Cutting scalloped lace for lingerie is one of my favorite things to do. It involves a little bit of creativity and some lace detective work. It’s a bit like cutting plaids, but thankfully lingerie pieces are tiny!
I’ve made the Watson in a few scalloped laces for fun, so today I want to share how I cut the cup pattern for them. (We’ll start sewing the bra later this week!)
Stretch laces vary quite a bit in stretch, weight, and “openness” or tightness of their design. Sometimes they stretch in all directions, and other times they stretch very minimally in one direction. When you are cutting the Watson from these laces, you may not be able to get your pieces in the proper stretch direction so this will probably change how it fits. It’s experimental! For a lace that stretches very minimally in one direction I usually go up a cup size.
Normally when I cut a scalloped lace piece for an underwire bra, the pattern neckline has a straight edge. The Watson’s neckline has a slight curve so we need to alter the pattern in order to cut it on a straight line.
On your inner cup piece, draw in the seamlines where the bottom of the cup and neckline intersect. These seam allowances are 1/4” (6mm).
Draw a line 3/4” down from the top of the cup (this is your fold line for the strap) and then draw the the neckline seam that intersects with this fold (1/4” or 6mm from the outer edge).
Draw a straight line connecting these two cross marks, going all the way through the cup:
Cut out your cup piece, cutting along that new line. I mark the cup for scallops, so I don’t forget!
You’ll notice that straightening the neckline, as I am doing in this alteration, makes the neckline slightly shorter. It also makes a funny point to the top of the cup, which means I’ll might have to do some adjusting when I get to the strap loop. I’ll show you what I mean when we get to sewing the bra.
Cutting the Lace
Now this is the part where you get to play detective (because this is Watson, after all!). Lay out your lace and move your pattern pieces around until you find the motifs you want over your cup pieces.
Once you get the your new inner cup piece in a good area, line up the edge of the neckline piece so that it is even with the bottom of the scallops. Move it around until you get that bottom seamline mark (marked in blue) lined up with a low point of the scallops:
It’s important that the bottom seam meets a low point because this is where the two cups join at the center front. Once you have the pattern piece where you want it, trace and cut.
Some decorative laces will have a mirrored design, which means that you can flip your piece to the other scalloped side and cut a perfect mirror of your first piece. If your lace doesn’t have mirroring sides you can move your pattern piece around until you find a similar motif. When I want to get a really good mirror, I often take my first cut piece and flip that over instead of a paper pattern.
Once I get this piece lined up over its mirror, I trace around it with a chalk wheel. To save time I often by bypass chalk tracing and use a rotary cutter and run carefully around the first cup, being cautious not to cut anything away from it.
Alrighty, it’s time to get down to cutting! In this post, I’ll be going over the basics in cutting the bra. I also wanted to give you some creative options so I’ll be following this with a separate post on cutting a variation of the cup in scalloped stretch lace.
Check Your Stretch Direction
Before you start cutting, double check your fabrics to determine their direction of greatest stretch. This will help you lay out your pieces in the proper direction. In specialty lingerie and spandex fabrics, the greatest stretch can be in either direction. In several of my lycra and powernet fabrics, for example, the greatest stretch runs down the selvage, which is the opposite of many jersey knits.
Trace & Cut
Before laying out your pieces you’ll want to snip out the notches so you can mark them on the fabric. Weigh your pieces down and trace around them with chalk or pen. Use the chalk or an washable marker to mark the notches.
I keep a variety of marking tools around because some nylon fabrics have difficulty accepting chalk. In those cases I use a ball-point pen. Don’t let that scare you! You’re going to be cutting these lines away so they won’t show. I’ve also been playing with a heat-erasable gel pen, which I discovered via quilting blogs. (You gotta love quilters because they have the best fabric-marking ideas!)
Cut your pieces, making sure to cut your lines away. Here is where I question my choice of ivory-colored fabrics for photo purposes but hopefully you can see my faint chalk lines.
