Lingerie making has long been a sewing specialism I have wanted to explore. After some tentative attempts at knickers I made a cami slip and briefs following Gertie's sew-along last year, I made test garments and altered the fit and the resulting undies have been worn many times. When I saw Amy Chapman's Watson Bra on instagram last December, I knew this style was for me.
It is the perfect pattern to dip your toe into bra making without yet entering the world of the underwire. There is a sew-along just starting now but you don't necessarily need it. The pattern was quite detailed and there is lots of info at Clothhabit.
You do need a machine that is happy sewing stretch materials and elastic- happy in terms of tension; the stitches are straight, zig-zag and three step zig-zag so suitable for a standard domestic machine. I did not use an overlocker/serger. A multitude of stretch needles is a must. I always break a minimum of two when sewing anything with elastic or lycra.
These came in handy: duckbill appliqué scissors. This pair were a Christmas gift from my brother so I asked for Ginghers! You can see a more cost conscious pair at Plush Addict awaiting restocking.
The joy of these scissors is that you can trim away a layer of fabric without harming the layer beneath. I usually do this turning a small pair of scissors on their side which works but is not without hazard. This is a luxury method and makes trimming and grading seams a lot easier and safer for me.
You can see how the duck billed side slides underneath the seam being trimmed and shields the lower layer, allowing you to trim closely. Nice!
This area is the back upper elastic which leads into the bra strap as seen from the wrong side (above) and the right side (below).
Sewing this bra was a teeth clenched experience. I measured myself as the pattern instructions stated but there is no fitting during construction. Instead you have to wait for the end product and cross your fingers! I was lucky, for a first attempt the fit is good, very wearable and I love the longline feeling- it seems to provide the feeling of security of an underwire bra with a lighter weight coverage. None of my shop bought bras fit well- they fit on the band around my ribs but tend to be big at the top of the cup and I worked out with this bra that my cup size is 34A at the lower part of the cup and 34AA at the top part so that will inform the next Watson and the underwired bras that are next on my list.
Pattern: 'Watson' from Clothhabit
Size made: 34A
Bra cradle: lightweight powernet with a light weight non stretch tricot lining
Bra Band: Very firm power net
Elastics: ½" plush back throughout- fancy edged for back, front and sides, satin finish for straps
Alterations: I removed a little fabric at the back to accommodate a 2-hook width fastening rather than a 3-hook. This is covered in the pattern.
Top Tip: Print the patterns pieces on to card. It makes drawing round them and cutting out a lot easier.
For more detail about the fabrics involved, look here at Clothhabit. I bought the Craftsy bra making class with Beverly Johnson and found her fabric information invaluable and the whole class is a joy to watch. Sewing Bras: Construction & Fit (w/ Beverly Johnson) (affiliate link).
Thankyou to Sonia who shared some tips on Instagram (@fabricandflowersuk) and stressed the importance of sewing as close to the edge of the elastic as possible so the edging just peeps through.
This bra seems to work in a huge range of sizes. Look at #watsonbra on Instagram to see the variety. Obviously the support and coverage is much lighter than foam cups and underwires but I was very happy with the result. It is the sort of bra I would wear under a shirt or jumper but not under a tighter fitting jersey top-I still prefer foam cups for those! My daughter has requested one and I definitely want more of these in my undie wardrobe.
A note on supplies: frankly, it is very hard work and a total PITA in the UK to find your supplies in one place. You can either go to Bramaker.co.uk, Vena Cava Designs or English Couture. Selection varies and postage adds up. What you really want is a kit to make a Watson bra with the correct fabrics and findings but you may struggle to find that. I have bought kits from Merckwaerdigh, they tend to be quite brightly coloured but they do include all you need and even with postage from Holland, they work out cheaper than many UK options. You can find a good range of elastics and associated notions at The Bra Shop on Etsy- UK based. It does make me want to set up my own UK bra hobbyists supply shop but a small house, no spare storage and pets does not seem like a suitable environment!