Community Blog | Your Sewing Level and Why It Doesn’t Matter with Trudy

Spoiler Alert! You start wherever you are and learn what you need to as you develop your practice. Your current skill is irrelevant because no matter what your proficiency, there is always something new to learn or improve on.

I was recently asked during a job interview for a customer service position at an independent pattern company “What is your sewing skill level?” The interview was going quite well up to this point, I had nailed some fairly tough questions about leadership, teamwork and problem solving and I had a good rapport with the panel. This question, however, threw me off partly because I find it irrelevant without sufficient context. The answer I gave was something like … it depends on the scale my skills are being evaluated on. If this scale is dependent on what I’ve learned since I first started sewing 5 years ago compared to now, then I’m pretty advanced, but on the other hand if it evaluates my ability to apply couture techniques, then I probably am not even on the scale. Suffice to say, I didn’t kill the answer, and as interviews often go, it left me feeling like I could have flushed out the idea a bit more thoroughly. 

The better question to ask oneself is not “what am I capable of making with my current skillset”, but instead, “what exactly do I want to make and what skills do I need to learn to be able to make that thing?”

Now, your level of experience obviously matters if a sewing company is going to hire you, but the question was too broad, and a broad answer such as “beginner”, “advanced beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced” does not provide much insight, and it left me thinking that these labels on sewing patterns similarly do not mean very much without context. I would rather see the breakdown of what skills are used in a particular pattern, what makes it beginner/advanced, is it a set in sleeve, inseam pocket, bias binding finish, sewing with knits, button placket, sleeve placket, darts, hem, invisible zipper, exposed zipper, fly? Or possibly a better categorization would be whether the garment is simple or complex in design describing the amount of details included.

For me however, the better question to ask oneself is not “what am I capable of making with my current skillset?”, but instead “what exactly do I want to make and what skills do I need to learn to be able to make that thing?” I can then refine my swing practice to include those specific skills. Like many things in life, your skill level in sewing depends on your experience level; knowledge comes first and proficiency follows.

My favourite things to sew are the things I can not buy. We all know the struggle is real for the busty bunch with certain categories of clothing; for me this includes bras and button down shirts.  Finding a nice button down that fits the chest AND shoulders  or a well fitting comfortable bra has proven impossible. So I’ve learned to make them. There has always been a learning curve for sure. I’ve made several shirt dresses and they range from having nice crisp collars, like the one to the left on the Closet Core Kalle Shirtdress, to this yellow Deer and Doe Myositosis with a sort of wonky collar, but a nice fitting  bodice.

My bra making journey has only started about 7 months ago, but it has been by far my favourite skill that I’ve developed. I’ve spent a lot of time, energy and money fitting myself, and I don’t regret any of it. The difference between sewing your own clothes and buying off the rack is that you have power over the process, it doesn’t feel like a hopeless search which ends in settling for a fit that is just good enough. When I sew for  myself  I know it’s within my control to define exactly what my expectations are and to continuously improve and refine my skills to execute my personal vision.

Here is the second bra I ever made, its the Pin up Girls Classic.

And here is my best bra to date, the Porcylenne Eve.

I’m eternally grateful for the modern sewing movement which has made the pursuit of and sharing of knowledge readily available. Long story short, your skill level is always in development, just try new things because actually doing things is the only way to learn how to make the things you want to be making. Also, if you’re wondering, I didn’t get the job, my rejection letter said I was a top contender, but they went with someone who had more experience sewing their patterns. Go figure.

Trudy is a retired military pilot now pursuing creativity and garment making while enjoying motherhood.

Bra Making | My 10 Most Anticipated Classes at the Great Bra Sewing Bee 2021

Hey ho howdy! Did you know that the Great Bra Sewing Bee starts in four short days?! I’m getting really excited to join in the fun, as I wasn’t able to make it last year. I know a bunch of you are also going, so I thought I’d fill you in on my top ten classes I’m most excited to attend! Haven’t registered yet? Get registered here! (It costs as little as $49 for 5 days worth of classes!) And, no, this post is not sponsored 🙂

While you’re at it, use promo code SEWBUSTY will get you 10% off the Josey, Josey Plus, and Ingrid kits. (They may not come in time for the Bee, but you can always use them as you work through the recordings!)

1: Couture Techniques with Jennie

I’ve long been following Jennie, the goddess behind Annie and Myras. Every week, Jennie posts an instagram story about a lingerie-making technique, and I’ve been so enthralled with her vintage-style, luxurious makes. So when I heard that Jennie was teaching a couture techniques class at the Great Bra Sewing Bee this year, I was like 😍 Here’s the wild part: Annie’s class is at 2 a.m. my time, and I’m honestly considering staying up to watch it live rather than catching the recording. That’s how excited I am.

2: Large Cup Considerations with Margarita & Evyone

Obviously, as a busty person, I’m so glad to see that GBSB has a class just for us! Of course, we got a little sneak preview of this class from the Sew Busty post on large cup considerations Margarita and Evyone contributed to last month for bra month! I’m often frustrated by the lack of busty representation in the bra making community, so I’m looking forward to hearing more from Margarita and Evyone on the unique needs of this community.

3: All Things Omega Boobs with Lily

I’m not quite an omega shape, but my breasts have a near-omega shape in that my roots are very wide compared to the overall volume of my breast. (This is actually a common misunderstanding that I’m on a constant mission to correct: not all narrow-rooted, large breasts are omega. Some of us are just noodles.) But, even though I’m not a true omega, I think this class with the magnificent Lily (who sat down with me for a Q&A just last month!) will be super helpful.

4: Pattern Adjustments for Size Inclusivity with Apostrophe Patterns

I’ve said a million times that size inclusivity is the most important movement in sewing right now. Even before more broad body diversity (including my crusade to have more garment pattern designers offer cup options), the first step is size inclusivity. That’s why I’m eager to see what Apostrophe Patterns – a company that offers drafted-to-measure t-shirt, leggings, sports bra, and panties patterns – has to say about adjusting patterns to fit all bodies.

5: Bodysuit Fit with Maddie

I love me some Maddie from Madalynne, and I’m so so so excited to learn more about bodysuit fit from her! I’m actually just about ready to make my first Fenix bodysuit, so I’m looking forward to hearing a few more tips and tricks from Maddie before jumping into the pattern.

6: Wires with Jennifer

Jennifer is the queen of underwires. Her shop (Porcelynne) carries so many underwire styles for all different bodies, so she really is an expert on underwire fit. And y’all know I’m a Porcelynne fangirl: The Eve bra, designed by Jennifer, is my favorite bra pattern, and Porcelynne can do no wrong. It will be amazing to learn more about wires from the wire queen herself!

7: Adding Support to Bralettes with Monica

I used to think, as a 30J bra (in UK sizing), I couldn’t wear bralettes. But then I did a bunch of work to the Pin Up Girls Sweet 16 pattern to alter it for my size and shape and discovered that boobalicious people can wear bralettes. I’m excited to learn more about making bralettes even more supportive from Monica, the lady behind Bravobella Custom Bras.

