Crazy Pants, Noah’s Ark Edition

Crazy Pants | Cloth Habit

Yesterday morning a student was bicycling down our street in a t-shirt and shorts and our concerned neighbor shouted after him, “Put some layers on! Aren’t you freezing?!” To which he yelled from his fast-moving bike, “Seriously? I’M FROM CONNECTICUT!”

Well I’m from Michigan and it’s still crazy cold here in Austin, so don’t let my coatless self fool you. The sun came out for the first time in a few days and like all sun-addicted Texans I just had to spend some time in it. The things I’ll do for a photo shoot!

Since I’m talking crazy, it’s time to break out my new skinny pants.

Crazy Pants | Cloth Habit

I don’t quite know what’s going on here, like a Noah’s boat sort of print, full of feather eyes, snake scales and cat stripes. I kept trying to figure out the animal references while sewing it together. I hoped I wasn’t getting too psychedelic but my man kept saying THAT IS THE COOLEST FABRIC. When I tried them on to fit, he kept following from behind. Methinks that must be the best view!

Crazy Pants | Cloth Habit

Sorry, I’m not pulling up my jacket, so you’ll have to trust me on that one.

This is a new pants draft that I worked on in the spring, specifically with crazy pants in mind. I was really craving a pair of skinny printed pants to add to my capsule wardrobe, and made another pair on a bizarre dotted print that didn’t fit as well as I liked so I went back to the drawing board. I’m addicted to trying different patternmaking methods as a learning experience, so I tried a different method than the one I used for my skinny jeans. At this point I have several great pants and jeans blocks and I’m so ecstatic about this that I innocently believe I’ll be sewing 10 pairs by the end of the winter.

Here’s the deal with stretch pants: every fabric behaves so differently. Sometimes you need a little more leg width or a little less in the crotch extension. What I like to do is start with zero ease (no negative ease) at the hips and then baste up the pants with a big stitch and slowly work my way down till the skinny is just right. And it’s really important to balance the adjustments between the inseam and the side seam. Taking in too much at the inseam throws off the balance that causes all sorts of diagonal underbum wrinkles and possibly leg twist. This is something you never see explained in patternmaking books (except the German ones): how the balance of the leg underneath the crotch affects fit.

Anyhoo, the pants. These are basically stretch skinny jeans but without traditional jeans details like a yoke and back pockets and rivets and all that. Okay, so they’re not jeans at all, but the shaping is basically the same. I also draped in a wide contour waistband, which really takes the fit up a notch! Next time I think I’ll try a tabbed fly…

Crazy Pants | Cloth Habit

Normally I wouldn’t be tucking in a top with these. I made these with a mid to high rise (9″ to be exact). I love this height for tops that will be untucked because it’s super comfortable, but if I wanted to tuck I’d go even higher or lower simply because I like those visual proportions better.

Crazy Pants | Cloth Habit

On a sentimental last note, I want to dedicate this post to my amazing mother-in-law. She has been through a serious health scare this week, and since she’s a believer that you gotta keep on shining no matter what, I hope my crazy brings some shining to her day!

Pattern: self drafted
Fabric: Emma One Sock
Zipper: Zipper Stop

Coming Soon – Watson Bra & Bikini!

Watson Sneak Peak | Cloth Habit

After months of hard work, my new pattern Watson is finally coming next week! Today I wanted to give you guys a little sneak peak.

My idea for the bra pattern began well over a year ago. I’d been inspired by longline soft bras and experimented with a few versions for myself. And I’ve got to say, it’s become my favorite bra to wear and make!

Watson Sneak Peak | Cloth Habit

Watson Sneak Peak | Cloth Habit

Some of my regular visitors have probably noticed that I’ve been “nesting” in preparation for this pattern. I gave Cloth Habit a facelift and reorganized it to make tutorials and sew-alongs easier to find. (Look under the Tutorials & Tips tab.)

In case you’re curious about this dress form, she’s one of my new tools! About a year ago Alvanon was developing a form specifically for swim and lingerie and I bought one of their development prototype forms at a discount.

Watson Sneak Peak | Cloth Habit

And it’s an incredible form. It’s squishy in all the right ways and shaped to mimic actual body posture–it even has clavicles! More importantly, the measurements are aligned with my base sizes so I get to try out styles on her. This is not the only way I will fit new patterns, but it’s a great tool.

