger. See my post about these threads.

Prewash Fabrics

You may also want to prewash your fabrics the way you intend to wash them afterward. Many nylon-based fabrics don’t shrink at all but I’ve had a few surprises! (My first Bombshell swimsuit shrunk almost two sizes and I learned my lesson on pre-washing lycras!) For most lingerie fabrics, I handwash in cold water and hang to dry. Spandex does wear out with heat and I like my lingerie fabrics to last as long as possible.

That’s it for today! Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments or in the Facebook group!

Watson Sew Along Schedule

Watson Sew Along | Cloth Habit

Happy New Year everyone! I’m a day (or six) late, but I hope your holidays were happy and full of love. Here’s to a wonderful year in sewing!

I’ve been recuperating from travels, planning new projects for the year and of course I’m getting ready for the Watson Sew Along. That’s right, we’re going to get down to making some Watsons.

Making this set is surprisingly fast but this will be a leisurely sew along that’ll give you room to catch up, or sew slowly, or sew other things in the midst. We don’t get started on cutting until January 23 so you have some time to find your materials.

The Schedule (Updated!)

Please see the Watson Sew Along page for a complete list of all published tutorials!

If you have already made one or two (or some of you many more!), I promise there will be a few new tips along the way to add to your lingerie-making arsenal.

Sew Along Badge

Watson Sew Along | Cloth Habit

(If you’d like to include the badge on your blog, right-click and download the image, then upload to your blog. It’d be super if you linked the image to the Watson Sew Along page!)