8: Strappy Bras with Hannah

If you follow any bra makers on instagram, you probably follow Hannah from Evie La Luve Lingerie, home of the Let the Dice Decide weekly challenge. Hannah makes the most sweet yet sexy lingerie, it’s honestly so swoon-worthy. I’m looking forward to hearing more about how she adds strappy elements to her lingerie, as I definitely want to add more strappiness to my lingerie wardrobe!

9: Science of Bra Support with Monica

So I’ve always been pretty terrible with spatial reasoning and physics, but I still find it super interesting. I think it’ll be so cool to learn more about the nitty-gritty of how bras work. I like a little challenge sometimes!

10: Taking the Plunge: All About V Separators with Bodil

I received a v separator in my monthly goodie bag from Porcelynne a couple months ago and, frankly, I haven’t been sure what to do with it. That’s why I’m really psyched to hear from Bodil (of B’Wear) about what to do with these little contraptions!

That’s it, folks! Are you going to join me at the Great Bra Sewing Bee? I hope so! Please tell me on the Sew Busty Facebook group what classes you’re looking forward to!


Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Using the affiliate links in Sew Busty posts is a great way to support the costs of running Sew Busty, as when you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me pay for the hosting, domain, design, and other costs associated with administering this site. All opinions remain my own.

Guide to Underwire Bramaking with Kristen | Part 3: Bra Cups

Hello again, Busty Friends!! In Part 1 of this series, I shared the outline listed below, covering an order of operations and covered proper bra wearing, choosing a pattern & the fabrics to match, measuring for size and a discussion on wires.  In  Part 2, we worked on creating a fitting band that is ADJUSTABLE!

Part 1 – Preparation for Sewing:
  1. Proper Bra Wearing
  2. Choosing a Pattern (Method)
  3. Picking out Fabrics to match your pattern
  4. Measuring to pick out a size
  5. Wire Fitting
  6. Wire Alterations
Part 2 – Bands:
  1. Band Fitting
  2. Band Alterations
Part 3 – Cups: 
  1. Cup Fitting
  2. Cup Alterations

Today is CUP DAY! We’re going to cover how to attach tester cups with seam allowances, so the cup is also adjustable WITHOUT sewing the seam allowances down. 

Cups and Breast Shape

Let’s talk a little bit about breast shape and how that impacts the pattern before we jump into tester cups and cup alterations. Some common shapes for breasts are loosely represented in this diagram.

In the first picture, you can see how the red circle at the bottom represents the wire line.  The pyramid shape is there to denote how far the breast projects away from the body.  The pink lines represent sort of an average breast shape for the size that the wire is at the base, while the turquoise lines represent a very full, rounded fullness. A term that has floated around in the bra-making community is omega, because the overhead view of a very full breast might resemble the Greek letter Ω.

In the second picture, you can see a much shorter pyramid which is representative of someone who may have a wide root, but their projection from the body is rather shallow, otherwise known as low contour. 

In the first two photos, you can see that the sections are all uniform in shape, the lines that travel to the apex are symmetrical. Cups that come in size A-F can have more symmetrical shaped lines, meaning there’s not an apex move to them and the pattern pieces are more of a uniform shape.  When it comes to the Eve Classic Pattern, the uniform shaped cup are the regular wire cups because it is typical to use a regular wire with a pattern that has more symmetrical pieces. 

The third photo, however,  is more representative of cups that are G+, and has an apex move to it.  You can see that the lines traveling up to the apex are much longer on one side than the other, meaning they are NON-uniform pattern pieces. The Eve Classic Pattern also comes in non uniform cups – they just happen to be sold as Vertical Wire Cups because it is more typical to put vertical wires with non uniform cups.

The beauty about the Eve Classic Pattern is that it is all modular. So, if you use a regular wire, buy the regular band.  If you need a non uniform cup, you can buy the vertical wired cup and put it on a regular band. It can be a smidge tricky to know which cup to buy, because there’s SO many options so people can get a truly custom fit. If you have a regular band and a vertical cup, then you’ll buy the cup that comes in the correct length of wireline and then the correct horizontal bust measurement. There’s a calculator that can help with a starting point, but I highly recommend discussing your measurements and your needs with the pattern in Support for Bare Essentials for advice from those who have made it (like Lindsie!). 

Editor’s Note: I recommend using your horizontal hemisphere measurement to pick your first Eve cup size, as I described in this post.

Tester Cup Assembly

The cup you’re about to see featured is my own cup pattern which is the Eve Pattern plus some personal changes.  First, I raised the top band of the back band and the top part of the armscye of the cup because I have a lot of tissue spillage in that area and needed to contain it.  Second, I have enough upper breast fullness that I have moved to splitting my upper cup for the sake of better fit and a more rounded shape, so my pattern probably doesn’t look like any pattern you’ve seen before.  I added one inch seam allowances to the vertical and horizontal seams of the cup and ½ inch allowances along the wireline. 

Next, I carefully marked all the corners, so I don’t screw up when I assemble it, and I drew in all the original seam lines for a point of reference to make it easier to transfer the changes back to the pattern. 

Here’s the part that’s nearly impossible to photograph.  Assemble the cup “inside out” meaning all of these seams are going to point away from the body. Also, you aren’t going to stitch any seam allowances down.  If you include these big, giant (for bramaking) seam allowances in the assembly, it can GREATLY distort the fit because it pulls the fabric of the cup out of shape.

You sew two pieces together, and on a standard 3 piece cup, you would stitch together the vertical seam of the lower cups, then when you go to stitch the horizontal seam, you stitch from the center front to the apex and stop.  Then you sew from the side in the armpit to the apex and stop.  This keeps the seam allowances free to be changed at the apex. Here you can see I sewed from the top left of the photo to the apex and stopped where my finger is pointing. 

Then I flipped over the seam allowance and started at the apex and continued from where my thumb is pointing down towards the right. 

Below, the cup is assembled, but the apex seam allowances not stitched. 

Inserting the cup into the band

Now it’s time to assemble the cups into the band WITHOUT STITCHING OVER THE SEAM ALLOWANCES. Got it? Ok! I’ve marked on both the fitting cups and on the band where the stitching line from the pattern is located. 

I laid the cup on top of the band so that the blue lines match. You can see where my fingers are manipulating the lines together in the photo.

I sewed the inch or two until I reached the horizontal seam, and then I backstitched so I could start over below the cup seam WITHOUT STITCHING THE SEAM ALLOWANCE OF THE CUP DOWN!

Really zoom in here and see how i’m pinching a seam allowance that is not stitched down.  Stitch to the seam at the base of the cup and stop, back stitch and start over on the other side of the next seam. 

Keep stitching in the spaces between the cup seams so you can attach it to the band but for the love of all that is good, do not stitch the seam allowance down!

Here’s the cup, attached to the band, no seam allowances stitched down. 

Cup Alterations

Now, slip in the underwires and try on the bra.

Cup is a bit small

Here’s where it gets really good!  Let’s say that the cup you’ve made is close to fitting, but overall it seems a smidge on the small side.  Remove the underwire and fold away all the pieces you don’t want to sew. 

Stitch a new line of stitching a scant ¼ inch from the original seam and you have a cup that is a whole size larger!

