Sew Your Own Custom Bra Tutorial -- Sewing Supplies

   This is the second post of the Sew Your Own Bra series! Today the lovely Amber will be telling you all about the tools that you will need. 

   Hi all! Today's post is going to just be really simple... supplies! I will be covering the sewing supplies that you need on hand to make your bra. Some I feel are needed and the rest are nice to have but not absolutely needed. It really depends on what you're able to get, ultimately it's going to be up to you.

The list:

A) Sewing machine. It doesn't have to be a super fancy one by any means; as long as you can adjust the stitch length, do straight and zigzag stitches, it'll be fine! There are two types of zigzag stitches.. a basic one step and then a three step zigzag. My sewing machine only has a basic one step zig zag, and it works fine.

B) Iron & ironing board (not shown). To gently press your fabrics. There's typically various settings on the iron for different fabrics; with synthetics you'll want to use a lower heat setting. The ironing board can be a larger one, a wall mounted or tabletop one. I've even used a towel on my table as an ironing surface in a space saving pinch!

C) Tracing paper. Basically any paper that's semi-opaque will work, I prefer freezer paper (as shown), or grease-proof paper. Basically it's a roll of paper often found at grocery stores and is commonly used to wrap things up to put them in the freezer. One side will be plastic-coated and the other side will feel like.. paper. I prefer not to cut out my pattern pieces -what if you want to make more later?- and it holds up really well as cut out pattern pieces. In addition, when I sew, I like to trace the pattern, and then iron my fabric flat and gently press the plastic side down onto my fabric; this prevents the pattern pieces from slipping and sliding around. It does not leave a residue, and the pieces will be re-ironable a couple of times! It's an affordable alternative to the tracing papers found in craft stores. If you don't plan on using this method for your pattern pieces, you may be able to get away with not using an iron during the process.

D) Pencil. For tracing of course, and making changes to the pattern pieces.

E) Seam allowance gauge. This is an awesome tool to have, especially if you need to make some adjustments to the pattern or pieces. And of course to check your seam allowance and even needle placement on the machine.

F) Fabric scissors. I prefer scissors with a slanted handle; this makes cutting fabric while it's flat much easier. They don't have to be expensive or fancy; as long as you use them just for fabric cutting they will be sufficient. Some crafters will take a strip of fabric and tie them to the handle to label them as fabric scissors.

G) Flexible measuring tape. This will be very handy to have so you can of course measure yourself! Aside from the obvious measuring your underbust and breasts, you may need to measure the length for straps and other parts of the bra.

H) Seam ripper. If you find that you may be needing to undo your stitches, this is a very handy tool to have. And let's face it.. even the most experienced sewist will need to use a seam ripper at some point in any project. Just be careful not to loose the little cap that comes with it like I did.

I) Fabric Chalk/Marker/pencil. This tool in particular uses a wheel at the tip to dispense the chalk. If you plan on marking directly on your fabric, you may want to consider purchasing one of these or something similar. There's actually quite a variety of tools and ways to mark fabric out there. Pencils, pens, even carbon copy paper and a wheel. Whatever method you use, it's important that you always do a test mark on a scrap of the fabric. That way before you work on the actual pieces for your bra, you'll be sure the marks can be removed safely without damaging the fabric. Various ways will include air drying, wetting or even in the case of chalk, just brush it off.

J) Ballpoint/Ball point/Jersey needles. These needles are slightly different than typical sewing needles. While still sharp like standard sewing machine needles, the tips are slightly rounded, so when you sew, the needle pushes between the knits in a stretch fabric, versus puncturing a hole that can potentially cause runs. There are different sizes; I would shoot for something like 70/10 or 80/12. The finer the needle, the less likely it will cause runs in your bra materials. As you can see, more often than not you can get a variety of sizes on one package.

K) Sewing Pins. These come in all sorts of styles. I prefer pins with a colorful end; this ensures that if they drop on the floor, you'll be able to find them by looking rather than stepping on them.

