• Ruby Sewalong – part 4

    Hi again!  First the good news – the video in this post was made with my iPad and a new tripod.  So hopefully they will be better and also I think some of you have had a few issues with the sound, which I also hope will be better this time.

    OK – so, how are you getting on with your Ruby?  Hopefully you have your fold-over elastic done along the top edge of the cups all ready for sewing them into the frame.

    I shan’t be differentiating between foam and non-foam from hereonin because – well, there aren’t really any differences 🙂 We’re going to be sewing the cups in this time, which should be pretty straightforward provided you have marked all your notches accurately.  Yes, I know I sound like your mum checking that you’ve brushed your teeth and washed behind your ears, but seriously I can’t stress enough the importance of doing this, particularly in this pattern (although you may be forgiven for thinking that I’m having a jolly good try …)

    If you would like to try your hand at a Gothic arch (or refresh your memory) you can read about it here.  For the standard band-bottom version, you will notice that the Ruby has a really straight bottom and so you don’t need to do any stretching round curvy bits etc such as you might be used to doing with, say, a Classic or a Shelley.  The band does curve up a little at the centre front between the cups and so it will help it to lie flat against your body if you clip the upward-curved section in three or four places.

    Whatever shape you’ve chosen for your bottom, sew the first and second passes of the elastic before you even look at the channelling.  Well, ok you can look at it, but don’t touch it yet.  After that, sew the first and second passes of the underarm elastic.

    Next time we’ll look at a cute little trick to help you sew on the channeling and what do do if you are using the 3/4″ bottom band elastic.  Do you remember that I’m having fabric straps on my black cherry version?  We’ll have a look at how to give them a neat finish.  We’ll also look at how to eliminate the bounce if you are using all elastic straps.

    Don’t forget to leave a comment if you are stuck, or if you just want to leave a comment …

    See you soon!

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  • Ruby Sewalong – part 3

    Hi everyone!

    How’re you getting on with the wonderful Ruby pattern?  Hopefully by now you have cut out and sewn your cup pieces together.  This time we’re going to be finishing off the cups with fold-over elastic (FOE).

    As well as the sewing instruction, I’ve done a couple of other little videos with additional info that you can skip over if they don’t interest you.  One describes the basic pattern alterations that I’ve done for myself on my non-foam version.  The other is pretty much an info-mercial on the Ruby fabric and findings kits I’ve put together for you to buy if you so desire 😉

    So, before we get cracking on the sewing I have a couple of apologies to make.  One is that you will see a great deal of my legs.  I promise this is not because I’m sewing in my underwear, but because I’m wearing shorts! (We’re currently having what may well turn out to be summer in the UK at the moment, what can I say …)  The other is that the video quality isn’t brilliant because we changed from an iPad to a camera, thinking it would be better.  It wasn’t.  Promise to do better for next time …

    Non-Foam Version

    Ooops! one of the hazards of having the windows open in the  summer … ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ at full blast 🙂

    SO.moving on …

    After you’ve finished the cups, you need to finish the bridge by turning over a 1/4″ hem. Simple.

    Foam Version

    If you are making the Ruby with foam you should by now have your foam cups and your fabric covers sewn up and ready to go.  All we need to do now is put them together!

    Now for the FOE …

    Both Versions

    Now we have the cups finished off and the bridge on the front frame finished.  You can go ahead and sew the front and back band pieces together at the side seams.

    In the next session we’ll look at putting the cups into the frame (so make sure you marked all those notches we talked about before…) and applying the elastics.

    See you next time

    PS  Here are those extra videos I mentioned at the beginning.

    Pattern Alterations

    Ruby Kit Info

    Forgot to mention that the full fabric and findings kits contain two pre-wound bobbins of matching thread (One for e the bobbin, one as the top thread).  Also forgot to mention tha the kits come in lilac as well.  (Some days you just can’t get the staff …)



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  • Ruby Sewalong – part 2

    Welcome back!  Hopefully you’ve had a chance to grab your pattern and think about the fabrics you want to use.

    Since Ruby can be made with or without foam, I think it will be useful to include both styles in the sewalong so as not to limit your creativity 🙂 To avoid confusion, the foam version is going to be made in red mirror satin and the non-foam one in black cherry duoplex.

