March 30, 2016

Behind the Seams - the Giraffe Print Bra

I've received several emails about the "Craftsy bras", or more specifically, the bras that were made for and featured on my Craftsy classes. I guess people want to see them close up and in more detail than was shown in the filming of the classes. So I am doing a series of blog posts I'm going to call "Behind the Seams" starting with this giraffe print bra from Sewing bras: Foam. Lace & Beyond

Here's the features of this bra:

  • cups are made of cut & sew foam
  • cup cover is a seamed stretchy giraffe print
  • cups are a partial band and demi cup style
  • strap area has been extended upward and is a curve
  • neckline edge features a roll-over finish
  • straps are attached to the front with slider
  • slider used as adornment on front bridge
  • back band is two ply

Let's start by looking at the pattern preparation. How about that curvy strap tab and demi-style neckline edge? In order to prepare the strap tab area for the slider connector, we need to change up the strap tab area of the pattern. Your pattern for the upper cup may look like this - the strap tab is clearly too short and too wide to accept a slider or other connector. We need to add some height to the tab but also narrow its width so it can fit into the slider.

We do that by drawing a line from the apex notch to the mid point of the strap as shown here below at the left. Then draw a line parallel to the strap about 1" (25 mm) above the original. The new strap tab width will be the width of the slider you are using plus 2 seam allowances. In my case, that would be 5/8" slider + (2 x 3/8" elastics) = 5/8" + 3/4" = 1 1/4" (or 15mm + 9 + 9 mm= 33 mm - SO much easier in mm!)

We also wanted a demi-cup in this bra. That means the bra is shorter in the front - which means you need shorter wires.  I like to work with wires in available sizes so I don't have to cut them. I mean, I realize that they aren't difficult to cut however why cut them when there are so many perfect lengths in stock? At Bra-makers Supply, our wires are sized incrementally, both in diameter and length , with 15 mm or 5/8" being the increments between the front tips of most of the wires. In other words, there is 15 mm (5/8") between the height of the Extra Long and the Long, and 15 mm between the Long and the Regular. Those 3 wires - Extra Long, Long and Regular have exactly 15 mm difference in the height of the front tips (assuming you are in the same size wire of course!)

So if I am already using an Extra Long wire in my bra, and I want to make a demi, I will use the Regular length wire in the same diameter and that will allow the front of my bra to be lowered by 1 1/4" (30 mm) without having to cut a wire. Is 1 1/4" enough to make a demi cut? Yes, it is! That amount is a LOT in that small area! Even 5/8" is a LOT to lower (you many want to start with that!) Once I've decided on the wire length I am using, I need to shorten both the bridge and the upper cup by the difference between the original wire height and the new wire height, in this case 1 1/4" (the difference between the Extra Long and the regular wire)

I need to lower the front edge of the upper cup as well. Notice that I used a gentle curve to  keep the amount of coverage over the breast mound. I love the look of a lowered front, but...I don't want to girls to hop out! Keeping some of the breast mound curve will prevent that from happening. The front will be lowered but I still maintain a full coverage cup - the best of both worlds, in my opinion!

Now let's look at the actual construction. The cut & sew foam is our FF-30 pre-finished foam padding also called poly-laminate foam, foam sheeting, or foam by the yard - and it's in the ivory colour. We sewed it together at the cross cup with a regular zig-zag (usually the width is about 3 mm and the length about 1-5-2 mm) This is where testing the stitch on a scrap pays off - you don't want the stitches to stretch the foam, but you don't want to see daylight through the seam either!

You can clearly see the roll-over finish on the top (neckline) edge. We allowed 1/2" (12 mm) for the turn-over allowance so we would end up with a 6 mm showing of fabric. This is cut & sew foam so I tend to use a wider roll-over on the edge. If this were a pre-formed foam cup, I would use a smaller seam allowance and thus a smaller roll-over edge, but for cut & sew, the 1/4" ( 6 mm) edge rolls over well and lays nicely without waving or cupping, on this fabric and foam combination.

You can also see a slider used as a connector between the strap and the cup. The strap is made from 5/8" (15 mm) strap elastic. If I wanted a non-stretch strap but I still wanted to have the look of all-elastic straps, I would sew stable twill tape, or ribbon to the back of the front half of the strap (wouldn't velvet ribbon be luxurious?)

