With insights from UK pattern designer Zoe Edwards, Amy Chapman (of Cloth Habit fame), and me, writer Jessica Yen focuses on making lingerie from scraps of fabric— something I love to do!* Included are tips on everything from choosing patterns strategically to make the most of irregularly-shaped scraps to my own ideas for working with color palettes.
I’d love it if you would visit Seamwork Magazine and read this article, along with the rest of February’s issue, which focuses entirely on intimates. And tell me what you think! Oh, and I’d be interested to hear about your own experiences with sewing lingerie from fabric scraps.
The blatant self-promotional part: Want to see my own DIY lingerie sewing kits? I design and produce them for Colormusing, and many feature materials and trims I’ve dyed myself; all include links to blog posts I’ve written with details and tutorials specific to each kit.
And while you’re visiting Colormusing, be sure to sign up to receive Hue News, CM’s free monthly e-mail newsletter, including discount coupon codes you’ll only find in Hue News!
So there I was, debating over new bra patterns/fabrics/colors to try, and I had this idea…
What if I made an all-white bra that was meant to be dyed? That is, rather than dyeing the materials first, then cutting and sewing, maybe I could make the bra, then dye it. Ultimately, I want to be applying my original color palettes (and their corresponding dye recipes) to my lingerie pieces, just as I’m already doing with my yarns, so this seems like a good plan.
Advantages to this approach:
It’s fairly easy to find all necessary bra-making materials in white.
I wouldn’t waste dye on materials that would end up in the scrap heap after cutting my bra pieces out.
I could take my time deciding what color I wanted my bra to be.
Or heck, I could just decide to leave it white! I was severely tempted by this thought when I was finished making this bra. And I’m pretty sure Vogue advises every woman to own at least one Little White Bra, right?
I have to think and plan very carefully about the materials I use; everything from the lace and elastic trims to the strap rings and sliders needs to be compatible with the type of dye I want to use. And speaking of which…
As a wise person on the Facebook Bra Making Forum* pointed out, don’t forget about the thread! If I’m going to use the usual polyester sewing thread, it won’t be dyeable with either the acid or RIT types of dyes. Meaning my bra will be dyed, but the thread will stay white. Probably not the look I’m going for.
It can be a little tricky maneuvering the bra around while dyeing, especially with the underwired parts being stiff and generally getting in the way. (This was mainly a problem for me because I decided to ombré-dye my bra, so it had to be dipped repeatedly into various dye baths; it shouldn’t be an issue if you’re dunking the whole bra into the dye at once. Just make sure the container you’re dyeing in is large enough.)
Unless you’re extremely lucky, it’s unlikely that all materials will dye evenly to the exact same shade, even if they’re all the same fiber. I happen to like that, but you may not.
Tip: Crash course in dye types and what they’re used for: Acid dyes (the kind I use most frequently for my yarns) work on animal fibers like wool, mohair, and silk, and also on nylon (very important to lingerie makers). Fiber-reactive dyes are used for plant fibers, such as cotton, linen, and rayon. RIT dyes are what’s known as the union-type dye, meaning they’re a combination of acid and fiber-reactive dyes, so they can be used on any natural fiber, including combinations of animal and plant fibers. I use RIT dyes most frequently for panties, since I usually make them with cotton crotch linings.
Next up: I’ll show you the making of this Little White Bra, including some minor pattern changes I made along the way. And it’ll have a link to kits to make your very own LWB!
And coming soon after that: I’ll take you through my process for ombré-dyeing this bra, including how I got around the non-dyeing-white-thread thing, plus posts on making (and dyeing) a Little White Panty!
*This is a closed group on Facebook, so if you’d like to join it (and it’s fabulous), please contact me (Lindy Thibodaux on FB) with your FB name, and I’ll send you an invitation to the group.
Resources for this post:
The bra pattern I used is Kwik-Sew 3300; right now, this page says it’s “temporarily out of stock”. Let’s hope they bring it back soon!
