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.