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What i Made: Elma Shop + Madalynne

elme bra 2 of 5 What i Made: Elma Shop + Madalynne

Alexander Wang, Prada and Tommy Hilfiger all sent athletic inspired looks down the runway last spring. The message, I’m sure, was that they were rooting for me, yes me, to show off my active underwear. Since I am such a good sport, I took note despite the fact that most runway rules are not the same IRL. Hey, if Sporty Spice could rock a crop top in 1994, why can’t I in 2014? I can certainly look just as posh, and better than Posh. My me-made intimates have hovered around the soft bra and the underwired variety, so I had to search to find a cool, must-show piece that could double as a pretty option peeking through a bohemian top or on full display during  yoga. I found the one on my favorite social platform – Instagram – when I searched the hashtag #bramaking. Seriously, where would I be without hashtags? I discovered Elma and her handmade lingerie line that is tailored to women with small chests. Hallellujah! Praise the Lord! A quick comment lead to a collaboration, where she sent me the pattern to one of her bras, which I sewed using my choice of fabric and trimming. I chose the Kitri Crop Bra Top and the result was a bra that was much more stylish than anything I ever wore in P.E.? Game on.

I changed the construction slightly, flavoring it to my own tastes. While Elma finishes the armhole and the neckline with a ¼” turnback, I applied ¼” elastic for more support. The only other change was using ½” elastic at the bottom band – Elma uses ¼” – and again, it was for support reasons.

Collaborating with Elma, my goal was to remove the mystic around bra making. In one of my first messages to her proposing the partnership, she responded, “I believe in radical transparency and the only way to grow is to learn from one another.” The world of lingerie making is heavily guarded – I vividly remember my days in technical design when vendors would not release any of their patterns – but Elma and I are one in the same, just two people on a mission to make beautiful, simple bras.

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Weekend: Hello Fall!

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It’s that time of the year again when everyone from the barista to that rando in the elevator is talking about it – fall.

“Wow, can you believe it’s almost October?”

“Yes, can’t you see me shivering and clutching my coffee, sans ice, right now?”


A lot of women past their teenage years haven’t created a shopping list since paper scissors were on it, but that helpful guide is important, especially when battling borderline arctic temperatures. Aside: Please winter 2015, don’t do that to me like last year. It seems like ages ago since Sarai’s Wardrobe Architect, but really, it has only been one season. Just like last spring, I’m using her methodical method, not only because I now realize that how I craft my closet and the clothes in it simultaneously crafts the image I portray to others, but also because my unique collection of me-mades I set out to make will keep me focused and away from RTW racks. Double win.

But I’m not a prolific sewer like Lauren, so my plans have to be deliberate, thought-out and realistic. What do I have in mind? Well, for one, a coat that is more Pheobe Philo than Captain Gordon. After that, definitely a statement piece to ring in the season while looking seriously fresh. Maybe a floor length Alder dress with a mandarin collar? And you knew this was coming – lingerie. Oh yes, lots of lacey lingerie. Let the fall sewing commence!

What are you stitching up this season?

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To Set Undies Flat or In the Round?

undies 1 of 11 To Set Undies Flat or In the Round?

The same burning question that haunts sewers when attaching a sleeve to an armhole also bedogs makers of intimates. To set elastic flat or in the round? One way is easier than the other, but the other way is considered the correct method. Most of the big pattern companies inexplicably have sewers set sleeves in the round, so that’s the method they learn first. But once he or she tries the flat method, they usually never go back. Of course, the project at hand has some say in the matter (i.e. setting a sleeve in a t-shirt versus a tailored jacket). Same goes for attaching elastic. Newbies are first taught to set elastic in the round, but never go back after trying the flat method. For me, the correct method is the one that yields the higher quality finished product, which in the case of undies is setting the elastic flat on the leg opening and setting the elastic in the round at the waist. Here’s why. The leg opening is curved, so it is a lot easier to set it flat. However, the waist opening is straight (not curved), so it’s not a hassle setting the the round. The only difference to consider when choosing between the two is how the elastic will be finished. When setting in the round, you will most likely overlap the elastic 1/2″, which is flatter than when elastic is set in the round. In that case, the elastic will have to be finished separately and tacked either forwards or backwards.

