Howdy everybody! Today let’s talk a bit about different materials you’ll need for your bra. There’s still over a month before the sew-along, so this will give you time to gather most of what you need.
I’ve included a basic material checklist at the bottom, but some of you will probably enjoy buying a bramaking kit, which makes it simpler to collect most of the little notions. Not all bra kits are the same, however, so do read the bit about kits below, and make sure to compare them to your pattern’s requirements.
When shopping, it’s important to locate your correct underwire size. If this is your first bra, I highly recommend buying underwires in the size you think you are and then one size up and one size down. Just 1/4″ could make a massive difference in comfort. You might be surprised by what ends up being comfortable. (And yes, I was wearing the wrong size underwire for many years so I can testify.)
What you choose for your bra fabric depends on your experience, and what kind of support you need or want. Those of you with experience in bramaking or who have a different pattern than the ones I chose may want to branch out and try some new fabrics or techniques.
FOR THE CUPS AND CRADLE
The patterns we are making require some kind of stable cup fabric that does not stretch. If you want to use a stretch lace, lycra, or anything with spandex, you’ll have to either line or interface the cup in some way. The bridge will always need to be lined or interfaced, unless you are using a very stable fabric.
Traditional bra fabrics: Duoplex, Simplex, bonded or fused tricot. Of these, (I personally like Simplex, which has a nice drape and is very soft on the skin.) These are all satin-y tricot/raschel fabrics and are easy to sew.
Natural fibers: Woven cottons or silk satin like a charmeuse–a beautiful bra fabric. Keep in mind that woven cottons don’t tend to be t-shirt-friendly (fabrics stick to it) and sometimes the seams won’t lay as smoothly. I love silk bras and I take good care of them, but they are not sweat-stain-friendly (living in Texas, ask how I know!).
Lace: A rigid lace made for lingerie is perfect as a cup fabric. Lingerie stretch laces are another option and usually more widely available. Sewing stretch laces do require a little bit of experience in fitting. They will also need a stable lining as I mentioned above. Some of you may want to experiment with using lace or some kind of decorative mesh on the outside of your cups or cradle. There are many different ways to use it. For some inspiration, check out some of the bras by Sigrid, Katherine and Novita–some of my favorite bra-making bloggers who have used lace so beautifully. I will demonstrate one way during the sew-along to give you some ideas.
For linings: 15 denier tricot or 40 denier tricot. In some places these fabrics are simply called “tricot” or net. These are very useful fabrics to have around in bramaking. The 15 is very sheer and stretches just a little. The 40 is more opaque. Some of the kits will include a bit of this for lining. I like to stash some in neutral colors because I use it everywhere. It is very useful as a stable lining for the bridge and cradle area (and almost all my RTW bras use it for this). Some bramakers like to use powernet for lining. I don’t have a lot of experience with this, so perhaps someone can chime in about it!
Instead of lining, you could also stabilize a fabric with fusible tricot interfacing, often used for knits. Look for something that can be fused at a cooler setting on your iron.
l to r: 40 denier tricot, 15 denier tricot, fusible interfacing
FOR THE BAND/WINGS
Ideally, your band should use a fabric with about 50% stretch and good rebound.
Powermesh/powernet: Powermesh comes in many weights and qualities. Some women will need a heavier weight powermesh. I like medium weights if I can find them. They are soft and drape well but strong enough. Very lightweight powermeshes are useful as a lining for stretchier band fabrics but are really only good for the lightest of bras or even knickers. (The ladyshorts photo in my sidebar is made from a lightweight printed powermesh.)
(l to r: heavy, med, lightweight powermesh)
Lycra: These can be good band fabrics but check the descriptions as some lycras may be too lightweight or too stretchy for you. You’ll have more options in color choices, which is probably why folks making bras tend to use lycra instead of powernet.
For now, try to avoid using jersey as your band fabric. This is something you might want to try later but jerseys often get narrower as they are stretched and are quick to lose their elasticity. If you have allergies or need/want a natural fiber bra, you can try making a band from woven materials, but you will have to experiment with the pattern’s band length to find a comfortable wearing ease.
