Bra Making: Designing a Strapless Bra

Hello all! So I have been a little quiet here on the blog and elsewhere online, but I’m working on some really fun projects, which include lingerie patterns and even a mini collection of handmade pieces. I have a hard time stopping mid-process to write about it, but promise I’ll give a sneak peak soon. First let’s dive into my obsession du jour:

bra-illustration

As you have probably picked up from my previous hints and attempts at a bustier, I’ve been working my way towards fitting a strapless bra this summer. I needed one like yesterday! They aren’t just for formal occasions but super functional in my climate–under summer tops with narrow straps or bare shoulders, which I’m wearing almost daily now. I’ve never found one that fits me properly, but in all fairness they harder to fit. I knew this would be a fun project to engineer. I’m not going to write any tutorials for this but thought y’all might like to follow along as I design one for myself!

First I made a list of what I don’t like about the ones I’ve owned:

  • The wires often poke too much under my arms. (RTW strapless wires are usually higher and often stronger than regular wires, and don’t splay as much.)
  • If the cup fits, the wires are often too narrow, resulting in more poking.
  • The bottom of the cup often collapses because the band won’t stay up where it needs to be. I looked inside every one of my strapless bras and they all had this little flat folded spot in the foam at the bottom of the cup. This could be the result of the wires being too narrow for me, but the most likely culprit is the band not holding the bra up enough.

To get some strapless ideas, I had a look through some of my favorite online shops. And I’d basically boil them all down to two types: the no-holds-barred structured torsolette with boning, corset-type seams, and firm powernet fabrics (examples: one, two, three). Or 2. The seamless “everyday” kind with molded cups and one piece of fabric that covers the entire outside of the bra for a smooth look (examples: the popular Fantasie Smoothing bra). There is a rare breed in between, with cut-and-sew cups and retro-inspired design. These tend to be my favorites! I’ve pinned a few of these to my Lingerie Design board if you want some ideas.

Next I drew out some ideas on my handy-dandy bra template. I drew this up so I could think quickly through bra designs and future patterns.

Planning a Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Kitty bomb!

I think I am going to go with a 3-piece cup. A two-piece vertically-seamed cup could work but it is harder to fit in a taller cup with more coverage. The taller the cup the more contouring it needs along the neckline, especially if it is strapless. Perhaps in a future post I’ll explain how that works!

Planning a Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Then I need to figure out the band. This is really the crucial part. A lot of strapless bras have such narrow bands of lightweight fabric, and rely too much on gripper elastic to hold it in place, like the bra in the above photo. (My current and very ill-fitting strapless.)

Finally, I need to do some overall re-fitting due to size changes, and try different wire lengths. Normally I cut my wires down to something much shorter than a full cup wire. I like them short in front and at the sides, but I’m not sure my usual short cups will work so well in a strapless. I’ll get to work on the fitting this weekend and report back on what I came up with. Stay tuned!

Still Life With Lingerie

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

I love coming up with unique ways of shooting my lingerie sets, probably as much as the sewing itself! Sometimes I shoot them on a lightbox (basically like shooting on top of one big light), sometimes in a window, or on my favorite throw. At times I still feel like a baby with a big camera and have so much to learn, but really enjoy composition and thinking about proportions within a frame. Before my sewing blog days, one of my weekly hobbies was floral photography, which inspired me to take some photo courses and upgrade my camera. I not only loved taking photos of my garden but then bringing picked flowers inside and assembling all sorts of still lifes in front of a big back light. It seems like shooting lingerie has replaced my still life hobby.

And I also particularly love trying to capture the textured and often gossamer nature of laces and lingerie fabrics. Feels like peering into the deep throat of an iris. I saved this particular lace for over a year and probably pulled it out 15 times just to roll it through my fingers. I do that a lot–it’s kind of dorky but I’m so tactile!

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

The lace and all notions came from a Merckwaerdigh kit, and while I was at it decided to have a whirl at a different bra pattern, Merckwaerdigh Mix30. I’ve had this pattern in my collection for ages but never got around to the bra, in part because I already have two personal bra patterns with vertically seamed cups. But sometimes it’s fun to veer off and try something new. I need some reason to justify my crazy lingerie pattern collection!