    As I mentioned in the last episode, I’ve put together some kits that are specific to Ruby and these can be found in the Shop section.  Version 1 is a full foam kit, including duoplex, powernet, cut & sew foam, sheer cup lining, stay tape, thread and a Ruby findings kit.  Version 2 is more of a ‘bare bones’ kit so that you can choose your own cup and frame fabric (stretch lace would be nice …) and includes powernet, cut & sew foam, sheer cup lining and a Ruby findings kit.  Version 3 is a non-foam kit with duoplex, powernet and a Ruby findings kit.  The Ruby findings kit includes top and bottom band elastics, fold-over elastic, strap elastic, two pairs of rings and one of sliders, hook & eye and a bow.

    Ok, that’s the sales pitch over – now to the bra!  First off, let’s make sure we’ve got all the pieces traced off and marked up.

    All versions

    It is absolutely vital that you mark all the notches on all of the pieces – top and bottom cups and front frame.  Sorry for all the bold but this will save you a lot of heartache down the line. It is really easy to flip pieces over and sew them back-to-front, upside-down or all of the above.  Ask me how I know … 🙁

    This is another thing you probably already know, but don’t snip-mark the notches! You only have teeny tiny seam allowances (none, in fact, on the foam pieces) – one false move with the scissors and it’s all over bar the shouting.  I love Frixion pens for marking (I never put my bras in the freezer so that’s not a problem …) but your favourite wash-out marker is fine too.  I don’t recommend tailor’s chalk because I don’t think it gives a fine-enough mark.

    Foam Version

    I’m making the foam version using stretch satin so I’m using the same BCD for the foam and the cover.  If you are using non-stretch cup fabric – for example, duoplex (my personal favourite) or a bias-cut woven – please take note. It would be wise to trace off the next size up for the cover pieces.  So if you are making a 4.5 cup, trace off the 4.75 top and bottom cup pieces.  This is to allow some wiggle room when it comes to putting the foam and cover pieces together.  You’ll see why when we come to that stage but, for now, trust me on this :).

    Now we’ve have the pattern pieces for the foam traced off and marked up we can cut out the foam.  This has to be done on a single layer of foam.  I’m not saying you can’t cut it out double, it’s just not something I would advise!  It’s pretty springy stuff and the pattern pieces are pretty small and curvy.

    Ok – now you’ve cut everything out, let’s start sewing it together.  First, the foam cups.

    Non-Foam Version

    I’m making the non-foam version in my go-to fabric – duoplex.  You can, of course, use your own favourite bra-making fabric.    Beverly suggests going up a size (as described above) to compensate for using non-stretch fabric.  Personally I use my actual size BUT I add a wedge in the upper cup to avoid the dreaded quad-boob.  I have to do that anyway to my Shelley and Classic patterns, so that might just be me.  Maybe make up a test cup (in the same fabric that you intend to use – ALWAYS), tack it to an existing well-fitting bra around the wire line and see what happens.  Alternatively, go with the larger size and if it’s too big, stuff tissues down the cups! Only joking … 🙂

    All Versions

    So off you go and sew the cup pieces together.  The fabric cup pieces are sewn with standard 1/4in seams, pressed open and top-stitched in your favourite method.  In the next session we’ll be dealing with the fold-over elastic for the cups.  We’ll also be preparing the frame.

    If you have any questions at any stage, don’t forget to leave a comment and I will try and answer it before the next session so you don’t fall behind 🙂

    See you next time!


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  • Ruby Bra Sewalong

    I’m so excited to be sharing the wonderful Ruby bra with you!

    To kick-off this sewalong I’ve done a couple of videos explaining the sizing and a little bit about suitable materials.  I’m going to make up a full Ruby kit which will include fabrics, foam and findings and I’ll let you know when they are available (hopefully in a few days).  Also a findings kit with fold-over elastic, stay tape and so on.

    Ok, so pour yourself a little of what you fancy and let’s get going!

    In part two I’ll recap the fabrics etc.  Then we’ll get down to tracing the pattern; laying,cutting and marking out the fabrics.  See you soon!


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  • Work hard, play hard in equal measure

    As most of you know, I recently visited Bra Makers Supply in Canada for the Master Swimwear course. It was a combined ‘work and play’ trip as I headed to Florida after the course for a holiday where I tried and tested my brand new swimsuit…..made by hers truly.

