How to sew a hidden gusset

If you don't own an overlocker, being able to sew a hidden gusset, not only keeps your work neater but it allows you hide all raw edges of the top of the gusset piece. It's not a hard thing to sew, however if you have tried, you've probably ended up with a twisted inner or outer gusset, and had to unpick and re-start again, I know I have in the past.

The way I am going to show you, is the easiest way I have found without twisting seams and attempting to hold all the pieces together and ending up with some pieces stretched. Apologies for the garish nature of the fabrics, I hauled together all the brights so you could see exactly what was going on and did the top stitching in lilac and bottom stitching in black.

Roll up the front piece, and sandwich between inner and outer gusset, ensuring you have the right sides and wrong sides correct. See above.

Turn upside down, and lift the inner gusset back, roll up the back piece and place onto the outer gusset, again ensuring the correct sides are together.

Flip the inner gusset back over and pin together the with the outer gusset and back piece.

Sew together.

Pull out the front and back pieces, and the seams connecting them to the gusset pieces will be hidden. Sew the inner and outer gusset together which will make applying the elastic easier.

The final piece - all seams hidden.




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 sew lingerie bows on 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 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. 

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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

 

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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.

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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

How to shrink your underband

So you find the bra you like, you wear it too death, and now over the time the elastic has stretched and it no longer gives you the support you need.

Your options, well there is only one, that's to buy a new bra right? Or is there another solution? Well yes, there is. There is a trick you can do to tighten the elastic. Grab yourself an iron, turn it to the highest temperature and steam and press the elastic for a few seconds. Just like an elastic band shrinks when you apply heat so does the elastic in your bra. 

It's the trick used by sample machinists when they've gone over the measurements set by the designer in the spec, but it also works well on a worn bra. 

Though it doesn't shrink by a great amount you can each wing smaller by 8-13mm, which are wings are typically graded by 1.25-1.5, shrinking it this much is a half to a full size .

Before: Lower wing measures 13.5cm from hook and eye to side-panel

Before: Lower wing measures 13.5cm from hook and eye to side-panel

After: Lower wing measures 12.7cm from hook and eye to side-panel

After: Lower wing measures 12.7cm from hook and eye to side-panel