Bra Month | Community Blog | Lingerie Books Review with Cyndel

I am a process person. The more intricate and detailed something is, the greater interest I have in it. So, when I started sewing lingerie I was hooked. Every quarter inch, the arch of every curve, mattered. My brain was happy and wanted more. So, I did what every other obsessive nerd would do and I went book shopping 🤓

Since my initial book purchase, my lingerie sewing and construction book collection has grown to have several books. I quickly became known in the bra making community as the person with the books. I read them all (probably more than twice), took notes, and shared what I was learning on my Instagram. My followers would frequently ask about the books and which one(s) they should get, which led me to film a YouTube video breaking down the most utilized books in my collection and their pros and cons. This article is that video in text. 

Prefer video format? Check out Cyndel’s video:

Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr (Orange Lingerie)

This was the first book that I bought when I started sewing lingerie and it is the one that I recommend the most to anyone getting started in lingerie sewing. This book, as the title would suggest, is all about sewing bras and getting the perfect fit. This book does not contain information about drafting bra patterns. 

What I love about it:

  • Clear and easy to read
  • Lots of photos (though at times there could be more)
  • Troubleshooting guide by bra part (cup, cradle, etc.)
  • Pro tips throughout the book – these really helped up my lingerie sewing game from the start!

To be honest, there isn’t anything I don’t love about this book. It is super handy for its intended purposes. If you are advanced in your bra making, I think most of the information in this book would be familiar to you – so that would be my only caution. 

A lovely floral pink bra, currently available in Cyndel’s shop!

Bra Pattern Drafting (Pt. 1 & 2) by Merkwaerdigh 

Sewing bras for me quickly evolved into sewing bras for others. Ethically, I knew it was important to me to learn how to draft my own patterns – which led me to purchase this digital book from Etsy. I think it is important to know that prior to learning to draft bra patterns, I did have limited pattern drafting experience – enough to know the lingo and very *slowly* bust out a draft. 

The thing that I think is coolest about the Merkwaerdig method of bra pattern drafting is that literally anyone can do it. In many ways, learning how to draft a bra pattern this way would be a good stepping stone into another method if you’ve never drafted patterns before. You can absolutely create a solid master bra for yourself with this pattern. I will say though, this design will take more tweaking to get an accurate, fitting bra for yourself. Though clear measurements are provided, this method uses an even grading system that assumes the body grows equally between sizes and uses two sizes (36B and 46B) as the “mother size” of all sizes. In my experience, that means there is a lot of room for human error in grading that leads to sizes fitting more poorly as they move further from the mother size, but if your intention is only to create a pattern for yourself, this method would be more than sufficient.

What I love about it:

  • Anyone can draft a bra using this method
  • Measurements and clear directions are provided with diagrams showing the drafting process 
  • Clear grading instructions are given to size up or down
  • Fairly short in comparison to other drafting books
  • Great way to learn terms and tools of pattern drafting

Some things for consideration:

  • It’s not as accurate as other methods, but if you’re willing to make some test bras and figure it our, this method could be great for you
  • Though the grading instructions are clear, I personally do not love the even grade system or the idea of mother sizes – I also am not confident you could apply the grade rules to the master pattern that you have made alterations to, I think you would have to make adjustments to each individual draft
Cyndel recently made this quilted ice blue bra with champagne lace bra as part of a weekly bra sewing challenge.

Bare Essentials: Bras by Jennifer Lynne Matthews-Fairbanks (Porcelynne)

This is the second drafting book that I purchased. The first half of the book is about bra fit and construction and the second half is about drafting and grading. If you think you have long term interest in bra pattern drafting but are just getting into lingerie sewing – this may be the book for you! It is the best of both worlds. 

From a construction standpoint, this book teaches you all you need to know about basic construction *plus* how to make some tricky alterations to hone in on a perfect fit, but unlike the first book mentioned it does not have a trouble shooting guide per say.

From a drafting standpoint, this method is deadly accurate. I have never made a more well fitted bra on a first pass than I have with this method. It uses some pretty specific measurements from your body in addition to your preferred underwire size. For my needs, this method was too specific for me to make a wide variety of sizes as I would have no way to procure the specific measurements needed (fun fact: there really is no standardization in bra sizes, but if you’ve ever worn bras before you probably could have guessed this). That being said, if you’re looking to make a bra pattern for yourself or loved ones, this method is worth the time and effort it takes as you will have less frustration with the fitting and final outcome.

What I love about it:

  • Best bang for your buck – in depth construction, fitting, and drafting/grading information
  • Most accurate method for drafting bra patterns
  • Teaches fit alterations that can be otherwise tricky 
  • Clear and well written with lots of step-by-step diagrams
  • Instructions for both drafting and grading by hand OR digitally

Some things for consideration:

  • From a drafting standpoint, I would say it would be beneficial to have some experience drafting patterns to utilize this method, otherwise it may be confusing
  • Though this drafting method is the most accurate, it can be time consuming (though you’ll likely have less trouble down the road) 
  • If you are looking to use this method to draft a wide variety of sizes, you’ll really need to consider how you will procure or standardize the measurements needed to do so
Both of these bras – a pink bra with a strawberry design and an ivory bra with a pink floral design – are currently available in Cyndel’s shop.

The Bra Makers Manual (Volume I & II) by Beverly Johnson (Bra Makers Supply)

If you have been around my Instagram, it is no shock to you to see these books on this list. For me, they have been the most practical in my bra pattern drafting journey. I basically carry Volume II with me at all times. Like other books on the list, you’ll find information on construction and fit (even the bra throughout history) as well as drafting and grading – though I would recommend these books more for their drafting information than construction.

This construction method is a happy medium between the Bare Essentials and Merkwaerdig Method in that it is detailed, but not too specific. All of the information you need is in the book – which means if you are hoping to draft for a wide variety of sizes, Volume II is a practical start. One of the biggest differences in this book compared to others is it uses an uneven grading system which assumes the body does not grow evenly between sizes (and actually makes a lot of sense when you read it). 

What I love about it:

  • It’s written like a guidebook, just flip to the section you need and go from there
  • Best method for drafting a variety of sizes with accuracy
  • Step-by-step diagrams throughout the book
  • Easy to read and understand
  • All the information you need is in the book

Some things for consideration:

  • As with the Bare Essentials drafting method, some previous pattern drafting experience would be beneficial for all the same reasons
  • This book does not contain clear information on grading – it does on grade rules – but not on the actual process of grading 
This ivory bee bra is another that Cyndel made as part of her weekly bra challenge. Isn’t it fab?!

In conclusion, every book in my collection has advanced my lingerie sewing skills or knowledge in some way. I think having these different books with similar but slightly different perspectives has given me an in depth understanding of lingerie design and construction I would not have if I just read one book. And of course, these are just my thoughts and opinions which are based on how I think and understand the world – the books I have found the most helpful may not be your favorite, or vice versa for the books that have been less helpful for me, they may be the best for you. Everyone learns differently so it is great that there are so many resources out there for us to utilize. My hope is if you are looking to purchase a lingerie sewing construction and design book you can take some of the guesswork out of the process and pick a book that will meet your needs!

And finally, I love to be a friendly face in this community. Sometimes it can feel as though lingerie sewing information is gatekept which can be very frustrating. I try to answer all questions that I get to my inbox regarding bra design, fit, and construction (I will even send you videos). I share my process in my stories frequently and love to learn from my followers as well. I hope you’ll connect with me @WednesdayLingerie.

Cyndel is the sewist and creative behind Wednesday Lingerie, her small handmade-to-order lingerie shop. She is a passionate designer and educator.


^Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Sew Busty will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain Cyndel’s.

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