February 29, 2016

Leap into Spring with a new Swimsuit!

Today, on Leap Day 2016, my newest Craftsy class Sewing Swimwear: the Supportive One-piece has launched! You can watch the trailer here...

What will you find in this class?
  • how to choose pattern and fabric
  • how to make custom alterations for length and width
  • how to transform any scoop back into a supportive bra back
  • how to choose the correct bra cup size using the "squish test"
  • how to support the bust using purchased foam swim cups
  • how to construct a built-in bra using your own bra pattern
  • how to insert lining
  • how to sew either a princess line suit or a tank
  • how to finish the seams
  • how to apply elastics to the edges
  • how to troubleshoot common fit issues
  • how to  use colour blocking to enhance or disguise your figure

Whew! There's a LOT of information in this power-packed class! But here's the best part...
Click to leap over here and save 50% off the regular price!

February 27, 2016

Far, far away - Kwantlen Polytechnic

I've spent the week here at Kwantlen Polytechnic University teaching the next generation of designers hoping to work in the intimate apparel industry after graduation. And while I can't complain about the winter we've had in southern Ontario up til now, February in Vancouver just has to be better than February in Hamilton! Here's the view for the front foyer and the stairs going to "my" classroom.

Here's the view from my hotel window, with the mountains in the background. Did I mention that YVR is really close by? Mountains appeal to me...maybe being born under the sign of the mountain goat has something to do with it!

Students are with me for 5 days teaching Bra Design & Draft and how it applies to ready to wear. But before I can teach design, they should know how to draft. And before they learn how to draft, they must know how the bra is constructed. You can't really understand drafting if you don't know what the pieces look like and how they go together in the final garment. So I designed this bra for them to make in the class

This is not the usual bra I have beginners make, but I knew they would be up to the challenge! Monday, they started by laminating fabric to the frame, then sewing elastics to the frame, making up the strap assembly, and sewing that in place. 

Once the band was all assembled, they started on their cups. By the end of the first day, they even had their cut & sew cups together!

Tuesday they finished the bra in the morning so they were happy about that! What a great bunch of sewists!

But the drafting part is where I could see their eyes lighting up! You could tell the draft was making sense to them

At noon, I went across the street to the Lansdowne Mall where 7 out of 12 vendors in the Food Court were Asian..I'm in heaven! This was a bento box with tempura, sushi, salad and a chicken and veggie stir fry...together on one plate! While it was "really" too much for lunch, I perservered and ate it all!

Friday afternoon, the fun didn't stop, as Heather brought in cream puffs, freshly made at the Aberdeen mall! Then the students gave me this. What a great group!

To top of the week, Heather,and I and Ashley (Heather's friend from Hamilton's very own Teeny Weeny Bikini CompanyWe went on a tour around Vancouver, stopping at Stanley Park along the way for beautiful views like these

Can you believe it? They have flowers blooming! it's the end of February, for crying out loud!

Needless to say, it was a wonderful week. I am happy to be going home but for my week here, Ashley says it best...

February 24, 2016

On the job with a bra-making instructor

A second video made by the Canadian Press, and again, I totally missed it on You Tube!
Students Holly, Sophie, Julia, Jessie and Adrienne to name just a few, and our own staff member, Rebecca. You guys are stars!

Bra-maker teaches how to create a perfect fit

I don't know how I missed this interview by the Canadian Press on You Tube! But there may be some students (and staff!) you may recognize!

February 19, 2016

Continuous Bias Strips Made Easy

This is not a trick that is strictly bra-related however every now and then you might have a use for making miles of bias stripping (think decorative bias trim on corsets, perhaps or in home dec such as upholstery, slipcovers, valances or cushions) You "could" cut the strips then sew them together one by one, but why would you? I have a method where you can sew one seam, then cut all the strips in one glorious, continuous length. Curious? let's get started!

Start with a piece of fabric for the strips half as long as it is wide. So here the fabric is 54" (137 cm) wide (normal width for home dec fabrics) so this piece is 27" (70 cm) long. Fold it in half with right sides together so it becomes a square as shown.

Mark if you need to, but sew and serge (or zig-zag) the three open edges. I have these marked with chalk but that is because it is hard to see on black. Blame my friend Judy! (She needs this bias strip for piping she is using for a hall bench cushion.)

