Size Matters: What a Difference a Wire Makes

As you know, I made my first and second bras using the same pattern, the Marlborough Bra. Considering my lack of experience, I think they both turned out surprisingly well. But here’s a funny thing. Even though I used the same pattern, and the same type of fabrics (silk for the main parts, powernet for the back bands, as specified by the pattern), they somehow turned out different in size— different enough that, although I’ve worn the second bra several times, I can’t wear the first one at all. It’s just too tight around the band.

First bra size
With the back closure fastened on the loosest setting, my first bra measures 13″ across the bottom. And notice how the fabric is bunching up under the cups? More about that later.

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And For My Fourth Trick…

Bra! I meant my fourth bra! For my third, I know I said that was something completely different, and it was, especially compared to my first and second, which were both made from the same pattern. But for this one, I went even further afield. I didn’t just try a new pattern, I made a foam-lined bra!

Blue ombré foam-lined bra
My first attempt at a foam-lined bra! I used pattern DL02  from MakeBra.com, a beautiful ombré matte jersey and some unusual elastic trim, and I dyed straps and channeling to match. (Click the photo to check out the pattern.)

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My Third Bra, Part 2: Finishing Up

Now that I’ve got my cups sewn into my third bra project, it’s time for one of the main things I’m doing differently than the pattern (Kwik-Sew 3594): adding underwires. That is, at this phase, I’ll be adding channeling to house the underwires, which will get inserted a little later. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Ready to sew in channeling
With my cups sewn into the band, I’m ready to tackle the underwire channeling. (Note: The embellishments won’t get sewn in place until the very end; they’re just here right now for inspirational purposes.)

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My Third Bra: Something Completely Different

After making both my first bra and the second with the same pattern (the Marlborough Bra from Orange Lingerie), and making them both mostly out of silk, I’ve started to feel the urge to try something different. Completely different.

Here’s what I have in mind:

1. Instead of making the bra first, then trying to find stretch panty materials to coordinate, I’m going to pick my panty fabric first, then use that for the bra as well. This will mean using (gasp!) a stretch fabric for the bra, rather than woven.

Coral jersey fabric
Here’s the main fabric I’ve chosen for my new bra: a slinky, stretchy poly/Spandex jersey in a beautiful shade of deep coral pink. At left is narrow satin tubing destined for a bra strap idea I have, and at right is embroidered tulle I’d like to use, well, somewhere. These 3 materials form the starting point for my tonal color palette of coral, fuchsia, magenta, and rose-red.

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My Second Bra/Panty Project: Thoughts & Observations

Now that my second bra is finished, along with its coordinating high-waisted panty, I thought this would be a good time to collect my thoughts about this whole lingerie-making experience, and share a few things that have occurred to me along the way.

2nd bra & panty set
Yes— Why did it even occur to me to try making my own bras? Good question.

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My Second Bra, Part 4: Finishing!

In Part 3 of my second bra project, we ended after adding the back bands. Now all we have to do is add the finishing touches: elastic trim, straps, and the back closure. Then we’ll slip the underwires into place, and finish off the ends of the channeling. And I just may add a little embellishment to the center front (we’ll see).

I’ll start by adding my elastic trim to the underarm/back band edge. This technique, which you’ll see on virtually any ready-to-wear bra or panty, is done in 2 separate steps. The first is to attach the elastic, wrong side facing up (very important) to the right side of the bra, using a small zig-zag stitch, and sewing very close to the inside edge— the edge closest to the picot loops.

This piece of elastic will go from the top edge of the back band (not including the scooped-out area near center back) to the end of the outside edge of the power bar.


 Tip: You don’t want to stretch the elastic much while attaching it; a slight stretch going around the curve of the underarm helps to smooth that curve, but don’t stretch the elastic on the back band portion.


Elastic trim: sewing the first pass
After making sure your elastic side is placed with the wrong side facing up, you’ll want to align the non-picot edge of your elastic with the fabric edge. Then zig-zag-stitch as close as possible to the inside edge of the elastic. (Since I’m sewing here with black thread, it’s nearly impossible to see my stitches, so I’m representing them with the small white vees by the green arrow.)

