Hey there, my fabulous friends! Perhaps you’ve noticed that it’s been eerily quiet around here, and that’s because I’ve been on the other side of the world taking some much-needed time off with family and friends. I’d originally planned to cram in a bunch of blogging and photography and admin work while I was away from the sewing studio (the machine tends to funnel my attention away from all other tasks when I’m within 20m of it), but in the end I barely cracked the laptop and I have zero regrets. My mind needed some time to chill out just as much as my body did.
Leading up to the trip, I pushed out a lot of sewing projects that I didn’t share many glimpses of (partly because some are part of a not-Palm line of side-hustle, partly because some are still Top Secret, partly because I barely had time to stretch my wrists, let alone write a decent IG caption), many of which just happened to feature French seams. I thought this was a great opportunity to discuss not only how to sew this seam finish, but why it’s a great technique to keep in your costuming toolkit.
Pssst… to help offset the costs of running the site and developing new patterns, I may include affiliate links from time to time (including in this post), which means that if you click the link and purchase a product I’ve mentioned, I will receive a small commission from the sale. I promise that I’ll only include affiliate links that are relevant and contextual, for things that I would have written about anyway, and I’ll always indicate which links are part of an affiliate program. For more information, please see my Advertising and Disclosure Policy.
Pardon my French, but what le heck is a French seam, and why would you do it?
A French seam, despite the name, requires no translator. It’s simply a method of sewing a seam so that the raw, cut edges of the fabric are fully enclosed within two lines of stitching, leaving a neat, narrow seam allowance that is pressed to one side. You don’t need a serger, extra lining fabric or bias binding, or any special equipment. Just time and patience! In a nutshell, you sew one pass with wrong sides together at half(-ish) the full seam allowance; then you trim close to the stitching, flip it right sides together (the usual orientation for most seams) and sew a second pass that captures the raw edges in the channel between the two lines of stitches. This makes it a great choice for finishing:
- woven fabrics that tend to fray, because the edges that would normally fray are protected inside their little seam sandwich, hiding away hairy edges and preventing friction that would make fraying worse;
- delicate fabrics that could benefit from two lines of stitching as a defence against wear-and-tear;
- sheer or translucent fabrics where the “guts” of your sewing will be on display;
- unlined garments where the insides might show and you want it to look as clean as the outside, such as:
- skirts or dresses with long slits;
- capes, coats, and cloaks;
- really full, twirly skirts;
- a garment you plan to remove.
…as in, lots of stuff we routinely put on stage, especially in burlesque, bellydance, and lots of other dance arts.
Now, even if your garment meets all of the above criteria, French seams may not be the only or best option. Several other techniques exist that could also enclose your raw edges and look hawt on the inside (eg. Hong Kong finish, felled seams, full or partial lining, etc.) that each have their own pros and cons. French seams tend to work well when you have a long(ish), not-too-curvy seam to deal with, and you want the outside to look like a totally-normal-nothing-to-see-here seam with no topstitching. It might not be ideal if:
- you’re sewing with knits rather than wovens – because the yarns interlock differently, knits don’t tend to fray like woven fabrics (though some will ravel or get ladders), plus stretch knits might be prone to bubbly or wavy seams using this construction;
- your seams are very curved – the original width of the seam allowance, and the flipping, and the two passes of stitching may make it more difficult to sew tight curves accurately and cleanly, plus pressing curves is a dilemma if you can’t clip or notch without compromising your stitching;
- you expect that the garment may need to be altered for fit in the future – unlike some seam finishes that are pressed open, you can’t leave extra seam allowance as insurance to let out the garment in the future, and even what moderate seam allowance you started with is partly trimmed away during construction of the seam, making it tough to retro-fit changes once it’s all together;
- you need minimal bulk at the seams – you’ll end up with almost four layers of seam allowance all pressed in the same direction, which could be a downside in very tight-fitting garments or with bulkier fabrics;
- you aren’t confident stitching small (1/4″ or 6mm) seam allowances accurately.
Also note that just because you choose to use French seams in one part of a garment, that doesn’t mean you have to commit to using them for everyseam. You can totally evaluate this on a seam-by-seam basis.
OK, I’m sold, but how do I do it, s’il vous plaît?
(First: an apology. I had loads of pictured prepared to help you visualize each step below, but WordPress changed some interface features while I was off romping with the kangaroos, and, (amongst other things, like losing seamless Markdown integration, cue endless swearing) after three (THREE!) days of trying fruitlessly to get images to show up in the correct place at the correct size, I must resign myself to one measly photo or risk never posting anything at all. I hope to update this post Soon™ with the missing images, or at least a supplemental video. In the meantime I hope you can make sense of my jet-lagged prose.)
Check whether your pattern calls for either 1/2″ (12mm) or 5/8″ (15mm) seam allowances in the area where you’re planning to use French seams. If it calls for a smaller seam allowance, like 3/8″ or 1/4″, that might be a sign that this area is not a good candidate for this construction method; however, if you’re sure you want to forge ahead, you’ll need to re-draw the seam allowance so it equals a total of 1/2″ (12mm) (or 5/8″ if you prefer).
