May 26, 2016

Perfect Panty Gusset - Burrito Style

Ready to wear does some impressive sewing, like the enclosed gusset (we never call it a "crotch") on a pair of panties. Even inexpensive panties will have both ends of the gusset enclosed like this...

Why should we even want to enclose both ends? After all, we see ready to wear panties with one end left unsewn.

The most important reason is that with one end open, lint and fluff from the washer and dryer can get trapped in the pocket created by the open ended gusset. After all, this is the stuff you have to clean from your dryer - it's not unreasonable to assume that some of it can get trapped in the gusset. Yikes!

The other reason is purely for the pure joy of mastering an advance sewing technique, and when you do, you get that little rush of "YES!" afterward.

Here's my method of sewing a perfect, yet angst-free enclosed gusset! First lay out the pieces of the panty. Have the panty front closest to you with the right sides facing up and the gusset in the centre.

Now flip the gusset upward to the back of the panty with right sides together and pin the curved seam. You will be pinning an inward curve of the panty back to the outward curve of the gusset so it will look like this at the start of the seam...

See where the pin is? That is what I call a "dog ear" and it happens every time two angled seams are pinned or sewn together. The trick is to match the seams at the exact spot where the two fabrics intersect. But...the two fabrics must also intersect at the 1/4" seam line. So it is a definite skill to get it right...but you can do it!

Once the back gusset seam is pinned (no sewing yet!) lay the gusset back down so you can admire your work! And this is only pinned at this stage!

Now flip the front of the panty up to the gusset and pin the seam. On my panty pattern and in my book (Make & Fit Panties), the front gusset seam is a straight line. There is no need to have a curved seam in this area.

Now the real magic happens! Roll up the front of the panty (like a burrito or a jelly roll) so that the pinned seam is visible

Then roll down the back of the panty so the pinned seam is visible. It should look something like this...

Now pin the gusset lining, usually made of cotton jersey) right side down, to the pinned seams, removing each pin and replacing them as you pin the lining to both seams.

OK, now you can go the sewing machine and sew those two seams. You should use a straight stitch 2.5-2.6 mm long and pull the seam slightly as you sew (this is called the "stretch-and-sew method" of sewing stretch fabrics.) Alternately, you can serge the seams with a four thread overlock seam if you have a serger. 

So now you may be wondering, what kind of mess you have made. Don't worry! Pull the panty front and back on one side through the gusset to the other side. (it doesn't matter if it is left to right or right to left) Voila! it will look like this from the panty outside...

And like this from the lining side...

So now you know how easy the panty gusset can be! If you are interested in panties or boy shorts - how to draft them from body measurements, fit them, and re-style them into every other style you see in the market, you might consider purchasing my book, Make & Fit Panties

May 18, 2016

Big Boobs and Soft Belly?

Swimsuit season is fast approaching. In our part of Canada, the Victoria Day weekend is considered by many to be the first for swimming (yes, the water is still cold!) No matter when you start swimming - it's time to dig out those patterns, shop for some spandex and start sewing! First things first, let's do some measuring....ooooh. Did I just hear a groan? Was the winter hard on your body, leaving you "somewhat" less than eager to sew a garment that conceals little and reveals too much?

You are not alone.

A recent email asked... "what swimsuit styles are most appropriate for me? I have big boobs and a soft belly. I'm not looking to be a swim model, but I would love to go to the beach without feeling (and looking) ridiculous"

Are there swimsuits you can make that will both fit and flatter the big boobs and soft belly kind of shape the mirror reflects? Yes, there are! Disguising figure challenges is not difficult if you remember a few guidelines about structure and design. Once you learn to apply them, choosing flattering styles will become second nature.

Consider a built-in bra. Proper support of the bust can go a long way to making you look slimmer and trimmer. Suits with a "shelf support" are not recommended for anyone who is not already self-supporting! Or over 9 years old. You need swimsuit support equal to the support in your bra. You have the bra-making skills already to make a bra that attaches to the side seams of your suit, so why not plan for a built-in bra in your next suit?

No time right now? Seriously, is your life that busy? lol....OK, here's a "quick and dirty" swim bra hack. We all have bras that are still ok to wear, but they look like they have survived a war. You can up-cycle that still wearable bra into a bra for a swimsuit.  It's easy. Just put on the bra, put the swimsuit over top and pin the suit just ahead of the side seam as shown. Pin the straps to the shoulder as well. Remove the suit and sew the bra to the side seams and shoulders. Cut off the excess bra bands and straps (but salvage those parts for future bras!)

