Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Basics of Bra Making

All the time I hear people who are shocked to hear that you can make your own bras, and when I tell them that it's not that difficult, they don't believe me! So here goes... This is by no means a tutorial, but rather a rough guide to how a bra is put together. Firstly I suggest you get a pattern that you think is about the correct size. Think about your favourite RTW bra, and examine it after reading through some pattern descriptions. You would be surprised what it is that makes it your favourite. I chose mine because I hate the feeling of a band low down. My favourite RTW bra had no elastic under the cups, a partial band bra. Other bras are put together differently, but it will give you an idea of what's involved. Next trace your pattern, and cut out your pieces, paying particular attention to the direction of the stretch...this really does matter! I use pins to hold the fabric, and a small rotary cutter to cut the main parts, using scissors to snip any remaining bits that I couldn't do with the rotary cutter. Next, if I am adding lace I do that now, there is a knack to getting the two sides mirrors images of each other, but that's for another day. Next, you sew the top cup to the bottom, or sides together or however many parts your cup is in, they vary. Do follow the picture and notches, these don't go together how you might think they do. I know, I have to double check every time. I tend open the seam and top-stitch both sides separately, I feel it gives a smoother finish, but there are lots of ways of finishing this seam. You sew the bridge together next, this must have no stretch from side to side. I use three layers, two of fabric and one of nylon sheer. I hate the nylon sheer rubbing, one of my pet hates about some of the RTW bras I have had in the past. With 3 layers, I have the nylon sheer in the middle, with lycra next to my skin. With this bra, I used lace as the outside layer. With my pattern, you sew on the straps, mine are made of the same fabric as the cups. Next you sew the bridge in between the two cups. Then you attach the elastic to the bottom of the two parts of the back band. You do this by using a zig-zag on the right side of the fabric, and then turning it under, and using a 3-stage zigzag. There is a plush side on this elastic to stop it from rubbing. I have found that using a wider, (15mm) plush elastic, suits better.

Next you sew the back bands to the outsides of the cups.


Now you sew the casing onto the seam allowance of the cups, this is tricky and you need to take your time and be precise, and follow the pattern instructions. In the picture, the right hand side is sewn on with a wire in it, and the left hand side is partially sewn.


After this you sew on the elastic that goes along the back bands, all the way up along the underarm, and up the straps (or not up the straps, depending on the pattern). Again, this is done by sewing the plush elastic on the right side and fipping it to the wrong side and sewing again.


And around now you also put the finishing elastic on the top edge of the cups and up the straps, if they are fabric. I like the look of Fold-over elastic, I think it gives a nice smooth finish, but you can use other elastics too. You can see the finised edge in the final photos, I must have forgotten to take one!


Next you sew on the strap elastic to the band and again there are various ways to do this, but I have made a couple of alterations to my pattern, and this is how I like to attach mine now.


After this is on, you sew on the hooks and eyes, using a zipper foot. I usually go over it a couple of times...wouldn't want it to come apart!


Finally, finish the straps according to your pattern. Recently I have been making fabric straps, but find that they are too stretchy, even with elastic on the two sides, so I have sewn some strap elastic over them, and it gives a nice broad, but firm strap. They are very comfortable. The strap elastic is sea-green on this bra.


The lace at the centre is not quite as exact as I'd have liked, and one cup is slightly high at the top, on one side......I think it'll pass muster though!


And for those of you who wonder how it fits.....I apologise in advance if you weren't wondering!!!!


I am sorry for the poor lighting in the photos, and for the scribbled out last photo, but like I say, it's more of a rough guide, and just to show you that they REALLY are NOT that difficult!


BTW....I am still working on the wrinkles across the centre seam. I am still tweaking the pattern.

Oh yes and a back shot....do you know how diffucult it is to photograph you own back! I will follow this post up with some websites and links to other blogs that are way more knowledgeable than me. A lot of them have in depth tutorials of how to make a bra. It will take time though!


Edited to add....The fabric which I am using for this bra is extremely strong, unusually strong, normally the bottom cup of the bra would be lined with something non-stretch., and the back band would need powernet to make it stronger. Sorry, I'm quite spoiled with this fabric.

29 comments:

Cindy said...