Seam rip out the old line of stitching.  Notice how I stopped stitching at the apex so that I am still not stitching down my seam allowances!

Flip the seam allowance of the seam you’re about to cross and stitch on the other side. 

Stop before you stitch on anything you shouldn’t and seam rip out the old line. 

Here the cup is over a tailor’s ham and you can see that the blue lines are spread apart now from being restitched. 

Now, you can try the bra back on, but it’s now a size larger!

Neckline pressing into skin

For another example: This is the neckline of my tester, and I happen to have a seam in this location. So if the neckline is pressing into your skin, you can stitch a new line. 

Seam rip out the old line of stitching.

Now you can see the blue lines of extra space in the neckline between the blue marker lines. 

space in the upper cup and adding lift

Final change, if you notice a little space in the upper cup or you just want a bit of lift, you can take in the base of the cup to push the breast tissue upwards. 

Here, I folded the tester cup and band along the vertical seam to show how I changed the shape of the vertical seam to squeeze space out of the lower cup and push it into the upper cup. 

Basically you repeat all the steps above until you’re happy with the shape.

Stitching a Final Pretty Bra

I won’t go into proper sewing techniques this time around, but I will send you back to Liz Sews on YouTube for this. Liz has demonstrated many of the major bra patterns and even if she doesn’t cover your particular pattern, she’ll have something similar and it will be worth your time to learn her tricks!

Bonus: Creating Other Designs

An easy way to design different seams is to print a paper copy of your bra pattern, cut off the seam allowances, and carefully tape the pieces together.  Then you can draw on the paper where you want new seam lines and cut it out and have a whole new pattern. 

The other way to have a new pattern is to make a Sloper by the Bare Essentials method and use the book/online classes to make new designs. The following video demonstrates the Bare Essentials Sloper being applied to the Eve Classic bra, but honestly, you can do this to any bra pattern that fits you well and then use the Bare Essentials sloper manipulation classes to create other designs. 

I would go through all the steps listed above after manipulating seams by either of these methods to give yourself the ability to properly adjust the fit before sewing a pretty version. 

And that’s it! You have a bra!

Questions? Lots of people are happy to help in the Facebook Groups Sew Busty Community or Support for Bare Essentials (if you’re using the Eve Pattern from Porcelynne).

Guide to Underwire Bramaking with Kristen | Part 2: Bra Bands

Hello again, Busty Friends!! In Part 1 of this series, I shared the outline listed below, covering an order of operations and covered proper bra wearing, choosing a pattern & the fabrics to match, measuring for size and a discussion on wires.  

Sewing and Fitting Tester Bras

Part 1 – Preparation for Sewing:
  1. Proper Bra Wearing
  2. Choosing a Pattern (Method)
  3. Picking out Fabrics to match your pattern
  4. Measuring to pick out a size
  5. Wire Fitting
  6. Wire Alterations
Part 2 – Bands:
  1. Band Fitting
  2. Band Alterations
Part 3 – Cups: 
  1. Cup Fitting
  2. Cup Alterations

Today we’re going over Part 2 on creating a fitting band that is ADJUSTABLE! Many people have discussed doing a fitting band so that you can try different sets of cups, but I’m offering a way to make the changes you need to get your pattern to fit. Stay tuned for next week when we cover how to attach tester cups with seam allowances so the cup is also adjustable WITHOUT sewing the seam allowances down. 

Order of Operations

The order of operations is quite important in bra making in that you may see wrinkles in bras that are an indication of problems in a different area. For example, many of the wrinkles in the cup can actually be an indication of band problems.  No amount of tweaking the cup can fix issues that are actually band problems. 

When you make alterations, you’ll go back to this order of operations and work from the beginning to the end. The band has it’s own order, and should be worked through from the center around to the back.

This is such a close fitting garment that everything affects something else – which can sound overwhelming, but it’s like anything else, you just break it down into the steps and work through it. 

Band Considerations

Now, here’s  the part you’ve all been waiting for! We’re going to assemble the fitting band in a way that minimizes making a million testers that don’t fit, and we’re going to make it adjustable in size so that even if you gain or lose 20lbs, this fitting band will still work for you (unless your wire size changes, but even that we could alter if you’re only changing one or two wire sizes). 

First, let’s discuss the shapes of bodies a bit, so you understand why I’m suggesting a fitting band that’s a little different than what you’ll find elsewhere.

The first thing that should be assessed is how much space is between the breasts and if alterations need to be made to the bridge of the pattern to get the wires to sit in the correct position on the body. In these photos, you can see how we took a template of the bridge pattern, made two halves, and used paperclips to measure the space between the wires.  You can make templates of whatever bra pattern you’re using (remove the seam allowance first) and “measure” between the breasts with these templates. Notice the different angles of the wires in the photos below. 

On the fitting band, we will be adding seam allowance up the middle for alterations, so if you choose to skip the cardboard cut out idea, you can simply alter the fabric. Sometimes you need a different angle for that seam, but other times the whole width of the bridge just needs to be wider or narrower.

We all know from buying clothing or just a simple comparison of ourselves to others, that body torsos are all different. Look at this chart, specifically with regard to the area where a bra would sit.  Some bodies have a very small waist compared to the overbust area like how the inverted triangle and hourglass are shaped like a V in the torso.  If you look at the rectangle or the round silhouettes, they’re shaped more like | | (parallel lines) and have nearly no difference from underbust to overbust.  The shape of their bands will be different and not match each other at all.

Forgive my scribbling to illustrate this.  If someone has the same overbust and underbust then there is zero difference between the measurements and in the Support for Bare Essentials Facebook Group, we call it a V0 torso shape and the band would be shaped like this.

 

By contrast, if a person has an overbust of 40 and an underbust of 34, then they have a 6 inch difference (V6 torso shape) and the band would be shaped something like this.

This is already something that sets sewing apart from ready to wear.  Bras from the store are typically drafted with a V4 torso shape (because that’s average) and many of the people sewing their own bras are altering their side seams to reflect this. 

The next thing about bodies that we need to discuss is the curvature of the spine.  If you have a person that has side seams that are very straight (like the rectangle silhouette from above) but a very curved spine, like the 2 figures in the vertebral column disorders,  or pronounced shoulders because of muscles from being athletic, you may need to have shaping in the back band called the downward hike. Think about any garments you have either worn or sewn … Do garments fit better with back darts for shaping?  In your garments, do your back darts extend up past the level of your armpits?  Then a downward hike might be more appropriate for you. 

Bramaker Christine Stoodley (who can be found here on instagram or here on Facebook) tested various aspects of band fit and it felt like the center of her band was riding up.  She used Press and Seal to test whether or not she needed the downward hike. The resulting pattern piece shows how a wedge of space added to the top band can tilt the hooks and eyes downward.  This alteration can’t always be solved at the side seam because sometimes that isn’t where the curve of the body is located.  In the end, her band fit needed adjustment at the bridge (which is why it comes first in the order of operations), and if you are going to attempt a downward hike, it may take several tries to get the stretch of the fabric in the right place for the bra to sit correctly.

