We had a lovely time sewing socks last month; for February and March we are kicking it up a notch with some lingerie!
Look, I get it.
The holidays are intense. For those of us who celebrate – or who are shoehorned into celebrations – it gets hectic. We are barely staying afloat – balancing family responsibilities, meal-planning, travel and party arrangements – while struggling with all the regular bill-paying, job-holding, schedule-wrangling stuff we are used to.
Many of us are celebrating Thanksgiving – or some form of communal meal – this month. My suggestion for this very quick sew-along is to carve a little space to sew something cozy. Whether you are making this for a friend or your own enjoyment – a holiday gift or something warm and snuggly for yourself – this is a relatively quick project but a satisfying one.
Knit chiffon, or tissue knit: absolutely a gorgeous material to work with. Typically made in 100% cotton and often with a slightly slubbed appearance, this luxe fabric usually has stretch with little if any recovery. I find making a size down, the garment will often stretch with time. In order to shrink it back, you will have to occasionally put the garment in the dryer (remember those tissue tees so popular with the GAP etc, in the late nineties?).
Sheer and semi-sheer fabrics are absolutely wonderful, in that each seamline, dart, and detail is really shown off – like a stained glass window. I tend to make french seams in these garments. And for a bit more interest, here I demonstrate how to create simple 3/16″ pintucks in a black knit chiffon.
1. prewashed and dried fabric
2. marking chalk
3. cutting mat, rotary cutter, and see-through cutting ruler
4. masking tape
The first thing to note about tissue knits is the grain can often be quite distorted – in other words, not parallel to the selvege. When laying out your yardage you have to determine if you need to cut the pieces on the grainline or no. For the front panel of this tunic, I decided to cut off the grain since I’d be making two rectangular panels abutted together, and could flip the grain (to chevron), making the garment symmetrical. For the sleeves, neckband, sleeve band, and back panel, I cut along the grain in one layer.
Shown below; the yardage arranged with the grain corresponding to the cutting mat; you can see what I mean about the selvege.
Now for marking tucks, it is best to cut the fabric and leave it be on the mat – don’t shift it whatsoever – then mark right away. Cut out your panel according to your cutting mat; next you’ll be marking the centerline of your tucks.
When marking, I use a ruler and line it up with the guide lines on the mat; the sheer nature of the fabric makes this easy to do! You want to be very careful and apply firm vertical pressure to your ruler as you mark, or else you will shift your fabric. If you do shift it, just carefully rearrange to the guidelines on the mat.
Here I am applying lines at a 45 degree angle.
Be patient; this is the most exacting part of the process. It’s easy from here on out!
Once you have your tuck lines marked, take the piece to the machine.
Using a straight stitch or a very narrow zig zag, start your stitching line on your first tuck, folding right on the chalked line and making sure you are stitching at the width you want. My tucks are 3/16″. After you’ve started your tuck successfully, pause and retrieve your roll of masking tape.
I like to create a little seam guide by layering about six layers of the masking tape very accurately on top of one another, then applying it to my machine bed. This will help you get exact tucks – note you can use this method to create tucks as deep or shallow as you like!
Make sure not to stretch your fabric as you stitch. Just let the machine action guide the fabric through.
Since it’s my blog I don’t actually need a particularly catchy title for my posts; today I am banging out a few photos of lingerie sewing methods that have served me well. I’m also posting as much of my butt as I’m comfy posting in public right now.
The background: indie pattern designer Made for Mermaids put forth a great lingerie set – a bralette/nightie along with a cheekie/thong pattern bundle. This is a relatively size-inclusive, adorable lingerie set that is absolutely perfect for the intermediate stitcher to tackle. The garments can be made of knit fabric (trimmed with lace and elastic, or just elastic) or double scallop/galloon lace and elastic. Best of all, M4M has a massive Facebook community with hundreds of women going forth and boldly sewing, and photographing, lingerie! The Facebook community will be the best place right now to catch their sew-along, videos, and results.
For my post, I am not emulating a sew-along but rather focusing on cutting methods, stitching methods, and sewing methods that result in an absolutely impeccable finish. In the examples below, I am using 8 1/2″ galloon lace and 3/8″ plush-backed lingerie elastic, along with the crossback finish.
Specifically, to succeed with the bralette and panty patterns you need to:
1. make a muslin (wearable or otherwise), in. This is especially important for the bralette.
2. fussy-cut for impeccable symmetry in the garment
3. add length to your strap pieces; you can cut them down later
4. match your threads perfectly
5. use a zig-zag stitch for seam construction; take notes on the settings.
