Plans Change!

Yes, I said I was going to add a center zipper to this bralette, but the fabric looked so light and airy in my basted fitting that I didn’t want to!

This is a piece of what I would consider medium-weight powermesh. I’d never seen printed powermesh before, so when I noticed this at the Textile Center Garage Sale in April, I couldn’t resist it. It was probably meant for a lightweight girdle. It has about 50% firm stretch in both directions.

They’re not my usual colors, and I don’t usually love florals, but I love this fabric! I have enough for at least one more project. Maybe my 1967 Touch and Sew is influencing me!

I used the Sweet Sixteen pattern again, but I made some changes. The front straps are simply sewn on, not attached with a ring.

I could have matched the thread to the elastic and FOE, but I liked the look of white thread as a little contrast.

I like to use rings on the back. I got the idea from a RTW bra.

The fabric isn’t scandalously sheer, but it’s a little too sheer for me to feel comfortable modeling it. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it fits!

For the bottom band, I’ve found that even with a very stable fabric, I just don’t feel supported enough with FOE binding. I was going to add enough length to the bottom band to do a covered-elastic application, but I found this firm lingerie-style 1-inch elastic in my stash from when I was testing waistband elastics, and decided to try it. I added one inch to the bottom pieces of the band and applied it just like a regular bra elastic. I used Beverly Johnson’s technique to get away with having the band wider than the portion of the bra(lette) under the cups.

Zipper version to come, probably after I use up the rest of this fabric!

Planning the Perfect Post-Workout Bralette

I do love the first bralette I made with the Sweet Sixteen pattern. But, I want to add a few elements to it.

1) Front zip.

2) Firmer bottom-band elastic.

Basically, I’m going to take those elements from my Greenstyle Endurance sports bras and apply them to the Sweet Sixteen.

First, I have to write down some notes. These seem like simple things, but it really helps if you sit down and figure it out before the rubber hits the road, so to speak.

I’m not very good at drawing, so I just printed out the front of the pattern and scribbled on it.

Not super-sophisticated, but it works! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sewing Blackout-Lined Curtains: Some Tips

I made curtains! Victor is not shown to scale here. He’s about three feet closer to me than the curtains.

When I first started learning to sew, one of my friends said, “You know, you won’t save any money sewing.” Well, that’s debatable. Custom-made anything is expensive. It deserves to be! But, sewing curtains is one of the areas where you’re almost always going to save money by doing it yourself, no matter how simple or complex the window treatment.

We wanted blackout-lined curtains. I’d never sewn blackout fabric or lined curtains before, so I ordered a small sample of fabric and made a test run in plain muslin. I learned a lot from my test run! Mainly, if you want rod-pocket curtains (meaning, there’s no header or pleating tape), sew the rod pocket last. If you wait and sew the side seams last, you won’t be able to put the curtains on the rod!

I read a whole stack of my sewing books, and I also picked up Susan Woodcock‘s Singer Sewing Custom Curtains, Shades, and Top Treatments from my local library. She also has a few classes on Bluprint that I found very helpful. (Full disclosure: I used to work for the company that published Susan’s book and I’m a Bluprint instructor. I’m not getting paid to endorse Susan. I just think she’s great!)

I suspect it hasn’t been available to home sewists for very long, but part of my seeming obsession with Susan is she’s the only source I could find who really discussed blackout fabric.

It’s a bit tricky to work with. You see, it’s not really a fabric in the normal sense, but more a fabric that has been coated in a very thin foam. In some ways, it sews like leather, but it is also extremely stable and doesn’t stretch or give at all, really.

I couldn’t even get it to stitch well, at first! It would be fine for a few inches, then stitches would start skipping. I tried a leather needle. I tried a denim needle. Nothing seemed to work.

In the end, I went where I should have gone in the first place: the manufacturer’s website. Here are the tips I gleaned from there, from Susan, and from my own experience:

1) Do not use pins. The hole marks will show forever. I used wonder clips.

2) Use a teflon needle.

3) Use a long stitch length. I used the longest one my machine would make (6 stitches/inch).

4) Manage the weight of the fabric with care. Hauling this stuff around isn’t a mean feat! I was working in my guest bedroom, so when I was sewing, I could rest the weight of the part I wasn’t sewing on the bed. I had to build in time to fold up the pieces when I finished each session so that they wouldn’t wrinkle.

5) Since the blackout lining is so stable, you may want to stabilize the main curtain fabric. Otherwise, it can be a challenge to make sure the edges you cut to the same length stay the same length, especially when you can’t pin! Even a line of stay stitching may save you some frustration.

6) Pattern match from the right side using a double-sided fusible tape. Susan covers this method very well in her book. It worked like a charm.

7) I found the easiest way to cut both my main and lining fabrics was to mark where I wanted to cut with a ruler and square, then cut with shears. I’m normally #teamrotarycutter, but in this case, I think it would have been harder to keep accurate. Again, I was working on a guest bed and not on a proper cutting table, so you may have a different experience.