Assembling the Fitting Band

Based on everything I’ve mentioned about the band, we aren’t going to assemble the band like we were making a bra, we’re going to add extra seam allowances and add the elastics to each piece as a separate item and only at the end are we going to attach them. Featured in these photos is the Eve Pattern but this could be done to any pattern on the market.

For the front band piece, even if the pattern says to have a front fold … ignore it.  We’re going to add an inch seam allowance to the front of the bridge and also an inch of seam allowance to the side seam.  I didn’t do it in these photos, but I recommend adding an additional ¼ inch allowance to the neckline so you have enough space for the foot of a regular home sewing machine in the seam allowance for basting cups on without having to fight with the channeling.  I would also draw in all the stitch lines as a point of reference.  You’ll need to be able to measure from the original lines to any altered lines for altering the pattern to match.

For the back band piece, we’re going to split the band and add 2 inches to the back where I have cut the pattern in two.  We will baste a tuck here, and if the band is too tight when it’s tried on, this can be let out to add length. Also, this area could be used to create a downward hike for anyone who has extreme spine curvature.  Then also we’re adding one inch to the side seam so that the angle of the side seam could be changed if the curve of your sides is different than the pattern.

The next thing we’re going to do is finish each piece of the band completely without sewing the 4 sections together until the end.  Apply top band elastic, bottom band elastic to each section and add the hook and eyes to the back. 

The channeling for the wire is topstitched onto the band flat so that it is located where it would go in a final bra, but it is not sewn the way you would if you were actually constructing a bra for daily use.  The best way to line up the channelling in the correct place is to draw the line of where the seam allowance is and then topstitch the channelling along that line.

Finish the back band pieces by adding top band elastic, bottom band elastic, and the hooks and eyes. Then place a line of basting to temporarily shorten the back band.  This basting should be done so that the extra fabric sticks AWAY from the body.  If it’s next to the body, it distorts the fit and this is not made for normal wear, so we aren’t worried about the fact that it’s sticking away from the body.

Baste the back onto the front by having all that extra seam allowance sticking away from the body there too. Finally, baste the center front together, again with the seam allowance facing away from the body.

So the inside of the band that is facing the body should be all smooth like this. 

Band Alterations

Now that you have the band assembled, try on the band without cups in it and see how it fits!  You may need to add twill tape to the center front and the side where the wire is, so that you have something there for attaching the strap.

This is my fitting band and as you can see, I had a top band that was too large and saggy.  I quickly threw it under the sewing machine and took the band in at the top, but didn’t change the bottom band at all.

The next alteration I made was to the shape of the bottom band.  The crease in the side of my body was causing the band to ride up and fold about how I have it pinned in this photo.

I took those 2 alterations and drew the changes into my band.  I drew the new shape of the bottom of the band to match my pins and changed the side seam on the pattern to reflect the new angle from taking in the side seam. 

The other alteration I made to my personal band is to put a couple subtle curves in the center front of the band.  My sternum is quite curved at the bottom creating a hollow in the middle of the band and then my belly protrudes out in my underbust, so I have it curved out at the very bottom, below the hollow. 

Now that I’ve shown you the alterations to my own band, here’s how simple it is to make changes to your own. 

Start in the center front and really assess whether or not your wires are in your breast root crease and if your bridge is shaped the right way for the space between your breasts.  I didn’t catch a picture of stitching this, but the blue lines were the original stitching and here you can see the inside of the bra where I’ve let out the bridge to make it wider.

If your bottom band feels like it has a good circumference, but the top of your  band seems to be too loose, then you just do a quick baste up the side seam to change the angle. 

If the band is too tight and you need to let it out, you can change that in the extra that we put in the back band.  I would strongly suggest that you not add an angle here unless you have extreme shaping to your spine or shoulder blades that are protruding. Mostly I recommend having this area for being able to lengthen or shorten the band for testing fit.  Since this isn’t a garment to be worn, it *shouldn’t wear out.

Here’s the inside of the band and you can see how I completed that stitch, took out the stitching on the blue line and now the band is wider in that location.

The back band changes basted in black. You can see how there’s several inches of adjustability here by the time you have the side seam and the area in back for lengthening/shortening the band. 

One final note on assembly: If you need to go with a larger wire at some point, you could remove the channelling and just stitch it where the new diameter of wire would go.  Forgive my poor graphic design, but something like this could be done. If you need to go with a smaller wire than what you originally chose, I would probably make new fronts and reuse the backs.

Closing thoughts:

It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by the whole process and try because you’ve got analysis paralysis.  The goal of these posts is to make it less scary and help you break it down into small steps, making any pattern attainable because now you know how to work through it.   Don’t get too hung up on which pattern, or what alterations you might need … (👙 jump in, the water is warm 🏖) there’s lots of people to help, from the Facebook Groups Sew Busty Community or Support for Bare Essentials (if you’re using the Eve Pattern from Porcelynne).

Look for the next post on fitting cups July 13!  

Kristen is a Professional Sewist since 2010 in her family biz, Sewing by Carolyn, doing mostly clothing alterations, mostly wedding gowns and other formalwear. She like to say she became a Certified drafter in the Bare Essentials Method almost by accident. She just wanted a pattern that fit her friend and there is no pattern that’s shaped like her… And down the rabbit hole she went. 🐰

Bra Month | Community Blog | Fitting Considerations for Large Bra Cups with Carla

Editor’s Note: I’m excited to attend the Great Bra Sewing Bee here in about a month, and I’m excited to have Carla, one of the fantastic instructors for the Bee, on the blog today to talk about fitting bras for big boobies. The timing is especially fantastic as we wrap up bra month! As we get nearer to the GBSB, promo code SEWBUSTY will get you 10% off the Josey, Josey Plus, and Ingrid kits. Even better, for those new to bra sewing, you can go from following Sew Busty’s Jet Set Sew Along to learning EVEN more about bra making at GBSB’s Beginner Bee day!

When it comes to bra making, regardless of the cup size, we need to define a good fit before we can determine if a bra fits poorly. This is specifically for underwired bras.

A well-fitting bra should provide coverage without spillage of breast tissue on the side, over the top, or from underneath. It should shape, lift, and corral the breasts according to the silhouette of the bra. Underwires should always fit in the inframammary crease under the breast and hug the side of the breast tissue. The straps should not slide off the shoulders, nor should the back ride up.

I have just a couple other nuggets to share before we discuss fit.

Your first bra will probably not fit. If you have large cups, your first few bras will probably not fit. Don’t’ be discouraged. This is normal.

A bra is the most structured article of clothing and must be made to fit a variety of bodies.  As a pattern maker, I can tell you it is impossible to design a 36G cup pattern that will fit every 36G cup perfectly. We are all uniquely shaped, so of course we will all have different issues with fitting.

Additionally, and I can’t stress this enough, you must use your “final” fabric in all your bra making. You will never be able to get the same fit using cotton muslin that you will with a highly technical fabric. Bra fabric is unique and can’t be found at your local fabric store. Thankfully online vendors, such as BraBuilders.com, have made bra fabric shopping easy.

Now we can talk about what may be causing your bra not to fit.

Underwires

Having the right underwire shape for your breast root is one of the most important, yet overlooked factors in bra making.