That’s it for today… I’ll be announcing the release next week!


p.s. If you’d like to be the first to know when this and future patterns are released, sign up for my newsletter, the Lingerie Maker. (I like to share sewing tips, too!)

Quick Fabric Prep with a Steamer

Although I’m a big presser in the process of sewing, I rarely press my actual clothes. (Confession: I wear rumpled buttondown shirts quite a bit.) My husband, on the other hand, loves pressing and especially loves spending time getting all his shirts and jackets ready the night before a big trip. He travels a lot, so a few years ago I bought him an inexpensive travel steamer.

mini steamer | Cloth Habit

(I don’t remember where I bought it but it’s this one.)

And this gadget turned out to be a huge time saver for sewing, too. When faced with long yardages of silk, the thought of pressing it all over an iron board caused me to procrastinate on projects to no end.

Now I just steam it! Welcome to my teensy weensy bathroom.
steaming wrinkles | Cloth Habit

These won’t be the best photos but you get the picture. It’s super overcast today and I don’t have a lot of bathroom light!

I’m working on the Archer shirt pattern and want to make it from this lovely pumpkin rayon challis I’ve had in the stash for a couple of years. Rayon challis wrinkles as soon as you look at it, right? I knew it would have a party slithering all over my ironing board while trying to press two yards of it.

So this is how I deal with long yardages of slithery fabric: I drape them over the shower rod, turn on the little steamer and run it all over the fabric.


steaming wrinkles | Cloth Habit

And 30 seconds later:

steaming wrinkles | Cloth Habit

A little steamer like this is not going to “press”, but it does relax all the wrinkles and folds, making it flat enough for cutting. If your iron puts out enough steam, you could probably hook it up and do the same thing. I like this one because it has a head that points the steam jets directly at the fabric.

Once I’m done, I let the fabric hang till it is fairly dry. With a thin rayon challis like this that’s about 5 to 10 minutes. (I live in a dry climate so your mileage may vary.)

Have your tried using steamers in your sewing? They’re great little tools to add to the arsenal!

Pattern Drafting With Illustrator

After my last post about pattern drafting I got so many great comments about the various programs you use, whether as a hobby or professionally. This subject definitely brings the patternmakers out of the woodwork! That makes me happy because I love patternmaking minds. I want to put you all in a room together so we can geek out on subjects like bone structure, sleeve caps, and pattern puzzles.

Today as promised I’d like to share a few of my favorite Illustrator tools for drafting patterns. Now just to warn you, I am not writing a tutorial on “how to draft in Illustrator”, nor am I trying to exhaust the subject. I’m also assuming that you are a hobbyist drafting for yourself. If you are interested in making sewing patterns for sale, there are many issues to consider and these are worthy of a tutorial series or course on their own. I’ve included some resources at bottom if this is your interest.

So let’s dig in…

Learning the Pen and Line Tools

If you are brand new to using vector software of any type, I recommend spending some time playing with the pen tool. This is the most basic tool and when drafting you’ll use it over and over again. You’ll also use the Line tool, which allows you to draw straight lines and transform them into curved ones later on.

When I first started using Illustrator I created documents and made a bunch of random shapes freehand with the pen. Play around with it until you get used to the motions with your mouse or trackpad.

Get to Know Anchor Points

Anchor points are little dots that “anchor” a line or curve into a particular spot. These points have handles that can be pulled out to create curves. The more anchors the more complex a curve can get.

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

You can add anchor points to any line by clicking on the “Add Anchor” tool (the shortcut in Illustrator is the + key).

Measuring Lines

There are two ways I measure lines. The simplest is through the “Document Info” window.

For example, let’s say I want to measure an armscye. First I select the armscye line with the “Direct Selection” tool (shortcut: “A” key). Then I look in the Document Info window. If this is not visible, click on “Window > Show Document Info”.

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

The Document Info window has an additional dropdown menu for “Objects”.

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

When a line is selected, this information window will give you an exact measurement of your line down to fractions of inches, millimeters or centimeters.

The second tool I use for measuring lines is a plugin called Vector Scribe. Years ago this plugin was called SnapMeasure. It cost a mere $10 or so. Unfortunately another company bought it out, repackaged and amped the price but I’ve gotten so used to the tool that I had to bite the bullet once I upgraded Illustrator.