A note about lycra for those who are new to sewing lingerie or swimwear: For the most part, fabrics labeled “lycra” by lingerie, swim or dance fabric shops are tricot and raschel knits made with nylon (sometimes polyester) with spandex for elasticity. The quality and weights of lingerie lycras will vary. Some of them will have a 4-way stretch, some 2-way. Sometimes suppliers may sell an uber-soft microfiber lycra, other times you’ll end up with something that looks more like shiny 80s swimsuit fabric. I try to read the descriptions carefully if there are any.
BASIC MATERIAL CHECKLIST
Supplies & Tools
- clear ruler or way to mark seam allowances
- tracing paper
- a kick-butt sharp pencil
- some kind of heavier paper like cardstock for your final pattern
- tailor’s chalk or washable fabric marker
- stretch needles (70 or 75)
- zig-zag foot
- straight stitch foot (also called patchwork foot, 1/4 foot)
- thread (at least one full spool)
- a rotary cutter is very useful in bramaking but optional
ABOUT BRA KITS
With a lot of kits, you will need to order underwires separately. Be sure to read their descriptions. Also, many kits seem to be short on strap elastic, so consider ordering a bit extra. For my bras, I need about 36 inches of strap elastic and I have a short shoulder-to-bust length. The Bra-makers Supply kits assume you are making the fabric strap in their patterns so they really don’t include much strap elastic at all.
I’ve used kits from Merckwaerdigh, Elingeria, Bra-makers Supply and FabricDepotCo. By far the best bang for my dollar was the FabricDepot kit (#KE645-S, which is designed to supply the Elan pattern but is good for most bras). It had some very nice lycra, plenty of elastic and included the underwires. Note that Merckwaerdigh and Elingeria kits are often entirely stretch fabrics so you will need linings of some sort.
These are just the ones I know about. If you haven’t by now, please check out Dixie DIY’s awesome Big Fat List of Bramaking Supplies for some ideas on where to source your supplies. (Dixie and I are fellow Austinites. Maybe someone should open a bramaking store here!)
Post Update: Some of the shops listed here are no longer in business. For an up to date list, visit Where to Shop: Bra & Lingerie Making.
Phew, I think that about does it. Feel free to ask questions!
Would you like tips and inspiration in the craft of lingerie sewing? Sign up for my weekly eletter The Lingerie Maker.
I’ll just add that Australian sewers might like to buy kits from http://www.boobytraps.com.au I have used their kits before and find them good quality, and you won’t have to wait for international postage.
Thanks Katherine–what a great resource!
Thanks a million for this fabulous resource… I had no idea! Awesome 🙂
When considering lace for our bra cups what is the preferred width to purchase? I assume we’ll want to be looking for a stable lace with at least one finished edge. I’ll be sewing Elan 645 for my daughter and myself. I purchased kits from Fabric Depot but would like to add a bit of lace to jazz it up. (Still waiting for my pattern to arrive.)
Hi Naomi, a lingerie lace might be anything from 5-10 or more inches wide and your pieces should all fit onto it. (For reference the bright blue lace in my photo above is 7 1/2″.) The lace doesn’t have to be a galloon-type lace with the scalloped edges but those seem to be more common. Without the scallops the edge of the cup will need to be finished in some way and I can talk through some options (or perhaps others will have suggestions) when we get to the cutting parts.
i’m excited about this sewalong! random austin related question – do you buy any lace or trim for bras or the ladyshorts pattern from Texstyles? I haven’t been down there lately but i know they had some picot lace and i was wondering if it would be worth the drive.
Hi Dixie, I emailed ya too, but yes, yes and yes! I just found some beautifully soft stretch lace fabric for ladyshorts and a lot of nice trim, including picot elastic. It was all kind of tossed together in big baskets but organized by color. I didn’t notice any tricot-type fabrics.
I found out I was in the wrong wire size too – just recently. Beverly, from Bra-makers Supply helped me with this. I’d called with a question – the bras I’d sewn and any RTW ones I’d had all left a line/ridge under the bust line. I asked what this was from. Beverly said it meant my underwires were either too big or too small, but they were not supporting me.