To add a bit of bling to the front, I put a slider on the bridge piece just before it was sewn to the bra. It is only decoration, but it's cute (and I did have one lone slider in my collection for some unexplained reason!)

In the above photo, you can also see the seam across the cup of the cover. I didn't topstitch this seam -  I liked the look of it without any stitching, and the fabric laid flat without it. Hey - stranger things have happened in the world of sewing!

This giraffe print was very stretchy (some would call it flimsy!) so it wasn't strong enough to use for the back band all alone. No problem. We lined the back band with power net and used the flimsy fabric over top. I spray basted the 2 layers together, treating them as one layer during the rest of the construction.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek behind the seams of this bra - there are lots more to come, I assure you! But before you ask...NO, there isn't any more of this print available! Sorry about that! But you know, there are LOTS of other suitable stretchy prints just waiting at your local fabric store!

March 25, 2016

"OLD" elastics are new again

We made a commitment over a year ago to have all the same style of band elastic available in our 14 stock colours. We chose the band elastic we knew would be good for all body types and for all sizes. 

That goal has now been realized with the arrival of our latest colours - grey (yes, it really is a nice grey and matches our duoplex and power net beautifully) and black cherry (burgundy). 

The elastics are firm and even the largest sizes will feel supported. The elastic does soften up upon washing but it never loses strength - just the stiffness from the manufacturing sizing process.

The style numbers on the "new" band elastics are as follows
EB-372 - 3/8" or 9 mm elastic
EB-472 - 1/2" or 12.5 mm elastic
EB-672 - 3/4" or 18 mm elastic

However, some of you wrote to ask if we were still going to carry the "old" style elastic, more specifically the EB-37 (3/8"), the EB-47 (1/2") and EB-67 (3/4"). The answer is YES. We have the "old" style back in stock in limited colours. But we have committed to carrying white, beige and black and the new stock has arrived!

This is great news for those of you who loved our "old" softer elastic but still want some colour choice. If the demand is there, we will carry more colours.

We are also pleased to announce the arrival of our men's underwear elastic! The picture does not do it justice at all! This 1.5" wide (37 mm) elastic is soft and thick, just perfect for making up a pair of the new supportive men's underwear. The product code for this elastic is EP-137.98 (available only in black)

The same elastic could also be used on the Kerri sports bra, along the bottom edge of any of the views offered in that pattern. You couldn't have to cover the elastic inside a tube of fabric either - as the elastic is nice enough to be exposed!

You could even use it on pajama bottoms! It is easy to sew on - just overlap the edge of the elastic over the fabric by 1/4" and use a three-step zig-zag (or even your cover stitch machine) to secure it. If you pull on the elastic just slightly as you are sewing, you will build in a bit of tension on the waistline for a more professional fit and look.

March 17, 2016

Top o' the mornin' to ya!

It is St. Patrick's Day and what better way to say it than with a beautiful Green bra! This is an unusual and vibrant colour but what the heck...after a long winter, we all want to see something green! And green it is! A Kelly Green balconette bra made of cut & sew foam, covered in duoplex and sexy black lace. The lace actually covers the seaming on the cups so it appears seamless.

Once again, Linda Crawford of Uplift Custom Bras made a bra that is exceptionally blog-worthy! She and Ollie watched my Craftsy Class, so Ollie was able to supervise!

She started by making the pattern - this time, she used my 3-D method of changing the style line. She cut off the seam allowances of her favourite bra pattern, the Shelley!

Why? So she could sew the cup totally from cut & sew foam! This makes a 3 dimensional copy of her bra cup. To do this in fabric isn't the same!

Then she marked and re-cut the foam into the shapes she wanted. In this case, she wanted the seam moved over a bit (the original lines are the zig-zagged lines) and the strap tab is going to be cut off in order to make the balcnette style.

Then she pinned out the foam allowing the foam to stretch out where the bumps are. If you don't do that, the cup will be too small!

Add the seam allowances after checking all the seams to make sure they are the same length.