Vector Scribe allows you to measure segments of curves and lines, rather an an entire line. So for example, I can measure just the front part of a sleeve cap:

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

(DWP means “Distance Within Points”, which is the actual curve measurement along that red line.)

This plugin makes tasks like walking and checking notch placements on my bra patterns so much easier!

Using Guides

Guides are non-printing lines that you can pull into your document. Most Adobe software use guides in some form and they are really helpful for lining pieces up, finding exact corners, or maintaining a control point.

In Illustrator, to pull a guide your rulers have to be visible and you simply click on the ruler and drag downward or inward and a guide appears:

For example, on this sleeve pattern, I pulled in guides to mark the bicep line and the shoulder notch position. I locked the guides (View > Guides > Lock Guides) so they would not move while I was drafting and moving the sleeve seams around.

Duplicating Objects and Layers

Now here is the real beauty of Illustrator—the ability to copy over and over without losing previous work. Illustrator uses layers just like Photoshop.

If I draft something in one layer but need to make an adjustment, I just duplicate the layer. I’ll make the adjustments on the new layer and then go back and make the original layer visible so I can view and assess the changes.


Unless you are lucky to have a wide-format printer or want to take your patterns to the copy shop, you’ll have to print tiled patterns and tape together just like any pdf sewing pattern! Here is the template I use for all my patterns:

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

Illustrator has a feature called Artboards, which are hidden in the background and create printing boundaries. In my template I created a 7″x9″ printable rectangle for for every page, then an Artboard that covers each rectangle. Explaining Artboards would take up a post in itself so I’ll leave that to you to explore.

Seam Allowances

There are several methods of creating seam allowances. “Offset Path” is the easiest but all your paths have to be closed. Select your path, then go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter the seam you want in decimals:

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

I also use a an Action that I made up to create bra seam allowances (very curvy seams need special seam allowance treament!). I’m not going to share it because honestly it is a totally hacky workaround and would take me too long to explain!

Further tips:

  • Keep your lines or strokes under 1 pt (point). I use .5 pt lines. Think of the difference between a sharp pencil and a sharpie marker—if you get thicker than 1 pt you are making your seam line almost a part of the seam allowance.
  • Use the text tool to write notes on your pattern with the date and any adjustments you make. I can’t tell you how many times I used to make multiple versions of a pattern and couldn’t remember which was the most recent! Now I have a practice of putting dates on everything.
  • Learn some shortcuts! There is a shortcut key for everything in Illustrator. The Pen Tool is P, Select Tool is A, and so on. When you start using one tool over and over there is a good chance it has a keyboard shortcut. You can actually make your own (go to Edit – Keyboard Shortcuts), and it will save you time from dragging your mouse over and over again.

Further Resources

(Please note: I am not affiliated with the courses nor have I taken them.)

Is there something you’d like to know how to do in Illustrator? I tried to think of the basics here, but if you have a question feel free to ask!

A Simple Red Dress

Hi guys! It’s been so long since I took a photo of myself that I feel really out of practice. Even in my front yard I felt a bit camera shy.

Cloth Habit | red tank dress

But I made something! (That wasn’t lingerie.) Actually I sewed up four projects in a week, an all time record for me, and here’s why: I had the flu last week. And it was my birthday too! Getting the flu is like one long Twilight Zone episode, a strange dream outside of time. And when you’re stuck at home with little energy for anything more than 15 minutes at a time, what do you do? I eat a lot of comfort foods, shlep around in my pjs and take lots of naps.

And since nothing is worse to me than mental boredom, in my spare spurts of energy I went on a patternmaking and sewing binge. I managed to cut, sew and fit this dress, a t-shirt, and two pairs of pants, and drafted two more pairs of pants I want to make this winter. That was my birthday present to myself…

So here is my belated birthday dress. Because sick or not, one must have at least one new dress for a birthday, no?

red knit dress | Cloth Habit

This was one of the silhouettes I came up with for my summer capsule wardrobe. I really wanted to have a few easy, throw-on knit dresses for our very hot summer days.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make many non-lingerie pieces this summer. Nor did I buy any clothing. I’m really committed to not filling my wardrobe back up with impulsive buys or ill-fitting clothing but instead want to work toward a thoughtful whole, no matter how long it takes me. However, all this discipline, combined with purging about 75% of my closet in the spring, left me with little variety. So I wanted to knock at least one summer piece off the list before the heat completely disappears.