Place your pieces wrong sides together. You eventually want your second pass of stitching to be sewn at 1/4″ (6mm) from the first, so subtract 1/4″ (6mm from your starting seam allowance), ie.:
- if you are starting with 1/2″ (12mm) seam allowances, stitch your first pass 1/4″ (6mm) from the cut edge);
- if you are starting with 5/8″ (15mm) seam allowances, stitch your first pass 3/8″ (9mm) from the cut edge.
Trim the raw edge to about 1/8″ (3mm) from your first line of stitching, making sure to cut away any fluffy frays. This ensures none of the raw edge will get caught in the final seam that would show on the outside of the garment. Be careful not to clip through any of your stitches, and try to avoid trimming too close to them.
Flip and press this teensy seam so that the raw edge is sandwiched between the pieces, which are now right sides together as usual. Depending on your fabric, you may find it helpful to press the seam flat to one side first, before flipping it and pressing that crisp edge.
TIP: use a silk organza press cloth ($) over your delicate fabrics to prevent scorching or melting; silk is a natural fibre, so it won’t melt, either, and organza is sheer, so you can still see what you’re doing!
With right sides together, sew your second line of stitching 1/4" (6mm) from the pressed, folded edge. Press this seam to one side.
You’re done! Admire your beautiful garment guts, ready for their stage début!
Hello, my sparkling storytellers! If you’re new to digital sewing patterns and templates, getting all the pages to fit together can feel a bit overwhelming at first. But don’t worry, because in this quick tutorial, I’m going to show you all the tricks to get your Palm Patterns PDF pages pieced together and ready to sew. You can read along below, or watch this helpful video for the full audio-visual extravaganza:
Downloading your pattern
The first step, of course, is to get yourself a pattern – when you purchase a pattern from my Etsy shop [THANK YOU], you should see a link to View Your Files immediately after completing your checkout steps. This will take you to the Downloads section of your Etsy account. Keep in mind that you can’t download your files via the Etsy app; you will need to sign in through a regular browser, and if possible I recommend downloading at a computer rather than onto a tablet or mobile device. You’ll also receive a link to download your files in your confirmation email, and you can always find your digital purchases later in the Purchases and Reviews section of your account.
Printing your pattern pages from your home or office
One of the most important steps to a successful project is making sure that your pattern prints out at the right size! For the most reliable results, I recommend opening your PDF files in either Preview (on a Mac) or Adobe Reader (on other operating systems). When you’re ready to print, pay careful attention to the printer settings box that pops up on your screen. You should see options to scale or resize the document, and most printer settings will try to shrink or expand the document by default, to make the most efficient use of the page. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS. DO NOT LET THE PRINTER BOSS YOU AROUND. You’ll want to find and check the box that says something like:
- ACTUAL SIZE
- SCALE: 100%
- DO NOT RESIZE
…and so on.
If the printer shrinks or enlarges the pattern, you may end up with pieces that don’t fit together correctly and won’t fit your body as expected, which would be very disappointing.
You can print on either LETTER SIZE or A4 SIZE paper. The file is designed to fit comfortably on both types of paper, and the only difference should be how much margin you end up trimming away.
Each Palm pattern has a test square on
the first one pattern tile – it’s a good idea to print this page first, measure the test square to confirm the scale is correct, and then print the rest of your pages.
UPDATE: Light or fine lines and sybmols may not print clearly at lower print quality settings. For best results, choose normal or high print quality, and avoid “economy”, “draft”, or other ink-saving settings.
Printing from a copy shop, public printer, or email-to-print services
If you don’t have a printer at home, don’t let that discourage you! I often print my patterns at print shops and my local library. You’ll want to be very cautious about printing methods that don’t give you much insight into the final print settings – I’ve had mixed results with my library’s email-to-print service and with printing directly from a USB drive at a touch-screen kiosk. If you’re working with a new system, it’s an especially good idea to print your test page before committing to a dozen pages that might come out at the wrong scale.
Assembling your pattern tiles
Phew, OK, we’ve got our pattern printed and we measured the test square and everything is groovy! Now it’s time to put the pieces together.
Some patterns will have pieces that fit entirely on one page, but most will have pages that need to be trimmed, aligned, and fit together. It’s a bit like doing a really simple puzzle. All Palm Patterns are designed to be assembled by trimming the bottom and right margins along the dotted grey lines. You can use scissors to trim, or a ruler and a knife, or a guillotine if you’re fancy. Regardless of what kind of blade is doing the work, you want to cut as precisely on the dotted line as you can manage.
After you’ve trimmed the margins, take a peek at the bottom left corner of each page. The pages are labeled a bit like a map or a spreadsheet, with both a letter and a number, eg. A1, B3, etc. The letters are the rows, running across grid. The numbers are columns, running up and down the grid.
Line up each pattern tile with its neighbour, and carefully tape the trimmed edge to the dotted line on the other page. Check that your pattern markings are lining up nicely and your pages are laying flat and smooth. The more precise you are at this stage, the more accurate your pattern will be!
When your whole grid is assembled, you can trace or cut out your size and start sewing!
