April 29, 2016

Happy National Zipper Day!

Today is National Zipper Day. And it is high time someone recognized its true worth and give the zipper its own National Day.  It's been a long way up for the humble zipper, the mechanical wonder that has kept so much in our lives together. Today in the garment industry, we take the zipper for granted but did you know it has been around for only 80 years?
The following information is paraphrased from Wikipedia and About.com, with a few comments of my own.
Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine received a patent in 1851 for an 'Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.' Howe's device was more like an elaborate draw-string than a true slide fastener. Perhaps it was the success of the sewing machine, which caused Elias not to pursue marketing his clothing closure (as in...don't give up your day job, Elias) As a result, Howe missed his chance to become the recognized 'Father of the Zip.'
Whitcomb Judson's Clasp Locker
Forty-four years later, Mr. Whitcomb Judson marketed a 'Clasp Locker' a device similar to the 1851 Howe patent. Being first to market the idea gave Whitcomb the credit of being the 'Inventor of the Zipper', However, his 1893 patent did not use the word zipper. 
The Chicago inventor's 'Clasp Locker' was a complicated hook-and-eye fastener intended for shoes, shown at right.  he and a partner formed the Universal Fastener Company. The clasp locker made its public debut at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair but unfortunately met with little commercial success.
Swedish-born Gideon Sundback, an electrical engineer, was hired to work for the Universal Fastener Company. Good design skills and a marriage to the plant-manager's daughter Elvira Aronson led Sundback to the position of head designer at Universal. He was responsible for improving the far from perfect  fastener.  Unfortunately, Elvira died in 1911. The grieving husband busied himself at the design table and by December of 1913, he had designed the modern zipper. (grieving affects people differently, doesn't it?)  Sundback retained his non-US patent rights and used these to set up the Lightning Zipper Company in St. Catharines Ontario (!) This common misconception led to the belief that the zipper was a Canadian invention.
Gideon Sundback increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or eleven, had two facing-rows of teeth that pulled into a single piece by the slider, and increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider. The patent for the 'Separable Fastener' was issued in 1917. Sundback also created the continuous zipper chain manufacturing machine for the new zipper. Within the first year of operation, Sundback's zipper-making machinery was producing a few hundred feet of fastener per day.
The popular 'zipper' name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, when they decided to use Gideon's fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes and renamed the device the zipper, the name that lasted. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took twenty more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments. (why so long, guys?)
In the 1930's, a sales campaign began for children's clothing featuring zippers. The campaign praised zippers for promoting self-reliance in young children by making it possible for them to dress in self-help clothing. (because mothers are busy enough) 

The zipper beat out the button in the 1937 in the "Battle of the Fly," when French fashion designers raved over zippers in men's trousers. Esquire magazine declared the zipper the "Newest Tailoring Idea for Men" and among the zippered fly's many virtues was that it would exclude "The Possibility of Unintentional and Embarrassing Disarray." (Obviously, the new zippered trouser owners had not yet discovered the experience of forgetting to zip-up)

The next big boost for the zipper came when zippers could open on both ends, as on jackets. Today the zipper is everywhere (yes, we use them on some bras, too!) Thousands of zipper miles produced daily, meet the needs of consumers, thanks to the early zipper inventors.
Happy Zipper Day! Make a zipper happy today by sewing one in a garment!

April 26, 2016

Get Started in Bra-making!

If you are new to Bra-making, here are some blog posts that will get you started! Just click on the link to take you to the individual posts. Don't worry about losing this page - each link will open in a new window!

A Bra that fits
No matter who makes them, your bras need to fit. Find out what good fit is all about...

Why would I make my own bra?
Yes, you CAN make your own bras? But why, you ask? Here's the reasons why...

Determine your Pattern Size
How to measure for your bra size - 4 methods...

Canadian Bandstand
The issues surrounding band sizes according to different manufacturers and countries...

Determine your Wire Size
Learn to use the wire charts on our website to find the best wire size for you...

Underwire Size Chart
If you know your bra pattern size, use this chart to find the right wire size...

Bra-making Supply List
First time bra-maker? Here's the list of the necessary bits you need to get started...

Tipping Wires
Wires too long? Here's how to shorten them and keep them from poking through...

April 24, 2016

Bra-making in your Pajamas!

If you are hesitant to start bra-making on your own, why not take an online class with the Fairy Bra Mother herself, in these top-selling classes through Craftsy. Once you buy the class, you can access the class to watch anytime,  forever!

The first class, Sewing Bras: Construction & Fit is where to start! Everything you need to know to make your first full-band bra. learn to measure, construct and fit this bra, with a bonus of some designer touches! We have the lowest price Craftsy can offer, especially for blog readers!