ArteCrafts, one of my very first suppliers of bra-making goodies, has just launched their brand-new website: bramaking.supplies. To celebrate, ArteCrafts’ owner, Natasha, is offering free (yes, FREE) shipping on all U.S. orders placed on her website* until May 15, 2015! Simply use the discount code FREESHIP when you place your order.
In my very short time making my own lingerie, the beautiful and high-quality materials I’ve already used from ArteCrafts include wide stretch lace (for my first thong), continuous hook-and-eye bra back closure tape (on all of my 4 bras, including dyeing the tape for 2 of them), and super-soft bra strap elastic, which I’ve dyed to use on my second and fourth bras.
Natasha also sells fabrics, specialty elastics, underwires, kits, and much more. I highly recommend her shop for carefully curated bra-making supplies!
*IMPORTANT: This special offer applies to orders placed on bramaking.supplies only— not the ArteCrafts Etsy store or any prior orders.
As you know, I made my first and second bras using the same pattern, the Marlborough Bra. Considering my lack of experience, I think they both turned out surprisingly well. But here’s a funny thing. Even though I used the same pattern, and the same type of fabrics (silk for the main parts, powernet for the back bands, as specified by the pattern), they somehow turned out different in size— different enough that, although I’ve worn the second bra several times, I can’t wear the first one at all. It’s just too tight around the band.
Bra! I meant my fourth bra! For my third, I know I said that was something completely different, and it was, especially compared to my first and second, which were both made from the same pattern. But for this one, I went even further afield. I didn’t just try a new pattern, I made a foam-lined bra!
Now that I’ve got my cups sewn into my third bra project, it’s time for one of the main things I’m doing differently than the pattern (Kwik-Sew 3594): adding underwires. That is, at this phase, I’ll be adding channeling to house the underwires, which will get inserted a little later. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
After making both my first bra and the second with the same pattern (the Marlborough Bra from Orange Lingerie), and making them both mostly out of silk, I’ve started to feel the urge to try something different. Completely different.
Here’s what I have in mind:
1. Instead of making the bra first, then trying to find stretch panty materials to coordinate, I’m going to pick my panty fabric first, then use that for the bra as well. This will mean using (gasp!) a stretch fabric for the bra, rather than woven.
Now that my second bra is finished, along with its coordinating high-waisted panty, I thought this would be a good time to collect my thoughts about this whole lingerie-making experience, and share a few things that have occurred to me along the way.
In Part 3 of my second bra project, we ended after adding the back bands. Now all we have to do is add the finishing touches: elastic trim, straps, and the back closure. Then we’ll slip the underwires into place, and finish off the ends of the channeling. And I just may add a little embellishment to the center front (we’ll see).
I’ll start by adding my elastic trim to the underarm/back band edge. This technique, which you’ll see on virtually any ready-to-wear bra or panty, is done in 2 separate steps. The first is to attach the elastic, wrong side facing up (very important) to the right side of the bra, using a small zig-zag stitch, and sewing very close to the inside edge— the edge closest to the picot loops.
This piece of elastic will go from the top edge of the back band (not including the scooped-out area near center back) to the end of the outside edge of the power bar.
Tip: You don’t want to stretch the elastic much while attaching it; a slight stretch going around the curve of the underarm helps to smooth that curve, but don’t stretch the elastic on the back band portion.
Finally! After choosing my pattern, deciding which fabrics to use, and dyeing notions and more fabrics to coordinate, now I’m on to the really fun part: sewing it all together! Today, I’ll show you step-by-step how all the major parts are sewn together, and next time, I’ll complete my bra!
Let’s jump right in! Here, I’ve cut all my fabric pieces, and laid them out in a rough mock-up of my new bra.
Note: In the interest of keeping this post to less-than-novella length, it’s not going to be a tutorial, exactly; it’s more in the nature of a quick overview of the steps involved in constructing a bra. In posts to come, I’ll go into a lot more detail about specific aspects of bra-making. (Remember, this is only my second bra!)
Another note: In this photo, the pieces with the print fabric, which is sheer, have already been basted to a second layer of silk, for stability as well as opacity.
Tip: Laying out the pieces in this way also helps avoid the possibility of forgetting a vital part! Don’t ask me how I know this.