I may be able to whip up a bra with one eye closed and my good hand tied behind my back now (slight exaggeration) but I can still remember the uncertainty of being a beginner and the research I put in to bra sewing before I even bought a pattern let alone sat down at the sewing machine.
Following the #makenine posts on Instagram, I see many of you have nominated bra or swimwear making as one of your 2020 challenges. Yay!! How exciting! That means there are a lot of sewists about to venture in to the world of bra making.
Given this, I thought I'd compile a list of resources that I found useful when I was first starting out, along with a few new ones that I wish existed back then.
1. Have you decided to sew a bra but are still a bit hesitant about starting? Here is a blog post I wrote about getting past those 'First time nerves'
2. The first pattern I tried to make was a Merckwaerdigh one. Lovely, lovely patterns but very basic instructions that are not great for a beginner. Thankfully Amy at Cloth Habit has an amazing 'Bra making sewalong' series that held my hand and led me through the bra fog.
3. Speaking of Merckwaerdigh, they have a blog post that outlines how to make a fitting band. Forget about making a pretty, show-off worthy bra for your first run, instead make this really fugly franken-bra with no cups. Trust me. It'll help you perfect the fit of the underwires and band first, which is the essential part of getting a properly fitting bra.
4. Oh the confusing world of underwires! With so many styles and sizes it really does take a bit of trial and error to get a well fitting underwire. A great starting point is this blog post by Emerald Erin on 'How to fit your underwire.' Erin also has other useful underwire information on her site, so make a cuppa and settle in for an informative read.
5. One of the things I found so foreign about bra making was all of the different fabrics that are used and which way to lay the pattern pieces on the fabric. (The pattern markings don't always indicate grainline.) This is why I created 'beginner kits' where all the fabric is labelled with type, use and a direction for the pattern pieces. These take the guess work out of selecting materials for your first bra.
6. Following on from all the different types of fabric that go in to making a bra was...how do I apply these fabrics to make a matching pair of briefs?! The matching set conundrum involved a lot of head scratching until Norma from Orange Lingerie posted this article on manipulating fabric. I finally realised I could use the stretch fabric from the briefs and manipulate that to suit a non/low stretch bra pattern.
7. Once you have your fit and fabric cut out it's then time to apply some elastic. You may or may not have come across elastic application in sewing other garments and it can take a bit of practice to get it sewn on nice and smoothly. No-one likes the look of wibbly-wobbly elastic! I used to watch a quick little video by Madalynne on how much tension to put on the elastic as you sew but that video appears not to be available anymore. Here instead is a very similar one by Amy at Cloth Habit (plus it has some cool jaunty music.)
8. Another type of elastic finish is fold over elastic (FOE) and can be (in my opinion) the trickiest to apply. Hannah at Evie la Luve is a pro at FOE application and shares her knowledge in this video.
9. I keep thinking I should start a YouTube channel but then I remember that LizSews exists and she has some real gems including sewalongs of some of the more popular bra patterns.
The above information is from some of my most favourite bra sewing gurus, who generously share their knowledge and experience so that the rest of us can make bespoke, well-fitting, handmade lingerie. Thanks ladies!
(Photos are from and of their respective websites.)