SEWING A CUSTOM FITTED BRA

I have jokingly referred to 2013 as ” the year of the bra”……..I have wanted to learn how to make bra’s for simply ages – probably more than 15-20 years. Now that I have learnt & have so far made 5 bra’s & counting, I am surprized that it took me so long to actually get around to doing it!

I think one of the best compliments I could get after I showed my first few bra’s to my hubby was: “Surely you did not make those? They look like store bought bra’s”. I knew I had succeeded & not made some obviously home-made item. My quilting group ladies were also pretty impressed when I showed them one of the bra’s. They were amazed at how professional it looked + the pricing – apparently some of them pay $100’s for just one bra so they seem to think that what I forked over for the kits & training was not a lot at all.

Is it hard? No, surprisingly not,  once you have debunked the mystery of correct measuring and then have made your initial fitting bra. Once the first bra is made, any pattern alterations are then made to ensure that subsequent bra’s fit 100% perfectly.  It really helps to have good teachers and/or DVD’s for this process. Once you have this figured out & have your master pattern, you are set unless you gain or lose weight! So if you plan to lose weight in the near future, I would wait till you reach goal weight before you set out making your master pattern.  I know (and many others tell me they are the same) that one of the first places we lose weight is on our face, arms & breast area – would you know -when we actually want it gone from other areas first……which Murphy’s law is that one?!

Is it cheaper to make your own bra or buy “off the rack”? Not sure as to the exact answer to this as I have racked up quite a bit of expenditure this year what with lessons, a set of DVD tutorials + (of course) I have bought at least 5 bra kits which include all the supplies you need like elastics, hook tape, even the little bows for the front. The + for me is that I am able to get at least 2 bra’s out of the fabric from each kit seeing as I am nowhere near a 48H bra size!!  (They seem to pack the kits for all sizes so I kind of score as I am on the smaller end of the scale). The thing is that you use really quite a small amount of fabric for each bra. Once you have found yardage you like, it should go pretty far. For example, you only need a very small piece of lace for one bra if you want to add a little bit of femininity to the basic bra. So you can lash out & buy really gorgeous lace at a higher price as you will need so little.

Now that I  think I have “got it” and know what I need to look for on my rounds & abouts in fabric/notions stores. Bra supplies are notoriously difficult to find so please refer to the 3 websites I list below or you might find yourself getting frustrated in regular sewing stores which seldom carry these supplies.  And remember to buy GOOD quality even if it costs more initially as you will be really mad if you make a bra & it falls apart, stretches out of shape or pills/discolours in no time at all due to “rubbish” materials. Just not worth it in my opinion. Think of it this way: I can make exquisite lace bra’s for a fraction of the cost of lingerie boutique French lace ones (and I could not bring myself to pay those high prices anyway!)…..AND your custom made bra will be great quality and super comfortable.  In the long term, I think I will definitely be on the side of racking up savings on underwear.  I am also amazed at how comfortable the bra’s are as they are custom fit and sewed by/for ME & are not just some generic size that I have squeezed myself into!  This sure makes a big difference.

So, thank you to:

  1. Jan Bones for sharing how to make a sports bra (for my yoga classes)
  2. Monica O’Rourke Bravo of Bravo Bella Custom bras for her intro seminar; excellent DVD’s and wonderfully easy pattern & instructions.
  3. Beverly Johnson of Bra Makers Supply for her great sense of humour & incredible expertise.

The lady that made Hamilton the bra-making capital of the world 

Kelli Korducki |                     Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beverly Johnson.

 Beverly Johnson ,Hamilton, Ontario (this excerpt is courtesy of Haus Of Stitches, Humboldt, SK)

Haus of Stitches

What  would ever possess a woman with over 25 years experience designing everything  from royal furnishings to belly dance costumes, and sewing everything from  slipcovers to swimwear, to focus on “just” bra making?  The answer lies in Beverley’s appreciation of  good design, a love of precision sewing and a need for supportive  undergarments.  Since 1995, she has  taught bra making to over 5000 women all over North   America using her own carefully engineered bra pattern system.

Beverly has been instrumental in producing ready-to wear bras for private  label companies and her manufacturing company is one of the few in Canada to cater  to the small designer wishing to bring their great ideas to market.

