If there was one technique I wish for every sewist to use, it is this one! It works like a charm when sewing any garment but I find it particularly valuable when it comes to bra making. This method has reduced student construction errors in my bra making workshops to almost zero.
What is this method you ask? Dots! Specifically using colored dots to indicate which pieces are to be sewn together. Using dots is especially useful for bra making where the orientation of all those tiny pieces is sometimes, well, a bit puzzling.
I think the best way to describe how to use dots for sewing is to show you! Below I have used a variety of dots and dot colors to indicate the areas that match up for sewing for our Boylston bra.
To follow this method, start by laying out the pattern pieces as they will be sewn together. Then apply color dots to the pattern pieces at the points where they connect. For example, all the red points on the left hand side of the picture above will come together. There are already notches at these points, but color coding makes it easier to be sure the pieces are correctly lined up properly for sewing.
Notice that those same points are marked with true blue dots on the right hand side of the picture above. That makes it really clear which lower cup piece will get joined to which upper cup so the right sides and wrong sides of the garment do not get mixed up when sewing.
The above diagram also uses dots also for where the upper cup will be positioned on the bridge (the green dots) as well as the correct band to frame orientation (yellow dots on the left and purple dots on the right). You can even use dots to indicate how the straps are attached as I did above with the sky blue (left) and orange dots (right).
Don’t want to use so many dots? No problem. Below are what I have found to be the most critical dot markers for bra making.
Once you have all the pattern pieces dotted up, you will want to copy that, dot for dot and color for color on your fabric pieces.
Not only does this method improve your accuracy but it also increases sewing speed because you no longer need to go back and forth between your fabric pieces and your pattern pieces to insure your construction is accurate.
Happy bra making!
If you’ve experienced less than favorable results when searching for the perfect fitting bra, then you already know what makes creating your own bras so amazing. It’s the opportunity to not only have the style and fit that you desire but durability as well.
One of the secrets to a bra that lasts through washing and wear is the quality and type of stitching that holds it together. All garments, especially our undergarments are under a lot of stress when worn. In bra making, there are a number of sewing stitches that are used to help increase the functional performance of the garment.
Below I share the most common sewing stitches used in bra making including straight, machine basting, bar tack, regular zigzag, 3-step zigzag, and lightning stitch. I have all the details about each one including when and where to use them, their specifications (length and width, when applicable), also which needle, thread and pressure foot to use!
Note: While there are additional uses for the stitches detailed below, I’ve limited the descriptions to their uses in bra making.
Uses: Seams, topstitching
The straight stitch is the most basic stitch used in sewing for both construction and topstitching. When machine stitching, the straight stitch consists of a straight upper thread interlocking regularly with a straight bobbin thread underneath.
- When topstitching the underwire casing, shorten the stitch length to make it easier to go around the curves.
- Also, in topstitching, move the needle as necessary to capture the underlying seam allowance.
- With ¼” seam allowances, move the needle to the outside of the pressure foot as a guide when sewing. See this blog post for more info: https://www.orange-lingerie.com/how-to-get-perfect-%C2%BC-seams-for-lingerie-sewing
Uses: Temporary construction
Machine basting consists of long, loose stitches that are not backstitched to secure their position. This makes the stitches easier to remove when replacing with permanent stitches. Machine basting is useful with garment fitting, or any time you need to hold pieces of fabric together temporarily.
Helpful Tip – When attaching the underwire casing to the cup to frame the seam allowance, it’s easier to use a basting stitch for this step. The casing is then secured to the bra when topstitching.
Length: 0.3mm length and 4.0 mm in width.
Uses: Sealing casing, attaching straps to the front of the bra, reinforcement, securing ends of elastic together
The bar tack setting on your machine is used to reinforce areas of stress on a garment which makes it a great stitch for sealing casings or attaching straps to the front of the bra. The stitch consists of long, closely-spaced zigzag stitches followed by short perpendicular ones.
- Mark the placement of your bar tack with two straight stitches making sure that the lines are straight before adding your bar tack.
- Shorten the length of your zigzag stitches if the bar tack doesn’t look dense enough.
Length: There are so many uses for the zigzag stitch and I like a different setting for each.
- Elastic application: 1.5mm stitch length by 3.0mm stitch width for attaching elastic
- 1/8” wide narrow color matched elastic stabilizer: 2.0mm stitch length, 2.5mm stitch width to cover the elastic end to end.
