Here we are at Week Four of our Strapless Sew Along!
We have already made our silk lining layer with the boning laid into the interior of the panels, along with some light padding, a back “bra” panel and a silk organza “stretched bias” strip in the upper edge to add strength and prevent stretching.
Next, I’m cutting the “middle layer” out of muslin… but you can use a variety of other fabric choices depending on your preference, as long as they are fairly strong and stable.
Depending on the bust size of my wearer and the amount of stability I want, sometimes I stabilize the side front panels so they don’t have any stretch to them on the bias. I probably don’t need it for my imaginary “B cup” girl… but there is no harm in doing it so I will put in for demonstration.
How do I do this? I fight bias with bias!
In addition to the straight grain side bust panels, I also cut out an organza layer on the bias. The bias organza prevents the muslin from stretching on the bias because the bias panel’s straight grain is now running along the bias of the cotton.
Next, I baste the two fabrics together around the edges.
Yay! Now the bias angle of my side bust panel snaps taught and stable!
Now we stitch all the seams together a scant less than the normal seam allowance… like 1/32ths of an inch smaller… just the width of the needle, really. This way this middle layer is just wee tiny bit bigger to layer over the silk base lining layer that we made. If they are the same exact size, then they could fight each other and you will have bubbles and puckers.
Also, the center front dart will be just a hair less deeper and not quite at long as we did for the lining layer. Each layer you do needs to just be a little bigger to wrap smoothly around the previous layer.
The seams are clipped and all pressed open.
You do NOT have to put the organza bias stabilizer strip at the top, just stay stitch it. The reason is that we already have that stabilizer strip in the lining layer, and when we attach all the layers together at the neckline, that is all we will really need. You don’t want to get too bulky in that seam edge.
Next we will cut and seal the boning strips. You only need boning strips for the actual seams on this layer… remember, we did NOT do boning in the seams of the lining layer. So in my case, there only needs to be 6 boning pieces.
Hey! Guess what…. I found my heat thing that I normally use to seer/seal the boning edges. It looks like the tool that you would use for the hotfix crystals, but this gets WAY hotter. I tried using the hotfix tool before but it wouldn’t get hot enough. This one I found I think is actually intended to put marks into wood or leather and it came with different tips. I’m glad I couldn’t find it last week because it forced me to consider other ways to seal off the edges with E6000, or a hot glue gun, and also be more liberal with little woven fusing squares and padding at the tips.
I use my pattern weight as a holder for it… it gets really hot and I don’t want it to slide off the table and burn me!
It really merges the separate plastic ridges together as one at the edges. No way are these coming loose or unraveling!
So next is a step that I always struggle with and end up doing TWICE and sometimes THREE times. Sewing the boning into the bust seam. I have a tendency to really work it in there “heavy handed” and it pushes the bust point out to much. This is why I first just do a basting stitch right down the middle and check it before continuing.
Remember, the curvy part of the bust has some bias in it and is prone to stretching if you are too aggressive with the boning… it seems counter intuitive to ease-in the bust curve, but that is often exactly what needs to be done. For some reason, nearly every time I still question that and sew it in too pushy and have to take it out and back off for the next try. Usually I cut my boning for the front bust seams about 1/4″ shorter than I think I need because I know I would probably have to trim it back down anyway!
So yeah… just from basting down the center of the boning I can already see I was overkill on the bust curve, as usual.
So I take the stitching out from the underbust up to the neckline.
So now I’m going to try it again and ever so slightly “ease” the bust curve on to the boning.
Wayyy better on my second attempt, so I went ahead and stitched down along each side of the boning and added the rest of the boning.
If you would prefer to use the wider boning in the other seams, that is just fine… but for the curvy bust seams I recommend the 1/4″ width boning.
See how it’s much less “strained” in the bust curve now? At the tops and bottoms of the boning tips, I only added a little piece of fusible to cover the edges. I didn’t think little pad squares were worth the bulk because the seam allowance of the lining layer is there as an added buffer between these tips and the wearer’s skin. Plus I “heat seared” the tips nice and smooth.
This middle layer will go ON TOP of the lining layer and the seam allowances will be facing towards the body. This orientation gives a nice smooth base for the outer layers to rest on. The middle layer tames down the seam allowances of the lining/corset layer. If all the seam allowance were facing outward, it could become haphazzard and bulky under the fashion layers.
*** We are NOT sewing the two layers together at the top yet, but if you would like to hand baste it so they can get to know each other a little better, that is fine. 🙂
In this photo, I have the lining layer pinned up, then the muslin “middle layer” on top of it. It all looks more wrinkly in the photos than in person, but additionally most of the horizontal wrinkles will smooth out when the top neckline is all seamed in and the weight of the attached skirt layers will weigh it down. Also, the garment and it’s seaming “resting” for a few days helps it all settle in and it starts looking better…. so I don’t freak out at this stage when it seems all wrinkly looking.
See how puckery and ripply it is just layered and pinned up on the form with the top and bottom seam allowances exposed?
Now see how it improves when I audition the top and bottom edges turned under, simulating the seaming. It continues to improve with the real seaming and skirt layers attached.
I want to back track to the lining layer and add a few more comments.
First, regarding the side seams and “catching” the back bra panel into them. I stitched the side seams with the bra panel sandwiched in between. Then I pressed all the seam allowance from the waist up towards the front. This coaxes the bra panel bulk to flow towards the back. I then do a single 1/4″ topstitch from the waist up (about a 3 mm stitch length in case someone ever needs to unstitch it for alterations). From the waist down, I’ve clipped the waist notch and press the seam allowance open.
For the bra pads, I simply hand tack them in a few places, and do a light handed running stitch through the center to catch the seam allowance of the lining.
So that’s it for this week! The next steps coming up for the following 2 and final posts will be addressing the fashion outer layer(s), and attaching them all together at the neckline. After that it’s just the final closures for dress and back “bra” panel. We will also address installing additional bra “push up” pads and/or installing a bra if desired.
Categories: Sew-Along: Strapless Bustier