Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sewing #610... Repurposing Blouses to Make Bras!

 Hello my dear readers. In our last Sewing #610 post I mentioned that I was waiting for some silk to arrive in the mail so I could finish my bra lining. I'm still waiting. So I got fed up, threw a small hissy fit, and then had an idea. I drove on down to my favorite little thrift shop in Monterey and bought a  silk blouse for $1.
It's black like I wanted and 3 times the silk I need to sew a bra. Jackpot! I may or may not have purchased half a dozen silk blouses to add to my bra-making stash.

Now, since it's not the right configuration of fabric for me to cut my bra on a fold, instead, I'll have to cut the bra on a seam, like below.

Just imagine, instead of a trip to a fabric store (the nearest for me is an hour away!) you can pop on down to a thrift shop and get some fabric from a clothing rack. What an environmentally friendly way to make your lingerie!

(I apologize for the quality of these pictures - black silk is really hard to photograph!).

Recycling a silk blouse for bra-making.
Now if you ever want to give this a try (I highly recommend it!) then be sure to press the seam before you match it to your center front of the pattern piece. Any little bits that aren't pressed straight can really throw off the fit of your bra.
Also, make sure that your blouse hasn't been cut on the bias!

I also decided to make a small embellishment to the front of the black bra piece once it was cut out.

If you do this, be sure to take into account your seam allowance at the top edge and avoid marking too close to it.

I marked some evenly spaced dots down the center front and then, before joining my bra and lining together, I embroidered three French knots in the same color of blue as my outer piece.

My blue French knots look almost like tiny buttons from a distance.

Now my bra outer and lining are nearly ready to be joined together.

Up next? Bra straps and back closures!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sewing 610... Spiderweb Silk Rosettes

And we're back with the next installment of Sewing 610!
I'm sorry that our quick break lasted a bit longer than the week I was in Nebraska. The trip back was not as painful as I had expected, but I found that I still needed at least a week of sleep, tea, and Downton Abbey to recover what's left of my peace of mind and get back to work.

So today, peace of mind in place, I'm going to show you how to make spiderweb silk rosettes.

These were added as an afterthought to my first bra.
If you decide to sew one of these bras, your options are really endless as to how you can add embellishments. Me though? I'm a bit of a stickler for historical accuracy, and just about every piece of vintage lingerie I have from the 1930's has some sort of delicate silk rosette on it.

Case in point: a gorgeous 1930's lace bra from my collection.
You'll want to make the rosette on the right side of your bra before you've sewn the bra and the lining together. If you don't, you'll have the ends of ribbons and thread knots tickling your cleavage all day long. Have you ever had a stray hair slip down into your shirt? It's like that - and it should be avoided for the sanity of all involved.

Here is what you'll need:
  • a ridiculously small embroidery hoop - mine is about 2 /12" in circumference.
  • about 12" of 7mm or 4mm wide silk ribbon. I bought my 7mm here and am thrilled with it.
  • sewing or embroidery thread in similar color to your ribbon.
  • 1 sewing needle
  • 1 large (size 22) chenille needle (or a really massive embroidery needle, if you have one.
  • a small button
  • scissors
I highly recommend that if you haven't made these before, do a practice version first. I've gotten a lot of practice at this and I still do a test rosette nearly every time.

To keep the top of your bra from getting a bit deformed during this process, it's a good idea to run a simple line of stay-stitching across the top. Then mark a small dot where you want your rosette centered.

Place your bra (or practice scrap) in your embroidery hoop, but do so loosely and gently. It doesn't need to be drum-tight for this.

Place a small button or other round object the size of your desired rosette centered over where you marked. Holding the button in place, gently stencil a circle around it using a pencil or tailor's chalk.

Next, thread your small needle and using a straight stitch, sew 5 evenly spaced spokes radiating out from the center.

Thread your large needle with the ribbon, knot one end, and bring the needle up through the fabric very close to the center.

Give your needle a twist to curl your ribbon a bit, then draw the needle carefully first over, then under each spoke, repeating and twisting the ribbon as necessary.

Tip: to avoid piercing or snagging your fabric, use the dull end of the needle to do the threading, keeping the pointed end towards your hand.

Finally, when your rosette is as full as you wish (you'd be surprised how much ribbon you can jam into those spokes) simply bring your ribbon and needle through to the other side (piercing slightly in and under your rosette to hide it), gently knot your ribbon, and you're done!

