This past month, we’ve been focusing on basic bra-making and sewing skills. If you have a tip or know of an easier way to do the basics, we want to hear about it. As in all of our monthly challenges, you threaded your way through this Back to Basics challenge wonderfully! Some of you gave us multiple tips and all of you gave tips we can all use. In fact, this is a VERY long post, chock full of wonderful tips, tricks and techniques. Thanks to you, I’ve learned a few new tips I am going to try out in my own bra-making!

Cassy – Canada

Hello ladies. I hope I understood this month’s challenge.  I am batching the Ingrid to make fitting bras as I have several people interested in the non-wired bras.  Have to say I love it too for sports bras, but I digress. There are many techniques I’ve learned from Beverly’s Craftsy classes and in-store classes so it was difficult to choose, as they all have been most helpful.  I am a relative newcomer to sewing machines that allow the needle to be moved from side to side.  Until 3 years ago my machine was not able to do this.  The technique that has increased my speed and accuracy the most has been to use this feature to put my needle in a position where the seam allowance can be measured from the side of the presser foot.  This gives me accuracy for the seam allowance and keeps the fabric on as much of the feed dogs as possible when sewing the seams.  I do the same for topstitching only I move the needle to where I can run the seam along the middle groove on the foot and the needle topstitches to either side depending on where I need it.  I don’t have to change my presser foot as often, as I used to change it to a 1/4″ foot or edgestitiching foot as needed. Since I’m batch sewing I’ve been using coloured dots on all the pieces to show which size they are associated with, as I can’t tell them apart when I’ve got several sizes on the go at once.  The same colour highlighter is used to highlight the size on the pattern and on my labelled basket for each size. Take care and hugs to Pixie.

Charlene – Canada

This is Charlene from Saskatchewan again.  This time I am doing a bra for my sister, basically a Heather in duoplex instead of sheer cup lining. This the first horizontal seamed cup I have done for her and I think she is in for a nice surprise. I may need to do another one in sequins for her to wear to hip hop class, knowing her.  (Future blog post? Hint hint) I can’t say I have exactly mastered any techniques but there are certainly some that make my life easier.
1. Pinning. Any curved seam gets pinned so it can be eased and matched.  Some of the straight seams too, because the duoplex is so slippery.
2. Basting. I baste layers with contrasting thread to keep them aligned and stable for the seams and elastics. I have experimented with all kinds of temporary glues and I just find basting more reliable.
3. The right stitch. Besides of course the straight, zig zag and three-step zigzag, I also use a blind stitch on the open side of lace on the upper cup, and anywhere else it doesn’t get caught by seam or elastic
4. Straps. I have moved to a folded strap, because sometimes the elastic does make me itchy. I do them both with and without the underarm elastic, but no neckline elastic. In this case I stitched one side to the cup then flipped, folded and topstitched before doing the underarm elastic.
5. Channeling. I don’t topstitch the channeling anymore (sorry, Beverly!) I get a smoother, more accurate stitch doing the outside edge of the channeling from the wrong side. As long as the tension is correct it looks all right, and I don’t accidentally close off the channeling or miss it altogether!
That little bit of coral peeping out is Active Cotton covering the band elastic and inside of the frame. Helpful Hint: encourage assistants to play somewhere other than cutting table. Ok, I see I’ve gotten very wordy again but I hope you enjoy my little dissertation!  Happy February!

Christel –

Hallo, the bra is my own design. I made the pattern myself. Because fold-over elastic offers too little strength, I put picot elastic in between the fabric and thefold-over. That is my advice.

Christine – Canada

My skill/method I use to make sewing quick and straight is: I use the line on my clear sewing foot (to guide along seam) and adjust my needle position to stitch a parallel line when opening up the seams.  This way I know they are equal to the left and right of the seam.  I find it easier to watch the seam at the centre line on the foot and let my machine sew.
Parallel, straight lines are very pleasing to the eye and make the final product look ‘professionally’ done!