The Pattern

This is just a simple little knit tank dress. I drafted the tank portion off of my fitted t-shirt pattern. For the skirt, I wanted something in between a quarter circle and half circle skirt, but with waist gathers. Frankly, I don’t like the way circle skirts lay over my tummy. So I drew out a quarter circle skirt, then slashed and spread down the center for the extra ease.

All in all it was pretty slapdash (for me) but I will probably make a few more next summer!

red knit dress | Cloth Habit

The Fabric

The fabric is a lovely cotton and modal blend knit that I sourced wholesale over the spring. Wholesale means: I bought an ENTIRE ROLL! Yowzas. It was my first business fabric purchase and I was quite nervous about keeping that kind of inventory/stash but once I unrolled the fabric, I knew it was the cotton of my dreams. It is also undyed, also known as PFD: prepared for dyeing. This means the cotton has its natural off white color and there are no treatments on the surface. It is quite a glorious fabric to dye!

I used Dharma Trading’s fiber reactive dye in Scarlet, which turned out a lighter red than I wanted so if there’s a next time I’ll make sure to use a little more dye for deeper color.

red knit dress | Cloth Habit

By the way, if you have never tried fiber reactive dyes (also known as Procion MX dyes) on cotton, rayon or linen, you are in for a treat. It takes about an hour to do a solid even dyeing but you don’t need hot water to make them permanent, and after a proper after-dye rinsing and washing it does not bleed or fade. At all. I’ve been using these dyes for over a year and washing items dyed with them quite a bit, so I speak from experience!

I’m so glad to be out of the Twilight Zone and have a little color back. What do you guys do when you’re sick? Are you a fighter or take-it-easy sort? I guess I’m a little bit in the middle…

Drafting Patterns with Software

Pattern Drafting Software | Cloth Habit

If you’ve scooted around these parts for awhile you may have noticed that I like to make fancy-dancy illustrations for my tutorials. Most of the time, those illustrations are scaled down versions of actual patterns that I either drafted on my computer or scanned and then turned into a digital pattern.

Many readers have been interested in how I draft or what program I use to do those things, so I thought it’d be fun to open up the subject of pattern drafting software.

I use Adobe Illustrator, which is a vector program. I’ve been using Adobe software since the 90s and feel very comfortable with the tools in Illustrator so it was easy to teach myself how to draft in it.

Drafting in Illustrator | Cloth Habit

However, my ease with Illustrator did not make me a good patternmaker. Even if a computer or some online program automatically drafted a pattern after inputting your measurements, there is still the work of learning to to fit, learning what makes for a good pattern. Whether you like drafting old-school on a big piece of paper or in software, the end results can have the same greatness or the same mistakes depending on your skill or the method of drafting you use.

A pro for paper drafting: A drafter can view the pattern in “real life scale”.

Pros for computer drafting: The ability to copy, paste and repeat very quickly. (No more tracing pattern to make adjustments.) Lines and curves can be measured down to millimeters which makes tasks like walking a pattern and matches notches very quick and accurate.

So let’s talk about the types of software you can use for pattern drafting.


In the software industry, CAD is short for “computer aided design”. CAD is a type of modeling software that is used in many fields including architecture design, interior design, 3D modeling and pattern drafting.

Adobe Illustrator and other vector drawing programs are not technically “CAD”, although some like to call it that, short for “computer aided drawing”. If you have ever tried to import a CAD drawing into a vector program or vice versa, you know the chaos that ensues! They are two totally different languages with different purposes.

Three Types of Software Tools

Among options for pattern drafting software, I’d boil them down to three types:

1. CAD-based software for the fashion industry.
There are many different companies making professional pattern software. The biggies are Gerber, Lectra and Optitex. These are all based on CAD technology, very specialized, and cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Scaled down CAD software for home sewists or custom clothing makers.
Software of this nature is based on CAD technology but has less options in order to make it more affordable.

A few programs of this type:
Wild Ginger PatternMaster
Telestia Creator

Some of these programs work by measurement input. You put in measurements, it forms the pattern blocks for you. Others offer full-fledged tools to draft from the ground up. Some of them include additional “style libraries” to add on to your blocks. The market for these kind of programs varies from home sewists to custom apparel and smaller garment companies.

