I have some SUPER COOL BRA THEORY for you today!!
I often get asked “how do you make so many beautiful professional looking bras?” And that real answer to that is- experience- I’ve been making a bra almost every week for about a year and a half now! And what I’ve learned from that is the importance of bra planning. Thinking about the bra before I make it, where the seams are going to be, how I’m going to attach the strap, what elastics and fabrics I’m going to use.
One thing I like to do is to search through my lingerie board on Pinterest to see what beauties I love the most, then deconstruct them. It’s so easy to look at a bra and just think “oh that’s so pretty- I could never make something that amazing!” but if you really break it down into all its parts- a lot of bras are actually quite similar. And when you break them down you can figure out how to make them yourself!
So I thought I would try to share some of the bra planning wisdom that I’ve gained with a guide!
I made up a two page checklist/guide that breaks down a bra into all the elements that you should think about before you start to make it. I like to use this on bras that I see on Pinterest, but you could use it on a bra that you think up completely on your own! It helps to iron out all the kinks you could come up against. There’s nothing worse than getting 3/4 done with a bra then thinking- ‘how am I going to attach the strap in a nice way?” or ‘I would have really preferred a strap scoop in the back’. This can all be avoided with a bit of thought and planning!
and Voila! Here’s the Guide!
Here is a link to the PDF version so you can download it and print it out for yourself 🙂 (otherwise you could save the images off of the blog- but that might not be as pretty)
This guide is targeted at mostly underwired bras, but you can still use it for non-underwired (just skip all the wire related questions!) and it’s also more useful for bras that have seams (rather than any type of moulded cup) because that’s what most people are sewing.
It goes over underwire type, construction, seaming, cup-strap-cradle & band details, fabric and elastic choices, and as always there’s a spot for you to put in additional comments!
This, of course, doesn’t cover every single feature that every bra out there has, it’s more to get you thinking about how bras are made and what you should think about when you’re dreaming up your next creation 🙂 I think it also helps to break it all down and make it seem a little less intimidating!
I thought I would show you the guide in action with my most recent bra: The Lily of the Valley!
This bra has a lot of pretty features, and it can look overwhelming- but it’s really not too complicated- here is how it breaks down in my guide 🙂
Boom! In no time you can have a quick and dirty break down of your bra- which makes it so much easier to plan out your construction, see where you might rather change things, how it’s all going to come together!
Are there any other bras that you would like me to break down using this guide? I can do a mini series of your favs!
Do you struggle with bra planning or have a system of your own?
Talk to me in the comments!!
Now you’ll want to trace the bottom of you bra frame, marking the center front, the side seam, and the center back (this is the bra hook placement- which would be the point you attach your hook & eye, or the fold point that your g-hook would sit in). In this photo I traced all the way past the g-hook fold, but please ignore that.
Now that you have this, you want to measure on your body how long you want your tankini skirt. Do this by starting at the center front of your bra, at the bottom of your bridge, then measure down your body to the point you want your tankini to end. For my mom this was 13″.
Then on your pattern measure straight down from the center front and the center back 13″, making a box.
If you left your pattern like this, you would have a very straight tankini skirt, with no allowances for your hips.
In the back of this tankini, you want to have some wiggle room to fasten your bra hook. Measure approximately 1.5″ in from the center back along your bra-frame line, and 3″ down the back of your back seam, and connect these in an arc. This will give a nice little space in the back to allow for your bra fastening.
Now this is the point where you want to add in all your volume, and I like nothing more than a lovely flouncy tankini skirt!
I like to use the slash and spread method, where you slash your pattern, the spread it to add some volume. This gives a lovely circle-skirt type of volume, so there is no extra gathering and bulk at your bra frame, but it just flounces and flows out from there in waves! Really flattering and easier to sew!
For this tankini skirt I’ve drawn lines where I want to split the pattern and add some volume: one in the middle of the back, one at the side seam, one in the middle of the front, and then I want to add some big fun volume in the front, so I’ve added 5 lines, which will all be slashed and spread. I’ve also added just a little at the center back seam that you can see!
Now to the slashing and spreading! Remember that this is one side of your pattern piece, so the extra you add will be to both sides! I find that with stretch mesh- you really can’t go too wrong- it’s so forgiving and light!
