Bra-making Sew Along: Pattern Tracing

Let’s take a look at our patterns!

tracing my pattern!

Today and tomorrow I’m going to prep the pattern and make a test bra for my friend. I’ve been drafting different bras so I needed a quick and dirty way to test them without sewing in the elastic. So I’ll share how I’ve been doing that. There are some things you can’t predict in a tester bra or cups, and you may just want to skip this part. But if you want to save your materials for the good stuff and do some fitting and styling fun next week, give it a whirl!

Before I get to tracing, let’s take a look at our pattern pieces. This is an illustrated scan of the pieces in Elan 645, and most of your patterns will be in some combination of these pieces.

elan 645 pattern pieces

If you are working with a three-piece cup (such as the Danglez patterns), sometimes the lower cup consists of two pieces, or there will be a side panel that reaches into the strap. A couple of the suggested patterns also include a fabric strap piece.

You’ll also notice that the band and cradle can have various seams, some with a seam below the cup, some with a side seam, or both. These are mostly just style differences.

tracing the pattern

When tracing your pattern don’t forget to transfer pattern markings like notches, direction of stretch (the ‘grainline’) and bust point. I’m going to trace a 32D from the Elan pattern.

traced bra pattern

The Elan pattern also has a little facing piece for the top of the cup. I might not use it but I traced it anyway.

For my initial pattern, I’m using this vellum paper to trace off but later I’m going to transfer the pattern to oak tag or something like card stock. I find it much easier and more accurate to weigh down the patterns and trace around them with chalk, rather than pin and cut. You could do this straight away if you wanted.

the seam allowances

Now there’s one more step I like to do and that’s draw in the seamlines. This is certainly not an essential thing, but I find them helpful when making fitting adjustments. Some of you may have the Danglez or another European pattern which comes without seam allowances so you’ll need to add them on.

Bras use small, precise seam allowances. The major seams are all 1/4″ (6mm), and trust me, these small allowances help with sewing precision, especially in sewing convex to concave curves! They also help the curves to lay smoothly.

The underarm seam on cups and top of the band are 3/8″ (1cm), for 3/8″ picot elastic.

bra pattern top hem allowances

(Totally random prop with my little Czech car.) And for the Danglez cups:

Danglez DB4 seam allowances

The hemline and bottom of the entire band is 1/2″-5/8″ (12-15mm) for your band elastic. Check your pattern to see if it has specifics. For the Danglez pattern, add the width of the elastic you plan to use.

bra band hemline allowances

The center back and the strap seam near it do not have seam allowances.

back band CB

Everything else is 1/4″ (6mm). The center front of the band is either cut on fold or has a seam allowance–check your pattern to make sure! (ETA: I totally goofed and had 1/4″ at 8mm before–I still don’t think in metric!)

Alrighty, I’m ready to cut and sew a test bra! I hope to have photos of the process by tomorrow but it’s been abysmally dark and rainy here. (Bad photo light… bad.)


  1. Naomi says:

    I’m working on the Elan 645. Do you have a special seam allowance ruler you use to draw in your seam lines. They’re so evenly spaced and drawn in. You mentioned the need for precision so I thought I’d ask.

    • Amy says:

      That’s a good question! I use a very simple C-Thru clear ruler. I’ve used every seam-adding gadget on the planet and this one is the easiest and most precise. Actually, my husband took a video of me adding in the seam allowances with the ruler. I wondered if seeing it in action would help anyone?

      • Naomi says:

        I’d be interested to see what ruler you prefer along with where they can be purchased. Sounds like a good sewing room investment.

      • Amy says:

        It really is! I bought mine on Amazon and sometimes as cheap as $1 or $2. They’re called C-Thru transparent rulers. I have several, I think they have names. A 1×6″, 1×12″, and a 2×12″. There are also versions with metric on one side. I use them all a lot.

  2. KathleenS says:

    Hi Amy,

    1/4″ is actually 6 mm. 8 mm is about 5/16″.

    I look forward to seeing how you do the test bra. It’ll be good to speed up the process of finding out that it doesn’t fit! (relative to sewing the whole thing first).

  3. Amy says:

    Thanks Kathleen, you’re right! I’ll fix that. I was using 8mm for another project and my brain does not switch fast between metric!

  4. Kemish says:

    Another method of preserving a pattern – particularly one that you have traced is to iron the pattern to a light weight interfacing . This will preserve it so it can be used again and again.

  5. LisaB says:

    I tried to join the Flickr group sometime this morning and included the info you requested. I wasn’t sure from your note at the end of the post if you want everyone to retry, but Flickr won’t send another request through. Instead it says that the request is awaiting moderator attention. I thought I’d mention this as it doesn’t seem possible to request to join multiple times.

    • Amy says:

      Thanks Lisa–I got your request.

      If this wasn’t about bras, it’d be so easy! So it helps when there’s a personal note. All I can see are Flickr usernames. 😉

  6. Ginny says:

    Hi Amy! I’m using the Pin-up Girls Classic pattern and just finished tracing off my size. As I’m sure you already know, this pattern includes 1/4″ seam allowances — I followed your advice and adjusted the seam allowances in the appropriate areas to match the width of my elastic. However, I have yet to shave off the seam allowance at the center back and nearby strap area — do you think I should go ahead and do so? Thanks 😀

    • Amy says:

      Hi! No, you aren’t shaving anything off the back or the strap curve. All I meant was that there is no seamline there. For those who need to add SAs onto a European pattern, you leave it as is. It’ll get clear why later on!

