Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tutorial: Seashell Bra

It’s not a secret and it was clear to me it was obvious to onlookers that my mermaid costume was modeled after Ariel.  Making the seashell bra was both a brain teaser and a lot of fun.  I think whenever I get to paint I have fun.

I tend to like to do things very organic if I can.  So I went and made this top from real seashells.  The downside to using real seashells is that if, like me, you have natural cleavage the shells no matter how big or small those shells will completely flatten you out.  You also have to be very careful wearing them.  I chose to wear petals underneath the shells and I am glad I did because when leaning over the shells move and because they are solid (unlike a normal bra) they move differently and open up.  I quickly got into the habit of squatting differently and putting my arm up to my chest when leaning over.  Don’t let this discourage you, it’s just good info to know.

2 Seashells (mine were purchased at Michael’s): The seashells come in similar but different sizes.  So make sure to get two that are the same size and go through the laughable moment of sizing them to yourself in the middle of the store.
Mod Podge Jewel Glue & regular Mod Podge
1” Elastic Band (I found purple at JoAnn’s)
Ribbon (I suggest using elastic over ribbon)
The smallest bolts and nuts you can find (Home Depot)
Dremel with drill bits and a Tungsten Carbide Cutter #9903 (Home Depot)
Cup of water about ½ high
Sticky back felt
E-6000 Glue
Swimsuit Bra Hook

I started my project by painting my shells a deep purple.  I let them dry over night.

Then I drilled holes into the bottoms of the shells with my Dremel.  I used the largest bit in the small set.  I worked on top of a shoe box.  This way when I made it through the shell my drill would go into the box.

The following day, I picked up my cutter blade and I cut the wings off of the seashells.  I also used the cutter bit to smooth out any rough edges the cutting had left behind.  Be very careful cutting the wings off because it is not a straight cut and can be on the slightly under the shell making it a little tough to see.  My shoe box work space was helpful with this.

This is an example of how much you want to wet the cutting bit (and the drill bits).
This was the hardest part of the cutting.  This piece of bone did not like to be cut.  Be careful.

Cutting and drilling seashells is interesting and noisy.  To do either you need to dip the end of the bit into water.  Do not dunk the entire unit into the water just the end of the bit.  When you drill/cut into the shell the wet bit helps cut through the shell.  Also, as you modify the shell you will smell a funny scent.  I realized once I drilled through the first hole that it was just like having work done in the dentist’s office.  This doesn’t bother me, but it’s not the prettiest of smells.  I learned from a good friend that this is because of the calcium in the shell.  That makes perfect sense.

Next I washed off my shells, because they were covered in powder from being modified.

Once dried, I mixed a glitter sealant with Mod Podge and glitter.  I went a bit heavy on the glitter.  I let it dry over night.


Next I added the ribbon to the center of the shells.  I cut my ribbon to a length a bit larger then what I needed.  I sealed the ends off with a lighter.  I then threaded the ribbon through the holes in the shells, but I only knotted one side.  Then standing in the mirror oddly holding the shells to myself guessing where I wanted them to be in distance to each other and “hopefully” remaining flattering, I pulled the threaded ribbon end that was not knotted to where I wanted it to sit.  From the inside I marked the ribbon with a marker, pulled the ribbon in tighter, added a knot on top of the marked spot and clipped the excess.

The back straps were the hardest part.  I added  back straps twice.  Originally when trying to figure out where to place the straps I wound up putting them dead center.  When I started sizing the elastic for the closure I found the only comfortable way to wear the shells would have the elastic strap in my arm pits.  Highly unattractive, but to have the shells lower would have been murder on my rib cage.

These are the original back straps.  I did not take a picture of the second set but they are two ripples down from the original.  The neck strap is actually glued one above where this strap was.

I wound up adding a second strap much lower on the shells and angled down a bit so that when the strap is on me it would twist the shells up a little bit.

I had added the neck strap after I had placed the original back strap.  I cut ribbon extra long so that I could make it smaller if I needed to.  I used E-6000 so secure the ribbon to the shell.

Back to the back strap, I was not sure if the E-6000 would be tough to get off or not. I figured I would try and if it was difficult to get off I would cut the elastic close to the shell and be happy that the glue is very strong.  Unfortunately when I attempted to remove the original strap it pretty much peeled off.  Very scary for me.

After learning this, I decided to add a nut and bolt to each of the four straps (suggested by one of my followers on the facebook page, thank you so much).  The Dremel was back out.  This time I used a smaller drill bit.  I sized the drill bit by running the nut over the bit.  I drilled from the inside of the shell to the outside.  I wanted to make sure my drilling did not push the elastic/ribbon off the shell.  I then screwed the bolts in and added the nuts.  I added a bolt to both the back strap and the neck strap.

With all four bolts.

Once the bolts were in, I added jewels.  I had planned on adding jewels anyway, but the jewels make the bolts completely unnoticeable.

The jewel glue dries clear, so I didn't have to worry about any mess.
I then lined the inside of the shells with sticky back felt.  Trust me, your girls will thank you.  Those shells are COLD.

With the neck strap on and secured to the shell, I placed the swimsuit hook in the back strap.  I did think by standing in a mirror with the shells on by the neck strap and guessing the correct length.  Once I had an idea of the length for each strap I then evened them out so that the hook would land dead center.  I folded a loop on one side and then threaded the hook on the other and secured them with pins in the elastic.  Then I hooked the elastic together to check for tightness.  I then took it in a few times until I had the desired tightness.

Once I knew where the hook and loop would be I secured them by sewing a square on the elastic (not my best squares ever but I didn’t have matching thread and I was working quickly).  I then cut of the excess elastic and melted the edges.

Volia!  Seashell bra.

The hook is centered, zipper on my dress form is not.

It’s good to note that I did not like working with E-6000.  I know a lot of people that love it but I found it difficult to work with.  Once it was opened the glue poured out of its metal tube nonstop.  When it finally did stop pouring out I then had a hard time getting any product out.  It’s all somewhat watery and pieces need to be secured while the glue is drying.  I decided to try E-6000 based on people enjoying the product and that is said the glue was for both fabric and shells.

I do plan on remaking my seashell bra.  I would like to make something more flattering and most likely out of fabric.  I have since found an amazing patterning site that even explains how to make custom wired bra patterns!

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