I decided that for the middle back, side seam, middle front, and the first two front slashes, I would add 3″ of width. I did that by slashing along my line, inserting a piece of paper under, and measuring a 3″ gap between the old hemline marks.
To create some bigger drama, I added 5″ to the three front slashes closest to the center front.
Also (and of course I didn’t get a picture of this step)- You need to add a seam allowance along the top frame edge, this allowance should be the same width as the elastic that you are using for the bottom band of your bra, since this will be sewn into the bottom elastic allowance on the frame of your bra.
Add a standard 1/4″ seam allowance along your center back seam (or whatever seam width you like to sew your stretch mesh with).
At the center front I’m going to be leaving my tankini open, so that it has a slit up the front. For a nice finish with this style I like to add a little extra seam allowance, about a 1/2″, this is so that I can fold it in on itself (so there are no raw edges showing) and so that I can overlap the fronts.
Once you have your skirt pieces cut out you will take you your bra that you’ve made up (just the the point of before you add your elastics)
Then you can see laying this out, just how your skirt pieces will be attaching to your bra- you want to attach them along the bottom frame of your bra.
So flip your skirt pieces so they are right sides together with your bra, and pin it along the bra frame, remember to line it up just overlapping the center front (so that your skirt pieces overlap) and you skirt should end 1.5″ in from your hook and eye.
After you’ve pinned both sides, I like to baste it down with a zig-zag stitch like this, you can faintly see that the bra is under these skirt pieces in the picture below.
Once you have it like this, with the skirt side up, you will stitch your elastic to this edge. Imagine there is no skirt piece and you are sewing your elastic to the bottom edge of your bra just like you normally would.
The next step is to sew your elastic, on the second pass, like you normally would, only when your flipping it back in towards the bra cups, make sure that you separate your tankini skirt from the bra frame, so that your skirt is going down and your bra is going up.
This way your elastic will only be shown on the inside, and your tankini skirt just looks like it’s seamed with your bra frame. It’s a very similar technique to if you were adding a ruffle there, or piping.
Then all you have to do is finish sewing up your bra as usual, however you planned, and sew up your center back seam of your tankini skirt!
It’s really super easy! And with the stretch mesh it’s even better because you don’t have to worry about hemming or finishing the edges, it’s best to keep it very simple and light!
I can’t wait to show you the photo shoot I did with my mom for this one so you can see it on her!
I also have another little surprise for you with the photoshoot reveal! 🙂 😉
So much fun stuff happening!!
Do you like tankinis? Do you think you’ll use this tutorial?
Talk to me in the comments!!
It’s still Sunday! I know I know, I’ve been total crap at posting this month- I completely missed last week- but I have a very valid excuse- I joined the quarter century club, that is- I turned 25- and it was a weekend of celebration and family and friends, and there were too many surprise plans to get anything done!
But of course I’m going to make it up to all you lovelies! So I’m starting today with a trio of posts! Today is a tutorial on using cut & sew foam in your bra/bathing suit, the next post will be on making your bra into a tankini oh la la, and the final post will be showing off the lovely tankini that I made for my mom 🙂
So on with todays tutorial!
How To: BraMaking with Foam
I’m going to start off by saying that I love foam. I’m a huge fan. I think that it helps so much to add structure, support, coverage and comfort in bras and especially in bathing suits.
There are different names and styles of foam that you can get for bra making, but they are all generally a layer of foam that has been laminated with fabric on both sides so that it’s nicer to work with. It can be called: cut & sew foam, bra foam, polylaminate foam padding (which would mean it’s laminated with polyester), it can also be called sheet foam. There are various thicknesses, qualities and fabric lamination that you can find, they’re all different and the best one is the one that you like the best.
— shameless self-promo here — I’ve found a foam that I import from France, it’s laminated in the softest microfiber, and it’s nice and thin (1.6mm) meaning that it doesn’t add too much volume, more just the softness, smoothness and overall shape of foam, and I completely adore it! It’s everything I love in foam, and I’ve been using it with everything I make since I got it! —
So once you’ve picked your foam, and you have your pattern that you like, you’ll need to add different seam allowances to your foam pieces than you do to the fabric that you’re planning to cover the foam with.