      Just as an FYI, the Pin-up Girls pattern already includes a 1/2″ seam allowance for the bottom hem and a 3/8″ allowance for the underarm/top of band. Everything else has a 1/4″. So does the Elan. Does that make sense?

      • Ginny says:

        Oooh, thanks for that clarification on allowances in different areas Amy! When I looked at the Pin-up Girl instructions I saw: “All seam allowances are 1/4″ and have already been included on the pattern pieces.”, which led me to think they were 1/4″ on all edges! Good to know the real scoop — I’ll just trim off the extra I added. Thank you Amy!

  7. Michelle says:

    Well, that was VERY challenging! Tracing the pattern itself was fine. I’m using the Danglez DB3. And adding the seam allowances was okay too. However, I need a smaller wire than cup size. The pattern only comes in sizes G, H, & I and I need a D! Or at least it’s a D-sized wire in North American sizes, and I’m only fitting an F cup into it normally. Whew.

    I tried tracing the outside of my wire and adjusting the pattern around it. I really don’t know if that’s the right thing to do or not, but I do know an H cradle will not work for a D wire.

    • Amy says:

      Michelle, what are your band and wire sizes? (If you were to compare your wire to the European wire sizes.)

      • Michelle says:

        The band size I’m using is a 34. The wire is a 38 NA size, and is closest to the 90 in European sizes. However, in RTW I was in a 44 wire (same as a 105 wire).

      • Amy says:

        yes, that’s a big difference in wire sizes. Were the other sizes too big?

        Let me take a look at the pattern and see how the cradle is drafted. We’ll see if we can refine it to draft nicely around the wire! You don’t want the cradle to be the *exact* shape of the underwire. I’ll try and post a picture in the Flickr group to explain…

      • Michelle says:

        Amy, I think I got it. I pulled out my Pin-Up Girls Classic pattern because I have that in a D. I traced that size of cradle onto the Danglez pattern I’d copied. Much easier than what I was trying to do last night. Might be cheating a little, but I think it will work.

        I have the cradle size I need, but still following the shape and pattern of the Danglez, with the Danglez band.

      • Amy says:

        No it’s not cheating! I change my cradle shapes quite a bit. From this point try and walk the pattern pieces from the cup into the cradle piece. You may need to take some bits out here and there (not just from the top) so that these two seams match (with no ease). It helps me to have the seamlines marked in when I do this so I don’t accidentally mistake seam allowance for the seamline!

  8. helen says:

    Hi Amy,
    I am making the Danglez DB4E bra. My under bust is 38″ and my high bust 42″. I think the wire I have is a 44 (100), by comparing to the charts you provided, but I’m not sure – it’s a while since I bought my supplies and I didn’t make a note of it. I decided to sew a size 90D. When I sewed my tester bra the cup size looked good but there were 3 things I thought could have been improved … 1) the band was way short, a good inch or two. Am I better to adjust the pattern I have or just recut the 95D for the next one? 2) the underwire sits a good 1/2 – 3/4″ below the crease of my boob, even though it seems fine at the side and in front – is the wire too big? 3) the cradle doesn’t sit in against my breastbone, it kind of creates a bridge between my two boobs. My common sense when it comes to bra making seems to be absent, your help is much appreciated!

    • Amy says:

      Helen, there could be several reasons why these things are happening and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have experience with all of them! I don’t know if you are in the Flickr group but it does help to see a picture. Many others have been posting so you won’t be alone ;). Also Norma has had some good advice for others about wires and cup sizes. If your underwire is the correct fit, it could be you need more volume in the cup to get the wires against your chest wall. If you cut the 95D you will be going up a cup size as well as a band size so if all you needed was more band room, add some length as I described in this post. I hope that helps!

  9. Tammy says:

    With tracing the Elan 645 pattern to create another copy, how do you get the curves drawn correctly? I’m erasing and redrawing or using a sketchy line on the curves. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    • Amy says:

      Hi, I’m not sure? I use something like tracing paper and lay it over the pattern. I can see the lines pretty clearly through that. Another option is to transfer the original pattern to something like cardstock or manila folder-type paper. I do this so I have a master pattern and it’s easy to keep retracing around it.

  10. pao says:

    Oh man, I think this is already beyond me. I just received the Elan #645 pattern and kit and traced off A view. Looking at the above I noticed this view doesn’t have a pattern piece that looks like what you’ve called the cradle. Am I missing something here? Should I just do view B which seems to have that piece? How can A not have it? Perhaps I should join the flicker group…

    • Amy says:

      Hi, if you look at the first illustration, you’ll see that the Elan has two different styles–one with a seam right below the cradle (view A) and one with a seam along your side (view B). They are identical except for those seams so it doesn’t matter which one you trace. Does that help?

      • pao says:

        Yes, yes. I can see it now that you point it out. I guess I’m prematurely freaking out. Wow, what a wonderful thing to have you here! Okay, onward and upward, so to speak. I just put your badge on my blog so now it’s official.

  11. BikerGranny2 says:

    Just discovered your site & signed up for emails. First question is where do I find Danglez Bra patterns? Especially interested in the DB3 & DB4E.

    I am new to this, but have sewn for about 50 yrs, off & on. I am tired of paying so much for bras that don’t fit correctly & are uncomfortable!

    I live in small town SW MO, but have no problems internet shopping. 🙂

  12. AJ says:

    Hi Amy can you pls provide the video showing measuring , cutting & drafting of fabric, sewing … The very basic for beginners. How companies measures bra size etc

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