Posts Tagged ‘bra-making’

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

strapless-bra-inside

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!

Details:
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!

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.

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)

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.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup

For most of my early adult life, my knowledge of bra styles began and ended with seamless t-shirt bras. Truth be told, I didn’t like spending money on bras but living in Europe had an effect on my tastes. Now and then I’d get sucked into a candy-colored lingerie boutique or an old-world department store like KaDeWe in Berlin and splurge on something I thought was a bit more exotic. A pretty French lace bra. Back then, even Nordstroms in the U.S. was mostly a sea of seamless bras, except for the occasional lace number by Elle Macpherson–one of the lingerie brands that I think changed the game of somewhat affordable, la-la lingerie.

One thing I learned in my lingerie explorations that “foam bra” didn’t necessarily equal push-up or seamless bra.

Molded Foam Bras

There are bras in which foam is simply a support or modesty lining, and then there are those which use foam as a shaper or extra padding. You are probably familiar with the Wonderbra-style pushup bras, which are a molded foam-cup bra in which the foam has more thickness in the bottom. I call that a “plumper bump” (totally non-technical name I just made up!) The bump is there to push the breast volume upward, and it can sometimes be quite extreme. I recently saw a Wonderbra that had what I swear was a 1″ thick plumper bump in the bottom of the foam cup, and this was a 36G.

This is one of my bras, a Calvin Klein push-up with a plumper bump.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

Hopefully you can see the plumping part by its shadow.

A bra can also add push-up effects with a floating foam cookie. These bras usually have a sheer lining pocket into which you can insert the cookie if you want to add volume to the cup or take it out if you don’t.

This is an example of a Cosabella seamless foam bra with a removable foam cookie.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

I should mention that without the cookie, this particular bra doesn’t really add much “size” or volume. The molded cup is fairly thin.

Cut and Sewn Foam

The previous two examples are bras made with a molded foam cup, but there is yet another type of foam bra. In the bra industry, any kind of bra with a seamed cup is normally called “cut-and-sew” style, and that also includes designs which have a seamed foam lining. Seamed foam bras were popular before the Wonderbra trend of the 90s made molded bras ubiquitous, but they are still quite common especially among mid-range and luxury brands. Are they more expensive to produce than molded bras? I don’t know.

An example of an Elle Macpherson strapless bra with cut-and-sew foam:

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

The outside of a Stella McCartney bra with cut foam.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

You can’t even see the foam on the inside, which is completely lined with silk charmeuse. So luxurious!

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

If you were take apart any of the above bras, you’d find that the foam thickness and flexibility really vary. My personal favorite seamless t-shirt bra is made from what Chantelle markets as “memory foam” (which I think is probably a lightweight spacer foam with a bit of spandex). I like it because it does feel light and invisible under t-shirts (that and it really fits me well).

One of the common misconceptions about “foam bras” is that they are all push-up or volume-adding bras. Most of the time, foam is really just an extra layer of support, or the entire layer of support. A true push-up bra has a lot of little tricks in it, not just in the thickness of the foam–wire shape, bridge and the mold over which the cup is formed all play a part in pushing your volume around. Bra-makers have been trying to patent these ideas since bras were bras!

Where to Find It

On the bottom of my Bra-making Supplies page, I included a list of stores that offer sheet foam for bras. My favorite comes from Sew Sassy–it’s light, flexible and very soft. Many bra-making suppliers also sell molded cups.

Aside from my one experiment with a molded cup bra, I much prefer making seamed bras. In my experience they have more potential for a totally custom fit. But as you can see from my (worn) examples, there is a place and reason for all sorts of bras in my lingerie drawers.

Next week I’m (finally!) going to share a seamed foam cup tutorial. I think I’ll be breaking this down into three posts, as I wanted to include as many photos as possible. See you then!

♥Amy

Lingerie Friday: Where Do You Find Your Fabrics?

Over the last year I’ve gotten many great emails with all sorts of questions about bra and lingerie making. Some readers have asked about techniques, and others about patterns and fitting. I love getting these kinds of emails and if I don’t know the answer, I hunt for it. So I thought it was about time I started to dedicate some regular posts to your questions.