Snip your notches (just a tiny amount—remember your seam allowance is only 1/4”). If your fabric has an open texture, such as lace or mesh, those little cuts won’t be visible, so you can just leave your notch marks un-snipped.
Tip for Cutting the Cradle & Lining
I have a favorite trick for cutting out bra cradles and linings. Since tricot linings tend to be slippery and slightly more difficult to cut, I like to cut them as a single layer rather than on the fold. This means that I need to trace two sides of my cradle pattern so I have one piece, which you’ll see below. To make cutting even easier, I place the lining on top of the main cradle fabric, trace the cradle onto the top layer, remove the pattern, and cut the two layers together using a rotary cutter.
Ready to trace…
If you have chosen to use a fusible interfacing instead of a lining for the cradle, you can do the same thing. Just place your interfacing glue side down on to the wrong side of your cradle fabric, trace onto the interfacing and cut them together. Then fuse. Alternatively, you can blockfuse: in blockfusing, you fuse a rough cut of interfacing big enough for your pattern piece to a piece of fabric, then cut the pattern from the pre-fused piece. I’m a fan of blockfusing in all kinds of sewing. It really makes cutting so easy!
Finish cutting your band pieces from your chosen fabrics and that’s it!
The Role of Bra Linings
Before I sign off, I had a few questions about whether or not one could leave out the lining on the cradle. It may help to explain the role of linings.
In supportive bra designs, linings serve two purposes: they help the bra last longer and very importantly, they stabilize areas of stretch so that they have less stretch, or no stretch. One of those areas is the space between or underneath the cups. This stabilization keeps the cups in place and in underwired bras, helps the wires stay in position.
Bras that are designed to slip over the head, such as a camisole-style bra, tend to be less supportive. Their bands need to be stretchier by design in order to slip on without a hook & eye. The Watson is designed to have a firm band fit, which includes a stable front cradle. However, if you wished to create a softer bra and leave out the lining, I recommend testing this first because it will change the fit. The band will be looser and stretchier, and the cups will shift around and possibly want to spread apart. This also depends on size—small cups have less weight so it’s easier for the cups to stay in place.
We’re almost ready to cut! Before we get to cutting or sewing, I thought it would be useful to review the basics in sewing lingerie elastic. It’s very simple but you’ll be doing it over and over again.
If you are brand new to sewing elastic, you don’t need any special equipment, just your regular zig-zag foot. To make things easier to understand for beginners, I included a short video at the end.
Basic Elastic Technique
Except for the straps on the bra, all of the elastic is applied using the same “stitch, fold and stitch” method that is commonly used for lingerie elastic.
1. Align the non-decorative edge with the edge of the fabric. You want the wrong or plush side to be facing up.
If your elastic does not have a plush backing, it might be harder to distinguish the wrong from right sides, in which case you can use whichever side you like better.
2. Stitch the elastic to the fabric, using a smaller zig-zag. As you are stitching pull the elastic gently (see tips at bottom for what I mean by gently).
Try to get your zig-zags as close as possible to the decorative edge. It will almost look like your needle is going over the edge of the elastic.
Don’t worry if you veer off a bit. It takes practice and you won’t notice these minor things in the end.
2. Once you are done, you can trim down the fabric close to the stitches. I don’t always trim. It depends on the weight of the fabric, how much bulk it might add, and whether or not it is peeking out from the elastic.
3. Turn your work around and fold the elastic over that the wrong side is facing up again, and stitch again getting as close to the edge as you can. On this second pass you usually want a slightly wider zig-zag, or a 3-step zig-zag for certain elastics.
The Watson instructions include suggested stitch lengths and widths for every step and I’ll be reiterating those when we sew.
As you gain more experience, you’ll learn that every elastic is different and sometimes you need to adapt your stitches to the elastic. Take a look at some of your favorite RTW undergarments and see what stitches are used and where and on what kind of elastic. Try to replicate these on scraps of fabric and see if you like them.
