Monday, March 15, 2010

Inch By Inch

OK, so I'm about to show you a photo of my latest handmade bra.

First, though, I'm going to disclaim to high heaven because, while it certainly looks like a bra, it sure as hell doesn't fit. Again.

This is the third time, in case you're counting.

In fact, I'm gonna show these photos, just to prove to you I'm not lying about having taken up lingerie-making.


It doesn't fit because, for the third time it's too small. You might be thinking: Kristin, you've been wearing bras for 25 years, what up with not being able to do a pattern in the correct size. Um, don't you take measurements before starting each project??

The answer is a resounding YES. First time I worked with a 2 piece cup (the one above has 3 pieces, which you can see in the bottom photo). That one was too snug, because the cup configuration wasn't generous, I thought. The second time, I made a pattern from a pre-existing bra I own. Yeah, it was a disaster 6 different ways. Seam allowances, they are a nasy to figure out on a freakin' bra. So that one was too small for its own reasons.

This time though, this time I think I may have actually figured out what the hell is going on (please). I'm using a fabric called duoplex. It provides excellent support because it does not stretch at all. Hmmm. Turns out all but a couple of my RTW bras have, wait for it, stretch in the cups?! So I've been making bras with utterly no give room (or ease). Stands to reason that I'm going to have to go up in cup size. But how much, I really have no idea. And man, experimenting is a bitch!

Here's what I learned from this experience (recording this as much for me as you):
  • I really like the pattern I'm working with. (It's European.)
  • I think I need to make the back a bit bigger, though not a full 2 inches.
  • I think I'm going to go up one or even 2 cup sizes. I've got to remember to grade the band so that the openings for the cups are in the larger size while the band width stays at a 70 - or maybe I'll grade it to a 72). That's cms.
  • The strap method I used this time worked really well.
  • I have to remember, if I'm going to use picot on the neck edging, to use the thread colour of the background, not the picot.
  • I can reuse: the bow, the strapping/clasps, hooks/eyes. That'll save me some time...
My friends, I am not a patient person. That I have spent upwards of 50 hours making 3 garments that are totally unwearable, does not sit easily. I can barely believe I'm going to try this again - maybe next weekend. My back hurts. My eyes are tired. I feel like crap and I have nothing to show for it. But I will keep on. I'm determined to succeed.


  1. I admire your intrepidness on the bra front. I don't think the learning curve is unusual, having read other sewing blogs where the author is going through the same process. Comparing to RTW is good but it takes time getting the specifics of fabric and fit.

    Therefore I know you will master this and be able to create a fabulous lingerie wardrobe.

    Despite your struggles, I am increasingly thinking I will end up doing the same thing eventually, allowing you the chance to marvel at my struggles, as currently I seem to be having a problem getting a good fit. I've found one model and I dread the day it is discontinued.

  2. Um, what? You have NOTHING to show for it?! You made a BRA! It looks amazing. Just because it doesn't fit you doesn't mean that's not a huge accomplishment. I would never even dare to make one. I'm sure there's someone out there who would fit into this bra. And you MADE it. 50 hours isn't really all that much in the long run... I would say that 90% of the garments I've made in the past have never been worn. But I was learning the whole time. Think of those 50 hours as a workshop and give yourself a certificate in bra making, girl!

  3. I know this will be no comfort at all but, seriously, K, the fact that you made a bra yourself that LOOKS LIKE A BRA is something to be proud of. I means seriously. How long have you been sewing?

    And once you get this figured out, just think what a breeze making more will be!

    OK, I'll take my brightside-looking elsewhere now ...

  4. It may not fit, but it looks very professional! Should I start addressing you as Her Greatness The Bra Queen?

  5. Mardel: You would be excellent at making bras. It's actually not that hard (well, it's very finicky) to make them. Fitting is another matter!

    Anabela: You are so sweet. Thank you. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who's spent zillions of hours on things that won't see the light of day.

    Sal: I have to stay focused on that. It is pretty cool. And it would fit someone, somewhere :-)

    SC: Thanks! I actually think that title is taken :-)

  6. I'm so impressed! It's obvious that you're going to end up before long with a beautiful bra that you've made, on your own (!!) that will be the prototype for many more. As someone who used to sew quite a bit, I'm blown away to see how far you've come in such a short time. Kudos!

  7. I can't believe you made that! Seriously, you bought it and cut the tags off, didn't you?
    Also, what size did you say it is?

  8. That is amazing sewing you've done! I have always wanted to try to sew lingerie, but it is so intimidating! Great work--if *this* is your less-than-perfect result, then I am certain you'll get the fit just right on the next one.