Editor’s note: For more info on underwire fit, check out the Sew Busty guide to underwires and performing a breast root trace here as well as this post from our underwire bra making guide, which goes into even more detail on wire alterations.

The underwire should fit precisely in your inframammary crease on the bottom and fit right next to your breast tissue on the side. The wire should not go wandering towards your back, past your breast tissue, nor should it sit on top of your breast tissue.

To find your breast root, get a flexible ruler and form it around your breast. Start from the side, go under the crease and around to the center. Without bending the ruler, take it over to a piece of paper and trace the inside curve. Then choose an underwire that most closely resembles that shape. Keep in mind the underwires will come in a variety of gauges and will splay open when the bra is worn. The underwire should never be wider at the top when compared with your breast root trace.

A diagram of a breast root trace, showing a flexible ruler starting at the outside of the breast root, curving around the IMF under the breast, and ending

Center Gore or Bridge

This goes along with the underwires. The gore needs to be the same shape as the space between your breasts. If you have wide set breasts and a narrow gore, the underwire will not be encasing your breasts correctly. You may need to widen the gore at the bottom center. On the other hand, if you have narrow set breasts, you may need to lessen the width at the top center.

A diagram showing a center gore of a bra being

Direction of Stretch

Is the stretch in the correct direction? The stretch should go around the body and be directed toward the apex. If it’s not, that will create some distinctive warping in the cup shape.

Band

Is the band tight enough? It should fit snugly, but still be comfortable. If it rides up, it could be because the band is too loose and will not support the weight of the breasts. The band is responsible for about 80% of the support. Without a snug band, your breasts will sag, and you will feel this right away.

Another issue with the band that you will not feel right away is when the back straps are set too close to the center back. If the band is snug but it still rides up after a few minutes of wear, you may need to adjust the pattern to move the straps farther out. This will be discussed in further detail by Apparel Intimates in the class called Pattern Adjustments for Size Inclusivity at the Great Bra Sewing Bee.

Editor’s Note: Also check out the blog on July 6 for a post all about making what we call a fitting band, which helps ensure perfect band fit!

Straps

Are the straps adjusted properly? They should not be so tight that they are causing an indentation in your shoulders, but they should not be so loose that your breasts are sagging. See if your straps are too long or too short and adjust accordingly.

Cup Size

Sometimes you may just need to go up or down a size or half a size. I see many ladies taking darts here and there. If you have to take a half-inch dart or more, then I would suggest you just go down a cup size. Taking out darts can change the intended shaping.

A note of caution: if you’ve already found your correct size underwire, it may not fit with the cup that usually goes with that size. In that case you will need to adjust your cup at the wire line to fit your size underwire. When the bust diameter at its fullest point is wider than the underwire, you will need to make the Omega adjustment, which you can learn more in my Making the Josey Bra online course or during the “All things Omega Boobs” class at the Great Bra Sewing Bee.

If your breast does not fall into the bottom of the cup, then you will need to add more volume. If the bottom cup is one piece, you can split the cup vertically, add a slight curve, and add 1/4” seam allowance. The curve will allow the breast more room to drop into the cup. Or you may need to increase the curve of an already two-piece bottom cup.

If the top cup is just a little too small and you have a slight cutting-in at the top (otherwise known as “quad boob”), you can just add 1/4”. Do this by cutting the pattern piece all the way to the edge without cutting it completely. Open it up the desired amount, then tape open and redraw the lines, similar to the gore procedure pictured earlier.

Want to learn more about fitting large bra cups? The Great Bra Sewing Bee is coming up August 4-8, 2021, and La Bella Coppia and Apparel Intimates will be some of the many teachers with sessions all about fitting. When it comes to fitting large cup sizes, you can never have enough patience and persistence. Don’t be discouraged if the fit isn’t just right. I started back when only a handful of bra patterns were available. It took me 33 tries to get the right fit. The great news is that once I got the right fit, I never went back to ready-to-wear bras again. You can do it. Just keep sewing. 🙂

By the way, if you are curious about my bra-making journey, join me during the “Beginner Bee” where I will be sharing my story.

Carla Musarra-Leonard is a custom bra maker and lingerie designer. She also makes large cup bras to order under her own label, La Bella Coppia Lingerie. She is the designer of the Josey and Josey Plus bra patterns. This post was written in collaboration with Evyone Credle and Margarita Sheflyand of Apparel Intimates, LLC.

Bra Month | Guide to Underwire Bramaking with Kristen | Part 1: Preparing for Sewing

Meet Kristen

Hello Busty Sewists!!  As some of you may or may not know, I am Kristen Kemp and I do garment alterations for a living for the family business, Sewing by Carolyn (my mom is Carolyn). I am also a Certified Bra Drafter in the Bare Essentials Method and can be found (quite often) volunteering over in Support for Bare Essentials. I have a bra blog over at brasbykristen.blogspot.com, in case you’re looking for further reading. I won’t bore you with too much of my story, but I think it’s important to understand why I come at bra-making the way I do.

I come from the American Midwest and (still) live on the 400 acre farm that’s been in the family for 150 years. There’s something about growing up on the farm that teaches you the work ethic to stick a problem out until you find a solution.  My husband is in the trades as well as several of my good friends, and even though I did go off to college for a bit, the apprenticeship idea in the trades has always made so much more sense to me than traditional school.  

So, in my 20’s when I was pissed about the shape of the plus sized clothes that were available, I thought I might learn to sew my own clothes. (Check out one of my favorite rants on plus size clothes by Tim Gunn here.) I didn’t live near mom at the time, and everything I sewed looked like a TERRIBLE Home Economics project.  When my circumstances moved me back to the neighborhood, I ended up working for mom.  My thought process was that I could get a job sewing to be able to get enough skill so that I could make what I wanted to make for myself.  Clothes have improved dramatically since then, but the one thing that hasn’t improved as quickly is the bra market (let’s start a riot about that … ok, probably not … let’s just boycott and sew our own!).  

I wanted to sew bras (at first) so that I could make a whole outfit and say that I sewed everything I was wearing, but then it quickly turned into an endeavor to fit my friend into a bra. Her shape is so challenging that I’ve made bra after bra and finally got the sense to make testers with seam allowances so I had the ability to alter the bra on the fly when she would come over for fittings.  I’ve passed that idea on to a few of our drafters in Bare Essentials and many have found it to come in handy, so that’s one of the things I’ll be focusing on with this series.

Bra Making and the Order of Operations

In all the reading I’ve done on the subject of bra-making, there’s a bit of an order of operations for getting the right fit.  I’m not going to spend time on all of it or you’d be reading for years, but I do think that each of these things ought to be mentioned in case this is the first information you’re seeing on the subject. Here’s a brief overview of the order to work through things and incidentally most of these are the topics for how my blog is organized.