I started with a 75C (US 34C) cup, which I arrived at by comparing with one of my best fitting cup patterns, so I got very close to a perfect fit. All the band sizes in this pattern are a 75/34 so you have to remove or add length to arrive at your particular band size. My preferred band length is somewhere between a 30 and 32 but whatever length I use depends on fabric choice. Since I already have a few tried-and-true band patterns, I used my own frame (bridge, cradle, band), and simply added the same design details, such as the scalloped back band with camisole-style straps.

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

The pattern’s design uses lycra on the outer cup and bridge, and lace on the inner cup and band, which lends itself to a pattern blocking look. I really didn’t want to this to get that busy looking so I went all lace, and lined the entire cup with sheer tricot.

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

When I use these kind of lightweight fabrics and sheer linings, the cups end up very soft with just a slight amount of give and lend a natural shape, which I like. I have a lot more of these sorts of bras than those with stand-up-on-their-own cup fabrics. The particularly good aspect about this bra’s design is the long strap extension which is not only very comfortable but helps keep the top part of the bra from sagging.

Speaking of lace and softness, many readers have asked me how seamed or lacey bras look under clothes. Oddly I had never stopped to think about all this–I was blissfully unaware of “show through” until people asked. I bought my first lacey seamed bra when I lived in Europe, in a place where seamless bras were few and far in between. So maybe it is a cultural preference for suggestion? But now that you asked, I don’t really notice the seams–it just depends on the weight of the top I’m wearing. What I do notice is color and so I like to have a lot of pale neutrals. This bra is definitely something for dark clothes.

However, I do like playing with seamlessness in undies.

Blue Lace Lingerie | Cloth Habit

These are a hipster style and were an experiment in making a pair that were cut entirely from one piece folded over and seamed at the front. Tulip bikini–that’s what I’m calling this!

Details:
Bra: Merckwaerdigh MIX30 (using my own band)
Bikini: Self-drafted
Lace & most notions: Merckwaerdigh bra kit
Fine stretch mesh: (band lining and underwear fabric) Fabric Depot Co.
Dye: Washfast acid dye, National Blue (strap elastic and mesh)

Wardrobe: Denim Bustier

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

Another day of taking photographs in the Texas wind!

So this summer I actually came up with a sewing plan. I’ve never been that great at sticking to one as I prefer rabbit trails and new learning experiences over sticking hard with sewing goals. But the Wardrobe Architect series lit a fire in me! I want to have a more organized wardrobe.

The whole concept of a capsule wardrobe is really new to me, but it makes great sense for me right now. Building outfits I know I’ll wear! Multiplying pieces for the silhouettes I tend to wear the most. Instead of thinking I should stop wearing my handmade skinnies four times a week (okay okay, it’s sometimes more than that), maybe I need to multiply the skinnies.

One of the silhouettes I really want to wear this summer is something like very fitted/bodycon top + wide leg pants or billowy skirt + cloggy sandals. (I love chunky wood-heeled anything.) Like this outfit with the Nettie bodysuit. Or a bustier with some wide legs. I tossed almost all of the trousers in my closet so I’ve yet to figure that part out but really wanted to get started on the bustier!

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

Actually, I’ve had bustiers on the brain for about three summers in a row. Two years ago I even crazy-splurged on a Valentino silk from Britex for my dream project. I have three fabrics in my stash that I’m rightfully precious about cutting and that is one of them, so I want to get it right. That bustier will be a full-on fitting and sewing project with lining, boning, fitted cups and underwires. In the meantime I just wanted to kick something out pronto for summer, using my existing stash.

I basically draped this from a frankenpattern that combined the bodice of Sewaholic’s Cambie dress and my skirt sloper for the waist to hip portion. The Cambie has vertical darts in front and back and I just extended them into princess seams that went all the way up and down the bodice. It took me one evening to draft and fit and another to sew–princess seams make everything so easy!

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

Once things were fitted, the next stop was figuring out how to add some holding power. Who wants to end up in an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction!? I’m not sure I got it stabilized all the way but I learned some things for future projects. I fitted this to point where it has no ease but as you can see in my back view, fabric relaxes in the wearing!

Straps would’ve been the easiest route and I may still add removable ones. Boning is the ultimate solution, but as for this project I didn’t want to bother with it. Then I remembered reading about waist stays from several bloggers much more versed in couture than I am. If you’re wondering what they are, or why you’d use them, I’ve added some extra credit reading at bottom. Waist stays are super easy to add!