- Attaching hook and eye to bra: 1.5mm stitch length by 1.5 stitch width (if your machine can perform a zigzag that close to the hooks, otherwise try a lightning or straight stitch, as described in this post.)
Uses: Stretch seams, sewing elastic, edge finishes
After the straight stitch, the zigzag stitch is the most common. Like the straight stitch, it is multi-functional but also especially useful with stretch fabrics by helping to eliminate thread tears caused by garment stress.
Length: 1.5mm stitch length by 5.0mm stitch width
Uses: installing elastic, finishing seam edges
Although the regular zigzag stitch is great as a stretch stitch, it can sometimes cause delicate fabrics to bunch up or elastic to lose some of its stretch which causes it to pucker or not lay flat. The 3-step zig zag is a flatter, stronger stitch that adds an additional layer of durability to your bra. It’s a great choice if you have the option available on your machine.
Helpful Tips – The 3-step zigzag stitch can be difficult to remove, test on your materials and double check your construction before sewing!
Length: Machine setting or by combining a small stitch length (<1mm) with a small stitch width (<1mm) if the stitch is not an option on your machine
Uses: stretch seams
The lightning stitch (also called the stretch stitch) is a narrow zigzag stitch used for sewing stretchy fabrics. The up and down motion of the stitch (as opposed to the standard side to side of the regular zigzag stitch) helps to reduce puckering
Helpful Tips – The lightning stitch can be difficult to remove, test on your materials and baste your seams before using.
Here is a short list of tools and notions to make sewing all of the stitches above easier.
- A clear zigzag presser foot. I like to see where I am going!
- Gütermann Mara 120 thread – 100% polyester, industry quality thread works for lingerie, swimwear, and sportswear.
- A standard throat plate is recommended for bra making, not the single hole throat plate because zigzag stitching is necessary.
As always happy bra making!!
The Devonshire love continues! This week I have a tutorial for converting the cup from using lace to using fabric. This conversion allows you to carry through your fabric print (or solid) through the entire front of the bra like the scuba fabric Devonshire pictured above. This alteration is also a great workaround for when you are using an allover lace that does not have a scallop edge.
Before we dive in, remember all pattern changes are from the seam or trim lines and then the cutting line is established by adding your seam or trim allowance. Also, be sure to label your pattern pieces. You need to know what those pieces are for, especially if you are interrupted and need to set your project aside.
Now the overall approach to convert the cup to use fabric, is to add a trim allowance to allow you to stabilize and neatly finish the cup in the absence of a lace scallop edge.
Begin by taping both cup pieces to some tracing or pattern paper. Now, measure up the width of the trim elastic you use for the underarm. That same trim can be used to finish the upper cup. I really like this approach since it does not require any additional materials.
For my bra patterns the trim allowance for the underarm area is ⅜” for A to C cups and ½” for cup sizes D and greater. These are always marked on all our bra patterns so you can clearly see the trim allowance allowed and understand where to alter the pattern.
Now if you want to get fancy, you can take this a step further and reshape the upper cup. Without lace, we no longer need that straight line at the top of the cup and that allows us to add some contouring.
To get the curvy inner upper cup below, I measured the total width of the inner lower cup pattern piece along the upper edge (the solid black line at the top of the cup in between the seam lines). I then measured 75% of the distance away from the center of the overall cup and marked a point ¼” above the top edge of the cup.
To get the new curved line, I drew a smooth arcing convex line from the non-notched side of the inner cup (where it attaches to the bridge) and transitioned the line to a concave line toward the notched side of the inner cup (where it attaches to the outer cup).
You could even curve the top of the outer cup down a tiny bit (I used ⅛” below) as you move to the center of that pattern piece, bringing the line back up the existing top edge of the upper cup as you get to the underarm.
If you do decide to get fancy and add this kind of contouring to your cup, check your upper cup curve to be sure it is continuous and smooth all the way across by putting the cup pieces together along the top edge as if they were sewn.
When you go to sew the bra, apply elastic to finish the upper cup as directed for the underarm area. This application is made to the top of the completed upper cup and lining combination.
Yet another great option for your next Devonshire bra!
Unique to our bra styles, our new Devonshire bra has a two-piece vertically seamed cup to provide beautiful uplift. With this new style I thought it would be helpful to post the most common pattern alterations that you can use to customize the fit of your Devonshire.