"And for those of you who wonder how it fits.....I apologise in advance if you weren't wondering!!!!" I had to laugh because as I'm reading through on google reader that was exactly what I was wondering...how it fits! Another project to add to my need to try list. Thanks for sharing.:)

Nicole said...

It really doesn't look that difficult. Thanks for the detailed post :-)

Stevie said...

That was a fab post. I have a massive problem with RTW bra's and it really annoys me! Once I get through my mountain of UFO's I will definitely give bra making a try!
Stevie
x

Rachel said...

I am between cup sizes which makes it difficult to find a good fitting bra. It has never occurred to me to make one, maybe I will try.

Medrie said...

Yes, I laughed at this too. "And for those of you who wonder how it fits.....I apologise in advance if you weren't wondering!!!!"

Thanks for the great post. I've never been all that tempted to try sewing undergarments, but you may have lured me in.

Jne4sl said...

Thanks so much an excellent introduction and very inspiring. I haven't tried partly because I'm leery of sewing projects that require a lot of new notions and fabrics before I can start. I know it would be a cost savings once it got going but so easy for me to buy things and then just become overwhelmed. One thing I've always wondered is how much are the elastics and sliders and things necessary for comfort and how much are the for the benefit of the retailers because more women can wear the same size if it's adjustable. Does anyone who hand makes bras use less elastic and adjustable pieces? Thanks again, I really may give this a try now!

Erica said...

Well, I can say that you inspired me to try making bras, and I am hooked! They are so much fun to make. Now I want to try this pattern too. I like the way you make your bridge too.

jaboopee said...

you make it look so easy, and so exactly like a shop bought bra acutally probably MUCH better,
i'm still on the only doing upholstery sewing thingy and speaking of which, thanks for your comments over at mine, i got most of the legs in lenehans in capel st but they ran out of 6" queen anne legs ( that's what there called) and it was going to take 3 weeks to get them in so i ordered them on line from amazon, just google 6" queen anne legs and even with postage and sterling difference they were cheaper and i got them within 3 days......i've often thought about upholstering a chair using old bras lovingly stuffed with soft stuff....we could do a joint venture perhaps ??????

Millie said...

Cindy...I'm glad I answered your question! You're welcome and I hope I didn't share too much!

Nicole you're right, there is nothing really difficult in it, just straight or zigzag stitches.

Stevie...you do know that if you start, that you may never stop! Lingerie making is highly addictive! I have so many scald marks from RTW bras rubbing.

Rachel...you can see that they are not very difficult to make, so maybe making your own bras might be the answer to your problems.

Medrie...I'm glad you got a laugh....I had to distract myself as I uploaded a photo of my semi-clad self onto the world-wide-web! I would be honoured if I was able to lure you!

JNE4SL...I probably use as many notions as RTW bras. I use one ring and one slider (On each side) and a metre of strap elastic altogether, at most. I have in the past bought kits from Elingeria. They cost about $25 for everything except underwires. For this bra I had bought a piece of white lingerie lycra, and white elastics....not a kit. The kits are a great way to ge started though. You should give it a try!

Thanks so much Erica...I love the bras you made.... you inspired me to take out my box of lingerie making bits and get making the bra that I have wanted to make for ages!

Jaboopee...I can overcome the parts that annoy me about shop bought bras by making my own. I love that you say " only doing upholstery sewing thingy"...I am even scared of sewing loose covers! I love what you've been doing! Thanks for the info on the legs...I may possibly use it one day. Sadly so many things are cheaper from the UK, it's hard to pass them, even with postage. What an idea about the chair! Nice and comfy....I know a boy (and a man) who would gladly snuggle up on a chair like that!

Mary Danielson said...

Millie, I can honestly say I've never even thought to make my own lingerie. However, after reading this post, I'm dying to try it out. You've made everything seem so straightforward and simple! Of course, I'll probably run into a million little mistakes the first time I try, but it's good to know it can be done. Thanks for the helpful post and the inspiration! :D

Joy said...

Great tutorial! You do make it seem easy.

I've been trying to decide whether I want to tackle this sewing area...

motherof5 said...

Goodness and I thought I was brave!
Fabulous Millie,I will definitely make on as soon as I get the small child off my boob!

Kitschy Coo said...

Oh, you are a helpful lady! I just bought four RTW bras and they are digging in so badly at upper armpit.