  9. Looks great and once you've cracked measurement and fabric give you'll be there. The construction looks fab!

  10. I love that you have boobies enough to wear a bra. I have less than an A, so if I do wear a bra I tend to buy ones that come with assorted items in them to keep me know, like padding and shelving...a unicorn or kitten...

  11. It's beautiful! Can you stuff it and frame it? (Seriously.)

  12. Your bra looks great and so professionally done--like it was store bought. I so feel you on the frustrations with the learning process when it comes to making something new. But what you learned is so invaluable and is often learned for life. Once you're able to perfect the fit---you'll be sewing bras or a lifetime and helping the rest of us ignorant people (wink)!!!

  13. I'm echoing all the previous comments. WOW! It looks beautiful.

    I hear ya on the "nothing to show for it". I totally unravelled a sweater couple of weeks ago. Sometimes I wonder why I took up knitting since I'm so impatient and it's not an instant gratification hobby. But then I make something that turns out well (my first cardigan!) and hope comes back.

    So keep at at!

  14. Well, it looks amazing! I'm frustrated for you that it doesn't fit, but I firmly believe you will make one that does.

  15. i think i now understand why bras are so expensive. gulp. i am so sorry this has been such a pain. ay yi yi. you have 14 scrillion times more patience than i do!

  16. This looks GREAT!! Once you perfect the fit you will be so happy and you can use the pattern to make tons and tons of beautiful bras in all sorts of different fabrics!

  17. mater: Thank you for such a lovely comment. I'm going to keep on till I crack this!

    Janet: Ha! You know my secrets :-)

    Thank you Kate. I'm getting closer!

    Kirie: You should give it a try. It's tough at first but, as with everything, the knowledge comes. Thanks for your comment.

    Tanya: You're hilarious. And your new photo is glam!

    Miss C: Maybe eventually, but not this one. I need to pull it apart for learning purposes.

    Victoria: Well, I figure, with 9000 more hours, I'll be getting there :-)

    Raven: Thank you! And I'm loving your photos of the knitting. You're doing great work...

    Dora: Thanks. It is frustrating, but I've just got to stay focused. That's what I tell myself after a glass of wine.

    Janelle: Oh, I can scarcely complain about the price I pay for those feats of engineering at this point! But, when I finally figure this out (sewing goddess willing), I'll be able to make bras for $20 instead of $120!

    Stacy: Thank you so much! I love the idea of having a basic pattern I can customize to all my whims :-)

  18. ok that bra looks really freakin professionally made and the fact that you made this impresses the heck out of me.

    why not just start doing a curated display of all your handmade lingerie, fit be damned? show off that craftsmanship! :)

  19. Keep going, the reward in the end is worth everything!!

  20. I say this as someone who knows nothing about sewing bras, but this work is really great. The attention to detail is superb. I'm sorry it doesn't fit, but eventually, you'll make one that does. Remember the Dyson vacuum guy, he engineered hundreds of vacs before he got the right one.

    Patience, my friend. Imagine the joy you'll feel when you can wear your own bra.

  21. If I didn't see the picture I would not believe it. You really did it! You made a freaking BRA!!!

    Time for me to fly over there and take you out drinkin' K!!

  22. Sophie: You are too kind!

    Jos: I'm keeping my eye on the prize. :-)

    E: I love to hear about the Dyson guy. I mean, if he could make hundreds of freakin' vaccums, I can make a few bras, yes? What wonderful perspective you've given me.

    Hammie: I've made 4 freaking bras and will keep on until I come up with one that fits. But I am happy to start drinking any time. And I'd be just as happy to do it in Ireland (unless you feel like coming to TO) :-)

  23. Oh, my stars! You made a bra, and it looks nicer than nine tenths of the ready to wear bras that I've seen in my life. It's gorgeous!
    The proper fit will happen, and by then you'll have made any mistakes on these first tries, so it will be perfect and go together easily. You will then have made the "righteous bra of fabulousness" and good things will happen to you. Seriously, play the lottery...

  24. RR: You are so sweet to me! I'm just taking a little break to let the knowledge of my last attempts simmer. Then, I'll go back to it with renewed energy.

  25. I am SO impressed right now. I really can't express that enough. IMPRESSED! Beautiful work!

    And just a completely offhand thought...with the garments that sadly do not fit, would it maybe make your time seem worthwhile if you were to donate them to a women's shelter or similar? Completely random, I know, but I remember hearing someone suggest that for second hand bras and I thought it was a great idea.