Like our Boylston bra, the Devonshire bra is a balconette style. For balconette styles, the straps are purposely positioned out fairly far on the shoulder. This strap placement is to allow for the display of the maximum décolletage.
Because all bodies are different, this strap placement does not work for every body. Luckily it is simple to move the straps in toward the center of the body. The easiest way to do this is move the strap in toward the center of the body, we will remove the excess material from the underarm area.
Start by measuring the amount that you want to move the straps in by pinching out unwanted length from the upper cup near the strap. Another method is to roll the strap over (right side of strap to right side of cup) and measure the amount of the material folded over the bra.
Next, lay out the outside cup, frame and band matching them at the seamlines and mark the amount that you are moving in the strap on the cup. Then draw a new trim line (the dotted line in the underarm area) that smoothly connects from your marked point to where the cup attaches to the frame. Finally, add back your cutting line (the solid line). The orange lines show the alteration.
I recommend laying out the pieces as shown above to be sure you have a nice smooth line all along the top of the bra.
Another possibility with a balconette bra is that the straps are in the right place, but the upper cup is too large, that is, the cup stands away from the body. To decrease the upper cup, we will remove excess fabric using the cup seam.
Start by determining how much you want to decrease the cup by pinching out the excess material along the top of the upper cup from your toile (a.k.a. muslin or mock up). I recommend pinching out a dart, not just a tuck at the top, so you can have greater accuracy on the decrease and how deep to extend the decrease down the cup.
Now, measure in ½ the amount of the decrease from the top of the cup at the center seam line on each cup piece and redraw that center cup seam on both cup pieces tapering the decrease to zero at the existing seam line. Finally, draw in your new seam allowances to get your new cutting line.
If you need to increase the upper cup, that is the upper cup is too tight on the body, you will add to the center seam of the upper cup.
Start by estimating the amount you want to increase to the upper cup. To estimate it is helpful to determine how far you would need to move the upper edge of the cup in from the underarm for the fit to be smooth along the upper cup.
To make the alteration, start by taping the cup pattern pieces to some tracing or pattern paper then measure out ½ the amount of the increase from the top of the upper cup at the center seam line on each cup piece and redraw those center cup seams, tapering the decrease to zero at the existing seam line. Finish by adding in your new seam allowances to get your new cutting line.
Want more upper cup adjustments and strap moving tutorials!? We have got you covered! Here is our tutorial for moving the Marlborough straps, our tutorial for moving the Boylston straps, and our tutorial on upper cup adjustments.
Happy bra making!!
Thank you for your enthusiastic response to our new Devonshire bra sewing pattern! I am thrilled with the reception and can’t wait to see all the Devonshire bras that you all make!
Today I wanted to share some of my favorite looks that you can create using the Devonshire pattern. There are so many beautiful options!
STYLE 1: THE SWEETHEART
Can you believe how cute this is!? The fabric is a printed and reembroidered English lace with a scallop edge, paired with a matching double dose of croquet braid along the straps. English lace is a fabric with eyelet cutouts, which makes it stronger than regular lace yet still extremely charming. And yes! you can have fun with the criss-crossing of the ribbons for your center bows, here giving the bra a romantic / summer-in-the-countryside look.
STYLE 2: THE SEXY SPORTY
To me, the ultimate balcony bra is lace through and through. I love the the tone-on-tone; red lace, red straps, red elastic, red bow. Bright solid colors (up to neons!) add a splash of fun, giving the lace a contemporary and versatile look and a colorful reveal of the straps and edges of the bra under strategically layered tops.
STYLE 3: THE EXECUTIVE
For the lovers of streamlined looks, there is always the option to go slick and smooth by using solid tulles (they open up possibilities to play with transparencies) – and ribbon. I am also liking the solid, contrasting frame and band, which really highlights the cups.
STYLE 4: THE BAROQUE
A criss-crossed satin ribbon in the center and a gorgeous, transparent lace conjures up visions of 18th century French fashions. I especially like the layering of differently colored laces, and also how the fabric is climbing along the straps at an angle, creating a beautiful neckline reminiscent of a baroque dress.
STYLE 5: THE MERMAID
You can go retro by making wider straps, choosing poppy colors and bold prints or embroideries! Love how the cups here almost look like seashells – thanks to the stark scallop edge and stitching pattern. And let’s not forget the fun addition of the three contrasting bows.
