Saturday, February 6

Cloning Ulla

Recently a customer brought me an interesting challenge. She purchased a ready-to-wear bra and wanted one just like it, but not necessarily the same fabrics. I call this... wanting something the same, only different! Her bra was a European sized at 34K and it certainly did fit her nicely. In fact, when I told her she had to leave it with me for a day, she almost cried!

The bra has a horizontal seam with a split lower cup. So many of the larger cup sizes benefit by a horizontal seam - you can add so much shaping. On the upper cup, there is an internal power bar running from the strap to the seamline. This protects the lace on the upper cup from tearing under the tension on the strap and it also helps to direct the breast forward.

I decided to use my go-to method of cloning, instead of the one I talked about in this post. I have done cloning with pins for many, many years, and I still like it. As a creature of habit, I went with this method. The key to this method is the 1/2" thick foam core board, but you also need sturdy pins (with a head on them), paper, ruler, pencil, curve etc. - round up your usual drafting stuff and get ready.

Place some paper over the foam core board. You'll also need to remove one wire first - that's the only "damage" we do to the bra and the wire is easy to put back and close up again when this is over.

We are going to pin out each piece of the bra to what I call " its pre-sewn flat condition" - in other words, the shape and size of the pattern piece right before it was sewn up. So, in areas where there is elastic, such as the back band, we need to stretch the fabric while pinning so that all the wrinkles are made flat. You can see the wrinkles here from where the elastic shrinks the size of the piece during construction.

Once the piece is pinned down flat, I go in between the pins with a larger T-pin. I actually use a diamond shaped florist pin. The idea is that you are creating an outline of the shape with pins to the paper underneath. The foam core board just holds the pins in place while you are working. That larger pins makes nicer holes in the paper and foam core that you can see once the outline is done and the bra is removed.

Once the pin marking is done, remove the pins and the bra but be careful not to move the paper from the foam board, or else you will not be able to see the pin holes. Trust me on that! Mark around the outline, connecting the dots until you have the complete outline of the piece. Pin a piece, then pencil the outline. Pin, then pencil.

I start with the back band because that is easiest to demonstrate to students how the process works, then move to the bridge and the frame. You can see my diamond pin here :) The blue pin at the right marks the end of the bridge area - there is actually a short seam there. I was surprised to see the seam not directly below the lower cup seam, since that is where you will often find it.

Then I move on to the lower cups. In this case, the bra had a split lower cup so I had both an inner and an outer to pin out. Notice how curved that seam is - sewn bras offer the most shaping because of the curves we can build in. Don't try to make that seam a straight line!

Here's the lower cup after I connected the dots. You can still see the holes (wonder of wonders). I also mark the DoGS and I label each seam and corner. As you can see, a triangle shaped piece like this would be easy to get rotated incorrectly. On this bra, I got a surprise. The DoGS were not pointing toward the apex as I would have expected. Hmmm....

Finally I do the upper cup. The upper cup is the hardest piece to clone and it requires special attention. You almost always have to do it in two parts. Pin out the first half as far as you can....

... then un-pin  from the front and let the second half swing around. You have to remove enough pins to allow the cup to swing, but leave enough intact to make sure the shape is accurate. it's a tricky little devil!

The dark area you see above is an internal power bar that goes behind the lace from the strap to the seamline. No need to clone this piece separately, you can draft it from the upper cup piece afterward.

Once all the pieces are "pinned and pencilled" I clean up the lines. Lines that are meant to be straight, such as side seam and lace edges, I  use a ruler. Otherwise, I use my curve or free-hand if the curve is very shallow. The trick is not to actually connect each dot but to combine art with engineering (I love that!) and to hit as many holes as possible along the path. (that's a bit like golfing, I think!)

If two seamlines aren't the same length, and it happens, you have two choices. If they are off by 1/8" or a few millimetres, I use my best judgement when they are together to see which is likely to be correct. if they are off by a lot (more than 1/4" or 6 mm. I will pin the pieces out again. It only takes a few minutes and the results are well worth the effort.

 I also walk the wire line seam around to make sure it fits and make notches where the seam of the cup hit the frame as shown above. All that's left is to add the seam allowances and make up a test bra!

Just be sure to use fabrics that are similar in stretch to the original, otherwise you won't really know how accurate your clone is.

Tuesday, February 2

American Bra-makers Convention - Salt Lake City!

