Thursday, 30 June 2016

Bra Making Success, plus Storing and Sourcing Supplies

Like many of you, sewing is my therapy.  I've made a conscious decision not to pursue it as my main income for fear of losing my love of the thing I most like to do,  Instead, I earn some money through it but most of my sewing is for fun.  But I am a greedy sewer. I want to sew it all.  Quilts, bags, clothes and now lingerie.  I wind myself up with the sheer amount of things I plan to sew- far more than is possible in the time available - and I often need to remind myself to slow down, finish what I am sewing now and worry less.  Since my 'Bra Making with Madalynne day', I've been sewing more undies.  Starting with an everyday bra, using the same pattern (I think this is being released by Simplicity some time in August) and a few tweaks on the class bra I made.

On this one, I narrowed the bridge- the gap between the two cups.  I also shortened the distance at the bottom of the band so the elastic and underwires are closer.  

This one isn't perfect, the underarm area still waved a little as I sewed it and probably needs a slight reduction towards the top of the seam- my sides are quite straight rather than tapering in at that point. It does fit better than any shop-bought bra that I own.  I literally cannot find a bra without padding to fit me.  My high bust is flat and bony and any bras without padding tend to gape forwards on me. The combination of stretch lace and power mesh - a supportive net that is on the inside of the cups and front band and is the sole fabric for the back band - is perfect for my small bust.   It goes against some bra maker's recommendations to use fabrics with little or no stretch I guess but this level of stretch helps my fit issues and still provides sufficient support.  It's not a good combo for a heavier/fuller bust but for mine it works well.  

This is the Sierra, a free pattern from Maddie Flanagan.  I made this for my daughter.  The support is light and is based on compression - squeezing  and flattening basically!  The front is stretch lace and the lining is a very firm power mesh, comparable to a control fabric.  There is no 3D shaping in the front cup area, instead the combination of cross-over and pressure holds everything in place.  This is an XS- too small even for me.  It's the sort of bra to wear for a sleep over, or a day at home.

Construction was straightforward apart from the edging around the band which involved zig zags following the scallops. that was tricky.   I do recommend adding an extra inch to the end of each side- the part where the hook and eye will go.  It just gives you a little extra room for fitting to the right level of constriction. 

This is Noelle, another Maddie free pattern which came out this week.  I made this last week during a shout out for testers.  I made a small as the sizing matched my measurements but I needed to size down and next time I'll make an XS but with the S darts as they are spot on.  I used a shape wear cotton/nylon blend for the main fabric and elastic lace for the bottom band.  The final crop top is a gentle relaxed fit, good for bed or hot days.  I'll use a power mesh to line the next one and aim for a more supportive feel.   There's a matching high waist panty with the pattern download too. 

Although I've had more success with bra making recently, I still feel very much the beginner.  It is a fascinating world.  I am in the Bra Making Forum Facebook group which is a supportive global network of  bra makers and shows just how many potential fit issues there are for all our differently sized busts.  Supplies are still an issue.  I buy kits here and there, I also buy supplies on eBay but it is hit and miss.  The Shapewear fabric I used for Noelle is wonderful quality but a random find.  I found ¼" elastic (needed for the straps) hard to come by.   I've also bought elastic or lace which is weak and will not survive the most careful hand washing and wearing.  Terminology is mixed and inconsistent - Power mesh and power net are used interchangeably but the density and tightness of them varies from flimsy net (often used for pretty knickers ),  to extra firm (sometimes used in control garments).  Power mesh can be double layered to strengthen it's compression effects.

It is an expensive business too.  I find I have a big draw full of supplies and yet if I want to make something I am always short of something.  Every bra or pair of knickers takes more elastic than you first imagine and a fair amount of thread.  It helps to have everything sorted into labelled zip loc bags and I recommend recycling your worn out bras- great for the strap sliders, wires and little bows or roses that all seem to last a lot longer than the rest of the bra.    These bits are also good for making a test bra when trying a new pattern.  For kits, I've recently bought from Natasha of Arte Crafts- although the $/£ exchange rate has changed rather dramatically since then- her pink Duoplex kit kit was lovely quality and I am looking forward to sewing it up. I also bought this kit from Freya of Elise Patterns a UK supplies seller.  I assume she is hand dying her kits  to create the different colour options  I ordered a yellow kit, it looks more orange/apricot that I was expecting  but it was good value and I think it will combine with blue nicely.

For UK and European bra makers, I have a list of suppliers here.  It is hard to always find exactly what you want in the right place, but things are improving.   I think the best piece of advice I can think of when it comes to bra making is to look at what you currently wear- check the lines of what fits you well- what style cup?  How does the back look?  Then look for a pattern which is similar.  I would also recommend looking at what other bra makers have made- look for someone with similar fitting issues.   I found a list of bra making blogs here at Sewsnbows  No bra pattern works for everyone,  I see lots of styles that will never work on me and I doubt that something like the Sierra would work on a large cup size.  Big or small busted, we all have issues and expecting one pattern to address everything is expecting a miracle from the pattern maker.   For bra making supplies in other parts of the world, check out Amy's guide on Cloth Habit.   There's a fascinating listen on Sandi Hazlewood's Crafty Planner podcast where she interviews Norma Loehr of Orange Lingerie.

On a side note. I've had a huge spike recently in viewing numbers - I don't know why but if you are new to this blog, Hi there!  And you are welcome to introduce yourself too...and if you came here via somewhere else, let me know, I'm curious!



  1. you were mentioned by Lynne in her column in Craft Network Quilting mag :-)

  2. I'm happy to hear about all your new viewers, this is one of the best, most open and honest blogs out there. I enjoy reading about all your sewing experiences though am still amazed women can make their own bras! What a wonderful world.

  3. I view bra making as similar to embroidery software - down the rabbit hole for sure. I second the pirating of hardware. At my outdoor/athletic fabric store, I spied some power net - its good to know there are different types of power net.

  4. I made nursing bras once, a LONG time ago. No underwires, but they had snaps for the cups and I remember that they took a long, LONG time to make and the notions and things did add up. They were nowhere near as lovely as what you've been making, though. Now, after making such a gorgeous bra, aren't you tempted to just run around shirtless so everyone can admire your handiwork? ;-)

  5. What a brilliantly useful post Kerry thank you! As you know I've been toying with the idea of sewing underwear for a while (got that Scrundlewear pants pattern ready and waiting!) and keep being tempted by bras too as it's so hard to find comfortable well-fitting ones. Yours are lovely, may have to investigate your pattern recommendations. You seem to be my underwear muse (my doesn’t that sound odd??!!!!)

  6. I totally want to make a bra but get confused with the terminology too. Love the pink one and that you got a good fit!

  7. I love that you are doing this. And thanks for sharing your findings. I can't imagine doing this for myself due to y larger size and lack of confidence in skills, but I love that you do!

  8. Hi Kerry, thanks for this! I followed your link for Freya of Elise, but it said it wasn't a private connection and wouldn't let me through. I love the pretty apricot set you show and wondered if you could point to a different way to find her. I tried just googling, but same thing. Thanks!! Jen

    1. Hi Jennifer, I think it is an issue with Freya's website. the address is
      I hope that helps. I had to say 'yes' when the box comes up - 'do you trust this website'

    2. Thanks so much! I've tried again with this link and this time no problem - great!


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