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

I added a small facing at the neckline going all the way around and used topstitching thread on the hem to give it that denim cool. I could’ve gone the whole lining route but really wanted this to be as simple and light as possible.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m not completely sold on the sweetheart neckline; while it certainly blossoms my upper half I feel too much like Sophia Loren for my personal taste. But it was a great excuse to dive in! One thing I like about bustiers is that they don’t have to be all fancy, uptown or vintage movie star. Nor do they need to go with other fitted styles. For my personal style, I like a contrast with the casual, loose and no-nonsense. What do you think? Would you wear one, and how?

Details:
Bustier: my frankenpattern
Fabric: Lightweight denim, Emma One Sock
Petersham ribbon: Britex
Pants: my Clovers

More on Waist Stays & Petersham Ribbon

Bra Tips: Fitting An Underwire

Finding Your Wire Size | Cloth Habit

It’s reader question day! Recently, a reader asked by email: How do you know what size to start with? The wires in my bras dig into the breast tissue under my arm and it’s so uncomfortable!

I can definitely relate to that! I’ve written about wires & fitting a few times, but today I’ll share a bit more for the first-time bra-makers or for those who’ve been having a hard time figuring out where to start!

When I bought my first bra-making kit, I was very confused about wire sizes. Weren’t they all the same? It wasn’t until I started pulling out wires from old bras and fitting others that I realized how different they can be. Wires come in many shapes, sizing gaps and strengths. For example, these are both full length wires for a 32F bra:

Finding Your Wire Size | Cloth Habit

I pulled the narrower one from a Panache bra, and the white one is from my collection. The reason I share this is so you can see that wire sizes aren’t a static thing. So the very best way to start is buying a few wires and trying them on–without worrying about what size you are. Try a set of wires in the size you think you are (or are currently wearing), and then a size up or down. Or if your wires typically feel tight, you could try the next two sizes up.

When trying on the wire, place it up against your breast root, the area where your breast tissue joins your chest wall. It should rest comfortably against the edges of your breast like it is sitting in a pocket. If you’re having trouble seeing your breast root, lift your breast tissue up higher or even raise your arms to see this line.

Finding Your Wire Size | Cloth Habit

Finding the root on the side of your breast can sometimes be a little harder. Some of us have breast tissue under the arms. And sometimes it is hard to see where extra fatty tissue from our arms or side is distinct from breast tissue. (There are a lot of opinions about whether or not underarm flesh is “migrated” breast tissue, but this is something I’d rather hear from my OBGYN. Please ask yours if you have questions about it.) In this case, try to find the wire that sits most comfortably against the side of your breast and doesn’t look like it is riding up onto your actual breast.

Hopefully this will give you a good place to start. Unless you have the special opportunity of taking a bra-fitting workshop in person, you will have to buy and try a few until you find one you like, which I believe is worth the small investment!

special cases

Sometimes there are special cases in wire fitting. Perhaps you have made a bra or two and still feel like something is wrong in your wire fit. So let’s discuss a few of those!

1. Pokey Wires

Perhaps the wire that seems to fit may seem a little too long or too pokey for your comfort. This might be the case if your breasts are higher up on your chest, closer to your underarms. Instead of trying to hunt down a shorter wire, consider buying some wire cutters! They’re an inexpensive investment and my bra-making friend–I wrote about cutting and tipping wires in this post.

2. Big Cup, Small Band

Traditionally, wire sizes increase by anywhere from 6 to 10mm in diameter per size. And as the sizes go up, these varying “grading” increases can add up to big differences for larger cups. If you have the cup volume of a 36D but have a small ribcage, the traditional wire for that size might have too wide of a diameter and could possibly wrap too far into your side.

In this case, you may want to look for a wire that is long enough to encase your breast but narrower in diameter. The Panache wire in my earlier photo is a narrower wire. Both Bra-makers Supply and Sewing Chest UK sell narrow but long wires.

3. Small Cup Needs

The opposite is true for some women who have small cups but an average band. You may have the breast volume of a 34A but need the wire with the width of a 34B. This is my personal issue. I wear a 30D bra with a wire one size larger–and cut the side length down so it doesn’t cut into my underarm.

(Please take note: I’m not an expert on special medical conditions. These are just the common issues that I have encountered.)

I hope this helps you in the search for wires! Just remember, how a wire fits and feels is a very personal thing. And even a small change in weight, post-breast feeding, etc., can change your wire size and comfort. Only you will really know how it feels, and whether you actually want to wear one! So don’t be afraid to experiment.