Colour blocking is your friend. The clever use of colour and prints can emphasize the areas that you want and work to de-emphasize the areas you would rather the world didn't know about. . Any area you want to emphasize, consider light, or colourful prints. Areas that you want to be less conspicuous can be covered in darker or more subtle prints.

For example if you have a larger bust and a tummy, the suit on the right might be a better choice for you. Dividing the suit under the wire line, is a good idea too. You don't want to have the suit style lines sit on the bust. That will emphasize the fact that your bust is larger than that area, it will look like it has "outgrown the space" keep the style line under the bust!

Flattering leg openings make your legs longer and leaner looking. Who doesn't want that? I have short legs, and boy shorts do not flatter my body type at all. As much as I admire them, they don't suit me. However, legs that are cut higher in the font, will visually lengthen the legs.

Skirts don't hide - they emphasize. Skirts on swimsuits, especially ruffled skirts can widen the area they cover, but sometimes the seam that attaches the skirt to the suit can cut your tummy in half, so now you have two soft bellies instead of one! Yes, a skirt may be your choice for a retro suit or for modesty below the navel, but if it is the soft belly above it you are trying to hide, you'd be better off with ruching.

Which of these two suits do you think would hide your belly better? The one with the plain fabric or the ruched one?

Ruching can actually hide the bulges. Ruching is strategically placed gathers - some are gathered to one side, and some is overall.  Yes, ruching wins hands down over a skirt to hide the tummy. Contrary to popular belief, adding more fabric in the form of gathers over the central area of a princess line suit, will conceal the tummy. Choosing the darker colour for the centre panel can add a slimming effect as well.

Consider a two-piece. Don't think you cannot wear a two piece suit if you have a soft belly. The current popularity of the retro high-waist bottoms can add ruching to the front panel to conceal the tum. Only a few inches of midriff are exposed. This suit bottom from ready-to-wear is almost identical to  Rebecca view of my 3 sisters Bikini pattern PB-3009. Interesting!

Baby your new suit. Once you have given your flattering new suit a test drive, don't machine wash it after ward! Not only is the machine hard on the nylon/spandex fabrics, it also shortens the life of the elastic. There are few things worse than having a suit with fabric still good but the elastic is dead. Treat your new suit well and it will keep its shape, colour and elasticity for the longest time possible.

A chlorine neutralizer sold in swimsuit shops will help to stop the deterioration that follows swimming in chlorinated water. It is worth noting that a less expensive version can be found at aquarium supply shops. They use it so the tropical fish won't scald to death in tap water. If tap water is harmful to tropical fish, imagine what pool water with its higher chlorine levels will do to your swimwear!

I am not suggesting, however that you wash your suit in your new aquarium! Just a bit of the neutralizer in a sink full of water will do the trick. Always hang or lay flat to dry - no dryers!

I have several resources for making the perfect fitting swimsuit

Make & Fit Swimwear - the complete guide to fabric, fit and construction of the basic styles of swimwear, including the maillot (tank), the princess line suit, the tankini and the swim dress. Instructions on how to sew in foam cups as well as a built-in bra for those who cannot find swim cups to fit. Add a bra back, racer back or Y-back for added support and control. See how to modify the suit into other styles quickly and easily.

Sewing Swimwear: the supportive one-piece - if you prefer to have me beside you in the sewing room, consider taking the class through Craftsy. You'll see how easy it is to measure, fit and sew either of the two suits, the tank or the princess suit. You'll also learn how to insert foam cups or a built-in bra and learn how clever colour blocking can work for your body type. Click on the link to get a discounted price for my blog readers!

Denise swimsuit pattern - this is the companion pattern you need if you are making basic swimwear from the book or the Craftsy class above. Denise is available in eleven sizes from Bust size 32 to 52. The Denise is what I consider a springboard pattern - one that can be converted or modified into any other style of swimsuit. You have the option of two different front views, one with princess line seaming and the second a one-piece tank. There are also two different back views, one with a bra back closure and the other with a traditional scoop back. The internal bra uses pre-formed swim cups such as our MU Swimwear series.

Princess TankiniTankinis are the most practical swimwear - ever! They have the wearing ease and practicality of a two piece suit (meaning you can get out of them when they are wet) yet the cover the midriff area and tummy even better than a one-piece. This Pin-up Girls pattern comes in eleven sizes from Bust 32 to Bust 52. You have the option of five different bottoms - a regular or bikini bottom, boy shorts, thigh length shorts or Capri leggings. The inside bra uses pre-formed swim cups such as our MU Swimwear series.