We’ll go over this information in 3 parts, with part one being in today’s blog, part two on July 6, and part three on July 13. Here’s an outline:

Sewing and Fitting Tester Bras

Part 1 – Preparation for Sewing:
  1. Proper Bra Wearing
  2. Choosing a Pattern (Method)
  3. Picking out Fabrics to match your pattern
  4. Measuring to pick out a size
  5. Wire Fitting
  6. Wire Alterations
Part 2 – Bands:
  1. Band Fitting
  2. Band Alterations
Part 3 – Cups: 
  1. Cup Fitting
  2. Cup Alterations

Preparation for Sewing

Proper Bra Wearing

I’ll be brief on this one, but it’s super important to know how to really situate yourself into cups so that you’re not folded over and squished to the body.  The underwire can’t properly provide support if it can’t get all the way up in the crease.  This is one of my favorite illustrations of the internet and I encourage you to go check out all the photos explaining this concept over on the Bras and Body Image blog.

Image Credit: Bras and Body Image

Every time you try on a bra for size, you must reach into the bra and really scoop up your breast tissue and pull it up in the cup to get an accurate sense of fit. The difficulty of measuring for a proper fitting bra is that you have to take the measurements for it in a properly fitting bra, so it’s a bit of a catch 22.  If you have on what you *think is a well fitting bra, make sure you have scooped your breasts up into the cup properly before you get to measuring.  You may end up making 2 or 3 sets of tester cups, each with larger sizes, and take new measurements. Because squashing in the cup is so common, large seam allowances in a tester allow you to go several cup sizes larger, rather quickly. 

Choice of Pattern/Method

There’s tons of good patterns out there, but some are better suited to certain shapes than others.  I personally am a huge fan of Porcelynne’s Eve Classic Modular Pattern, because it is as close to drafting a custom pattern as possible, without having to learn all the technical aspects of drafting. This pattern is drafted with a horizontal cup seam, which is more capable of fitting different breast shapes than cups drafted with more of a diagonal seam.

This is why you’ll often see cute patterns that stop at a certain size cup, because the capabilities of fitting more busty shapes is less with a diagonal pattern.  The reason you pick a pattern at this stage of the order of operations is because different patterns are drafted for different fabrics.  You wouldn’t want to pick a pattern designed for all stretch materials, and then use a stable fabric because it would NEVER FIT.

Don’t overthink your choice too much. Pick a pattern and jump in. There’s ALWAYS people on the internet that you can ask for fitting help and advice from and the important part is to get moving, try things, and reach out for help! 

Bra Making Terminology & Fabrics

Most underwired bras are designed for a stable front cradle & cups, a stretchy back with powernet because of its strength, elastic for support, and hooks & eyes to fasten. 

When you’re very new to bramaking, I recommend getting two kits that are recommended for the pattern you are using plus a yard of cup fabric. The first kit will be used for a fitting band, along with the yard of fabric for making tester cups until you’re happy with the fit.  The second kit you save for your eventual bra after you have the fit sorted. Once you’ve got the feel for what you need for supplies, it will be less overwhelming to shop for the appropriate fabrics for bra making. 

Editor’s Note: I love the muslin kits over at Gigi’s Bra Supply and LilypaDesigns for making tester bands and tester cups!

Here’s a couple videos from the Youtube Channel LizSews on bra terminology and on the different types of fabrics.  There’s a wealth of knowledge in her channel and I highly recommend her tutorials on … well, anything. The bra terminology video is embedded below, and here are links to videos on bramaking fabrics:

Measuring for Bras

Measuring is often where mistakes are made and it’s incredibly important to measure how the designer intends you to measure. If you were having a bra made for you by a custom bra maker, they may take 20 (or more) different measurements to get an accurate pattern.  That is waaaaaay too technical for the average home sewist, but there are a couple things that might be useful to know.

Many designers will have you take high/over bust measurements above the breast, your full bust measurement at the fullest part (usually across the nipples) and then under bust which is directly under the breast at the ribcage. 

Editor’s Note: We talk more about these and many of the following measurements over in the Sew Busty bra measuring guide!

I recommend measurements of your body and match them up with the pattern pieces to double check the logic of the size you’re going to try.  The first is from the wire at your center front, sternum area, horizontally over your nipple to your wire at your armpit, so you have some kind of idea how wide your cup should be in the flat pattern. This is often called the horizontal hemisphere measurement.  While taking this measurement, it may also be helpful to notice where your nipple lands in this horizontal measurement to note if the apex of the pattern seems reasonable. 

The second measurement I’d recommend knowing is from your wire directly below your breast at your ribcage vertically over your nipple and up to the top of the cup, so you have some kind of idea how tall your cup should be in the flat pattern. Noting where the apex is located in this measurement may also prove helpful as some designers sell their patterns using the measurement from the wireline to the nipple and call this bottom cup depth.

Overall, the best way to measure for a bra is to try bras on until they fit, but this is “impossible” to do when you’re sewing them, unless you make the whole size range.  I’ve done it with one pattern, and I don’t recommend it unless you’re going into the bra making business. There’s more than 1500 sizing options in the Eve Modular patterns for good fit, hence why I say “impossible.”  These measurements of your actual breast may help you assess the pattern pieces to see if the size you want to try looks logical.

Some patterns recommend a wire size that is typical for the proportions you have from over bust to full bust to underbust. However, this is what the ready to wear industry does, and it’s part of why so many people think that underwires are uncomfortable. The wire doesn’t actually fit the shape of where the breast attaches to the body if you just go with recommendations. I recommend doing a wire fitting as part of the measurement stage and sort of building your bra out from there. 

Wires: Fitting them to the body

Wire fittings are an extension of the section on taking your measurements because the width of the wire is actually telling us how wide you need the frame/cradle to be to accommodate your breast tissue.  I give it a separate section to emphasize just how important it is to the fitting process.

If you haven’t read Lindsie’s writeup about underwires, please do. It covered the basics pretty well and any truly custom fit bra starts with the wire first, and then we build the whole rest of the bra around the wire.

Without getting too technical about it, wired bras are a cantilevered support system (like bridges). The wire sits flush to the body with the stretch of the back band holding the wire in place and then the cup receives its support from being attached to the wire with the right tension. If the wire is the wrong size for the anatomy or is sitting in the wrong place or is the wrong shape, then it can press and poke in uncomfortable places. 

A writeup on bramaking would not be complete without a mention of the concept known as wire spring.  This is heavily debated amongst the bra-making community and it has to do with whether or not the band matches the shape of the wire exactly so that there isn’t extra tension placed on the wire. 

The Eve Classic Bra Pattern is designed without spring and is intended to be a very custom shape for each person who wears it.  Some home sewing patterns are drafted with Wire Spring to place more tension on the cup for the intended purpose of providing lift and is used by a great many ready to wear companies.   If you’ve ever had a bra where the underwire has snapped in half directly underbust, the bra was probably drafted with wire spring and for a torso shape that might be different from your shape. I draft with Bare Essentials method, which has no wire spring, but I’ve had success with patterns that do have wire spring in them.  I find that I prefer patterns that have little to no wire spring, rather than patterns that have a large amount.  I encourage you to experiment and see what works for your body. 

Wires: Alterations for Better Fit

People don’t often think they can alter wires, and sometimes altering the wire can make all the difference in whether or not the bra fits. What happens when you find the PERFECT wire shape and its the right width, but it’s just too tall?  Well then you cut it shorter.  If you’re going to cut it, though, you have to treat the cut edge of the metal so it isn’t sharp and can’t cut the fabric or puncture skin. Here’s a video with more information:

Another alteration that is sometimes necessary is to bend it into shape.  Some bodies are very cylindrical at the rib cage and the wire can kind of tip over making the center front dig into the sternum and the side point toward your back. Wires come in a 2D shape where you could lay them flat on the table and some people desperately need a 3D shape to get the wire to sit where it belongs. 

