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My Bra Challenge: 7 Tips for Sewing Long Periods of Time

bramaking

Two weeks ago, I took a challenge to sew 3 sets of lingerie in 48 hours. For some sewers, this task is infantile, mere child’s play. For me, a seamstress who is not the speediest of the sewing bunch, this was a challenge. But pushing yourself into unknown and uncomfortable territory is a necessary part of life, whether it’s self inflicted or inflicted by others. That Saturday and Sunday was a new experience for me, but I had fun. Surprisingly, I finished with plenty of time to spare – early Sunday evening. I even had time to cook a hearty meal. That’s an extra large feat for this city living and loving lady. I have a few tips for those who are about to sew for an extended period of time. Some are serious while other are more for fun. Sewing is supposed to be fun, right?

prepping

This is an obvious one, but prepping for your project is super important. The reason for most sewing delays is not slow speed, but hitting an obstacle like running out of thread or interfacing, which forces you stop wherever you are, and go out and buy more. I didn’t have time for this, so a couple weeks prior, I made a shopping list and bought all supplies so that this wouldn’t happen. Also, the night before, I made sure everything was in place for me to sew the next day. Scissors out, needles ready, sewing machine threaded, iron in place, tape measures in sight, etc.

assembly-line

Part of the reason why factories are so fast is because one seamstress performs the same operation over and over. This assembly line type of sewing was the method I used for my bra challenge, meaning I sewed the same operation on all three bras and undies before continuing to the next. Example: I sewed all six cups, then attached all 6 cups to all three cradles, then attached all bottom band elastics, etc. The opposite of this would be sewing one bra, and then sewing the second and the third. This reduces the amount of time you have to change needles and thread.snacks

Peanuts and pretzels are for frequent flyers. At 200 calorie or less, those snacks get you through a couple of hours, six at most. I had eight times that amount to keep my sugar and sanity levels at bay. I have no patience for hangry seamstresses. In Chateau Madalynne, I like to keep my cupboards stocked with a well rounded diet, which for this challenge meant stocking up on M&M’s and cereal. Breakfast and dinner of champions.

bramakingrefillsAnother rule at Cheteau is that we refill in a ratio of 4 to 1. How many of you hate when you run out of bobbin thread mid seam and have to rethread? Me too! So, before I even started the challenge, I filled 4 bobbins to the top. Shaken, not stirred.

dress-for-successEven if I don’t have plans for the day, I always get dressed. Staying in my jammies until sunset is a no-no. Why? I think differently when I wear loungewear than when I wear an actual outfit. Knowing that I had to a goal to meet, I didn’t want to get into that lazy mentality. I wasn’t donning heels, but I was wearing me-made. Polka dots always get me in the mood; the sewing mood, people!

distractionsI agree with most people’s observation that I live in my own little bubble. I wish you could see me when I photograph. I think it sums up that statement pretty well. I have caused car accidents, been inches away from hypothermia and almost got arrested. I just do my own thing and don’t pay attention to what’s going on around me, illegal or not. But considering how solo I am, I’m also pretty connected. I take as many Instagram breaks as I do coffee breaks. I also check emails constantly. But these are all 5 minute distractions that can turn into 30 minutes or more, and because I had a deadline in front of me, I eliminated all of them. That meant turning off all notifications on my cell phone and computer – email, text, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Etsy and Bloglovin. Even if you don’t have a due date staring at you, I suggest you do this every once in a while. It’s a weird unfamiliar feeling to be disconnected.

background-tunesWhether it’s Pandora, Soundclound, Spotify, NPR, Netflix, a good movie or an audio book, you need some background noise. Most of the time, I start out with some kind of sound to get me into the zone, but a couple hours in, I go into silence. Why? Once you get passed the intital sewing, I’m good to go for hours. It’s just like a 10-minute warm up before a 10 mile run. Once things start movin’ and groovin’, rockin’ and a’rollin, it’s full on meditative sewing.

my_hood (1 of 8)my_hood (2 of 8)

*a note about sewing machines shown in the photos. I recently moved, and my regular sewing machines, a Juki DDL 5500 and a PFAFF Expression 3.2, have not been set up in my new place yet. As I unpack, I’ve been using my backup machine, a Singer Brilliance.*

14 Comments

  1. Reply

    Preethi N J

    Lovely analysis Maddie. Knowing or unknowingly this is want I want to – prep, create a repeatable process in mind before starting, make sure I got something to snack on.. you have put them down beautifully.

  2. Reply

    Angela

    Your bras and undies are beautiful!! We’ll done! I love your advice to!! M&m’s are totally necessary!!

  3. Reply

    claire h

    Wonderful tips! Your lingerie is so beautiful. As a slower seamstress myself, I love a speed challenge now and then. I think your tip about “dressing for success” even if you never plan to leave the sewing room is really important; that is something I have only recently learned myself. (I’m also excited to discover that we have the same overlock machine!)

  4. Reply

    sallieforrer

    These sets look absolutely lovely, and a big CONGRATS! for meeting your goals! That’s such a great feeling. Love all your little tips for marathon sewing. I’ve always sewn and worked in silence – I don’t know why! I think some people think I’m crazy… I also like to drive in silence! I used to put on music when I was painting when I got into the studio, but a couple of hours in I’d realize that my playlist had run out and I had been working in silence for the past few hours, and THAT’S when I really hit my stride! So eventually I just learned that I work best when I shut off all noise. I figure, in this world, silence is actually pretty precious!

    • Reply

      Crab&Bee

      I’m with you guys! I love podcasts but I know I’m really in the zone when I realize I’ve been working in silence.

      Maddie, your techniques clearly paid off because those sets look like perfection!

  5. Reply

    Leah

    Your lingerie looks amazing! You have inspired me! I am taking a bra making course this weekend and intend to take on your 48 hour challenge later in the summer.

  6. Reply

    Natasha Estrada

    If your tailoring a jacket then you definately need to be chugging protein shakes between lapels. I recommend muscle milk

  7. Reply

    The Sewing CPA

    Great advice! Your lingerie came out beautiful.

  8. Reply

    Amanda Russell

    Really good advice – even if we’re not pulling marathons! 🙂 Your lingerie looks absolutely beautiful 🙂

  9. Reply

    juliana calado

    great tips! I agree with them all!
    and, lovely work, it looks perfect!

  10. Reply

    Yvonne

    Beautiful lingerie!! I miss a good sewing marathon, maybe I should start this weekend.
    Just one thing is missing – caffeine. I prefer to drink Club Mate (a yerba Mate lemonade) to keep me awake and in a good mood.

  11. Reply

    Amy

    Hey Maddie! I love the white lace (I’m making a white set right now, too!). Running out of thread is my #1 stopper of almost every sewing project, so now it’s the first thing I do before even cutting–double-check I have enough and the right color thread, & wind a bunch of bobbins. 😉

  12. Reply

    Amelia Larson

    I too am a slow sewist. But I can’t sew in complete silence or I’d lose my mind. My best bet for staying focused are chick flicks I’ve seen before (so I don’t really have to watch) or shows that I’m only mildly interested in. As I’ve gotten older another thing that’s important is getting up to move and stretch a little every hour or two, otherwise I’m toast by the second day with a headache or knotted shoulders etc. Having a sewing and work space that is set up with some thought to ergonomics makes a big difference as far as my stamina is concerned. As an example, think of how much less energy you expend cutting things out on a table at the proper height vs cutting things out on the floor. I don’t have unlimited amounts of energy so I’d rather spend it on things I enjoy!

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