Bodysuits & Marilyn Moments

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

I’m really enjoying the start of summer, which normally brings on a small amount of worry. How will I make it through the furnace without losing my mind? Instead, I’m thinking about all the things I crave in summer that I don’t other times of the year. Like cucumber sandwiches. Smoothies. Inventive cocktails with big ice cubes. According to my crafty drink-making friends big square ice cubes are the rage right now. They take forever to melt and a pleasurable texture on a hot day.

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

So I have a confession to make–this is the second day in a row that I’ve worn this outfit. And it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done something like this in hopes of getting a good blog picture. My blogging vanity has gotten the better of me! I’m not the best photoshoot planner in the world, and don’t often plan my posts ahead of time so if I miss an opportunity, I’ll wear it again, darnit! On the first day, by the time the sun started to go down I set everything up and my timer went missing. It’s too hard to take selfies without a timer.

On the second day, I had a friend to help but the wind was outrageous. This turned out to be rather fun because it makes the skirt a whole personality of its own. You may recognize this as the Megan Nielson Cascade skirt, which I made last summer and wish I had about 10 more because it’s just so light and easy. Second confession: I had more than one Marilyn Monroe moment while wearing this in the wind. Like, full on Marilyn with the skirt flipping up to my waist, one time in the grocery parking lot. Thank goodness there was a bodysuit underneath!

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

This is the fun Nettie bodysuit, a pattern by my gal Heather Lou of Closet Case Files. When she asked me to test the pattern I happily obliged even though I have mile long list of sewing-relating things going on lately! It’s my pleasure to support her patterns–and I don’t need much encouraging to when it comes to anything remotely lingerie-inspired. I’m totally sold on the merits of a bodysuit. I like sleek and all purpose basics that cross the lines of lingerie. I love them because they’re comfortable and easy and secretly letting me be a bit sloppy wtihout looking like it.

Heather was onto my game, and I love that she made options for super skin-showing deep backs. It has only been the last couple of years that I’ve started to wear more back-showing garments. I used to feel very nervy about revealing it due to scars and moles and whatnot but I’ve finally decided that I like the character. (I promise I did not photoshop my back–in good light you’d see it all.)

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

Anyhoos, there’s not much to tell in the way of details. This is a super easy project, an hour or so if you’re fast with the serger! I used a bamboo-cotton-spandex blend jersey that I’ve had in my stash for a few years. For some reason I bought 5 yards of the stuff but I’m glad I did because I’ve gotten good mileage out of it for several projects. It’s a bit weightier than your typical jersey so makes a great fabric that stretches well over the body without show through.

I substituted lingerie elastic as the leg finish, just because I have loads of this stuff. But next time I’m going to try the same banding finish that is used for the neckline. I have a swimsuit with this kind of banding at the legs (instead of encased rubber elastic) and it’s super comfortable.

Ok, one last outtake, just for fun. This is called my “Neiman Marcus model pose”. I have so much more fun when I’m not doing this by myself!

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit
Have you tried the Nettie yet? I’m excited to make a couple more, maybe with shorter sleeves for the impending heat!

Details:
Bodysuit: Nettie by Closet Case Files (I made size 8)
Fabric: Bamboo/cotton/spandex jersey (I forgot the source!)
Elastic: Sew Sassy
Skirt: Cascade by Megan Nielson, blogged here

Photos: Stephanie Press

Bodysuits & Marilyn Moments

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

I’m really enjoying the start of summer, which normally brings on a small amount of worry. How will I make it through the furnace without losing my mind? Instead, I’m thinking about all the things I crave in summer that I don’t other times of the year. Like cucumber sandwiches. Smoothies. Inventive cocktails with big ice cubes. According to my crafty drink-making friends big square ice cubes are the rage right now. They take forever to melt and a pleasurable texture on a hot day.

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

So I have a confession to make–this is the second day in a row that I’ve worn this outfit. And it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done something like this in hopes of getting a good blog picture. My blogging vanity has gotten the better of me! I’m not the best photoshoot planner in the world, and don’t often plan my posts ahead of time so if I miss an opportunity, I’ll wear it again, darnit! On the first day, by the time the sun started to go down I set everything up and my timer went missing. It’s too hard to take selfies without a timer.