You make it look easy enough that I might try...

SewMentalMama said...

You've really demistified bra-sewing for me, the pictures make it all so clear. Did it take many or any practice runs before you got the fit right? I have pictures of me trying this and having dozens of 'wadders' because of not being happy with the fit.
Angela

Millie said...

Mary...I am sure you would be just fine! Do beware though, as I said before, it is very addictive! I am glad to hear that you might give it a try.

I know what you mean Joy...it is something that you have to kind of commit to. You would be well able though.

Nicole...I'll take that as a compliment! You could make yourself a nice nursing bra while you're waiting for her! I hope you believe me now, that it's not that difficult!

Amanda....no one should have to put up with that. I have marks from elastic rubbing over the years....I often think, that you of all people would benefit from making your own bras. You should seriously think about it. I try and improve the areas that cause me the most problems with RTW bras, like the elastic and the bridge.

Angela....I am glad that it made sense! I was lucky, I only made one bra that was too big, next one was/is a pretty god bra. The following one was a wadder though...I got too cocky! I was lucky though, I don't know how many other people make. I am still tweaking the pattern though, as I said in the post. I suppose it depends on how close you are to your actual size when buying you pattern, and how big/small the pattern runs. I had been measured as a 38DD(E) in the not to distant past, but that size was too big, so I now make a 36DD.(E)

Jen said...

If sewing a bra only costs around $25, I have to start doing this, since the last bra I bought that fit properly cost me twice that! This post is really helpful for those of us who are considering making our own but feel the task might be slightly daunting. Thanks for doing it!

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this blog, but I just finished my first bra (really my third, after two fitting samples) and I've been having the same issue with wrinkling along the transverse seam. Have you figured out that may be causing that effect? It's making me crazy, and I pretty much have to make my own bras as I am a very unusual size...

Thanks so much for the detailed info!

Annele said...

Millie and Anonymous,

The wrinkles across the centre seam is caused by too curvy cup parts.

The centre seam should be more gentle.

Millie said...

You're right Jen, they do cost such a lot! I'm glad you found it useful...I am still learning, but I thought I'd share what I know.

Anonymous...I have taken out some of the fullness from the centre seam on the pattern, so this version is better than the last one, but it still needs work. I'm glad you stopped by.

Thanks Annele for the advice...like I said above, I have been working on the shape of this seam, and hopefully the next one will be better!

Jos said...

Thanks for sharing our hobby/passion in such an inspiring way!

motherof5 said...

Absolutely take it as a compliment,I know it is hard to get in front of the camera!
I still think you are a legend!

Millie said...

Thanks so much Jos!

Oh Nicole...I thought you thought I was brave for just making a bra....I never even thought that it was about that photo!! Thank you again!

Lrigyttiw said...

So glad I found your blog. It's funny how we all end up on the "island of making our own bras". I have sewing experience, so I'm excited to rise to this challenge. My sewing machine gets delivered tomorrow, then I'm ordering the Bra Maker's Manual. Thanks for sharing.

EliMeenah said...

Egad?! That is an awesome bra! You're amazing! You have given me the inspiration and confidence to make up some knickers and bras that I've so desperatley wanted to make, but have had zero know how in doing so. Thanks for all your marvelous posts and kudos to your terrific sewing!

Millie said...

Lrigyttiw...I hope you enjoy your new machine, and that you managed to get hold of a bra-maker's manual...have fun with it all!

EliMeenah...Thank you...I hope you get to make all that you want to make. It's amazing how much information is out there! Be careful, it is addictive!

Kath said...

You see, now I am really impressed. How much would you say it costs to make your own bra? I might try to give it a go, although mine will be nowhere near as professional as yours.

Millie said...

Thank you Kath! The kits sold at Elingeria are about €20 but that makes a bra and 2 pants. You also need wires, and a pattern too...about another €10, but the pattern, if it suits, can of course be used over and over.
Send me an email (it's in my profile) if you decide to make one and I'll help in whatever way I can.
www.elingeria.de is a good place to start looking though.

Kath said...

I might need a while to ponder it and then consider it and then ponder it some more. It's a big step you know. But thanks for the info. I am tempted....

Millie said...

You know where I am if you need me!

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