Friday, February 11, 2011

Bra Making!

Sure, you can make a lot of your own clothing and accessories, but would you want to sew underwear? I would! I've been dying to. I'm picky about my bras and it's hard to find ones I like. I'm at the Education of the Textile Arts Dallas sewing expo, where I came for the express purpose of doing a daylong seminar in custom bra making with the fabulous Anne St. Clair, teacher and proprietor of Needle Nook Fabrics in Wichita, KS.

Here's what we started out with in our bra kits: power mesh, tricot, elastics, twill tape, hook and eye bra closures, channeling, interfacing, and a pair of premade bra straps (for our convenience). We also had pattern pieces from the bra patterns she designs herself. Ann measured each of us yesterday when we arrived at the hotel, so our patterns are tweaked personally to our bodies.

 Janet, one of Anne's assistants, showed us the finer points of laying out our pattern pieces on the slippery fabric.

 A rotary cutter isn't much good on tricot — the soft, spongy fabric slides up ahead of the blade and you get distorted pattern pieces. Their trick? A pair of really cheap ($2) scissors. I thought it worked smashingly well.
Power mesh, the friend of ice skating costumes everywhere. It's also in bras. You need to use it with the most stretch going around your body. How to tell which direction has the most stretch? The "eyes" of the mesh close up when you stretch it. They seem to open if you stretch it in the other direction.
Buttery soft tricot. Find its most stretchy direction by noticing if it curls to the right side of the fabric.

 My cut out pieces. The purple marks are from a fabric marking pen and marking is a MUST in bra making. (They'll fade.)

Anne had us use a pin weaving technique to hold the slippery layers together before we put our work in the machine.

Anne helped all of us, all day long. I was glad she was comfortable at my Pfaff ("This is my mother's machine!" she said).

I got my bra cups joined at the cross seams, interlined lightly with fleece, lined, joined at the center seam (which is reinforced with twill tape. Next was attaching channeling to the bottom of the bra cups. It's for underwires, which I skipped.

Next, I sewed bottom elastic, center front elastic, and side elastic. The back closure was next. Then, the straps. It took all day, but the time just flew.

The completed bra. It really fits! I can't wait to try making more of them.

Like this one that has red flames printed on it, which Grace, Anne's other assistant is holding up.

Wow, what a day. There were several machine failures and plenty of operator error, but Anne was still smiling at the end of it all.