Camisole: Part 2 Construction

Welcome back! I’ve been talking about camisoles. My first post was about how I drafted my own camisole once I tried a recently released pattern that just didn’t work for me. This post is all about constructing the camisole. I didn’t love the instructions on the pattern I purchased, so here are my improved methods.

Making a camisole is pretty straight forward; the difficulty is with the binding and straps, so let’s start with the binding construction. I don’t have a fancy cover stitch machine, so I had to find a way to make my edges neat without being too bulky. This method would work for both an overlocker or a regular sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch.

Bias Binding

I added ⅜ inch lightweight swimsuit elastic to help stabilize the binding and straps. I do not have to worry about anything stretching out over time, and the elastic makes the binding a breeze!

For all the binding, this is how I layered everything. With the camisole facing up, I laid out my binding facing down. In other words, the right sides are facing together. Finally, on top of the binding fabric, I placed my elastic aligning all three raw edges.

The moment of brilliance for me came when I realized I could adjust the width between my needles and the knife on my serger. The standard distance from the knife to the left needle is 5.5mm. Sorry to be jumping between inches and millimeters. At 5.5 mm (0.22 inches), that’s just shy of ¼ inches (0.25 inches). I need my stitch width to be ⅜ inches to match my swimsuit elastic. When I use the serger, I DO NOT want to cut off any fabric or elastic, and I want my final stitch width to be ⅜ inches.

Luckily, I can adjust the distance between the left needle and knife up to 7.5 mm (0.3 inches), which is very close to ⅜ inches (0.375 inches). If you can’t adjust your serger stitch width, you should do a zig-zag stitch along the inside edge of the swimsuit elastic. It is important to keep the ⅜ inch seam allowance.

I went through a lot of silly mistakes before I realized how to do it right. My first mistake (bottom example on the image above), I used my serger like I normally would set at 5.5mm, and I cut off ⅛ inch and had ¼ inch seam allowance left over. This isn’t totally wrong, but now the width of my binding is off. My binding was cut at 1 ¼ inch (⅜ × 3 = 1 ⅛ with ⅛ added for the turn of cloth bulk). If you want to cut off that ⅛ inch and use a ¼ inch binding, then your binding should be 1 inch (⅜ + ¼ + ¼ = ⅞ plus ⅛ added for the turn of cloth bulk). The first ⅜ accommodates the initial width of the elastic and is trimmed to ¼ by your serger if the stitch width is set to 5.5mm. The binding is folded over to cover the raw edge, ¼ inches. And finally, the binding is folded to the inside to cover the stitches, ¼ inches. Finally, I add ⅛ inches to accommodate the bulk of folding the binding around to the back. If you forget to adjust your serger or you can’t adjust the stitch width, then hopefully, these measurements will help. I found it super annoying trying to trim my binding elastic by ¼ inches after the fact once it was already attached to my camisole.

My second mistake (middle example on the above image), I moved my fabric so that I would trim nothing off, but then I had a flap of elastic along the inside edge because my stitch width was only ¼ inches. This really didn’t work because now I had to fold the elastic along with the binding. The elastic does not like to be folded width-wise.

Once I realized I could keep the seam allowance to ⅜ inches without cutting elastic or fabric, I was good to go. I adjusted my serger to 7.5mm, covering the entire width of the elastic, and I do NOT CUT OFF fabric along the raw edge!

After the binding and elastic are attached, I simply fold over my binding to the wrong side and topstitch using a zig-zag stitch, catching the fabric in the back. Because that edge contains the swimsuit elastic, it is super sturdy, and it is easy to fold the fabric around it. You don’t need to press the seam out. Just flip it over, hold it together with clips or pins, and start topstitching. You’ll see later on that I use a lot of pins. The extra time it takes to place pins is balanced by the fact that no pressing is needed.

I set my zig-zag stitch a little bigger than I normally would, the stitch width was set to 3.5mm, and the stitch length was set to 2mm. Just for comparison, when I topstitch neckbands on t-shirts, my stitch width is 2.5mm, and stitch length is 1.6mm.

Photo from MADEIT patterns instructions for the Go Shorties and Cami View B

The MADEIT pattern has you using either fold over elastic or a double folded with your own knit fabric. If you used fold-over elastic, your edge is only 3 layers thick (elastic, camisole, elastic). The second option was doing a double fold of your own binding, but that’s going to be super bulky, and frankly, it’s unnecessary. Now your edge is 6 ridiculous layers thick (double folded binding (2 layers), camisole, elastic, double folded binding (2 layers). Twice as thick as the fold-over elastic. Nope. That’s crazy.

The raw edges on knits don’t fray, so having the raw edge on the inside is no big deal. Besides, if you are really careful, the zig-zag topstitch will catch the raw edge on the inside perfectly to hold it in place. I didn’t want to waste my time trying to do a double fold to conceal the inside raw edge.

If this sort of thing bothers you, then, by all means, ignore me. I’m just not that fussy about a raw knit edge on the inside of my garment if it is sewn neatly. You hardly notice it. I prefer flatter binding with a raw edge than bulky binding that may look “cleaner.” By not doing a double fold for my inside binding, my edge is 5 layers thick. Reducing by one layer makes all the difference in the world to me.

