Monthly Musing ~ First time nerves

Helen Cloke beginner advice lingerie supplies

This month I launched an online business.  It's all brand new.  Never having been involved with e-commerce before I've had a lot of learning to do and luckily I've had some skilled people holding my hand and guiding me along the way.

These feelings of excitement, uncertainty and intimidation, reminded me of how I felt years ago when I wanted to start making bras but had no clue how to go about it.  So for those of you who may be looking at photos of all the pretty, handmade bras out there and feeling the same way I felt as a newbie bra maker then here is my advice for you (now if only I could go back in time and tell it to myself!)

1. Just start already!

Seriously.  Just start.  It's going to be messy and scary and your first bra most likely wont fit but the only way to achieve a professional looking, great fitting bra is to get the ugly out of the way first.

So very, very ugly but it had its purpose

2. If you need to, start small.

There are plenty of beginner friendly patterns for briefs out there - a lot of them are even free.  So you don't need much to start sewing, usually just a small amount of stretch fabric (which we all have in our stash, right?) and a couple of metres of picot / lingerie elastic.  There's a lot to be learnt from making a pair of briefs.  Sewing with small seam allowances, precision sewing and practice of applying elastics, for example.

Evie la Luve - Bella Panties - practice mirror cutting lace and fold over elastic application

3. Introduce yourself with a bralette.

A bralette (or soft bra) is a bra without underwires so they are generally a little bit more forgiving in the fit.  Even if, like me, you don't really wear bralettes it's still worthwhile making a few.  You can have the satisfaction of having sewn some pretty and functional bras before you tackle the 'trial and error' of underwires.

Cloth Habit - Watson Bra - A great place to start

4. Don't worry about 'right'

When I first started out I was so worried about my supplies not being 'right.' I live in small town NZ (small town like this morning the postie pushed biked up to my front door to give me my mail and have a chat.) and it was really hard to find any of the bra supplies listed in the patterns - duoplex, tricot, powernet etc.  It took me a really long time to start because I felt like I was already set up for failure.  But the thing is, with your first attempts at least, it doesn't much matter if you are substituting in things that you already own so long as you keep the fabric properties the same.  One of my first (and actually one of my favourite) bras was created from brushed satin fabric left over from a flower girl dress I made my daughter.

One of my first underwire bras - made from dressmaking fabric scraps

5. Get the fit before the pretty

I've always loved lingerie!  Walking in to a lingerie store with all the beautiful colours, patterns, laces, ribbons and diamantes was such yummy eye candy.  And this was how I set out to make bras - needing them to be absolutely, beautifully co-ordinated pieces of art.  This resulted in terrible disappointment when all the effort I put in resulted in a poorly fitting, unwearable bra.  So think basic.  Focus on getting a well fitting, basic bra which you can then modify with all the bells and whistles in further makes.

6. Do some fit research

There is now plenty of information out there that covers which bra pattern best fits what shape breasts.  Do some research to make sure you are starting with the right pattern for you.  This may not be a pattern for a bra style you would normally gravitate towards but starting with the right foundation will mean less changes necessary for a perfect fit.  You can always modify the style later to more suit your personal tastes.

7. Perfect one pattern and make multiples

Once you have your perfect fitting pattern and some basic bras made, then style it up!  It's amazing how one pattern can look so different depending on the fabrics used or subtle changes made to the style lines of the pattern.  Make the most of the one pattern you know works well before moving onto the next pattern that catches your eye.  I've made so many different Marlborough bra's and each one has a different personality so I don't feel like I'm just filling my lingerie drawer with repeats of the same thing.

Two very different Marlborough bras

8. Don't be afraid to ask

There are some great, bra specific (closed) facebook groups around. Sign up to them and ask questions on their forums - there are so many lovely people who are happy to share their knowledge.  I'm here too - so contact me - blog comments, email, instagram, whatever medium works for you.  I love helping people get started on bra making!

So tell me, what held or is holding you back from starting your bra making journey?

Happy Sewing,



COMING SOON ! ~ A lingerie glossary.

I remember how confusing all the new terminology was when I began my bra making journey so I'm putting together a glossary of terms that will continue to grow as I think of more entries or get asked questions.




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  • Shizuka Nakatani on

    Hi Helen,
    Thank you so much for putting up this post! Since I had started challenging to sew bra for myself, I’ve thought of giving up many times. Researching for materials, patterns, etc, etc seemed like more than a long way to go, but rather never reaching goal.
    Especially in Japan, (I’m a Japanese mother with 3 daughters), bra making is only for professional lingerie industory and not for everybody, so I almost gave up, but then, I thought of searching in English and that opened the door for lingerie making.
    I found a bra making blog, “Cloth Habit” and found you in suppliers’ list there.
    My husband is Japanese but grew up in Christchurch, NZ, so I came to visit this blog.
    I’m glad to find you and and thank you again for sharing your story about starting bra making. It was very encouraging for me.

    Thank you,

  • Nancy Hurt on

    I’ve been gathering supplies and lace and looking at Patterns. Almost ready to dive in! You gave me a bit of a push! Thank you for sharing!

  • Lynn on

    Hi Helen,
    Greetings from Canada’s west coast

    Congrats on your new business venture and all the best for your success.

    I like this article as it sets the stage for starting the bra making process. I started with one self drafted bra and made many of different fabrics and laces. Gradually i moved the seam lines and strap styles. Doing this and varying the fabrics produces many different results such as stretch or just give. Some I liked. Others not so much.

    There is security in using the same pattern as I know it fits!

    I am, however intrigued by some of the latest pattern releases and i look forward to giving them a try now i have the basics.

    Will be watching for more of your posts….

  • Alice on

    Thank you Helen- just read your blog and about to start my first bra when I get organised. I’ve gone from feeling completely overwhelmed to excited again to start-up good luck with the new venture- I’m sure I’ll be a regular customer

  • Helen on

    Muriel – how lovely and reassuring that your bra making journey closely reflects my own. There must be plenty of us who started out the same and through this lovely generous group of sewists, gained knowledge and experience and caught the bra sewing bug! I hope I can pass this on to new bra makers.
    Lovely to have a German reader; I have family there :)

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