The Triple Zig-zag
This stitch is sometimes called a 3-step zig-zag. It does exactly that–takes 3 straight stitches up and 3 straight stitches down. You can see the difference between the 3-step and a regular zig-zag on the left:
Most modern machines come with with a 3-step zig-zag, but if yours doesn’t don’t worry. I’ve made many bras and underwear without it, and never had a popped stitch on them. The best place to use this stitch is on a firm, plush elastic. It is often used and the top and bottom of bra bands, and very occasionally on underwear.
You don’t need to use it everywhere, and one reason has to do with preventing elastic fatigue. In manufacturing they do a lot of testing for the best elastic tension and stitch type for each elastic and how it interacts with the weight of the fabric. The more stitches and thread you put into an elastic, the more you impact its ability to rebound. A firmer plush elastic can handle the heavy stitching, but lightweight and very stretchy elastics will lose a lot of their rebound with a 3-step. This is the most frequent cause of wavy edges—when an elastic has stretched further than the actual length of the opening and is not able to rebound back to the original or smaller size.
In general, I recommend only using the triple zig-zag on elastics that are 3/8″ or wider, have a plush backing and are fairly firm.
How Much To Pull?
I like to sew in elastic by feel. In bra-making, this is a very good skill to develop.
If you have never tried this before, try this: cut a piece of your lingerie elastic exactly 5 3/4″ or 14.6cm. Stretch it out to 6″ or 15.2cm. This is what 5% reduction feels like, and is a good idea of how much to stretch on most elastics as you are sewing.
I don’t calculate this any of this ahead of time; it’s more intuitive and I promise you don’t have to think about it that much and soon enough you’ll get a feel for how much tension you like.
Most elastics work best with anywhere from 3-8% reduction. In other words, the length of the elastic is 3-8% less than the actual seam line it is covering. I’d say that 8% is on the extreme end. The harder you stretch on an elastic as you are stitching, the more thread you put into a smaller space in the elastic and reduce its ability to rebound and continue flexing with wear. For the hem on a bra band, I put very little tension on the elastic. (It probably works out to about 3% but I haven’t measured that.) For underwear and the lighter bra elastics I pull a little bit more.
Before I sign off for today, I have a little video for you!
Today we’re going to give the bikini some love. I know that the bra is the star of this pattern but it’s always fun to make a matching set. I never feel complete if I don’t make bottoms to go with my tops!
I like a few different styles of underwear. My go-to is my Ladyshorts pattern but I love bikinis, too. I made about 20 of these to get the fit just so. (I’m obsessed with underwear patterns, what can I say.) However, we all have our preferences. Some of us like a a lot of leg, a lower leg, a higher waist, a very low slung waist. So I am giving you permission to experiment with your pattern, just like I experiment with all of mine. The alterations I’ll be demonstrating are essentially style changes.
Adjusting the Rise
If you are tall or prefer a slightly higher waist, you can simply raise the waistline.
Trace off or print out a new pattern. Before you cut, use a ruler to draw new lines up from your side seams and waist. It’s really as simple as that!
Don’t forget to true your pattern after any alteration. By checking that the waist meets the side seam at a 90° angle help the side seams meet at a smooth curve and not a jagged “V”.
Add More Leg Coverage
This bikini is not “full butt coverage”. There are all sorts of bikini styles! This one shows a bit of cheek. How much or how little will also depend on where the widest part of your hips are located. If you want more coverage, here’s the way to do that:
1. Lower the side seam. I’d suggest no more than 1″ (2.5cm). 2. Draw a new smooth curve as illustrated:
You want to make a subtle curve on the back piece. Don’t extend the “cheek” area more than you extended the side seam; otherwise you may create too much length in the back leg line.
For example, if you don’t draw the side seam down but only enlarge the back, you end up with more fabric across the back but a longer leg seam:
Because that new line is longer, it can have the opposite effect of what you wanted, and the leg might rise up even higher. There’s an art to the leg line! Just something to think about.
