Yesterday I made my first partial band bra! Back when I wore store-bought bras, partial band styles were what I usually went for. So why did it take me so long to make one? Well... I guess I wanted to perfect the fit on my full-frame bra before jumping into more patternmaking with a totally different style.
I followed Beverly Johnson's instructions (from her Bluprint class "Sewing Bras: Designer Techniques") for making the partial band pattern, and I have to say it made me nervous. I understood adding an allowance for the channeling to the cups, but removing the seam allowance from the bridge just didn't seem right. But Beverly must have read my mind because she even said it might not seem right and to just trust her.
The actual sewing seemed to go a bit faster than a full-frame bra, probably because there is a lot less elastic to sew. My only problems , which are minor, came with the fit. There is some gaping at the top of the bridge, but I feel like it comes up too high for my taste anyway. For the next bra I will lower the bridge and cups and just trim my wires.
Also I think I made my separate strap attachment piece a bit too short, so I will add about half an inch to the length. Folding back the strap attachment over the O-ring and sewing through all those fabric and elastic layers never goes well for me (I usually break my needle) so I think I need to go back to the new type of strap attachment I used on my blue sheer bra and just put the O-rings in the back.
On this bra I used hook and eye tape instead of a heat-sealed hook and eye closure. Sometimes the stiff edges of the heat sealed closure irritate my skin, so i wanted to see if this would be a bit softer. Maybe it doesn't look as pretty with the zigzag stitching around the edges, but I'd rather be comfortable.
Look at all those thread ends! Haha. I never can seem to trim them all as I go. I like to show the guts of the bra so you can see the finishing. The duoplex cups are lined with 15D tricot sheer cup lining. I used a stitch-and-flip technique to enclose the cross-cup seam, but those four layers of seam allowance all going in the same direction did create a bit of bulkiness. I usually sew both cup layers separately and join at the top and bottom, so I might go back to doing that just to have a flatter seam that will be less visible under clothes.
One more thing I think I'll change is the angle at which the bottom of the band joins the cup. On this bra it is quite low and looks a bit awkward on my body. I think I'll raise it about half an inch and straighten out the line a bit.
For some reason, when it's hot out I become much more sensitive to elastics. By the afternoon rolls around, I have welts on my ribcage and feel very squirmy. So the less elastic I can get away with, the better!
Have you tried converting a full-frame bra pattern to a partial band bra?
I made a new bra today, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I'll start off by saying my dress form doesn't really fill it out properly; it fits me perfectly! This is the diagonal seam cup I tested out on my bra fitting band. The lace sling is the same pattern piece that I used in my black lace balconette, but in this case is purely decorative and not functional as a powerbar.
I used 40 denier nylon tricot for the cups and frame. One of the prolific bra-makers in the bra-making group on Facebook frequently makes bras with nylon tricot fused with lightweight interfacing, and I was inspired to try it out. I am not an interfacing expert, so I wasn't sure exactly which type to use. I have a lightweight woven interfacing by Fashion Sewing Supply, and decided to try out a test piece. After fusing, the resulting fabric still has a tiny bit of stretch, which is perfect for bra cups.
I usually line my cups with 15 denier tricot, but I wondered if that was really necessary for this project. Lined cups are probably more comfortable, since there is no seam allowance to irritate my skin, but I decided to just make an unlined bra this time.
I tried to topstitch the seam allowances close to the edge. I probably should have stitched closer to the seamline and just trimmed away the excess fabric. Or covered the seam with seam tape, which I do have in my big pile of bra trims.
I was planning to use picot elastic in the underarm area, but I really liked the piping elastic I used on the neckline and decided to continue it around the top edge.
Now, about the straps. I am experimenting with different methods of strap attachment. Folding the top of the cup down through an O-ring always turns into a very bulky seam for me, and I don't care much for it. I had a roughly rectangular piece of fused tricot leftover, and decided to make partial straps from the fabric. I could have just make a single wider strap, but I like the look of bra straps made from multiple strands of spaghetti. Instead of fussing with multiple edges of folded back and sewn straps, I used a lark's head knot through the O-ring. Is it weird? I don't know. Just an experiment.
At a craft store I bought a mixed bag of bows with pearls, and the pink color just happened to match my bra perfectly!
