Community Blog | Bra Making | Petite Stitchery Colby Bralette with LC Courtney

Hello Sew Busty! I am LC Courtney and I’m here to guest post and chronicle my modifications on the Petite Stitchery Colby bralette. I am outside the size range for the largest cup — a 5 inch difference — as I have a 6.5 inch difference between my upper and full bust. My best fitting RTW bra is the Elomi Matilda in 38 H. My chest tissue is full on bottom, shallow on top, and gravitates into my armpit area if left unsupported.

Hopefully I can share something that you can find useful in your own bra making adventure! 

Before we get too far, I am by no means a bra sewing extraordinaire. I have plenty of education in trial and error though. I’ve dabbled in sewing for a little over a decade and have dyscalculia. If you are searching for a post with super technical math formulas I am not your person. 

Onto the good stuff. My first version of the Colby turned out beautifully but after wearing it for some amount of time, the band tended to migrate up under my bust and the top of the band sat near the bottom of my chest tissue. The strap seam was pulling too far forward as well.

The fix seamed (ha!) easy enough. It was fairly evident that I needed more material at the bottom of the bra. Using a soft tape, I determined that the seam migrated up about 2 inches up from where it needed to actually sit. Because we know in sewing that you can always cut off more but not really add it back, I added the entire 2 inches to the bottom of the Colby pattern pieces, knowing I might need to cut a little off later.

A little paper, some tracing skills, and a Sharpie gave way for a more generous pattern. 

Like my original version, I chose double brushed poly for both my main and lining fabric.

On this one, I added a layer of mesh in the side cup portion to encourage my breasts to stay closer to the front of my chest and not migrate toward my armpit. I’m happy with the extra support this choice provided. When I make another, Colby I will add the mesh to the back pieces as well.

*Quick tip- a glue stick can be your friend here. Glue your mesh to your desired pattern pieces and treat it as one. 

If there is one takeaway I can give you for this pattern it is- DO NOT SKIP THE CLEAR ELASTIC, I repeat … DO NOT SKIP THE CLEAR ELASTIC (silicone elastin if you want to Google search and purchase some for your sewing stash).

I prefer the elastin over the thicker swimsuit elastic you can buy. I put clear elastic into every single seam with the exception of the neckline & where I joined the bottom band prior to folding it over.

You won’t stretch the elastic while you are sewing, but are using it to really reinforce the seams. I have a Brother serger and there is a little hole in the presser foot you can feed the elastic into and it really makes adding it a breeze. If you don’t have a Brother, I believe there are similar feet you can order for the same purpose. You’ll get a much sturdier finished garment using the clear elastic.

I missed taking a fit photo here, but when I sewed up the bralette layers, it was pretty clear I should have considered the vertical stretch a little more and only added about 1.5 inches to the pattern pieces. I cut off .5 all the way across the bottom. This ended up changing the depth of the V on the back but I’ll chalk this up to a happy accident because I’m really pleased with the back. 

A couple of other design/construction details ahead: I opted to add a small flutter sleeve in lieu of burrito rolling and having un-frilly armsyces. I also used my sewing machine instead of serger for the neckline only. It was easier to keep the V detail crisp(ish) on my sewing machine. I love my serger but crisp points isn’t something it excels at. 

Without any more of my chatter, here is the finished product:

I’m looking forward to making a few more Colbys over the summer in various materials and possibly one in swim. If you have a go at your own Colby, I’d love to see! Please tag me on socials. LC Courtney on Facebook & @lccourtneyy on Instagram. 

Thank you to Lindsie and the Sew Busty Community for having me here. Happy sewing!

LC Courtney (she/her) is a desert dwelling sewist. She enjoys sewing knits and listening to podcasts. You can find her on Instagram @lccourtneyy.

Busty Pattern Review + Pattern Launch | Yawning Mama Nursing Mama and Empress Bralette

Ever since I became pregnant, there’s been a shift in my sewing. For one, I’m getting a lot less sewing done, unfortunately (working on it!). For two, I’m having to focus less on patterns with cup options, and more on patterns that will serve my changing body.

This means out with the underwire bras (which I’m still salty about! I miss them 😭) and in with the stretchy bralettes. (With a healthy dose of baby powder to prevent between-boob yeast infections, because that’s a thing, y’all.)