On the second day, I had a friend to help but the wind was outrageous. This turned out to be rather fun because it makes the skirt a whole personality of its own. You may recognize this as the Megan Nielson Cascade skirt, which I made last summer and wish I had about 10 more because it’s just so light and easy. Second confession: I had more than one Marilyn Monroe moment while wearing this in the wind. Like, full on Marilyn with the skirt flipping up to my waist, one time in the grocery parking lot. Thank goodness there was a bodysuit underneath!

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

This is the fun Nettie bodysuit, a pattern by my gal Heather Lou of Closet Case Files. When she asked me to test the pattern I happily obliged even though I have mile long list of sewing-relating things going on lately! It’s my pleasure to support her patterns–and I don’t need much encouraging to when it comes to anything remotely lingerie-inspired. I’m totally sold on the merits of a bodysuit. I like sleek and all purpose basics that cross the lines of lingerie. I love them because they’re comfortable and easy and secretly letting me be a bit sloppy wtihout looking like it.

Heather was onto my game, and I love that she made options for super skin-showing deep backs. It has only been the last couple of years that I’ve started to wear more back-showing garments. I used to feel very nervy about revealing it due to scars and moles and whatnot but I’ve finally decided that I like the character. (I promise I did not photoshop my back–in good light you’d see it all.)

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

Anyhoos, there’s not much to tell in the way of details. This is a super easy project, an hour or so if you’re fast with the serger! I used a bamboo-cotton-spandex blend jersey that I’ve had in my stash for a few years. For some reason I bought 5 yards of the stuff but I’m glad I did because I’ve gotten good mileage out of it for several projects. It’s a bit weightier than your typical jersey so makes a great fabric that stretches well over the body without show through.

I substituted lingerie elastic as the leg finish, just because I have loads of this stuff. But next time I’m going to try the same banding finish that is used for the neckline. I have a swimsuit with this kind of banding at the legs (instead of encased rubber elastic) and it’s super comfortable.

Ok, one last outtake, just for fun. This is called my “Neiman Marcus model pose”. I have so much more fun when I’m not doing this by myself!

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit
Have you tried the Nettie yet? I’m excited to make a couple more, maybe with shorter sleeves for the impending heat!

Details:
Bodysuit: Nettie by Closet Case Files (I made size 8)
Fabric: Bamboo/cotton/spandex jersey (I forgot the source!)
Elastic: Sew Sassy
Skirt: Cascade by Megan Nielson, blogged here

Photos: Stephanie Press

Wardrobe: Summer Colors

Summer Color Palette | Cloth Habit

Since my big wardrobe purge a couple weeks ago I’ve been slowly catching up with Colette’s Wardrobe Architect series. I’m actually trying to do most of the exercises, albeit in a backwards order. This planning stuff is fun! I’m getting kind of serious about not adding anything to my closet that I won’t wear.

Since I left my closet a bit empty, the first thing I did was buy a few quality basics in white and black. I’m always reaching for white or black camisoles, t-shirts or tanks. My goal is to have at least one fitted and one loose version of each.

Then I started drafting up a color palette and collecting some summer wardrobe inspirations on Pinterest.

Coming up with an inspirational color palette is one of my favorite seasonal activities, but this time I thought a little bit harder about what constitutes neutrals and statement colors, what colors I’ve been consistently drawn to no matter the season or year, and what’s been catching my fancy this year. Normally I just go with the latter but it never makes for an intentional wardrobe plan!

Here was my original color palette before it got whittled down.

Summer Color Palette | Cloth Habit

Looking at this now, I’m surprised I’m in such a colorful mood, and I never perceived myself as a pastels gal. You might guess from my Signature Style board that I’m normally drawn to eccentric, intellectual, moody and quite masculine style. I consistently come back to black and red and white. Red was actually one of my “neutrals”–I never think about it as a statement color. For some reason in my eyes it goes with everything!

But there is always the gardener and wildflower lover in me. I’m quite fond of blushy pinks and pale corals in particular. When picking out roses for my garden years ago, I got obsessed with what I call the prefect shell pink. It’s couldn’t be too peachy, or too pinky, but almost translucent. My favorite is Souvenir de La Malmaison–its blooms gradually disappear into a pale warm pink after a few days in the sun.

A little bit new to me are minty colors. Jade, celadon and those moodier mints keep attracting me. Or the color of an ice cube as it drops into a mint julep.