6. use stabilizer where appropriate
7. cut elastic as you go, and cut generously (more below)
8. baste-fit side seams and straps before final stitches
OK? Let’s go!
First – fussy-cutting the pieces. First – make sure you keep track of the right side and wrong side (RS/WS of the lace). These can look very similar, but they are usually different:
Every piece should have its mirror image cut symmetrically. Since the repeat on galloon lace is so tight, this is easy to do.Be sure to flip your pieces and cut mirror images. Below you can see me lining up my laces before cutting:
To pin, use fine or silk pins and dive the pins at least twice through the lace – this makes for a far more secure pin:
Stitch some of your scraps to get the zig zag you like – I cut 1/8″ after zig-zagging. I generally like the look of a zig zag more than a serge:
Installing the elastic on the cups – do not overstretch the elastic. I sewed with the lace side up, and made sure my elastic extended past the raw edges. I finished one side of each cup, before stitching elastic to the other side of each cup.
No need to trim the elastic (yet) after you sew the first cup side. Make sure to backstitch firmly at the end of the elastic stitching:
Now it’s time to sew the second elastic side. It doesn’t matter if you sew from the top of the cup or the bottom. Go ahead and layer your elastic so it extends off the top of the cup, and firmly backstitch so that the top of the cup’s elastic stitching lines are on top of one another:
Now, for lingerie elastic we have our first stitch, flip, stitch again (as shown on page 6 of the pattern). I sewed with the right (shiny) side against the right side of the lace, a basting stitch right down the center.
Then, I flipped the lace and snugged it up against that seam, sewing from the topside of the garment in a nice even zig-zag:
Gorgeous! This will be the same technique we use for most of the rest of the elastic application of the crossback (upper strap neckline, upper back piece, and side straps):
For the crossback, we now sew the center back seam. This is a great place to use a washaway stabilizer, to make sure we have a firm and even stitch. You can even use paper; but I use washaway stabilizers a lot (as shown in my tutorials, especially for knitwear) and they are inexpensive, versatile, and handy!
For the crossback, we now pin the top of the large straps to the upper edge of the upper neckline. I found it best to baste each strap one at a time, to get them even. Just to the upper right of my elastic you can see the center-back seam I just finished:
I then tacked the cross traps from the right side, where they cross over. The pattern has you stitching all the way across but I didn’t like this effect. I tacked, pulled the thread tails to the backside, knotted them, and then hid them in the topstitching channel underside.
(Above you can see my little tack, before I knot it and hide the tails!)
Now is a great time to really cut across the crossback bottom edge, for a nice clean line. We’re about to install these traps to the upper back piece, before topstitching that upper back piece.
Pinned and ready to topstitch:
Straps! The best-looking method I found, was to baste the two raw edges RS-together, Then press them out. Stitch the elastic, RS of the garment and elastic facing up, with the elastic against the machine bed.
Turn over and make sure you caught the center of your elastic, before proceeding:
Now, go ahead and trim this seam allowance so the lace raw edge is hidden under the elastic:
Here is the upper strap/cup basted seam:
Time to baste that cup to the front strap – again, exact placement is a good idea for when you topstitch later:
Finally, baste-fit the cup crossover according to the pattern.
At this point, you can try the bra on for fitting. It should fit the bust well, but since there is no elastic under the cups or at the back, it will not hold the bust. This is the perfect opportunity to adjust the cup crossover, the sides, and the strap length.
I added a narrow topstitch (parallel to the bottom edge of the photo below), to close the crossover and give my bust a tiny bit more enclosure. This is going to entirely depend upon preference, bust fullness, and breast spacing:
I didn’t use the elastic from the pattern, but pulled the elastic under my bust snugly. I then applied it, RS-down against the WS of the garment, with the elastic facing up (shown below). You can mark the elastic in quarters; I knew form feel how much to stretch to apply. When in doubt – pin evenly, before stretching and sewing!
Time for the panties – the cheekies, in my case. Both the cheekies and the thong are a walk in the park after the bralette!
My stretch elastic is a 8 1/2″, not an 8″, so it is larger than the pattern piece. You can use this excess at the inseam if you like; just keep in mind your liner (if you use one) will not extend all the way to the hem if you do.
Again – it is relatively easy to fussy-cut such that the panties are perfectly symmetrical! Shown below: RS-together:
Let’s cut that liner! I’m uisng an awesome silky bamboo. I fold the crotch liner in half lengthwise and line that fold up with a knit grainline, then unfold and cut:
Lingerie-sewing is so intimidating for so many, but once you start it is a veritable playground! Enjoy!
