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Bra Making: How Much Should I Pull Elastic?

pulling elastic 1 of 1 Bra Making: How Much Should I Pull Elastic?

When it comes to stretching elastic when sewing a bra, there are many different theories on how much to pull. Some rely on mathematics, reducing the length 10-15% or 1-2″ to get the correct/even amount of stretching. Because elastics come in different widths, qualities and amounts of stretch, I do not calculate the amount I should pull. Surprising, considering my very particular nature. Over time, I have developed a hand where I know how much tension the elastic needs and that’s usually a slight pull. The elastic should create a snug fit, but not ruche or gather the fabric like a skirt. In my bra making class, I tell students to stretch the elastic on one of their ready-to-wear bras several times before taking sewing their first pass. Just like muscle memory, the goal is to develop a “feel” through repetition.

Also to note is that the elastic is stretched different amounts at different places in a bra. While I stretch the elastic the “normal” amount on the top and the bottom band, I stretch it slightly more in the underarm (to encourage it to shape up towards the straps point and to cover that little flab of underarm flesh) and almost don’t stretch it along the neckline (so that is doesn’t cut into breast tissue).

This is very hard to show in pictures, so in the video below, I demonstrate the “normal” amount of pull. You’re probably wondering why I don’t start stretching further back from the presser foot, and that’s because I have found that if I do,  I lose the original amount of stretch while I sew; I let go of the elastic slightly as I sew.

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Weekend: Labor Day

weekend laborday Weekend: Labor Day

If you live in the U.S. of A., then you will be celebrating Labor Day this Monday. Surprisingly, the holiday has been around longer than your probable hunch. Older than both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it was implemented in 1882, and since then, there’s one major thing that’s changed – the very nature of labor. As written by Peter McGuire, one of the founders of the American Federation of Labor, the holiday was meant to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” We Americans don’t do much carving or delving anymore, unless it’s into a McDonald’s cheeseburger. On that same note, labor isn’t as rude as it once was. Let’s be real, Labor Day today is simply a respite for everyone with a Monday job, and for us sewers, an extra day to stitch up what’s been on the backburners (UFOs!).

For me, Labor Day is the line between summer and that in-between season that loiters just before autumn and winter breeze in. It’s not a semi-colon like Christmas or Thanksgiving – we don’t put our lives on pause for a week or two to celebrate. More like a comma, we pass it in a short breadth with no preparation, which I like. So, while the motive behind the holiday has changed, the holiday has taken all its full meaning, a day without labor. Good or bad? Who knows? That question may be too much to cogitate.

I’ll end on a positive note and say that if you’re in America, I hope you enjoy the day as I am – sewing!

And Lauren, be on the lookout for your care package (pictured above), which I put in the mail this week. No pressure, but I hope it makes a beautiful bra one day!
post footer weekend Weekend: Labor Day

Fabric Giveaway with The Smuggler’s Daughter

cup seam tutorial 16 of 17 Fabric Giveaway with The Smugglers Daughter

There’s nothing blasé about florals. From Aussie Sophie to purple-haired Lauren, sewers from all continents have made their own verdant iterations. With so much inspiration, I hope you’re ready to make a flourishing dress or pant of your own and scour for the next garden party or something similar because Susan Liane from The Smuggler’s Daughter is offering a very luscious fabric to 1 Madalynne reader. To those on the northern hemisphere, squeeze in one more make before pumpkin spice latte season begins, and to those on the southern hemisphere, prep for the hot days that are fast approaching.

To enter, like Madalynne and The Smuggler’s Daughter on Facebook. Then, in the comments below, specify your method of entry and where I can contact you (email, Facebook). If you’re already a follower, don’t worry, just tell me so. Contest opens immediately and will close Thursday, September 4th, when a winner will be chosen, notified and featured on this blog. Last, contest is open internationally. Good luck!

Also, Susan Liane is also offering free shipping on this fabric to everyone who enters the giveaway, which some of those who don’t win may like to take advantage of. Win or not, head on over to Smuggler’s Daughter and take a tip from Susan herself when shopping – fabrics are added on most Fridays and fabrics are marked down on most Mondays.
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Bra Making: Alternative Way to Finish a Cross Cup Seam

cup seam tutorial 13 of 1723 Bra Making: Alternative Way to Finish a Cross Cup Seam

In many ready-to-wear bras, there is a bias binding finishing the cross cup seam. Made of tricot, it is both hard to make and hard to source. Believe me, I’ve spent way many hours trying to fold, iron and refold the delicate fabric into the origami-type trim. I’m not one to give up on something, but in this case, I found an alternative method that produces the same look visually and is much easier to sew.

While the tutorial below is for a bra with a horizontal cross cup seam (it’s a variation of Pin-up girl #1200), the method can be applied to bras with other types of cup seaming (diagonal, vertical, etc). Also to note, you will need to line one or both of your cups in order for this technique to work. For the bra below, the upper and lower cups are made with lace and underlined with powernet for coverage and support. The upper cup is unlined, and the lower cup is lined with 15-denier tricot.
cup seam tutorial 1 of 17 Bra Making: Alternative Way to Finish a Cross Cup Seam
Step 1: With right sides together, sew the upper cup to the lower cup using a straight stitch and a stitch length of approximately 2.5 mm (note that I am also using a size 12/80 stretch needle since my fabric has spandex in it).
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Step 2: With right side of tricot lining facing wrong side of upper cup, attach lining by sewing on top of stitch sewn in step 1.
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Step 3: Trim all seam allowances to approximately 1/8”. Then, grade the lower cup’s seam allowance so that it is slightly shorter that the upper cup’s seam allowance (this will reduce bulk).
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Step 4: Turn down lining and with wrong side facing up, topstitch 1/8” away from cross cup seam. Use a slightly longer stitch length – approximately 3 mm. The seam allowances look a little messy in the photo above, but down worry, we’ll trim them in the next step so everything is super clean.
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Step 5: After, turn back lining and trim as close to topstitch as possible.

Step 6: Last, pin all layers together along cup seam and machine baste through all plys. Treat as one going forward.

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      Did you hear that I'm teaching an online bra making class? In 1 hour, I walk you through constructing a bra from start to finish, and I'll cover choosing a bra pattern, finding your size, tracing and cutting tips and construction. Click HERE to sign up now! If you can't attend the class, I will be teaching it in person this winter here in Philadelphia; EMAIL ME to be put on the waiting list.


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