Friday, February 01, 2019

Sweat Shop

I am absolutely and totally fed up! I have had huge issues AGAIN with Blogger and posting from my iPad! I had to go to edit from my desktop to add the images. Too much faffing about! Just a heads up that I will be investigating alternatives and perhaps starting a new blog on a different platform. I may not be able to bring my whole blog over but it will remain here as long as the Powers That Be will allow it. Stay tuned for more information.

Well, I promised a post on my bra-making obsession, didn’t I? I’ve been going just a wee bit nuts here sewing more Ingrids for my growing collection. There are currently 5 completed (3 in the original size that I chose and 2 in the improved one-size-larger version) and 4 more all cut out and beginning assembly. Here’s number 5, the black one:

I should have lightened it up so you can actually see it! The outer fabric is a slightly stretchy nylon sport fabric with a bit of texture so I lined it in black cup lining (aka marquisette). It was a little tricky to sew and I noticed that the cups wrinkle a little on the body. Perhaps I should have used some fusible webbing to hold the layers together? Bra-makers Supply (BMS) recommends Misty Fuse which is very lightweight but I don’t have any yet. I’d love to see a tutorial on different methods of lining a bra since I’m not very experienced with that and am not especially happy with my previous results. I obviously prefer the single layer of the Duoplex that I’ve had good success using.

So because I recently bought supplies for several bras in the colour “light copper” (slightly darker and warmer than “beige”) I decided to see how many I could get out of .5 M of Duoplex in my size. The answer is 4! Yes, my 2-D puzzle skills are awesome. However I only had enough matching findings for 3 so I decided to make the 4th one a two-tone copper and black bra. Why not? Here’s Damselfly’s Bra Factory in action:

I’m trying to keep everything together and oriented correctly while also trying to batch process as many seams at a time as I can. They are tiny and fiddly! And it saves much changing of stitches and feet.

Now that I’ve made (and are in the midst of making) so many Ingrid bras, I have some tips for anyone venturing into bra-making:

  • Fabric choices are of course up to you but remember that less stretch in the cups is more supportive and can actually be more comfortable.
  • Gather all your supplies including findings before you start. There are a lot of different items and you want to make sure you have everything you need. 
  • Play a game of Tetris with your pattern pieces to economise on fabric usage. But pay close attention to your DOGS (Direction of Greatest Stretch) or the bra won’t fit.
  • Take your time and cut carefully and as accurately as possible. There’s not a lot of room for error on these little snippets of fabric.
  • I use a rotary cutter but if you prefer scissors, trace around your pattern pieces and cut off just inside your lines so you aren’t adding any extra width.
  • Keep your pieces oriented correctly so you know which way is up and which piece connects to which piece. It’s really easy to get mixed up between lefts and rights and ups and downs.
  • Accuracy in sewing is important. 1/4” seams and 1/8” topstitching is very small.
  • If the pieces don’t want to feed when you start a seam but get sucked up into the throat plate, try holding both spool and bobbin thread behind the presser foot and pulling gently on it until it goes by itself.
  • Watch your stitch lengths and widths. Also it’s easy to forget to shift from zigzag to straight stitch or multi-step zigzag to lightning stitch.
  • Press seams carefully and watch out for too hot temperatures. Synthetics are easy to melt.
  • I use a tailor’s ham and my Thom-made cup ball (dubbed the Chest Piece because it looks like a pawn!) to press the very curved cup seams. A rolled towel or the end of a sleeve board might work instead.
  • Some of the elastics need to be stretched in certain places to snug up the fit. The fold-over elastic goes on the top edge of the cup and up the strap to finish these edges - no need to stretch this one at all. The bottom band elastic needs to be stretched gently along its whole length. The underarm/strap elastic doesn’t stretch on the strap but does need to stretch somewhat at the curve under the arm to snug it up and then just gently across the back band.
  • When sewing the bottom and underarm elastics, orient them on the right side of the fabric with the soft fuzzy side up and the picots away from the edge of the bra. When you turn it under for the second pass, the soft side will be against your skin and the picots will peek out at the edge. It seems counterintuitive so it’s easy to get this wrong.
  • Before you sew the strap elastics to the bra, assemble them correctly first. Sew the loop that secures the sliders then thread the ring on and push it towards the middle of the elastic. Thread the raw end through the slider trapping the ring.
  • Check the width of the hook & eye pieces over the end of the band with the strap elastics held in place. If you need to adjust anything, it’s easy to shift the strap elastics in or out a little at this point until the hook & eyes will fit correctly. Then sew the strap elastics on and trim any excess at the underside.
  • The end of the fabric strap goes through the ring and gets stitched in place.
  • The hook & eye pieces go on. The longer eye piece goes on the left as you are looking at the right side of the bra back. The hooks go on the right.
  • Stitch the hook piece from the back side so you don’t get scratches on your machine. Depending on your machine, you might need to move the needle over or use a zipper foot to get in there to sew it down without running over the hooks.
  • On the Ingrid bra, the last seam is the centre front seam! It’s completely made in two halves that only join at the very end. You’ll want to make sure the seams line up neatly and that you backstitch well at each end since that seam gets a lot of stress.
I wanted to add a couple more things to this long list. I read someone somewhere saying that they were confused about all the different elastics and what goes where when they bought a kit for their bra. So here’s the photo:

As always this collection is from BMS. Bottom to top, there’s the wider picot edge band elastic for the underbust bottom bra edge, the narrower picot edge band elastic for the outer (underarm) edge, the fold-over elastic for the inner (top front) edge, the strap elastic wearing a ring and slider so I don’t lose them, and the 3 x 3 hook and eye set. The second photo shows you the fuzzy sides. Exact widths of each of these elastics can vary depending on your size and comfort. Since I’m ever the In-Betweenie, I mostly use the heavier ones but not always. Likewise I sometimes use a 2 x 3 hook and eye but I do prefer the wider version. If you’re confused or want to make a first test bra, I might suggest you get a findings kit with everything you need. For the Ingrid they come in small and large sizes so you’ll have to pick one but at least then you will have a better idea of what to buy next time. It’s definitely cheaper to buy metres of each type if you’re going to make several bras. I’ve now figured out exactly how much I need to get of each type for 4 bras.

Another tip I thought to mention is the use of a specialty foot, the satin edge or adjustable edge guide foot:

This makes it much easier to get an even topstitching. You might have something similar for your machine.

So are you completely overwhelmed now? Bored perhaps? Wishing that damselfly would shut up already? OK, I leave you with this photo from our Part The Third walk on the Boundary Bay dyke trail. I think we still have one or two sections left to go to complete the distance. It’s been a fun exercise for mid-winter in Vancouver!

Back to the sweat, bra factory.


Sue @ A Colourful Canvas said...

Awesome list thanks Louisa.

Really helpful to learn that you don't stretch your neckline FOE at all. I've never been quite sure about that.

When I was reading the instructions I was wondering if the center seam could be sewn earlier...burrito style so that the seam doesn't show on the inside?

Also, quick question...with the football shaped girls, did you find you had to take the top cup in at all with this pattern?

Thanks much, Sue

Vancouver Barbara said...

You are awesome! Brava!

Alison said...

OH Louisa, I do not find your details about bra sewing at all boring, but rather fascinating! You will have the happiest lingerie drawer when you are done!

I am sorry that you are having such trouble with Blogger... I use it quite happily, but then I have an ANCIENT desktop computer for my blogging. When I have tried to use my phone, it is horrible and difficult, though I suspect it to be more because of the phone, which is also pretty venerable. I will say that those of my online sewing pals who use Wordpress usually don't get any comments from me, because often that platform requires you to sign in to Wordpress somehow before you can comment. I don't know if that is a function of WP or something that can be customised. Anyhow, good luck, I would hate to not see your assorted images and read your tales of life