Wednesday, September 9, 2020

I'm Making What?

I like doing projects and crafts that are not quite mainstream. One of my current interests is making bras. Yeah, brassieres. Those things. Most women don't even like shopping for bras. The prospect of making them is even more daunting, even for people who consider themselves good at sewing!

As with many of my projects, this one started because I needed something. Well, actually, my daughter did. She has a really hard time finding bras that fit comfortably. She'll order half a dozen bras online (because brick-and-mortar stores rarely even carry her size, and there's a pandemic going on anyhow), try them all on, and send them all back. She's tried on a few dozen this way. It's time-consuming and discouraging for both of us.

I started poking around the Internet. Have I mentioned that I LOVE the Internet? I found a whole subculture of folks who make their own bras, sell bra-making supplies, design patterns, teach lessons, discuss bra-making on Facebook, and even record YouTube videos about making bras. Yay!

After reading discussions and watching videos, I soon settled on ordering supplies and patterns online from a shop in Canada called Bra-makers Supply. I ordered a couple of patterns (Shelley and Ingrid by Beverly V. Johnson, the "Fairy Bra Mother"), a fitting book, and a couple of kits. The Shelley pattern had been mentioned in multiple places as a good pattern for beginning bra makers. The Ingrid was wire-free, so I thought I would try both. Here is a picture of the bra kits, Ingrid pattern, and book that I got (the Shelley pattern is under the book):

Bra kits, pattern booklet, instruction booklet

I made the Shelley bra first. I had found a YouTube "sew-along" video on the michoumakes channel from a woman who was making her second Shelley bra. I watched the first of six(!) parts of the sew-along, and that combined with the multi-page pattern instructions gave me enough confidence to dive right in.

Hand holding piece of bra in progress next to pattern instructions

Beverly Johnson has devised her own sizing system for her patterns. You need just two measurements to determine what pattern size to use (and the pattern includes a huge number of sizes). Unfortunately the measuring instructions say something like "start by wearing a well-fitting bra...", which my daughter didn't have! Chicken-and-egg problem. We measured as best we could, and I figured the first bra would be a prototype anyhow.

The pattern and kit were both great! Although it took me about 10-11 hours of work (including sewing, ripping out, and resewing), I made a bra that looked both pretty and professional. 

Lavender underwire bra (front) on grid cutting mat

Lavender underwire bra (back view) on grid cutting mat

The underwires are sticking out because I was trying out different underwires to see what fit best, so I didn't finish the underwire channel. I had already been keeping hardware and underwires from old dead bras because I might find a use for them someday!

My daughter tried the bra on, and... it didn't fit. Not even close. Oh well. It did give us a basis for figuring out what size would be closer, though. Fortunately I got a second kit for the Shelley bra. Back to the sewing machine!

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