Over the summer I shared a lot of my favorite pro tips for bra making. As I was putting those posts together, I thought of even more tips to help you make your own beautiful and professional looking lingerie! Below I capture a few of my favorites.
Sewing Small Pieces
Sewing small pieces can be tricky. If you are having difficulty you can always sew from the middle outwards. No one ever said you have sew from end to end! This can make it easier to control those tiny and sometimes slippery bits of fabric in a bra making project.
Another way to sew small and/or slippery pieces is to start your seam with a small fabric leader or piece of paper at the beginning of a seam. A fabric leader also helps if your machine wants to eat the fabric at the start of the seam.
Chain sewing where you sew continuously from one seam to another is another great technique and saves construction time overall as well.
Working with Shifty Fabrics
When sewing power net (or power mesh) to another fabric on a conventional sewing machine, such as when you attach the frame to the band, sew with the power net on the bed of the machine and the other fabric on top. With this method the power mesh seamline does not get stretched and you get a nice flat straight seam. Of course, you could also overlock this seam on your serger!
Working with Bra Kits
Before you cut out your pattern, check trim and elastic sizes on your pattern and compare them to what you plan to use. On Orange Lingerie bra sewing patterns these lines are all clearly marked on each pattern piece for easy reference.
This tip is especially important if you are using a bra making kit where the trim and elastic widths vary and may be different from the pattern allowances. It is so much easier to make any necessary adjustments before you cut out your garment.
Add to the Band
I have students add 1 ¼” to the band, regardless of the size they are making, to account for the different properties of various Power Net fabrics and elastics. This adjustment (tutorial here) gives you some breathing room (literally) to account for different materials.
This is especially important for the A to DD size ranges for the Marlborough and Boylston bras since those bands were drafted to be firm using a fairly stretchy power mesh and a soft and stretchy band elastic.
Over the years bra kits have evolved to include firmer power net and firmer elastic. This is great for support but using the kit materials without first increasing the band could lead to a bra that is too tight! It is super easy to make a band smaller if it turns out to be too big, but it is difficult to make a band larger!
That is why for insurance, and to avoid a lot of extra work with stretch calculations, I just add 1 ¼” to the band. You can read the tutorial here.
Check the Closure Height
I teach this adjustment in all of my workshops and have been adding this to our bra patterns as well as a reminder to check the closure height of the bra and to adjust as necessary to precisely fit your hook and eye closure. You can read the tutorial here.
Track Your Changes
Take notes while you sew! Write down the settings on your machine like your sightline/guide you use on your presser foot, and your preferred presser foot for topstitching.
Also write down the date of any pattern changes along with what you changed and what you want to alter next time. I also recommend taking pictures of each version of the garment on the body and storing all the information your preferred note taking app. I cannot even begin to tell you how important my notes are to the design and pattern making process!
Add your bra making tips to the comments below!
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!