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!
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!!