Desiree – Holland

Good day.  Attached is my Back to Basics Challenge entry. To attach the shoulder straps I use a reverse technique, hope the pictures will show. I learned this from a commercial bra photo. Happy with this finding because it reduces a lot of bows and florets on the not-so-pretty connection seams. Greetz,

Diane – Canada

To the team atBra-Makers Supply, It is difficult to come up with something that has made my bra making better without it being directly attributable to Beverly Johnson. Here is my submission which was influenced by a lovely boutique bra I used to have in my rotation (so I can’t even claim it as being original to me). Nevertheless, instead of bows, I frequently use one or two ribbons folded with the ends cut on a slant. Frayblock helps keep the ends from fraying through multiple washes. Ribbon or fold over elastic can also be used to cover joins. I like to secure the ribbon with a small machine stitch rather than hand sewing as it allows the ribbon to lie flat. Bye for now,

Esther – USA

I am new at bras (Bramaking 101 in January after 4 tries on my own) but I still have a few tricks to offer:

1. For decades I have been sewing shirts three at a time, doesn’t matter what the fabric design is, but they must use the same color thread. Bras look to be the same, 3 in a batch is faster than 3  separately.  I have redrafted the classic to a horizontal cup and a shellyesque powerbar version, and made one of each so I am now good to go.  One each of 3 styles, all with the same frame and back.

2. I have traced the class pattern pieces to copy paper, but each cup style is a _different_ color paper. Otherwise it would be too easy to try to put a horizontal upper cup with a diagonal seamed lower one….

3. Make a fold on each cup pattern piece parallel the DoGS.  This way if you flip the piece when laying out 3 sets of cups, you still keep track of the DoGS.

4. There are several blogs that discuss dying bra parts, but none of them make the crucial fiber artist connection that nylon apparently dyes like a protein fiber.  In the spinning/weaving/fabric dying world, there is a great divide between protein fibers (silk, wool, alpaca, basically any critter) and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, rayon, basically any plant).  Synthetics are normally not considered.  Given everyone using acid dyes and vinegar, nylon is obviously a synthetic acting like a protein, so any dying information from Google for protein is useful.  The Procion dyes from Dharma Trading are chameleons, use Gaubers salts for cellulose and vinegar for protein.  Rit has both mixed so you are always throwing half of it away.

5. Given the above, if you would like to play with colors but don’t want poisons around your kids, pets, or kitchen, KoolAid drink mix or generic equivalent is a food safe protein dye and doesn’t need added vinegar (citric acid is the first ingredient).  I haven’t tried it yet on nylon, but it did a lovely permanent job on my first handspun 25 years ago.  The only catch is that Duoplex is polyester not nylon, so you have to use 50 denier nylon tricot lined with cup lining instead.  But all the elastics and Powernet are nylon, and dyeable white hooks and eyes are available.  One of my 2 local independent fabric shops that still has dressmaking carries the nylon tricot.  There are multiple “how to dye wool yarn with Koolaid” blog posts out there and some have very nice color charts.  They might not be identical colors, but will certainly play nicely together.  I would dye everything in one batch and then shop for thread that matches the 50 denier. Add metallic rings and sliders. When I get the bra drawer filled a bit I plan to experiment with lemon-lime…

Jodi – USA

For my Back to Basics Challenge entry, I made a classic bra with a split lower cup. One of my favorite techniques for bra-making is to use wonder tape to hold the hook part of the hook and eye tape. It has always been a bit fidgety while sewing with the hooks nearby and I’ve found that it is so much easier to see with it stuck in place. For this bra, I also attached the strap to the back with a wide zigzag (5 width, 1 length). I like this better than using the lightning stitch. Finally, I added elastic before the channeling was put on so I could use this as a nursing bra. I love it! Jodi

Kathleen – USA

Back to basics.  This one, a not so basic bra, is made using my favorite essential tools. The flimsy floral was backed with Duoplex with a quick squirt of temporary Spray Adhesive.  The Quarter Inch sewing machine foot is essential for accurate seams, and the Stitch in the Ditch foot makes that narrow top-stitching a snap.  Basting the back closure to the band with Wonder Tape makes that dreaded last step so much easier.  Using the Pelican Applique scissors with the curved edge down helps prevent snipping a hole in the fragile fabric underneath.  I can’t “build a bra” without these.

Louise – Belgium

Hi all!  Louise from Belgium again. I would like to share a photo tutorial to enclosed seams when using lace and a non stretch lining. It already exists on the internet and I think it was the most useful thing I have learned on lingerie blogs. It really takes a custom made bra to the next level. I used a vertical seamed bra pattern. First image is half of the cut pieces. I always use 2 pieces of lining (tulle) on the bridge and one on the rest. I don’t know if there is a conventional choice, but I chose the seams allowances to lie on the inner side. To do so, you have to align the 4 layers with the outer cup in the middle :
  • Tulle inner cup right side up
  • Tulle outer cup wrong side up
  • Lace outer cup right side up
  • Lace inner cup wrong side up
Both tulle layers and both lace layers must have their right sides facing. To enclose seams with such fine fabrics, I use a LOT of pins, and eventually baste it if the curves are really different, which is not the case here. Then topstitch. Here is the final result. The colours are not right but you see the details 🙂 Really happy with the result. Each bra I make is better than the previous one, so it is a very enjoyable journey 🙂 Hope you like it and I can’t wait the others’ submission!!!