Raise the Leg
This would be a good alteration if the front of the bikini is cutting into your thigh or you just want a slightly higher leg cut:
Moving Front or Back Seam
The location of the crotch seams can be anywhere you want them. If you don’t like where they are sitting, you can move either of them! This is an example of how you’d move the front seam:
You can also completely eliminate one of the seams and cut the front or back as one with the crotch lining. I do this all the time when I want to make a really quick pair, and I’ll show you how when we cut the bikini. I’ll also be showing you how to sew the crotch lining in a way that hides all seams.
I love being a student in the finer points of bra-fitting, but once in awhile I need a respite from the underwires and the structure. One of the things I love most about this pattern is that it is very easy to fit with a few simple adjustments.
Over the next two posts, I’ll walk through a few common pattern alterations. These might help some of you who have already made the Watson or want to make a quick test bra during the sew along. Today I’ll focus on the bra but I’ll be back after the weekend with a few bikini suggestions, too!
Marking Your Pattern
Because bras use such precise seam allowances it is a good practice to mark in your seamlines. I often stress this, since fudging 1/8″ here or there can add up in a bra.
When you make adjustments, you’ll be making them from the seamline. Afterwards, fix or true the seam allowances for these new seams. On this bra, all seams are 1/4″ (6mm) EXCEPT the band hem, which is 1/2″ (13mm) and the strap fold line, which is 5/8″ (16mm).
Marking the seamlines can also help you remember the elastic allowances or change them. For example, if you want to use a 3/8″ (10mm) plush elastic at the top of the band, you add an additional 1/8″ (3mm) to the seam allowance on this pattern. If you wanted to use fold over elastic at the neckline, you’d remove the 1/4″ allowance.
Measuring for Straps
To find your best strap length, measure from your shoulder to your bustline and multiply this measurement by two. The result is one strap length, and you need two of these. It may need to be shorter, depending on how high the cups are on your chest, but you can refine this length later on.
Fitting the Band
This pattern is drafted for a fairly firm powernet with about 35% stretch. If you are using a lighter or stretchier band fabric–such as stretch lace, lycra, jersey or a lightweight stretch mesh, this may result in too big of a band fit.
If your band is too big you can try one of the following:
Go down a band size or even two sizes.
Double your fabric (but test the stretch of your fabrics when doubled).
Try a stronger band fabric.
Adjust your band pattern piece.
Adjusting Band Length
You can determine how much you want to shorten the band by pinching out the excess and measuring the amount you pinched. Or you can adjust your band with a little math! Remember that you only need to adjust your band piece by half of the amount you pinned out, since there will be two of them.
Adjusting Angle of the Band
If you are experiencing gaping along the underarm, you may need to adjust your band so that it is shorter along the top.
If the bottom of your band feels too tight but everything else seems to fit, the band may be too angled for your body shape. You may notice this particularly in the longline bra. You can adjust the band so that it is longer at the hem:
Adjusting the Strap Position
In the front of this bra, the straps should be quite centered above the breast, going to the middle of the shoulder.
If you find that your straps are sliding away from the middle of your shoulder (or sliding off your shoulder), try narrowing the strap distance in the back.
Adjusting Cup Volume
If your cups are too big, you’ll notice wrinkling in the cups.
Many times these will look like vertical wrinkles in the top half of the cup as the breast settles in the bottom of the cup. If this is happening to you, your cup has too much overall volume for the fabric you are using and I’d recommend going down a cup size.
If the ripples are minor and you are happy with the overall fit of the cup, you can simply take in the cup seam, much like you’d take in a princess seam. You want to take in each seam equally on both sides in order to keep the seam lines the same length. This adjustment will flatten the curves a bit:
Tip: There’s no need to get fancy with your curves; stretch knit patterns need very simple lines.