Now she was ready to cut out the fabric and the foam. You can see the balconette style line runs along the top of the wire line at the side to the top of the wire line at the front, with no discernible strap attachment point. (That being the definition of a balconette bra btw) 

Once the cup was sewn with regular seams, and the foam was sewn with a zig-zag stitch, she was ready t put the two together. To attach the cover to the cups without using elastic, Linda used a roll-over finish along the neckline edge (shown at the bottom)

and then smoothed the cover over the foam. Look at those curves. Using the 3-D method of style changes keeps the curves in the right places.

Next the lace...check out the bunnies! Told ya it was a sexy black!

Position the lace over the cup, making sure it covers the seam across the cup. The lace is rigid so it won't stretch over the cup like you would want, so the next best thing to have the lace co-operate, is to hand pinch some pleats in strategic places. You only need a few. You can also dart the lace if you want, pinning the darts on the wrong side so it is easier to sew.

Once the cups are done, put the finished cups in a already finished band. I like sewing the band first when making cut & sew foam cups because if you try to sew the elastics on the band while the cups are sewn in place, you risk mangling the cups

All that's left to do is to apply the channel to the wire line. Look how thin that band is! And yes, that IS a full band bra!

Topstitching the channel. Linda and I both do this from the right side of the bra. it is so much neater that way! (Obviously, she paid attention in class!)

And here is the finished bra! many thanks to Linda (once again she produced a wonderful bra!) Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! 

March 06, 2016

Far far away - a SPIRITed day

Today we spent the day touring Barcelona, and what a day it was! Not one but two basilicas were on our list of must-see places here and they did not disappoint.  First was the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in the Gothic Quarter. The pictures do not do it justice at all. What gorgeous stained glass!
These windows were many stories high! You can see the glass elevators off to the left behind the column!

 Here is just a small part of the sculpture on the outside
Every inch of this structure was designed, sculptured, ornamented or otherwise decorated in stone, concrete, metal or glass in the early 20th century
Then we met up with our tour guide, Dave. We learned everything about the area around Barcelona, Catalonia and Montserrat, and in return he learned more than he wanted to know about bras, bra-making and bra-makers!
Off we went to Montserrat, the Benedictine monastery high in the serrated mountains near Barcelona

The original monastery was built in 1025 but was rebuilt several times due to damage by wars, invaders and changes in politics. Today 63 monks live, work and pray here. They have a huge claim to fame with the Black Madonna found here, according to legend, in a cave in 880 by two small boys.
We went up in a cable car to the area of Saint Joan. At the top we could look out and see the Mediterranean Sea! Of course, way at the top of the mountain where you least expect it...there just happened to be a cat who photo bombed my picture of the mountains!
Here is the view coming down!
After visiting two very spiritual areas, we went to dinner at a beautiful restaurant not far from the hotel. There the waiter treated our group to a bottle of Cava, the local "champagne". We also had Cava Sangria, with orange, lemon and other juices and the Cava. 2 pitchers, thank you very much Rebecca and Sue! I don't normally drink, but this was a very spirited day...sorry...spiritual day!

Tomorrow we cruise!

March 04, 2016

Far, far away - the tapas tour

Our first day in beautiful Barcelona with our group of bra-makers. We joined some of the people from the quilting group to go on at a tapas tour.  Can you spot Rebecca, Margaret, Yolande and Denise in this picture?
What's that, you ask? Tapas is the Soanish word for bite size appetizers that you find in many bars, usually with a slice of baguette as a base and meat, fish or cheese on top. Some of them are quite lovely to look at!
Legend has it that Tapas started when workers went to restaurants, found they couldn't afford both food and drink, opted for drink only and couldn't work in the afternoon! So the law was struck that drinking establishments had to accompany the sale of alcohol with small plates of bread, cheese and meat or fish. Isn't that a great story? ( our guide, Judith, told us that!)

We went to three tapas restaurants as part of the tour. All of the restaurants were in the old Gothic quarter, home of some fabulous architecture

Really old buildings!

All three restaurants had quite different atmospheres as well as meanies. The final tapas bar had us play a drinking game that involved drinking without letting the container touch your lips! We all tried it...mine ran down my chin but I think Yolande had been practicing before we got here!

An apple liqueur shooter finished off the tour and 24 happy cruisers walked back to the hotel...I am sure some were singing along the way! I wonder what tomorrow's activities will bring?