The class schedule for the very first American Bra Convention has been finalized and I am proud to share it with you! The convention will be held in beautiful Salt Lake City! I am thrilled to be here with our American distributor, Camille from Sweet Cups Bra Supply!

For more information as to location, prices, hotel etc, please call Camille at 650-773-8283 or email her at There are limited spaces so please register as soon as possible! You won't want to miss this!

May 2nd:  Monday 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Day session: Powerbars, Pockets, Slings & Collars 

This class will be spent working with all types of power bars, slings and collars (shown here is a collar). We'll learn what they do and what makes them work, how to design them and incorporate them into your bras. Do you or someone in your family have a mastectomy? Learn to design and insert a mastectomy bra pocket and how to make them to fit your bra pattern. By the end of the class, you will be designing, sewing and using these indispensable support tools with ease. We will be making a sample of each of the techniques taught but no one bra will be completed in class. Bring your bra pattern to class.

May 2nd:  Monday 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Evening session: Fitting Workshop with the Fairy Bra Mother.
 Students must bring their own bra they made and the pattern to the fitting. Beverly will tell you what you can do to improve the fit. If you have your pattern with you, she will personally alter the pattern for you. 20 minute allotment per student.

May 3rd: Tuesday 9:00 am – 4:30 pm 
Day session: Cut & Sew Foam

Everyone loves a cut-and-sew foam bra . They cushion the bustline and provide a nipple-free look under clothes. Using cut-and-sew foam allows you to use virtually any fabric, including stretchy fabrics you can’t use for a regular bra cup.  We have tricks that allow the home sewer to cover her own cups and sew beautiful bras that rival ready-to-wear.  You can choose from 14 different foam colours! This is a class jam packed with foam, fun and friends! You must already know how to sew a bra and bring your bra pattern to class- no beginner bra-makers!

May 4th: Wednesday 9:00 am – 4:30 pm 
Day session: Perfect Panties

Once you make your own custom panties, you'll never go back to buying them!  In this class, you will make the best-fitting panties you have ever owned. You will learn to draft either the regular panty or the boy leg panty from your own body measurements. You will also learn to make different styles from your panty block, including all-lace panties and thongs. Fabric and elastics are included for one pair of panties in your registration fee.

 May 4th: Wednesday 6:30 – 9:30 pm 
Evening session: Bra Makers Gala

Want to know what makes a Fairy Bra Mother? Meet and greet with Beverly Johnson, star of stage and screen (!) and top selling Craftsy instructor! Beverly will be presenting a fantastically entertaining slide show as well as autographing any books or patterns you bring to the gala. Enjoy finger foods and dessert as you mingle with other sewing enthusiasts from around the country!

May 5th: Thursday 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Day session: Style Changes
In this class, you will learn how to change your basic pattern into every style you want. Vertical seams, diagonal seams, multiple piece cups, long-line – what style lines do YOU want in your bra? After completion of the class, you should be able to look at a ready-to-wear bra and know exactly how to duplicate the style. In the morning you will learn to change the style, then in the afternoon, you will check the fit of the cup you designed in the morning. You must bring your bra pattern to the class.

May 6th: Friday 9:00 am – 4:30 pm 
Day session: Finishing School – Advanced Sewing Techniques

This class is for bra-makers who want to improve their design and construction skills to make beautiful and fashionable bras that rival the most expensive ready-to-wear. Wonder how to design and make a Gothic arch, multiple straps, a lace up bridge or a double-T strap attachment? You will also learn to design and work with lace, on the cups, or the frame. Learn to determine what steps to do first and which will impact construction later on. You must already be sewing bras (no beginner bra-makers!) in order to take this course. Bring your bra pattern to class.

Sunday, January 31

On the (not so) Silver Screen

Now available on a monitor near you! Your Fairy Bra Mother has "officially" launched her very own You Tube Channel! Talk about someone who has come kicking and screaming into the world of Social Media...for those of you that know me...this is a HUGE step for me.

So far, I have 7 videos  - the first one I filmed in the store with my Ipad...I know, I know it is terrible! But it does show the Bias Tape Maker in action. It was my very first self-made video, so be gentle with your comments! You can tell it was awhile ago because of my hair colour!