What about you? What method do you use and why?
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A Day in the Life of a Seamstress

12 A Day in the Life of a Seamstress

Sewing is cool. Most people don’t believe us. Was Buddy Holly cool before he donned a pair of black, wayfarer sunglasses? Was Tom Cruise cool before he danced across the big screen in tighty whities? Was Bill Gates cool before his first billion? Being cool is about being admired. The cool are envied because of their self-confidence in a unique skill. Jesse James, a custom motorcycle builder, is cool. I can’t weld the front end of a chopper, but he can’t line the inside of a bra cup. Our screw ups are equally as painful.

For my next piece on Coca Cola’s blog, The Journey, I’m showing the world just how cool sewing is by documenting a day in my life, weekend edition. If you’re new to this blog and wondering why I’m writing for one of the largest beverage retailers, well, their blog  highlights innovative people in various fields. I have taken on the role of being the spokesperson for the sewing community – preaching about our world, how much fun we have and the fabulous things we create. So, join me as I begin sewing a dress, interview a local costume maker for my series Handmade and meet up with 2 of my favorite local sewing bloggers. How do I end my uber-exciting, sewing-centric day? You’ll have to hop on over to Coke to find out!

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4:30 AM In my opinion, if you are not up before 7:00 AM, even on a weekend, you have already wasted too much time. No one becomes successful by sleeping in. While the wealthy wake up to a solitary view of a beach or a sweeping view of a grand city like New York, I wake up to a site just beautiful. The first thing I see when I get out of bed is my sewing machine. While my de rigueur machine is a PFAFF Expression 3.2, which is a beast boasting over 200 stitches and an IDT feeding system, I brought out my 1956 Singer Featherweight this weekend. YOLO, right? Weighing 11lbs, it hums like a 1960s Ford Mustang, but rides like a brand new Porsche.

5:15 AM In need of coffee STAT. While I let the java get my blood pumping and my muscles loosened, I read. Call me old school (I prefer the word vintage), but I like taking in my information tangible style. Two books I am constantly reading are Claire Schaeffers Couture Sewing Techniques and Twyla Tharps The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Perhaps one of the greatest choreographers of her generation, Tharp offers her theses on creativity. As scrappy doo as I can be, I am also very methodical, and Tharp’s prescriptions for creativity offer me a system for turning my ideas into realities. She also provides examples of how the unique behaviors and patterns other luminaries such as Beethoven and Maurice Sendick gave birth to their masterpieces. I find inspiration knowing quirks are not setbacks but advantages. Wasnt that the gist of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath? Last on the daily reading list is The Wall Street Journal. Why? Because the WSJ always does it right. Duh.

9:00 AM Post 10 mile run, I shower and eat a carb and protein loaded breakfast – homemade granola with bananas, dates, chai seeds and almond milk. I am now in the right headspace to sew. Although temperatures are lingering in the low 80s, typical degrees for August in Philly, fall is on my mind. Currently, Im working on the prototype, muslin as we seamstresses refer to it, for a dress. Channeling a structured jacket with its double breasted front closure, face-framing flat collar and center back pleat, its going to be one of those pieces that can transition from fall to winter to spring. At least thats the plan. This morning, I’m doing the first steps of any garment construction stay stitching, sewing darts, etc.