The description for the Classic Palm Glove pattern may say “elegant”, but since it’s nearly Hallowe’en, I thought it needed a furry creepy creature makeover! In this pattern hack we’re going to be modifying the pattern, sewing with faux-fur, and giving our gloves a manicure. Read along with the video and let’s get started!
What you’ll need
- tracing paper
- ruler (preferably gridded for adding seam allowances)
- sharp pencil or extra fine-tip marker
- paper scissors
- masking tape
- tracing marker or chalk (I used a fine-tip marker for precision, but test whatever you choose on a scrap of fabric to be sure it shows up clearly and doesn’t bleed or stain)
- an awl or similar pointed tool for poking holes in your pattern
- stretchy spandex fabric for the palms
- stretchy faux-fur or novelty chenille
- contrast fabric or leather for adding paw pads (optional)
- fake nails
- nail polish
- paper or plastic to protect your work surface
- scrap tracing paper or plastic bag for texturizing your nail art
- E-6000 or similar glue
- the Classic Palm Glove pattern and instructions (get the pattern here)
1. Preparing the pattern
The first thing we need to do is make some changes to our pattern so that we can use different fabrics on the front and back of the hand. Grab some tracing paper and lay it over your pattern. Draw a solid line where the fold-line is, which will now be a seam. Trace everything on the thumb-side of your solid line. Make sure you also trace all of the alignment dots and notches, as well as your DoGS arrows. It’s also really helpful to add pattern labels so you what the modification is for and how many to cut if you want to use the pattern in the future. Add a second line 1/4″ (6mm) to the outside of the line formerly known as “fold” for your seam allowance. For each glove, you’ll cut one of these halves from furry fabric (with no thumbhole) and one from the non-furry fabric (with a thumbhole).
Repeat this process for the thumb. Once again, each glove will have half a thumb from furry fabric, and half from the non-furry spandex.
You don’t need to make any changes to the gussets but you can trace a copy if you don’t want to cut into your original, which is generally a good habit. (I have lots of copies!)
Before you start marking the fabric, it’s also helpful to poke through your alignment dots with a sharp tool like an awl.
(Note: Of course immediately after completing this project and tutorial, I thought of an even better modification for this pattern to eliminate the gap between the centre seam and the thumb, that would also make the thumb insertion a bit easier to sew. I’ll write that up in a separate post!)
2. Marking and cutting the fabrics
When laying out your fabric, it’s important to find the direction of greatest stretch (marked DoGS on your pattern). Some fabrics stretch much less – or not at all – in one direction (and unlike woven fabrics and their grainlines) it’s not always the same from one type of fabric to another. We want to make sure the stretch goes in the direction that needs it most when the garment is worn. In my case, the stretch runs horizontally, so I’ve laid out the arrows on my DoGS line horizontally. I’ve also placed the faux fur fabric wrong side up so that the fuzzy size doesn’t get in my way while I’m tracing.
I always cut my glove pieces on at a time from a single layer of fabric, for precision.
Trace around the pattern piece and carefully mark all of the alignment marks. When you remove the pattern piece, check that your alignment marks are visible, and you may want to draw in the dotted cut marks between the fingers. Don’t cut them right away though! Cut the piece out exactly on the tracing lines.
Trace and cut all of your pieces using this method. The gusset pieces should be cut from the non-furry fabric. Since the gusset pieces are so small and similar, I like to leave them attached until I’m ready to use each one. I also like to mark which end is which with a little note on some masking tape.
3. Sewing the gloves
Begin by sewing the two halfs of your thumb together along your new centre seam, using the 1/4″ (6mm) seam allowance and a straight stitch, and then do the same for your main glove pieces. Some furry bits will probably try to escape out the sides, so stitch slowly and tuck them back to the inside as you sew. This will help keep your stitching accurate and make your paws look fuller and fluffier at the seams.
From there, sew everything as descibed in the pattern instructions – the only difference is that you’ll need to continue tucking the fur to the inside. (Alternatively, you could insert the thumb into the thumb hole before sewing the glove centre seam, so that the extra seam allowance doesn’t get in your way.) In some of the tighter spots it can be tough to do this with just your fingers, so a poking tool like an awl or a point-turner can be helpful – and it’ll keep your fingers safely away from the needle! Whenever you are adjusting these fiddly spots with your fingers, try to get in the habit of taking your foot off of the pedal.
[Insert video narration of lining up thumb piece]
Setting in the thumb can be a bit tricky with all that fuzz in the way, so don’t be afraid to touch it up with some hand-stitching if you’re falling off the edge of the seam allowance with the machine.
4. Adding the claws and paw pads
Here’s where you get to go wild! I had a bunch of tiny leather scraps hanging around, but you could use a contrast colour spandex fabric, faux leather, or even a thin craft foam. I trimmed my leather into the shapes I thought would look best and glued them in place with E-6000, though this turned out to be maybe not the ideal glue for this application, since some of the pieces started lifting away and had to be reglued.
When I’m using E-6000, especially when applying small pieces, I like to squeeze a small amount of glue onto a scrap of cardboard and apply it with a toothpick; that way I can close up the tube and prevent leaks or contamination.
