Analyzing Ready-to-Wear

1. WHY ON EARTH WOULD I WANT TO MAKE MY OWN BRAS?


Making your own bra is not as crazy as it sounds - the results are a perfect fit and your choice of fabrics at a fraction of the price of ready-to-wear. Once you have perfected the fit, the sky's the limit when it come to colour and fabric choice and style options. Think of the possibilities!



2. HOW COME A 36C FROM ONE COMPANY FITS ME AND A 36C FROM ANOTHER DOESN'T?


There doesn't seem to be any standard sizing in the RTW Bra world as far as bras go. I've tried on hundreds of RTW bras from dozens of manufacturers and discovered that the only consistency is Inconsistency! Even within the same company, there's no guarantee of a 36C being exactly the same shape or depth. That's because, every woman is so unique, and the "dream bra" for you isn't the same as the "dream bra" for me, even though we may both take 36C. Stores assume that you will be trying on a new style of bra to check out the fit before you buy. Different manufacturers also make assumptions about the standard shape they will strive for, and that may not be YOUR shape. Not all women have the same breast profile or thrust (depth) See also "All different shapes and sizes" at the end of this FAQ column.



3. I BUY A 36C BRA, BUT THE PATTERN FOR THE 36C DOESN'T FIT. HOW COME?


It's called "Vanity Sizing" and it's a common practice in Women's RTW. Most women take Vanity sizing for granted when they buy pants and dresses, but are shocked to find it exists in bras, too! If I shop in one store, I can fit into size 10 pants, but when I shop in a different store, I'm taking a 12 or a 14. Usually the more expensive the store, the smaller size you can fit into, which means that the manufacturers are deliberately over sizing their clothing as a selling feature. After all, wouldn't YOU rather be a size 10 than a 14....In bras, the same thing happens. Patterns have been designed to fit measurements, rather than a manufacturers idea of what that size should be.



4. I'VE WORN A 36C MY WHOLE ADULT LIFE. NOW IT DOESN'T FIT! WHAT HAPPENED?


In a word, LIFE! As we get older, various things happen that can affect the fit of our bras. For example, if you have gained or lost 15 pounds, had a baby, are approaching menopause, or have had surgery or been sick for awhile, all will affect the bra and how it fits. Even if in the last ten years, you have AGED 10 years ( I know I have) you may need to assess the fit of your bra and re-size yourself. For a great article on how women's figures change after 55, see the article in the current THREADS magazine on "Fitting the Figure after 55". We have a link to their site in our Links Section, but don't go there now,,,,,,that's for later :)



5. MY SHOULDERS HAVE DEEP GROOVES. IS THIS FROM TIGHTENING THE STRAPS TOO TIGHT?


It's possible but more likely that the relationship between the band and the cup has been compromised and the two are no longer working together to support the weight, so that job has been transferred to the strap, which is NOT where it should be. The band is capable of supporting the weight of the cups IF the cups are sized correctly and the band has good quality elastic. Letting the straps carry the weight of the breasts is like tying a string to each end of a sack of flour and wearing it around your neck! If you have deep grooves in your shoulders, you could be constricting the nerves and blood flow to other parts of your body, and you may experience other problems, too.



6. WHAT OTHER PROBLEMS


I knew you would ask! Other problems include pain in the lower back and partial paralysis in the arms and/or fingers. In fact, in Canada, at least, you can qualify for breast reduction if you exhibit these three signs of "overly heavy" breasts, that is part paralysis, pain in the lower back and grooves in the shoulders.



7. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN SUPPORT BETWEEN A FULL BAND BRA AND A PARTIAL BAND BRA?


Not really. For some women with that "shelf" right below their breasts, a full band, even a short one, may be too long and cause the band to roll up or under. How much support is it giving if it is rolling? A correctly fitting partial band is every bit as supportive as a correctly fitting full band bra. A partial band bra always has underwires, where a full band may or may not.



Frequently Asked Questions about Bras and Bra-Making



These Frequently Asked Questions are provide as a public service by Beverly Johnson and Bra-makers Supply for use by our web-site readers and students. If you are a bra-making teacher and would like to use these FAQ's, please do so, but credit where you found them. If you pass them off as your own original notes, someone will be sure to find you out...

If any readers have questions or comments about bra-making, we invite you to email us at email@bramakers.com. We will post the question and its answer in this section as well as give you a personal response. Remember to include your name and email address!