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1:30 PM One of the many series on my blog is called Handmade, where I find and interview local people and businesses that are making a living selling hand crafted products. Just like beer drinkers, it’s important for me to connect with the Philly community. Not only for cross promotion opportunities, but it also boosts my sewing mojo knowing that other people have a passion to create as much as I do exist. Up today is Pierre’s Costumes. I walk past it every evening and its wonted faade gives the impression that its nothing special. I am wrong. After being greeted by Jennifer Valosen, manager of the store, she shows me the front showroom and the sewing studio just behind it. But it is the room way in the back that made me drool – a floor to ceiling closet that houses all the costumes. And you thought your wardrobe was overflowing?

While interviewing Jennifer, I am equally fascinated and inspired by her story. She was the sewer who said she would never touch a sewing machine after her first project. But as she put it, sewing found her and she had no choice in the matter. While attending college for communications and public relations, she worked in the school’s costume shop. Instead of pursuing her major after graduation, she followed her passion, working at several theaters before ending up at Pierre’s.

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3:00 PM For as far reaching as the Internet is, it can also be very small. Two years ago, Andrea, a local sewing blogger, moved to Philadelphia, 2 blocks away from my apartment. Despite our proximity, it has taken us this long to finally meet in real life. Along with Claire, another local sewing blogger, we hit up Cafe Ole. This java jaunt isn’t your ordinary place to get a caffeine fix. Sunday mornings here are as rowdy and lively as your nights downtown. There are some serious art latte throwdowns. Over some cups of joes, Claire, Andrea and I talk geeky, sewing nonsense like making swimsuits, stretching elastic and grading patterns. Unlike online dating, when bloggers meet up, especially sewing bloggers, it does not turn out to be the worst date ever. Pun intended, our conversation from start to finish is seamless; there are not awkward silences.

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5-8:00 PM With a couple of hours to kill, I head to my haven – Madalynne Studios. At 350 square feet, it is my zen zone. I come here, usually alone, to photograph and to sew. On the third floor, it gets a little stuffy in the summer, so I open the windows. Sitting in front of the breeze, I continue to work on my dress. Unfortunately, I ran out of matching thread 30 minutes in, so I switched to another love of mine. Bra making. Six years after I started sewing, I delved into this category as a challenge. The fit, the fabrics and the techniques used to construct a bra are markedly different from garment sewing. Like any challenge I take on, I dove in head first and havent come up for a breadth yet. I’m that hooked. Developing this skill set has even led me to amazing opportunities – I’m teaching an online class in November as well as teaching 2 in-person workshops this winter. Who would have thunk Miss Maddie would be a teacher? Cray cray.

Listening to the breeze whirl in as I cut a new bra pattern, I can’t help but think how lucky I am. My W2 may not have six figures on it, but if I had to quantify my quality of life, it would amount to much more.

 Click here to read the rest…

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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.


      Another famous bra maker is teaching an online class! BEVERLY JOHNSON just announced that she will be teaching a class on Crafty and the release date is Tuesday, September 23rd. Enter now to win a free spot!


      It's her umpteenth iteration of Grainline Studios Archer button down, but ROCHELLE'S most recent version is my favorite. Impressive pattern matching too!


      Are you following along with MORGAN'S Scraptember initiative, where she and other sewers are setting out to use up some fabric from their stash?


      If you're like me and you live in the northern hemisphere, then fall is upon us. Join the ladies at CASHMERETTE as they make on spectacular, green coat.


      Have you heard? SARAI and the ladies and Colette Patterns are dedicating the entire month to hems. Called SEPT-HEM-BER, they will cover how to make sure a hem is even, everything you need to know about stabilizing hems, several options to finish the raw edge of your hem, how to stitch a hem by hand, how to sew basic turned hem by machines (and a few different options for doing it), how to sew a machine rolled hem, how to sew a faced or shaped hem, how to sew a baby hem and how to sew a mitered corner. Whoa! That's a lot!


      Congratulations MADY on your second year blog anniversary! I've been following you for only a short time, but I'm excited to get to know you even more. Here's to many more years of happy and healthy sewing!


      For her engagement shoot, ANGIE made a striped Emery dress and looks stunning next to her forever partner and fiancé.