Anyhoos, you’ll get to see a lot of these colors in action by mid-summer. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been dyeing up a group of fabrics, mixing my own dye colors for a group of lingerie items. I’m down to the very last dye pot and just love having all these fabrics in my dream colors hanging around me!

Do you like coming up with seasonal palettes?

Photo credits (with licensed permission): Amir Jina, Jenny Downing, Rijks Museum

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Today I’m going to finish my bra!

At this point I have two sets of cups–the foam cups and the outer coverings–and have also assembled my frame and band, including putting in the hem elastic. Most of the remaining steps are the same as your normal bra construction. If you need to fill in some gaps on constructing bras, check out the Bra-making Sew Along.

Covering the Cup

1. Before I start assembling the cups, I like to finish the neckline and underarm area of the foam cup with either narrow serging or a zig-zag. This helps to flatten the edge of the foam.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Some bra-makers like to zig-zag around the entire edge of the cup but I’ve never had trouble with these edges being too thick. Experiment to find what you like…

2. To join the fabric cup pieces, line up the necklines with the right side of the outer cup fabric against the inside of the foam. Stitch 1/8″ away from the edge. (The distance between the needle and the toe of my presser foot is 1/8″, which makes this easy.)

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Turn out the outer cup piece to the front of the foam. It should look like this on the inside:

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

3. Now we’re going to baste the cup fabric to the foam so the cup can be treated as one piece. Arrange and smooth the cup fabric gently so it lines up well around the foam cup and pin close to the edges.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

While you’re pinning, check the cup occasionally by rounding it over your your fist. This helps to make sure you haven’t pulled too hard on the outer fabric, and potentially flattened the cup. Depending on how stretchy your fabric is, it will sometimes go past the edge of the foam–that’s ok! You’ll trim this off later.

Once this is pinned and smoothed out, baste the fabric and foam together, keeping your stitching inside of 1/4″. (I stitched about 1/8″ away from the foam edge.) You are only going to baste the wire seam–the seam that goes into the cradle.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

After basting, trim away the excess fabric that hangs over the foam. I do this by running a rotary cutter around the edge of the foam:

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Man, that looks close to my finger…

Inserting the Cups & Channeling

1. Now it’s time to insert the cups into your cradle. There aren’t any special tricks here, but I wanted to show you what my hands are doing when stitch these in, because I don’t use pins when sewing in cups.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

I hold the top layer (the cup) slightly above the bottom layer (the cradle) until just before the two layers go under the presser foot. If you have a few notches that match the cup to the cradle, it will help as you are sewing. Sewing convex to concave curves are so much easier without pins!

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

2. Once the cups are in, stitch in your channeling and topstitch as you normally do.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

3. Close your channeling in front and insert your wires. You’re almost done! All that’s left is putting in the underarm elastic, straps and hooks.

Underarm Elastic

There are a couple of different trickeroos to underarm elastic and foam. First, you don’t want to fold the foam cup back on itself in the underarm area and create bulk. That’s why we cut off the underarm seam allowance from the foam. (Note that a foam bra don’t necessarily need elastic in the underarm area–some RTW foam cups don’t have it–but the order of sewing is a bit different than what I”m doing here.)

1. Begin sewing your underarm elastic as usual. When you get to the cup seam, stop and backtack a couple zig-zags.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Fold the excess cup fabric over the foam and pin it smoothly into place. Tip: Wonder Tape is genius for “basting” temporary little seams like this. For some reason I couldn’t get it to stick to the silk so I went with pins.

2. Now do your second pass of stitching. I do this from the right side so I can keep the cup fabric secured at the neckline.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

When you get to the cup seam, keep the elastic lined up underneath. Continue to zig-zag the same distance from the edge till you get to the end, and backtack a couple of stitches to secure.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

The finished arm elastic:

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Finishing Up

Time to put in your straps and hooks! I’m assuming you have a favorite method of inserting your straps.

Normally, I like to put the adjusters in front and often use a technique I described in this post to stabilize the ring “loop”. However, I did a dumb-dumb and forgot to cut the arm elastic long enough for a loop! Ah well. I put my adjusters in back, and secured the edge of the strap on top of the strap elastic to hide it neatly away.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Stitch in your hooks and eyes, and you’re done! Annnd here is my finished bra:

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

In case you are wondering, silk makes a lovely bra material! For some eye candy and silk bra inspirations (many with foam cups), have a look at Stella McCartney, Fleur of England, or the Rolls Royce of silk bra design, Carine Gilson. I’ve been wanting to knock off one of her bras for years. Her designs got me wanting to make bras in the first place… I’ll just have to practice a bit of applique first!