Now cut off the 4 corners at an angle. Don't be shy about cutting corners, you need to be able to get a scissor blade in the hole.

Now mark across from one corner hole to the corner hole opposite. I mark this line in chalk

Cut through ONE layer only! Disaster will befall those who cut through both layers.

Disaster averted! Once the top layer is cut, grab each side of the cut line and pull away from you until the whole thing forms a giant tote bag.

That's the hard part! Everyone gets to the cutting one layer step, then they freeze and don't go any further! As long as your bag looks something like this, you are on the right track! There is one open long side, and two sides and the bottom on a fold.

Now cut through the bottom fold (the long one opposite the open top) Judy is pointing at the one you cut

Just stick the scissor blade into the hole at the corner and cut!

Done! Your fabric should resemble a giant tube open at top and bottom

Now's the time to press the 3 seams in the same direction - this will make sewing piping much easier!

Now mark one end down from the fold (doesn't matter which one) about 8-10" (20-25 cm) and draw a line across from top to bottom (cut end to cut end)

On the bottom edge, it is pretty ragged looking. Lets cut off that bottom ragged edge and make a nice straight line perpendicular to the folds on the ends. No need to do the top edge.

Determine how wide you want your strips. You can wrap the cloth around the piping cord and mark the width you need, allowing one half inch for the seam allowances. In this case, the mark measured to 2" 95 cm)

Now we draw lines  2" (5 cm) apart from the line you drew across the short side all the way to the other folded end
Now cut along the lines to (but not past) the line across the short direction. You are cutting through both layers. Judy is indicating the no-trespass line.

This is called the Octopus! Attached at the top end but cut through the bottom. If you cut all the way through the no-trespass line, your octopus will become calamari rings!

Lay the octopus back on the table and flatten the area out that was not cut. For the first time you do this, mark each cut 1,2,3 etc. on both sides starting with 1 at the first cut. Once you have done this, you won't ever need to mark the numbers again.

Chalk a line from cut 1 to cut 2, cut 2 to cut 3 etc, off-setting each line to the next higher number. You can taper the first cut to nothing, keeping the width of the strip at 2" (5 cm) as long as you can.

Cut all the lines, making sure you don't cut through any layers of fabric that might wander into the path of the blades.

At each end of the long bias strip, there will be the tapered ends that were the beginning and end of the offset cuts. Cut off the tapered bits

Now you can measure how much continuous bias stripping you were able to make with 27" of fabric. Judy was astonished to discover we made 16.8 yards (15.5 metres) of stripping 2" (5 cm) wide!

So the next time you have miles of bias binding, think about this easy method. In fact, you can use a scrap of fabric and try this out at home. All you need is fabric half as long as it is wide!

February 16, 2016

Make your Bra a Longline Bra

I get asked all the time about when a longline pattern is going to come out in the Pin-up Girls line. It isn't likely to be anytime soon as I have lots of "other" bra patterns in my brain struggling to spring forth! But the truth is, you already have the skills to make your own longline bra, as long as you have a bra pattern that fits you can make your own longline  very easily!

I did a newsletter tutorial about this at the beginning of February, but here is a little more detail about the process!

If you have made a bra before, you can do this!

Lets' start with what pattern to use as a base. The best is a full band bra such as the Classic Bra

or the Shelley Bra if you have that one...

Or if you prefer pre-formed cups, you could use the Amanda/Alyssa pattern

As long as there is a band that runs under the cups here, you have what you need. Let's get started!

You'll need the front frame and the back band pieces

Decide how far under the bottom of the wire bowl you want the edge of the longline to finish.
Even a couple of inches lower than it currently sits makes a good longline, but it could go to the waist if you want.

Tape the band and frame pieces together at the side seam as if they were sewn. That means you overlap the edges twice the seam allowance width. That would be 1/2" overlap for patterns using 1/4" seams (mine are 1/4") You will be treating this as one unit from here on.

Trace around the pattern on a piece of paper. Then, slide the pattern down to the desired amount, keeping the centre front line straight.

Straighten out the bottom edge, or keep a gentle curve

Separate the band from the frame again, adding the seam allowances along the added side seams.

Since you are only altering the frame and the back band, you can use any style of cups  in the longline. Remember, though that this method isn't for a partial band bra like Linda or Sharon. Only a full band bra can use this method.