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My Second Bra, Part 3: Putting It Together

Finally! After choosing my pattern, deciding which fabrics to use, and dyeing notions and more fabrics to coordinate, now I’m on to the really fun part: sewing it all together! Today, I’ll show you step-by-step how all the major parts are sewn together, and next time, I’ll complete my bra!

Let’s jump right in! Here, I’ve cut all my fabric pieces, and laid them out in a rough mock-up of my new bra.


 Note: In the interest of keeping this post to less-than-novella length, it’s not going to be a tutorial, exactly; it’s more in the nature of a quick overview of the steps involved in constructing a bra. In posts to come, I’ll go into a lot more detail about specific aspects of bra-making. (Remember, this is only my second bra!)

Another note: In this photo, the pieces with the print fabric, which is sheer, have already been basted to a second layer of silk, for stability as well as opacity.


Laying out my bra pieces, along with straps and other notions, helps me visualize the finished bra.
Laying out my bra pieces helps me visualize the finished bra. You can also see the blue straps, black elastic trim, and green underwire channeling (this will be on the inside of the bra). 1. Back closure (looks like this will need to be trimmed down). 2. Back band (powernet fabric). 3. Frame. Along with the bridge (6), the frame supports the cups. 4. The 3 parts of the cup: power bar (extending into strap), lower cup, and upper cup (lace). 5. Trimming the selvedge from the lace, leaving a scalloped edge for the top of the cup. 6. Bridge. This forms the support for the center of the bra, as well as under the cups.

 

Tip: Laying out the pieces in this way also helps avoid the possibility of forgetting a vital part! Don’t ask me how I know this.



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All the Pretty Pieces, Postscript: Dyed to Match

Yesterday, I dyed some bra notions (plus possible panty fabrics) in various shades of blue and green, to coordinate with the printed silk I’d chosen for my second bra project. Personally, I think that using this related-but-not-necessarily-matching approach really helps all the colors blend with the sort of watercolor-y abstractness of the print:

Dyed pieces with print fabric
Using several shades of blue and green helps all these parts blend with the print of my silk fabric (1). 2. Stretch lace fabric. 3. Bra straps. 4. Channeling. 5. Back closure. 6. Panty Spandex.

If I’d chosen just one solid color for the coordinating bits, I would have had to work harder at making that color “match” one color in the print.

And then I got to thinking…Read More »

All the Pretty Pieces: Dyeing to Match (or Not)

At this point in my second bra project, I’ve chosen my pattern and assembled fabrics from my scrap stash, incidentally creating a color palette in the process.

Materials for my second bra
The main elements going into my second bra: 1. Sheer silk print, to be layered over 2. Silk snakeskin print (the same fabric I used for my first bra!). 3. Black stretch lace fabric, to be layered over 4. Bamboo/spandex for coordinating panty. 5. Black picot-edge elastic trim for both bra and panty.

Now I just need to add the remaining bits and pieces that go into making a bra: channeling (this is what houses the underwires), strap material, elastic trim (for both bra and panty), powernet fabric (for the back band), and the back closure for the bra.

And here is where I come crashing right up against the dreaded, frustrating, tear-my-hair-out question:Read More »

My Second Bra, Part 2: Materials from the Scrap Stash

Now I’ve chosen my pattern, made a few minor alterations to it, and organized the pattern elements. With the goal of making as much of this bra as possible with materials I already have on hand, I’m anxious to pick my main fabrics. Off to my scrap stash!


 

Tip: Be sure to read through your bra pattern’s instructions before even thinking about fabrics. In my case, my pattern specifies fabrics with no stretch for every part except the back bands, which use powernet. But some of the patterns I’ve looked at, especially the bralette and some foam-lined styles, call for fabrics with stretch. My pattern also calls for non-stretch lace for the upper part of the cups.


My scrap stash
Quite an impressive pile, isn’t it? Out of my total stash, I pulled just silk and lace fabrics; the silks range from chiffon and georgette to crepe de chine, charmeuse, twill, and brocade. Some of these will hopefully become the main ingredients in my new lingerie wardrobe!

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