Red and Black: Bra Edition

In case you were wondering whether or not my bra obsession has subsided, it most definitely has NOT! I have several finished bras to share, and today you get two!

First up, I have another rendition of the Linda bra, a partial band design by Beverly Johnson. I had made this bra twice before with limited success – one was unwearable, and the other was good enough to wear but certainly not perfect. In this third version, I narrowed the bridge a tad, since it was too wide in my brown version, and also gave myself a little more length across the top of the cup.

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This is definitely my best version so far, but after comparing this bra to other finished versions of Beverly’s bras, I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps I’m making it a size too small in the first place. I’ve been sewing a 32A, since that most closely matches my measurements according to this pattern, but I usually make 32B (that’s the size I use for both the Watson and the Marlborough, and my usual RTW size). In fact, I was fitted for a bra recently, and they said I could even go up to a C (I’m highly skeptical). Since all of the other versions of this bra that I’ve seen have more breast coverage than mine, I’m wondering if I should approach the fit from the next size up. It may also be possible that partial bras just aren’t the best design for my chest structure.

The material I used were from a Bra Maker’s Supply kit, with additional lace from Britex. I decided give this bra a little more pizzaz, and even added some lace to the back closure:

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Because I can!

My next bra is another Watson bra, with undies to match. I continue to love this pattern, especially with the addition of foam padding. For this version, I used both foam padding and fold-over elastic for a very sleek, streamlined look. I’m really loving the result, and this has become my go-to “dark colors” bra.

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Adding the fold-over elastic required a few changes to the pattern – shaving off 1/4″ at the neck/underarm elastics and 1/2″ at the bottom band. I also used FOE for the straps, which required a little elastic gymnastics – I may end up trying to do a tutorial on this, if I can get myself organized enough!

For the foam padding, I used the same technique as last time, and this time added a little ribbon to the cross-cup seam for a nicer finish (it also feels smoother!).

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That’s all for now – more bras to come, though! Can’t stop a good addiction…

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Partial Band Bra with Partial Success

I know, I know, it’s been a million years since I last posted. I have no excuse. No, I take that back, I do: America’s Test Kitchen. All 15 seasons of the show. Bam. Hence the lack of blogging :P.

Ok, that’s not completely true; I’m also just not as jazzed about these latest bras as I have been with some of my others. I mentioned in my last post that the Marlborough bra is the best fitting underwire bra I’ve made, and today I have the other underwire bra to show you. I.e., the less successful one.

This is the Linda Bra by Beverly Johnson of Bra Makers Supply, her partial band pattern. Now, I should start out by saying that this bra was not less successful because this is a bad pattern – it’s a great pattern! I just had a harder time with fit because of my particular shape, and haven’t yet created a truly successful version.

I muslined it in two sizes, 32A and 32B, since that can vary from pattern to pattern, and neither fit perfectly. I decided to start with the 32A and alter from there. Initially, I took a bit out of the cup to alleviate the “bullet bra” effect and removed a bit of width from the top of the band. Here she is:

  

Now, I do really love this bra – the contrasting lace is so striking and lovely! But, alas, it’s unwearable. The cups are so tight across the top that they cut into the breast tissue and literally give me an extra set of boobs busting out the top. Not a good look. Sigh…

For version 2, I added about 1/2″ of length to the upper cup and also widened the bridge a bit. The cups fit much better this time, but now the bridge is too wide. Argh! But I’m definitely getting closer with this bra.

  
    

I do love lacey bras – they’re so gratifying to sew!

One thing I’ve realized in my bra making journey so far is that I have fairly wide-set breasts, so patterns with power bars tend to create a more flattering shape than those without. As a result, this bra still allows the breast tissue to “spread” a little more than I would like, while the power bar of the Marlborough gives a really nice shape. So now I’m toying with the idea of converting the Marlborough to a partial band using the method Beverly Johnson discusses in her mind-blowingly awesome second Craftsy class. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen this class and are at all interested in bra making, go watch it now) While I want to nail the fit with this bra, I’m wondering if it would save me some headaches to just alter a bra I already know works.  Any thoughts on that?

