Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Completed: My First Homemade Bra

I've decided that this is the summer to conquer many of my sewing fears. Knits? Check. Bras? Check. Pants? Up next!

I've been curious about bra-making for a while now. It's always been really difficult to find bras that fit me well, since I have such a small ribcage.

I've been following Tasia and Caroline's posts about bra-making for a while, and finally, I decided that it was time to jump in and give it a go!

This is the Classic Bra from Pin-Up Girls, a basic and beginner-friendly bra pattern. I used a bra kit from Bra-Makers Supply, in beige. The kit comes with duoplex for the cups, bridge, and straps; power net for the back; and all the elastic, strapping, and other notions you need, except for wires. At $28, that's a pretty good deal for a bra, considering I usually pay $100 or more for one in my size!

I used the wire charts on Bra-Makers Supply's website to figure out what size wires to order. I printed out the chart and cut out along a couple different sizes, then held them up to see what size and shape seemed to fit. I ended up ordering a size 34, which fit perfectly!

I also ordered one of the books available from Bra-Makers Supply called Make & Fit Your Own Bra. I figured that it would be a useful resource for fitting problems and other patterns that don't have instructions as detailed as the Pin-Up Girls patterns. It was somewhat helpful, but I probably could have managed without. The order of construction in the book was a little different, but a lot of the instructions were exactly the same. The book does have more tips along the way and information on fitting, but I'm not entirely sure it was worth the extra $30. 

Once I had bought the pattern, the book, the kit, the wires, and some lace, it ended up not being cheaper than buying a bra - my total was about $130, including shipping, which was $15. However, I'll be able to use the pattern and the book again, and I have enough fabric left over for at least one more bra, if I buy the elastics and whatnot that I need. Now that I've bought the basics, it will be much cheaper to make more.

I found it a little funny that in both the pattern and the book, the method of choosing your size is the standard one where you measure your ribcage and your bust, which is apparently only accurate about half the time. (Come to think of it though, I've never heard of another way.) In my case, it's definitely not accurate. According to my measurements, I should be wearing a size 30B, when the bras I'm currently wearing are 28E, and they're a little too big in the band.

The smallest band size in this pattern is 30, so I cut a 30D and shortened the band by 2" to make it a 28E. I wasn't sure that this would be the right size, because my current bras are a little big in the cup, but I figured that it would be a good starting point.

I opted not to make any sort of muslin, and instead made the first bra expecting it not to be perfect, but a starting point. 

Cutting out this fabric is hard! It's super slippery, and the blade in my rotary cutter was pretty dull so I had a hard time cutting it. After cutting the first piece, I stopped cutting the pieces on the fold to stop them slipping around. It's the kind of fabric that I would usually avoid at all costs (100% polyester, slippery, and tough to sew through), but it does make a really nice bra.

It only took me an afternoon to put the bra together! I didn't have the right colour thread, so used an off-white for the seams and a slightly darker beige topstitching thread for the topstitching. It has a bit of a shine, which looks really nice, although it was a pain to keep switching thread all the time.

For the most part, I followed the instructions that came with the pattern, and used the tips from the book, but when it came to putting the wires in, I used the method in the book. The pattern says to leave the casing open at the underarm, insert them right at the end, and then close it with a bar tack, but the book says to leave it open at the centre. The method in the book encloses the edge of the wire casing in the elastic for a smoother finish, so I did that instead. I sewed the bar tack at the underarm through the outer fabric by accident, though, rather than just through the casing. Oops! It doesn't look too bad, though, and if I had followed the pattern instructions, there would have been a bar tack there anyways.

I'm not sure if this was because I strayed from the instructions or not, but I had trouble sewing the elastic at the centre where the wire casings are closed. I made this so long ago that I can't quite remember what happened, but I fixed it with some hand sewing. Next time, I might follow the pattern's instructions and see if I have the same problem.

I also found that the bottom bridge wasn't quite long enough, so the stitching was a little strained when I flipped the elastic to the wrong side. I think my stitching may have been not quite at the 1/4" seam allowance, but I might add a little next time anyways.

I used just over half of the strapping, since I find that straps are always too long on me. I really should have used lighter thread while sewing on the strap, but I don't feel like changing it.

Other than that, this went together really smoothly! I'm quite impressed with how professional it looks, aside from the rather dodgy stitching at the hook. I added the lace by zigzagging the edges on the cup pieces before I sewed the cups. Next time, I might add it after the cups have been sewn and cover a bit more of the cups with it, but that will be a little harder to sew. I wanted to keep it simple this time, but I love how the lace looks.

Enough about construction... does it fit?

Yes, but not perfectly. The usual fitting issue with me is that the cup is just a teeny bit too deep in the cup, but too low cut, making it look a little small. It's perfectly wearable though, and very comfortable! I'll try to fix the fitting issues in my next version, but this is a great starting point.

For my next version, I'll use the same fabric because I have lots left over, and I'll just order some more notions to match. I might try lining it in foam, because I'm not super fond of the fabric-only cups. I've never (except for once when I was 14) worn bras with lots of padding or push-up bras, but I like to have a little bit more coverage than just fabric. 

I think I'm hooked on bra-making, though. It's great to be able to make something so practical in an afternoon! I only wish that I could buy the supplies without ordering them online. I tried Dressew, but it was really hard to get all the notions to coordinate, and I don't know enough about bra-making (yet) to pick fabrics that will work.

What about you? Have you ever made a bra? Would you?