Tip:For the Expecting Mom – Bra Extenders

Bodice of McCall's 6119 Halter Top.

All of this talk of boobs and bustiness during my fitting of McCall’s 6119 Halter Top has got me to thinking about something that has helped me greatly throughout my pregnancy.

Beginning early in my pregnancy anything binding my torso increased my already agonizing nausea.  Bras that previously felt just fine were now cutting into my rib cage and adding to my misery.  Still unsure of how much more I might increase in weight and girth, I feared having to buy several whole new collections of brassieres as I moved through the trimesters.

I can’t remember which pregnancy book I read this in, but I am thankful that another woman passed this useful FYI along.

Bra Extenders.

Bra Extender

I remember associating these with the matrons of my youth, who often wore unalluring housedresses and industrial strength bras.  That’s why I glance over them on the notions shelf.  I assumed that anyone who might need one of these little numbers was definitely not in the childbearing stage of life.

Not so.

Needing money to pay off the OB/GYN fee rather than retooling my lingerie drawing, I decided to try out this inexpensive suggestion first.  I bought four.  (Good thing because I have lost two already.)  I went to Hancock’s but I have seen them at JoAnn’s also.  They come in 2,3 and 4 hook variations to match the back closures of your bra.  (There might be a five hook one too that I have seen.)

Absolutely unglamorous items, but they give terrific results.   The nausea was still present but at least my clothes weren’t making it worse.   Lingerie is expensive and I was saved from having to buy a whole new collection of bras for each size increase during my pregnancy.

I am so thankful to whomever passed this along to me that I wanted to share it with other moms-to-be as one of those small things during my pregnancy that has turned out to be a huge help.


Design Details from Menswear Shirting:Topstitching

Shirting Details from Menswear:


Warning:This Post is Photo Heavy.

Often when a pattern instructs me to topstitch I just look at the garment and wing it.  Though it would only take a few seconds I have been too lazy to grab a shirt or two and measure the typical topstitching points to determine stitch depth.   The result is sometimes a shirt that subtly looks “wrong.” 

I have several shirts planned over the next few months and I want them to look nice.  Wanting to create a handy chart to place in my sewing area as a reference I decided to pull out a few of my husband’s shirts and measure the stitch depths. 

Why my husband’s shirts and not my own, you may ask.  Firstly, being thick in the middle I do not own many RTW women’s oxfords to use as a sample.  RTW won’t close around my waist. That is why I am sewing my own.

Secondly, menswear often sets the standard for women’s oxford-style shirts and after an in-depth look at my husband’s closet I realized that menswear manufacturers have it down to a science.  My husband owns essentially the same exact shirt in a variety of fabrics and colors.  Though we in the Western world are coming upon close to two centuries of men wearing a cotton collared shirt, strangely I didn’t anticipate how efficient and frugal men’s clothiers had become.

Here is a chart of my findings. 

I worry that the chart will come up too small so I will repeat the chart info with photos to illustrate.  I looked at three different types of shirts: a standard work oxford, a dress shirt of finer cotton, and a dress shirt of softer material.  There was very little variation in construction methods or design details.


The softest and dressiest shirts had edgestitched collars.

Most of the shirts had 1/4 inch topstitching at collar edges.

The inside of the collar band showed extra stitching at 1/4 inch. But it couldn't have been twin-needle-d because the 1/4 stitch line did not show on outer side.

The outside of the collar band is edgestitched.









The yoke front and back are edgestitched. The shoulder seam is topstitched at 3/8 inch with the seam pressed upwards toward neckline.







The outer edge of the cuff is at 1/4 inch. The inner edge at the wrist looks to be twin needle-d at the edge and 3/8ths. If you look you can see that the placket is edgestitched on only one side with the folded side left free of any stitching.









The button side of the front opening has a single row of topstitching holding down the folded material at about 1 inch. The buttonhole side has 1/4 inch topstitching holding down the bands.

The hem is a rolled hem with edgestitching starting right at one garment edge and continuing to the other end.