I’ve been struggling to find a nursing bra pattern that comes in my size. The ever-popular Lotus Bralette from LilypaDesigns, which has a built-in nursing option, is a smidge too-small for my current 14″ full bust to underbust difference. And while Lilypad’s Lanai Wireless bra, which also has a nursing option, comes in my size, I’m reluctant to work out a non-stretchy bra pattern right now. (The last time I tried to make a non-stretchy bra, it fit one week and then didn’t fit the next, which was SO FRUSTRATING! Growing boobs are HARD.)

So when Yawning Mama, a fairly new pattern brand, did a call for testers of their new set of bralette patterns, including both a nursing AND a pumping bra (which might be the first pumping bra pattern on the market!), I jumped at the opportunity.

Oh! The Options!

This bra pattern comes with so many options. For those who are breast/chestfeeding, the Nursing Mama Bra (yeah, I don’t love the gendered language either), the Cross-Front Bra, and the Pumping Mama Bra are all boob-access friendly. The Nursing Mama and Pumping Mama bras have options for side slings or full slings, giving the maker options based on your individual preferences.

For those who aren’t feeding a babe (or, in my case, about to!), the Cross-Front Bra and Empress Bralette are both great options.

Both the breast/chestfeeding bras and the non-nursing bras can be made into a camisole (including maternity option!), tankini, or tunic using the cami add-on pack.

Let’s Talk About Sizing

Alright, now let’s talk about sizing. When I first saw the size chart, I was unconvinced that this pattern would work for me, and I bet some of you are similarly skeptical.

My current underbust is 32.5″ (82.5 cm) and my current full bust is 46″ (116.8 cm). So, based on this size chart, my underbust is a size small. But the biggest cup size for a small — the green cup — is only for a 43.5″ (110.5 cm) full bust, a full 2.5″ (6.4 cm) smaller than my full bust measurement. So I asked “uhhhh, hey, sooooo how will this fit me?”

The designer, Danielle, was super helpful. She instructed me to choose the small size for the back and underbust, but to choose the medium green cups — if I wanted it to fit snugly — or the large green cups — if I wanted some more room to grow. Since my milk has yet to come in, I chose to use the large green cups.

My First Toile

For my first go at this bra, I used some cotton spandex that Yawning Mama had sent for tests (shout out to designers who provide materials for testers!). The only pattern change I made was to make an omega adjustment to the dart, making the dart 1″ wider at the bottom.

It … did not work.

I mean, it wasn’t horrible, but this bra had almost no support, and the darts were about an inch too far to each side for the placement of my apex. The side seams are also about 1″ too far back.

This bra works pretty well as a sleep bra (which apparently I need to get acquainted with before baby comes, since I usually sleep braless!), but not so much for day-to-day wear.

But I could tell that this bra was promising, we just weren’t quite there.

So I prepared to make some changes:

  • Move the darts inward by 1″ by removing 2″ from center front fold
  • Use activewear nylon spandex for more support
  • Use 1″ elastic at band instead of 1/4″ elastic for more underbust support
  • Keep the 1″ enlargement of darts

Making It Work for a Busty Body

Now, I’ll quickly note that all of these changes are ones I’d strongly suggest for the small band, large cup among us, and for even the large band, large cup busty folks, I’d highly suggest using a fabric with a firmer stretch and more recovery and using 1″ elastic at the band.

Made as-directed, this bra really isn’t appropriate for busty folks who seek lots of support for a day-to-day bra. If you’re into lots of comfort and just want something to keep your twins from flailing around, by all means, make this bra as instructed — some people prefer that kind of fit! But if, like me, you want a bra that holds you up, make these changes.

Because the pattern doesn’t have larger cups drafted for a small band, for example, I wasn’t super surprised to find that the darts were in entirely the wrong place, since the large green cups likely anticipated my breasts would be wider rather than projected.

This goes back to the issue of breast shape that we see in underwire bra making — we all know that I’m narrow-rooted and projected, and that most bra patterns anticipate my breasts being much wider than they are. But, in a simple bralette like this, it’s not a change that’s drastically hard to make.

My Final Bra

Armed with a handful of changes and fabric with a firmer stretch and better recovery — my old favorite sports bra nylon spandex from Porcelynne — I had another go.