I’m going to say now- the #1 goal of sewing with foam is that you never fold the foam- it’s just too bulky. If you are seaming your foam together- it should be butt-together with a zig-zag stitch not seamed in a traditional way, and you should try to finish the edges in a way that the foam doesn’t get folded back on itself.
I’m going to show you the process of this step-by-step!
To start: this is my cup pattern, with no seam allowances:
For the inner foam layer, you only want to add seam allowances into the wireline.
*this is if you’re making a standard full-frame bra (not partial band) where you seam allowance along with wireline and channelling is going to be folded away from the bra*
You want to make sure that it you include this seam allowance so the foam gets caught under the channelling and is finished nicely on this area of the cup. Otherwise you don’t want to add any seam allowances to the underarm, neckline or the inner cup seams.
That will look like this:
Once you have your foam all lined-up, you will want to think about your cup-cover. For cup covers- there are many different fabric options you can choose- stretch and non-stretch- the only thing to consider with a non-stretch fabric is that you want to be quite precise with your sewing and your seam allowances to make sure that it fits over your foam perfectly, because you won’t have the same stretch and wiggle room that you have with a stretch fabric. Generally the added support and structure of foam gives you a lot more freedom with your fabric choice.
Once you’ve chosen your cup-cover, you will want to figure out your seam allowances for your cup cover. These will be the same as if you weren’t using the foam. So you will want to make sure that you have your seam allowances at the wireline, for the inner cup seams, and whatever neckline and underarm seam allowances you planned. For this bra I planned to have binding on the underarm and neckline, so I didn’t add any seam allowances.
I’m going to start with the bound-edge because it’s my favourite!
OPTION 1 – The Bound Edge
In this situation, you should have no seam allowances on your foam, or your cover along the neckline and underarm edges- and they should end together at the edge like this:
Then you want to cut a strip of binding, at least 4X the width that you want your finished bound-edge. So for this one, I want a 1/4″ bound edge so I cut my strip at least 1″ wide.
With right sides together pin your binding to the front of your free-edge.
Then you will stitch whatever width you wish for your bound edge to have, in this case I’m stitching 1/4″, which I think is a great choice.
Then it will look like this:
Then like any traditional bound edge, you flip your binding up and around to the other side, from the other side it will look like this with all the layers showing.
Then you’ll want to pin the binding down, enclosing the raw edge. You want it to be comfortably snug, so that it’s not loose, but you don’t want to squeeze the layers- so that you can maintain that nice 1/4″ distance that you sewed. I like to pin this down, just so I don’t have to worry about it while I’m sewing it down.
Then you just stitch in the ditch- trying to be as accurate as you can- and presumably using a matching thread colour, rather than the example black stitching that I’m showing you lol. Also if you prefer, I’ve stitched this with a zig-zag that is one-on and one-off the edge of the binding, and that works too.
On the underside you just trim off the excess fabric. This is of course something that is ideal for a knit fabric (which would be my bra fabric recommendation), but if you are using a woven fabric that could fray, than you might want to use a more traditional binding approach, where the binding is folded under on the underside and stitched.
OPTION 2 – The Elastic Finish
Now this other option is also great, and really good if you want the added support of elastic at your neckline or underarm.
For this method you want to make sure that you add an elastic allowance that matches whatever width of elastic you plan to use to finish the edge (in this case I’m using a 3/8″ elastic). And this will only be added to your cover fabric, not your foam.
I like to pin my fabric to my foam along those edges, just to hold them in place.
Then from the front side of your cup, just like you normally would (with your plush elastic side up), you will sew your elastic to the edge of the fabric. You want to butt your elastic up to where you can feel the foam end, so you are only sewing your elastic to the fabric and not the foam. And you want to sew on the inside edge of the elastic with a zig-zag stitch.
From the front it will look like this:
From the inside it will look like this, (At this point your foam is only attached with the pins, and NOT caught in the elastic)
Then you want to flip your elastic inwards, over the foam, encasing the raw edge of the foam. This is why it’s important not to stitch your elastic to your foam, because if you do, you will be folding your foam over on itself, making for a very bulky edge.
Then you will stitch down your elastic, on the inside edge- to secure it down, just like you normally would with your bra elastics.