Sewing Snit:Crushed Snaps

Where have all the jean snaps gone?

I made my daughter a little cord skirt like my brown one.  I decided on snaps for both of us, but mainly for her as she can handle a snap easily.  I went looking for those jeans snaps that I used to find at Jo’s or Hancocks but I couldn’t find any super heavy-duty snaps. So I went with their heaviest snap which I was familiar with and had success with before.


The inside working portions kept crushing! 

I used the correct implement and half of the snaps did not work.  They look fine but the female and male parts do not lock together.  I can’t find any reason for this.  It is like the couple you thought to be happy for years who suddenly announce a split and each party moves 3000 miles away from the other.  Why the sudden incompatibility?

Here is a photo of the snap insides where you can see they look fine.

Male portion of heavy duty snap.

Female portion of heavy duty snap.

What happened? 

Has snap quality deteriorated when I wasn’t looking?  Or was this too little snap for such a thick fabric? Have others a similar experience?  And where do you find your snaps since selection at merchants has winnowed over the years? 


Now I have to oh-so-carefully pull this old snap from the skirt and reinsert a new one.  Aargh!  That activity vaguely resembles mending, and my mending pile being what it is, my daughter will be in junior high before the skirt is wearable. 

On a side note – my summer cold has worsened into a terrible ear infection.  The doctor has prescribed meds but they make me drowsy and absentminded.  I thought today was Wednesday and so I am behind on getting this Thursday post out.   Given my fatigue and my sad mental state I am begging off my usual Saturday post and will return next week on Tuesday, July 13th.

Side Seam Zippers Puckering at Bottom



Except the kind of pucker I am dealing with is not so pleasing. 

 My side seam zippers are puckering at the bottom. 


Unless I tell every pattern with side seam zips to kiss off, I will have to confront this problem.

But I have sewing amnesia. 

I don’t remember being bothered by unsuccessful side seam zips in the past, but come to think of it, they are a distant memory.  I have avoided the side seam zipper for years.  Not intentionally.  I have grown so disgusted with pants patterns that I have not needed a side seam zipper since I haven’t gotten beyond a muslin in pants fitting.  On skirts I like to use a back zip because my waistline fluctuates and it easy to nip in at the sides without dealing with the side zipper.

Times have changed.  I have a pants pattern that I like and I need to make a side seam zip in a closely fitting garment.   

But I am perplexed as to why they are puckering at the bottom.


Yes – I have interfaced. 

Pattern Alterations

I do have a standard side seam pattern alteration.  My hips are much straighter than most patterns so I eliminate much of the curve.  I thought that would make zipper insertion easier.  It hasn’t.  


Is there a trick to side seam zippers? 

Has anyone else confronted and solved the pucker problem?

Next Post: Thursday, July 1, 2010; McCalls 5695 Girls Smock: Pattern Review

Continuous Lapped Plackets – The One to Learn

This is the one to know.  Learn to at least make this placket if no other. 

It isn’t hard to learn and is an all-around workhorse of a technique. 

Tailored enough to pass unremarked by most viewers of your garment it is an extremely useful substitute for one of the fancier dancier sleeve vents that require perfect sewing and lots of obvious topstitching.   Additionally you don’t ever have to reject buying a shirt pattern because you aren’t up to the cuff.  Nor will you have to potentially disrupt the overall design by creating an elastic cuff in place of the original one. 

Sometimes it is called a continuous bound placket.  Please do consult a few sewing manuals to get several different takes but the illustrations will look a bit like this.

Step One:  Cut Placket Piece and Make Slit in Sleeve

Step Two: Sew Sleeve To Placket.

This is the point where most instructions fail to inform you that you will initially find this to be an impossibility and you will keep rechecking the illustrations wondering at the sanity of anyone who would ask you to do this.  

 Just forge ahead on a practice sleeve.  Really it will come out better than you think.

But you still might sweat it.

Step Three:  Then it works like a binding to cover up your previous stitching. 

Step Four:  Let the slit return to its original shape and stitch down placket. 