If you wish to have a contrasting bit of stamen or pollen in the center of your rosette, you can do the following:

Bring a yellow thread, knotted at the end, up through the wrong side of your fabric and into the center of your rosette.

Moving on to the rosette on my bra now...
I used a small French knot for my stamen. To make a French knot, wrap your thread around the tip of your needle about 3 times, holding it all very firmly.

Pardon my nails, I'm in need of a bit of a spa day.
While still holding your thread securely wrapped, pierce back into the rosette almost exactly where your thread comes out to start with. Using the tip of your finger, keep the wrapped thread, slowly forming into a knot at this point, pressed down as you very carefully pull your thread all the way through to the other side.

Then simply knot off your thread on the wrong side and voila! A lovely little silk rosette!

I'll be back with more Sewing #610 when my much awaited, and much belated silk fabric comes in the mail. The fabric that I had chosen to line this fine little beauty with turned out to have snags and runs galore (a fit of epic proportion and duration was thrown) so I'm in holding pattern mode at the moment.

Happy sewing,

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sewing #610... Sewing the bust darts.

Aaaaand we're back with more bra sewing! At this point, we've drafted our pattern and cut out our test muslin for the bra. Don't you just love how the whole bra is just one piece of fabric? It definitely makes life easier!

I have cut out and sewn the darts in my silk version - the fabric I'm using? It's from an old set of silk charmeuse pajama pants that didn't survive my tossing and turning for long. The fabric has a bit of wear to it, but it's still pretty and feels heavenly on the skin. Waste not, want not - n'est pas?

For both your test muslin and the actual bra, you'll be sewing quite a few darts. Between my muslin, my adjusted muslin, and the bra in silk, that's 12 darts - 16 if you're lining the darn thing. So it helps to know a few things about sewing bust darts, and darts in general.

It's smart to start at the bottom and sew your way towards the tip, but here are a few more tips:
  • For bust darts, adding a very slight curve at the tip of the dart will help the garment contour better to the roundness of your bust. See more about that here.

  • At the tip of the dart, don't back-stitch, instead, pull the garment out from your sewing machine and leave a trail of threads long enough to tie a loose knot. Make sure that there are a few millimeters of ease between the knot and the dart.
My pin stealthily rusted onto my fabric, the horror!
  •  Press your darts flat before pressing them open. This will help set the stitches in the fabric.

  • And by far, my favorite tip for pressing my bust darts is to use an old bra! Fold the bra (the ones that are thickly padded are best) in half so that it supports itself and then cover it with a towel or press cloth.

The lovely little mound that it creates is vastly superior to my own pressing ham and perfect for pressing bra darts.

An old bra makes the perfect shape for pressing bra darts on.
So I've sewn my bust darts in the bra and now I'm going to take a short week-long break from sewing.

Pardon the wrinkles, I pressed the darts ok but the rest of the bra will just wrinkle again during handling, lining or binding so I don't even bother with the rest of it.
This coming weekend, I'm flying back to Nebraska to help my family manage the auction we're having to liquidate the family antique business. It was run primarily by my mother and with her now gone, none of us has the heart to continue with it. It's a very sad, but necessary part of adulthood, I suppose, letting go of the things you loved as a child. In this case, my sister and I grew up in our Mom's antique shop (home schooled and everything) and it will be awfully hard to say goodby to that chapter of our lives.
My wounds are still very raw from losing Mom only four months ago so this coming week will not be an easy thing to survive sober (though I'll be trying).

Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sewing #610... Drafting your pattern.

Hello lovely readers,  I'm so glad to hear that a few of you will be following along with me for our mini sew-along!

The pattern we're using is what I call a draft-at-home pattern. It means that you have a very small pattern with a series of numbers on it, and it is enlarged to your measurements using the measuring bands/ special rulers that come with it.

My pattern and measuring band, ready to be drafted to my size.

To draft your pattern, you can use the instructions included along with your pattern, or you can see how it's done in this photo tutorial. Please don't be intimidated by this, it will only take you a few minutes to draw out your pattern!

You can also check out my draft-at-home pattern F.A.Q. page if you need any quick answers while working with  your pattern.

Below I have my drafted pattern using the 92 cm band. This is my full over-bust measurement in centimeters.

Here is my pattern before I have connected the dots.
I am using a French curve to draw out my more rounded lines.

Once your pattern has been drafted, you'll want to do a few things to ensure that you have a good fit and an easier time sewing.