So, those are the latest bras! And I’ll give you a teaser about my next post (so you don’t stop reading my blog entirely out of boredom :P) – JEANS. Woot!

Marlborough, My Love

It’s been full-on bra fever in my sewing corner lately – I just can’t seem to stop! One can’t have *too* many bras, right? 😛 At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Anyhow, today I have yet another new bra style to share with you, the fantastic Marlborough Bra by Orange Lingerie. I’ll just go ahead and tell you now – this is my favorite bra pattern so far! It fits me the best of the underwire bras I’ve tried so far (more of those to come in another post), and the powerbar along the outer edges of the cup gives a nice lift and shape to my otherwise itsy bits.

So far I’ve made two, both using kits from Grey’s Fabric. A few people have noted that the Grey’s kits don’t give you real power mesh, but instead give a mid-weight mesh that doubles as the cup lining. For the black and beige kit, I simply swapped out my own black power mesh, but for the blue and white kit, I just doubled the mesh on the back band, and it worked great! So if you use one of their kits, or simply don’t have any power mesh on hand, I highly recommend using a double layer of lighter-weight fabrics for better stability.

Here they are!

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Before making these, I read all of Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr, who designed the Marlborough. It was a fairly quick read and gave a lot of great tips, such as how to make a bra muslin – something I will always do from now on with a new pattern! Instead of sewing up a complete bra with all the elastics and finishings, she has you baste together the pieces, using stabilizer where the elastics would go. This way, you have a better chance of salvaging a well-fitting bra even if the initial test doesn’t fit.

Fit-wise, I made a 32B. I started off by doing a “bridge test,” as Norma suggests in the book – you hold up the bridge piece between your breasts to see if it needs to be widened or narrowed. I widened the bottom of mine about 1/4″. I altered the cups by shaving off a tiny bit (1/8″ or less) from the inner cup seam to alleviate the “bullet boob” look and decrease the volume just a bit. I also added about 1/4″ to the bottom edge of the frame where it meets the band. It turns out I have a rather wide lower ribcage, so I need a little more circumference at the bottom.

The underwires were another interesting fitting bit. Since I made a 32B, I should be using a 32 WR size wire. However, since my ribcage is so wide at the bottom, my breast tissue is more spread out at the bottom of the cups, so I actually need a bigger wire – I ended up using a 36 WR for the first one, and a 38 WS for the second. Of course, I had to trim the wire quite a bit, since i don’t need the volume provided by a larger wire, just the shallower cup curve. Bra fitting is such an interesting topic – and not actually that hard, once you get into it!

On the beige bra, I also fully lined the cups with mesh. I skipped this on the white – I honestly kind of hate that step, and feel like it makes the bra take twice as long. Do any of you bra makers line all of your cups? I’m starting to find that I don’t really need to if I’m using duplex, but for lace, it’s usually a must.

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Support-wise, these are definitely beating out my Watsons for everyday use. It’s funny – I never thought I needed underwires until now, but they really do make a difference! For me, they provide shape more than support, since I’m a rather small size.

So, it’s definitely love-at-first-stitch with the Marlborough! There will be many more of these in my future :).

Fun with Soft Bras

As promised, here is a post with actual finished projects! Huzzah! Here I have two more soft bras to share with you – another Watson Bra and a new pattern, the Colette Florence from the February edition of Seamwork. Both used fun laces I purchased at Britex, and both were super fun and easy!

First off, the Florence. I think it’s important to note at the outset that this is a lounge bra, not a regular bra, so it’s not really something I would wear out of the house. It’s not designed to provide the support of a normal bra, and is meant to provide comfort with light support rather than a lot of shaping or lift. However, for days when I can prance around my living room in my skivvies, it’s perfect!

I made a straight size XS with basically no fit alterations aside from taking about an inch or so total out at the center back seam. This bra is made with stretch lace and stretch fabrics, so the fit is pretty forgiving. Since this is intended as a quick beginner pattern, it doesn’t take into account varying cup/band sizes, and instead just goes XS, S, M, etc (and not 32A, 32B, etc). Also, it is designed like a typical knit sewing pattern rather than like a bra pattern, meaning that it has 3/8″ seam allowances instead of 1/4″, and uses a different order of construction. I tried to get fancy and use my “special bra making skillz” (such applying the elastic flat, etc), but learned the hard way that you really should just follow the instructions! So, to all you seasoned bra-makers out there, this pattern is sort of a hybrid bra/regular sewing pattern, and not a “true bra.”