Lowering Cup Height
If your cup is too high on your chest AND you have wrinkling in the top of the cup, first try going down a cup size. However, if you are fully filling out your cup and the cups are still too high for either taste or proportion on your torso, you can try lowering the height of the cup. First mark in the strap fold seamline, which is 5/8” from the top of the cup and cut away this part:
Try moving the strap attachment seam about 1/4″ but no more than 1/2″. There is a limit to how much you can lower the cup before the strap attachment point starts landing right on top of your breast. This bra has triangle-style cups that are meant to go all the way over the top of the breast.
These are the most common adjustments I use in bra-making but if you have a particular fitting question not addressed, don’t be shy about asking!
Hello everyone and welcome to the Watson Sew Along!
I’m excited to get started, and today we’re going to jump in with a little preparation and gather up our supplies.
Find Your Size
First things first… If you haven’t done so yet, you’ll want to measure yourself and find your size using the suggestions in the pattern. If you haven’t measured yourself in a while, it’s worthwhile to re-take your measurements.
Quick measurement tip: when taking the measurement under your bust, exhale all the way and take a very close fitting tape measurement. This is how I now measure others for their bands and I tend to get a better fit this way. For example, when I fully inhale and measure, my underbust is 30″. But when I exhale all the way, I measure about 28”. I use the smaller measurement to determine my band size.
Print & Assemble Your Pattern
For the bra pattern, you’ll only need 4 or 5 pages. Don’t forget to check the Bra Printing Guide so you know which pages to print off for your size. Most of the bra pattern pieces fit entirely on one page but in some of the larger sizes, you’ll need to tape two pieces together using the page notches as a guide.
Gather Fabric and Notions
I’m going to be making a cream-colored set with black trim. Very ooh la la, and hopefully easy to photograph!
Before every lingerie project I print out a checklist and collect everything together in a little baggie as I go. It makes gathering all the bits and bobs so much easier. Download a printable checklist here!
cup and cradle fabric*
cradle lining or interfacing
band fabric (if different from your cup fabric)
1/2” plush back elastic
1/4” plush back elastic
1/2” rings and sliders
hook & eye (I recommend a 3-row for the longline version)
main bikini fabric
1/4″ lingerie elastic
Note on elastic widths: The pattern can be easily adjusted for wider elastics if you prefer them. If you wish to use a wider strap elastic, make sure to buy your rings and sliders in the same width as your strap.
*For the scalloped lace variation of the bra, you’ll need:
at least 1 yard/meter of stretch lace
1/2 yard or meter of narrow clear elastic to stabilize the edge of the lace scallops
When buying stretch lace, make sure the trim is at least 6 1/2″ wide. The cups will be laid out a bit like this:
And if you want to use lace in the longline version, you’ll need to measure across the widest part of the cradle so that you get a wide enough lace:
Tools & Supplies
Some of these tools are completely optional but they are extremely helpful in lingerie making. Be sure you have a few good marking tools, machine needles, and thread!
Tailor’s chalk or chalk wheel – for tracing around patterns onto fabric
Ball point pen – for tracing onto fabrics that don’t tend to accept chalk wheel marks. You can also use a fabric-marking pen.
Pencil – for marking in seam lines
C-Thru ruler – this is my preferred tool for marking in seam lines. I use several of these rulers for patternmaking; the B-50 is my favorite for bras.
Pattern weights – for weighing patterns to fabric. (I don’t know where to buy the weights in the photo as I have had them for years, but I also use cheap washers from the hardware store.)
Silk pins – These are inexpensive glass head pins, and they are wonderful for lingerie sewing. Fine pins won’t snag as easily on lycras, laces and delicate lingerie fabrics.
Size 11/75 stretch needles – I buy these by the box because I use them so much in lingerie making. If you can’t find a stretch needle look for a size 11 ballpoint needle.
Sewing shears or rotary cutter (if you are a fan of rotary cutting)
Embroidery or tailor point scissors – these are great for trimming seams and clipping threads.
