Thursday, 28 May 2015

making bras

Yep, this is one of those current sewing crazes that seems to be gripping the sewing world and I have fallen into the abyss that is bra making.

My reasons are simple. I have not been feeling quite myself since having children. I'm almost there, but something wasn't quite right. Oh yeah, it's because I've been wearing the same nursing bras for(what seems like)ever!!! It's just far too easy for me to wear the same comfy bras day in and day out, but I've recently come to realise that they are not helping me feel good about myself, nor do they even fit very well any more. It was a slow realisation, but I have only had two choices for what to put on each day, light comfy or dark comfy. Not very confidence boosting. I have made a few bras in the last week or so using different patterns, which I thought I would share with you for comparison.

Madalynne released a free pattern recently, which I suppose was the catalyst for this journey. It is a very simple shape and is really only suitable for small busts, but it is a great introduction to the process of bra making. Now, I did not follow the pattern exactly as the idea of the back straps, although attractive, did not seem easy to get in and out of. I know that's probably not the case, but I want easy and fast for getting dressed in the mornings. I simply made an upper back pattern piece and reduced the height of the back bottom band so that it was level with the front bottom band. I have worn this around and it offers me enough support and is comfy for everyday wear. It was also easy to put together and looks pretty, hence I will be making several more of these babies!

I think for my next one I will leave off the bottom band and just make it up as a bralet thingy (this is just tucked up to give you an idea).

Next I turned to a book I bought earlier in the year 'the secrets of sewing lingerie'. I have been lucky enough to meet and become friendly with one of the authors of the book, Laura and knowing her vast experience in the lingerie design industry had every confidence in the patterns provided. There are so many patterns that I want to try out in this book, but started with the 'sugar darlin' sweetheart' bra. It is a shape similar to what I am used to wearing and is really interesting to put together.

Believe me when I say that this is a wearable muslin. I've used pretty scraps, as I wanted to enjoy making it and wanted to go through the whole process from start to finish with the correct elastics and trimmings, but I have plans for more of these and have gathered knowledge on how I can improve my technique from this project.

The book (if you haven't seen it) is full of beautifully photographed garments on fine fabrics and lace, but I wondered if that may seem a bit intimidating for a beginner, so I'm here to tell you not to panic. I do not enjoy sewing fine fabrics too much, so have used a liberty lawn instead and the back wings, which are trimmed with lace in the book are simply bound with fold over elastic on mine. You can make the garments as fine or as basic as you like, it's just a case of how you interpret the projects.

I was using a very small scrap of fabric here, so didn't have enough to finish the back wings and had to improvise a bit by adding in some extensions. Not brilliant, but functional!

I have worn this around for the day and it is perfect. The fit is spot on and I really want to make a complete set with matching knickers. That will need to be a whole new fabric, as I completely ran out of this. Although only a toile, it's the prettiest bra I've worn for years!!! I don't feel I can talk about this pattern or the book in enough detail in this post, so I am going to talk about it some more at a later date!

Next up, I referred back to a pattern I drafted for myself a couple of years ago. It is not too dissimilar to the long line bra in 'the secrets of sewing lingerie' if you wanted to source something similar!
I made a few mods to the upper cup, as the first one I made is a bit vintage boulder holder and sits too close to my underarm for comfort. I lowered the underarm area, but also the centre front neckline a touch. I am going to lower it more again for the next one for a slightly more feminine look, but this pattern is a personal one and can be ever evolving.

Fabric/trim wise this is my favourite combination. Because I know this pattern really well, I knew I was always going to be happy with the outcome, so used my favourite scrunch dyed blue silk and some yellow elastic. I was concerned the shantung silk may be a bit too stiff and scratchy, but it's completely the opposite and so luxurious.


I struggled with sourcing a yellow clasp, so used this pretty lilac one instead which adds a nice contrast. This is the most 'me' on terms of colours and fabrics and feels quite modern and fresh, so I might try some of these tones and textures on the above sugar darin' bra next.

Look at the lovely blue cotton lawn lining!!! I didn't have any yellow bottom band elastic, so encased the elastic I did have and trimmed the top edge with my yellow picot edge elastic.

This process has been so much fun and I feel like I've already learnt so much. I have loads more to learn and may run through one from start to finish to show you the steps and the where all the different elastics go. I have found the idea of bras a bit daunting and getting all the right components, but actually once you get down to it you can improvise in the same way that you can with any sewing. It's just about building your confidence and exploring techniques.
Although saying that, this is not my fiiiirst foray into making undergarments. I did make this little number in uni. It is my mock up version of the 'Jean Paul Gaultier/Madonna' corset. I tried to keep as true to the original as possible, but the cups are a little flat!!!! (please excuses the strange marks, it has been packed away for years and seems to have gotten a bit grubby).

FYI - I was asked if I was going to turn my bra into a pattern and the simple answer is no. There is so much to know in terms of fit and technical information regarding the correct amount of support for different cup sizes that I am not even going to attempt it. It is a specialised area that I do not know much about and there are some great patterns already out there anyway.