At the beginning of this year I delved into bramaking for the first time, and even though I’ve been sewing since I was young, and actually design and make clothes for a living, that experience counted for little when it came to making a bra! Let’s just say that the quick-unpick remains my best investment ever.
To save you some of the pain of unpicking those tiny zig-zag stitches multiple times, I thought I’d share some of the things I learnt along the way – big, small, obvious and not-so-obvious – so you don’t have to waste the amount of time I did!
Get to know all the different zig-zag stitches you will be using and practise on a remnant before you start. Note down your favoured stitch length and width, or use your sewing machines memory to do so. As you will be switching back and forth between different stitches often, this ensures your results are consistent. Guess who didn’t do this but wishes they did?!
I didn’t realise this before, but underwire channelling curves naturally one way and not the other, so you need to make sure it corresponds with the curve of the underwire.
It is not immediately obvious, and was only due to the sewing instructions in the Boylston Bra pattern that I realised this – thankfully I was following them!
Planning is paramount. There are lots of bits and pieces in a bra and many individual components to source, not to mention the various different colours and sizes of each one – I needed to write a list to get my head around it all!
It is also handy to gather everything you need before you start. I had to stop mid-way in my project and order extra trims, and the wait was frustrating!
With all those tiny frame and cup pieces, accuracy is really important. Normally I cut with gigantic tailors shears, but for cutting out a bra I found it useful to lay up the lace and lining together and cut them with a rotary cutter so they are exactly the same shape.
My rotary cutter is a bit tricky rolling smoothly around tight curves though, is a smaller one easier for this?
Buy enough materials for two bras. Sorry to say this, but your first one may not fit! Even if you make a mock up, it is hard to gauge bra fit accurately until that final hook and eye is attached. However once you have accurately assessed the fit of your first attempt and made the necessary alterations, your second attempt will be spot on – and you’ll have the construction process nailed too!
Bras are fantastic for using up remnants. You will never look at a scrap of lace or silk the same way again, as it could one day be useful in your new favourite hobby. The same thing goes for lingerie that is past its use-by date – the bows, underwires, hook and eye, rings and sliders suddenly switch from rubbish to reusable components. Start planning a bigger storage space now!
Bra sizing is a little weird. There appears to be two different sizing systems that give two different results, and one makes far more sense to me than the other. Taking your measurement, rounding up to the nearest inch and then adding another 4-5″ doesn’t sound very accurate to me. Clearly I need to study this area further – or maybe it is me that is weird!
Watch out – subbing a 2 column hook and eye unit when a 3 column one is specified makes your band too small, as I soon learned:
I should have known this, but I did it anyway!
Don’t forget undies! You’ll need a pair or two of matching underpants to team with your fancy new bra so it doesn’t become an orphan in your lingerie drawer. Remember to buy supplies for them at the same time so you don’t miss out that exclusive lace! I think it’s a good idea to make a couple of different styles (bikini, boy leg, high waisted…) so you have options for whatever outfit you are wearing.
My tenth tip is actually a community warning to all sewing folk out there – bra making is addictive. I’ve made several lingerie sets already this year. I can’t look past a scrap of lace or satin and wonder if I could squeeze a bra out of it. I can’t wait until a certain favourite bra expires and I can steal the bow off it. I walk into lingerie stores and think: nah, I can make that 🙂 The rest of my wardrobe might be in tatters, but at least my lingerie drawer isn’t!
If you have made it this far, you are obviously in the lingerie making club. If you are a seasoned bramaker, I guess you had a chuckle at some of my mistakes! Have you done the same things yourself? I’d love to hear your opinion on the various bra sizing methods too. And if you are a beginner, I hope I’ve saved you some time with your quick-unpick!
And one last quick question – should I invest in a smaller rotary cutter? What size do you use?
Cheers – Sheryll