Watson Sew Along #2: Bra Fitting Alterations

Watson Sew Along Day 2 | Fitting the Bra

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.

Marking Seam Allowances | Watson Sew Along

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:

  1. Go down a band size or even two sizes.
  2. Double your fabric (but test the stretch of your fabrics when doubled).
  3. Try a stronger band fabric.
  4. 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.

Adjust Bra Band | Watson Sew Along

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.

adjusting for underarm gape | Watson Sew Along

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:

relieve tightness at bra hem | Watson Sew Along

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.

Adjust Bra Strap Placement | Watson Sew Along

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:

Adjust Cup Volume| Watson Sew Along

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:

Adjust Cup Height| Watson Sew Along

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.

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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!

34 comments

  1. Val says:

    What about alterations to increase the cup size?

    While this pattern includes the sizes I typically wear in RTW bras, based on measurements I’m estimating that I’d need a size a bit bigger than the pattern maximum cup sizes (40F-G, based on your size chart).

    I’ve been avoiding buying the pattern because I don’t want to waste money on something that won’t fit, but I’m very interested in trying this!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Val, someone asked a similar question the Facebook group so I’ll include a version of my answer in case others are curious!

      It is possible to increase cup size. I thought about including this alteration but it would definitely be an experiment. I don’t want to give the impression that this bra is going to compare with a typical RTW size/fit in wired bras. In the larger cup sizes of the Watson size range, this bra will usually push the breasts together since there is no underwire or cup separation. If you’re okay with that, experiment away!

      The easiest way to to this: slash the cup pieces across the widest point and open them equally on both sides. Then redraw a new smooth curve over the slashed areas–they should match in length on both sides. This will lengthen the cup. If you also need more width across the cup, you’d draw a deeper curve over the slashed area (kind of the opposite of the adjustment for removing cup volume).

      In any of these cup volume alterations, it’s important not to change the seam along the bottom of the cup that meets the cradle.

      Hope that helps!

      • Catherine Robinson says:

        Thank you for the cup enlargement info. I think the 36E is going to work, but may need a bit more room. I wear an underwire , but am looking forward to having a “lounge bra” for evenings at home.

  2. Katie Emma says:

    Hi Amy, I just measured myself for a Watson bra, and I think I’m a 30A (27″ ribcage, 32 1/4″ upper bust and 33 1/2″ full bust) but I see that it isn’t a size available in the pattern. Would you suggest I go up to a 32A, or cut out 30B and do a cup volume adjustment? I think I will just try the 32A since I measured the ribcage after an exhale like you suggested, but I thought I’d ask your opinion. Thanks!

  3. Meriwether says:

    Hi Amy,

    I might be missing something that youve talked about in depth previously, but what fabrics would you recommend for the cradle lining? I made my first Watson in a Lycra lined in power mesh and I think I need something non-stretch in the cradle. Are there specific lingerie fabrics for this? Thanks!

    • Amy says:

      I wrote a post about materials here. If you scroll down to the bottom I give some suggestions on bra lining fabrics. You can also use fusible knit interfacing. If you used a strong powermesh it probably reduced the stretch quite a bit (that’s a good thing) but the fit will be better if you stabilize it completely.

  4. Rose says:

    Hi,
    I’m very interested in your Watson pattern but it seems I am too flat chested for the smallest size 🙁 I measure 27 underbust, 29 full and upper bust. Do you think I could make it work somehow? Thanks!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Rose, you could experiment with the smallest size and take in/flatten in the cup curves as described in the post. These adjustments are super easy to do. The smallest size for you would be a 30B. Based on your measurements, it sounds like you’d fit into a 30AA, but that depends on the shape of your breasts. This size is not in the pattern but perhaps in the future I may add these sizes if there is more interest!

      • Amy says:

        Hi Jessica, have you tried fitting the Watson? It fits differently than wired bras. In custom bra making a lot of the fit is entirely up to the fabric used. I’m pretty familiar with how this fits on different bodies since I’m the pattern drafter ;).

  5. Rena says:

    what would you suggest I do to keep the long line bra cradle under my breast? It sits too high up. I already realize from this fitting post that I should increase the lower part of the band as I think my rib cage is wider than my underbust – which might be pushing the bra upwards. Any thoughts?