Of course, I have to show you the back even though it's not terribly interesting. I didn't have pink powernet, so I figured beige was my next best option.
I'm already dreaming up my next bra project. I'm thinking about altering my pattern yet again, and trying out a partial band bra.
Today I made a bra fitting band following the instructions on the Merckwaerdigh blog. A bra fitting band serves two purposes:
1. When first fitting a bra pattern, after finding the correct wire, the next step is to fit the band. It is easier to fit the bra in steps than try to fit the underwire, band and cups all at the same time.
2. Even though I now have a well-fitting bra pattern, I want to try out different bra cup designs, and rather than make an entire bra every time I make a style change, I can sew up a single cup to check the design and fit.
To begin, cut out the bridge, cradle, and back band pieces. Since this is only for fitting, I cut a single layer of simplex for the bridge and cradle and didn't bother with lining.
Sew the elastics on as usual. This would be a good opportunity to use up scraps, and you could zigzag together shorter pieces if necessary. I didn't happen to have any scraps in the correct widths, so I just used white.
If I was sewing a regular bra, the next step would be to sew the channeling to the cup/cradle seam allowances. Since I don't have a cup, I marked out the seam allowance on the cradle and sewed the channeling below the markings. I sewed the channeling to the inside of the bra, but it could work on the outside as well. Finish the underarm elastic as usual. As you can see in the picture below, I inserted the wires and closed the channeling at the center front. Don't do that! As soon as I started to sew on a tester bra cup I realized the underwire would be in the way (duh) and I had to unpick the seam. So leave one end of each channeling open.
And here is the fitting band on my dress form. The straps are just pieces of elastic, I figured it would be simpler to pin the front of the straps to the cups and didn't bother with rings and sliders.
Now the new cup styles. My self-drafted bra has horizontal cup seams, and I wanted to try both vertical and diagonal seams.
I cut and sewed one cup in each style, with the vertical seam as a right cup and the diagonal seam as a left cup.
After removing the underwires from the channeling, I basted the cups into my fitting band, keeping in mind that extra seam allowance would stick out at the underarm edge that would normally be finished with elastic. Looks like I forgot to add seam allowance to the neck edge of the vertical cup. Oops! Now pop the underwires back in and try it on.
My dress form is not as squishy as I am, and doesn't have as much lower cup fullness as I do. The diagonal seam cup fits me very well and doesn't seem to need any changes. There is some weirdness in the fit of the vertical seam cup. Horizontal wrinkles in the lower part of the cup seem to indicate not enough room, and the bulging above the apex means there is too much curve in the seam. Looks like I have some alterations to work on!
In my previous post, I shared how I altered the Barrett Bralette pattern to fit me. Last week I realized that most of my old sports bra are falling apart, so it was time to cut out another Barrette.
I have a large pile in the corner of my bedroom of clothing and other items that are going to be donated to the local thrift store. My husband likes to fling just about every old thing into the pile, without really discerning whether anyone would actually be likely to buy it. One of the pieces of clothing in the pile was an old t-shirt, which had a neck band that was stretched out. I really liked the fabric, a cotton/poly jersey in blue and black, and decided that since it was too worn out to donate I would cut it up into a couple sewing projects.
So far, that one t-shirt has turned into two pairs of panties and a bralette. I'd say that is a pretty good deal!
It bothers me when trims don't perfectly match the fabric color, so I tend to go for contrasting colors. I had some magenta picot elastic (from Lace Heaven) and I really like the bright pop of color it adds. The back band is black powernet. This time around I didn't add a lining to the cups, so I topstitched the seam allowance open. We shall see if the raw seam allowances are irritating to my skin or not. Also, I used my 1" black elastic again for the straps and band. If you read my previous post, you know why!
Have you cut up old clothes and turned them into new creations?
Yesterday I finished sewing my second Barrett Bralette, a free pattern from Madalynne. Before I share my newest project with you, I wanted to share my first Barrett Bralette and how I altered the pattern to fit me. It seems like this sort of bralette only works well on small cup sizes, so when this pattern was published I was anxious to see how it worked on women with small rib cages and larger cup sizes. On Instagram I saw Barrett Bralettes on a wide variety of figures, and realized I had two options for altering the pattern to work for me. For reference, my underbust measurement is 31.5" and my full bust measurement is 37". I usually wear a 32D in my handmade bras.