Serger thread* – only if you plan on serging either the bikini seams or the bra cup seams.
Card stock – I like to print out bra patterns to card stock, which makes the patterns much easier to trace onto fabric. You can also trace the paper patterns to oak tag (manila folder paper), heavier weight drawing paper—anything that holds an edge.
Straight stitch foot (you can see mine here) – For neat lines of topstitching and edgestitching. Your machine may call this a “patchwork foot” or “1/4 foot”.
*For extra soft seams, you may want to try a finer polyester thread or wooly nylon in your serger. See my post about these threads.
You may also want to prewash your fabrics the way you intend to wash them afterward. Many nylon-based fabrics don’t shrink at all but I’ve had a few surprises! (My first Bombshell swimsuit shrunk almost two sizes and I learned my lesson on pre-washing lycras!) For most lingerie fabrics, I handwash in cold water and hang to dry. Spandex does wear out with heat and I like my lingerie fabrics to last as long as possible.
That’s it for today! Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments or in the Facebook group!
Happy New Year everyone! I’m a day (or six) late, but I hope your holidays were happy and full of love. Here’s to a wonderful year in sewing!
I’ve been recuperating from travels, planning new projects for the year and of course I’m getting ready for the Watson Sew Along. That’s right, we’re going to get down to making some Watsons.
Making this set is surprisingly fast but this will be a leisurely sew along that’ll give you room to catch up, or sew slowly, or sew other things in the midst. We don’t get started on cutting until January 23 so you have some time to find your materials.
Bra Pattern Cutting (with lace cup variation) (Friday, January 23)
Bikini Pattern Cutting (with variations) (Monday, January 26)
Sewing the Bikini (Thursday, January 28)
Sewing Together the Bra Cups & Frame (Monday, February 2)
Finishing the Bra (Tuesday, February 3)
If you have already made one or two (or some of you many more!), I promise there will be a few new tips along the way to add to your lingerie-making arsenal.
While the sew-along posts are a good place to ask questions, I’ve also created a Facebook group specifically for the Watson Sew Along. It’s just another place to ask questions, share pictures and get updates on sew-along posts. Click here to join!
Nearly every year around the holiday season I tend to take on some big creative project. I think this has to do with my introvertedness; for every extroverted activity I need about twice the amount of introverted time to recuperate. There was the year I spontaneously decided to sew a red cashmere cape a mere three days before we left for Christmas travel. I seriously believed that even with all its hand-sewn lining, slip-stitched pockets and bound buttonholes I’d be able to finish in it time for actual Christmas day. Y’all, I’m not a fast sewer.
This year I got a wild hair to draft and make up a bunch of knit tops. I’ve actually been in need of some basics as part of my wardrobe curating plan, and while I’m not opposed to buying these basics it was about time I used up some of my knits.
First I cleaned up my basic fitted tee pattern so it was a little more form fitting. Finally I have something to layer under jackets and cardigans!
I also made a white cotton knit version but already spilled coffee down the front… that’s fairly de rigeur with me and white clothing!
Then I cut a couple of basic tanks…
For the tank on the left I used a very light metallic gold rayon jersey. I wish I could get a good photo of this because it’s very pretty. For that pattern I added some ease for a flared style since it’s going to be layered and I knew that a tissue weight knit wouldn’t look so hot in a fitted top.
Then I decided it was time to try something completely different, and give myself little bit of a challenge. I had a go at drafting a cowl neck tee, which I thought would work beautifully for this metallic striped jersey:
I make an effort to line up stripes when cutting but almost never get them lined up with sleeves—this was an unintentional surprise!
The reason why this stripe match worked has to do with the shape of the armscye. In some cowl neck alterations the front armscye can almost end up as a diagonal line, which can help with lining up stripes in the sleeve cap. I used this Threads tutorial for the alteration, where you can see how the armscye changes direction.
