My First Bra (!)

You all know I mean the first bra that I’ve sewn, don’t ya? Of course you do – this is a sewing blog after all!*

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I can’t believe I haven’t delved in to bra making earlier. A long time ago I attempted a self-drafted bra, but soon gave up with the large list of items to source – in the industry these items are sold in bulk, and are only cost efficient if you are producing in bulk as well! These days small quantities of bra making materials are easy to source online, making that first plunge a bit easier. And of course I have my Elna working again so I can zig-zag – kind of essential for bra making!

*I do remember my first real bra though – 10A, dusky pink with lace trim, a Bendon one from H&J’s in Invercargill – felt so grown up!

I already owned some bra underwires, hooks and eye backs, rings and sliders, but needed to purchase the correct elastics and channelling, as well as some power net/tulle for the back band.

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The materials that I didn’t already have on hand were sourced locally from Elle Joan’s Lingerie Findings. Lynda has everything you need to make a bra (and she sells some gorgeous kits too) and she was very helpful in assisting me to order the right stuff. Because I was ordering so many bits and pieces, she labelled them all so I knew which was which – very much appreciated!

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This particular lace (actually an embroidered net) might seem familiar to those of you who have made my Ruby Slip pattern, it is the same as the lace on the red and black versions – I’m still trying to use it up!

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I chose the Boylston Bra from Orange Lingerie for my first pattern. I think it is a nice design, I particularly like the shaping around the front strap. The instructions were very clear – as a newbie bra instruction follower I had no problems.

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I did do a couple of things differently because of the lace edge around the upper cup and strap. I don’t really recommend it this way – although I love the design lines of this pattern, they aren’t the most ideal for a sheer upper cup. That didn’t stop me though!

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Because the upper cup on my version is unlined, I had to attach the strap directly to the lace, which I did like so:

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With wrong sides together, I sewed the strap into position at 3mm. From the right side, I topstitched the edge of the upper cup to the strap, enclosing the raw edge of the strap.

In the centre picture you can just see how I bagged out the lower cup with the lining, enclosing the horizontal seam in the process.

The instructions clearly explain how to measure yourself and calculate your correct size. I have to admit I really don’t understand bra sizing methods – this measure yourself thing but add a random 4-5 inches mystifies me. I followed the instructions and arrived at a size 34B. This was reassuring as it is also my ready to wear bra size, and I generally fit ready to wear quite well. It turned out this bra was way too small and I could not even do it up! I removed the hooks and shoved in some elastic so I could actually get it on and figure out what went wrong:

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Some hastily inserted elastic!

My assessment was that the cups and frame were alright, but the band was where the problem lay.  I rechecked my measurements – with an underbust of 30 1/2″, I rounded down to 30″ and added 4″ to reach a size 34 band. But if my underbust was a fraction bigger my size would jump up to a size 36 band.  That extra two inches sounded very comfortable!

Also my finished band seemed to stretch very little compared to my ready to wear bras – maybe the power net that I used was too firm? Another factor could have been that I lined the side frame for consistency in the opacity – the instructions did not specify to do this and doing so may have reduced some stretch.

Time to try version two. I increased the band size to 36″, and cut the band from a double layer of stretch mesh, as I noticed this is what a lot of my purchased bras use. It is softer and stretchier too.

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It looks like puckers! In reality the two layers of mesh are creating a moire effect – it only seems to show in photos.

Although I stayed with the B cup, I did make some changes to the cup shaping on my second attempt. On me this bra had a very ‘natural’ fit, surrounding the breast but not providing any uplift or shaping – and overall it made me look a little bit flat chested. I took in the seam on the lower cup, eliminating the curve to make it almost straight. I also took some off the side seam cup to give more lateral support and move the breast inwards slightly. These alterations worked a treat and I will do the same on future versions.

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Pattern alterations for version 2 – just in case you need to do the same thing!

As I sewed the final hook and eye tape on, I came to the highly intelligent miraculous conclusion that there were only 2 columns of eyes on my bra back instead of the required three, which effectively makes the band one inch too short:

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Ooops!

As I always wear my bras on the last hook, I really need that third row! (Which is probably a clue that I should cut a longer band than average. I remember once at a bra fitting the fitter commented that I was a Loose Bra Wearer! Food for thought…)

So – the end result is a bit tight, therefore it is a bit uncomfortable to wear, so in all honesty I probably never will…..I’m sure we all have some of those bras in the back of our lingerie drawer – just not quite right – and they get passed over every morning for the comfortable ones!

I’m almost there – watch out for attempt number three! Have you ever made a bra before? If so, did you get the size right first time?

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I'm a designer/patternmaker who loves to share my sewing knowledge with others! Follow me as I sew my personal projects, sharing my favourite tricks of the trade along the way.

33 thoughts on “My First Bra (!)

