HOw to tie a ribbon bow for lingerie

Being able to tie your own bows for your lingerie will not only save you money but you'll have a wider range of colours to be able to choose from - sometimes sourcing the right colour can be a headache.

how to tie a bow for lingerie

This tutorial was done using 3mm double faced ribbon

Get 3mm of ribbon and start making your bows for lingerie.

1. Measure the ribbon to 15cm

2. Fold in half, then fold in half again to make two loops, this ensures that the bow has no twists in the loops

3. Fold over the right loop over the left and through (like tying the beginning of your shoe lace). Pull through and adjust if there are any twists in the loops

4. The loops should measure 2cm, adjust accordingly

5. The tails of the bows should measure 3cm

6. Cut so they match

Bow is complete.

*please note that by making your own bows that the ends aren't sealed so may unravel after washing, cut at 45 degree angle to discourage this.

For wider bows, heated scissors can also be bought so that they cut and seal at the same time. Or a wood burning tool works as well, or even clear nail varnish at the ends or a product called 'Fray Check'. Please practise these methods, to avoid burning and to be neat.  

How to alter a pattern

I wrote a piece for Morplan last week, about how to alter a pattern, a copy of the  piece can be found below.

how to alter a pattern

If you’re trying to make a new pattern, it makes sense to alter a similar one that you already have, rather than draft out a brand-new pattern.
This tutorial will show you how to take a standard brief into a boy shape brief.
The steps are shown in series, rather than separate pictures, so you can print them out and have them as a reference.

With five steps, you can have a new pattern.

You have two ways of altering an existing pattern, one would be making up the brief in a light colour fabric, then trying it on and drawing on your new style lines, then cutting along the new style lines and taking a new pattern from your pieces. The pros with this is that you know exactly where your new style lines are, as sometimes drawing on a flat pattern, lines can look correct but when placed on the body look completely incorrect.

The second way would be drafting your new style lines directly onto the pattern then making up a new garment for fits and altering where necessary.
If I’m adding complicated style lines, I often go for the first method, but over the years I’m confident to alter the patterns.

We will be going over the second method as it’s quite a simple change we are making.

Step One
Draw around the pattern that you want to alter.

Step Two
Draw a line from leg to waist at the mid-leg point this is usually approx. 10cm from the side seam.

five steps to alter a lingerie pattern

Step Three
Cut around the brief pattern along the new style line, so you have two pieces. (Front piece and side piece) ….

…. Next
Draw around your new pieces, leaving enough room to add 6mm seam allowance.

Step Four
Add 6mm along the style line. This is your seam allowance so when you sew you end up with the correct size brief. *Note every style line needs seam allowance adding…..

…. Next
Give this pattern a new style number or name, and add any other information you need onto the pattern, it can get quite confusing when you have a lot of pattern pieces all look similar. Cut out the new pattern.

Step Five
Place side piece front seam (where your new style line is) 1.2cm over the front piece (this is your seam allowance tolerance) to check the curve at the leg. Often when you add you seam allowance curves can become distorted and instead of a nice leg curve, you may end up with your seams coming to point. If your pattern has gone to a point, then re-draw your leg curve back in.

five steps to alter a lingerie pattern

How to attach elastic with zig-zag stitch

For a clean finish on your brief or top of the bra cup, the zig-zag stitch allows the elastic to stretch as when used on stretch fabrics like jersey or mesh.

1. With the right side of the fabric facing up, place (pin) the elastic on the edge of the fabric with decorative side facing in.

2. Sew the elastic with a zig-zag stitch to secure the elastic into place. You want the stitch as close to the decorative edge as possible and the edge of the fabric not to poke out past the elastic otherwise you'll be trimming the fabric before the next step. Keep your groove of your foot in line with edge of the elastic to ensure a straight stitch.

how to attach elastic with zig zag stitching

3. Turn the elastic back on itself so the elastic is now underneath when the right side of the fabric is facing up. You should just be able to see the edge of the elastic peeking out from the fabric. Secure with second row of zig-zag, the zig-zag should be near the edge of elastic so the elastic doesn't flip up and the edge of the fabric doesn't poke out. 



How to fix the curve of the leg flipping up

I'm in the process of sewing up the first toiles of the patterns that will available to buy in November this year (2016). I finished #2 pattern The Penelope, a tanga with fold-over elastic, and the curve of the front leg of the elastic, instead of sitting flat, stood up vertically, perpendicular to the brief. 

how to stop elastic flipping up when sewing

Has this ever happened to you? And do you know how to fix it? There is nothing worse than having spent all that time and effort sewing up a pair of briefs, for there to be an error and not know the reason why.

