This is the first of a series of posts I'm going to be sharing on the subject of bra making. I've only ever made one bralette and it was a disaster! So these posts will probably be filled with fitting issues, sewing mistakes and links to any tutorials I find as I work my way through a list of bra patterns, starting with sports bras and bralettes and moving on to underwired bras and bikinis. My hope is that they will be useful to anyone else who is thinking of venturing into bra making.
To prevent myself from abandoning projects when they start to go wrong, I'm going to publish a post when I start each bra and update it weekly with my progress. Hopefully this will also remind me to take more progress pictures and notes along the way.
First up is a sports bra...
The first pattern on the list is the Mighty Sports Bra by Evie la Luve. It's available in sizes 2XS-3XL (30-45″ chest measurement). This is a relatively small size range so if you're looking for a similar pattern for a larger chest measurement, I recommend the Simplicity 8339 (or the Simplicity 8560 if you're looking for something more supportive). This pattern is available in sizes 30A-44G and back view A looks very similar to the version I'm making in this post.
My chest measurement is 35″ which makes me a size S for this pattern but I cut out a size M instead because I need to be able to get it over my shoulders to put it on. I bought enough fabric to make a couple of toiles so I can experiment with the fit.
Fabric and Notions
The pattern recommends fabrics with 20-30% stretch such as spandex or scuba. I'm using this floral polyester lycra fabric (flex) from funkifabrics, a plain black scuba from my stash (this is available from most fabric shops) and some black powermesh for the back.
If you're not sure what the stretch percentage of your fabric is, cut out a 10 cm square, fold it in half horizontally (along the crosswise grain) and lay it parallel to a ruler. Holding the left side of the fabric at zero, gently stretch out the right side of the fabric and take note of the measurement.
If your fabric stretches to 12 cm it has 20% stretch, 13 cm and it has 30% stretch, etc.
I cut out the toile pieces using dressmaking scissors but I've ordered some new rotary cutter blades for the final version. This will allow me to use pattern weights instead of pins so I can cut the pieces with more precision. This will be particularly important when I move on to more advanced bra patterns which use woven fabrics and have smaller seam allowances.
I also cut 2.2 metres of 15 mm fold over elastic and 63 cm of wide elastic for the band. I'm making the version with a back closure so I can adjust it for a more comfortable fit.
The pattern recommends two pieces of scuba for the front for extra support. I used an additional third layer of floral Lycra/spandex instead of the optional mesh overlay. Before I began to follow the pattern instructions, I basted the floral fabric to one of the scuba pieces so they could be treated as one piece.
I used Clover Wonder Clips to hold the layers together so I didn’t damage the fabric. You can also use ballpoint pins for knit fabrics but I know if I bought any they’d just end up getting mixed in with my other pins. Plus, these little clips are great for holding together multiple layers of denim, leather or thick coat fabrics.
The spandex fabric shifted a lot as I fed it through the sewing machine so next time I’ll try using a temporary spray adhesive to attach it to the scuba.
I initially used a jersey needle to sew the pieces together but it kept skipping stitches so I switched to a super stretch needle which solved the problem. I also used a walking foot so both layers of fabric were fed evenly through the machine to prevent the top layer from being stretched.
What to do if your sewing machine is skipping stitches
If you’re seeing skipped stitches, check the following:
- Are you using the correct needle type? Use ballpoint needles for knits and universal needles for woven fabrics. There are special types of needle for sewing denim, leather and super stretchy fabrics and Microtex needles (sharps) are great for sewing tightly woven fabrics that pucker easily such as crepe. You can also buy special needles for topstitching thread.
- Are you using the correct needle size? Use a lower number for lightweight fabrics such as viscose challis and chiffon and a higher number for heavyweight fabrics such as denim and wool.
- Is your machine threaded correctly? Rethread the machine to ensure the thread goes over the take-up lever (that metal bit at the top of your sewing machine that moves up and down as you sew). Also rethread the bobbin and gently pull the thread to check it's feeding through properly.
- Are you using high quality thread? Cheap thread can cause tension problems and damage your machine. I recommend using Gutermann Sew-All polyester thread.
- Does your machine need to be repaired? If it’s always skipping stitches and you’ve tried everything, book it in for servicing. Sewing machines should be serviced annually (although I've admittedly never had mine serviced despite losing a piece of broken needle inside it).
I’ve now sewn the front and back pieces together and basted all three front pieces together with a small zigzag stitch.
Next step – attaching the fold over elastic (FOE). Check back for updates!