Once you have made a bra that fits, it's time to ramp up your bra-making skills.  In Sewing Bras: Designer Techniques, you will learn dozens of new techniques for modifying your bra pattern with techniques like you see in expensive ready-to-wear!

Ready to work with Lace edging? How about making a foam bra? Whether you want fabulous foam, or luscious lace (or both) you'll find out how in Sewing Bras: Foam, Lace & Beyond 

We haven't forgotten about swimwear either!  In Sewing Swimwear: the Supportive One-Piece, you will learn to measure and choose fabrics, construct and fit two styles of swimsuits. Best of all, learn to make and insert two types of built-in bras!

You'll need supplies too. Here's a link to our website at www.bramakers.com We have everything you need to make bras, swimwear, panties and corsets (and a lot more!)

Finally...here's our other social media, where you will find lots of information on the fascinating world of bra-making! Be sure to follow us so you don't miss a thing!

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,  Pinterest and You Tube (yes, we have a channel!)

Alpha to Omega

You may have found that you buy a bra only to find that the wire is way out toward your underarm and pokes you? Or after a few hours (or minutes) the wire slides down your rib cage. Often, there is a flat area of fabric next to the wire where the breast does not fill the cup. Yet the rest of the cup away from the wire line seems to be filled up.You can see that in this photo where the wrinkles indicate there is no breast in that area.

Maybe your breasts are an Omega shape, a term I coined when I wrote the Bra-makers Manual Volume 2. Sure enough, the Omega breast is shaped like the Greek letter omega when viewed from the top down.

The Omega shape is smaller at the base (or root) than than the breast it supports. The normal thoracic shaping is the dotted line and the omega shape is the solid line. 

If you look at at the breast from the side, the wire in the bra will pull back into the underarm area by the tension on the band. When you take the bra off, you can see the red mark where the wire sits outside the wire line crease (photo courtesy of Mrs. Weavers Finest blog)

The Omega shape is most pronounced on a proportionately small frame with large cup sizes. It can occur on someone who has lost a lot of weight in that area. It may happen on someone...dare I say...older, who has lost of the muscle tone in the breast area. Some Omegas are flaccid but others are dense and firm. It is a shape most challenging to fit. 

Often Omegas "solve" the problem by purchasing RTW bras of a flimsy knit fabric, so that the wire more or less fits and the cup fabric (they hope) is stretchy enough to fit over the breast. As we all know by now, stretchy fabrics offer no support, so this is not a good solution. 

One RTW company I know of makes bras specifically for the Omega breast (Ewa Michalak), but they are out of Poland. So I bought one. You can see how small the base is compared to the size of the cup.

I measured this bra to be between a 40G and a 40H in our sizing (100HH in their sizing) with a Bottom Cup Depth of 6.25". In my Pin-up Girls patterns, the wire for that size is a #52 shown with the black tip below. But the wire from that bra (the yellow tip) is much, much smaller and a lot taller on the side! On an Omega, that wire would fit and so would the bra cup!  However, on someone who is not an Omega, they would find that wire painful to say the least.

The wire actually measures to the same diameter as our #42.  I've shown them off-set here, but you can see that even though both wires are the same diameter (size 42), theirs is much longer on the underarm side than our Super Long wire, the longest we have!

If you are two or three wire sizes smaller  than what the pattern calls for, you need to use a smaller frame to fit the smaller wire. Let's say your pattern is a 38H. In my Classic Bra pattern, a 38H uses a 50 Extra Long wire. But if you are a 44 wire, that's 3 wire sizes smaller. If you use the wires that are 3 sizes smaller without changing the cup, the cup will not fit correctly and you may have a flat area of fabric between the wire and the breast.

The solution is to use a frame to fit the underwire size and then fit the larger cup into the smaller frame. First use a frame in your band size that is designed and sized for a 44 wire. Refer to the back of the pattern and you will see that 38E uses a 44 wire. That’s the frame you will use with the 38H cups. 

Now, if you are an experienced bra-maker, you will soon realize that a 38H cup will not fit a 38E frame. Why? Because the seam line that connects the cup to the frame will be too long. How much too short? The easiest was to find out what you are missing (and where) is to baste together a test cup into a test frame, starting from the bottom notch A and working toward the ends. What is left over at the front and the side is the amount you need to shrink. The amounts at the front and the side may not be equal, so it is best to start from the bottom and work up.

Once you find out how much extra you have on the front and the side, remove the basting. Now you need to shrink the length of the cup's wire line only. In other words, we need to keep the overall volume of the cup the same but shrink its perimeter to fit the frame. However, the shrinkage needs to occur below the apex. More specifically, If we imagine the breast is like a clock, the "shrinkage zone" will be from about 3:00 to 9:00 

You can shrink the perimeter of the cup in several ways.