STYLE 6: THE FOLKLORIC
Yes! The sky is the limit when it comes to fabrics and lace choices! Here the frame and straps are made of colorful brocade, a pattern reminiscent of the ones found in traditional Eastern European costumes. The lace matches the main background color, the bow picks up on the embroidery, and we have yet again a really interesting take on the straps, adorned with lace only on one side, which creates a beautifully soft neckline.
I can’t wait to see your Devonshire bra! Hashtag with #devonshirebra and #orangelingerie so I can find all of your beautiful versions!
I am super excited to introduce you to our newest underwire bra sewing pattern, the Devonshire bra!
For the Devonshire bra I wanted to create beautiful uplift with delicate lace. The first thing I think of for uplift from a bra are the cup seams and the underwire. Vertical seams are great for uplift since they direct the breast tissue upward.
From there, I designed the upper edge of the cup for a lace edge. The combination of the vertical seam with the lace scallop edge is just gorgeous.
The vertical seams provide such great uplift that I decided on a balconette style cup. I also love that with the single vertical seam, the cup height can be easily lowered toward a demi cup if you wish!
A fun feature of the Devonshire are the fabric straps. I really wanted to have many straps options, especially for spring and summer when straps are more visible. There are so many fun fabric straps variations and I can’t wait to show you some them!
As always, the pattern material includes the clear fully illustrated instructions you have come to expect from Orange Lingerie and each size is presented with the seam and trim lines.
As of today, the Devonshire bra pattern is available for A to DD cups in size 30 to 40 bands. If you love this style but are outside of that range, we have some good news! We are working on an extended size range for this pattern. If all goes well (and early indications are positive!) we will release the DDD to J size range later this year.
I hope you enjoy the Devonshire bra pattern as much as I do! Be sure to tag your makes with #DevonshireBra and/or #OrangeLingerie so I can find them all. I love seeing everyone’s unique version of our sewing patterns!
After personally fitting hundreds of students and working with even more bra sewing pattern customers, I have decided to revise our bra sizing guidelines.
Let’s start with some bra sizing basics. First of all, there is no single sizing standard for bras (or clothing either for that matter). This means that bra sewing pattern sizing differs from company to company, just as it does from one ready-to-wear maker to another.
To further complicate matters, there is no single measurement method to determine what size will work for every body (including the one on my pattern envelope!). As sewists, we know that when you measure around the body, that circumference measurement does not tell us anything about the shapes and curves that are underneath the measuring tape. Of course bras are all about fitting those very shapes and curves.
The only reliable way to determine bra size is to try on finished bras. In the case of ready-to-wear, you just try different bras on until you find the size that works best in the style you like. When sewing, you need to try on finished bras made from that pattern. Of course sewing up all the sizes you want to try on can be quite the task.
Given the bra sizing challenge for everyone sewing their own bras at home, I have long recommend that bra makers start with any new pattern by making their ready-to-wear size – if it fits well! The vast majority of the time I find that students’ well fitted ready-to-wear size and their bra pattern size match up.
Because ready-to-wear generally matches with our bra pattern sizing, we are changing our bra sizing guidance standard to the be, well, what is commonly considered “the standard”. This means that if you need size guidance for our patterns, our guidelines now follow the classic technique:
- Measure body circumference directly under the bust with the tape measure parallel to floor. Round the measurement to the nearest inch, rounding down if you are at the ½” mark. If your measurement is an even number, add 4″, and if it is an odd number, add 5″. This is the band size.
- Measure body circumference at the fullest part of the bust while wearing a bra that is supportive yet out of a relatively thin fabric. Again, keep the tape measure parallel to the floor.
- Derive cup size by subtracting the band size from the full bust measurement. Then consult the chart below to find the cup size. For example, if the full bust is 36″ and the band size is 34″, the difference is 2″. Based on the cup size chart below, this difference corresponds to a B cup. If you are in between sizes, use the larger size.
I still always recommend making a muslin first to test the fit of the bra! This applies not only to new patterns but also to any new fabric you decide to use. I have two posts on how to make muslins (a.k.a. “toiles”), a fast way and a more thorough way.
We updated our Sizing Information page to reflect the above and also added international bra size conversion tables. The sizing section of all our bra sewing patterns will also be updated shortly.
P.S. If you want learn a systematic approach to bra sizing and customizing bra fit, you can enroll in our video course to learn how to fit your own custom bra!
This video course has been in the making since last year and I am so excited to finally share it with you all!