She said the way to test this was to raise my arm above my head and then see how the wire was fitting against the breast. It turned out for me there was quite a gap between my breast and the wire!
Great post Amy! Very in depth and thorough! I actually took notes!
Thanks for all the links. Woo hoo, bra-makin’ time!
I am very excited about this sew along. I’d been thinking about trying a bra on my own, but this makes it so much less intimidating! Thanks. I think my best pattern option is Danglez DB3E. I wish I could find a kit but so far can’t seem to find on that will work. I’m a bit overwhelmed by buying all the supplies separately! Thanks for all the help you are offering.
Hi Jess, I know it seems like so many little knick-knacks. If you’re in North America, have you tried looking at the FabricDepotCo kits or Bramakers Supply kits? They will both work for your pattern. The Fabric Depot kit with Simplex (#KE520S) has everything you need, including underwires and some decorative lace for fun.
Indeed, the number of ingredients to make a bra is a bit overwhelming ! I’m really pleased we’ll share the process all together ! For me, it’s a true challenge and I’ll be very proud if I succeed !
Thanks Amy! I just checked the kit you mentioned and I’m not sure if it would work since I think my size will be 95 I. I have had horrible luck with store bought bras but am roughly wearing a 36-38 HH. I will look through the Fabric Depot site some more and may just buy items individually. Thanks again for all your help.
She is very helpful, so if you do order from her, perhaps you could ask her to substitute powernet for the lycra, if that’s what you need. Also, I don’t know where you are located but Elingeria sells the kits made for the Pin-up Girls pattern. For the Danglez bra, you might need a little bit more strap elastic but it has most of the materials you need, and the powernet is very supportive in these kits.
I’m looking forward to this sew-along. I’ve made (or tried to) several bras but the fit has been wrong and I didn’t really know what to do about it. I gather you recommend starting with a size that matches the underwire size that fits? (That would seem obvious, but I’ve found that the cups are too big).
Hi Kathleen, hopefully you’ll be able to get closer to your fit this time! I’ll be talking some about picking a size as it relates to your underwires in the beginning–probably the first post! From my personal experience, some women will have an underwire of one size and need to reduce the volume of the cup on that size. I’ll be walking through a way to do this.
Oh this is fantastic, I found you via Novita. Hi Amy. I’ve just purchased my pattern and am gathering supplies, shall check out Australia’s boobytraps for a kit. Very excited. Thanks Amy.
You’re welcome! Glad you’re coming along!
I have just purchase ALL my supplies, it was very easy I just handed my list to Mark at Metro Fabrics,unit 1, 619 Princess Highway ,Tempe NSW Australia. he was very helpful as I had no idea! For $60 AUS I got enough notions for three bras and plenty of fabric for the stash(1 metre min cuts) I don’t know if they do mail order http://www.metrofabrics.com.au
Thanks for the tip! It’s always nice to have someone to help.
Yes, Michelle, I too have discovered metro fabrics but I don’t think they do mail order unfortunately.
i ordered 2 kits and my pattern from fabric depot this morning, so hopefully i will be prepared when we do actually get started. i would like to know when you actually make new posts to this list or blog or whatever this is. i’m not entirely current on all the technology lately. thanks for your help!
Hi Sande, I just talked to Susan at FabricDepot today. She ships the next day, which is awesome! You may not know this but you can subscribe to my blog (or any blog) using something like Google Reader. It works just like email but updates every time a new blog post is published. If that’s too much work, you can always subscribe by email–there’s a little subscription box at the bottom of my sidebar. Hope that helps!
I think I’m going to have to admit that I just don’t have the time right now. I’m still going to follow along, and if I can squeeze in a few seconds to buy the right supplies while on vacation for the holidays, then I’ll do my best to keep up… Life is just too hectic right now!
Hi Amy, especially this time of year nobody needs extra pressure! This will always be here to follow along at your own leisure, so feel free to ask questions any time.
i just received my kit and pattern from fabric depot yesterday. the fabrics seem to be very high quality and quite beautiful. maybe this would be a good way to go for those who don’t feel they have enough time to collect the supplies for the sew-along.