Gathers are best when you have one or two wire sizes to shrink, or when there is no seaming within the shrinkage zone. Run a gathering line around the wire line, and pull the threads up gently so that the frame and cup wire lines match in length. The larger cup will now sew into the smaller frame. Strive to sew it so there are no puckers. This is very similar to easing in a sleeve cap. Steam the seamline afterward and the gathers will almost disappear. 

Small darts are best if you have one to three sizes to shrink. You can draw and sew a series of small darts in the shrinkage zone. Keep the darts total length about 1 - 1.5".  If you sew the darts with legs curved inward rather than straight legs of most garment darts, you will find they virtually disappear into the fabric.

The best way to shrink the wire line 2 or more wire sizes is to hide the shrinkage in the seamlines. This means you need seamlines to work with within the shrinkage zone. You should always consider at the very least, a horizontally seamed bra with a split lower cup for an Omega, better still would be multiple piece lower cups. The more seaming there is, the more shaping can be added. You can also combine small darts with seaming.

April 19, 2016

Wanna see something truly magical?

Not very much in the fabric world is news to me - when you've been around fabric and sewing for ...well, let's just say a really long time, you see fabrics come and go. The 50s and 60s were the time for development of synthetic yarns. One of those yarns was polyester and nothing epitomized polyester to the home sewer than Crimplene.

Most often Crimplene was made into simple dresses such as this one. Yes, I thought I was super cool wearing this dress to the school sock hops (girls were not allowed to wear pants to school and you were sent home to change if you did)

This new fabric had a lot going for it - you could wash it in the machine and no ironing. It never creased , wrinkled or frayed. No more tiresome seam finishes! However, the clothes (and school uniforms in some areas) made from this fabric were hot, and I mean... sweat like crazy hot! There are lots of sewists who are turned off polyester today due to their memories of sweating in Crimplene. And women in hot and sticky climates - I can't imagine what you went through!

Give us cotton - a proven hot weather fabric, we say! Right? Well, not so fast. Cotton, being a natural fibre will be cooler than a synthetic but... you will still sweat in cotton, especially if you are working out. But nothing we can do about that, right? We still want cotton!

Actually, now there is a new cotton kid on the block and I am happy to say this  is not your grandmother's cotton. This is Active Cotton by Kinisi, developed by Kinisi Athletics for their line of sportswear.

This truly moisture moving fabric is unlike anything I have seen. I sprinkled some water on a piece of fabric on the purl side (the side that would be facing my body if I were wearing a T-shirt). The water beaded up but did not penetrate the fabric, yet it slowly disappeared. Where did it go? The fabric itself showed no water mark.

I turned the fabric over to the knit side (the "outside" of the t-shirt) and here's what I saw.

I couldn't believe it, so I turned it back over again. No water! Like magic, the wet area did not stay on the side that would touch my body!

I am proud to be working with this company to develop some garments from this remarkable cotton fabric. But I asked them...would they allow us to make this fabric available to the home sewist? After all, it's not often we get the same fabrics they use in a ready-to-wear line, is it? They agreed and now we have it at Bra-makers Supply!

It's in 10 glorious colours including colours that match our Duoplex (Platinum, Fuchsia, Red, Royal and Black). The 95% cotton and 5% spandex fabric is 58-60" wide and in stock now. The code number is FC-75. Colours from top to bottom:

  • Off-white
  • Deep Coral
  • Fuchsia
  • Red
  • Ice Blue
  • Royal Blue
  • Aqua Green (also called Spearmint)
  • Platinum (mid tone grey)
  • Black
  • Silver (light grey)

April 15, 2016

Once Upon a Time - the White Vintage Bra

I've been doing some blog posts on inside the Craftsy bras, but this time, lets have a look at a vintage bra that a student brought in to me. It is very enlightening to see how far we've come! I love seeing how the construction was handled and sometime I clone the bra to see the design and how the parts are shaped.

Once upon a time, back in the 1960s there was no foam for bra cups. Can you imagine such a thing? So what did they (by that I mean "we") use back then? We used fiberfill, cousin to quilt batts and upholstery wadding! Dacron was the fibre of choice which, as I recall, had an itch factor in a class of its own.

Here is a white vintage bra lined with Dacron fiberfill. And true to the style of the day, check out the points on those cups!

Here's a close up of the cups. That lace is rigid, so nothing is going to move! But in spite of the pointed cups, the cups look round in this photo. I assure you, that bra had bullet shaped cups!

