Bra-making Sew Along: Cutting

cutting bra pattern

The time has come to cut our bras!

By now if you’ve been making tester bras or alterations you probably know your bra pattern inside and out. And that’s a good thing! Understanding a pattern makes sewing so much easier, don’t you think?

Before I start cutting, I like to double-check a few things on my pattern:

Check the cradle seam to make sure it has enough length for your chosen underwire. The cradle seam should be the length of your underwire PLUS 5/8″ (or 16 mm).

underwire length & cradle length

This extra length gives your wire about 8mm wiggle room on each end (called “wire play” in bra drafting). If you have ever tried to sew a bra without that allowance, you might know the pain of breaking a needle because you hit the wire while sewing down elastic (CHECK!) or your wires have strained and popped the channeling seam (CHECK!). If you end up needing more length you can add a bit more to one side or the other, or both. Don’t forget you’ll have to add this new length to the corresponding cup seams.

The distance between the cradle and elastic seam lines should be at least the width of your band elastic (otherwise you’ll be sewing elastic into your cup!).

bra band elastic width

After that, it never hurts to walk your seams in your cups and cradle to make sure the actual stitching lines match–especially if you’ve been making alterations!

lining or interfacing

You may have already figured this out in some of your tester bra experiments, but there are many ways to stabilize a cup and remove some of the stretch. You can either sew a lining underneath your main cup fabric, interface it, or both!

For my bra, I’m cutting my entire cup and cradle out of lace and lining it with silk. I really wanted to try silk on this bra!

For stability, I interfaced the silk with a fusible knit. You can see I blockfused my fabric before cutting. I’m a fan of blockfusing, especially when it comes to small pieces that get finicky and time-consuming to interface.

interfacing cup & cradle fabric

For my friend’s bra, I’m using simplex from a bra kit with lace on the top cup. I’m new to this fabric and debated over whether to fuse it–it’s stable but has a lot of drape which I suspect will make the cup drop a little. She’s definitely going to get another bra after this anyway!

The cradle or bridge area should not stretch at all horizontally. Again, I don’t think a lining is necessary for simplex but I went ahead and cut one out of sheer tricot.


stretch directions

All of your pieces should have a line which indications the stretch direction. Bra fabrics can have their greatest stretch in either direction, so test your fabric to be sure! Even the more stable bra fabrics have some mechanical stretch.

Regardless of the pattern, I usually cut my upper cups with the neckline running parallel to the stretch. Unless I’m stabilizing it, I don’t really want this piece stretching up and down as it will stress the strap, nor on the bias which tends to permanently stretch.

stretch direction for cutting cup pieces

stretch direction cradle

If you are using lace, 4-way stretch fabric or a print that you want to run in a particular direction, it can be lined or interfaced to stabilize it.

cutting lace

There are many ways to use lace in a bra and I really love working out lace puzzles!

When cutting the lace, it is helpful to have your seam lines marked in your cup and cradle pattern. I usually cut one side of the cup first to center the motifs. I make sure the stitching line of the upper cup is lined up with the lowest point of the scallops:

centering lace scallops

I also try to line up the piece so that the stitching line that meets the bridge hits a bottom point of a scallop. When the bridge and cup are sewn together it will match up nicely:

lining up scallops with stitching lines

I usually cut one side first, then flip over the cup pieces to cut another mirroring side. It just so happened I have a 2nd pattern piece that I can flip:

cutting matching side on lace

But often when I’m cutting a bra, I simply cut the first piece, flip it to find a matching side and carefully run a rotary cutter around it.

cutting matching side of lace

Some galloon laces have mirroring motifs, some don’t. If not, I try to get close so the motifs are similar on both sides.

All cut!

cut bra pieces

cut bra pieces #2

cutting notes

I mentioned this before, but I like to transfer my master pattern to something like card stock or in this case oak tag (same paper as manila file folders). I’ve even scanned my pattern so I can print it out multiple times onto weightier paper. (No more re-tracing!) This not only preserves the pattern but gives me an edge on which to trace around with tailor’s chalk directly onto the fabric:

tracing pattern on fabric

I use a small weight (or just my hands!), chalk around the pattern, then cut away the chalk lines. I like doing it this way because it gives me a really accurate cut, while pinning sometimes distorts the fabric (especially lycra and lace). This is just a cutting method that I’ve picked up from pattern-makers–it takes me all of 5 minutes to cut a bra pattern!

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