One very important caveat about all of the CAD-based programs: they are based on Windows and only run on a Mac when you own a copy of Windows and run it through Bootcamp or an emulator. (Both of which really slow down my computer…)

3. Vector drawing software.
While vector software is not created specifically for drafting, it is a wonderful tool that puts a highly accurate ruler and pen in your hand. With this kind of software, you draw the patterns as you wish. There are a lot of little tools within a vector program that speed up the process over paper drafting.

The main options:
Adobe Illustrator
Inkscape (free)

Another option: Adobe just released Illustrator Draw, a free iPad version of Illustrator. It used to be called “Adobe Ideas”, which I used quite a bit last year. It’s actually pretty sweet and has all the important tools you need for drawing. I drafted a pair of pants on it!

Despite its cost I keep using Adobe Illustrator since I am so familiar with how it works and have collected a lot of plugins over the years that increase its functionality. I’ll admit that I was never attracted to the CAD-based programs because I’m such a Mac girl.

In my next patternmaking post, I’ll explore some different ways you can use Illustrator (or any vector program) to draft patterns, along with some of my favorite tricks.

Have you tried using a patternmaking program? And if so, do you feel comfortable working in it? I’d love to hear what others use.

Made: Strapless Bra & Knickers

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Happy October y’all! My favorite month of the year. Unfortunately, unlike the pumpkin patch, apple-dunking hayride-loving October I grew up with, Austin is still experiencing some seriously hot summer weather. So I have some days left to squeeze in my new tank dress and this strapless set.

And if you followed along with my progress, it must have seemed like this took all summer to make. It did, with a lot of breaks in between. I laid it aside a few times to make about 12 other lingerie sets. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I’m going to take a small break from making lingerie. Maybe a week, ha. I just love this set and am so glad I put the time getting the fit just so. I feel a little bit like a 40s starlet when I’m wearing it!

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

You all asked some great questions about making this kind of bra and one of them was: is a 3-piece cup better for strapless bras?

In my experience, yes. A three-piece is the most common type of cup in RTW strapless bras and probably for a good reason. A single horizontal or vertical seam is more difficult to contour closely at the neckline especially as the cup gets higher over the breast as a strapless bra does. Think of cup seams like darts. The more seams you have the more “dart” possibilities. The more darts, the more a pattern can fit smoothly around a very curved area without distortion. (This is a basic principle in patternmaking, not just for bra cups.)

When I made my muslins I had to try on my cups in foam pin out little darts along the upper piece to get a smooth, non-gaping neckline shape. Then I took these adjustments back to my pattern.

So let’s talk about the bra!

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit


There are a lot of different fabrics going on here but thankfully I had most of them in my stash, like the lace, lining, and powernet. I listed my sources at the bottom in case you are curious.

As per my usual bra-making routine, I dyed many parts to match. Thankfully, I lucked out and was able to find some wonderful 5/8” plush elastic that matched perfectly! (I did did a total nerdy happy dance when I opened the packages and saw the color.) And it is a nice, firm elastic which is great for a strapless band. I used the same elastic on top and bottom of the band, which ended up being a good call for support but it also feels super comfortable.

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Unfortunately the very day I finished this my cups got a bit crushed when one of my kitties decided it made a good afternoon nap cushion. I usually have to hide all my sewing projects from them in a drawer somewhere but sometimes I just forget…

The matching knickers were a fun addition. They are slightly higher waisted with a lace inset. I have about 20 underwear styles at this point I’ve been playing with. Some have been winners and others a bit meh, but this one is definitely a winner for a future Cloth Habit pattern!

Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

lace inset knickers | Cloth Habit

Overall, I’m supremely happy with how this all turned out!

Bra & knicker patterns: self drafted
Cup & knicker lycra: Girl Charlee
Cup foam and sheer lining: Bra-makers Supply
Powernet: Fabric Depot Co.
Galloon lace: LaceAndTrims
Bra & knicker elastic: Lace Heaven
Wires & other notions: from my collection
Lace, lining and powernet were all dyed to match with Dharma Acid Dye

Bra Making: Add Boning to a Strapless Bra

Oh hey, remember my strapless bra project? This week I had a little “me sewing time” after over a month away, and finally worked on finishing it up!

Have you ever used boning in a strapless dress or bra? It’s is one of those little extra things that can add shape and staying up power. A couple of readers have asked me if boning is absolutely necessary and I guess my answer would be—it depends on how serious you are about your bra staying up!

