June 15, 2016

How to Sew Bras with your Feet

National Sewing Machine Day was June 13.  Can you believe it's been nearly 200 years already? Where does the time go?

But which date do you accept as the official beginning? British cabinet-maker and inventor, Thomas Saint, received the first patent for a design of a sewing machine in 1790. However no evidence of it, other than his drawings could be found, so it is doubtful that it was ever actually produced.  In 1874, William Newton Wilson found the patent drawings in the London Patent Office, made adjustments and built a working model. This model is currently owned by the London Science Museum. Lesson learned. If you are going to the trouble of obtaining a patent on something, be sure you actually have plans to produce it!Across the pond, Walter Hunt invented the first lockstitch (straight stitch) sewing machine in 1832 but 10 years later in 1842 John Greenborough patented his design (so one fella invented it but the other fella patented it!)
Not surprisingly, this week's post is about sewing machines...or more specifically the presser feet we use with them. And drilling down to the core...presser feet we use for bra-making

QUARTER INCH FOOT
Every quilter knows what this foot is - the foot that keeps them on the straight and narrow. But it's not just quilters that use 1/4" seam allowances - we bra-makers use them too! Once you embrace the unfamiliar narrowness of the 1/4" seam, you will embrace its accuracy and its ease of use.

There are as many quarter inch feet as there are machines that use them - maybe even more. Several machine brands have more than one style of quarter inch foot. But they all have something in common - the width from the needle to the right hand edge of the foot is one-quarter inch (6 mm) As long as you keep the fabric aligned with the right hand edge, you will sew a perfect 1/4" seam, curved or straight.
Here's a reminder from one who has "been there and done that". You can only use a straight stitch with a quarter inch foot! Don't try to switch to a zig-zag without changing your foot. It will not go well for you! But you knew that...didn't you?

EDGESTITCHING FOOT
My mature eyes, and the bi-focals that came with them, unannounced, cannot handle black thread on black fabric, if not for the edge-stitching foot. I’m afraid my topstitching would resemble a drunkard’s path on a Saturday night. I could live without a 1/4” foot,  but not an edge-stitching foot. I have gotten quite good at seeing the “right” width for the seam allowances; I just can’t see to topstitch on dark fabrics anymore. Ah...the "golden years".

The edge-stitching foot is also known as an edge-joining foot or the stitch-in-a-ditch foot. Whatever it is called, it has a bar that sits in the middle and you ride this bar in the well of the seam or on the edge of the fabric if you are stitching near the edge. Some have a movable bar (like the centre one below) in which case you can adjust the small wheel for tiny adjustments. However, most have a fixed metal and you are expected to move the machine needle. This can cause a problem if your machine has only a few needle positions.
Quilters keep the machine needle in the middle position to do stitch-in-a-ditch. However bra-makers will move the needle slightly to the right or the left to keep the topstitching of the cross cup seam absolutely perfect. 

ZIPPER FOOT
A zipper foot? Seriously - bra-makers need a zipper foot? Yes, we do! Some bras use a zipper in the front (like my Alison sports bra) but mostly we use the zipper foot when we have to get super close to something else. A quarter inch foot is way too wide...and an edge-stitching foot may still not get you close enough. Enter (with a big TA-DA!) the lowly zipper foot!

As in the other feet, there are several types of zipper feet. My favorite type is one that allows you to stitch right up to the edge while still holding the fabric firm. I do love the adjustable (or sliding) zipper foot that everyone over 45 remembers from their home economics classroom. The wheel on the back allows you to move the foot to exactly where you need it. This is exactly what you need when you are sewing on hooks and eyes, or sewing the busk of a corset. No other foot will allow you to stitch right up to the metal.
The foot in the  centre above is almost useless for bra-making in my opinion.

NOT A FOOT, BUT A GUIDE
There is one small item that I use that keeps me stitching parallel to the edge of the fabric. The Sewing Edge is a simple piece of PVC (or some such plastic-y substance) that sticks to your sewing machine bed and keeps your seam allowances exact. Place it  where the edge of the fabric will run and it will stick until you remove it. It's that simple!

Some would argue that this notion could take the place of the quarter inch foot since it can keep you stitching an even seam allowance. In fact, some might say that it could also replace the edge stitching foot as well. Why? Its thickness keeps the fabric where it belongs, which allows you to stitch right next to the edge, such as topstitching around a collar, for example. However while this handy guide will do those things, it won't do everything. Its best purpose is to keep you stitching parallel to the edge when the edge is far from the needle.
 When you lay the fabric up to it, the thickness of the Sewing Edge keeps the fabric running smoothly but it is not so thick that it gets in the way or your hands or any snips that might be around. I use it a lot when I am making swimsuit straps with elastic inside. The stitching has to be exactly parallel to the edge of the fabric otherwise the strap looks wavy.
So there you have it, sewing bras with three feet! Do you have these feet in your collection? Which ones do you rely on for bra-making?

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