Then I went to Craftsy a couple of times and filmed some bra-making classes. This is the trailer for the second class - Sewing Bras: Designer Techniques. It is obvious, they are a whole lot better at making videos than I am! This is my favourite trailer - so cute! Thanks to my producer, Karen who thought this up!  

I won't bore you with the others (you can see them all on YouTube, but I am so proud that I made them myself! They aren't as good as the official Craftsy videos but nice just the same. Please have a look if you are interested!

This Blog (do you need the link for this? lol)

Day 8 - Free Floating Bras

Two days of making swimwear started today at the Saskatchewan Stitches Conference. The students were told that there were several ways of supporting the bust in a swimsuit:

1. The shelf bra, which is a piece of fabric in the front of the suit with a few gathers along the bottom edge. This type of shelf bra is not good at supportive a larger bust or one that is flaccid or heavy. I rarely recommend this type of support.

2. Using pre formed foam bra cups sewn into the suit lining. The cups aren't bad as long as you can get them in your size. However, you are limited to the shape of the cups that are available.

3. The free floating bra. This is the best solution, in my opinion. You can use your own bra pattern and make the cups for inside the suit.  The bra attaches at the side seam and the shoulder of the swimsuit, and is not visible from the outside of the suit.  There is no limit to the size, and the cups can be underwired or not. Best of all, it supports as well as a bra!

So today after the students were measured and assigned a swimsuit size, they got to work making their free floating bras.

Some got right to work!

Margaret was working on a client bra in the workroom, although I did get her to pose for a photo. And you can see the tennis balls on the chair legs to keep them from scratching the floors,
Here is the inside of the cup we are making. We use cut and sew foam to make the cup from the bra pattern, then cover the seams with seam tape. Don't have any seam tape? We used duoplex cut into strips, and that worked just as well!
Once the cups were sewn, they were inserted into the frame, and elastic put on the bottom edge, just like in a regular bra. You can see a bit of the blue frame in this photo.
We also made some straps to attach the cup to the swimsuit shoulders. You can use strap tape, or you can make tapered tubes from duplex. Either way, it works!
One student finished her cups and was ready to start the main part of her suit. She wanted ruching on the side panels of her princess line suit, so I showed her how to make the pattern piece for it. Here it is in the beginning.
Here is the ruched panel after gathering and pinning it all in place. Next she will sew it and steam it before it can be sewn into her suit.
Tomorrow we will finish the suits and insert the free floating bras. I have some tricks to make that part of the fitting go super smooth. Stay tuned to see the final results!

Sunday, January 24

Lost and Found in Denver

Well, here I am in Denver! I just finished filming TWO new classes for Crfatsy, plus I stayed over the weekend for the first ever Instructor Summit.  There is so much going on here, but first ...the bad news....I lost my IPad!

Friday morning, I overslept and had to check out of the hotel in such a hurry that I somehow left my iPad behind. I didn't notice its absence until after 6 pm that evening when we wrapped up the filming of the second class of the week. I called the hotel but housekeeping had gone how for the night! Egads! Thank goodness I was going to still be in Denver for the weekend but at a different hotel, so at least I could check on the hunt on Saturday.

I always thought it would be a piece of cake to live without technology for a period of time, but now I am not so sure. I couldn't answer emails, I couldn't take photos of the summit, and worst of all, I had nothing to read in the evening before going to bed! Can you believe the hotel gift shop doesn't sell books or magazines? What's up with that?

Thankfully my wonderful producer Karen tracked down the iPad (Karen, did I mention you are wonderful?) and delivered it to my waiting arms this morning! So here are some photos form the summit. Do you know they set up a knitters lounge? What a great idea to be able to knit out yarns you may not be familiar with!
Next, they had vendors of yarn and fabric there too!
They gave us some great swag in the form of quilt fabric jelly rolls and swatch packs!
I may try my hand at socks again...maybe with a little help from the socks class from Craftsy!

Here's some of the great swag I scored! Not one but two tote bags, a lingerie bag, tape measure, battery pack,, pencil case...I will use it as a sewing tools case!, and some great post it notes! 

Here's my favourite thing....check out this zipper with its fancy edges! Can't wait to use this on a top! Courtesy of Coats and Clarks!
So the lost has been found. In addition, the Craftsy questions have been answered and I am up to date (I think) in my emails. Best of all, I am going to supper at the Spotted Dog with some other instructors. All is well!! Has Lady Luck been kind to you this week?