Analyzing Ready-to-Wear
Measuring
Fabric Choices
Sewing the Bra
Fitting the Bra you Made



8. I HATE WEARING WIRES - THEY ALSO POKE ME IN THE SIDE OF THE BREAST.


If your wires poke you in the side of the breast, it means the diameter of the wire is too small for you. You should move to a larger cup size, say from a C to a D. Wires increase in size by 1/4" each, and even 1/4" too small is enough for anyone to say "never again". Once you wear wires that fit around the breast mound correctly, they are very comfortable. In fact, the most common comment I hear is "you don't even know they are there"



9. I HATE WEARING WIRES - THEY ALWAYS PINCH ME UNDER THE ARM


That's a sign that your wires are too big or too long. That same 1/4" as above is now extending beyond the breast mound into the underarm space so it can pinch you under the arm when you move around or bend. OUCH! In fact, that pinch is what told me my own bra was too big ( I have been losing weight ) When I did a careful re-check of my sizing, sure enough, I needed to go one cup size smaller.



10. I LOVE WEARING SPORTS BRAS BECAUSE THEY ARE SO COMFORTABLE. BUT ARE THEY GIVING ME ENOUGH SUPPORT?


Don't get me started on this! Just because it is comfortable, doesn't mean it fits! Sports bras, especially the ones that are just a short and tight tank top, are causing the breasts to be mashed against the chest in an effort to keep them from bouncing when doing active sports. Some women find that they have to wear two sports bras to do this. If this does the trick for you and you are wearing the sports bra for a short time and than removing it and wearing a correctly fitting bra after, then fine. I have a problem with women who wear this type of bra all the time, the bra is not allowing proper blood and air circulation around that area.



11. I'M A D CUP, YET THE STORES HAVE PADDED CUPS IN MY SIZE. WHY WOULD A D CUP WANT A PADDED BRA?


The new trend in bra fashion is to have a fabric in the cup that doesn't stretch, yet also supports the weight of the cups. Padding is one fashionable way to do this. It smoothes the line under your clothes and is very comfortable next to the skin, and by using woven fabrics over the padding, the choice of colour is almost unlimited. The padding will add some extra depth to your overall profile, so as long as your clothes fit properly over this new padded bra, go for it!



12. I AM SHORT WAISTED AND MY BAND ROLLS UP. IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO ABOUT THIS?


Many shorter women like me, and some taller ones, too, have the same problem. That "shelf" under the bust starts high and can cause the band to roll up or under. In a commercial bra, the best remedy is to look for a partial band bra, that is, one that has no band at all under the cups. These bras are always underwired. If you make your own, of course you can shorten the band in the area from side to side in the front. Look at the bra now to see how much needs to come off. It may only need a 1/2" or so, and it may only need it right at the centre front, and not anywhere else.



Measuring

13. HOW DO I MEASURE FOR A BRA?


Follow these simple, yet critical steps for perfect sizing in a custom bra. First remove your clothing down to your best-fitting bra. Keeping the tape measure level and flat, take a snug measurement of the rib cage directly under the bust. Make it snug but not tight. To this measurement, add either 4" or 5" to bring it up to an even number...after all, bras come in sizes 32, 34, 36, not 33, 35, or 37. This number will be your bra band size. Now measure with the same tape measure around the high bust, which is over the bust but under the arm, keep the tape snug again, but don't compress the flesh too tightly. Measure also over the fullest part of the bust, but do not pull the tape snug. This measurement is the full bust measurement. Subtract the high bust from the full bust measurement and the difference, in inches will give you the cup size, Each inches) is a letter of the alphabet with 1"=A, 2"=B, 3"=C, 4"=D, 5"=DD, 6"=F and 7"=FF and so on. If in doubt about your size, make the size you currently wear, then make any necessary adjustments.



14. WHY DON'T I TAKE A 36 WIRE IF I WEAR A 36 BRA?


All wires are numbered for their size in a B cup. In other words, if you are a 36B, then you take a 36 wire. If you are a 40B, you would take a 40 wire. As the cup size increase, the wire number increase too, so a 36C takes one wire number higher than the B, which would be the 38. (wire sizes go up by 2) So a 36C takes a 38, and a 36D takes a 40 wire, The chart below should help you see which size takes what wire.



15. WHY DO I MEASURE WITH MY BRA ON?


You need to measure your breasts in the most natural position possible, and for most women, that means with a bra on. Ideally, you should measure with your best-fitting bra on.