Three Sisters Bikini a collection of two piece high-waisted bikinis (to cover the soft belly) for fun and sun with a choice of 3 unique tops and bottoms. All tops have an interior underwired bra made from swim cup foam and a unique criss-cross back that allows the bikini top to fit multiple sizes (yes, even the bigger boobs!) The straps have elastic sewn directly to the inside seam so it will never roll or twist. All bottoms have a waist high cut with a doubled fabric waistband and a centre back seam for shapely results. The bikini bra tops all use our SHORT wires, and the pattern fits a variety of bra cup sizes. The bottoms fit hip sizes 35-47".
VIOLET- vertical seamed bra top and bottoms with button trim at the waist 
REBECCA - uses a tie to gather the front of the top, bottoms have a ruched front panel 
MARSHA - with a twisted knot effect and bottoms with mini twists at the side front

May 13, 2016

Grab your Garter Belt - It's Nylon Stocking Day!

Break out the hosiery and garter belts! Nylon Stocking Day is May 15.

Many may not remember ever hearing the term “nylon stockings”. Varying in color, design and transparency, nylon stockings (also known as hosiery) are close-fitting, elastic garments worn the same as socks.

But stockings are longer, ending well above the knee on the thigh and held up by means of a garter belt.

A bit of stocking history - Prior to the 1920’s, stockings were made of woven cloth such as cotton, linen, wool or silk and were worn for warmth. As hemlines of women’s dresses rose in the 1920’s, women began to wear stockings over their exposed legs. These "new" stockings were sheer with a seam in the back. Shame on any woman whose seams weren't perfectly straight!

During World War 2, we needed the nylon for parachutes, so women at that time painted their bare legs with eyeliner to make it appear as though they were wearing stockings!

We can't celebrate Nylon Stocking Day without mentioning the garter belt! Garter belts were an essential foundation garment - there were no stay-up stockings, nor had panty hose been invented yet.

I've seen many patterns for garter belts but as in all patterns, they might not fit every body. Here's an easy way to draft a simple vintage style garter belt from your body measurements. First take your waist and hip measurements, and the distance from your waist to your hip.

Draw a rectangle on a piece of paper equal in width to half your hip measurement mark as equal in height to the distance between your waist and hip. If you want your belt below the waist, you can change it later. Mark the right side of the rectangle as Center front and the Left side as Center Back.

Now fold the rectangle in two to find the Side Seam, and in two again between the side seam and the ends to find the position of the garter elastic extensions. Your rectangle will be divided into 4 equal parts.

Now to reduce the waist. Subtract your waist measurement (32") from your hip measurement (40). Divide that measurement by 2 (we are drafting one-half the body so that is 4") Divide that number by 6. That is the size of each side of the 3 darts we are going to create. For example:

40 - 31 = 9" and 9/2 = 4.5" and 4.5/6 - .75"

or for a metric example

100 - 76 = 24 and 24/2 =12 and 12/6 = 2 cm

Mark this distance out from each dotted vertical line. You should have 6 marks in all, each (in my case) .75" away from the vertical lines.

Connect the 6 marks to the bottom of the vertical lines at the hip line. These are your dart legs.

Cut along the black vertical lines B and SS and fold so the pink dart legs align and the darts are closed

Draw a gentle curve along the top line for the waist, keeping as close to the original straight lines as possible.

Draw a curves from the bottom of dart B through the dart at SS to the bottom of dart F as shown. Draw a curve from the bottom of dart F to the CF line, making sure the curve joins the line at a right angle. Finally draw a curve from the bottom of the B dart to the CB line, again meeting the CB line at a right angle. This curved line is higher due to the size of the CB fastener you will be using.

Connect the waist curve and the hip curves with straight lines at CB and CF. Add seam allowances if you are adding trim to the bottom edge or lining the garter belt. Garter belts are often made from woven fabrics, such as silk satin or charmeuse. Depending on the type of fastener you choose, you may have to add some length at the CB.

If you imagine the full length garter belt (instead of just one half) this is what it looks like. You could keep it in one piece or you could break it into smaller sections to save fabric or to provide some interesting detail.

So now you know how to draft a basic garter belt - go and find some nylon stockings to wear with it and celebrate Nylon Stocking Day in vintage style!

May 11, 2016

Bust Out the Bras! Bra-making Contest

Announcing our first ever Bust Out the Bras! bra-making contest. This is a contest open to all bra-makers, regardless of experience! It is a DIGITAL contest so no bras will have to be shipped to us. Just photos of a bra you have made in 2016. We will need approximately 10 photos of the bra-making process, perhaps the drafting of a tricky part, or the details of the sewing process that we all love to see, oh yes - definitely the inside of the bra so we can see the bits that make your bra spectacular! At least one bra must be on you (no identifying elements please!) or on a mannequin. We are not looking for the perfect fit (although we would love that too), but design, fabric style and colour as well as sewing excellence will be taken into consideration.

