Tag Archives: Bra Making

Bramaking Part Four – Copying something that works

From January 2010

It seems fairly obvious that Elan #511 isn’t going to work for me right out of the envelope. Adjustments will have to be made, but what exactly is wrong?

Sounds kinda lame, eh? Not knowing where to modify a pattern (that’s obviously too small) to make it fit. I like to think my brain is as good as anybody’s, but the answer had me stumped for awhile.The only solution seemed to be to take my RTW bra apart and compare it to the pattern. Not wanting to destroy a perfectly good (and well fitting, if a bit worn) bra, I did what I thought was a clever thing using my ironing board and a bunch of pins.
First, I made a small slit in the channeling at the side of one cup to remove the underwire. Surprise! The shape of the RTW wire and the new wire is quite a bit different (RTW wire above) –
I have no idea if the RTW wire was perfectly round when I bought it and the wire has changed shape to fit my body or if it started out that way. Time will tell because I can’t get the new wire to bend into the same shape – those little buggers are tough!
Once the wire was removed I laid a piece of pattern tracing paper on the ironing board and got to work with the pins –


I applied pins until the piece laid flat (lower cup shown here) and then traced as best I could. I didn’t worry about making perfectly smooth lines – a French curve evened things out after the main shapes were done.

I traced each part of the bra in this way and ended up with the following pieces (new pattern in green, Elan #511 in white, 1/4″ seam allowances added on all around) –

Quite a difference on the band (upper left.) It seems made to the shape of The Famous Downward Hike.

The lower cup is larger on my RTW bra (upper middle) and the upper cup is shaped totally differently than the pattern (lower middle.) Upon close inspection the RTW model has an extra piece (far right) that goes here –

which totally changes the angle of the strap.
All in all a very interesting comparison exercise. Update to follow when the new model is complete!

Bra Making Part Three – the First Attempt

From January 2010

Or, Elan #511 Right Out of the Envelope.

Elan #511 is a partial band bra, meaning that the band connects to the cups on either side and does not go all the way around. The center front connects with a “bridge” of fabric and it hooks in the back.

As I mentioned before, I had high hopes for this pattern. I traced the pieces onto pattern paper and then laid them against a well-fitting RTW bra of the same style and the match seemed to be pretty good. I would later learn that “pretty close” is miles off when speaking about bra fitting.

Now, what fabric to use? The kit from Sew Sassy has everything necessary (except the pattern) but looking through my Unmentionables Stash I discovered that I had some nicer, thicker stretch lace, and the tricot seemed a bit thin and flimsy so I decided to try some of this recycled vintage kimono silk that has been in the stash for a couple of years –

So many options!
::No, I am not capable of sewing or knitting anything straight from a pattern, no matter how well written or reviewed – I’m just not wired that way and while it does cause some sewing/knitting failures, in general I’m usually quite pleased with the changes I make::
::Also, there’s nothing wrong with the fabrics in Sew Sassy’s bra kits. In fact, if you compare the fabrics to your high-end RTW bra, they are exactly the same. I just have this notion that thicker fabrics will wear better and last longer and if they’re already in the stash anyway, why not use them?::
It actually took longer to decide how to cut the silk than it took to sew the entire bra together! The fabric has no repeat and in the end I settled for “sim-to” cutting both lower cups more or less on the bias and more or less matching in color if not pattern because, really, how hard am I making this little project?
The lace, tricot (for lining the silk) powernet, etc. cut out quickly and I went to work. The pattern is well written, with lots of pictures. The bridge is confusing and I knew it wouldn’t work for me so I copied the basic size and shape of the bridge of my RTW model and winged it. It turned out perfect.

:Sommerset has a very detailed tutorial so I didn’t bother with pictures, just got to the sewing::

The Critical Moment arrived and I tried my new creation on. Sigh. The fit is Not Quite Right. The band is too short and narrow, the straps are in slightly the wrong place. The whole thing feels rather flimsy for a woman of my, er, maturity. A younger, firmer woman would find this bra fit just fine, I suspect, but I need a bit more support and this leads me off into uncharted territory.
Here’s the finished article –
Please pardon the lackluster staging – it’s too small to fit my dress form without a bunch of adjustments and there’s no way I’ll pose for this project!