Since I was on the stripes bandwagon I cut into this luscious cotton knit that I saved up for a boxy mariner-style top. For this top I added about 4 inches of ease to my t-shirt pattern and drew in a wider neckline.
Oops, I forgot to cut a thread down there!
I did these all assembly-line style so that I was cutting everything, then serging, and finally hemming all the tops with my coverstitch at the end. And clearly I took the photos assembly line style, too! After all this I’m a little worn out on knits and I think my serger needs a trip to the spa. I’ve been working on shirts (I made an Archer!) and a new trouser pattern that I”m hoping to have done in January.
Have you ever made a bunch of similar garments at once?
Details: Patterns: self drafted Fabrics: cotton and rayon jerseys from my stash. All of them are a few years old except for the blue and white striped sweater knit from Emma One Sock (still available!)
Today I want to talk a little bit about selecting fabrics for the Watson and I’ll share a few examples from my own projects.
I know that shopping for lingerie fabrics and bra-making supplies the first time around can be a little bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Bras in particular use a few materials that you may not ordinarily use in other garments, but these aren’t difficult to find. Little amounts also go a long way, which brings me to a few suggestions as you go shopping:
Stash. Once you make a bra or two, there’s a really good chance you’ll have extra lining and elastic which make gathering materials for the next project much easier. Stashing linings and a few elastics for lingerie is just as useful as stashing zippers, thread and interfacing for other garments.
Neutral colors are your friend. Shop for neutral-colored elastics, hardware and linings and mix them into your sets. Neutrals can be black, gray, nude-ish colors, or even white. These colors are also easier to find. A nude lining or powernet works underneath most fabrics. I use nude mesh and linings for many bras that have bright colors as their main fabrics.
Mix and match. I like to think about the elastics and the hook & eye as accents. Instead of trying to get all matchy-matchy, I save myself the frustration of finding matching hardware and buy (or dye) the elastics in bright colors that might accent or contrast with my main fabrics.
Dye. This is my personal tactic in making lingerie: I buy all my elastics and lining materials in white and in enough yardage for several bras and then I dye them before a project. Obviously that adds an extra step, but I have gotten fast at this step and have a stash of dye colors, so this is easier for me.
The best fabrics for the bra cups are going to be a 4-way stretch lycra knit or stretch mesh. These fabrics tend to have quick and perfect recovery, which means they don’t loosen up or relax with wear. Some terms you might want to look for in lycra fabrics: 4-way spandex, lingerie lycra, milliskin (which comes in matte or shiny/satin), tricot lycra, satin lycra, or even swimsuit lycra.
Although I recommended 75% stretch, stores don’t often list the stretch percent of fabrics. I wouldn’t worry too much about getting this exact stretch. Several of my test fabrics had less stretch than that. A good general rule of thumb: if it is a knit, has at least 15% spandex, is sold as a swim, dance or lingerie fabric with 4-way stretch, then it’s got potential.
Here are two sets I made from lycra and stretch mesh. For the bands on both, I doubled the stretch mesh. Doubling a lighter stretch mesh is a great alternative to a firmer powernet.
If you want to use stretch lace, look for some with spandex content. Without the spandex, the lace won’t be supportive enough or it will “grow” in wearing.
It’s also possible to use natural fiber knits on the bra and bikini. A medium weight cotton/spandex jersey will probably be your best bet, since cotton tends to have a firmer fit. One of my favorite early makes of this pattern was a cotton knit Watson (which I snuck onto the blog over a year ago!). I still wear that bra a lot.
This is a version I made from a Tencel/spandex jersey as an experiment:
Tencel is a rayon and like all rayon jerseys this was a very drapey fabric that doesn’t have a lot of support. It also tends to lose its shape after awhile. This set turned out much bigger than others in the same size, so if making either the bra or bikini out of a rayon-type jersey, consider going down a size or taking in the cup seam.