 Lay one half on top of the other.  By now you will recognize what you have as a standard shirt placket.  Then it will seem natural to to fortify the weak point at the top with some attractive stitching that will also hide any small gathers that might have been made as you sewed.

Now you have a standard RTW placket for a dress shirt and you eschew wonky sleeve vents forever.

Next Post: Thursday, March 18, 2010; The Case for the Practice Muslin

Sleeve Plackets: Faced Plackets – The One Not To Use Even if the Pattern Instructions Say So!

The horror!  How could those nice people who write pattern instructions lead us so far astray?

Well, they do. Why so many pattern instruction sheets direct the sewer to use this one is a mystery.  There is so much to dislike about it.

  • The hand whipstitching will tear because the sleeve takes harder wear than a bottom hemline.
  • The handstitching is often not even and even a little bumpiness on the flat sleeve becomes accentuated when the sleeve is eventually gathered causing the sleeve to hang a little off. 
  • Finally, the tiny stitches will be perceptible on the outside, something not expected in a modern garment, and that is going to look wonky to your viewer, therefore screaming dorky and homemade.


Avoid it. 

 There are so many ways to acceptably create a sleeve vent that there is no need to settle for one whose appearance undermines all of your hard work.  This placket option will not be named as such on the pattern instructions so let me show it to you. 

The instructions illustrations and instructions will look similar to these.

1) Lay facing onto right side of sleeve. Sew small rectangle for placket.  Cut slit and turn under.


2)On wrong side of sleeve turn under facing and hemstitch to sleeve.


If you see pattern instructions that look similar to the drawings I have for you:

  • Stop. 
  • Get your sewing manual out. 
  • Choose another option.

Now that I’ve so bashed the faced placket I know someone will come forward with a cute little number where it is acceptable and lovely, for example, as part of an ethnic blouse where the sleeve vent facing is exposed on top and matches an exposed collar facing.  But then it would be decoratively topstitched and integral to the overall design. 

Unless you have designed your shirt with the facing exposed where it becomes a part of an overall design,  avoid this one and master one or two of the other placket techniques, the most adaptable being either the mandarin slit, from an earlier post, and the continuous lapped placket, a RTW standard and worth learning.

Related Posts: The Mandarin Slit

Next Post: Tuesday, March 16, 2010: Continuous Lapped Placket – The One to Learn

Sleeve Plackets: Make Your Placket in the Side Seam, a Mandarin Slit

Here is another cheater’s method of getting a placket in a blouse.  All the better that you can sometimes find it on ready-to-wear.   This method gives a cuff opening that looks very like a standard placket.  I didn’t know this method had a name until I perused Claire Schaeffer’s book “Sewing Shortcuts”. http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Book-Sewing-Shortcuts/dp/0806975644/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267634385&sr=8-1

 She has an overview of placket techniques much more extensive than I am giving here and I encourage you to take a look at the book.  What I am giving here is my way of doing this placket, not hers.   For a more canonical version refer to Schaeffer pages 167-168 in my edition @1981 Sterling Publishing Co. 

This is my preferred placket if I think I might mess up a real one!

Here is an overview of what I do.

1)  I take a ruler and just guestimate how long I want my vent, usually 3-4 inches.  

2) I mark 3-4 inches from the bottom of my sleeve pattern and then serge each side separately. 

3) Topstitch the serged edges making your placket.

Topstitch in as understated a manner as possible the open seam edge down. The serged side is somewhat apparent from the outside so I usually don’t want to highlight this particular vent with fancy or contrasting stitching.  And I have always seen it as a kind of cheat.  (But now that I know this technique has history, maybe I will get over my silly insecurities.)

4) Attach cuff.

5) Attach sleeve to body of blouse and then sew from underarm through side seams of blouse.

This is a great first placket for someone new to blouse-making which achieves the appropriate function without the hassle of a traditional placket.

Next Post: Tuesday, March 9, 2010: Finding your Natural Waist

Previous Older Entries