  1. Lots of great information there, thanks. I keep meaning to try bra making but the pattern moves down the pile! Yours look great though, pity it’s not quiet comfortable enough. Good luck for version 3😃

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  2. Welcome to the world of bra making. Once you get your first well fitting bra you’ll be hooked and never look back. I started out with self drafted bras, they have mostly fit pretty well. The only underwired bra that I’ve tried with someone else’s pattern is the Maya, and I made so many changes to it that I may as well have drafted it myself too!
    Can’t wait to see your next attempt.

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  3. I’m getting really ready to make one… I have the Craftsy course so just need some time to watch and make. I’m thinking if you need the 3 rows of hooks why not buy another one with three rows and allow yourself to wear it. It looks so gorgeous.

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  4. Very interesting – and a great pity that it’s not quite there yet. I have thought about bra making before, but because I don’t have problems finding rtw ones I have never plucked up the courage. It seems to be rather more complicated than I believe I can manage…

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    1. I tend to fit ready to wear bras well too, and admit at one stage I questioned why I was doing it, but I have a lot of silk and lace remnants that are crying out to be made into lingerie!

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  5. Hi Sheryll

    Your bra is really beautiful and it would be a pity not to wear it!
    If I may, I recommend that you unpick the eyes side of your bra and replace it with a three row one. This is not a lot of effort as replacing the entire bra back. It could make the difference that you could possibly actually wear it.
    Yes, fabrics of different stretch make a difference in wear! I don’t like bra’s that cut and dig into me either.
    Hope this is of some assistance. Enjoy your day Regards Lynda

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  6. Have fun trying on bras! I’ve made several, but since losing a chunk of weight, I no longer know what size to make.

    I spent a pleasant summer recently trying to replicate the all-woven bras of my youth. Cotton is a marvelous thing to wear in a hot and humid climate. Synthetic brassieres are the bane of my spring-summer-autumn existence.

    You’ve inspired me to dig out my box of lingerie patterns and try, try, again. I HAVE been salvaging all the wires, hooks, and strap rings from my rtw bras, when I discard them. I think I put that ziploc bag full of findings in the same box … let’s pray that I did!

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    1. I have been salvaging bra findings for years too, they can be quite expensive to buy individually. A cotton bra sounds lovely, even cotton lining would add a degree of comfort, and the Boylston pattern would work well!

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  7. Your bra’s look fab, I recently started making bra’s, I used the Harriet from Cloth Habit, the first too were ok but my 3rd and 4th I wear all the time, my measurements gave my rtw size (32ff) and it was pretty much spot on although I did the same uplift you did. I really enjoyed making them too and plan to make more.

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  8. So pretty! I’ve very eager to try making a bra myself, and I’m interested to hear more about your experience. By the way, wearing your bra on the last (loosest) hook is the right way to wear them. I learned that at the local fancy lingerie shop where I buy all my bras. The intention is that it should fit perfectly on the loosest setting when you buy it, and then you can use the other rows of hooks as the bra ages and the band stretches out. Nice work!

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  9. It looks great! The *only* reason my first bra fit was because I made it in a class with the pattern designer. After that even using the same pattern I’ve had mixed results. Last year I painstakingly took one of my RTW bras apart and copied it, and I need to do that again, because it was the best–I just wish I could find that super thick padded underwire casing they used! I do wonder though if most of my problem is that I expect a higher level of perfection from my home sewn bras (and everything else I sew if I’m being honest) that I’m willing to overlook in RTW?

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    1. That’s great you have a base pattern that fits! Different materials can vary in stretch but with a good base pattern you will be able to take that into account. Perfection is good!

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  10. Beautiful! I’ve made quite a few bralets at this point (which I keep giving to my kids) and I have all the stuff but keep chickening out of real ones. 😅 I think I need to suck it up and do foam bras, though. The fact is I haven’t worn an unpadded bra since I stopped breastfeeding. 😂 This is so gorgeous though—good luck on your next one!

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  11. I have made a few bras recently but I find the sewing really fiddly with lots of tiny pieces and tiny little seam allowances that take ages to sew, not my preferred type of sewing.

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    1. They are fiddly things, and I can totally understand that they are not everyone’s cup of tea! I quite like detailed work, so maybe bras suit my sewing personality!

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  12. I’ve used the same bra pattern and found that it runs small in the band, so your not alone. Your first bra looks fab! I have made a lot of bras and I am only now getting to the point in which I have nailed down the fit. Your bra already looks good at Number 1, where for me that was about Number 15! Even though I have had a long learning curve I feel bra making is a good thing and has made me a better sewer. I have all the Craftsy bra classes and find them to be very valuable, I have learned so much from them! Good Luck!

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    1. Thanks Shannon! I think anyone would be lucky to get a perfect fit first time around, with bras being such a fitted item and with all the variables involved. It is a fun learning curve though isn’t it?!

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