Construction

The order of construction is:

  1. Attach front neck binding
  2. Sew front and back pieces together
  3. Attach back neck binding and straps
  4. Sew straps to back
  5. Hem (if desired)

Front Neck Binding

I started with my front piece and, using the method above, attached my binding. After making several camisoles, I found the best way to get the stretch just right was to measure everything carefully. My front neckline measures 5 ½ inches from center front to the end or 11 inches total. It doesn’t matter how long you cut your front neck binding, but you want to make sure that your front neck binding is only 11 inches when you pin it.

I prepped my front neck binding by putting the binding and elastic together, so they are the same length. By doing this, I only have to pin to my front binding once.

A helpful tip is to baste the ends of the elastic to your neck bindings. This will make starting and stopping easier. The swimsuit elastic tends to get stuck in the sewing machine and slide all over the place.

I found center front on the front neck binding and placed a pin.

I measured out 5 ½ inches on either side of center front and placed a pin.

I repeated with swim suit elastic, pinning it together with the front neck binding.

Matching center fronts and with right sides together, I pinned the front neck binding / elastic and camisole together.

I’m not one to bother pinning, but in this instance, I pinned a ridiculous amount.

I found halving the distance between pins the easiest way to get an even stretch. For example, halve the distance between the center front and end of the camisole, binding, and elastic. Halve again as needed. This will be a super helpful tip for the back piece and straps as well.

I attached the front neck binding with a ⅜ inch seam allowance as described above. I did not trim fabric or elastic because my stitch width was set to ⅜ inches. It’s a thing of beauty for sure. Pinning everything a ridiculous amount also makes it easier to keep all three layers lined up for sewing. The swimsuit elastic has a mind of its own and doesn’t like to stay in place.

Next, I folded the binding strip down so that the raw edge just overlaps the stitches around the neck. Instead of pinning, I used my handy clips to hold everything in place.

Topstitch through all layers to close the binding.

If you are careful enough, you’ll be close to the raw edge.

Assemble the Camisole

Next, I sewed the front and back camisole pieces together along the side seam using a ⅜ inch seam allowance. I even went and pressed the seams towards the back and topstitched the seams down so they’d feel more like flat-felled seams.

Attach the Straps

Like the front neck binding, measuring key landmarks will help get the proper stretch to the bias binding and straps.

I found center back on my binding and pinned.

From center back, the side seams are 9 ⅜ inches away. I measured and pinned on my binding.

It is 6 ⅛ inches from the side seams to the front strap or 15 ½ inches (9 ⅜ + 6 ⅛ = 15 ½) from center back. I placed the third pin.

I need 11 inches for my straps, so I measured out 12 inches to give me extra space for sewing and placed another pin.

I repeated with swimsuit elastic, pinning it together with the binding. Don’t forget to stitch the elastic to the binding on the end to make the beginning part easier to sew.

When I was done, I had binding plus elastic with 7 pins.

With the right sides together, I pinned the binding / elastic and camisole together, matching center back, side seams, and ends.

Again, I went overboard with pins to make sure I could evenly stretch the binding / elastic across the camisole.

I definitely found halving the best way to get an even stretch across the camisole. For example, halve the distance between the center back and the side seam on the camisole, binding, and elastic. Halve again as needed. You’ll find that you will need little if any stretch from the center back to side seam and much more stretch to accommodate the curvature of the armscye.

Starting at the end of the left strap, where it is just binding and elastic, I attached binding with a ⅜ inch seam allowance all the way across the camisole to the end of the right strap.

Then I folded the binding around so that the raw edge just overlapped the stitching on the inside. On the camisole, I used clips to hold everything in place. For the straps, I did use pins and placed them parallel to the strap for maximum potential.

Remember to adjust your stitch width and length before topstitching. I found it helpful to make my stitches a bit bigger to cover more of the strap and binding. Again, my stitch width was 3.5mm, and my stitch length was 2mm.

I would definitely try on your camisole to make sure the straps are positioned on the back exactly where you want them. A deviation of even ¼ inches is enough to cause fit issues. By trying on my camisole, I determined my straps needed to be 11 inches long. I also determined that I needed to position my straps 4 ¼ inches medial from the side seam. Once I got my measurements figured out, I placed the strap on the inside of the camisole and attached it with a zig-zag stitch through all the layers.

Finish the Hem

You could leave the hem unfinished or press the hem up ¾ inches and topstitch.

Conclusions

I find fold-over elastic extremely uncomfortable and itchy, so I’m pretty excited about this self-binding option. The best part is that the straps and binding on the camisole are less likely to stretch out over time. The swimsuit elastic provides stability and enough stretch to make it very comfortable.

Although I used Dritz lightweight elastic, I know that you can source elastic in bulk from Wawak. I haven’t tried Wawak elastic because I have a huge stash of this Dritz elastic, but I think in the future, I’ll be buying from Wawak. Pretty sure I will be making a lot more camisoles now that I have this method figured out.

The best part of this method is that it can be used for many other projects: underwear’s leg openings, sports bra’s armholes, kid’s neck binding, etc.