Next up: claws! I grabbed some plain nail tips from my stash (you could also use pre-painted nails if you want to save yourself the painting steps) and gave my glove some fancy nail art. For most of the fingers I used the largest size nail tip, partly for the BIGGEST SCARIEST CLAW effect and partly because the bigger sizes don’t fit my real hands and they may as well not go to waste. I trimmed away some of the fur in the “nail bed” area, as close as I could to the fabric without damaging it’s structure. I then used E-6000 again to glue those suckers down. (I applied the nails with the glove flat on the table but if you want more control over which way your claws point, I’d recommend putting the glove on your hand or a model to do this.)
Once the glue had dried enough to handle the claws, I trimmed and filed them to shape and applied black nail polish to both sides of the nail. I let this dry, added a second coat of black to the top of the nail, let that dry, and then went to town with some fun gold texture. For this I crinkled up a little piece of a plastic shopping bag and smooshed it in a little puddle of gold polish that I’d poured out onto a scrap surface. Then I lightly dabbed the gold over the black polish until my claws were sufficiently marbled. Let all this dry, seal it with a clear topcoat if you want, and then you’re done!
5. Try on your creature paw and make goofy faces
This step is very important. Do not skip. 😉
Stocking peelers, rejoice! The freshest pattern in the Palm collection is the Kitten Garter Belt, and it’s purrrrrrrrrfect to keep your stockings up (until you’re ready to roll them down).
The Kitten is a light- to medium-duty, four-strap garter belt. Its simple style lines make it an ideal base for adding your own custom embellishments to dress up or down.
View A is finished with picot lingerie elastic and features detachable garter straps; View B features permanent garter straps and and a contrasting fold-over elastic binding.
This pattern is rated Tart. It’s a comfortable project for intermediate sewists interested in refining lingerie techniques such as sewing with stretch and applying elastics and hardware, but may also be a fun challenge for adventurous beginners.
I recommend stretch knits with good recovery, such as swimwear spandex, stretch velvet, spandex meshes, etc. The pattern is drafted with approximately 15% negative ease, so a 25-40% stretch (2.5-4 inches over 10) should be your sweet spot for achieving the intended fit and support. If your fabric stretches more or less, you may want to size up or down accordingly. If you need extra firm support for more demanding uses, adding powermesh as a lining or substituting it for your main fabric is a great way to boost your stocking-hoisting power.
Head on over to the Etsy shop for more specs and to pick up your copy of the pattern! Don’t forget to tag @palmpatterns and #kittengarter when you show off your gorgeous creations!
I released the Classic Palm Gauntlet deep in the heart of wedding season, and Etsy was all about the bride for a hot minute. Although I had designed the pattern with costumes in mind, I felt from the start that it could make a lovely addition to a bridal ensemble, too. When I saw this beautiful floral trim, I knew it cried out for something delicate and romantic. Paired with a sheer beige (nude, on my skin tone) background that almost disappears against the skin, I love the way it gives a winding, vine-like impression.
Even if you’re not currently shopping for cake-toppers, I think this style would look enchanting in alternative colour schemes for different occasions (hellooooooo autumn leaves for a harvest theme? or Poison Ivy?). Here are the steps to get this or a similar effect with the Classic Palm Gauntlet:
Step One – Pattern adjustments
(Don’t have your pattern yet? You can pick up an instant download from my shop! If gauntlets aren’t your thing, a lot of the following tips will still be helpful for adding appliqués to other stretchy garments.
Print and assemble your pages as usual, but don’t go straight to cutting your fabric just yet — we need to make a tiny adjustment to our pattern piece to accommodate the non-stretch appliqué we’re adding to our otherwise stretchy garment. (This may not be necessary if your appliqué is relatively narrow compared to the overall width of your project, but my appliqué took up about 20-25% of the circumference of my gauntlet.)
We’re going to use a pattern-alteration technique known as slash-and-spread, which is often used to add extra length, width, or fullness to a garment. Start by cutting the pattern vertically along the fold line. Note: if you want your appliqué to be applied somewhere other than along the side, make the slash in the area where it will be applied.
On a separate piece of scrap paper, draw two parallel lines the distance apart which you need to expand your pattern. In my case I estimated that about 0.5″ would make up for the stretch factor that I lost by stitching a 2.5″ wide rigid appliqué to that area, but your measurement may vary. You can estimate by using the following formula:
width of area to be stitched down X .2 = amount to add to pattern
Tape your separated pattern pieces to the scrap paper on either side of this gap. Make sure to align them horizontally as well as lining up the cut edges with your lines, so that your side seams will still match up when you come to sew. You can use the DoGS line as a reference.
Up at the curve, you’ll probably have an odd jog or jagged edge. Just blend these lines into a smooth curve, and cut away the excess scrap paper.
Step Three – Cutting and preparing the fabric and appliqué
As usual, we want to lay out the pattern piece so that the DoGS arrows point in the fabrics most stretchy direction. Sometimes this will be widthwise, sometimes lengthwise. I’m using quite a small, oddly shaped scrap here — waste not, want not! — so it’s hard to tell, but on this particular mesh, the stretch runs lengthwise, along the selvedge.