On this particular brief, it was all down to the elastic, it was too heavy and it didn't stretch very much. It was the type of elastic that would be best used on the top wing of the bra or maybe even the top of the bra cup.

As you stretch the elastic when stitching around the legs if it's too heavy it takes it's original form, it's not soft enough to sit flat. 

Other reasons that the elastic may flip up:

1. Would be if the curve of the leg is too sharp, so you would need to make the leg curve shallower.

2. The elastic is too wide so the elastic can't sit flat around the curve, so the only way it can sit is if it flips up.

I hope that helps? Also if you are new to elastic and can't gauge if an elastic is heavy or not, hold it up to the light and stretch it, the lighter it is then more light will shine through it. So a dense heavy elastic you won;t be able to see through it.

How to fix skipped stitches

Having made a toile of the 'Betty' Brief (which pattern will be made available in the up coming months) I suffered what is every seamstresses nightmare - skipped stitches. Even though I know it's fixable it still annoys me, especially if I don't notice it straight away.

how to fix skipped stitches

So what causes stitches to skip? And most importantly how do you fix them?

1. Needles, needles, needles - if you didn't get it, then I shall repeat and say neddles, 9 times out of ten it will be your needle. Needle tips only really last about 6 hours of sewing. Even if you can't see an obvious bluntness, if you've sewn a few sets of bras and briefs then it's time to change your needle.

2. Needle again - yup still on about the needle. Have you go the correct one for your fabric? Just as there are many different fabrics, there are many different needles to go with your fabric. Choosing the right size needles is important to the fabrics you're about to sew.

3. Thread - What thread are you using? That thin 6 pack that comes free with the machine? Change it. It does make a difference, buy the best thread you can, your sewing will thank you, and remember to use the same quality, on the bobbin and on the spool.

4. Pulling - How's your grip on that fabric? Relax, let those feet feed your fabrics through and not your hands. Don't pull it!!

5. Dials - This is usually the first thing people want to change, but to be honest, you will rarely have to, (unless it's really obvious), most machines will have been set to a factory mid point for you.

6. Go away - weirdly sometimes going away, grabbing a cuppa, sitting back down and re-threading your machine for some reason sometimes works.

6. If stitches are still skipping, it may be time to take it in somewhere and get a tune up.

how to understand Lingerie Abbreviations

When reading a spec there are some lingerie abbreviations, learning them makes life a lot easier. 

how to understand sewing terms

CF - centre front

CB - centre back

BP - Bust point

NL - neck line

OB - over bust

SS - side seam

UA - under arm

UB - under band

WB - waist band

H&E - hook and eye

how to attach bows neatly

When I use to make samples, or hand-make short runs of orders of lingerie that shops had placed; the one thing that always slowed me down was the attachment of the bows. To start with I hand sewed them all on, to gain the neatness i required; as I didn't have an industrial bar tacker (a machine that stitches side to side in the same place to secure bows).

how to machine sew bows neatly

I tried to practise with putting my domestic machine on a zigzag and going slowly back and forth, but it just resulted in a messy attachment with zigzag stitching on the bow and on the lingerie. 

And then.... one day whilst sewing a button on, I had the idea - could I put a bow underneath the foot for it to be held in place for me to sew. Result. Treating the bow like a button, place it under the button foot with the bow secure under the prongs. Place so the stitch will go over the centre of the bow, and with the stitch on zigzag, it forms a stitch without the bow or garment moving.


How to check a bra pattern

The pattern I made is from this drawing

how to check a bra pattern

I always start with the cups, the important part is the volume, and that there is a gap at the centre front that needs to be accounted for. When you lay the cups touching at the middle point of the bust; the further away the pattern at each end the more volume is created. To work out where the curve of the wing sits,


To work out the width at the top then you have to know your strap width, then take into account seam allowance. The strap point is designed to go in line with the outer part of the nipple, as the outer part of the breast is the heaviest. 


The side cup is designed to come right to the side of the body (where a side seam on outer wear would be). Putting the patterns together at the bottom ensures that the underband is a smooth curve, and also the curve across the bust. A vertical seam on a bra will be more up lifting than a horizontal seam.

Over lapping the cup patterns you can see the amount of volume that will occur. From making this pattern, next up will be making a toile for fits.

