In the days when I was a prolific maker, it was the acquisition of new skills which was always a key driver. Once I’d made a two piece T-shirt I had to learn how to insert sleeves, once I knew how to knit and purl, I had to learn how to do cable. This is how it went with painting (watercolours, acrylic, pastels) photography (every imaginable genre) and everything else that I have turned my hand to over the years.
I’ve had a long time out of the making game while forging a busy mostly satisfying but ultimately draining career (I just couldn’t master work-life balance) and having come out of the other side and dusting off my sewing machine again, it seems that a thirst for the new still drives me. I wanted to get into blogging to encourage me to make and cruising around the plethora of craft blogs I kept coming across this trend. So this is how I come to be embarking onto the world of bra and underwear making.
I am I suspect one of the droves of women surviving their everyday lives in poorly fitting bras. These bras sit there kind of doing a so-so job of wrangling the boobies and sometimes there is side spillage, sometimes the dreaded four-boob scenario, sometimes there is droopiness and sometimes after I have established a loving relationship with a comfortable bra it starts to stab me with its steely underwire. So it makes sense that making a custom fit bra is something I should be doing. I’m late to the party I know (the same for pretty much everything) and I’m astounded by all the wonderful work that’s going on out there. It only serves to spur me on.
Something I hadn’t anticipated is how overwhelming the whole thing is. First you have to really examine the anatomy of the bra. I had begun to wonder why I couldn’t buy a decent, well-fitting bra for less than £30 but once I started to do my research I realised that there are around 8 different pieces to a bra, depending on the design. Then there are the different materials that are needed; cup forms, cup lining, cup cover, bands and bridges, stabilisers, stretch, no stretch. There are even 4 different types of elastic – strap elastic (obvs) but then there is band elastic, underarm elastic, and fold over elastic too. So once I saw the materials and the amount of construction required I begin to see why a good bra costs so much.
I’ve been cruising the net and have found a few favourite resources to guide me. I’m a compulsive student so I needed a manual. I’ve started with Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr. I found my way to her beautiful Instagram and loved all the bras illustrated there and from there found the web site.
Immediately the Studious Me and the Impatient Me start the perennial tussle.
Studious Me: I really should read up as much as I can before I start buying/cutting anything
Impatient Me: I can do this now, I want it now, get that fabric now!
I’ve read about half and skimmed about half of the book and I’ll use it for reference as I go. I’ve got all the gear, I’m an experienced seamstress and the technique does not worry me but the combinations of fabric has my head in a spin. I have rapidly created a sub-stash of bra making fabrics.
I saw that there were several people selling bra kits, (Orange Lingerie yours are too popular btw. They have been sold out from the moment I saw them). However, because I’m smart – you know – I didn’t need them, I could work out what I needed … right? … wrong.
I really liked the bras on Orange-Lingerie, Norma’s site but I also fell for the patterns produced by MakeBra and that is where I started with the pattern. I’m kind of playing it safe with a T-shirt style bra. I’m quite busty and I tend to wear foam lined bras for support and to avoid pointiness. I liked the shape and appearance of MakeBra’s examples. I downloaded their DL01 pattern and ordered some materials. Here’s where I hit an early snag. The idea of making my underwear is a technical challenge, but it’s also supposed to be part of an economy drive. In the past I could always make very good quality clothes for a fraction of the cost in shops, I fully expected to do the same with this project. However, I found shipping charges from abroad are generally expensive, so unfortunately I probably will not be using them for anything but downloads for now. They were however really prompt, friendly and their Instagram shows lots of great options for bra design.
There seem to be few bra-making suppliers in the UK with a comprehensive stock of materials, the best seem to be US or AUS based and my favourite so far is B,Wear in Sweden. Great fabrics, notions and kits – again gulp a bit on shipping. In addition to this, so far I have sourced bits from Fabrics Online, myfabrics.co.uk, B,wear, Tissu Fabrics, Sewing Chest before I realised I was getting into a bit of a buying frenzy and I should step away from the online shopping portal. Despite having amassed a substantial sub-stash, I’m still suffering from failure to launch. I now have so many options that I don’t know where to start. I’ve finally given in and decided to back track and I have ordered a kit from Merckwaerdigh. (I can hear you all going why didn’t you do that I the first place, but you know, over-excitement
Have you been bitten by the bra making bug? Do you have any tips to share to help a newbie like me?