2 April 2014

Lingerie: Making a bra block

I was going to leave a post about making a bra until I had a finished bra to show, but my journey to get to a finished bra is half the fun (or agony as the case may be)!

I have been wanting to make my own bras for years, but for one reason or another have kept putting it off. As I mentioned a week or so ago, I have been accumulating supplies since late last year, and thought I was pretty much ready to go. I had a plan. I was going to unpick an existing bra, and use molded bra cups (I already had some for putting in dresses) and stretch fabric and whip up a few bras. I haven't gotten around to buying a book on bra making yet, but thought I'd have a look around the internet first to see if the book I had chosen was the most appropriate for my needs.

In the meantime, I came across an online resource for making your own bra block, and I found a bra making sewalong from early last year to help me out. I got so excited, I wanted to get started straight away.

I busily set to work making my own bra block to my measurements. If you've ever thought of making your own bra block, most of this is pretty straightforward to follow. The man behind this tutorial is Stuart Anderson, who is a wealth of knowledge in corsetry and lingerie. Even where the instructions were a little vague, I just sort of made it up based on the illustration provided. I figured once I put it together and did a fitting it would all change anyway. Which it did.

Bra Band Block
Bra Cup block and traced onto calico
Does the right size mean the right fit, the right style, or the most comfortable bra though? Probably not. That's why I'm on this mission. Although I have found a style of bra that fits well and is (for the most part) comfortable, there are things about them that I don't like. I don't like where the straps go, I don't like how flimsy the front part of the strap is, or the fact that it has a bit of lace sticking out of it.

I had not yet finished my bra block when I read through the whole of the bra making sewlong run by Cloth Habit. Not really knowing where to start with the sewing, the sewalong left me feeling both more confident (in my ability to actually sew the thing together), and more bewildered at where to start. My plans of starting with a stretch fabric over a bra cup have gone out the window. If I want to learn how to do this properly, I should really start simple with a soft cup bra (not that I'm a fan of them, the last time I wore a soft cup bra was whilst breast feeding more than 4 years ago) using a stable fabric for the bra cups, and work my way up to working with any kind of cup insert. Of course I've also decided to use the same fabric for the whole bra, which will mean a woven fabric for the band - the hardest option.

The first few posts of the sewalong really helped me work out what I need to do to have a working pattern. It's all well and good to have a block that fits, but my first task was to turn that into an actual pattern. This post outlines what you need for seam allowances, and that extra bit of space you need at the end of the wires for wiggle room! I hadn't even thought of that!

I also realised that I probably don't have all of the supplies that I need yet though. I don't have any tricot, which will kind of come in handy for lining bras with, and I really need to get my hands on some more powernet. I only have a small piece, if I'm lucky there'll be enough for one bra.

So here's my first effort at bra making: a calico bra! I made this straight from the block to see how it would fit before making any kind of styled pattern.

My first thoughts as I tried it on: what was I thinking? How is this ill fitting piece of calico ever going to turn into a bra?

Of course it needed a bit of tweaking - another setback that made me wonder why I was making my own patterns instead of just buying something! The back band was about 3cm too long, and when I re-measured my underbust, of course the measurement came out smaller. Every time I take it it's different! I also needed to take a sliver out of the band just next to the underwire under the arm, and took out a slice from across the bra cup to minimise gaping across the top of the cup.

Rather than mope about the whole thing, and worry that it won't work, I just need to keep going. I'm going to use some of the fabrics that I was given recently for my first effort at an actual bra. I've had a hunt through my interfacing scraps to use for the bridge/cradle, and I'll leave the back band unlined.

I'll post my first efforts for you in a few days.

Edit: The instructions that I followed here for making your own bra pattern are no longer available online. Sorry to anyone that has tried to look at them from my link.


  1. I loved this post, Andrea. My only suggestion to stop the gaping at the top of the bra is to use a stay strip. One of the patterns I've been playing with does this - it's just a piece of triple folded tricot, a bit smaller than the top of the bra, stitched just under the top edge. It does pull it in a bit and doesn't show when worn. Not the most elegant solution, so you might work out something better.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Sue. I have yet to buy any tricot, but I may have some in the fabric that I was given.