Anyone who has made a bra using materials from Bra-makers Supply or a Pin-up Girls bra pattern. You may have purchase fabrics and supplies elsewhere but if it’s a Pin-up Girls pattern, you can enter. Likewise if you use our materials but used a pattern you drafted or a pattern from another source <gasp!> you can still enter.

Any of the following skill levels can enter. Each skill level will be judged differently than the others
Newbie – those sewing fewer than 5 bras
Amateur – made over 5 bras but only for yourself or close family
Professional – for those who are sewing bras for others

1. Best Original Design – if you started with a draft you did yourself from body measurements, and have the photos of the drafting process to prove it, this is for you.
2. Best Use of Trimmings – if you use crystals, ribbons, ric-rac, beads or other adornments and that’s what you see when you look at the bra, this is the category for you. Submit photos of the original pattern, the bra partway through the trimming process and descriptions of what you used and why.
3. Best Modified Pattern –  if your bra looks nothing like the one you started with, this might be the category for you. Submit photos of the pattern modifications and the final bra, inside and out and explain what you did to achieve the results.
4. Best Cut & Sew Foam – do you use cut & sew foam in your bra-making? This is the category you should enter, along with photos and descriptions

We are looking for the creative use of fabrics, laces, elastics and colour as well as the skillful execution of bra sewing techniques. Only bras will be considered, not bodyshapers, swimwear, corsets or the like, just bras. Winners will be selected based on the photos and descriptions submitted only. Skill levels of Newbies, Amateurs and Professional will be considered in the judging so everyone has an equal and fair chance at the prizes. Please consider the quality of your photography. Good lighting, close-ups of the techniques used and clear pictures will give you the best chance! make sure all photos are identified as yours!

First prize in all categories - $200 gift certificate, or a 5 day class at BMS
Second prize - $100 gift certificate to BMS or a one day class of your choice
Third prize – $50 gift certificate or a book of your choice

This is a digital contest only. No actual shipping of entries is necessary or wanted. Please take no more than 10 photos inside and out, in detail of the aspects of the bra, including a photo of the whole bra  either on you (no faces please!) or a mannequin. You can assume that some or all of the photos and descriptions will be used on social media to show and teach others about bras-making. You will need to fill out a registration form (see example below) with explanations of the techniques, naming the type of fabric etc and the pattern you used etc. Submit the photos to Contest closes Sunday June 19. All entries and photos will be judged at that time.


Winners are chosen based on a point system by a mixture of bra-making and non bra-making judges. Winners will be announced on Saturday June 25th - the day of our Open House (June 25 from 1-3 pm)

please submit photos and this foam to newsletter
Each bra entered (you can enter up to 4 - 1 in each category) must have its own form


Email address (double check the spelling!)

Phone Number (with Area Code)

Your skill level
         Newbie (fewer than 5 bras made and only for yourself)
         Skilled Amateur (more than 5 bras sewn but only for yourself or family)
         Professional (you sew for others for money)

Name or description of bra (Blue partial band with feather trim, for example)

Category Entered
            1. Best Original Design  - if you started with a draft you did yourself from body                                    measurements, and have the photos of the drafting process to prove it, this is for you)
2. Best Use of Trimmings – if you use crystals, ribbons, ric-rac, beads or other adornments and that’s what you see when you look at the bra, this is the category for you. Submit photos of the original pattern, the bra partway through the trimming process and descriptions of what you used and why.
3. Best Modified Pattern –  if your bra looks nothing like the one you started with, this might be the category for you. Submit photos of the pattern modifications and the final bra, inside and out and explain what you did to achieve the results.
4. Best Cut & Sew Foam – do you use cut & sew foam in your bra-making? This is the category you should enter, along with photos and descriptions

Pattern used
              Pin-up Girls? If yes, which one
              Other? If so, which one?

Fabrics and trimmings used

Techniques used to sew this bra

May 06, 2016

Attention Bombshells - your day is coming!

Mark those calendars, bombshells! May 7 is International Bombshells' Day. Yes, the first Saturday of the month is a day reserved for recognizing and celebrating the bombshell in all of us!

But, you may ask...what's a "bombshell"? The term bombshell is a forerunner to the term "sex symbol" and originally used to describe popular female sex icons. In modern usage, bombshell refers to a very attractive woman. The Online Etymology Dictionary attests the usage of the term in this meaning since 1942. However the term bombshell is really older than that!