Your #1 question, by leaps and bounds: Where do you find your bra and lingerie fabrics? To which I often reply, all over the place! There are some tips in this post of the Bra-making Sew Along, and I often include my sources at the bottom of my sewing projects, but I have never centralized it all in one place. So today I published a new page on my site to make your research a bit easier.

Lingerie Friday: Where to Find Bra Supplies | Cloth Habit

Click above to visit the new page! For the rest of today’s post I’ll share a few shopping tips along with some of my personal favorites.

Where Do I Start?

If you are brand new to bra-making, I highly recommend starting out with a bra-making kit. You may not like the colors or the fabrics in a particular kit, but it’s a very good way to get used to all the little tidbits you need, especially while you experiment with construction and fitting. After a bra or two you will get a feel for the fabrics and notions you prefer and need. On the supplies page, I noted all the stores which sell bra-making kits. Some of these kits are specifically designed for making a company’s particular patterns. I’m able to use most of a kit in my own self-drafted bras and what I don’t like I stash away for “bra muslins”.

Annnd, because I’m a rather small size, I’m often able to get two or even three bras out of one kit.

My Personal Favorites For Basics

I buy most of my basic bra supplies from Fabric Depot Co. in Texas and Merckwaerdigh in Netherlands. I stash several basics in white and dye them. This practice works for me because I love to dye and I’m a bit of a perfectionist with color!

From Fabric Depot Co.: strap elastic, plush band elastic, tricot linings, medium weight powernet for firmer bands. All of these things are top quality but in limited colors. Most of her elastics are nylon-based and not polyester so I am able to dye them. For strong, supportive bra cups, I buy the “opaque stabilized tricot”. This is very much like the Duoplex that Bra-makers Supply uses in their kits, and it takes nylon dye beautifully!

From Merckwaerdigh: hook & eyes, neckline elastic (for the stabilizing the top of a lace cup), underwire channeling. I love her channeling. She sells a ton of colors of these products but I usually buy white!

Underwires: I buy my personal bra wires from Sew Sassy, as I like their wider shape. For larger cup bras, my favorites come from Sewing Chest UK. Most of their wires are very firm gauge steel, which means they hold their shape well, and come in a great range of shapes and lengths.

Laces: I’ve turned into a bonafide lace huntress. These days I trawl Etsy and Ebay for both stretch laces and non-stretch “tulle” laces for for more supportive cups. On my resources page I mentioned some of my favorite shops and some search tips.

Gold and silver hardware: Sewing Chest UK and Bra-makers Supply. As some of you have discovered, dyeing the nylon-coated rings and sliders isn’t the easiest thing in the world–some dye colors take to them better than others. While you can find pre-colored nylon rings, I just pass in favor of silver and gold. They are a bit more expensive but such a lovely extra touch on a bra. Clear plastic is always a neutral option but I just don’t like plastic. I also rescue the hardware from old bras.

Lingerie Friday: Where to Find Bra Supplies | Cloth Habit

It never hurts to ask: Many of the shops that specialize in bra, lingerie or corsetmaking are one-woman run businesses. And they often have product in their inventory that they don’t list online or in their catalogs. If you are having trouble finding something close to your favorite underwire, or want a different color of something, or more or less of a certain fabric, call or email them. I have found some great products this way, and all of the women behind these shops are super friendly.

Swatches are My Best Friends

When I was first learning about bra fabrics, I collected swatches. This was a great way to get a feel for a fabric before committing to yardage. I recommend swatches before purchasing just about any type of tricot or powernet/stretch mesh. The quality, weight, stretch and drape of these fabrics vary wildly, and oh, how I wish sellers would include gram or ounce weights in their descriptions. (Hint, hint–I know you’re reading!)

But I’d love to help you navigate. I look forward to doing just that in an upcoming series of posts that will help demystify lingerie fabrics. Next week, I’m going to talk foam, foam, foam.

Is there a fabric or notion you have had trouble finding? Or is there a fabric in one of your favorite store bras you wish you could find?

♥ Amy

p.s. I also recommend checking out Dixie’s Big Fat List of Bra-making Supplies!

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