I decided to cut my flower chain apart so that I could have more control over their orientation and make sure they would both fit in the space I had. (If you need more vertical room for your appliqué, you could also lengthen the pattern by slashing and spreading.)
Next, we’re going to stabilize the stretch mesh by adding a temporary backing. Applying something non-stretchy to a stretchy background can be a recipe for all sorts of weird distortion and puckers. The underlying fabric oozes around and it requires quite careful, slow stitching to get a nice result. It really makes the process less stressful to temporarily “remove” the stretch from your bottom layer. You can buy purpose-made tear-away and wash-away stabilizers for embroidery, but the low-tech DIY option I’ve used here is simply to fuse a piece of tracing paper to the wrong side of the fabric with a Elmer’s washable glue stick. To avoid sticky residue, set the glue with a warm, dry iron (not too hot or you could damage your fabric! spandex is not a fan of heat and neither is nylon). Once we’re done with the sewing, the paper will easily tear away.
We’ll also use this trick to “glue baste” the appliqué into position. (This is optional, but I don’t recommend pins for this step, as they’re likely to get in the way and cause distortion. If you’re wary of the glue, hand-basting is a great alternative.) Add a bit of glue to the back of your appliqué and stick it where you want it to go, then set with a warm, dry iron. Easy!
Step Four – Stitching the appliqué
Set your machine to a narrow, short zig-zag. With the right sides up, stitch over the edges of the appliqué, following the outline of the shape as closely as you can. For best results, use thread that closely matches the colour of the appliqué’s border. (If you’re really keen on the tiny details, you could load your bobbin with thread that will match the back side of your fabric, which — as long as your tension is set correctly — will make the stitching nearly invisible from both sides.)
To navigate the corners and tight curves, sew slowly and reposition the work frequently. Make sure your needle is all the way down before raising the presser foot to pivot or adjust your direction, which will keep your work anchored in place.
Once you’ve stitched around your appliqué so it’s nice and secure, go ahead and rip away the paper from the back!
Step Five – Sewing the side seams
Just like usual, this version of the gauntlet has 1/4″ (6mm) seam allowance on the side seam, sewn with a straight stitch (since we’re not looking for stretch in the vertical direction). For best results on a sheer fabric, switch your thread to a matching colour for this step.
I chose to trim my seam allowance close to the stitching to reduce bulk and show-through, but otherwise left it unfinished since the stretch mesh won’t fray.
Step Six – Applying the fold-over elastic
This step is also the same as the original instructions, so I thought this was another good opportunity to explain it with a video! The only difference you might encounter depends on the shape of your appliqué: mine had a couple of little leafy tendrils that I wanted to overhang the edge of the elastic, so I had to tuck those out of the way while applying the elastic.
Check it out:
For a more delicate, barely-there effect with the stretch mesh, I chose to leave the hem raw. If you prefer a folded hem, go for it… and then your gauntlets are ready to show off! Don’t forget to tag me in any of the gorgeous photos you post of your finished gauntlets so I can see how they turned out!
OK, full disclosure: this pattern has actually been available for a few weeks, and somehow I missed writing it a proper announcement. Better late than never! (Especially because I just finished putting together a really fun embellishment tutorial!)
The Classic Palm Gauntlet is a slim, elbow-length fingerless glove style designed for stretchy knits and bound with fold-over elastic for a tidy finish. It’s a simple style that makes a great introduction to sewing with knits and elastics, while offering lots of options for embellishment and customization. It’s a versatile accessory for cosplay, burlesque, drag, circus, Hallowe’en, or adding a special touch to formal and everyday outfits.
I’ve designed the sewing pattern in three gender-neutral adult sizes (small, medium, large). It includes a detailed 7-page e-booklet with illustrated step-by-step instructions for fitting, laying out, cutting, and sewing your gauntlets.
Rookies rejoice! Unlike the more advanced Classic Palm Glove, this pattern is recommended for confident beginners. In other words, newer sewists who already have some confidence using a sewing machine will find this a good pattern to explore and expand their repertoire. Experience sewing with stretch knits and/or applying elastics is helpful but not required, as this project is a great way to learn and practice both skills!
You can purchase the pattern from my shop, or buy it as part of a bundle along with the Classic Palm Glove. I can’t wait to see what you make with it, so don’t forget to tag me when you share your projects on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest!
If you’ve been following my personal Instagram account, you’ll know that I got obsessed with drafting and sewing bras around the new year. I was absolutely pumped about my first couple of attempts, but the more I tried to refine the fit, the less flattering and comfortable my bras seemed to get. I couldn’t seem to make an underwire not stabby or squeaky, so a lot of my hard work just hung out in my bottom drawer, bumming me out. I took a break from underwires, and started churning out soft bras like Emerald Erin’s Jordy bralette and Ohhh Lulu’s Romy. I love sewing both patterns (and I’ll blog about them eventually!), but neither style is a totally excellent match for my rack.