Without bones, a bra slips a bit into “bandeau territory”… the battle of constant pulling up throughout the day. A longer line band helps, as does gripper elastic, but boning is the key to keeping those sides up.

So let’s add some bones…

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

Here’s what you need:

  • Plastic bones. I bought plastic boning by the roll at Vogue Fabrics for use in various projects. Corsetmaking Supplies sells smaller sections by the dozen. Google “plastic boning’ and you’ll probably come up with more options, but make sure the boning is 1/4″/6mm. If it’s wider than that you’ll have a hard time fitting it into the channeling.
  • Extra underwire casing
    I am using my own homemade channeling but any wire casing will do as long as it is wide enough to contain the boning after stitching down the edge of each side.

You’ll notice my bra is almost finished. I still have to add the hook & eyes but I wanted to add the boning at the very end so that the bones extended over the elastic and covered most of the side seam.

1. Lay your boning on your the side seams and mark off the length you want. Make sure to leave some room above and below the boning to close the channeling. Then cut.

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

2. Round off the ends of the boning with a nail file. This prevents sharp corners from poking through. You can also use your scissors to created rounded ends on the plastic—easy!

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

3. Now it’s time to add your channeling. Line up the channeling so that it is centered over your side seam and stitch down each side, leaving the ends open.

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

You’ll notice I left a part of the ends unstitched. I did that so I’d have some room to fold under the channeling before closing it off. My homemade channeling is thin enough to do that but most channeling isn’t, so go ahead and stitch all the way down!

4. Insert your bones and test the length. Do you have enough room to close off the channeling with your machinef foot? If not file or cut a bit more off the ends.

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

5. Close off the ends. I stitch forward and backward with a small-length straight stitch (between 1 and 1.5). Here’s a close-up…

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

On a side note, I used to try a narrow zig-zag or bartack stitch to close off wire channeling but it is really difficult to do neatly over that many layers with my machine. The straight stitch works just fine.

And from the outside…

Add Boning to a Bra | Cloth Habit

That’s it! I promise I’ll be back with some details on the finished bra. I had to make a pair of undies to go with it, of course!

Bra Making: What is Sister Sizing?

Have you heard the term “sister sizing”? It’s a great term for explaining how bra sizes shift in band and cups. The basic idea is this: Sister sizing refers to the same cup but on a different size band. As a bra band size gets smaller, the same cup volume will have a bigger letter, and vice versa.

In other words, a B is not a B is not a B. A 36B is a full cup size larger than a 34B. So I’m not just “basically a C cup”. Nor is someone else “an F”.

The use of cup size in non-bra sewing patterns like blouses or dresses can make this a bit more confusing for sewists. Your cup size in dress patterns (like Simplicity’s Amazing Fit series, for instance) might be completely different from what you need in a bra. Dress patterns use the difference between the upper chest and full bust measurements to determine cup size, but bras are more dynamic in their sizing.

So how can sister sizing help you?

If you can’t find your size in a bra pattern, there’s a good chance the pattern has a “sister size”, and you can find the equivalent cup on another band, and simply alter the band to your preferred fit (a very easy adjustment!). For example a 28F on a 32 band would be a 32DD or 32E.

Sister Sizing for Bras | Cloth Habit

(Note: in the U.S. and UK “DD” is usually the cup size above “D”. There are other double letters, too, but most bra patterns use the normal alphabet. I personally find the normal alphabet less confusing!)

Obviously I didn’t fill out the chart with all the possible bra sizes and cup letters, but hopefully you get the idea!


There are some exceptions to the sister sizing “rules”, both in lingerie brands and in home sewing patterns. These exceptions do what I call “jump grading”, where the cups on the same band size will jump by two cup sizes after D cups. I won’t go into details of how that works because it can get confusing unless you’re really into the nerdy ins and outs of bra grading. Suffice it to say, there are a few upscale brands that use this kind of size grading (Empreinte, Prima Donna) and Pin-up Girls patterns use this method as well.

Whatever size you start out with, there will always be a good chance that a bra pattern doesn’t fit the same way as your size in your favorite brand. That’s just the nature of the beast. There are many measurements that go into bra drafting, not just the bust and ribcage, and no measuring method is going to capture them perfectly. Before you try online bra calculators remember that you are making a bra, which is a bit different than buying one. Find a starting size by using the pattern’s measuring suggestions, and then go from there to make a “you size”!

