This week I have been replenishing stocks in my underwear drawer. Several years ago I made up a couple of bra kits. I got all enthusiastic and ordered supplies to make bras, made one and then sort of lost interest. I think it was because I wasn't happy with the patterns I was using and didn't have the knowledge / confidence to alter them. Lately I have been inspired by other sewers' lingerie efforts so I started afresh with a new pattern.
Usually I don't have the persistence to perfect a pattern to TNT status, but I think it is worthwhile for a bra, so here you have my first 4 versions. Sewing a bra is a bit tricky, so making 4 in a row has improved my construction techniques as well.
The pattern: Well, if you are wondering why anyone would make a bra, let me tell you what size I made. I started with 34AAA. No, that's not a typo and it is not a size you see in the shops. I made 2 in this size and then decided I was a 34AA, which is sold by a couple of (usually expensive) brands. Bra-makers Supply have produced their "Linda" partial band bra in sizes 30AAA - 40A, which is the pattern I used.
Fabric and Notions: All my fabric and notions are from Bra-makers' Supply. The quality is Superb!!! I am especially impressed by the channelling, which is flatter than other supplies and slightly stretchy for sewing around curves. I bought the supplies 2 years ago, and I can't remember what the exchange rate was then, but from memory, it worked out to $15 - $18 per bra for 5 bras, including shipping from Canada. I have recycled the wires from old bras. The fabric is Antron Jersey, which is too sheer for my taste. Next time I will try something else. These bras are much lighter than other in my drawer.
Fitting: The pattern drafting is great, but the bridge was way too wide for me. The bridge pattern gets wider as the cup size gets smaller, which seemed a little odd, but maybe it works for other people. Beverley Johnson has a great tip in her book "The Bra-makers Manual" for fitting the bridge (p126). Trace the bridge on a piece of cardboard to make a template. Cut the template up the centre front and angle the sides in the space between your breasts. Use a paperclip to hold the 2 sides of the template in position. If the bridge needs to be wider, you may need to add width to the centre front when you make your template. For a partial band bra with 1/4" SA, the bridge pattern will be the same size as the template. For a full band bra, you will need to add the SA to the sides of the bridge template. It is a shame that I didn't read this bit of her book until I made my 4th version.
Instructions: I used the instructions in the pattern and Beverley's book. There are a couple of typos in the pattern...I think the listed wire sizes for the 34AAA and 36AAA cups are incorrect and the instructions have you insert the wires through the channelling at the centre front when it is the underarm end that has been left open for these wires. I also have a great article by Jill Bradshaw in Australian Sitches ("The Pearl Bra - A Gem in the Booby Traps Collection") which photographs all the steps for making a partial band bra.
I padded 2 of the bras, one with fusible fleece and one with covered foam. I didn't have good instructions for this but I muddled my way through. Next time I will cut the covered foam piece lower so that it doesn't get caught in the neckline elastic.
I did have a photo on me to show the fit, but I got shy and deleted it. If anybody is curious about this pattern and wants to see the fit, email me at katherine dot peter at bigpond dot com and I can send you the photo.