L & N) Hand sewing needle and contrasting thread. This is just to hand baste certain steps.. the contrasting thread will enable you to see your basting stitches better and it'll make it easier to undo them once you're ready to do so.

M) Thread. There's no set brand of thread you have to use. However, when you're working with synthetic fabrics, it's very important to use 100% polyester thread. I personally feel that you should match thread to material (cotton fabrics call for cotton thread) however this is kind of one of those things where you're more than likely going to get a different opinion from different people. My preferred brand of thread is called Gutermann; it's a quality thread that's fine and very strong. It comes in a TON of colors, so you'll hopefully be able to find a match to your bra fabrics. The spools are somewhat small though -unless you can get a match with one of their larger ones- so I would advise to buy two spools. I made the mistake only buying one spool for my second bra I made and I very nearly ran out of thread at the end. Not fun! The spools pictured are the smallest sizes of spools that Gutermann produces.

   And here are some additional tools that I personally find helpful; they aren't really needed per se, but I do find that they make the process a bit easier.

O&P) Self-healing mat & Rotary cutter: These are typically used by quilters in conjunction with a quilting ruler to quickly and accurately cut quilting fabrics out. Even when sewing garments and other items such as bags, I prefer to use the rotary cutter and mat to cut my fabrics out.. it goes quicker for me, and I don't have to worry about the fabric displacing from the pattern pieces and not getting a close to perfect cut. It takes practice to cut this way, but it really saves time. I would recommend getting a smaller sized rotary cutter; such as 18mm or 28mm (this is the size I use). The smaller the blade the easier it will be to go around the curves of the pattern pieces. Just be careful where you place your fingers; I've cut myself quite a few times not being careful!

Q) French curve ruler: This is another tool that is nice to have but not exactly necessary. This is helpful for those situations where you need to shorten/elongate a pattern piece and would like to create a nice smooth curve on your pattern piece. (And yes, the end of mine is broken off, woops!)

Here are some tips in obtaining the "tools of the trade":

    If this is going to be the first time you'll be purchasing a sewing machine, I highly encourage you to be mindful of your budget! Don't feel like you need to spend a ton of money on a sewing machine. There are options! Ask a relative; maybe they have a sewing machine that's collecting dust and they would be happy to let you have it. Also, try looking on your local classified listings, or craigslist. Sometimes the machines are older; but the older machines are typically workhorses and are quite durable; although they due tend to be heavy. If you are going down the used machine route, I would ask when the last time the machine was tuned up. If it's been more than a year, I highly recommend also searching for a local business to have your sewing machine serviced prior to using it. That way if there's anything that needs to be adjusted or calibrated, you won't have any surprises when you sit down and try to sew with it for the first time. If you plan on buying a brand new machine, search for local sewing machine shops and go in and take them for a test drive! The nice part about this route is that they will sometimes offer classes to teach you how to use your sewing machine which may prove to be beneficial. Again, you don't need anything expensive or fancy, so don't feel like you have to spend a lot. And of course, read up reviews. Don't let a salesperson pressure you into buying something you don't really need or can afford. If you have a friend or relative that is a sewist, maybe have them come along and help you shop; they can give you hopefully helpful advice and insight.
   I couldn't resist throwing this in: my sewing workshop ladies all swear by Pffaff sewing machines (thrifted, of course), since they are easy to use and unbreakable. -- Eternal*Voyageur

   In regards to the other stuff, shop sales! Use coupons! And even check on ebay! Sewing is one of those hobbies that can get expensive pretty quick with the initial investment, so I try to save money every way I can without sacrificing quality. You can actually get some of the tools in a package deal. I've seen many times these kits that come with a sewing gauge, seam ripper, a pin cushion with pins, measuring tape and a wheel of sewing needles and sometimes they'll have scissors. If you can grab one of these, awesome!

   I hope this was informative and helpful. The next post planned will be how to shop for the actual materials that are needed to construct your bra!

And there you have it! Feel free to do some revisions, and if you feel anything needs clarification or elaboration, feel free and let me know!

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