In this example I’ve placed the picots so they’re facing in, so I can have a nice straight edge, but on bras you might normally like the picot showing.
And from the front you have your usual line of zig-zag stitching, the same as your regular fabric bra. But this time you have a foam lining – without the bulk.
As you can see both options offer very low-bulk finishes:
The Bound Edge Method:
The Elastic Finish Method:
Not only low-bulk which is nice to look at- but it’s also easier to sew.
Which finish do you like the best? Binding or elastic?
I’m a bound-edge girl myself, I just love a contrasting bound edge, I think it looks so clean and sharp- I’m sure you’re used to seeing it from me now!
Do you like to sew with foam?
Were there any foam-bra related things that I didn’t cover that you’re still wondering about?
Let me know!
Today I have something super fun! As you know, I was away on holiday last week and I made myself some bikinis for the trip. And I basically lived in my bikinis, which got me thinking of ways that I could change them up, and make them more interesting that just the same bikini everyday.
I also made lots of bikini strings using the second (and my favourite method) of sewing swimwear straps from my tutorial , and with this method you have to trim off the excess fabric from beside your seam, which leaves you with all these tiny little strips of swimwear fabric…
Which naturally got the creative juices flowing, and I thought about all the beautiful charms and accessories that I could string on to my bikinis! And this is what I came up with on my trip!
Very simple things like this little fish charm for a bit of fun!
Or a silver turtle to add some interest!
Or some interesting charms with extra strapping!
Adding a little rhinestone bling to the string of your bikini between the cups makes a really simple bathing suit look SUPER expensive and classy- especially when you pair it with high-waisted bottoms!
But some days I’m feeling a little more fun and tropical- and I love matching black tops, with printed bottoms and tying them in with an accessory! Not to mention it adds a little attention to the décolletage!
But then sometimes I’m feeling a little more sporty chic! And I love to pair it up with some simple boy shorts and a fun charm that hangs lower- like this fox! I think it’s just so fun!
And a little bonus pink bikini idea!
To have a scalloped lace bottom to your frame, you’re going to have to have a straight bottom edge on your frame (as opposed to this pattern piece that has a nice curve following the cups), because your lace fabric edge follows a straight line.
But before you go and chop off the bottom of your frame- let’s do a little deconstructing and thinking first, so you know you won’t run into any problems later.
So in this image below, I’ve taken the same frame, but I’ve marked my seam 1/4″ allowances (in turquoise), then I’ve marked where my channelling and underwire goes 3/8″ (in pink), then I’ve marked my elastic allowances 3/8″ for this bra (in purple).
I find doing this gives you a better idea of exactly what is happening with your pattern pieces, and how you can make adjustments to your pattern successfully. So from this you can think about two things that will help you convert your pattern to a lace band:
1. You CAN NOT touch the seam allowances and the channelling allowance around the cup. If you make it more narrow than your 1/4″ seam allowance plus your 3/8″ channel allowance, then you won’t have enough width in your frame to cover your channel- you have to work around that.
2. Your elastic allowance at the bottom isn’t relevant anymore, since you won’t be turning your bottom edge up (because your bottom edge will be lace).
So with that information- there are two ways that you can make a lace band, you can make it in one piece- straight across, or you can make it in two pieces with seam in the middle.
This is the first way:
This is if you want to use ONE solid piece of lace for your frame, and it will go straight across. You can go as narrow as the yellow line (right to the bottom of your channels) or you can lengthen it to make it a longer-line for an effect like this bra:
If you are working with your pattern as a half-frame and you haven’t traced the whole thing out like I’ve done, then all you have to do when you draw your line, is to make sure that it is exactly perpendicular to your center front line, so that you don’t have it on an angle.
And remember- this new bottom line is your finished edge, you don’t have to add elastic allowances because you won’t be flipping your elastic in.
So that is the first way to make a lace band. The other way is to make a two-piece lace band, with a seam of the center front. This is my favourite way to make a lace band because I love the angles- this is the same idea as making a gothic arch.
Because this is going to be a two-piece frame (seamed up the middle) it’s easy to show on the half-frame. With this style, instead of making your bottom edge perpendicular to your center front, you’re going to put it on an angle so that your bottom edge will be an upside-down ‘V’.