Here’s a video from Porcelynne on bending underwires:

For those who have this cylindrical shape, the Bare Essentials group has been having people do plaster casting of their breast root to get a more accurate sense of how a wire should be bent, rather than just blindly bending.

I must give credit where it is due, the Lovely Grace Horne is an expert knife maker and was the one that brought the need for this alteration to the forefront.  Grace corresponded with Anne Bertha who wrote a couple of fabulous blogs on these alterations. Click the images below to see the blogs.

Sometimes you won’t know that you need to make wire alterations until you have the tester together and you can see how the tester behaves, but I list it first in the order of operations because we are starting with the wire and building the bra around it. 

Stay tuned for part two of this series, which will hit Sew Busty July 6, where we discuss fitting bands and how to assemble them for alterations and for part 3 on fitting cups and how to assemble them for alterations. 

Kristen is a Professional Sewist since 2010 in her family biz, Sewing by Carolyn, doing mostly clothing alterations, mostly wedding gowns and other formalwear. She like to say she became a Certified drafter in the Bare Essentials Method almost by accident. She just wanted a pattern that fit her friend and there is no pattern that’s shaped like her… And down the rabbit hole she went. 🐰

Bra Month | Jet Set Sew Along Week D: Topstitching & Attaching the Front Straps

At Sew Busty, June 2021 is bra month! Catch up on all the bra month posts here!

As part of bra month, we’ll be doing a sew along of the Firebrand Jet Set Natural bra. This bra, and all Firebrand patterns, are 20% off throughout July 2021 with code SEWBUSTY. See the full sew along here.

Per last week’s post, you should have:

  • Finished the keyhole edges and attached the front band elastic
  • Made your straps
  • Prepared your closure
  • Stitched the main fabric to the lining, then determined your wing length and closure length

WOW! That was a lot in one week. But, the nice thing about having done so much last week is that this week will be quick!

This week, we’re going to close up that keyhole, do some topstitching, and attach the straps to the front of the bra. Easy-peasy!

Give It a Good Press

I don’t have any pictures of this, but just pop this baby over to your ironing board and give it a good press, trying to keep the lining from peeking out from the main side.

Closing the Keyhole

Go ahead and pin the keyhole together, lining up seams and catching the elastic between the lining and main.

Stitch this 3 mm from the folded edge, trying your best to follow the stitching on the main fabric that you did in an earlier step. (I didn’t do amazingly at following this stitching, but do what I say, not what I do 😂)

Topstitching

Now, we’re going to continue stitching at 3 mm from the edge all the way around the bra. This will help keep everything in place. Again, try to make sure the lining isn’t peeking out as you stitch around.

It should end up looking like this:

Attaching the Straps to Front

To attach the straps to the front, you first need to install a ring to the front strap attachment.

This is the only place where you will have an unfinished seam. As I was telling those who attended our live chat yesterday, I’m sure you could come up with a creative way to not have an unfinished spot here. But, before you to that trouble, look at your RTW bras and note how they often also have unfinished spots at the strap attachment!

You are first going to fold your strap attachment over your ring, like this:

You can pin this in place or just hold it. I tend to hold it in place, but for the sake of this picture, I pinned it. Stitch as close to the ring as you can without hitting the ring with your needle. (Your needle will likely break; ask me how I know 😂)

I like to give a slight pull to the ring to keep it out of the way. Normally, my other hand would be giving a slight pull to the fabric to counteract the pull on the ring, but, in the picture below, my other hand was taking the picture 🙂

Repeat this on the other side. Your finished strap attachment will look like this:

Now, we need to attach the raw end of our strap to this ring. I like to close the bra in the back and use my fingers to trace the length of the strap, ensuring it doesn’t get twisted. I do this because I have one too many times sewn a strap on only to realize it was twisted. NO FUN.

You’re going to feed the strap through the front of the ring, with the strap shiny side up, then sew this with the same narrow zigzag we used in the previous steps. Once again, I like a zigzag that is 3 mm wide and 2 mm long.

And that’s it folks! You have a finished bra! Trim those loose threads, remove the basting on the elastic and lining, and assess for fit.

Something not quite right on fit? Check out Firebrand’s pattern hacks to see if your solution is there. If you’re not sure, feel free to feel free to drop a comment below, or ask on the Sew Busty Facebook group or subreddit. You can also contact the Jet Set designer, Kerry, at hello@firebrandlingerie.com for any fit questions.

Your Homework

This week, you should:

  • Close up your keyhole and topstitch around the edge of your whole bra
  • Insert a ring to the strap attachment point on the front of your bra
  • Attach your strap to the ring

Questions about these last steps on the Jet Set bra? Drop a comment below, or ask on the Sew Busty Facebook group or subreddit.

Ready for the next sew along? In July, Sew Busty will be teaming up with House of Morozin for her monthly sewing challenge – to make a summer dress! Our sew along, which will be part of the Beginners’ Sewing Series, will be the newly-released Cashmerette Roseclair wrap dress. This sew along will start July 12!

Bra Month | Community Blog | Using Scuba for Bra Making with Jeannie

A ready-to-wear look easy enough for Beginner bra makers??

It’s easier than you think to have the look and feel of a custom or high-end retail bra, even for beginner bra makers. The answer is found in scuba print fabrics!

What is scuba bra making fabric?

Scuba fabric is a double-knit fabric made with finely spun polyester fibers to create a smooth hand with a low luster sheen and a full-bodied drape.  While named after the material used in scuba suits, this is not thick neoprene.  

Instead, the scubas we select for bra making have a slight spongy feel like ready-to-wear, a medium to medium-light hand so they will drape well with some stretch.  Scuba is printed on one side with a very soft back.  The Gigi’s Bra Supply exclusive scuba prints include both animal prints and floral prints.  Because the scuba print fabric has a stretch of 10% to 25%, we would back the scuba with either sheer cup lining, duoplex or cut-and-sew foam to give it the stability you need for cups.

Additionally, scuba print fabric is absolutely gorgeous!  

Using a backing fabric provides the freedom to ignore the DOGS (degree of greatest stretch) of the scuba fabric, allowing us to position our pattern pieces in any place and any direction to give the perfect printed pattern matching between the left and right cups.

The technique that makes this so approachable for a beginner is called “fussy cutting”.

With fussy cutting we add one additional step – just one step!

Fussy cutting is a term often used in quilting to feature a special part of the fabric, for example, you might want to feature a certain flower or color you especially like.  Fussy cutting is a great way to customize the scuba to feature any of the design elements … for this Bluebells and Roses scuba, I would have the bluebells face inward toward the center front, which means the fabric would be mirroring (the Left Cup bluebells will face toward the Right Cup, and the Right Cup bluebells will face toward the Left Cup at the center front).