Credits: All Photos by Stephanie Press

See more posts in the series Make a Foam Cup Bra.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 2

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Today I’ll be cutting out my pieces and get started sewing. First, let’s make some some changes to your cup pattern to work with foam.

As I mentioned yesterday, these techniques can be used with any bra cups. I’d recommend starting with a pattern that you are familiar with making. It can have any kind of seaming. If your favorite bra pattern is a frameless bra (Kwik Sew 3300 is one example of these), there are tricks to stitching in the channeling in such a way that doesn’t fold the foam back on itself. I couldn’t cover that here, but hopefully this tutorial will give you a good place to start!

Here’s the pattern I’ll be working with:

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Sometimes I make these cups with a strap extension but for this tutorial I made a straight neckline to make things easier to follow.

[Edited to Add: The pattern I am using is not a commercial bra pattern for sale, but rather my own self-drafted pattern. If you are interested in turning a two-piece cup into a 3-piece cup, you might want to have a look at this tutorial.]

Pattern Alterations

1. Retrace your cup pieces so that you have two sets: one for the main cup fabric and one for the foam. It’s really a good idea to trace what will be your foam pieces onto some kind of heavier weight paper (card stock, watercolor paper, manila folder, anything that keeps its edge will do).

2. On the foam cup pieces, you’ll need mark in and remove all seam allowances along these three areas: the seams that go across the cup, the underarm, and the neckline. Don’t remove the seam allowances where the cup joins the cradle (the wire seam).

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Most bra patterns have 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowances around all these edges, or don’t have seam allowances so you have to add them. I find it a good practice to keep seam lines marked in all my bra patterns so I can made accurate adjustments.

3. Next I consider how I want to finish my neckline. For this tutorial, I’m making a clean finish neckline, in which the cup fabric will roll neatly over the top of the cup.

On the fabric cup pattern, add a 3/8″ allowance to the underarm seam and the neckline. Half of this is seam allowance and the other half is cloth allowance for folding over the thickness of the foam.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

There are other ways to finish the neckline. If you want to bind the entire neckline with something like foldover elastic, you would cut off the neckline seam allowances from both the foam and main cup pieces.

If you want scalloped lace along the edges, you’d also cut off the neckline SAs from both foam and main cup pieces. I also shave a little bit more off the foam neckline on top of that–about 1/8″–so that it doesn’t peek out above the scallops.

Cutting

Now that all the pieces are ready, let’s get everything cut. When cutting from the foam, I gently hold down the pieces and trace around them with a ball point pen. (Sharpies and markers will bleed and make indefinite lines. Chalk and wax pencils don’t show up.)

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Cut away the lines…

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

I also make tiny dots near the edge to mark the notch points (no snipping).

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Foam Cup Assembly

1. To assemble the foam cups, butt the pieces together so that the foam lies edge to edge and is centered right under your presser foot. You’re going to zig-zag them together. You can use either a triple zig-zag or regular zig-zag. Whatever width you use, make sure it is wide enough to catch both sides of the butted seam.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

As I am sewing, I am trying to gently butt the edges against each other without leaving a gap, or without forcing or squishing the edges together.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

And here’s what it looks like stitched up:

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

2. Totally optional: At this point I can consider the foam cups finished, but sometimes I like to cover the inside seams. Covering the seams can add a bit of support to the cup and make it prettier. But don’t feel like this is necessary–there’s nothing wrong with leaving them uncovered.

I’ve tried a few different seam coverings. Narrow cotton twill tape makes a neat, trim covering but it has no give. I also tried a single layer of tricot seam tape but this was far too flimsy. My favorite is a wide bias seam tape that has been folded into thirds.

First I cut 3/4″ strips of tricot along the bias. Then I pressed each side under by a little less than 1/4″ so that the resulting width of the folded tape was just a smidge over 1/4″ (6mm). I centered this folded tape over my foam seams and stitched down each side of the tape.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

You can also zig-zag down the tape (see the very top photo of this post). Sometimes stitching down either side can be tricky when you are first getting used to working with tricot. This stuff can be slithery and chiffon-like but it makes such a soft and delicate lining. I even use it as seam tape to cover delicate seams in silk dresses because it practically disappears and never ravels.