8) This is actually advice from my grandmother Eulalia. Choose a fabric that you LOVE! That will get you through any rough spots you have with the project.

Anyway, here are more photos of my curtains. I couldn’t love them more. I can’t get the color to reproduce well. Imagine a very light indigo on a very dark indigo background.

Stay Calm and Get the Hair Dryer

A few months ago, Lara spiffed up one of her vintage sewing machines with new rubber leg cushions.

The cushions on my 1960’s Singer had deteriorated and flattened over the years, to the point where I had to pry the bottom of the machine off of them to get to some of the oiling points. This was annoying. Even more annoying, the machine was basically resting on the screws that hold on the cushions, so I was getting a little shimmy from the machine when I ran it at high speeds. Those cushions have a function (damping vibrations), and these more-than-50-year-old cushions were unable to do that job anymore. This machine is very fast, so this was A Problem.

I added replacement rubber leg cushions to my most recent order with Sewing Parts Online at https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/ (not affiliated, but I have been a happy customer of theirs). All together, the four feet were less than $15.

The parts sat in my sewing basket for about a month, then this weekend I decided it was Time To Do This Very Easy Thing.

I was so confident that the old cushions would pop right off, I didn’t even lay a towel down on the table. I rested my machine on its side, then unscrewed the little nut that holds the base together and pried off the base. I unscrewed the first leg’s attachment point and carefully put the screw aside.

Then this happened.

 

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The old, rotten rubber just tore in half in my fingers. The years of compression and general advance of time had made the rubber stiff, sticky, and friable!

Choice words were said.

I took a breath and texted Lara and a few of my friends. My friend offered his dental tools to help extract the old feet, but I was in too much of a panic even to go to his house and get them.

I was so worried I had messed up this machine, which has sentimental value as a wedding present from my husband’s grandmother on top of its value as The Machine That Helped Me Learn To Enjoy Sewing.

Lara advised me to make a cup of tea and post to a Facebook group we are both on for Vintage sewing machines. The suggestions and commiserations promptly poured in. Of the many ideas, the one that did not require new equipment was, “Dump a lot of sewing machine oil on it, then run a hair dryer on it, and pry it out with a blunt tool.”

Honestly, on these Vintage machine groups, I’ve yet to see someone mention that they REGRET trying that first.

So, I carefully oiled all four feet with a cheap paintbrush, then let it sit for a few hours on a towel while I took my daughter to her afternoon play date.

I got home, found my oft-ignored hair dryer (which may be nearing Vintage status itself…I think my mom bought it for me in the very early 1990’s), and set a timer. Three minutes of steady heat per foot got me the result I wanted. This time I expected them to crumble and put down some paper towels.

 

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None of the feet got out in one piece, but they all came out eventually!

The new cushions installed easily, and now my machine runs rock-solid, even at speed.

This weekend’s lesson: Stay Calm and Get the Hair Dryer.

 

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Pattern Spotlight: Sweet Sixteen Bralette by Beverly Johnson

It’s called the Sweet Sixteen Bralette, but it’s not just for teenagers. It’s called that because there are 16 different style options within one envelope!

Bralettes are great entry points to sewing bras and other lingerie for a few reasons.

1) They use almost all of the techniques needed for a bra, except for the underwire. So you can practice 1/4 inch seams, top stitching, and elastic application.

2) Bralettes are easy to fit – just two measurements, with this pattern, and you’re off to the races!

3) It’s easy to make something better than what you can buy. To be frank, I’ve never found a bralette in a shop that fits well and feels supportive enough for me.

4) It doesn’t take very much fabric or a lot of notions to make a bralette, so even if you have to try a few times before you get a result you love, it won’t cost much to practice and learn.

This was my first time making this pattern, so I kept it pretty simple style-wise, while focusing on getting pretty firm support. I followed the pattern as written, except for two things: I only used powernet for the back (an option the pattern has is to line with powernet) and I glue-basted the (also optional) nonstretch fabric for the frame lining to the very stretchy rib fabric I used as my fashion fabric. The instructions were to baste at the sewing machine, but I was afraid that connecting a nonstretch to this very stretchy rib would drive me nuts.

I used the optional foam lining. Cut and sew foam is just about my favorite thing for anything bra-adjacent. I also used the hook-and-eye back (you can also choose a one-piece back). I love not having to pull the bralette on over my head.

When I make this pattern again (and I will, I see a lot of these in my future), I will either choose a less stretchy fabric or be more aggressive when basting it to the foam lining. On this version, the fashion fabric is a little more baggy than I would like.

If you’ve never sewn cut-and-sew foam or fold-over elastic, this is a great pattern to try both of those techniques for the first time. Beverly’s instructions and diagrams are very clear.