Options for altering the pattern:
1. Use a large cup size and pair it with a small band.
2. Use a small size appropriate to fit my underbust measurement and increase the projection.
I decided to go for #2, since most of my fullness is in the lower cup, and I prefer not to have a lot of fabric in the upper cup going towards my armpit.
According to the pattern directions my underbust measurement would have technically put me in an x-small, but I decided that would probably be too tight and cut a size small instead. At the apex (fullest part of the bust) I added 3/8"on both the center front and side cup pieces and gradually blended back to the size small. Why 3/8"? To be honest, it was just an educated guess and luckily it worked for me.
I cut my project from cotton/lycra jersey and lined it with stretch mesh. I planned to use this bralette as a sort of sports bra, but I don't do very vigorous exercise so a super supportive bra was not necessary for me.
One of the changes I decided to make was to use 1" elastic as both the straps and the entire back band. Why elastic only? Well, there's a story to tell and I'll get to that once I finish showing you my bralette.
I used the back band pattern piece as a guide and cut three lengths of elastic. I basted them to the edge of the side cups, then topstitched down the entire seam. To secure the straps to the back elastics, I sewed a zigzag box over all the crossing points.
I'm quite happy with the fit and feel that it gives me a good amount of support for a bralette. I think using a strechy-but-firm knit fabric really helps to provide support, and so does adding a mesh lining. I like to show the guts of my bra makes, even if they are a bit messy. Please excuse any wonky stitching.
Now.. why did I use so much 1" wide black elastic? Because I have lots of it. Lots and lots of it.
My husband spent all of 2016 stationed in South Korea, about 20 minutes from Seoul. He is a brave and adventurous type (and also has a degree in anthropology), so on his days off he'd hop on the subway, pick a random exit, and just explore the surrounding area. One day, he happened to stumble upon Dondaemun, Seoul's fabric market. Seven floors of fabric, trims, and commercial embroidery and sewing. He was amazed by all the vendors and wanted to get something for me.
At that time I was beginning my bra-making journey, so I sent him swatches of the plush back elastics and straps that I was looking for. While I am blessed to have a husband that is eager to do nice things for me, he doesn't quite have the eye to pick out things that match the samples I give him. He found a vendor selling this black elastic and thought he had hit the jackpot. The vendor did not speak English, but through a few Korean words and gestures, Aaron thought he communicated that he would like five yards of elastic. The man nodded and began unrolling the elastic and measuring. And measuring and measuring, and unrolling and unrolling. Aaron became alarmed when the pile of elastic grew bigger and bigger and quickly looked up the Korean word for five (daseos) and waved his five fingers. The man nodded his head and just kept measuring. Aaron's friend said "Dude... I think you're getting that whole roll." Sure enough, that is what happened. The man shoved all the elastic into a grocery bag and wrote up the bill... which, translated into American dollars was a grand total of $15. Hah! Quite a good deal.
While not plush back elastic, it is quite soft against the skin, and not overly firm like packaged elastic. So I am happy to use it in sports bras and waistbands.
I put my bralette on my form to check the strap placement and realized that with my latest pair of briefs (from the pattern I am developing, stay tuned!) I had inadvertently created a matching set.
Have you tried the Barrett bralette? What do you think of the fit?
Also, have you been to any of the amazing fabric markets around the world? Have you found any good fabric and trim deals?
A couple weeks before Valentine's Day, someone in the Bra Makers Group on Facebook mentioned quarter-cup bras and it got me thinking about barely-there bras more suitable for boudoir than everyday wear. Later on I came across this series on power bars by Silver Lining Atelier, and this bra in the photos.
Thinking back to the discussion on quarter-cup bras and my interest in trying out an internal power bar, I decided to try making my own version of this bra. My self-drafted bra has a horizontal cross-cup seam, so in order to make the scallop edge of the lace across the top edge, I needed to draft a one-dart cup.
In Beverly Johnson's bra-making classes on Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) she uses bra foam to sew up a cup, then draw the new seamlines and cut it apart to form the new pattern pieces. I only have a small amount of bra foam, and I didn't want to use it up so I wondered what else I had on had to use as a substitute.