Suddenly, in an unplanned flash of inspiration last Sunday, I re-fit and re-drafted my underwire bra pattern to take advantage of some shorter, lighter wires I recently added to my stash. The result is a very wearable bra, with much better shaping than many of my previous versions and which still contains its wires(!!!) after several full days of wear (unlike many of the others which got ripped out after about five minutes).
This was a bit of a scrapbusting project, using up (a tiny bit of the acres of) this black-on-black flocked leopard print knit that I just love but which never seems to work quite right in any of the projects I try to use it in; it’s too stretchy for most structured garments, but too stable for the almost bodycon dresses I’d originally planned for it. With a bit of fusible tricot interfacing as a lining, though, it had just the right body for a structured bra and all those tiny curvy seams sewed up like a dream. To make the muslin, I also dug out some leftover red duoplex/powermesh from my very first bra kit, and I managed to use up lots of bits and ends of elastic and channeling from my stash.
Before even starting on the muslin, I had a crisis of confidence over my wire size and spent a whoooooooole bunch of time with my boobs hanging out in front of the mirror in my (shared) studio/office, holding various sizes of wires against my bare breast root… before eventually deciding that my original size was just fine but much too tall in front and under the arm. (Is this a short person thing? Do other petites need to trim wires down by like an inch or more on either end just to make them bearable?) With that out of the way, I decided to do a “paper-fit” of my original pattern to see if that would help me identify: A) where my fit was going awry; and B) where I wanted to place my new seams/stylelines. I’ve seen this suggested and tried it for fitting (non-stretch) pants — not only is paper cheaper than muslin, its stiffness also indicates in a pretty no-bullshit way where things might bunch up, pull, or gape, you can actually see body landmarks through translucent tracing tissue, and you can draw on it! — so I figured it was worth a try for evaluating my cups. I traced my cup pattern out without seam allowances except along the wire line, and carefully taped the edges together as they would be sewn.
I mashed this against my boob in front of the mirror, and it was easy to see where there were hollow spots and straining. I cut the cups apart, made some adjustments, and did it all again, but this time I had the brilliant idea to tape the actual underwire to the paper cup while they were on my body so I could really see how the cup should fit into the wireline/cradle. There was a little bit of excess right at the bottom of the cup that I don’t think I would otherwise have caught, and I think this was the magic step that helped take my fit and shaping from “more or less” to “yesssss”.
Next, I busted out the fine-point marker and drew all over my paper boob, adding a seam near the side of the cup for a powerbar and rotating the remaining cross-cup seam to a diagonal. Off my body, I cut the assembled cup along those new seam lines, and snipped the edges where necessary to get them to lay flat-ish. I traced the new shapes, estimating where to blend the new curves over the gaps created by flattening everything out, and then walked all the pieces to be sure the seam lengths matched up.
Everything after that was pretty much standard bra construction, but I was reminded by my eleventh-hour scramble for bottom band elastic (it should have matched but a 1/2″ black picot was nowhere to be found in my massive stash of findings) that I need to fully plan out my projects before I sit down to sew.
It’s not perfect — I’ve already started on some small changes to the pattern, like moving the strap attachment slightly more centrewards and a corresponding adjustment to the powerbar seam, and not sewing my band elastic like a drunken T-Rex — but it’s given me a renewed excitement for more structured lingerie.
Yes, it’s true! I wrote some code. I talked to the computer and it (mostly) listened.
Though I’m not a total no0b when it comes to programming and web development – I was writing angsty teenage HTML back when Angelfire was the absolute new hotness and I spent a significant amount of time last summer making LEDs dance – I’m certainly no pro, either, and it turns out that CSS had moved on quite a bit in the decade since I last seriously undertook a project of this scope. Creating my own site from scratch was a huge and probably foolhardy challenge to take on alongside trying to develop my first products and everything else that needs to get done to start a business, but – as I’ve mentioned before – I really, really like to know how shit works and know that I can Do It Myself. Plus, it was actually quite refreshing to have a different project to focus on when my brain got too tired or distracted or frustrated to focus on sewing samples or grading patterns or illustrating instructions.
While I’m certainly no expert, and none of the following should be construed as a “tutorial” or “professional advice”, here’s a brief (ETA: LMAO, not brief at all) rundown of how it went, along with some of the resources I used:
I will write more about this saga someday because it deserves its own post, but let’s just say there’s a reason this post is in a category called underpants-dot-js. But anyway, I earned myself a lot of Code School (now Pluralsight) badges. My partner sent me a book about SVG for Valentine’s Day and I genuinely thought it was super romantic.
STEP ONE – MOCK UP
I am not generally a sketch-first kinda garment designer — especially when sewing for myself, the out-of-my-head design process usually starts on the pattern itself, for better or worse; however, I’m less comfortable eyeballing hex codes than sleeve lengths, so I thought a rough mockup would help me get a handle on the overall look I wanted for the site and how all the information would be structured. I used Graphic’s iOS app on my iPad Mini so I could pick away at it on the bus. (I happened to already be using Graphic for a lot of my pattern drafting since it was inexpensive and available for both mobile and desktop, though I’ve subsequently moved on to Adobe Illustrator on desktop for most of my drafting and digital illustration; I haven’t used Inkscape but I’ve heard it’s a good open source alternative vector drawing app. BUT I DIGRESS.) I drew a bunch of pink rectangles and chose some stand-in fonts, and when I felt like I had a reasonable idea of what I was going for, I dove into the code.
