Hooks and eyes can be such buggers! Do you know how many times I have been inches from finishing, but had to walk away because I couldn’t attach the hook and eye? Too many. So many that I developed a few tips so that I don’t have a, “Maddie, walk away from the bra!” moment. They’re not revolutionary and I confident I’m not the first sewer to use them. Most are common sewing tips that I’ve brought over to the world of bra making. In any case, they’re helpful and I thought I’d share!
Before I get started, there are two types of hooks and eyes most commonly used for bra making. The first is a continuous length that can be bought by the yard or meter. The tape is trimmed to fit the length of the center back and needs no finishing, but I prefer to zig-zag the top and bottom edges. The second is a precut length, usually 1×3, 2×3, 3×3 or 4×3. I use this type the most because it is heat sealed along the top and bottom edges so it won’t fray or look ragged with washing.
When I first started sewing bras, I experienced skipped stitches when attaching hooks and eyes a lot. It was frustrating to get to the end of the project, and struggle to cross the finish line. The reason was that I was using the wrong needle. Ninety nine percent of the time, the fabric I use for bras has lycra or spandex, so I use a stretch or a ballpoint needle. But hooks and eyes don’t stretch, they require a universal needle. It seems simple, but when you’re excited to finish, you forget! So, remember to switch your needles when attaching – I like a size 16. For the same reason, I switch needles when attaching channeling.
Have you ever tried to sew over a thick seam and experienced skipped and/or uneven stitches? That’s because the presser foot tilts up when going over the seam, then tilts down as it passes. If the presser foot is not horizontal/level to the feed dogs, it will have a hard time moving forward; the bobbins threads get tangled too. Arg! Enter the hump jumper or Jean-A-Ma-Jig, which you place behind the presser foot just before you get the the seam, or hump. An even cheaper option, which I use, is the packet of sewing machine needles (Andrea uses fabric scraps). To attach a hook and eye, I place it behind the presser foot, abutting the top or bottom edge, and then I sew. Easy peasy solution!
If you don’t like this method, another option is to start sewing in the center of the hook and eye and go to one end. Then, go back to the center and sew directed over the first stitch to the other end. You have to be exact so that the stitches in the center overlap and lock.
Another note – you don’t have to use a zigzag stitch. I use a straight stitch most of the time and I think it is as clean looking as a zigzag. It’s a lot easier to sew too!
Temporary Spray Adhesive
Because there are so many layers and because hooks and eyes are naturally thick, pinning it in place can be difficult, especially if your pins aren’t sturdy. They will bend or break. Basting it is an option, but I use a quicker method. When I wrote about my favorite bra making tools, spray adhesive was one of them. I use it most often to spray baste self and lining fabric together prior to cutting, but I also use it to attach hooks and eyes quickly by opening it, spraying inside, then pressing in place over the center back. I wait a few minutes for it to dry, then sew.