As if  that weren’t enough, she also teaches a program for professional bra-makers at  her school in Hamilton using The Bra Makers  Manual – a complete reference to bra design, draft, fit and construction, which  Beverly wrote  and published. A  frequent contributor to Threads and other sewing magazines, Beverly is in demand.  However, she now teaches only at a few select  venues (one of which is the Saskatchewan  Stitches Conference!).  She likes to ease  students out of their comfort zone by teaching specialty sewing techniques with  enthusiasm and clarity, mixed with humour.   Visit Beverly’s  web site at www.bramakers.ca.

Monica of Bravo Bella Custom Bra’s has DVD Tutorials, patterns & supplies. I found her 2 DVD’s sets VERY helpful and informative. They are very comprehensive and professionally filmed and produced …..nothing “homemade” about these. They were well worth the money I paid for them:  I was impressed and very well informed about fitting & making a bra by the end of the 3 DVD’s. Well done, Monica. SO glad you decided to present your bra making expertise at SewExpo.

ABOUT JAN BONES

Jan Bones – BHEC  is an accomplished teacher, author, designer, and pattern maker.  She travels across Canada and the  United States teaching sewing seminars and hands on workshops.  Jan has designed a successful line  of sewing patterns called “Lingerie Secrets”.

“Threads” magazine has published nine of Jan’s informative and educational articles  and the “What’s New” publication has printed one as well.  Excellent reviews of Jan’s  work have appeared in “The Creative Machine”, “Vogue Patterns Magazine” and “The Western  Producer”.  She is a contributing author to a collection of stories entitled “Women Artists”.

Jan designs wonderfully elegant ballroom dancing costumes, costumes for theatre productions and a wide range of outer wear designs for winter sports.  Jan has been hired as a consultant  in different sectors of the garment industry and has been retained by other areas of  manufacturing that required her unique technical construction skills.

Since 1978, Jan has taught pattern design, garment construction, tailoring, draping and  fitting in the Clothing and Textiles Department at the University of Manitoba.  Jan also  teaches the “Apparel Design” Certificate Program, an evening class taught through the  Continuing Education Division, also at the University of Manitoba.

About lizafrica

I work in the Education Dept at Janome & Elna, Canada and LOVE to sew. I have been employed full time in the sewing and quilting industry for almost 30 years so I bring a wealth of sewing knowledge & expertise to this blog. I enjoy all forms of sewing from quilting to sewing garments to machine embroidery and software. Pretty much everything in my life is seen through the eyes of a passionate sewer! I am constantly on the look out for fun, innovative and inspiring ideas to share with you all on this blog. I also love to read, knit , travel and spend time with my family and friends.
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12 Responses to SEWING A CUSTOM FITTED BRA

  1. CB says:

    Stitch Bunny? I am a bit of a beginner but I searched quilter blogs etc and could not find a explanation of the term.

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    • lizafrica says:

      Hi
      Sorry, there are many names for this – perhaps I should have listed a few of the others? Stitch buddy; stoppie-startie etc. It is a little scrap of fabric (double layer) which you sew onto & then butt your project seam up against this & carry on sewing. You can do the same at the end of the seam too – sew off onto the stoppie-startie. Obviously you just cut the threads between to remove the fabric scrap.
      This helps with those jam ups that can occur with fabric bunching at the beginnings & ends of seams. This has to do with the needle plate & feed dog system on the machine and the type of fabric (soft sheer knits are the worst culprits!) – using a single hole/ straight stitch plate helps enormously to avoid this. Also if your sewing machine has a good, advanced feed dog system like our Janomes then the issue is often a non-issue! But I do still have times like when I am sewing a zig-zag or elastic stitch on bra fabric so I can’t use the straight stitch plate. Then I do prevent problems for myself by using a stitch bunny or whatever you want yo call it.
      OK?

      Liz
      Janome Canada.