This was the typical strap attachment with a short strap fastening to the upper cup  and a
slide-lock for the adjustable straps. You actually put the long ends of the straps inside the bra at the front!

Here's a better picture of the slide lock. We sell this one for those who want the adjusters up front or want the authentic vintage look.

As in most of the bras of the day, this one has a seam running across the bust point, but also a vertical seam, dividing the breast into 4 parts. You can barely see the cross cup seam here.

The back band had been altered with a dart in the left side of the photo. Interesting to note, that even then, we had to made adjustments in ready-to-wear for our own unique bodies. Notice too, that the back band has no stretch - that rigid lace goes all the way to the back hook and eye. Remember, spandex was still 10 years in the future!

You can also see the twill tape sewn behind the straps. This is one rugged bra!

Have you a vintage bra in your collection? Does anyone except me collect vintage bras? If so, I would love to have photos of it inside and out to feature on this blog for others to enjoy!

April 11, 2016

Behind the Seams - Navy Multiple Strap Bra

Time for another peek Behind the Seams! This time, a close-up look at what I call the Navy Multiple strap bra. This bra was featured in the Craftsy class Sewing Bras: Designer Techniques (I can't believe there are 30 different techniques in that class!)

Before we get to the obvious use of multiple straps - let's have a look at the inside. There's a Gothic Arch on the bridge! And you can just see - there is NO neckline trim, but it looks to be a seam...what's up with that? Notice too that the channels have a bartack at the front - that's because the trifecta kicked in! (more about that shortly)

Also that pink lining is actually a pocket for extra padding.

So the features of this bra include
  • 2 ply seamed upper cup
  • Gothic arch on the bridge
  • Pocket on the lower cup to insert padding
  • Thin multiple straps
  • The trifecta in action
I might also draw your attention to the fact that while the outside of the bra is navy, the elastics are pink but yet, no thread shows through to the other side. Experienced sewists might know right away we used pink on top and navy in the bobbin to sew these elastics, but new bra-makers might not know to do that. It's one of those details that sets a professional quality bra apart from the "loving hands at home" category. You may have to adjust your tension slightly to keep the colour from showing through to the opposite side.

The upper cup was cut as a straight top instead of the usual with the strap tab, and cut as 4 instead of 2.

Then we made the tiny multiple straps. In this case we used duoplex which is firm enough that when made into these tiny tubes will resist stretching. The tubes are cut 4 times the desired with, folded in half lengthwise, then each raw edge is folded toward the middle. OR...you can use a 1/2" tape maker such as this to make the tubes, then fold them in half.

By the way, don't cut these on the bias - cut the tubes with the DoGS running with the short side.Make 3 for each side

Line up the small tubes on the cup but in 3/8" from the edge to allow room for the underarm elastic. Space the tubes 1/4" apart and at an angle something like this so they will be directed to the shoulders and not your neck! (If you have the Craftsy class, there is a template for this in the class materials list)

Only after sewing them to the bra will you attempt to wrangle them into the slider! I like to use three 1/4" straps as then they will fit nicely into a 3/4" slider! Also this is where you would sew the second layer of the upper cup to the neckline.

The seam is understitched to the lining side (the inside) so it stays behind the top layer at all times. Understitching is not topstitching - with understitching, no stitches show on the outside fabric.

Now that the upper cups are done, lets talk about the trifecta! A trifecta is a term that indicates a run of three wins or grand events. In the case of bra-making - the three grand events are the finishing of the neckline, the top of the bridge and the straps. (Don't you love how I take words from the "outside" world and bring it home to us? lol)

If any one of the three areas is finished, you must finish the other two before they can be sewn together. Since the neckline is finished, I had to also make sure the straps were finished before I sewed them to the neckline and I must also finish the top of the bridge. I like to use a lining piece sewed to the bridge and turned to the inside (and that leaves a nice clean edge).

Here's a tip - if the neckline is finished with lace, or seamed as this navy one, the channel must be finished as shown here - the channel ends and the bartack are exposed.

Compare to the  Classic Bra  where the neckline trim is applied and turned over the channel ends. I show it here right before the neckline trim is turned. In this case, the bartack will be almost hidden by the neckline trim.

Let's look at the pocket for the padding. The pocket is made from the lower cup pattern, with some of the underarm end cut shorter and hemmed with a zig-zag or a 3 step zig-zag so the pad can be inserted. Make sure the fabric is stretchy so the pad can be wrestled into the space!

So that is the Navy Multiple Straps Bra! If you have any favourite bras from the Craftsy classes, or from RTW that you would to see Behind the Seams, please be sure to let me know in the comments. I really do read them, and I love doing this series!