      • Rena says:

        Thanks for the quick reply! I’m going to try the next one in the second version. I think it just might be my big lower rib cage. I made the version 2 for my mom (post partial mastectomy – great bra for her) in a smaller size and when I tried it, the cup was obviously too small but the cradle sat properly.
        Thanks for the great pattern – I bought some beautiful kits from Blackbird fabrics to make them in and I just love the results. I’m a pretty new sewer but I think it turned out pretty great!

  6. Mariah says:

    Hi Amy, can you tell me what the adjustment would be if the bra fits well when I’m standing still but my breasts fall out the front when I move? I made a 36D. I’m a nursing mom right now so my boobs are kind of…well…floppy. It seems like maybe I need space between the cups or maybe fuller coverage on the inner cup? Thanks!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Mariah, I’d say if you’re falling out you probably need a bigger size. It’s really hard for me to give bra fitting advice without seeing a picture of what’s going on, so if you’re up to it, you’re more than welcome to send me one via email… at amy @ clothhabit (dot) com

  7. Melissa says:

    Hi, Amy. I just ran across your site a few weeks ago (May 2015), and I had to try the Watson! I had a bit of a fit issue on the first attempt — the band size was perfect, but the seam in the cups dug into my breast tissue. I was able to solve that problem by going down a cup size. I made the longline version, and I am getting horizontal wrinkles at the top of the cradle. Is this expected? This is a style of bra with which I have no experience. Also, I tried to dye my fabric and had mixed results. Do you have a brand of dye you recommend that gives similar color results with both nylon and other fibers? Thank you for your excellent pattern and tutorials!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Melissa, some of it might be normal from the pressure of the cups, since the bra is unwired. Or it could be fabric (are you lining the cradle and with what fabric?). It’s hard to diagnose without seeing photos so you are welcome to email me with a photo, too! (amy at cloth habit dot com)

      Dyeing is always an experiment but getting the same dye results across several types of fabric is hard. Getting similar results with several types of fibers is even harder and requires a couple of types of dye. What dye did you use? For dyeing nylon and silks I use acid dyes, and have had pretty great results with all of the brands I have tried–Dharma Trading, Jacquard Acid Dyes (you find them at most shops that sell dyes and on Amazon), and Washfast Acid dyes.

      Acid dyes will permanently dye nylon or silk but not polyester and not plant fibers like cotton, rayon, linen, etc. (It will merely stain these a pale color.) The only dye I know of that will dye both nylon and plant fibers together is RIT but you will always get two different shades on the different fibers because RIT uses two different types of dye in its mix to be able to dye several different fibers. I stay away from dyeing polyester; you need a special dye for this and it requires boiling water.

      • Melissa says:

        First, fitting. I will email you separately with photos, but thought I should reply in the thread in case others have a similar issue. I used this a 4 way stretch lace https://www.fabric.com/buy/0396667/izabel-lace-white and used Pellon SK135 Sheer Knit Interfacing for the lining. It is quite stable after fusing. The band is listed as a 4 way shaper mesh. https://www.fabric.com/buy/0392517/spandex-stretch-illusion-shaper-mesh-white
        I should mention that the stretch percentage listed in the descriptions did not seem the same as what I determined when I used your method — both fabrics had about 30 – 40% stretch in both directions by my calculation.

        As for dye, I used RIT in tan. The lace and two of my elastics did turn out a very nice “nude,” which is what I had hoped for. The nylon rings and sliders, one type of elastic, and the mesh took a long time and ended up gray. I didn’t know I should avoid dyeing polyester, and the fiber content on the elastics was not listed. I will avoid dyeing the mesh again and look for a different supplier for the 1/2″ plush backed elastic. I saw in one of your posts that the acid dyes you mentioned seemed true to color on the nylon rings/sliders. I will try one of those next time. Thanks for the info!

      • Amy says:

        Hi Melissa, aha! Yep, RIT won’t dye polyester which is the culprit for your mesh and most likely the elastic that didn’t dye. Plush backed elastics can be either polyester or nylon and sometimes they have latex content in addition to spandex… I always ask sellers before buying elastic, since I dye so much. If they don’t know, I pass! And I think RIT Tan makes a pretty nice nude, too!