This one fits so much better. It’s supportive, though not as supportive as an underwire bra (or probably even as my Porcelynne sports bras), but this may have more to do with the fact that I sized up instead of down in the cup to account for more growth down the line.

Overall, I definitely plan to make more of this pattern. I’ve been mostly wearing Molke bras since becoming pregnant, so I’m also curious to try the Cross-Front bra from this pattern set.

I also love the full sling option, and I think I’ll also give a go at adding this sling to a Porcelynne Jackie bra pattern, since that pattern seems to lend just a smidge more support.

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.

Busty Pattern Review | Jackie Sports Bra from Porcelynne

As you may have read yesterday, my sewjo has been at a serious low, along with my mental health. But when Jennifer from Porcelynne — the QUEEN of busty bra patterns — announced she was coming out with a new sports bra pattern, I HAD TO TRY.

Jennifer was kind enough to give me a sneak peek at this pattern — which just launched Sunday — in exchange for me sharing my honest feedback with you all!

This pattern is 25% off through Friday (when all Porcelynne patterns will be 25% off for Black Friday!). On Monday, Porcelynne will include a free tankini add-on pattern with purchase of any sports bra pattern — including Jackie, Christina, and Laurel!

The Jackie Sports Bra comes with multiple options: a zip front closure, a hook and eye front closure, or a pull-over option. Better yet, Jackie is fully interchangeable with Porcelynne’s Christina and Laurel patterns, so you can opt to use Laurel’s hook and eye back closure with Jackie’s front, or do Christina’s racerback with Jackie’s front.

Jennifer’s patterns are amazing because most of them, including the go up to an N cup for bands 28-52, making her range one of the most (if not the most) size inclusive on the market. (I say “most of them” because things are just a bit more confusing when it comes to the Eve modular wired bra pattern, which you can read about here.)

Needless to say, I’m a big fan. In my opinion, everything Jennifer touches is gold.

Because I needed an easy project, I chose to go with the pullover option. I definitely am eager to try the front zip, and will certainly make a point of tackling that option in the future, but I didn’t have the spoons for it this time around.

The front closure option is cool, but my absolute favorite part about the Jackie is the straps! These straps — made with cut & sew foam covered by fabric, and made adjustable in a very clever way — are sooooo comfy.

The pullover option went together fairly quickly. Remember, I’m a sloooowwww sewist, so don’t take my hours as an indication, but this bra probably took me 7 hours? For a first time with the pattern, that’s on the short side for me.

Since I was literally wearing my Christina while I made my Jackie, I decided to go for the same size I had made my Christina, even though my boobs have grown a bit since I made Christina: 30J. Back when I made my Christina, a 30J was already sizing down in the band and cup for a compression fit. Now that my boobs have gained another 1.5″, I probably should have gone up to a 30K for a compression fit, or a 32L for an encapsulation fit.

Let’s talk about support: This bra isn’t quite as supportive as my Christina, which is my go-to sports bra. But that’s probably more because of my fabric choice than anything else. While I lined this with the same 200 gsm black wicking fabric that I used for my Christina, the outer fabric isn’t quite so heavy.

For the outer fabric, I used a combo of the same black wicking fabric for the center front and side back panels, a 195 gsm mustard swim for the side front and back panels, and a polka dot swim fabric for the inner front panels. I’m not sure what the weight on the dot fabric is, but I’d be willing to bet it’s slightly lower than the mustard fabric. On my Christina, I cut the main on the grain and the lining on the cross grain; on my Jackie, I cut everything on the grain.

This pattern is designed for 200-320 gsm+, so I was at the verrrry minimum weight called for by the pattern for my lining, and just under that for my outer, and I’m near the top of the cup size range, so it’s really no surprise that the support isn’t as good as my Christina.

And it’s not that the support is bad. I did a forearm stand in this and felt totally secure. It just doesn’t quite pass the jumping jack test.

I continue to stand by my assessment that Porcelynne is the best company for large-cupped bra patterns, and I can’t wait to see what Jennifer comes up with next.

SEE MORE JACKIES! As part of the launch of the Jackie Sports Bra pattern, Porcelynne is hosting a blog tour. Tomorrow’s post will be on Girls in Uniform, who is posting a second Jackie make (use Chrome’s translate feature if you don’t read Dutch!). Other Jackie makes include:

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.

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, have made bra fabric shopping easy.

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


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.


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!


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, 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 😂)


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 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!