Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sewing 610... Straps, Closures and a finished bra!

Let's discuss bra straps!
I have chosen to use some very delicate silk ribbon for my straps. I'm going for a very dainty, light weight, almost gossamer effect with this bra and I don't want too heavy of a strap. However, I can get away with that because, let's face it, I'm tiny up top and I don't need any support. If you're larger up top and using a heavier weight fabric than charmeuse or crepe de chine, I recommend using either purchased straps or at least silk satin ribbon. It's heavier and sturdier.

If you'd prefer to make some adjustable straps of your own, check out this great tutorial over at Ohhh Lulu.

For a more hand-stitched route, you can use this old-fashioned technique for adding bra straps to a finished bra without sewing the strap between layers.

I chose to sew my straps between the layers this time just to mix things up.
You'll need to test the fit of your bra at this point and (with some help if you can get it) pin a length of ribbon to the front and back of the bra to help you measure how long your strap should be.
As a starting point, my straps were about 20" long with seam allowances figured in.

Before starting on straps, place the two bra layers right sides together, then pin and sew the bottom seam only. This makes it easier to wrangle your layers when doing the next two steps.
--Tip for working with slippery fabrics: Years ago, I remember asking my Mama about how to work with slippery silk and she responded with "When in doubt, sweetie, just pin the hell out of it!" Mama was right - it works like a charm.

Now the easiest way to sew a bra strap (ribbon) between layers is below. Simply roll that sucker up and paper clip it, leaving a few inches out to work with. This will keep your ribbon from straying all over the place as your work with it, and more importantly, it keeps your ribbon from going rogue and  getting caught in a seam somewhere!

A paper clip can keep your ribbon from going rogue.

The best place for your bra strap placement at the front is just to the outside of your upper dart, though during a fitting with your muslin, you should test and see if this works for you too.

My two layers of fabric, open at the top and ready for the ribbon.
Add the ribbon just to the outside of the upper dart (the side closest to the under-arm).
Pin the ribbon in place securely and then tuck your rolled and secured ribbon in between the two layers.
The back end of the straps is going to be stitched to the outside of my bra once everything else is finished.

Now for the bra back closure. I'm using my usual French bra back closure (I won't use any other closure method any more!) but you can use any other method you're comfortable with.
For a button and ribbon loop closure, check out this tutorial.

You want to make sure that any bra closure method you use is facing to the inside of the bra as you sew the layers completely together. That way, when you turn your bra right side out, the closure is on the outside.
If you go this route, test your closure on your muslin version. You'll want the hook opening to be facing up, but which side do you want the hook on? Left or Right? This depends on what feels most comfortable for you and perhaps which of your hands is dominant.

Once you have your closure pinned securely in place, (this is another good time for a fitting!) you can pin the rest of the outer and lining together, matching seams and darts.

Stitch the layers together, taking time to back-stitch at the bra strap edges and closure for extra strength. Be sure to leave at least a 2" gap open towards the back so that you can turn the bra right side out!

First trim down the corners of the back of the bra, then carefully turn your bra right side out, press the edges, and slip-stitch the gap closed.

To secure your bra straps to the back of the bra, you can either  use the old fashioned method mentioned above or do as I did.
I simply folded the raw edge under 1/2" and then hand-stitched the ribbon about 1" away from the back of the bra edge.

Annnnd, we're done!

I pressed the black edge of the bra up just a tiny bit fron the blue side and it the way it sits looks like there is a little bit of contrast piping.

I'm in love with my French knots... I want to put them on absolutely everything now!

Did we just sew a completely reversible bra? Why yes, yes we did ;)


Any questions, my dears?

P.S. For those of you just tuning in, you can find all of our Sewing #610 posts, as well as where to find the pattern by clicking here.

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,