        I’ve written about this before but I’ve given up on dyeing the nylon coated rings and sliders. I spent a good weekend experimenting with all of my dyes on them, and in the end I decided it was more of a headache than it is worth. The nylon powder coating is different than nylon fibers and dyes some colors but shifts them a lot. Most of the time I ended up with very pale or off colors. That flourescent yellow happened to turn out well but it was definitely an exception!

  8. Carly says:

    Hi Amy,

    My ribcage is 36″, my full bust is 40 1/2 ” and my upper bust 38″.

    I always come up as a 36 C-D whenever I’m measured in the UK shops, but according to this pattern I’m a 40B (which is your largest band size, I swear I’m not THAT big round my frame, and my jubblies haven’t been a B in years??)

    Am I getting completely the wrong end of the stick and should I just trust the pattern?

    • Amy says:

      Hi Carly, that sounds about right to me.

      A 40B is the exact same cup as a 38C and a 36D in this pattern. This is what is called “sister sizing”–I wrote a post about this if that confuses you. The real difference between those three sizes is the length of the band.

      In the RTW shops they are fitting you into a band size with the same number as your underbust. This is a fairly common practice for bra fitting. Some brands and bra patterns do things a little bit differently and the band size number does not always equal the ribcage measurement.

      In my pattern a 40 band was drafted for a 36-37″ ribcage measurement, so if you use a firm powernet and go down to a 38 or 36 band size you may end up with a pretty tight band.

      That said, band “size” isn’t that important when you are making your own. How tight you want your band is a matter of personal preference, and also hugely depends on what kind of fabric you use. If you make up the 40B and find that it is too loose you can simply shorten the length of the band.

      Hope that helps!

    • Jessica says:

      You can sister size but keep in mind that there will be differences in the cup. A 40B is going to be a more wide and feature a shallower cup while a 36D would be more narrow and have more projection.

      • Amy says:

        Hi Jessica, this might be the case for some ready-to-wear brands but most bra sewing patterns don’t have those differences. In the Watson, the 40B is using the exact same cup pattern as the 36D. The shape of the cradle in both sizes are identical except the side seam is a little bit forward in the smaller. This pattern doesn’t use wires or have a bridge so the bridge area doesn’t change as it might in a wired bra between those cup sizes. Thanks for chiming in…

  9. Samantha says:

    Hey Amy! I’m assuming for wide set breasts we would just some with in the middle front of the band? I’m pregnant now, and my breasts fluctuate so much during pregnancy and nursing, I can’t decide if I should try to make one so I can actually be comfortable, or wear sports bras and keep buying cheap uncomfortable bras to get me through (this is baby 4).

    • Amy says:

      Hi Samantha,

      It is not necessary to adjust the Watson for wide set breasts since the cups stretch, and they naturally follow your form. (I am wide set so I speak from experience.) Just to clarify this is not a bra that is meant to sit flat between the breasts. In a soft cup bra especially with this shape, it’s best to keep the cups meeting each other in the middle instead of putting distance between them. And I think it would make a great maternity bra for pregnancy! You could even turn it into a nursing bra by using clasps at the top instead of rings. Something to think about 🙂

  10. Cara says:

    Hi,
    I’m about to purchase this pattern and sullpies after a disasterous few months finding a lightly padded non wire bra that doesnt look like a sports bra!

    When i say lightly padded I mean, typical t shirt bra padding. Can I add this to the watson? If so, how do I go about this?

    Many thanks, C

    • Amy says:

      Hi Cara,

      I have a tutorial on making a foam cup bra, which is not specifically for the Watson but may give you some ideas: http://clothhabit.com/make-a-foam-cup-bra

      I should add that this bra was designed around stretch fabrics in the cups—it uses negative ease to fit in the cup. Adding foam will change that and make it significantly smaller so you will have to experiment with fit/size a bit.

      And you may not know this but you can make ANY underwired bra pattern but skip adding the wires to turn it a non-wired bra. Many non-wired bras are basically designed this way. This is not to turn you away from the Watson but say you have more choices than you think!

      • Cara says:

        Thanks for getting back to me so quickly!

        Nope, I did not know that, thank you for opening my eyes! I’ll have a search today for other patterns and have a peek at your tutorial.

        I’ll probably still make the longer length Watson just because I’ve seen so many that look fantastic 🙂

        C

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