This first video course is designed to help improve bra fit for all bra makers. I took my experience with custom bra making and hundreds of hands on fittings with my students to create a step-by-step process to fit bras. This methodical approach eliminates fit issues one by one until you have your best fitting bra ever!
What you get:
- 11 video lessons that take you through the entire bra fitting process and the pattern alterations needed for a great fitting garment
- 33-page eBook with the instructions for everything covered in the course, including pattern alteration diagrams
- Access to Q&A with Norma
With Our Video Courses:
- Learn anytime, anywhere and on any device with unlimited access
- Learn at your own pace. Stop and start the course whenever you want. Watch and rewatch to your heart’s content.
Of course the best thing about this course is that you will gain the confidence that comes from knowing how to make your own great fitting bra from nearly any bra sewing pattern!
Check Out the Trailer!
UPDATE: We hired a studio assistant to start working with us in April 2019! Thank you everyone for your interest in Orange Lingerie. I hope to have more opportunities available soon!
With ambitious goals for 2019 and beyond, we are looking to add to Team Orange! If you are interested in the Studio Assistant role described below and you meet the requirements, we definitely want to hear from you!
Orange Lingerie is a unique company whose mission is to get everyone who sews making their own beautiful and professional looking lingerie. Our high-quality product offerings, which include sewing patterns, instructional materials and workshops, aim to help the sewist discover and embrace their power to make their own garments. As the company grows, we are looking for a talented sewist to help us drive our business strategy forward.
Initially this role will be for 2 – 3 days (12 to 16 hours) a week with potential to expand based on performance and business growth. This position reports directly to our Founder and Creative Director and is best suited for an experienced sewist who is willing to take on new responsibilities and can work collaboratively in a dynamic setting in our South Boston studio.
This role is a unique opportunity to learn about independent sewing pattern companies and the myriad of activities involved in product development. You will help us build a dynamic, passionate, collaborative, transparent and successful organization based on our core values. Interpersonal chemistry will be a key component and the successful candidate should expect escalating levels of independence and responsibility based on performance.
Compensation will be commensurate with experience and skills.
Resumes can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with ASSISTANT in the subject line of the email.
- Cut and sew garment samples
- Make pattern alterations
- Maintain design notebook
- Prepare and package sewing patterns
- Cut, prepare and package fabrics and notions kits
- Manage sewing pattern and materials library
- Manage supplies inventory
- Strong sewing skills, preferably including experience working with chiffon, charmeuse and stretch fabrics
- Experience making sewing pattern alterations
- Experience working with downloadable PDF sewing patterns
- Ability to work independently
- Positive, can-do attitude
- Demonstrated strong communication skills, both written and verbal
Over the last 5 years I have taught hundreds of sewists how to fit and sew their own custom Marlborough bra in our classic two-day bra making workshop. With a mission to get every sewist making their own beautiful and professional looking lingerie, I feel like with every workshop I move Orange Lingerie one step closer to fulfilling that goal!
As you may know, our classic two-day in-person workshop is exclusively focused on teaching the skills to fit and sew the Marlborough bra (you can read more about this workshop here and here). Of course, there are SO many more styles, materials AND techniques that I want to teach students. That is why I am launching our Boylston bra making workshop!
In our new two-day, in-person workshop, I am teaching sewists how to make their own custom fit Boylston bra! The Boylston bra is our three piece, demi cup bra that uses a fabric strap to create a super flattering neckline. I actually first wrote about his bra in Threads Issue #174 (subscription required to access article) back in 2014(!!)
To teach as many techniques as possible, in this new workshop we will be using cut-and-sew foam to make the bra cups. Using foam makes it easy to use a wider variety of materials for bra making and even allows for an easy conversion to a beautifully supportive bikini top! Like the Marlborough bra, the Boylston bra is also available in cup sizes A to J for band sizes 30 to 40 (plus the sister sizes) to accommodate as many people as possible.
You can join me for one of our new Boylston bra workshops this Spring:
May 18-19, 2019 at Pintuck & Purl in North Hampton, NH (a one-hour drive from Boston).
June 15-16, 2019 at Three Little Birds Sewing Co. in Hyattsville, MD (Washington D.C. area).
If you would like to learn the ins and outs of the Marlborough bra, there are still a few seats for our classic workshop at Drop, Forge & Tool in Hudson, NY, April 13-14, 2019.
I am looking forward to seeing you soon!