First, you want to make sure that your dart legs are the same length.

Measuring my dart legs.
If your dart legs are different lengths, measure down from the tip of the dart along the dart leg and mark the difference. If you have a difference, you'll want to divide that difference out between the two dart legs equally. (Example: if dart leg A measures 3" and dart leg B measures 3 1/4", then your difference is 1/4" and you will add 1/8" to dart leg A and shorten dart leg B by 1/8".

Adding the difference to one of my dart legs.
This is called truing your darts.

Re-drawing the curved line from my added dart let length to smooth it out.
It is also be a good idea to measure your dart intake (the distance between your dart legs) in case you need to make more adjustments later.
Once you've checked out your darts, you're almost ready to cut out your pattern. This pattern has a seam allowance included but you need to make sure that your darts have an allowance too. (You know how your darts are often slightly peaked at the pattern's edge? We need to make sure ours do that too.) This is easy, don't worry.

My bra pattern drafted out and my dart legs trued.
Starting with one of your darts, fold the pattern in half horizontally so that the tip of the dart is right on the fold line.
Folding your paper again along the dart leg closest to the center back, fold the dart leg over towards the other dart leg.
A horizontal fold with the dart tip at the fold.

Once your dart has been folded, it will resemble how it is to be sewn.
Pin both of your darts closed and then cut out the pattern. If your dart legs are trued properly, they should match perfectly when folded together. If not, you can just re-true them before cutting out, while the dart is still folded.

My pattern cut out, while the darts are still closed.

Now your darts automatically have those nice little peaks that will allow your dart to rest properly on your bust. Without doing this, it can make your darts pull and can cause some annoying fit issues.

At this point, it's a good idea to determine what manner of back closure you're using - if you want to simply add hooks and eyes instead of a French or purchased closure, you need to measure and make sure that the bra back reaches far enough for your needs before cutting it out. Or, you can always just tape an extension onto the back of the pattern piece if you need more room. 

It's also a good idea to put a tiny notch in the upper back end of the pattern. This can come in handy during test fitting, to help you tell top from bottom!

Cut one, center front on the fold.

Now your pattern is ready to be cut out of your muslin or practice fabric to be tested on yourself!

Any questions?

Happy sewing,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sewing #610... Intro to a mini sew-along!

Happy weekend, my lovely readers! Recently, you might remember, I sewed a 1930's bra for myself using one of the draft-at-home patterns from my shop, Depew #610.
Many readers wrote that they were curious about my process and wanted to see more so I decided to turn the project into a mini sew-along.

While sewing this bra, I took a lot of photos, but since this was more of a "getting back into sewing therapy" project for me, I didn't take nearly enough photos of nearly enough steps so I thought, why not do it all again for a mini sew-along?

I loved this bra so much that I have no reservations at all about sewing about a dozen more of them so I'll be starting from the beginning and posting as I sew.

You're welcome to join in with me and post questions as I go. The more, the merrier!
If you'd like to follow along, here is what you'll need:

1. The pattern comes in two different versions Digital (if you want to print at home) or Print (if you'd rather get goodies in the mail).

The 1930's bra pattern I'll be using.

2. Fabric: You'll need about 1/2 yard of 36" or wider fabric, plus the same for an optional lining (I used light weight silk so I lined mine). You'll also want about 1/2 yard of muslin for a test version.
This is a great pattern to use up fabric scraps, or the great vintage silk scarves you scored at the thrift shop and then never wore.

Tip: I got my lovely silk fabric, and the silk ribbon I used for the straps online at Farmhouse Fabrics for a really great price!

3. Notions: I recommend a purchased bra back for this project but you can also use hooks and eyes or buttons. For mine, I used a French bra back closure - It's the only bra back closure I think I'll ever use on my bras, it's just so comfortable! You'll also want about 1 yard of ribbon, bra strap elastic, or purchased bra straps.

4. Drafting tools. You most likely have these on hand already bust just in case, you'll need the following:
Pencil with eraser
Large paper (I use tracing paper but you can also use a paper bag or pattern making paper).
Paper scissors
1 thumb tack
French curve (optional).

In the next post, I'll be going over how to draft out the pattern to your size and how to make adjustments to the pattern to make sure that it's accurate and easy to sew.

If you're curious how the draft-at-home patterns work, you can check out this blog post. It really takes something a bit intimidating and makes it quite easy!

I hope you'll join me!

Happy sewing,

Update: Here is a list of the posts!