STEP TWO – BUILD A BASIC STATIC SITE
A static web page is basically just a document that stays the same no matter who’s looking at it, from where, or for how long. The document may include complex styling and images and even animations that make it look dynamic (in the aesthetic sense), but its content doesn’t respond to the viewer. What you see is always the same thing that’s written in my text editor. It’s kind of like a TV show: philosophy aside, the act of watching doesn’t affect what’s being broadcast.
This style of website can be simple to put together because it only needs some HTML and a browser to work – you don’t need to set up a database or specialized development environment, and you don’t even need to learn any other languages if you don’t care what it looks like (but CSS is rad and you probably want to use it). Because it doesn’t do anything, it’s also less vulnerable to security flaws and unexpected behaviour.
This is the step where I got the site looking the way I wanted, without worrying about the site doing anything much fancy. This step and many of the ones after it should really be called “Watch a lot of YouTube code-along tutorials while caffeinating”. In particular, Kevin Powell’s material was indispensable for inspiring the CSS-heavy early stages, and Traversy Media was a great help here and much later during the Jekyll-to-Wordpress overhaul.
STEP THREE – COMPLAIN ABOUT BOOTSTRAP TO ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN
This step is certainly optional and comes down to personal taste, but I developed some strong opinions about frameworks and obfuscation along my journey. Props to the Bootstrap developers (hi Mark!) for giving a ton of people a leg up, and providing me with a responsive grid and some handy under-the-hood animations… but if I were to do it all again I’d save myself the frustration of not being able to identify which one of the billionty-seven classes was making my nav items the wrong colour and opacity. I’m also not super keen on class names that describe how things look instead of what they are, and for now my markup is riddled with ’em.
STEP FOUR – MAKE THINGS AUTOMATIC (BUT NOT YET AUTOMATTIC) WITH JEKYLL
A static page is cool and all but what if your site has multiple pages? And you want them to look mostly the same-ish? Like, say, a blog? You could do it by hand by copy-pasting the code for headers and footers and other shared content into multiple files, but lemme tell you: it gets out of hand pretty quickly. Every time you need to make a change, you have to change it the same way in every file.
This is where a static site generator like Jekyll comes in. It still produces a bunch of static pages in the end, but it helps you pull together content from multiple sources into one document instead of copy-pasting by hand. You break up the basic layout into chunks that become a template, name the files according to certain rules, and then you specify where in your various pages those chunks should be crammed in. More or less. Jekyll then listens to all your “put header here and content there!” instructions and spits out a “site” folder with complete HTML for each individual page of your site, which can then be published.
Jekyll did require a little more than a text editor with a blinking cursor to get started, though. I had to* run it from the command line, and it’s got its own development server to preview your work locally before putting it before the eyes of the world (though I think you can configure it to deploy straight to a live site if you like to live dangerously). As a result, using Jekyll has a decidedly more “programmery” vibe to it despite not actually requiring a whole lot more programming; I don’t mind this at all but it’s not a for everyone. The official documentation is definitely aimed primarily at people who spend all day writing Ruby and I found it horribly frustrating at pretty much every stage. I only really got it up and running by the grace of more YouTube.
Pros: write posts in Markdown (though it turns out that you can also do this in WordPress so <raspberry>); all the usual advantages of a static site.
Cons: documentation so unfriendly I almost threw my laptop into the ocean and quit the internet forever; pagination just… didn’t… work? Listen, much like the Bootstrap thing, I know a lot of folks who dig it, it just wasn’t a good fit for me.
* I could have used Jekyll via GitHub Pages, which, despite working there for four years, I never successfully implemented, mostly because I was so dismayed by the Jekyll docs.
STEP FIVE – REFRAIN FROM THROWING LAPTOP INTO OCEAN, GOOGLE HOW TO TRANSITION FROM JEKYLL TO WORDPRESS
Tania Rascia wrote a series of awesome tutorials (which are a few years old but were still applicable to my situation, for the most part), which I supplemented with more Traversy Media and the official documentation, the WordPress Codex. Turns out it was less “transition from Jekyll to WordPress” and more “develop a WordPress theme based on a static site design”, much like I did in Step Four — which is still fine, because Jekyll helpfully generates a whole bunch of files each containing their own static page, so it’s not like I had to go back and reverse-engineer everything I had just changed. In fact, a lot of the changes I had to make to set up a basic WordPress theme echoed what I had previously done for Jekyll, except using PHP instead of Liquid tags. Which, oh right…
STEP SIX – LEARN SOME PHP
More CodeSchool badges!