Although I recommended powernet for the band, it is just a suggestion. And it isn’t always easy to find a matching color of powernet. If you want to use the same fabric on your band that you are using in your cups, you’ll need to reduce the stretch by doubling it as I did in some of the above samples or shortening your band piece.
While we’re talking about band fabrics, you might be wondering about those terms like stretch mesh, powernet, powermesh… what’s the difference?
Net and mesh are interchangeable terms for a fabric that that is knitted with an open hexagonal structure. Here’s a firm powernet on the left and a lightweight stretch mesh on the right:
Stretch nets and meshes come in all sorts of weights and “feel”. They can be very sheer, lightweight and drapey, or very tightly knit and firm in their stretch. The term powernet usually refers to a stronger weight, firm stretch mesh that’s good for bra bands. Usually the description will give you a hint as to how strong it is.
For the bra, you want to look for 3 different types of elastics:
a plush back elastic for the hem
a plush-back lingerie elastic for the top of the band and the neckline
a strap elastic
Here’s a close-up of what a plush-backed elastic looks like:
The bikini just needs your favorite lingerie elastic. It could be the same elastic you use to finish your neckline if you want to match!
Shopping for Fabrics
These are just a few options and ideas for your main fabrics:
For linings: My favorite bra lining that I use for all bras is the sheer cup lining from Bra-makers Supply. It’s sheer but firm. You can also substitute 15 denier tricot or 40 denier tricot fabrics. These are very common and easy to find nylon lining fabrics (google them!), but keep in mind 15 denier is very lightweight. Alternatively, you may fuse a tricot knit interfacing. Any kind of fusible interfacing that works with knits and has a direction that doesn’t stretch is a good candidate.
That’s it for today. I hope this guide has been useful and helps you understand how to choose your Watson materials. Happy hunting!
Thank you all for your kind and enthusiastic response to the Watson! I’m so glad that it fills a space in your lingerie hearts.
And you guys are fast! I’ve already started seeing a few lovely versions popping up and I love seeing what you do with it. You can tag #watsonbra on Instagram, add your photo to my new Flickr group, or send me a link to your blog post.
The Watson is easy to fit and quick to make if you have any experience sewing lingerie but I know some of you are new to bra-making or would like some tips along the way. I’ll be hosting a sewalong starting January 12.
We’ll walk through making a full set, and I’ll include some easy fitting alterations. I’m also going to add a few extra tutorial “goodies”:
How to cut and sew a version of the bra with galloon lace cups (this is not in the pattern)
Quick and easy dyeing tutorial, for those of you interested in dyeing lingerie fabrics or elastics
I’d originally planned to do a sewalong shortly after release but it so happens that my pattern was delayed a bit. I don’t want to ram this all into a holiday month, which we all know come and go in the blink of an eye!
In the meantime, I know many of you are eager to whip this up, or want to have your fabrics ready in time of the sewalong, so tomorrow I’m going to cover everything you need to know about choosing and sourcing fabrics and notions for the Watson.
Over the next couple weeks I’ll also have a few surprises in store for you. A couple of my favorite fabric shops have offered to partner up to offer discounts and even some Watson bra kits to my readers! Here’s a little sneak peak of kits that Grey’s Fabric will be offering:
Stay tuned to the blog or my newsletter for when these become available.
That’s it for today’s newsy post but before I sign off, I really want to give a huge thanks to my friend Stephanie Press and the always lovely Heather Lou of Closet Case Files for helping me bring this pattern to life, as well as their entrepreneurial insights along the way. Steph helped me cut pattern after pattern and helped me work through sample ideas over many Thursday afternoons together. And Heather was a real comrade, pushing me toward the finish line, and listening to me kvetch about stuff like grading in Illustrator. She was the first person to ask me if I’d make a pattern for a sheer plunge bra. I’m sure most independent patternmakers feel this way but there are days when you feel like you are working in a vacuum and it just takes a few encouraging souls to keep you moving. Thanks, guys!