Now the angle that you choose can be more (the yellow line) or less (the pink line) dramatic, it’s all about your preference- and you also have to remember that for a more dramatic angle- you will also be widening your side seam, and will have to adjust your back band piece to match.
Don’t forget to add a seam allowance to the center front, because you will have a seam there!
So I’ve decided for my example to go with a more dramatic ‘V’.
Remember when you’re cutting out your frame, that the bottom edge is your finished edge, and that line should follow the lowest valleys of your lace edge, so that the scallops stick out past that point.
Now there are a couple caveats to this. The MOST important thing about placing your band is that the bottom of your seamlines (where your seams end at the bottom of the band) fall on a low point of the lace- or are touching the very edge of the lace, so that when you sew it up together it’s not mid-scallop and making your seam longer than you intended.
This will sometimes mean that you want to play with your side seams a bit to get the lace to fall where you want it to, and in this case I’m using a lace with big scallops, so I can’t get the lace to fall perfectly along the lowest point, so there is a spot you can see where the lace edge dips in and isn’t covering my pattern piece. That is not ideal, but it’s also not the end of the world, as long as it doesn’t dip in too far or dip in to the channelling area.
Another thing to note is that the most important part of placing the lace is considering the center front. Make sure you have a beautiful center front that is going to look nice will go a long way to making your bra beautiful and look more RTW, in this case I made sure that I started it right at the bottom most point of a big scallop, so that it could fan out on each side from that point. If you have a lace that mirrors than you can cut your frame out to be perfectly symmetrical on each side, and if not, the important thing is to match the scallops!
Once you’ve got the perfect placement, then cut out your linings to match if you’re using them, and sew your frame like usual, matching your center front seam. Then sew your back band onto your frame. Remember that your back band still has elastic allowance, in this case I’m using a 3/8″ elastic so my band sticks out 3/8″ below the bottom edge of my front frame.
Now it’s time for the first part of elastic application. You’re going to sew your elastic to the RIGHT side of your back band, just like you normally would on the inside edge. But you’re going to stop right at the edge where your back band ends and meets your front frame. You want to be sure that your elastic is sewn right to that point where they meet, so that when you flip your elastic to the inside it looks seamless with your frame. (Also a small aside, I’m sewing my elastic so that the picot edge is facing in, so that it doesn’t compete with my lace edge).
Once you sew your elastic to one side of your band, you’ll want to leave a tail of elastic that is long enough to make it along your frame and cross at the center.
*If you are doing a straight across lace band and want to do your elastic in one solid piece, then you will have to measure your elastic to make sure it is the exact length you need, and you will be sewing both ends of this elastic to either side of your back band leaving it open in the center.*
I like to sew my bra cups into my frame before I sew my elastic to the frame, to help guide my elastic placement, and make sure I don’t overlap into my seam allowances!
So your next step is to flip your elastic to the inside on your back band and sew your second pass, once you get to where your elastic meets your frame, it should be perfectly lined up, and you can continue sewing your elastic along your frame. If you’re doing a gothic arch like I am in the example, you can pin your elastic before so they cross in the center and you can sew it in one-pass, staying on the inside edge of the elastic again. After you finish this pass the elastic will be sewn down fully on your back band, and you can go in and sew your second pass on the bottom edge of your elastic in the frame.
For the gothic arch style, you will have this criss-cross in the front and these tails that stick out. I like to leave these long while I sew on my first pass of the channelling so they are easy to pin out of the way.
Then, once your channelling is attached, you want to trim these elastic ends so they will be caught under the channelling- for a nice finish.
Then when you fold over your channelling- super neat interior finish!
Then you can sew on your underarm elastic, and do your other bra finishings, sew down your channel and voila! You have a beautiful lace band!
And I’m not going to show too many pictures of the final finished bra- you’ll have to wait until next week for more pics!!
That’s all you get for now!!!
Also don’t forget I still have my Giveaway happening for this beautiful lace kit!!
I’ll be drawing the winner next Sunday! And all you have to do to enter is sign up for my newsletter in the side bar!! 🙂 🙂
Do you have any favourite ways of sewing lace?
Let me know!
Hope you’re all enjoying your Valentine’s Day!!