I received my supplies & pattern from BraMakers today. They are very quick, I may try Fabric Depot for fabric and supplies next time. I was a little concerned about mail service, which is why I went with BM. I knew they would ship via postal service. I have had problems with some suppliers not wanting to use postal service; I live in Alaska and have a PO box. We do get Fed Ex and UPS, but I hate paying the extra for 2nd day delivery. If they use ground service only it goes to Seattle and then taken to Post Office for delivery. This leads to all kinds of problems and would take an additional week for delivery that is if they have the PO Box on the package otherwise it may get kicked around for another week before I may get a call from someone wanting to know how to deliver package.
Sorry so long winded. Frustrated with package delivery for Christmas packages
Have a great Christmas and I look forward to the sew-along in January.
annette, i don’t know what the mail service is like in alaska, but the lady at fabric depot i spoke with was as sweet as could be, and i got my order from her in 2 days. of course, i only live in texas, but it usually takes me longer to get mail from any other company anywhere. so i would guess yours would also come relatively quickly, and it’s not a big package. i bought the pattern and 2 kits, and all three fit in the 7 X 10 gold paper shipping envelope. i highly recommend fabric depot; it was the first time i ordered from them, but it won’t be the last!
Yep, I’m in Austin so it only took one day!
I thought I would mention to others for the future–don’t hesitate to try different shops to find what you want. Most of the bra-making supply sellers are one-woman independent businesses and usually the owners behind them are super helpful!
Yay! I’m good to go my Élan pattern arrived today.
For the Sydney girls, there are two suppliers: Booby Traps http://boobytraps.com.au/ and Metro Fabrics at 619 Princess Highway, Tempe (opposite the Ikea store).
I am going back to the first post to let you know that I am finally going to make a bra!
It’s great to have a list like this, thanks!
One “nice to have” supply, but not essential, is a 1/4″ foot for my machine. It really helps me with keeping my seams precise, and makes the cups fit the way they should, according to the pattern measurements. I think my brand of machine calls it a “patchwork foot”.
Thanks Robyn, that’s a good suggestion! I have a straight stitch foot that is exactly 1/4″ from the needle to the edge of the foot. I couldn’t do without it for bras!
I ordered my supplies today, and bought enough to make several bras! I can’t wait until I’m able to sew my own bra along side everyone here.
Can anyone tell me where to purchase duoplex fabric and simplex fabric in the U.S.? Everything I’ve found seems to be out of the country.
Diane, at the moment I don’t know of any Duoplex retailers in the U.S. (Bra-makers Supply from Canada sells it.) FabricDepotCo.com sells Simplex and she is located in Texas.
I just bought this pattern:
And was wondering what would be the best type of underwire to get for it, since it has a side seam as one side of the cup (instead of the cup seam being a half circle, if you understand my meaning). Should I get a regular underwire and trim it? Or should I get a demi underwire?
Thank you SO much!
Hi Brigid, This pattern and style of bra were not designed to be used with an underwire. The cup is integrated into the cradle so that it doesn’t circle the breast on the side. (The cup extends past the side of the breast, if that makes sense.) But if you wanted to try one, you’d have to play with cutting down the wire from the side. You might also want to try a slightly wider/larger wire than you are used to so that the curve is a bit shallower.
I hope that helps!
Could you share how you make your own bows and rosettes?
Hi Julia, that’s a good suggestion. I’ll put it in the bin for future tutorial ideas! I do have a favorite bow.
Hi, I am just getting into bra making. I have the Elan kit. Where on your site can I go for a step by step tutorial of this bra?
Also, what is the best way to measure so I can get the best fit?
Thanks in Advance
Hi there, I don’t have a step-by-step tutorial specifically about this pattern but in the Bra-making Sew Along (which this post was a part of), I walked through the steps in making a couple of bras. One of the bras was based on this pattern. The central page of this sew-along lists all the posts and tutorials. There are some tips on measuring in there, too, as a way of getting started. I definitely recommend fitting an underwire as a first step.
am a little low on budget i want this bra as a surprise gift for my mom and i cant go and get a zig zag machine ..but i was wondering could i use a hand held sewing machine
hi Constance, the bra needs to stretch so a zig-zag stitch is important. Otherwise your stitches will pop and break.
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