Some tips for fitting a bra pattern:

1. Fit a wire before you do anything else. A good-fitting wire solves other fitting problems further down the road.

2. Try to stick with the same band pattern, tweaking it until it is firm enough for you, in the fabric you want to use.

3. You may end up needing to try different cup sizes. Sewing has a way of tuning our eye to fit issues we never noticed before and bras are no different. Nearly everyone I’ve fit has had to go up at least 1 cup sizes, usually two, from their “usual” size. And my top tip: it is better to start large in the cup and take in adjustments, than starting too small and trying to figure out where the room needs to be.

Have you had trouble fitting a bra pattern? I’ve got more pattern fitting posts in the pipeline so I’d love to hear what ails you.

Book Shelf: Sew Lovely

Sew Lovely books | Cloth Habit

I’ve got a small shelf devoted to books about lingerie design and sewing. And I mean small, since lingerie sewing is a niche craft and not nearly as well-explored as, say, tailoring jackets, hand quilting or fitting pants.

That doesn’t stop me from collecting whatever I can find, if just for the inspiration, funky illustrations and that little bit of lingerie history.

Sew Lovely was an independent line of patterns for intimates, nightgowns and lingerie in the 60s and 70s, designed by Laverne Devereaux. Her booklets and patterns were some of the early entries into sewing lingerie or patterns with stretch. There are two booklets: Girdle and Bra and Slips and Panties. They’re small things, the weight of some patterns, but surprisingly there is a lot of technical information packed within each.

Have I mentioned how much I love the 70s? The best period in fashion illustration, ever. EVER.

Sew Lovely books | Cloth Habit

In older books you come across some unfamiliar fabric terms, and that is especially true of technical fabrics made with nylon or spandex. Some fibers became so popular or so heavily marketed by Dupont, the original nylon manufacturer, that the fiber name itself became synonymous with a certain type of knit. Back then Antron was a popular nylon fiber for apparel; today it is Tactel and Supplex. Lycra was still new and Lycra® with a capital “L”, and not the catch-all term for any fabric with spandex. “Lastex” (yarn-wrapped latex) was still popular in swimsuit fabrics.

One of the more interesting fabrics the book lists for bra-making is “nylon marquisette”. Marquisette is a sheer net fabric with a leno weave. It was common in vintage clothing as a sheer overlay material, and stiffer nylon marquisettes may have been used as lining materials in bras. While bra fabrics haven’t changed very much–my vintage 60s bras contain materials nearly identical to what manufacturers use today–the fabrics tend to be much softer than they used to be. Most bra linings are warp knits (tricot), made on machines that can knit sheer and soft but very strong materials.

This book has a nice, balanced mix of construction methods and light patternmaking. Now that I’m thinking about it, many of my vintage sewing books mix “how to stitch” equally with patternmaking. The skills of altering existing patterns, using them as tools to create new styles, seemed much more integrated into sewing than they are now.

I particularly liked the section on girdles. Yes, girdles! Think Spanx if that makes it sound better.

Sew Lovely books | Cloth Habit

There are some basic illustrations to adjusting a pattern for a gusset, which I haven’t seen in many other lingerie or patternmaking books. I often call the piece that connects the front to back of underwear a “gusset” but a real gusset is much more than that lining piece. A gusset is a rhombus-shaped piece added for movement. It can create a better fit in leggings or any kind of underwear whose leg line reaches the thigh. (Look at your yoga pants!)

This book would make a lovely addition to a sewing collection, especially if you love vintage treasures or lingerie. You never know when you might find some tricks hidden in pages somewhere. There are a many ways to finish a bra cup neckline and this book has a couple of methods that are still in use!

Sew Lovely books | Cloth Habit

Of course there are many areas of bra-making that can be refined and I would use it in conjunction with a more modern book—or tutorial on the internet!


Book Details
Title: Sew Lovely Girdle and Bra
Author: Laverne Devereaux
Published: 1971
Garments covered: Bras (non-wired), Slip Panty, Body Shirt, Basic Panties, Girdle.
Patterns included: none
Patternmaking/Fitting/Sewing Techniques: Mostly sewing techniques in a step-by-step construction order. Some easy pattern adjustments for different styles. No fitting.
Where to find: You can find copies on Ebay, Amazon, AbeBooks, Etsy, etc. for pretty cheap.

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