Felt! I had lots leftover from making Christmas stockings. After trimming off the seam allowances, I used a 3-step zigzag to sew the cup pieces together.
After sewing the cup, I realized that the dart would be right where the lower cup seam was, so I just cut open where I sewed. Seems a bit counterproductive, and there is probably a more accurate way of doing it with the paper pattern. I'm sure I'll learn someday!
So to make the balconette cup, I cut off the cup about 3/4" above the end of the dart. I should have checked the measurement of the top of the cup, but I didn't and it ended up being too big. I unpicked some of the sewing on the narrow elastic and shortened it to create more tension across the top of the cup. Still not a snug fit, but this bra is more for show than function.
While the fit isn't perfect, I'm quite happy with how the overall design turned out. The power bar does it's job and directs the breast tissue toward the center.
This is the second bra made from my self-drafted bra pattern. My first bra from this pattern had a few issues, mainly fabric bunching up at the side of the band and not enough room for the wires. I changed the angle of the frame/band to go more downwards, and raised the underarm edge to provide more coverage and leave some room for wire play.
The fabric is a 15 denier nylon sheer from Sew Sassy. Elastics are from Lace Heaven. I used two layers for the cups, cut with opposing stretch and sewn separately. After I finished sewing both layers of cups I realized it would have been better to sandwich the layers so I wouldn't have to worry about the seam allowances overlapping perfectly. To finish the neckline, I sewed bother layers of the cups together, then sewed 1/8" elastic in the seam allowance. Clear elastic and I do not get along, so 1/8" elastic is the best I can do. To prevent the cross cup seams from drifting apart, I lined up all the seams used a narrow zigzag over the lower cup seam. We'll just call that a 'design feature'.
Funny story about the cradle lining; I only have white and black, and since this fabric is so sheer I wanted a nude color. So I thought since I had some brown Rit Dyemore, I'd just do a quick dunk in a dyebath. Well, I added too much dye and the fabric very quickly became a chocolate brown. Oops!
I used a different method of strap attachment and it was much less stressful, and I didn't break any needles. Before sewing on the underarm elastic, I lined up the edge of the strap with the neckline edge and sewed them RS together. Then when I went to sew the underarm elastic I made the edge as close as possible to the strap, so that when the elastic flipped back it would lay nice and smooth.
I'm quite happy with how this bra turned out. There is still a bit of bunching at the sides, so I'll work on that more. The wires also still don't have a lot of room to move around, so I'll check my pattern against the wire to see if the error is in the pattern or my sewing.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have dived down the rabbit hole of drafting my own bra patterns. While I really love my Harriet bras, after wearing them for awhile the wires start to poke me at the sides of my breasts and leave bruises. I wondered why an otherwise well-fitting bra would do this, so I did a bit of research and began to learn about breast shape and the different underwires available to fit them. Just as overall bodies come in various shapes and sizes, so do breasts. This blog post from LilypaDesigns was really helpful in learning about shapes and distribution of fullness, and Emerald Erin's guide on underwire styles was very interesting. I found I am wide set, with wide roots and bottom fullness. While I could try out various patterns from other people and fiddle with the fit, my stubborn determination kicked in and I decided to just make the pattern myself.
Enter my new favorite book: Patternmaking for Underwear Design by Dr. Kristin Shin. This book covers all sorts of lingerie design, not just bras. It reads much like my patternmaking textbooks from college; the draft is shown in a standard size (34B) and it is up to you to implement your own measurements. There is no handholding at all, so if you are unfamiliar with patternmaking it might be a challenge.
It all begins with fitting the underwire. Some blogs I read recommended ordering wires in different sizes and seeing which one worked best. This seemed a bit willy nilly to me, and since I already have several sets of wires that were too narrow I didn't want any more. I wondered if I actually needed a completely different style of wire. Luckily, I read about making a breast root trace. You can read about it here, just be warned that there are photos of a somewhat naked breast. I don't have a flexible ruler, so I used some jewelry-making wire doubled up. In the photo below you can see my root trace compared with the size 38 underwire which seems to fit me perfectly.
Now that I had a well-fitting underwire, I began drafting my pattern. I took various measurements indicated in the book and did my best to follow the diagrams. The only thing that confused me was the angle between the cradle and band. The directions were rather vague, and this ended up causing some fit issues with both the bras that I have made from this pattern.