Here she is!

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Isn’t she a beauty? I even managed to match up the lace pattern at the center back seam without even trying – I love it when that happens!!

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The one construction change I made was to add clear elastic to stabilize the neck edge of the lace. I also added channeling, but not underwires. The pattern didn’t seem to have enough room at the center front for proper channeling treatment, so be warned. Or maybe I did it wrong – quite possible! I tried adding a mesh lining, but found that it interfered with the lace pattern, and since this isn’t intended to be a supportive bra anyhow, I decided to just leave it out. So, this bra is definitely “skimpier” than I’d normally like, but as I said, for lazy days around the house, it’s quite luxurious!

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And now for a bra I am extremely proud of – my padded Watson bra!! Adding padding completely solved the “show-through” issue I had discussed in my last two bra posts, and also provided a nice amount of shaping. I definitely plan on padding all of my Watsons from here on out!

So, how did I accomplish this seemingly mysterious feat? Well, it turns out it’s actually not that difficult! Amy from Cloth Habit and designer of the Watson Bra had actually done a series of posts about a year ago on adding foam cups to a bra, which I found extremely helpful. I also found an intrepid blogger that had already tried adding foam to the Watson, which I found quite helpful.

Basically, what I did was remove the seam allowances from the foam, except for where the cup meets the cradle, zig-zag the pieces of foam, and then make up the bra as usual. There were a few other minor construction details I had to change, but Amy talks in depth about those in her blog series, so I would highly recommend reading her posts if you’re interested in trying this.

I got the foam from Bra Makers Supply, which is definitely a new favorite resource! The current exchange rate with the Canadian dollar means that shopping there from the US is a really good deal!! Good thing a lot of my favorite pattern companies are Canadian :).

Oh, and here’s what it looks like:

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I really love the texture on this stretch lace – it has an almost 3-D effect:

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And since I’m sure you’re dying to see the guts:

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You can see that I added some fold-over elastic to the edge of the foam – I thought it provided a cleaner finish, and hopefully will also elongate the life of the foam cups.

So there you have it! Two new bras! And just wait – there’s more! But I’ll save those for another day :).

Watson Take Two: Fancy Pants Edition

Oof, I hinted at a second Watson post over two weeks ago – where has the time gone?? Sorry about that, y’all. I’ve been suffering from loss of blogging mojo and a little dip in sewjo. Excuses, I know :P. I have been working on a bit of secret sewing though, as well as a birthday dress, so there will be fun things to look forward to in the future! For now, though, the rest of my Watson bras (and another bikini!).

First off, I wanted to briefly mention fit. I think I said in my last post that I made a 32A for the bras, but for my latest one (the black and red from the previous post), I actually went a size up to 32B. I need to experiment further, but I think I like the bigger size a bit better. This could just be because I tend to have a rather heavy hand when stretching my elastics, though – time and experience will tell! Also, on the subject of fit, I have now actually worn the panties a few times and am happy to report that they are some of the most comfortable undies I’ve ever worn. Win!

So, now for the rest of my makes. First off, I have another set of bra/undies to show off, this time in purple bamboo! I really love working with bamboo, especially for lingerie. It’s just so buttery and soft, yet keeps it’s shape quite nicely. (And a note on the materials for my previous bras – they were all made with man-made fibers, either polyester or nylon/Lycra. Just FYI) This is probably my favorite pair so far!

I chose to line the cups on this one, which I’m liking more and more. I managed to enclose the cup seam by sandwiching it between the mesh lining and the bamboo fabric. I learned the technique from Maddie in the lingerie video she did for The Sewing Party, but now that the event is over I’m not sure how to reference that method. But it’s a great one! Here are some pics of the innards, though it’s almost impossible to see anything from these pics (apologies!).

