Last year I never would have guessed that I’d be making jeans AND bras this year. But once you get started it’s not so hard. And when it coms to bra-making, it’s actually kind of addicting. One of the reasons I was so intimidated to sew a bra is that they are tricky things to fit. I mean it’s hard enough to buy a bra that fits, why would I want to spend a lot of time sewing one that might not fit? Well, I think my measurements have changed a bit in the last couple years and my go-to RTW bras aren’t fitting the way they used to. So I thought I might give the DIY version a go.
There are some techniques used in bra making that it’s helpful to practice first, mainly attaching elastic. I got a lot of practice attaching fold over elastic (aka FOE) when I made these Geneva panties. Plus I’ve made a few swimsuits which is good practice. I started out trying some lounge bras first because the fit doesn’t have to be as perfect. Today I’m sharing my experience making a FOUR patterns for the first time. They’re all pretty different in style and it was fun to give them a try. For reference, my measurements are: Upper Bust = 35”, Full Bust = 38” and Under Bust = 31”.
First I tried the Florence Bra by Seamwork Mag. I had a lot of success making the Geneva Panties and the Reno/Dakota bikini so I thought I’d give this pattern a whirl. Plus I have a subscription to Seamwork so it was practically free to download. The pattern is designed to be used with stretch lace but for my first attempt I used some leftover 4-way stretch knit fabric.
Because I changed the fabric, I had to do things a little differently. To finish edges that would have been made of lace, I attached FOE to the front edge of the cup (piece A) and to the top edge of the back band. I made a size Medium. Before attaching the band elastic I tried it on and decided to take in the center back seam about half an inch. Otherwise, no sizing changes. It was really easy to put together and I found the instructions easy to follow.
If I make this again and don’t use the 6” stretch lace as recommended, I’ll probably change the shape of the back band. The recommended fabric would have a pretty scalloped edge along the back band. But in a regular fabric, the shape isn’t so elegant. I'd make a scoop similar to the Soma bikini down below.
The fit of the bra is comfortable but definitely not supportive. There is an option to include underwires which would probably help. I would have tried to add underwire but couldn't find any channeling. When I made the Reno swim top, I found that adding the boning to the side really helped give more support. It’s a good bra to wear when lounging at home and would work for light yoga but I wouldn’t wear it for going out.
Next up we have the Josephine Bralette by OhhhLuLu. Lately I’ve been really into racerback style tops and I need a new racerback bra. I love OhhhLuLu’s designs and this is the first pattern I’ve tried. Like the Florence Bra, this one is not supportive enough for outdoor activity but it is very nice to wear around the house. I made a size Medium based on my bust measurement. The pattern only uses one measurement so I’m not sure how it applies to cup sizes. Again I used leftover 4-way stretch knit fabric.
I really love the design. It would look better with contrasting fabrics for the centers and sides of the cups. I was a bit disappointed by the instructions. They are rather lacking in detail and I ended up consulting a few other patterns and tutorials during construction. I wished that there were suggested lengths for the elastic and either more detailed photos or illustrations.
I deviated from the instructions when sewing on the elastic band by applying it in the round. I sewed together the left and right side and marked the quarter points. I sewed the elastic into a loop and placed pins at the quarter points. I then pinned the elastic to the right side of the bra with the plush side up. When the elastic is turned to the wrong side, then the plush side will be against the skin.
I have worn this bra quite a few times but if I make this again, I'd make some big changes (namely a more supportive band). I’m really glad that I tried out this pattern. I got to practice my skills which is never bad. And I still want a racerback so I think I’ll use this style of straps attachment to convert a different bra pattern that has more support.
For my third lounge bra, I used the Soma Swimsuit pattern by Papercut. I was inspired by this IG post from Papercut to use the pattern for lingerie. I like the idea of doing a wearable muslin in non-swim fabric because I’m much more likely to use it than a swimsuit. I used bikini top view 2, and according to my measurements cut between a S and M. I used a double knit fabric (leftover from a skirt) and skipped the lining.
The design is pretty supportive with two pieces for each boob, a cradle underneath and a triangle that creates the center. It makes a great bra top but does create a uni-boob look. So, not great for wearing under clothes.
After trying it on with my matching skirt, I immediately envisioned this extended into a dress. So va-va-va-voom. It would be easy to make but extending the bottom of the band and using the Nettie Bodysuit/Dress for the skirt. This was really easy to make and looks great combined with my Dakota swim bottoms. If I make it as a bra top again, I’ll do the straps with the rings and sliders like I did for the others.
And finally, we have the Watson Bra by Cloth Habit. This is the most supportive of the bras I tried but it unfortunately is way too tight in the band for me. According to my measurements, I’m a 34C in the Watson. I think the size works for me I just need more stretch in the cradle (the piece under the bust).
The bra was pretty easy to sew (especially after all that practice) and there is a detailed sewalong to accompany the pattern. Again, there are not recommendations for the length of elastic to use but there is a helpful video and advice about how much to stretch the elastic.
For this bra, I used the same 4-way stretch as for the Florence plus a thicker double knit for the back. I really debated about what to do for the cradle regarding lining.The pattern says you can use jersey knit for the lining but you might need a smaller band size. Not wanting to mess with the size and because I had some knit fusible interfacing, I decided to use it (also recommended). I cut according to the grain instructions on the pattern but since the fusible only has two way stretch, that meant there was no stretch at all in the cradle. I can put it on but it’s so uncomfortable that I can only wear it for about 45 seconds.
The really hard thing sizing bras, besides all the curves and the support needed, is that different materials have different amounts of stretch. So, each garment is going to behave a little differently. Sigh. Oh yeah and you have to source a bunch of different materials.
I do want to try the Watson again because I think it will be a good bra. But first I’m going to work through some other projects. I have bought power mesh with 10% lycra to use as the lining and I think that will give me better results. Have you tried bra making? Do you have a favorite pattern?