    On arrival, we were greeted by an unseasonal ice storm: snow, ice pellets and wind. Fortunately I had packed a warm coat but I didn’t quite think through my shoe selection properly as it was totally impractical and consisted of smooth-soled suede moccasins!

    Anyway, the course with Beverly was absolutely brilliant, as I knew it would be. She helped me design my own swimsuit, incorporating a little corseted section in the back with a metal separator and grommets.

    The front had a retro look, incorporating my Shelley bra cups

    Blue swimsuit in progress 2

    I also converted my own bra pattern into a bikini top. Not bad for my first attempt as you can see.

    Whilst I was there I picked up copies of Beverly Johnson’s Big Book of Swimwear – I can highly recommend you read this as you will pick up so many useful tips. I also took advantage of buying loads of stock, including some new items, so watch this space!

    After a few days, I met up with my husband and we set off to the sunny climes of Florida for a much-needed holiday following our recent move to Peterborough – not needing the winter coat this time! We worked out this was only our second holiday with just the two of us in 27 years (not including our honeymoon). To say we deserved it is an understatement!

    So, to enjoy our time together, we took advantage of not having our four children and three grand-children with us and we whiled away our evenings sorting out the 5 suitcases of stock that I’d picked up. Some would say we were living the American Dream!

    The highlight of the holiday was me proudly wearing my new swimsuit and bikini (not at the same time I might add!). My bespoke look provided complete comfort throughout the whole holiday – I felt like a million dollars!

    sunbathing in my new swimsuit

    So, if you feel inspired to get ‘summer ready’ and you would like to pick up some tips and tricks to make your own swimwear, check out my Sewing Swimwear Techniques course.

    Many thanks


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  • Five Good Reasons to Make Your Own Bra

    We’ve all been there ladies, wearing the wrong size bra for years and then you finally discover your correct size and voila, life is complete! Well, the good news is you can change the way you feel ‘supported’ forever. My top five reasons below will help you understand why making your own bespoke bra really is the answer:

    Most important reason – because you can!  Making a bra is, almost certainly, nowhere near as hard as you might think. Granted, there are a few specialised techniques and fabrics you may not be familiar with, but if you can set-in a sleeve or sew a princess seam then you can most definitely make a bra. Read more about making your own bra for the first time here

    Comfort is key – do you fling off your bra when you get home?  Don’t bother wearing a bra at the weekend? You are not alone – the key to comfort is the underwire.  If you make your own bra, measuring for the right pattern size and fitting the bra with the correct underwire, will make all the difference.  In the Ready to Wear section of high street stores, sadly you have no choice – certain bra sizes come with fixed wire sizes.  But if you make your own bra, these important elements are eradicated forever. Check out my underwire size charts to help you get started.

    No two breasts are the same – no-one has the same size breasts, fact! So why do retail stores expect us to wear a bra with the same size cup for each breast? It’s rare for anyone to be totally symmetrical in any area of our bodies; one ear higher, one foot bigger, a ring that fits on one hand doesn’t fit the same finger on the other hand, and so on.

    Breasts are no exception, even the smallest size difference can equate to a whole cup size.  This rule is emphasised even more for those ladies that have undergone breast surgery. Thankfully, it’s perfectly possible to accommodate all manner of idiosyncrasies when you make your own.

    80% of us wear the wrong size bra – many places proudly proclaim to having an expert fitting service.  But they can only fit you in what they have available to sell. Have you ever been to M&S for example and been told – “sorry, we don’t have the right size?” Instead, they wheel out the ‘sister sizing’ myth. Different brands size differently – 38D in one store becomes 38DD, or a 36F in another.  Make YOUR size to fit YOUR shape.

    Choice – Ever fallen in love with the perfect, most beautiful bra only to find it doesn’t come in your size? Or they don’t have it in stock? Or you like the shape and style but it doesn’t come in a colour you like?  Make you own bra and you can be as creative as you like.  Choose your own colour, trims and lace – the possibilities are endless. Check out my online shop for some inspiration and ideas.

    If you feel encouraged to create your own bra after reading this, then this is really exciting. It goes without saying to get in touch if you have any queries, just email me at mandy@www.fit2sew.co.uk.

    Just think, when you’ve completed your first bra, the second one and subsequent ones will be so much easier and, pretty soon, you will be a complete expert. You will have a whole drawer full of beautiful bras, ready for any occasion. Plus, each time you wear your new, perfectly fitted bra, you will feel and look like a million dollars; this feeling is priceless.