And of course, I’ve saved the best for last – my longline lace bra! I’m really quite proud of this one, and feel very fancy wearing it.

 

Isn’t she a beauty?? I used Amy’s tutorial on cutting scalloped lace, and it worked beautiful. The only thing I’m a bit unhappy with is that I pulled the clear elastic too right across the top of the cup, as you can see in the photos, so the lace buckles a bit. Oh well, next time maybe I’ll get it right! Still proud of it, though.

So, those are my bras! I’m taking a pause from bra making while I figure out how to deal with the whole wearing-unpadded-bras-to-work thing. I got some thoughtful responses on my last post about that, saying that in certain work environments it’s really not acceptable. I’m wondering about simply adding some light foam padding – one blogger tried that here. Hmmmm…

Hooray for me-made undies!!

Valentine’s Surprise!

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! I hope you are able to spend some quality time with the folks you love today :). I’ve got some awesome cooking plans for me and my man, so I’m pretty pumped! Oh, and in the spirit of the day, I thought I’d show y’all my underwear ;).

That’s right, it’s happened, my friends. I have finally fallen down the lingerie-making rabbit hole. With what seems to be the entire sewing blogger community stitching up their own intimates, I decided it was high time I joined the fray!

I still remember the first time I thought about sewing bras. A little less than a year ago, Tasia at Sewaholic posted about her experience taking a bra making class, and showed off her lovely first makes. I remember thinking, “oh, that’s cool, but I’ll totally never do that.” But then she kept posting her gorgeous makes. Then I discovered that Madalynne was doing it too. Then pretty much the whole sewing community jumped in when the Cloth Habit Watson Bra pattern came out, and I was that one awkward kid standing alone at the edge of the pool while everyone else was already having fun. MY TURN.

So now here I am, five bras older and wiser. So far I’ve just been working with the Watson Bra pattern, but have plans to branch out soon. I had wanted to start out with one of the fun kits by Grey’s Fabric or Blackbird Fabrics, but they were both sadly sold out at the time I got the pattern, so I decided to be adventurous and get my own supplies. It turns out Britex has a lot of bra making materials, so I was able to get everything I needed there. I’m actually kind of glad I had to figure it out on my own – I already feel like I have a better handle on the whole bra making process after spending the time figuring out materials.

My store-bought bra size has always been a 32B, but when I measured myself according to Amy’s instructions, I was more like a 32A, so I went ahead with the smaller size. The nice thing about bras is that they’re fast and don’t require a ton of fabric, so you can always make another one! I made my first attempt out of a random scrap of knit fabric and some swimsuit lining (I quickly discovered that I had gotten the wrong kind of lining on my first trip to Britex – oops!), and was actually quite pleased with the result.

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The only fitting issue I noticed was that the band was a tad tight, so I added 1/4″ to the back band piece. However, the band relaxed a bit the more I wore it, so now in retrospect that probably wasn’t even necessary. One thing I wasn’t so fond of in that first bra (and is an issue I’m still trying to figure out – any input is appreciated!), and please excuse my bluntness here, was that it didn’t really disguise when things got a bit chilly, if y’all catch my drift. Now, I’m not sure if this is really a problem or not – it’s just not something I’m used to, having worn super padded bras most of my life. What are your opinions on this – is it considered unprofessional to show up to work in a soft bra like that, or is it no problem? My husband thought it was fine, but, well…

So for bra #2 I tried adding lining to the cup as well as the cradle. This didn’t entirely fix the issue, but I did like the feeling of being slightly more “covered.”

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…and I made matching undies!

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I’ve literally never cared about owning matching lingerie sets before in my life, and now all of a sudden, I want to make ALL THE MATCHING SETS. In fact, I never really cared about my lingerie in any respect before now, and the only time I willingly entered Victoria’s Secret was to shop for appropriate wedding undergarments :P.

Anyhow, more details:

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So, of course, after two bras, I was just getting started. Ha. To avoid overwhelming you with too much more info in one post, I’ll save most of the rest for later. But since it’s Valentine’s Day and all that, I thought it’d be fun to show off my lingerie for the occasion :).

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Rawr!