Being obsessed with perfect fit, I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get round to running a bra course! If you are waiting to book onto the course, I thought I’d titillate you (yes, pun intended – sorry!) with this bra making tutorial giving a blow-by-blow account of the steps involved in making the Classic full band bra from Pin-Up Girls, available from my shop, together with all the supplies. The same steps will apply to any basic bra pattern though.
First up, these are the supplies I used, including a rotary cutter – although, to be fair, I still prefer scissors. And a marker pen – Frixion pens are my personal favourite.
Here are all the pieces cut out. This particular pattern has an upper cup, lower cup, frame, back and strap. Oh, and it’s underwired. As it’s a trial bra, I haven’t used any lace and so all the main pieces are in what’s known as Duoplex fabric that has virtually no stretch, and the back is powernet. I know, it looks like a lot of pieces but all the seams are pretty short so it sews together really quickly.
Ok – now it’s time to sew. I’m not gonna lie – this is a little bit scary because the seam allowance is only 6mm (or 1/4 inch if, like me, you’re still in old money). But the fabric doesn’t fray so the teeny allowance is ok once you get used to it. Honest.
The first step is to sew the upper cups to the lower cups. Then the straps. It’s optional to sew one strap on back to front, by the way. Ooops!
Next, press the seam open and topstitch either side of the seamline. This is to keep the inside of the cup smooth, as well as looking a bit more professional. The strap seam (once it’s been resewn of course) is pressed up towards the strap rather than open. Then there are two lines of topstitching on the strap to give it more strength.
If you’re feeling brave enough, trim the seams close to the topstitching. If you’ve ever seen those duck-billed scissors and wondered what they’re for – they’re great for this. The flat blade goes between the thing you’re trimming and the bit you don’t want to trim!
I then added some stay tape to the top of the upper cup (shown on the left-hand side) and also in the underarm section (shown on the right-hand edge). The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that I’ve used two different kinds. The one on the left is my go-to lightweight nylon tape that I use for most stabilising jobs. I also thought I’d try some specifically for bra-making (on the right) which is a little bit stretchy. Seems a bit odd to use something a bit stretchy for stabilising I thought, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Both worked fine.
Side seams next. Tip – it’s easier to sew with the powernet on top. Otherwise the feed dogs try to eat the powernet. (Bad dogs. Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to sit on the sofa …). I pressed the seams towards the frame and then did two rows of topstitching. This area definitely needs all the strength it can get because it carries all the tension when the bra is done up. If this seam fails, there’ll be boobs flying off in all directions … Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Now it’s time to sew the cups into the frame. A tiny bit tricky on account of the curves, but it’s soon done because they’re only short seams.
Underwire channeling is next. This is sewn to the cup/frame seam allowance only – the stitching does not go through all the layers and shouldn’t show through on the right side. The plush (fuzzy) side of the casing is uppermost because this is the side that will be next to the skin. Note that the channeling sticks up at the top and the sides – that’s deliberate and you’ll see why later!
Now we’re ready to start sewing on the elastics. Start with the underband elastic. Very often this has one plain edge and one decorated edge – this can be a satin edge, or some kind of picot edging. One side should be plush. You sew it on in two passes and the first pass can seem a bit counter-intuitive. It has to be sewn to the right side of the bra first of all with the plush side of the elastic up, using a regular zig-zag stitch. The picot or decorated edge is uppermost and the plain edge is level with the bottom edge of the frame fabric. Like on this little sample:
The middle section of the frame curves up and down under the cups and so I’ve clipped in this section to make it easier to sew on the elastic. Be sure to keep the underwire channeling out of the way at this stage.
Trim close to the stitching before turning the elastic to the wrong side of the bra for the second pass of sewing, preferably with a 3-step zig-zag. Notice how the picot edge now peeks out at the bottom!
Underarm elastic next. On this particular pattern the front part of the strap is fabric and so the elastic runs from the end of the strap all the way to the scoop bit at the back (where the hooks and eyes go). Sew it in two passes just like the bottom band elastic. The elastic itself is more narrow but is a matching design with the picots etc. The main difference is that the band elastic is not stetched very much at all, whereas you can see there is quite a bit of stretching needed in the underarm area.
Some pretty neckline trim next. Usual thing – first pass with zig-zag, picot edge inwards.
Before sewing the second pass, the underwire channeling has to be closed off with bar tacks. Back and forth with straight stitch, then back and forth with fine narrow zig-zag. No escape for the underwires – we all know how they always want to make a run for it. (Sorry for the fuzzy pic btw!)
Neckline trim folds over to cover the ends of the channeling ready for the second pass.
All the edges finished. Channeling topstitched into place.
Okay – that’s the front finished. So far, so good. Time to work on the back of the bra. First thing to do is check the width of the back against the hook and eye pieces.
Ah. They don’t match. Not to worry – that’s what scissors are for. I just marked the adjustment and curved it back to the original point (trueing).
The strap elastic is sewn on to the back scoop section. If your machine does that stitch that looks like little bolts of lightning, this is the perfect time to use it! It’s really secure and still allows the elastic to stretch.
Hardware – strap adjuster and ring to attach to the strap.
Almost there. Just the hook and eye pieces to go. Note the double row of stitching for security again. Ignore the fact that it’s wiggly.
All that remains is to insert the underwire into the channeling and close off the end with bar tacks, just like at the front.
Ta dah – the finished bra. After the first three or so, I reckon it takes about 2 hours start to finish. That’s less time than it takes me to drive to M & S, park, try on several bras and drive home empty-handed cos none of them fitted properly. Way more satisfying too 🙂