As you might have gathered by now, WordPress creates dynamic pages: instead of building static pages, it pulls information from a database to generate a site, and this requires a scripting language like PHP. (To continue our TV metaphor from earlier, if a static site is like a TV broadcast, then a dynamic site is maybe more like a console video game.) It also requires a bunch of extra stuff* to be housed on the server in addition to the HTML/CSS files for the pages of your site. As a one-click install or blog hosted on wordpress.com, it can be as easy as choosing a pre-installed theme, selecting some colours, and off you go without ever needing to worry about the underlying code… but if you are a weirdo like me and want to develop your own custom theme, you’re going to need to confront the question: what even is mySQL? Get very comfortable with question marks, in fact, because PHP seems pretty unsure of itself and uptalks like a pre-teen.
ANYWAY. WordPress is a bit deceptive, because despite having a pretty admin panel with a WYSIWYG vibe that lulls you into into thinking it’s even less programmery than the basic HTML static site, let alone the bleak Terminalscape of Jekyll, IT IS ALL A RUSE. If you’re developing a theme, not only do you need to program the junk that the public will see, you also have to write code to make the admin panel do anything useful. Pretty comes through a lot of effort, and don’t you forget it.
* This is the part where you should definitely go consult an expert if you want to know more because, I mean, this blog is ostensibly about sewing, for one thing; also this post is already very long and I barely know how to describe the outlines of this. Rubber-ducking my woes at home has involved a lot of hand gestures and the thing is not doing the thing because I put the other thing in the wrong place.
STEP SEVEN – IT’S ALIIIIIIIIIIIVE
Which brings us to today, when I realized that I finally had no excuses left not to actually put all this crap on my live server. I exported the database! I SFTP’d the other stuff! I imported the database! I sent celebratory communiqués!
…I spent 20 minutes digging around in my code trying to figure out why none of the navigation links worked even though the pages definitely existed until I discovered my
home were each missing a trailing slash!
And so, after much ado, I write to you now from the post editor of my new WordPress-backed site, a change which I hope you would not ever have noticed if I hadn’t just written well over 1900 words about it.
Postscript: of course approximately ten seconds after I finished writing this, I realized that a bunch of stuff was borked, and continued to find borkèdness throughout the rest of the evening. It’s fiiiiiiiiiiine.
Earlier this week, I released my pattern for the Classic Palm Glove, and some of you may be wondering… why? It’s a tricky project which many people probably hadn’t considered sewing for themselves. Here’s a few reasons I think it’s worthwhile:
Mass-produced gloves usually don’t come in a range of sizes
I have teeny hands with short fingers, so those “one-size-fits-all” gloves from the costume shop leave me with floppy fingertips and wrinkly wrists… but as an (occasional) aerialist I’ve got kinda beefcake upper arms, so the hem is often snug despite the roomy hand. Even if you only need to shorten the fingers or make seemingly simple alterations, retrofitting an existing pair of RTW gloves is a bit more trouble than it’s worth and likely to result in lumpy results. If your paws are smaller or larger than average, a custom fit can make the difference between “elegant” and “kid’s Halloween costume”.
…or colours or styles
Black and white satin certainly have their place, but what if you have more colourful aspirations? I’ve been loving sheers lately, and I have my eye on some sweet polka-dots and prints. I’m also assembling a huge inspiration board for style hacks to tutorialize over the next few weeks – ruffles and bows and colour-blocking and keyholes and buttons and… you get the idea. When you start with a great basic pattern and get it fitting just right, you can then go style-wild.
You will challenge your cutting and sewing skills
It takes some patience, but working with really small tolerances is great practice for refining your accuracy in both cutting and stitching. I’m generally a bit of a speed demon at the sewing machine, but working with 3mm seam allowances and hairpin curves forced me to work more carefully and approach my projects with greater intention and mindfulness. As a result, I’ve noticed that 6mm lingerie seams now feel like a breeze and I have finally achieved a respectable stitch-in-the-ditch on my bias bindings.
It’s a great way to upcycle or stash-bust specialty knits
This pattern is not a fabric hog, so it’s perfect for making use of those sparkly sleeves you cut off a thrifted tunic, or the last scant half-metre of Swiss dot mesh that you really don’t need any more undies out of.
It’s heeeeeeeere at last! My long-awaited debut pattern, The Classic Palm Glove, is now available for instant download. Head on over to the shop to pick up your copy.
Want to hear more? You got it!
The Classic Palm Glove is an elegant, fitted glove pattern, designed for stretchy knit fabrics. Hemmed just beyond the elbow and featuring gussets between the fingers for a smooth and comfortable fit around the hand, this style is a versatile choice for burlesque, drag, dance, formalwear, cosplay, and more.
Style your Palms in sheer white mesh for a delicate addition to your wedding day, or stitch up a pair in black lace to shield your pale Goth forearms from the summer sun. Cosplay your favourite Incredible, or jazz up your next 20s-themed cocktail hour.
Or, of course, add a zillion rhinestones and captivate an audience with a long, slow, glittery classic burlesque glove peel.
The download features the sewing pattern in three gender-neutral adult sizes (small, medium, large) and a 10-page e-booklet with illustrated step-by-step instructions for fitting, laying out, cutting, and sewing your gloves. Keep an eye on this blog for upcoming tutorials and tips for pattern hacks to get even more possibilities out of this pattern.