The first woman to be known as a bombshell was Jean Harlow, who was nicknamed the "blonde bombshell" for her 1931 film Platinum Blonde. Two years later she starred in the MGM film Bombshell. One of the poster proclaimed "Lovely, luscious, exotic Jean Harlow as the Blonde Bombshell of  filmdom." 

Hollywood soon took up the term the late 1940s through the early 1960s, to include brunette, exotic, and ethnic versions (e.g., Jane Russell, Dorothy Dandridge, and Sophia Loren) were also cultivated as complements to, or as satellites of, the blonde bombshell. 

Some of the film stars, largely of 1940s–1960s, referred to as bombshells include Marilyn MonroeRita Hayworth Jayne Mansfield Jane RussellAva GardnerCarroll BakerBrigitte BardotKim NovakSophia LorenElizabeth TaylorAnn-MargretRaquel Welch, and Ursula Andress. Even cartoon characters such as Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit were symbolized as bombshells!

So now you know what a bombshell is! Bombshell Day, encourages women to celebrate their inner bombshell and to spoil themselves and their fellow females.

You may not be as famous as Marilyn Monroe but inside that domesticated exterior, beats the heart of a true vixen! Move over, Jessica - it's our time to shine!

May 04, 2016

Behind the Seams - Peachy Pink Lace Bra

Here's just the thing for spring - a peachy pink lace bra. This one was featured in the Craftsy Class  - Sewing Bras: Foam, Lace & Beyond.  It holds a few secrets that I am happy to reveal...

Features of this bra include
  • lace edging on the upper cups
  • denier lining behind the lace
  • curved lace edging on the front band
  • lace edging on the back band
  • elastic straps attached to the front with a ring
To convert your Classic or Linda bra to accept lace edging along the neckline edge, please see my blog post Using Lace Edging on The Upper Cup by clicking hereLook at how perfectly that lace mirrors at the centre front. Notice also the channel stitching is perfectly parallel and quite narrow - just narrow enough to get the wire in.

The underarm elastic was left longer and wrapped around a ring on the strap, then stitched down on itself securely. Elastic front straps are only good for the smaller sizes, but larger sizes can immobilize elastic by sewing a ribbon or non-stretch tape to the back side. The stabilized part should be long enough to go over the shoulders by a couple of inches (5 cm). Then you have the look and colour of the elastic strap but not the stretch in the front.

The cup is lined with 15 denier nylon sheer fabric and the raw edge of denier along the neckline is covered with elastic trim. You could add stabilizer under the elastic if necessary. The denier has some mechanical give in one direction so it is good behind stretch laces if a lining is needed. It is sewn with what I call the stitch & flip method. (I have heard frustrated sewers call it "the flippin' stitch" but that is another story!)

The lower cup seam was sewn with a S&F seam first, which automatically encloses the seams. Then the upper cup unit is sewn to the lower cup unit. When you have a S&F seam, the seams always turn to one side. Pay attention to which direction you want the seam to turn. I almost always want the lower cup seam to turn into the upper cup because it lies more smoothly. There are exceptions of course, but in this case, to turn it into the lower cup with that seam already there, would have been too bulky.

The lace for the back band was layered over stretch mesh. Stretch mesh, a nylon spandex blend can act like a lightweight power net if you use two layers. This is one layer, and is quite sheer. Wow, my fingers really are short!

Here's the side seam. The lace repeat joins exactly at the side seam so the scalloped edge is continuous. How did we do that?

By ending a lace repeat at the seam line, not the edge of the pattern piece, we can ensure that the lace will match perfectly when the seam is sewn. On my bra patterns, the seam line is 1/4" (6 mm) from the cutting line.

Then when the seam is sewn, at the sides and the centre front, the lace repeats will match. So the scallops will carry on without  a break. In a perfect world, the lace repeat will also be 1/4" in from the centre back too, but that's not always possible.

Only after the seam is sewn, should you sewn on the bottom band elastic. The elastic in this case is only sewn flat, it is not turned over as in a traditional construction.

Almost forgot...on the inside front channel have to leave the channel end exposed and bartack on top. Since the elastic trim was applied to the upper cup edge first, then the finished bridge sewn to that - there is nothing to turn over top of the channel end. So the end of the channel shows and the bartack closes the channel and keep the wire in. Don't worry - have a look at any lace edge ready-to-wear bra and you will see the same thing (maybe a wee bit neater, but still...)

Here's the finished bra back...

...and the front! It always looks better on, than just lying on the table, doesn't it?