Sewing adventures: making a bra

I love Lingerie, from a simple cotton set to silk and intricate lace I love it all. So naturally once I conquered making my own knickers I wasn’t going to sit around with a drawer full of non matching sets (the horror! ha ha).

For a few months I’ve been gathering supplies. Foam for the cups, elastics, channeling for underwires and other bits and pieces. They’ve been sitting in a tub mocking me. Why mocking? because I kept putting it off. Too often we read/hear/get told that sewing is hard and certain things like lingerie are held up with this mystique of being difficult. For some silly reason I got spooked and didn’t want to start. Obviously I got over that and just got on with it.

The actual sewing of a bra is not that hard or difficult. If you can use a zig zag and a straight stitch you can do it. What is hard is getting the fit right. Due to my love of lingerie I own um…quite a lot of it. So I’ve been putting aside the ones that are starting to show signs of wear but haven’t completely disintegrated yet. These not quite dead bras (zombie bra’s if you will) have been photographed and then unpicked.

By photographing them I know what they are meant to look like when I reassemble but it also gives me a stitch template to follow. When to use straight stitch, when to use a zig zag. This is super helpful as you end up with lots of very small pieces and putting them together is a bit like a jigsaw so a visual guide is a saving grace.

Once unpicked I’ve been creating a pattern from them and this bra is the first toile I’ve made up from one of my zombie bras. I managed to re use the underwires, the hook and eyes and the straps from the original as well. That was a nice added bonus after all the unpicking.

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My lovely model as you can see, doesn’t quite fill out the cups. I do and the fit isn’t too bad for this style of rather simple bra. With only a few very minor tweaks it will be identical in fit to the original purchased bra before it started to wear.

The back needs a bit of an adjustment as it’s come out quite rounded from the strap placement down to the hook and eye. It’s not bad or wrong so much as it can be improved and so it will be.

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Where the front cup meets the strap it could do with a bar tack for extra strength.

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The original bra had molded cups, these aren’t always available and I can find the shape a little bit bullet bra for my liking. So I’ve purchased bra foam. It comes by the metre and is far far cheaper than buying individual molded cups. To take this into account I cut the original molded cup into 3 pieces, cut them flat from the foam and then zig zag seam them back together again. You can faintly see it through the mesh here. It worked really well sewing wise and I can’t wait to see how it wears as I feel like it could be a really good solution for when you can’t get cups or don’t like the shape they create.

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If you are looking to make your own underwire bras this is a great way to start for a few reasons
– you know the original bra fits. I should mention if you are going to unpick one try not to do it to one that is totally wrecked. It’s very hard to take a pattern off pieces that have stretched and warped. To the point where a wrecked bra would actually make it more difficult. While a new bra is a bit expensive to rip apart it is a good start point, or do what I do and go for one that is gently worn and be sure to allow for this when making your template pattern from it.
– the unpicking process gives you the reverse order of assembly so take notes and photographs to help with the sewing steps
– you can salvage hardware
– it’s a cheap way to see if you like making bras

23 Comment

  1. Fabric Tragic says:

    You’re so clever – it’s amazing. Bra making isn’t on my sewing radar but I’m hugely impressed by what others get up to with them!

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      Aw thanks! Until this year bras and knickers weren’t on my radar either. Then I looked at how much money I spent on them and I needed a bit of a sewing challenge and well that’s how I got here.

  2. Emma says:

    Great work Susan – love everything about this and your stitching is amazingly straight!!

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      Thank you! I’m so happy I just got on with it and tried the toile, it’s such a good way to work out the kinks in the sewing process and now I’m ready to try another one.

  3. O. Jolly says:

    Really great job! I was wondering if your mesh was enough to hide the seams, if you’re wearing a t-shirt, for instance. I’ve been considering sewing a bra too. The patterns I see never provide a top layer to cover the seams. I really like your treatment.

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      Thank you! I’ve just put it on and tried a few t-shirts. Under most of them you can tell I’m wearing a bra but you can’t see the bra itself. On one very tight (too tight actually) you can see the top line of the cup against my body but that’s it.
      My guess would be that this lightweight mesh may show up under some t-shirts but if you used a lightweight lycra blend or a stretch jersey then it would cover the seams more and not show up at all?

      1. O. Jolly says:

        Thanks. Just what I needed to know. 🙂

  4. Amanda says:

    Oh wow! Your stitching is crazy neat and impressive- this slapdash sewist is in awe!
    I love the idea of making your own bras but I have enough trouble buying ones to fit my weird size that thought of making them is stressful. Looking forward to seeing what pieces you make- I shall be inspired!

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      bwhaha oh this is me being slapdash as it’s only a toile!I was taking my time to make sure everything fitted back together correctly though so thank you for the lovely compliment.

      I’ve got some ideas on how to show some of steps to take the stress and fear out of the making as it really isn’t difficult just need patience and many cups of tea.

  5. Melanie says:

    Va va voom – what a clever lady you are! I cannot believe you had any doubt in your sewing abilities. I think you can do anything!

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      I guess we all have our own weird little doubts and quirks. Am glad I conquered this one!

  6. it looks great! really nice to see a bra that’s not super sheer and lacy – that’s the style i tend to wear but i don’t see a lot of people sewing them. maybe it’s not that interesting to blog about. hope the real version goes as well!

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      Thanks! I kept looking for a kit that was like the type of bra I buy and wear but they were all totally different to what I like. Even the shapes were totally different, by making my own I can choose my own shapes and colours which is far easier!

  7. Jodie says:

    Great post! I think I need to do this and make some of my own matching sets. Really thoughtful and detailed, I’ll save this post to come back to when I’m ready.

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      Thanks! am glad it is of help to people. It’s the kind of thing I was looking for to get myself started so it’s great it’s a start point for others.

  8. Liz says:

    Wow – I am (almost) inspired to give it a go. I do have a few that I could hack to trace patterns off. The cups fit, but the back is too tight, easy fixed I guess. Hmmmm…now to find the time. So many plans, so little time!

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      am so glad it inspired you! oh and if only we all had unlimited time to make all our plans come to action, how good would that be?

  9. […] up grab a bra you like the fit of but is looking a little worse for wear. In my last bra post I referred to these as zombie bras, as in not quite dead. You want one that still retains the […]

  10. Alex says:

    Wow – your bra looks amazing and I love the stripes! My gripe is finding good supportive bras without underwire. I’m on a mission to replace all my underwired bras at the moment!

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      I’m working on something that may help as a casual bra? I actually found some super cute non wired Berlei? bras. I got one for a plane trip and I really liked it. Mine is grey spots with neon orange trim!

      1. Alex says:

        I’ll have to check out the berlei ones – grey and orange neon sounds adorable!

  11. Catherine says:

    holy crap youre amazing! pants still scare me and here you are with your zombie bras! it looks really cute! And bummer about the bra cups. i like a soft cup-less bra so i probably would be able to skip the padding, but making bras is a long way away for me!

    1. Susan Goodwin says:

      ha! aw thanks!

      That’s what I love about sewing, the more you learn the more there is to learn and there is no rush you just take it all as a natural progression. So fun and a great way to learn.

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