    Good luck everyone!


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  • How to sew a Gothic Arch

    Adding a gothic arch to your bra band is a must if you find the conventional straight band rides up or is generally uncomfortable.  Or if you just prefer the look of it.  So here’s a little guide for how to sew a gothic arch – the way I do it, at least.

    how to sew a gothic arch step 1The first thing you’ll need to do is alter your bra pattern. Measure up approx 3/4″ (2cm) from the bottom edge of the front frame.  A touch more if you want a more dramatic arch, a touch less for smaller sizes.  The important thing is to make a sharp angle at the centre front – otherwise it’s just an arch.  Not Gothic.  The other important thing is to smoothly blend the line back to the curve under the cup holes (almost certainly there is a more technical term …)

    Mhow to sew a gothic arch step 2ark the centre line on the front frame.  I love Frixion pens for marking fabric because you can get nice fine marks that disappear easily with the iron.

    Yes, I know the ink can reappear in the cold but since I never put my bras in the freezer (and certainly never while wearing them!) it’s not something that’s ever worried me.

    how to sew a gothic arch step 3

    Then fold the bottom band elastic in half with the plush side facing you and the fancy edge to the left.

    Line it up with the bottom edge of the frame so that the fold extends into the cup seam.


    how to seew a gothic arch step 4Machine-baste the elastic along the marked line.  Open the elastic out and position the machine-basting along the centre line on the frame.  Pin in place either side of the centre.

    I like to start the first pass of zig-zagging on the left side of the band, sewing from the centre point to the hook & eye point of the back band.  I use the firm band elastics in my findings kits and so I don’t need to stretch the band as I sew – I just put a little bit of tension on it, particularly under the cups.how to sew a gothic arch step 4a


    Trim the excess elastic flush with the end of the back band.


    how to sew a gothic arch step 5

    To make sure that both sides of the band are equal, take the bit you just trimmed off and use it as your template to trim the other end of the elastic.

    This next bit is the part most of my students find the hardest to fathom – until they do it!

    Pull out the machine-basting from the middle of the elastic.  Cut it at the fold.

    This leaves two little tails sticking up.

    how to sew a gothic arch step 7


    Now flip the bra over and clip at the centre just shy of the stitching.  This is important – the next bit won’t work otherwise!


    how to sew a gothic arch step 8

    Turn the bottom band to the wrong side, ready for the second pass of stitching.  The little tails should pass over each other and lay flat.  Use the original marked line to help you align the tails and pin them in place.


    how to sew a gothic arch step 9


    Sew the second pass from end to end, pivoting in the centre.



    how to sew a gothic arch step 10


    All done! Just a quick press with the iron to remove the Frixion pen marks.


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  • Choosing the right size pattern

    Choosing the right size pattern – the first hurdle in making great looking clothes. Not wishing to state the obvious, but I’m fanatical about fit.  (Not to be confused with fitness – most definitely not!)

    There’s pretty much always an answer to most fit issues, but making  great-fitting clothes is a whole lot easier when you start with the right size pattern.

    There I go stating the obvious again, you may think.  But what exactly is the right size? Well, first and foremost – it is not going to be the same as your ready-to-wear size.  Apart from anything else, your RTW size no doubt varies from shop to shop anyway.

    choosing the right size pattern

    Standard US pattern sizes


    The good news is that pattern sizing is pretty much standard throughout the major brands, such as Vogue Butterick & McCall’s (actually all the same company), Simplicity and New Look.  (The indy companies, like Colette for example, are a law unto themselves).  The bad news is, the sizing will almost certainly be at least a couple of numbers higher than RTW.  Often, to counteract the shock, I have to ply people with hot sweet tea when I tell them what size they need.

    So, according to this pattern size chart, a 38″ bust is a size 16.  And we all know how to measure our bust – right?

    Not necessarily.  You may be surprised to learn that, if you’re bigger than a ‘B’ cup, your bust may not be where you think it is. Well, your bust is obviously where you think it is,  but where to take the measurement isn’t.

