Thursday, 26 May 2016

Bra Making with Madalynne: An investment class

I first started bra making when the Watson pattern was released and had an initial success.  I got the bug after that, had a January blues splurge on supplies- I find these still rather patchy in the UK and the choice is limited- and made a few more with a mixed results.   By the way, if you're looking for UK supplies, I have a list here.    I made a white, everyday Watson for my daughter - perfect fit.  I made another for myself and it was hopelessly large.  Bras are a balance of compression and stretch and changing any of the variables- different fabrics, elastic - can make a huge difference.  After that, my interest and confidence waned and with the exception of a few pairs of knickers I concentrated on clothes and quilt blocks... 

Fast forward to April.  I ended up cancelling my trip to USA and selling my Glamp ticket.  I sold it at a loss for a quick sale but I had a goal for the money, Madalynne's UK Bra Making Workshop at The New Craft House.  I had seen the dates months back but dismissed it as too close to Glamp, now that was no longer happening I needed a pick me up and I had a feeling this would be just the ticket.  It was a 'splash the cash' sort of spend but I had a feeling it would be worth it and as it turned out, it was, with bells on.

 It's the perfect sewing workshop for experienced sewists and as the group came in and I clocked a Kielo Wrap dress and a Hawthorne frock looking very lovely on their respective wearers, it was clear that everyone came with skills.   Maddie, Hannah and Rosie had prettified our workspace, there was coffee, tea,  fruit and yoghurt to start the day and machines were supplied and ready at no extra cost for those of us who required them.  After the initial chat we each opened our named parcel to find a personalised bespoke bra pattern traced out  plus the good quality materials to make it.

The goal was to complete a bra and learn along the way with the aim that it should be close to your desired fit and a detailed trial bra for you to perfect further bras at your leisure.  I think there were twelve of us and Madalynne kept the pace up so that we all systematically sewed the same section at the same time.    There were breaks for lunch and afternoon tea and the food and drinks were thoughtfully chosen and fuelled us nicely.

We all experienced the wonder of using Odif 505 temporary adhesive spray; more commonly used as a basting method for quilters, as an ingenious method of holding double layers of fabric together, stopping elastic from slipping as it's sewn and as a temporary measure for sticking the hook and eye sandwich in place before sewing.  Hannah and Rosie supplied us all with Microtex 70 needles, thread and extra elastic when needed and everyone had an individual cutting mat and rotary cutter to use.     You can get an idea of helpful tools and resources below.  The oddly shaped scissors are Appliqué duck bill scissors, great for trimming layers safely. 

Maddie shared her considerable expertise and answered our many questions.  By 4pm, we all had a completed bra and rushed to the nearby ladies room to try them on.  Most people ended up with a pretty good fit.  Mine fitted perfectly on the cups, even the upper cup which is the area I have the most problem getting a snug coverage.  There was room for improvement but all minor.  My underarm area had stretched out whilst sewing so the fabric was probably a bit too stretchy and I will use a less stretchy fabric for this or line it with something non stretch..  The bridge could be a smidge smaller- maybe ⅛" reduction in width and the back band could be tighter- I think I will reduce this by ⅛" on each side for the next one but to have a well fitting underwired cup without padding is a first for me in either home made or ready-to-wear.  The cups are made from lace and a firm, good quality powernet.  This provides a little bit of give which works brilliantly for a small bust.  Not sure how it would work in a E cup or bigger but I saw another participant with a D cup and her fit looked great.  

 There were three people who needed extra fitting but Maddie did take the time to work out what the issue was and describe how it could be rectified on the next bra.  In the break times, all the sewists sat and chatted and we all commented how impressed we were with the class.  Many people commented how good it was to do a class with advanced skills.

 I came home encouraged and full of fresh knowledge, skills and understanding.  Maddie, Hannah and Rosie help make the day a total pleasure so the class felt like an investment for my future lingerie sewing.  Bra making is a very specific skill and I certainly know a lot more than when I made that first Watson.   In hindsight, I needed a bit of time to pass to understand how the different fabrics worked together, my sizing and it helped that I acquired a vintage Bernina or two- both of which I find sew very stretchy things like elastic more easily than my Janomes.    But I was still a little stuck especially with the idea of ever getting an unpadded, underwired bra to fit.   Maddie had a liberating approach, not too many rules but enough to feel secure.   The mix of powernet and lace seems like the perfect combo for support and adequate coverage- you know what I am saying ladies.  The whole day was packed full of activity and the company was lovely.  If any of you want to learn more about sewing lingerie and get the chance for a Bra Making with Madalynne workshop,  I recommend it.  It was a lot of money well spent.  I can't wait to make another, this weekend is already pencilled in...

sib blog


  1. So glad you attended the class. You were a shining star! Be sure to keep me in the loop with all your bra making! I want to see your progress!

  2. Wow that bra looks amazing, very professional. Sounds like it was a great class.

  3. I'm fascinated by people who want to sew their own bras. My sewing time is so limited that the fit issues, obtaining all the correct pieces would drive me batty. It's much easier to try on bras, take home the ones that feel comfortable and then go back in a couple of days of trial wearing all day and pick up the rest that the store has in stock. I don't do underwires with my bloating auto-immune so I need a bra that can carry my DD cups all day. I think an intermediate class like this would be super helpful --getting advice on all aspects of bra making but not having to deal with classmates who have trouble threading their machines. I'm glad you were able to manage the class costwise.
    And, if you ever want to come to the states - know that probably a thousand fans would put you up for free.

  4. Wow, interesting! Sounds like a great workshop. Can I ask - was the microtex needle just for non-stretch areas of the bra like cup seams, and the stretch needle used for elastic? I'm intrigued! The bra looks great, about to start a similar foray myself having had similar success with Watson 1 and dismal failures with everything since...! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. We used a 70 microtex on all the sewing- cup seams and other straight stitch areas as well as the zig zag needed along the elastic etc. I've tried a stretch and microtex making a bra at home following the class and preferred the micortex- not much in it. For the thick areas like the hook and eye, I swapped to a 80 microtex.

  5. It sounds like a wonderful and inspiring workshop, I hope the weekend's sewing went as well!

  6. This looks amazing Kerry! I still haven't got to bra making, give me knickers any day!


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