Construction of a longline is no different than sewing a regular bra, although you may want to increase the width of the bottom band elastic, which helps to hold the bottom edge in place. Some will use boning inside a casing along the side seams, but that is a matter of personal preference.

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it? Have you made a longline bra yet? I'd love to hear about it, and I would certainly love to see it posted to our Facebook page!

February 14, 2016

Sewing Bras: Foam, Lace & Beyond

See the trailer from my latest Craftsy class here! The team at Craftsy makes me look so good!

Horizontal Hocus Pocus

As promised in this last post, I am sharing with you how to convert your Classic Bra to a horizontal seamed cup. If you want to do that, stay with me for background theory.

There are hundreds of thousands of styles of bras in ready-to-wear, yet each of them is different from the others in some way. Let's not consider the fit for a moment, but the style lines of the cups alone themselves of bras can make the bra look entirely different from another bra brand or even within the same brand. Style lines = seamlines!

Seamlines in a bra can take on any number of configurations but generally speaking there are three major categories - Diagonal, Horizontal and Vertical. Seamlines must cross the apex (except in one notable bra style) and are named from their uppermost originating point.

In the case of the Classic Bra, its uppermost seam originates in the underarm area, crosses the apex and ends in the wire line. But a diagonal seam doesn't have to be exactly like the Classic to still be considered a diagonal seam. As you can see from the coloured lines, any one of these can be a diagonal seam, and each would create a bra with different style lines than another.

It is the same with a horizontal seam. Although the uppermost seamline starts in the wire line and ends in the wire line, the lines can be angled higher or lower toward the front.

Why would anyone want a horizontal seamed cup?
  • Horizontal seaming is the best choice for support for the larger bust
  • Horizontal seams offer the most opportunities for shaping
  • Horizontal seams offer the most opportunities for reducing the cup for an Omega breast
  • Horizontal seams  are the seams of choice for a strapless bra cup
  • Horizontal seams  are the seams of choice for a balconette cup
  • You can have the roundest cup with a horizontal seam
  • Below the horizontal seam, you can split the cup into multiple lower cups
Wanna have one? Let's get started!

In my book, The Bra-makers Manual volume 1, I show how to use cut-and-sew foam to create a 3-D cup, then cut it apart to make other style lines. That method works very well, especially on style lines that are complex, such as a baseball cup. But sometimes you just want a simple seam line change and you don't want to waste your cut & sew foam. I get it. This is how to do it on paper. 

First trace your Classic Bra upper and lower cups and remove the 1/4" seam allowances from the cross cup seams.

Then draw straight lines from the apex notch to the edges of the cup. You should have 4 straight lines. Label them as shown here. Lines 1 and 2 should be equal in length and so should 3 and 4. Now cut off the curved bits and put them aside for now

Now decide where you want the new line. You can try on the Classic bra, and mark the place where you think you'd like the seamline. Generally you want the line in the front lower on the body than the line at the underarm.

Check out these two cups that are identical except for the seamline orientation. The one at the top has the seam in the front lower than the side - the one below has the seam lower on the side. The horizontal line on the second drawing is going to interfere with the trim around the neckline edge (too much going on in that small area) but the whole cup looks "sad", like a frowny face for your boobs.

I wanted the new front seamline about half-way along the front edge. I drew the line to the apex, then cut off that triangle and move it to the lower cup. I have transferred the paper from the upper to the lower cup.

Next I do the same with the outside of the cup. I transferred some of the lower cup to the upper cup

Now it is time to put the curves back! In most cases, the curves you took off the Classic Bra diagonal cup will fit very nicely on a horizontal cup. This is what it looked like when I put the curves back.

You may have to smooth out the curves, but it is important to remember that you are not adding or removing volume, just shifting the seam line within the same volume of cup. You will find that the lower cup now almost always looks like a football! On the upper cup, you will always have two short edges above the cross cup seam.

Add your seam allowances back on the cross cup seam and you are ready to cut out your new horizontal cup! Maybe you will make a Heather bra like we did for the Craftsy class Sewing Bras: Foam, lace & Beyond...

Or make one like Linda of Uplift Custom Bras did using an alternate colour way! Linda does such an incredible job on her bras - I often cannot tell them apart from very expensive RTW!