Louise – Canada

My back to basics tip is to use wash away wonder tape when installing hooks & eyes. This is especially useful with h&e tape! Also the wash away water soluble basting thread in the bobbin when testing cups makes unpicking unnecessary! Who doesn’t love that?! #bramakerschallenge2019

Michelle – Canada

My Back to Basics challenge entry this month is all about getting the neatest finish possibly. This tip is using Wash-Away tape to hold the channeling in place to sew it. My second tip is all about sewing the channeling on as neatly as possible. I use my Stitch-in-the-Ditch foot to attach the channeling both really close to the edge, and neatly too.

Rachel – Canada

Back to Basics challenge entry. Two swimsuits from the Three Sisters bikini pack (Marsha and Rebecca) with the solid swim fabric from bms and the print from some custom printer off Facebook. I made the Marsha straight from the instructions with no changes, and for the Rebecca, I graded up one size past the largest cup and added height at the underarm wireline. I love the coverstitch option on my serger for finishing edges. I’m also weird so used two different colours for the needle threads, which actually makes it “less” professional looking but more unique.
My favourite tip though is this. Once I figured out my preferred settings for stitch length/width for foam related projects, I made a little sampler which I have pinned to the wall by my machine. Now I never have to try to remember what to set my machine at for each step!

Roni – Israel

Like I mentioned last month, while I’ve owned Beverly’s first book for quite a while, I’ve never actually got around to sewing a “real” bra (until now only sports bras), so I took the “Back to Basics” challenge to push myself to finally sew my first real bra. This is the Classic Full Band Bra in a 36E. I measured myself about a week and a half ago and as I am currently 32 weeks pregnant, ever growing… so by the time I finished sewing the bra, I realized I should have done a 38E or even a 38F.  [*facepalm*] The bra is made from a duoplex fabric with a pseudo lace print on it. Because it isn’t real lace and the design is asymmetrical, it was really hard to get the sides to mirror although I think it did come out nicely balanced. In order to get the bra to close, I needed a back extender and the cups are a bit small. Also, there’s a bit of gapping under the arms, which I need to work on, as well. I’m really proud of myself for having finished my first bra. Also, I’m really proud of my topstitching. Over the years I’ve sewn a lot of clothing and I’m really proud of how well I get my topstitching lines parallel to each other. One of the tricks I use is my edge stitching foot. If it glides through the ditch, with the needle set to the side, I get perfect topstitching every time. I used this on the cross cup seam and on the sides of the bra band. (It’s difficult to see black stitching on the “lace” fabric.) I’m including pictures of the bra from the outside and inside. I’m also including a picture of it on me, which I’d prefer if you didn’t use on social media (but I did want you to see it on a 3D form). I’m really looking forward to the March challenge because I’m at that point where none of my bras are fitting and I really enjoy a good sports bra. I have the Sweet Sixteen Bralette pattern which I’m really excited to get to work on. Thanks for pushing me! 🙂

Sonia – Canada

Hi ladies! For the Building n basic challenge, here are the techniques I like to use when sewing a bra. I made a bra with a scuba print fabric which is stretch on both sides. I stabilised the front band using sheer cup lining. When sewing a non-stretch fabric with a stretch one, a simple technique is to place the stretch fabric on the feed dog and the stable over it. This will prevent ending up your seam with the two fabrics uneven. I also like to sew an underwire casing on the side seam to have a nice finish. Sometimes I  insert a metal boning in it… it’s not an easy task but it’s worth the effort! It keeps the band in place and helps to shape the body. Thank you!

Virginia – Canada

Dear Fairy Bra Mother and Fairy Bra Sisters, The techniques that have made my bra making easier and faster are cloning and Frankenstein-ing. Using these fundamental skills have put the FUN into bra sewing by making it possible to get a professional looking fit without having to re-make a bra over and over – helping me to avoid the lure of UFOs. My February entry is a Linda partial band bra modified to accept cups and straps cloned from a friend’s best-fitting bra. This tester bra would be an epic fail without fabric grafts.  Back to basics with the ABCs (almonds, bulges, and curves)
1 reply
  1. Gail Beck
    Gail Beck says:

    I have been making bras for about 4-5 years now. Nice to see that I can still learn new tips and tricks in the sewing process. Thanks for a great Back to Basics Challenge. Lovely work by all the participants.


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