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  2. Joni Latham says:

    I just attended a bra workshop. I’m just wondering about what changes you made to the machine to sew the tricot fabric? I have a Janome Horizon 1500 and several times throughout the day I was so frustrated with my machine I was ready to throw it out the window

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    • lizafrica says:

      Hi Joni,

      I assume you meant MC15000? Sewing bra’s (and other lingerie) is pretty specialized as you are working with very lightweight and, most often, stretchy/knit fabrics. This can be challenging at the best of times if the skills of sewing with flimsy and knit fabrics is not one that has been perfected. Fortunately I love sewing with knits & have much experience with sewing fine heirloom type projects as well as lingerie. So I found it relatively easy to transfer these skills to bra-making. I was surprised at how easy it was to make a bra although I would not say that it is a beginner type technique. There are challenges working with these fabrics which have to be taken into account.

      I found I got very good results when I used the ACUFEED FLEX FOOT ED (single prong/narrow acufeed foot) I also followed the instructions given by the notes/instructor for stitch selection + altering of SW & SL. For example, trying to do a tight zig-zag with a small SL would just “chew” bra fabric.
      Obviously using zig-zag and the elastic stitches, meant I could not use the straight stitch needle plate so to avoid “bunching” or having the very soft, stretchy fabrics getting caught down the hole in the needle plate, I made a point of starting slowly and just in from the edge of the fabrics. I found a “stitch bunny” like quilters use to be very helpful.
      You could also adjust settings such as presser foot height & pressure as well as the Dual feed balance/speed.
      I also had very good results using JANOME purple tip needles which are specifically designed for these types of fabrics.

      I am sure you will be sewing bra’s like crazy real soon. I got so carried away, I think I made about 10 in the last year!

      Liz
      JANOME CANADA

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      • Joni says:

        The instructor with the bra class that I took asked us to use a clear foot. I think I ended up using the satin stitch foot. After noon I did change my presser foot pressure to 4 which helped, but I think it could go even lower. I’m not familiar with the presser foot height. Would you explain that to me? I think if I could get the narrow Accufeed foot that would help feed the fabric through better, but I’m guessing that isn’t a clear foot. I don’t consider myself a novice sewer, but it has been many years since I’ve sewn knits, I do mostly quilting.

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      • lizafrica says:

        Hi Joni,
        Satin stitch foot F would work but I definitely preferred the Acufeed flex foot ED as it feeds from the top feed dogs as well as the bottom – this is a big deal when working with flimsy tricky fabrics like tricot. If you have the JANOME MC15000, you should have this foot. It comes with the machine. No, it is not a clear foot but it worked a treat and I did not really need to see the sticthes forming like I would when doing applique, for example.
        I seldom change presser foot pressure. I guess it was worth a try but I did not find I had to do that.
        The presser foot height adjustment is done in the SET menu. Please look at your Instruction manual or go to your local Janome dealer for some owner’s lessons on all the MANY features that the Janome MC15000 has. It is an awesome machine.

        Liz
        JANOME CANADA.

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    • Kim says:

      I am currently looking to attend a bra workshop. Can you pass on the details on the workshop you attended? Thank u, krs202@yahoo.com

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  3. Gail says:

    Dear Liz,

    I always look forward to your blog posts so very much. I am always inspired by your projects and as a result, I challenge myself to try new techniques or projects.
    I am very intrigued now to learn more about sewing my own bras. There are not any resources or classes where I reside , so I am now investigating the resources that you listed in your blog post. I have sewn many garments and several quilts — in fact, sewing is my passion as well as my therapy and has been since my teen years..
    I am considering purchasing DVDs and perhaps 1 or 2 kits to start. Were there any additional resources that you found helpful??

    Thanks so much.

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    • lizafrica says:

      Hi Gail,
      No, not really. I shared all the resources I used in that blog post. If you cannot attend classes, you will find those DVD’s VERY good indeed. I am sure the author of the DVD’s will also be open to customer support questions if you need that support. Monica O’Rourke Bravo is a lovely woman – very outgoing & friendly and very efficient and happy to share her expertise. Bravo Bella bra’s is her company name.
      You could also check out You Tube & see if there is anything there about bra making. I have not done so myself but you might be surprized & find a nugget or 2!
      Good luck.
      Liz
      Janome Canada.

      Like

  4. cherylsewing says:

    Liz, thank you so much for this article. It is so informative and has me wanting to get MORE information about bra making. As you know I have taken many of Beverly Johnson’s bra classes and have sewn more bras than I can count (lost count after 25).

    I look forward to all the Janome Life Blog posts.

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