3. Now go ahead and assemble your main fabric cups.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

At this point you should have two sets of cups, one from foam and one from your outer fabric. On Monday I’ll finish off by showing how I cover the cups and stitch them into the cradle. In the meantime, you can go ahead and assemble your band the way you normally do and add your hem elastic.

Happy weekend!

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 1

This summer I have planned a few foam-lined bras for my wardrobe. One of these is going to be strapless style I can wear comfortably underneath my low-backed tops and dresses. Comfort being a key word, because I have never found a strapless that doesn’t make me squeam.

I like using foam linings when I want a supporting bra but also want to use an outside cup fabric that’s really light or stretchy. For example, I made these bras from rayon jersey scraps because I loved the print, and the foam gives them shape and support.

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

I’ve been promising a tutorial on these forever, so here we go! Over the next three posts, I’ll be sharing how I adapted a bra pattern for a foam lining, along with a few construction tips. Some of these techniques can also be used for making foam cups to insert into a swimsuit or bodysuit, too!

Today I’m going to cover materials…

Materials You Need

  • bra pattern
  • sheet foam, approximately 1/8 yard
  • materials and notions for making one bra
  • sheer or light tricot lining (optional, for making seam tape)
  • manila folder, cardstock, or sturdy paper on which to re-trace some of your pattern pieces (avoid tissue–it is impossible on foam!)

Patterns: To follow along with these tutorials, you can use any underwired bra pattern that fits, provided the cups fit in non-stretch fabric and the bra is a full frame (aka full band) style. Frameless bras require slightly different pattern adaptations.

For cup fabrics, the world is your oyster. You can try a lycra/spandex type fabric, lace, any knit, or even something like a satin woven! For this tutorial I chose a blush stretch silk charmeuse, scraps of which were in my stash.

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

Where to Buy Foam

Sheet foam suitable for bra-making goes by a few different terms. These foams can have either a brushed or satin tricot finish on the outside. Sometimes they have some spandex/lycra content for a little bit of “give”. They can be anywhere from 2-5mm thick (usually around 1/8″), and some are spongier than others. I’ve sampled foams from four different retailers, and in my experience most of these them adapt to the body and eventually flatten a bit with wear.

Here’s where you can find them (links go to the page with sheet foam products):

  • Bra-makers Supply (“laminate foam” and “stretch spacer foam”)
  • Make Bra
  • Fabric Depot Co. (“tricot-bonded poly filler”)
  • Sewing Chest
  • Spandex House (spacer foam–I recommend asking specifically for a foam for bra-making, as they carry various types)
  • Sew Sassy (“polylaminate foam”)
  • Sewy (“spacer foam”)
  • Spandex World sells spacer foam but I’m not sure if it is suitable for bras. (I’m guessing they are more appropriate for surfwear and running pants.) You may want to ask for samples.

Sew Sassy and Fabric Depot also sell a poly fiberfill fabric. These are a wadding bonded to a satin-y tricot, and offer many of the same benefits as sheet foam.

*Interesting factoid: Spacer foam is a distinct type of foam that looks and behaves a lot like laminate foam, but the foam is not heat laminated to tricot. The foam core and outer layer are knitted together on the same tricot machine, which allows for a more “breathable” foam. Some lingerie brands even market this technology in their bras.

Consider the Silhouette

If you have a bit of extra foam to play with, might want to sew up a trial cup in foam to see what shape it takes. I find this kind of fun, actually. The pattern may have a good fit and shape in softer fabrics but in foam the shape will be slightly different. Sometimes I even tape together a printer paper version of my cups to get a rough idea of the silhouette:

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

I added a second seam to the bottom piece of a two-piece cup for a rounder cup. Adding this seam is actually very easy!

Of course paper isn’t going to tell you everything but it’s still a good way to visualize in 3D. I also tape up a paper cup and hold it up to myself so I can see if my strap attachment point is located in a comfy place.

Tomorrow I’ll share my pattern adaptations and get started on the sewing!

p.s. Just in case anyone asks–this tutorial is not for a seamless bra or a push-up bra. There are many styles and techniques to foam bras so hopefully this tutorial will give you ideas you can experiment with!

See more posts in the series Make a Foam Cup Bra.

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