And now, here is my first bra made from my self-drafted pattern.
Go ahead and snicker at my funny looking lace butterfly. I had little bits of this lace leftover from a Harriet bra, but I ended up making the wings too small. Oh well. The outer cup and frame fabric is duoplex.
There are actually no underwires in this bra, because they didn't fit into the casing! Somehow Dr. Shin forgot to accommodate for wire play, and there simply wasn't enough room to jam in the wires without them sticking out from the top of the bridge.
My dress form isn't quite as big as I am, so the bra isn't quite filled out.
When I first started making bras I wondered what sort of finishing bra-makers did, so I like to share the guts of my bras so others can see. I line my bra cups with 15D tricot. As you can see, I was struggling with my feed dogs while sewing the elastics. My sewing machine is pretty new, and we are still getting acquainted.
So what did I change? Most importantly, adding in some wire play. That means raising up the top of the cradle/band seam 1/2" so the wire have room to move a bit and won't jam into my sides. I need more coverage in that area anyway, thanks to what I lovingly call my armpit fat.
Remember how I said the instructions were a bit vague on the angle of the cradle/band seam? Well apparently I didn't make it angle down enough, and ended up with fabric bunching up on the sides. To fix this, I have angled the band down more at the top, adding about 3/8" at the top of the cradle down to 0 at the bottom.
Also, I'm not a fan of sewing the O-rings at the top of the cup. I appreciate that it makes the straps easy to adjust, but all those layers usually make me break a needle. I'm trying out a different strap attachment next time.
Have you tried to draft your own bra? Was it a successful fit? What resources were helpful?
Why do I make my own bras? Because I want them to fit properly! I'm sure you've heard over and over that most women wear the wrong size bra. I spent most of my adult life wearing a 34B, and always had a problem with the band riding up and the straps falling off my shoulders. In addition to that, I felt like I just wasn't getting a lot of support. I got a bra fitting and was told yes, you are a 34B. So I decided that was just as good as it got and I just didn't have the right shape to fill in my bra properly and have cleavage of any sort.
Fast forward to 2015 and I'm living in North Carolina. After spending my first 27 years in a hot and dry desert in California, living in a very humid subtropical environment is a big shock to me. Every time I left the house, the wet wall of hot air would make me feel drenched, and I'd have to change my clothes after coming home. The worst of it was my bras. I could literally wring the sweat out of them, and I really didn't enjoy feeling like I was wearing a damp sponge. So I went shopping to look for a plain cotton bra with no foam cups. But, guess what? Apparently, there was no such thing! I looked at every store I could think of, and it was all thick molded cup bras in synthetic fibers. I decided it was time to look into making my own bras. At that time, bra-making wasn't as popular so I it was difficult finding the right resources and patterns. I made a few bralettes in cotton jersey, which weren't supportive but at least I felt comfortable at home while wearing them.
After I moved to central Texas, another hot and humid subtropical area, the Watson Bra by Cloth Habit became very popular. On social media it seemed like every sewist in the world was making them. Eventually I bought the pattern and made myself a few, and I finally found relief from spongy cups and got a decent fit and support.
When the Harriet Bra was released, I was in love. It was such a pretty design, and I had never had a lace bra. So I bought the pattern and carefully read the directions. When I measured myself to determine my size, I laughed out loud. 32D, yeah right! I had always thought of D-cups as big, and I definitely was not big. I ignored the sizing and made my first practice bra in 32C and... it was way too small. As in comically small.
Alright, I guess I should have made 32D. So I made another bra, and was suprised that the fit was better. Somehow I still thought I'd be swimming in it, but I filled out the cups nicely. I made two more Harriet Bras, tweaking the fit each time. For the first time, I felt very supported and lifted. My clothes fit better, and I wasn't fiddling with the straps and pulling down the band.
While out shopping one day, I peeked at the bras (the dreaded foam cups) just to see if they had my size. No 32Ds in sight. So now that I know what size I should really be wearing, bra-making has become more of a necessity. I have recently jumped into drafting a bra pattern using my own measurements, which has been an adventure all on its own and will be a blog post for another day.
Do you make your own bras? If not, is there something about it you find intimidating?