I had quite a week, and it cheered me immensely to sew up the Sew House Seven Burnside Bibs. I think of these as “Rosie the Riveter”-style overalls, and as far as I know mine are the first pair in existence to be made out of a knit fabric. This involves the extremely judicious use of interfacings (I used two different types), and in this case – a lot of stripe matching and fussy-cutting.
The pattern features two versions. Version one – the version I made – features a slightly curved front bib, and a slimmer-fit trouser with deep back darts and an invisible zipper at the side. Version two features the standard straight bib, and full back legs. Both versions feature an option for a cropped or full-length leg, and long ties that can be worn a variety of ways, to pass through belt carriers in the back. You can see several versions on the site’s pattern page.
I may or may not have gone mad with stripe-matching power. If there are stripes, I have to make them match perfectly. I also used the lengthwise, crosswise, and bias grain in ways that were not indicated by this pattern, nor are typical for knit garments.
At the pant leg: a deep blind hem. This gives the pantleg a wonderful weight. I find sewing a blind hem very satisfying!
Shown below: the center-back seam and the back pockets (cut on bias, and fuse-lined). The pockets on the pattern are too low for my body, so next make I will shift them up.
The front pockets are also fuse-lined, and finished with a knit strip rather than the shaped facing in the pattern:
I pieced the front bodice on the bias, and used the crosswise grain for not only the pant leg, but also the front waistband and the straps. I think I only used the knit grain “correctly” twice – the bib facing/lining, and the front pockets.
The back of the pant has an internal facing, and six tie carriers. I cut everything out fussy af so my carriers would all be identical, and placed in identical locations on either side of the center back:
Belt carriers, with the chambray tie passing through. These long ties were barely able to be pulled through using the tube method, and I used pretty lightweight fabrics. Save yourself some trouble and either cut a wider tie, sew a narrow seam allowance, or do a test run of loop turning.
I like a lot about Sew House Seven, including the geometric but feminine shapes within the patterns, and the simple fabrics often used to showcase the garment lines. But I recommend them for their instructions, especially. There is a really great methodology to the patterns, and it is a bit different than other indie designers. The methods are very persnickety and precise in a way that I absolutely love, and allow for a really gorgeous clean-finish on the inside of the garment. I think the patterns are miniature tailoring tutorials in and of themselves, and I recommend them to any committed beginner, or intermediate stitcher who wants to up their game.
This pattern comes in bust/hip measurement 31″ / 34″, to bust/hip 47″ / 50″.
I was warned the Scrundlewear pattern from Stitch Upon a Time (SUAT) was so comfy you wouldn’t want to wear anything else –
they were right.
So, these are so comfortable I feel the sting of tears.
So: stitchers. Like most forms of briefs, these are arguably best made in a knit with two-way stretch and recovery – what’s commonly called a 4-way knit (knit fabric terminology isn’t standardized and can be confusing – if you have any doubts, please ask!). If you find something that’s 90-something percent cotton (or bamboo or rayon), and a single-digit percentage of lycra, elastane, or spandex (three words for the same thing) – you’re golden. If you have a knit with stretch but without recovery – then go ahead and make the elastic version (either lingerie elastic, or encased-in-bands elastic):
I have a serger (two, in fact) – but I prefer sewing with zig zag on my home machine. ‘cuz I’m SPICY LIKE THAT. I got a secret tip when I sew up clothes: I bring all thread colors to may table, and change my thread/bobbin as much as possible to make sure the thread always matches whatever fabric it shows in. That’s a level of detail most stitchers think is too much but did I mention –
I am a little sad now because I am basically going to be making underwear constantly and will have little time for anything else. I also know these will last longer than even high-end RTW chonies!
Cool thoughts: Make up three matching pair at a time, it will go very quickly. During other projects, when you’re working with a good knit fabric that’s too adorable, cut out your waistband and leg bands (you’ll soon memorize your own size); safety pin the three and put them in a Ziploc. You can do the same for the three underwear pieces (back, front, and liner). Wait until you’ve got a nice collection of pieces – and have a panty-sewing day!
If you sew these up and love them as much as I do – you might want to consider the expansion pattern of sorts, Bunzies. There’s also a kids’ version of Scrundlewear, so you can make these up for the family. SUAT welcomes you to make these up and sell them for your boutique or one-off projects – make sure to attribute the lovely pattern.
Now to find my crime-fighting sidekick!
October 14th and 15th, I am leading us through the Toaster Sweater sew-along! This sew-along won’t be hosted here, but instead at Sew House Seven’s site. For the pattern, you can purchase either sweater – or both – in a print or PDF version.