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.


Caroline said...

I love your Gaultier / Madonna corset. Did you weave the ribbon front panels yourself or is it textured fabric? Either way its bloody awesome.
Your new bras look vry pretty. My favourite it the silk one and I love the contrasting lilac fastener too.

Marilla Walker said...

Good spot! The ribbon was woven by me and I think used about 10 metres or so ;-)

Maddie Flanigan said...

All of your bras are swoon worthy! I love your Mallori Lane and can't thank you enough for sharing your version, but that self draft with the shantung and yellow straps is amazing!

Elizabeth Made This said...

The cups on the corset are beautiful! Bramaking is a whole new world, and it looks like you're on your way to getting a handle on it. The Liberty one is so pretty! I've made one bra using Itimately Yours, Bras that Fit by Anne St Clair. She's come to town to teach before and runs a store in Wichita, KS dedicated to knit fabrics and fantastic bramaking supplies. I think she's taught bramaking on Craftsy before too. Her book runs you through making a really professional looking bra with underwires and the whole nine yards. Following her steps, literally someone who had never sewed could walk away with a great bra it's so thorough. One of these days I'll get around to perfecting what I started; I have a RTW company I love so much, and if I can't make bras as good as theirs, I almost don't want to bother.

Marilla Walker said...

Thanks Maddie for the amazing pattern! Xxx

Marilla Walker said...

Hey Elizabeth, I completely steer clear of underwires (wearing and sewing). I think you're right about RTW being so good. It's one of those items that is hard to replicate in terms of quality and design at home. I find just getting nice coloured elastics and fastenings difficult and limiting, but I'm happy to say that the patterns in this post will definitely serve me well for making RTW replacements. Very excited to be able to make my own and hopefully save some pennies along the way! ;-)

Melissa said...

That Gaultier inspired corset is amazing work!

All the bras you are making look really nice. I haven't gotten on the lingerie making train yet but hope to soon! I will have to look into that book.

Louise Perry said...

Really inspiring. Loving the soft liberty one. Can't stand under wires either but then I am rather flatchested! Where did you get your elastics etc?

Marilla Walker said...

Thanks Melissa, I really enjoyed working on that corset at the time, but then who wouldn't? It's not like we ever get a chance to make that sort of thing in 'real life' ;-)

Definitely get to a book store or find a good online review of the book to see if you find the projects inspiring! X

Marilla Walker said...

Hiya Louise, good question! I should gave said in the post, but most of my elastic came from here;

I'm sure there are other good uk stockists, but this place seemed to have most things I needed. I used picot edge elastic from the knicker/lingerie section for the top bra edges, a plush back elastic for the bottom band and strap elastic for the, well the straps!!! :-)

Katie said...

These are all so pretty, especially the floral and blue silk ones. I bought a Watson kit with all the trimmings but still haven't got round to it! My own bra situation is pretty dire too and i hate shopping for them, so really must give it a go soon.

Marilla Walker said...

Oh my god I hate shopping for bras so much! You have to give it a go, it's actually rather empowering in a strange way!

Scruffybadger said...

Wow this is brilliant!! I soooo want to make bras! But just haven't got either the supplies or my head in the right place to try something totally new. Your bras are beautiful, inspiring and that they are comfy too- well, I am sorely tempted!!! Thank you, I will look out for other posts about your bra making adventures :-)

Marilla Walker said...

Thanks Winnie! I found that my real mind block was getting my head around the types of elastic and components I would need. I went through and found the three most common types of elastics I would need and ordered some clasps, but gave the rings and sliders a miss. Once you've got the essential components in place and a pattern that fits the rest is not as daunting as you'd imagine.

Anonymous said...

These are all so pretty and your fit seems so spot-on for all of them! Well done! I'm really nervous at the idea of sewing bras-- they just seem so fiddly and difficult-- but I received some lovely stretch lace from a sewing friend and think I may have to give them a go!

Marilla Walker said...

I was like you Sonja! I totally steered clear because of the fiddle factor, but it really wasn't that bad. I'm dumbing it down quite a lot here, but basically if you can sew on elastic you can do this! Those lace pieces you have are so pretty, but try something you don't live first in case it doesn't quite go to plan! :-P