At last we get to sewing everyone’s favorite–the bra! I’m going to jump right into it, because this is going to be a picture-heavy post. Today we’re going to make the straps, put together the cups and sew the frame of the bra. I’ve also included some hopefully helpful tips for sewing with slippery tricot.
Assemble the Straps
Attaching the straps to the bra is the very last step in sewing, and doesn’t need to be done till the end, but I like to assemble them at the beginning. It makes me feel like I have everything ready to go!
First I loop one end of the elastic through the slider, giving me enough stitching room so that I don’t hit the ring as I am sewing.
To secure the loop, you can use a bartack stitch or a back and forth straight stitch. Over time I’ve come to prefer the straight stitch because it is easier to sew and gives a neat result that is still secure. I set my stitch somewhere around 1.0 in length and stitch across the elastic.
To reverse the stitch, I turn the elastic around so that I can stitch forward again. Then I sew another line right next to the first line of stitching, and secure by backward stitching a couple of stitches.
Trim the elastic close to the stitches and finish looping your straps through the rings. If you need some extra step by step photos, see this tutorial.
Assemble the Cups
With a regular straight stitch, sew the inner and outer cup pieces together. If you prefer a neater finish you can serge the edges, as I have done.
Then turn the allowances toward the outer cup and topstitch from the right side. Use a longer stitch—I set my stitch length between 3.2 and 3.4.
Topstitching tip: Use your foot as the guide to topstitch 1/16 to 1/8” (2-3mm) away from the edge. On my foot the inside edge of my toe is exactly 1/16” from the needle, so as I am topstitching I make sure the seam is following that edge.
Add Neckline Elastic
Apply your neckline elastic as per the instructions. For my first pass, I used a 2.8 length, 2.0 width zig-zag. For the second pass, I used a 3.0 width and 2.0 length zig-zag.
You’ll notice that I am using a lingerie elastic that has a rounded piping edge to it. This piping sticks out about 1/8″ past the edge of the seamline. I had to remove 1/8″ from my neckline allowance to account for the “piping”; otherwise the cups would create a bulky overlap at the center front because of the extra elastic width. (Oh yes, it’s true–bra-making develops sewing accuracy!)
If you are making the scalloped lace cup variation, you’ll want to stabilize the edge of the lace with a narrow and thin elastic. A 1/8-1/4” clear elastic is ideal for this purpose.
For my bra, I used some thin black neckline elastic that I had left over from an old bra kit, but I apply it in the same way that I use clear elastic. From the wrong side of the bra, line up the elastic so that it is in a straight line just inside the bottom of the scallops. Use a small zig-zag to secure the elastic, and pull very gently as you are sewing.
If this is your first time sewing thin or clear elastics to lace, you may want to practice on a scrap to get comfortable with it. You’ll also need to play with your zig-zag width to find one that will fit onto your elastic.
Here you can see what it looks like from the right side. My lace is very open so the elastic is visible:
Line the Cradle + Tricot Sewing Tips
Baste your lining piece to the cradle, staying inside the seam allowances. If you decided to use a fusible knit interfacing instead of a lining, then apply your interfacing.
If you are new to sewing with slippery and delicate lingerie fabrics, it might feel tricky basting the lining smoothly to the outer fabric. It gets easier with practice but I wanted to share a few possible tricks to avoiding wrinkles and skewing fabrics.
First, the wrinkles are usually the result of sewing two different fabric types together. Fabrics with 4-way stretch can “grow” as they are being handled or stitched. When stitching a stretchy fabric to one with less stretch or no stretch, the stretchier fabric will want to stretch out further than the other layer.
1. Instead of basting, use temporary spray adhesive to join your two layers for easier sewing. This solution came via Maddie, and it’s genius! Many bra-makers use it to keep delicate layers together in sewing.
2. Before basting, pin your two layers together from the side of the lining. Allow the stretchy outer fabric to relax and spread outside the lining if it wants to. After basting, trim away the excess from the outer fabric.
3. Baste with the lining on top and the stretchy outer fabric on bottom. This allows the feed dogs to ease the stretch fabric into the lining.
4. Loosen the foot pressure if your machine has this option.
5. Use a long basting stitch with a 4-5 stitch length.
6. Stop and raise your presser foot every couple of inches to let the fabric relax. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I do this all the time when sewing knits and silks. I think I’ve gotten addicted to the knee lift on my sewing machine.
7. Try a teflon foot or a glider foot, if you have one. Sometimes the foot pressure can really drag on fabrics. Occasionally I sew on a vintage Bernina 830 and it is guilty of dragging on silks and tricots; switching to a teflon foot helps.
Stitch the Band to the Cradle
Stitch your cradle to the band pieces with a straight stitch.
Fold your seam allowances toward the cradle, and from the right side topstitch them down about 1/8”-3/16” (3-5mm) away from the seam. If you prefer a neater finish to your side seams, you can serge after stitching, then topstitch.
For neat side seams in wired bras, I often hide the seams in the lining but for an easier but pretty approach, I also like stitching a piece of satin ribbon over the seam allowances. I stitch down each side of the ribbon, and this takes the place of the topstitching:
Again, I regret using ivory fabric in photos but you’ll have to believe me–that’s a satin ribbon over the seams!
That was a long post for today but we have a great start on the bra! I’ll be back Monday with the final steps but if you’d like to get a head start, you can sew in the cups to the band and then add your hem elastic.
Have a great weekend!