How to make a Soft Bra

Following on from the tutorial 'How to make a pair of briefs'  is 'How to make a soft bra'. Using just a sewing machine and the same fabric as the briefs, the following is how I would put a bra together. The style is inspired from the 1950's with a high apex (where the strap meets the top of the bra). The size is a 34DD, I have chosen a bigger size to show you that this style can go up to a bigger size but will be fully lined for support. If you were making a smaller size then you wouldn't have to line it, but you could just use tape or ribbon over the seams to hide them. As this bra is being fully lined we are using the fabric to hide the seams. 

An important factor when making a (soft) bra is that the outer part of your breast is the heaviest so this is the area which will require the most support. With this mind when I line a bra I ensure the outer fabric stretches the most, across the fabric, and the inner piece stretches at a 45 degree angle of the outer piece, this ensures that the fabric stretches at different amounts at certain parts of the bra (this only really works with a two way or four way stretch fabric), which will give support of the breast. Also the front underband is curved under the breast so when worn it straightens out for added support.


how to sew a soft bra

The first thing I would do is sew together any piece that is doubled up and is not turned to hide the seams.  In this case it was the front cups.

Front cup pieces sewed together

Front cup pieces sewed together

Next the neck elastic needs to be attached, this is zig-zagged on. Depending on your skill or the width of the fabric the elastic can be applied on the right side with the elastic edge going inwards then turned and sewn into place, or simply fold the edge of the fabric and place the elastic underneath and zig zag attach. The elastic needs to be sewn with tension so it needs to be pulled slightly, I find the best way to do this is to physically mark your machine and pull the elastic to the mark to get consistency. 


The neckline should slightly bow due to the tension you applied. This will then lie flat against the body once worn. 


To complete the cups, the front and side sups need to be sewn together. As we are hiding the overbust seam, the front cup piece will be sandwiched in-between the both side cups. 


Sewing on top of the seam through the liner of the side cup, will offer strength and neatness. 

As you can see the grain of the liner of the side cup differs from the front cup.

As you can see the grain of the liner of the side cup differs from the front cup.

The cups should look like this.

The cups should look like this.

Next the underband is sewn on,  again the cups are sandwiched in-between the outer piece of fabric and liner, so the seams are hidden. At the centre front of the bra I have crossed the cups, on the smaller cup sizes I would just butt the cups together as smaller breasts are naturally set further apart.


The wings are sewn to the edge of the side cups. Again the cups are sandwiched in so to hide the seams. On this style the side cups may look bigger than the wing, this is because the seam is designed to match up with the side seams of your clothes giving you a clean silhouette and profile. The wings angle down for fit, so when they are on the body they will straighten out and give support, creating a shelf type support for the breast. If you're starting out designing bras I would recommend that all your wings/underband slope down. I have designed bras where the band was straight , but these tended to be specialised balconnette bras, and by straightening out the underband you have to adapt the underband and then the angle of the boning.


Next attach the brushed back elastic to the underband and underarm. I have attached the elastic on top of the bra with zigzag then turned it underneath and secured it with a further zigzag stitch. 

The elastic on top of the bra with the first zigzag row attachment.

The elastic on top of the bra with the first zigzag row attachment.

A close up of the stitching of the inside of the bra.

A close up of the stitching of the inside of the bra.

Next I attach the bra strapping to the back of the bra. This is zigzagged on top of the curve at the back (Leotard strap attachment), I would recommend the curve on the wing at the back when doing larger cup sizes, as the weight of the breast is distributed through the whole curve, rather than inserting the straps into the wing (camisole strap attachment)  where the weight of the breast would be just on the two anchor points going into the strap. 

The elastic is then threaded through the ring and secured with two rows of stitching going back and forth. In production this would be bar-tacked. 


The hook and eyes are sewn on the wings at the back, if I am sewing them on just using my sewing machine I start in the middle so not to have to ease or pull the wing in to make it fit, and I sew down, keep the needle in, turn it around, go to the top, turn it again and finish where I started, this also ensures strength with it having two lines of stitching on top of one another.



The straps are threaded through the middle bit of the slider and sewn to secure them in place, then they are threaded through the rings and back on themselves through the slider again. To attach them to apex, I have placed the straps under the meeting point and secured by sewing in two places, to hide the seam you could place bows over the join. In production the two right sides are usually placed together, turned, then bar-tacked into place, but this can be quite bulky if you are doing it on your normal sewing machine.


To finish the bra off, I added a black 3mm bow at the centre front. I attached it using the zigzag stitch, if you're finding it hard to keep the stitch in the same place, when I was first starting out, I used a button foot attachment which clamped my bows in place.

Finished bra

Finished bra