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The Way Sewing Used To Be: Your Photos

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Weekend: Behind the Scenes of My Bra Making Class

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A picture will say, “I sew,” while a video will say much more. Spectators have to spend time watching a video – there’s no choice about it – and they have to spend time to see if it’s worth watching or not. If still photography is instant, then video is super-instant. Just click it and let it roll. And after the record button is pressed, the ability to control the process is lost, unlike still photography where a scene can be manipulated post shooting. See why I was fretting over the filming of my online bra making class? So much pressure!

Not too long ago, I filmed my bra making class at my studio, Madalynne Studios. While I’m comfortable being in front of a lens, throwing video into the mix was a total game changer. At first, I was stiff and sounded scripted, but my nerves were soothed after a few takes, thanks to my videographer, Karl, who coached me on acting naturally. It took about 12 hours to film and after talking and being on my feet all day, I was exhausted. It was a wonderful first experience though as I accomplished two things. The first was that through this video, I am giving back… giving back the knowledge I have learned to fellow sewers. As I evolve as a seamstress, it’s important to me that I help the sewers I once was, and give them a helping hand so they can get to where I am today. The second thing I accomplished was an exercise on teaching. While I’ve taught a handful of times, I’ve never held a class in this format or for this duration. So, it was a great trial run of my soon-to-be announced, in-person bra making class here in Philadelphia (email me if you’re interested in attending!). While there was a lot more I wanted to cover and talk about in each clip – there’s just so much to learn about bra making! –  each student will receive a takeaway that expands it further. It will be a great addition to an awesome visual tutorial on how to make a full band, cross cup seamed bra, and it will be a permanent resource students can reference again and again.

So here are some behind the scenes shots from the day of filming. If you’re interested in signing up, check out my class and more at I promise, it will be fun. Come on, how could we not have fun? I’m wearing lace! Hillary Clinton has her pant suits and I have my lace.

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Works in Progress

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Why do we reserve works in progress photos for Instagram? That’s not an always statement, but most of the time. Shouldn’t they be the subject of more in depth posts like finished features? Why mention the obstacles we faced after the garment’s complete when we can talk about them and solve them beforehand? Maybe it’s the surprise element? While I see that point of view, I’m more concerned with the quality of the end product rather than getting more hits. So, I’m going to try to talk about what I’m working on while I’m working on it so that we can work through the issues together, learn from one another and have a better product in the end. So, here is what I’m currently sewing.

First, isn’t the fabric for this blouse the best thing since sliced bread? I bought it a couple months ago on Etsy and it has sat on top of my sewing desk since. It’s a shame to put it away; it’s practically home décor. The final garment will be another version of Jasper Lee. Even thought it is an infantile make, there are still construction questions that have popped up.

Stabalizing shoulder seams is a de rigueur step. Because the garments weight is supported by this seam, it’s important that it’s strong enough to hold it up and not stretch out over time. But in the case of this top, it’s so lightweight that it doesn’t need it. Thoughts? My opinion is that using tape or a fusible would add unnecessary bulk to this crepe de chine. To justify my thinking, I inspected a couple of RTW, light-weight blouses. Nope, no stabilization! Now, mass manufacturing doesn’t always do it right, but they’re a good model. Also, I’ve yet to conquer my rolled/narrow hem foot. It’s a great presser foot, but passing a seam through it is not easy, even on silk, and it ends up looking like a hot mess at seamlines. I could hem the front and back separately before sewing them together at the side seam, but I’d like to have one continuous bottom hem. Any suggestions for how to pass a seam through this presser foot easily?
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Pairing this top with a pair of red pants, you can see that I’m fashionable late for 4th of July. What can I say? In an effort to learn more about pants, I drafted a wide leg shape using the same pattern as Orla Madison and Jasper Lee. On Orla, I underlined it with a sturdy cotton and surprisingly, I loved the structure and stability it provided. But every time I wear Jasper Lee, which is not underlined, they stretch out halfway through the day, and I’m continually pulling them up from 12:00 PM on. I’m thnking of always underlining my pants with a sturdy yet lightweight fabric if it’s not made of a denim quality material. Does anyone else have experience with this? Claire Schaeffer suggested it in her book, “Couture Sewing Techniques.” Also, to try one new construction technique, I’m following Workroom’s Social’s tutorial on how to add a single welt pocket. I’ve sewn a welt before, but not like her tutorial. Going to give it a whirl.

Stay tuned!

10 Things You May Not Know About Bra Making

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It’s the little tips and tricks that make a master sewer. A tailor has his secrets for pad stitching, and a shoemaker, Perry Ercolino being one example, has his methods for molding the perfect pair of oxfords. Pun intended, these are my “inside wires” for bra making. Each one is important, but not enough to dedicate to one post, so I compiled them below. I hope they help you has much as they have helped me!

  • If you find that the zigzag stitch used to attach the elastic does not have enough give, there are two ways to increase the stretch: widen the stitch width or shorten the stitch length. Generally, a combination of the two is used.
  • In a correctly fitting bra, breasts should be lifted a little higher than their “at normal position.” How high is a matter of personal preference
  • Think of your upper body as a see-saw, with your breasts on one end, your back on the other and your body in the center. If the band is too loose or the cup fabric is too stretchy, the bra will slide up in the back, and the breasts come down, or sag, in the front.
  • If you’ve read vintage lingerie sewing books, you’ve probably come across the term Antron in reference to a fabric. Wonder what it is? I did for a long time. All it is is an old word for tricot.
  • If the fabric you have chosen is too stretchy and you don’t think it will provide enough support, double up the plys (plys=layer of fabric). By marrying two fabrics, the stretch is reduced by at least 30%. Powernet is a great choice that will beef things up. To join the layers together, you can spray baste using a temporary adhesive such as this one.
  • In wovens, grainline is used to indicate the direction of the fabric that has the least amount of stretch, and patterns are usually aligned with this line. In bra making, we use direction of greatest stretch, abbreviated DOGS. While the band and the bridge almost always follow the same DOGS direction, it varies on the cups varies depending on the type of support desired. The thing to remember is that the direction of the breast’s weight travels in the direction of the fabric’s pull, or direction of greatest stretch (DOGS). On a full band bra with a horizontal cross cup seam, if the DOGS runs vertically on the lower cup, the bra would have more “bounce” because the stretchiness is going up and down.
  • Ever get confused which way the hook and eye should be sewn? The word “eyes” has four letters and so does left, so they go on the left side as if you were fastening the bra on someone else.  Predictably, hooks go on the right. Thanks Beverly for that tip!
  • The width of the zigzag stitch when sewing elastic depends on many factors. One is the amount of stretch desired and another is the width of the elastic. But what always remains true is that the zigzag stitch shouldn’t be more than half the width of the elastic. Thanks Norma for that tip!
  • Are you experiencing skipped stitches when sewing over a bulky seam? Use a hammer to thin out it out. Go ahead, pound away! This is a tip I adapted from a wise jean maker.
  • Have you ever heard of a boutique strap? It has the adjusters at the front of the bra instead of the back. Personally, I think this strap style is more comfortable because the hardware (metal or plastic) does not dig into your back when leaning up again a chair or something similar.

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      Did you hear that I'm teaching an online bra making class? In one 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!


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