I didn’t bother to do the final hand finishing once it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work. It was a great lesson in bra construction and the differences between fabrics and very basic shapes. While it is very similar to my RTW bra, there are a few key differences which I’ll detail in my next Bra making post. I will not be defeated by such a simple little bit of fabric!

Bra Making Part Two – Materials

From January 2010.

First on the Materials List for making a bra is the pattern. There aren’t all that many to choose from, as a Google search will tell you. I chose to go to Sew Sassy Fabrics since they came up in the most searches and I chose Elan #511 as my first test pattern. The pattern comes in many sizes and my copy is printed on thick paper (newer patterns are on the usual thin paper,) making it necessary to trace out your size – a good practice to use for any pattern that you may use again. The instructions are pretty well written, but they do assume that you know a bit about sewing and that you’ve worked with stretch materials.

Being unfamiliar with lingerie fabrics in general I also ordered a bra kit so that I could get a good idea of quantities of fabric and notions as well as exactly what kind of fabrics would work best. Small amounts of scalloped stretch lace, tricot, spandex, and channeling make up the fabric parts of the bra, while plush elastic is needed to go all around and elastic straps which you can buy assembled or as parts (elastic, slider and rings.) Also needed is a back closure and underwires. $10.00 for a kit is a very reasonable price to pay, IMHO, for this little experiment.

After cutting out the bra in my size it became clear that the kit came with enough fabric to make several bras. Obviously there was only one set of notions (channeling, hook closures, strap assemblies, elastic, wires) so I ordered enough additional notions to make a few more bras. In for a penny, in for a pound. Problem was, I ordered a kit with black fabric, so I had to round out my order with an equal amount of fittings/fabric/elastic in white and nude to balance out what I picture as my perfect bra wardrobe. I may have lost my mind just a little. For a brief moment. I might also have picked up some dye, but that’s another post.

There are a few reviews of Elan 511 on PatternReview but they vary so widely that I felt I couldn’t trust them and went looking elsewhere for info. Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a tutorial for this very pattern at Hooks and Wires, a blog written by the very popular Sommerset of Pins and Needles. Step by step instructions along with a couple of warnings about the pattern. What could be better?

:: Sommerset also offers hand dyed bra kits for sale in her Etsy store :: 

I also found this page with links to lingerie tutorials by some big internet blogging talent. All of my questions were answered and the only thing that remained was to get cutting and sewing up a prototype to see just how close the pattern would come to fitting ME right out of the envelope. I had high hopes, I tell ya, high hopes.

Bra Making Part One – Why Bother?

From January 2010. I plan to get this project back on track in the very near future.

A few years ago, at my Sis’s urging, I had a bra fitting at Nordstrom’s where she works. It changed my life. Really. No, seriously! If you haven’t, you should, I’m telling you. (The girl was really nice and it wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be.)

Spend the big money to buy a really nice bra that fits Just Right. Make sure it has a seam on the cup. Take it home and wear it until you realize that cheap, ill fitting bras are just not worth it – they pinch and wear out after only a few washings and the fabrics are nasty, etc. etc. etc.

After a certain amount of time, even with loving care, your bra will start to look a bit worn and you’ll begin to think about replacing it. Then you’ll remember just how much you paid for what is essentially 2 flat wires and about 3 ounces of thin, stretchy fabric.

If you sew, take a good look at your bra. The construction doesn’t look complicated, does it? If you’re like me, you will start thinking about how little fabric it would take to make one yourself, and about the stash of silks you’ve hidden away for Something Special, and how it can’t possibly be that hard and before you know it you’ve started spending money to gather the supplies to make your own bra. Remember how much you paid for that perfect bra? You’ll save a bundle making  your own! Or is that just me?

I found a pattern at Sew Sassy Fabrics. They sell kits, patterns and all the fabrics and findings you need to make your own bra (and other lingerie, too,) all very nicely priced – a fraction of what you’ll pay for a new bra, I assure you. Shipping is reasonable and fast, too. NAYY, I just really like the service.

Gather your materials and follow along on my quest for the Perfect Bra. Or just sit back and watch what might turn out to be an interesting train wreck. Whatever.