    To get a really good fit, you need a pattern that fits perfectly in the neck, shoulders, upper chest and armhole areas.   This is because any alterations in those areas have a knock-on effect for sleeve caps and collars and you really don’t want to go messing about with those if you can help it.choose the right size pattern

    How to find that measurement?  Well, you pull the tape measure tight round your back (under the shoulder blades), up under your armpits and across the chest (above ‘the girls’).  By avoiding those obvious sticky-out bits you get a much more accurate measurement, known as the high bust.

    You then use that high bust measurement as the “bust” on the pattern.  So for me, my full bust comes out to size 22 but I would be swamped if I made that size.  I start with a size 18 and then do a full bust adjustment (FBA).  Perfect fit every time!  For more info, check out my Perfect Pattern Fitting course.

    As a general rule-of-thumb, for patterns that start above the waist go by the high bust measurement, and use the hip measurement for patterns that start below the waist.

    Hope this helps!



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  • Why don't commercial patterns fit properly?

    How many times have you been excited about starting a new dressmaking project, raided your stash for the perfect fabric, carefully cut the pattern out and faithfully followed the sewing instructions – only to be disappointed with the result?  More times than you care to remember, if you’re anything like me.

    Loads of people I speak to say they’ve simply stopped bothering to sew for themselves because nothing ever fits.

    So why is that? Why do so many of us get such disheartening results when we’ve taken so much care over our sewing?

    Well, it’s because commercial pattern companies – whether big American ones like Vogue, European like Burda or even small independent ones like Colette, all work their own standard set of measurements.  People, on the other hand, don’t come in standard sizes.  An even bigger factor is that tops, dresses and jackets are all drafted for a ‘B’ cup bust.

    It would be so great if we could just buy a pattern and whip up a fabulous garment that fits perfectly straight out of the envelope. For the vast majority of us though that’s just not the reality. In fact, guaranteed if you’re bigger than a ‘B’ cup.

    You can’t blame the pattern companies. It would be impossible for them to produce every design in a myriad of size variations.  Even if they did, it would just be totally bewildering trying to work out which one we needed.  The only way to guarantee a perfect fit from a commercial pattern is to think of it as your starting point, rather than the finished article.

    As Pati Palmer of Palmer/Pletsch often says “The pattern is your manuscript and you are the editor”.

    Once you learn how to customise patterns to fit your shape, the world of fashion is your oyster!

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  • Top sewing tools

    One of my lovely ladies at a recent Beginners Sewing class asked me a great question – ‘what’s your favourite sewing tool?’ I have to admit I was speechless for a few moments (and that doesn’t happen very often!).

    Like with most hobbies, there are loads of sewing gadgets and bits & bobs out there begging for us to buy them. Go to any sewing show or exhibition and you’ll see all sorts of weird and wonderful things designed to make your sewing experience easier / more rewarding / orgasmic (well, maybe not the last one … unless I’ve been missing something all these years).

    Especially tempting are the gadgets you see being demonstrated. Let’s face it, in the hands of the person who’s had who knows how many hours training on it, anything would look easy to use and indispensable (take pasta makers, for example). But in the cold light of day when you’ve got it back home and struggling to even get it out of the box or packet, how many times have you thought to yourself – what possessed me to buy that?  Bit like a bicycle for a fish.

    Anyway, putting aside my what was I thinkings, I settled on three things in no particular order: (good scissors and fine sharp pins are a given)

    Magnetic pin holder

    This is the thing that gets the most “that’s clever!” comments.  Really, really useful.  I’ve got three from Prym, Clover and Grabbit and they’re all much of a muchness to be honest.  The Clover one is the most expensive (no surprises there) and has a cover.  Sounds like a good idea, but the pins are not going to fall off, are they – it’s magnetic.

    Seam gauge

    These are great for accurately marking seam allowances, turning up hems, marking buttonholes and loads of other things.  Dritz is a good brand and easily available from Amazon – just be aware that they usually ship from the US and so take a week or two to arrive.  Worth the wait though.  Hemline make one as well but I find them quite flimsy and easily bent.  I prefer this one of theirs although it can be confusing, especially for a beginner.

    Ergonomic rotary cutter

    I have mixed feelings about rotary cutters.  Great for long straight lines, like in quilting for example, but not too sure when it comes to more complicated shapes.  That is, until I had to cut out 5 bridesmaids’ dresses in chiffon! This Martelli cutter was recommended to me and it worked like a dream.  It looks a bit weird, but it is really easy and comfortable to use.  There’s a left-handed version too.

    So those are my choices – how about you?


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