Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Summer Series: Perfecting the Clone Pattern (Prototype A)

So this is the weekend I'm holing up in the sewga room to finish prototype A of the Lola bra clone. The theory is that this will become the pattern I'll use to make the Cherry Bomb bra.

Wow, this has taken a long time. A little bit of work followed by a lot of thinking to lead me through the most truncated of processes.

At this point, prototype A should be done in a short time. I've got to add the upper elastic, straps and closures. In the process of making it, I've revised the pattern (one paper shaving at a time) to the extent that I have amassed a pretty collage which now sits on my cutting mat.

With all the emphasis on the technicalities of perfecting fit and the technique of merging all the pieces so that they sew up neatly, I forgot how intuitive the actual bra-sewing process is. You have to do it to know how to do it. It's all about cutting bits of elastic and managing negative ease. Mind you, that's the part I like (though not as I'm re-establishing a rhythm, natch!).

Here's what I want to say now, before the next round of chips fall:

I refuse to be optimistic about this. Optimism has got me nowhere in the past. Having said this, knowledge is most definitely power, my friends. With knowledge, I am 1000 times closer to creating a bra that fits. I can feel it and see it.

Because of what I know now about a) fitting and pattern alteration b) specifically bras and fit and c) sewing technique - not to mention confidence - these are some highlights of applied learning while making this prototype:
  • I've used fabric adhesive to attach layers of stabilizing mesh to the upper cup and to affix 2 layers of powernet together (for a stronger band)
  • I've been able to figure out exactly how and why seam allowances on partial band bras are very fluid (and depend entirely on the width of picot elastic being used).
  • I've determined how I'll insert boning into the bra (though that's something I'll tackle in the next prototype.
  • I've adjusted the flat pattern pieces in accordance with what I've learned while sewing up the bra.
I now know that there is NO way any commercial pattern I've ever come across would ever work for me because those bras are cut for breasts with a wide root. It appears that independent pattern designers are playing the odds just like everyone else and they assume that a woman who wears a large cup wears a wide cup.

I urge you, if you fall into the large cup / small band / narrow frame category - aka if you wear between a 28-32 F-H (just an approximation) - that you must clone a bra that you own - that you know actually fits. Otherwise, you're probably wasting your time. I would not have been able to alter any commercial pattern, by sight and with my current knowledge of fit and bras (which isn't negligible), to turn the pieces into the shape I require. They are in NO way the same size, shape or in the same proportion to one another as the pieces that comprise the bras I wear.

So that's today's bit of info. I do intend to show the next prototype and photos of the flat bra pieces - I'm not quite finished making changes and I don't want to be confusing by showing things at a zillion different stages.

Today's question (for the bra makers): Do you fall into the small back/large cup range and have you discovered the same challenge I've documented above? Or have the commercial patterns worked well for you? Please, let's talk shop!


  1. Yep, small back / band, large cup size here too. I've tried the pinup girls bra pattern and it sucked! Those folks didn't know how to fit me either.. Waste of almost $250 bucks.. Put me off sewing bra for a while..

    Reading about your bra making adventures and about breast shapes have rekindled the desire to make a good fitting bra. Since I've heard only good things about this pattern - Danglez bra DB3E (DB3) and have just bought it. Looks like it's made for small band, large cup and gives a rounded front instead of madonna-esque figure. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

    Next up, looking for the right power net fabric.. The ones I have seem too stretchy..

    1. Hey Kay: Just be careful. I have the DB4 (I think that's the one I have) and I was intending to use it to construct the Cherry Bomb. Once I started revising the pieces, while observing my Lola bra, I realized that they were so different, there was no point. I'm not saying that the DB4 wouldn't have fit (though I've made it before without alterations and it didn't). But I do think that the clone is a much better bet in terms of fit.

  2. That's as I suspected, and one reason I haven't (possibly won't?) attempted bra-making. I wear around 32GG, and I'm currently wearing an impulse sales buy that has wires nearly ending on my back!

    I have a few well-fitting bras that have kind of worn out. Perhaps I should try to take a rub-off first, and then carefully cut them into component pieces. It would be an interesting exercise, if nothing else.

    1. It becomes exponentially more difficult once the cup volume exceeds a certain size. And given that most of the patterns seem to be designed for a shape that widens as the bust volume increases, well, it's a bit of a production (to understate it).

      It is a fascinating exercise (if nothing else)! Keep me posted.

  3. As a 32G, I am on my second attempt of sewing a bra. I used the Kwik Sew 3300 first, putting the DD cup on the 32 band. It was a good lesson on how to construct a bra, but a failure in regards to fit. So I cloned a well fitting Wacoal - and the band is awesome, but I still don't have the cup right. I understand that this will be an ongoing process, but I am determined! So I feel your 'pain', and hope I can get it right as my bras are wearing out so I have limited time! It is so exciting to have 'pretty' bras

    1. Yeah - I don't think it's as simple as mixing and matching (though a lot of pattern companies will suggest that it is). Glad to hear you're on the right track. Don't worry if it takes a while. It's taken me 10 attempts so far :-)

  4. Oops... Didn't finish - and a matching set! I even have trialled a knicker pattern to be ready :-). I love hearing your journey as well!

    1. Since I only wear sets, I refuse to figure out how to sew undies until I figure out how to make a bra that fits. What's the point, I say :-)