This Pin Up Girls Bralette pattern has a prominent center front so I would use the ¼ inch seam line to match up the center front…remember, you are stitching these together so you’re matching at the seam line, not at the edge of the fabric.  Other patterns might have cleavage in the front … in that case, you might want to match up or mirror the design on a different part of the cup.

We will prepare our pattern pieces for the cups as normal, and then add ¼ inch seam lines at the spot where you want the scuba fabric to intersect … either at the center front, or at another match point.  The cups are curved so you’ll have to choose a spot you want to feature, and not try to match up the entire cup.  Next, place the pattern pieces on cardstock or heavy paper to trace a Left Cup and Right cup.  Cut out the pattern piece and you’ve created a cardstock window to use on the scuba.  Cut out a Left Cup and a Right Cup frame so you can see how each cup will intersect at either a match point or the center front.

Next, we lay out the scuba print fabric on the cutting table and use the cardstock window frames to frame the floral or print exactly how we would like it to appear.  Remember, because we are lining the scuba print with a stable fabric like sheer cup lining, duoplex or cut-and-sew foam, we do not need to worry about direction at all.

Once we have the design we want lined up in the window frame, mark on the paper frame any details. Then use a fabric marking pen to transfer the pattern onto the fabric, and be sure to transfer match points onto the fabric. (You can put them on the back or front in the seam line, but you will need them to make sure your pieces line up correctly.)  Once you’ve traced the pattern piece onto the fabric, use a small rotary cutter or good sharp scissors to “extract” the fabric piece that is exactly the size, shape and print pattern that we desire!

When our scuba pieces are cut out we will place them on top of the corresponding pieces of sheer cup lining, duoplex or cut-and-sew foam (remember, with the duoplex and cut-and-sew foam, we do follow the direction of greatest stretch, as shown on the pattern, as normal).  We can use fusible webbing to secure the two pieces of fabric together, or we can use a wash-out glue stick to temporarily connect them.  By using either method, we make it easier to sew because it is as if we are working with one combined fabric, instead of messing with keeping two fabrics in alignment.

We’ve already looked at the mirroring of the bluebells.  Now take a look at the animal print fabric.  This print has a darker section and a lighter section of the design.  I’ve used the window to put the darker designs toward the center front.

The grey and red scuba bralette features another way line up the scuba – notice how the leaf design continues from one side of the center front to the other.

Whether you are mirroring a design, or matching, the ¼ inch seam line marks will show you where the fabric pieces will intersect … those ¼ inch seam lines will be your best buddies as you sew the cups.

Now sew the fabric pieces and enjoy your gorgeous new bra!! 

Here are the steps for bra making scuba success:

  1. Decide which parts of the beautiful scuba you want to feature
  2. Add ¼ inch seam lines to the pattern pieces in the areas where you want to match the design, or mirror the design.
  3. Make a Fussy Cut Frame by tracing the pattern pieces onto cardstock.  Make a Left Cup frame and a Right Cup frame ensuring that the center fronts are faced the correct direction.
  4. Use the Fussy Cut Frame on the fabric to “frame” the bra cup pieces to highlight your preferred designs on the fabric.  Trace the pattern onto the fabric.  Keep the pattern pieces handy and to transfer all match points and ¼ inch seam lines.
  5. Place/adhere the scuba fabric piece onto a backing fabric (sheer cup lining, duoplex or cut-and-sew foam)
  6. Sew the fabric pieces as directed in the pattern.
  7. Wear your gorgeous new bra!!

Give yourself some grace the first few times you try matching or mirroring.  It might take a few tries for your eyes to “see” how the pieces will come together.  Even if the design doesn’t line up exactly as you planned, you’ll still have a gorgeous new bra!

Jeannie New is the owner of Gigi’s Bra Supply, an online bra supply store featuring professional quality fabrics, elastics, findings, and patterns for bra making…and USA distributor of Bra Makers Supply, Canada.  We’ve helped thousands of customers finally get a supportive, beautiful, comfortable bra.  We love our customers…and we love comfy curves! ™  

Bra Month | Community Blog | Bullet Bra with Cesca

A broken leg, lockdown and lecture strikes led to me putting my university course on hold; in a desperate need to fill my time (to prevent me driving my mum crazy) I returned to sewing. I’d outgrown my clothes again, my cup size growing “disproportionately” to RTW clothing. Once I had a few garments under my belt – and obsessed with period murder mysteries during third lockdown – I fell in love with vintage fashion, the sexy allure of foundational garments. I grew a burning desire to buy some, especially bullet bras (or as I prefer, torpedo titties). Sadly, my new bra size fell just outside of most vintage bra companies, and I could hardly afford a custom make. 

Filled with grandiose plans and optimism I scoured the internet for a cheap pattern. How hard could making a bra without wires be?  Thankfully, I found a free pattern by VaVoomVintage, complete with an easy 4 day sew along. (Reader, it took me far longer due to exams and coursework.) Still on my few days off, I cut out the DD pattern, added an inch to the cups and retrieved my torn cotton pyjama trousers. I cut my pieces, basted the cups together in an attempt to check the fit (difficult because of my short roots and pendulous breasts). I forged ahead with sheer determination.

I do like a French seam (and I lack good pinking shears) so I used this in almost all seams, except when I forgot to leave enough seam or simply got confused and stitched right sides together anyway. 

Spiral stitching. I procrastinated, scared of catching a finger; I watched VaVoomVintage’s video, and searched for other blogs by those who made her pattern. Luckily, as I raided my local library for sewing books, I found “Lingerie Design: A Complete Course.”

I took the plunge without marking my circles: a mistake. I recommend grabbing a compass or a circular object to mark concentric circles on the cups either separately before seaming together, or pressing down the fabric after stitching the seams, or – probably neatest – fill the cup and draw circles on the 3D shape. Then slowly stitch in separate circles/semi circles or a spiral, gently pulling the fabric away as you go. Contrasting threads and different patterns also would look wonderful as VaVoomVintage points out.

The rest of the sew along is straightforward, although before assembling everything think about the unfinished edges. I folded mine twice and stitched on the sewing machine for an untidy result. A trim added at the end might work better or a rolled hem foot.

I ploughed on, making bra straps from the carefully unpicked and resewn ex-cuffs of my trousers, attaching by hand. The underband was 10cm too large on me, so I folded in the excess on each side before adding the hook and eyes by hand. For a final flourish I added buttons to the front from the original placket that I had saved. 

The fit is difficult to tell without sewing the entire bra. I had to shorten my side bands again but could not lengthen the height, so I added in an extra piece between the armhole and the bra strap for more support. The band is still too big! Next time I would squash the side band and lengthen the height so that it keeps everything in when attached to the cups. Elastic straps are probably far more comfortable. The cups fit well, although I wish I had marked my circles particularly the bust apex, where the centre of the circles should be.

This pattern was easy enough to make though and a very fun foray into lingerie sewing without faffing over underwires (the enemy of my sticky-outy rib cage). I also liked how simple it was although the instructions were a little sparse. I have made up my own instructions which can be found and saved from my Instagram @lemonysews

I’m a mathematician who likes to sew vintage garments. I’m interested in the history of fashion, especially Wartime Britain, and the topology & geometry of garments. See all of Cesca’s makes on insta @lemonysews

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.