16. BUT I DON'T HAVE A BEST FITTING BRA. HOW SHOULD I MEASURE?


If you don't have a best-fitting bra, then wear the best you've got and go from there. If your breasts are more or less self-supporting, you could measure without your bra, or support them and have someone else measure for you. It's a place to start.



17. I KNOW MY BRA IS TOO SMALL - MY BREASTS ARE COMPRESSED. IS THAT STILL OK TO MEASURE?


I assume this is the best you've got. You can measure without, as above, or you can assume that you will be one cup size larger than what you measure, so if you measure to a D and you know you're compressed, you might want to try the DD. One sure-fire way of telling that your cups are too small is to see if you fail the "two finger test". If you can insert two or more fingers between your bra front and your breast bone, you fail and need a larger cup size. The center front of the bra ideally should sit close to the breast bone. In that way, the weight is transferred back to the body instead of to the straps.



18. I NOTICE THE CUP SIZES GO FROM D TO DD THEN F AND FF. WHAT HAPPENED TO E AND G?


E and G are still there, cleverly disguised as a double letter! DD is really E, and FF is really G. One of those odd thing about Bra sizing, I guess. My own twisted sense of humour tells me that no women ever wants E sized cups which when said sounds like "EEE" as in "EEE, I see a mouse" and certainly no one wants cup sizes that sound like "GEE" as in "GEE, what a Huge bra!" Seriously, though, the bra letter sizing continues as far into the alphabet as there are breasts to fill them. The largest I have ever seen is 46M, which is 13" difference between the high bust and the full bust.



19. I AM OUTSIDE THE RANGE OF PATTERN SIZES AVAILABLE. WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE A BRA IN MY SIZE?


The easiest way to do this is to use the wire conversion chart to determine what cup sizes are equivalent to the needed size. For example, you need a 38F, but the pattern only goes to 38DD. You need one size larger. Refer to the wire chart and you'll see that a 38F uses the same size wire as a 40DD - in other words, these two cups are virtually identical in size. Use the cups from a 40DD, but the band will need to be shortened to the length of the 38. The same is true for a 32FF, just refer to the chart and check the smallest band size that has the same number as the size you need.



Fabric Choices

20. THE PATTERN CALLS FOR TRICOT, BUT IT DOESN'T COME IN VERY EXCITING COLOURS. IS THERE SOME OTHER FABRIC I CAN USE?


Of course, isn't that why we sew! In the 1960's, tricot was about the only thing that was available to us, but now, I use virtually any fabric that appeals to me. If you are just starting, why not try Spandex or swimwear fabric. It should have from 40 - 75% stretch, with a firmer feeling bra being found at the 40% end. If you have daughters, granddaughters, nieces or sisters in any of the "Spandex sports", such as figure skating, dance, gymnastics, swimming or aerobics, you may already have a stash of these fabrics. You can also use the cotton interlock fabrics if you wish to have an all-cotton bra, or use even pretty print quilter cottons. If using woven fabrics, you need to use a stretch fabric on at least part of the band so you can breathe, but there's no reason why your bras shouldn't be from whatever fabric you like. We have one in our collection made from metallic Spandex, and everywhere I go, it's THAT one that women are drawn to.



21. YOUR INSTRUCTIONS SAY THE FABRIC SHOULD HAVE 40 -75% STRETCH. WHERE DO I FIND THAT INFORMATION?


Unfortunately, the stretch percentage is not found on the end of the bolt! But you can determine that easily right in the store. Just take 4" of a single layer of the fabric between your fingertips and stretch it out until it just resists. If it pulls out to 7", then it has stretched 3" out of 4 - the fabric has 75% stretch. If it has pulled out to 6", it has 50% stretch, and fabric that pulls to 5" has only 25% stretch. I have found that the ideal bra fabric has between 40 and 50% stretch, although fabric with up to 75% stretch can be used too.



22. I LOVE THIS NEW FABRIC I BOUGHT, BUT NOW I THINK IT MAY BE TOO STRETCHY. SHOULD I ABANDON MY PLANS TO USE IT FOR BRAS?


Every woman finds fabric that is irresistible - but will it work? The answer is yes, with a few tricks. The easiest way to reduce stretchability is to use double layers of the fabric in the lower cups, doing so will reduce stretch by up to 30%. Other suggestions include using a layer of power net under the fashion fabric in the band area, or using fusible knit tricot interfacing on the lower cup. This will help to stabilize the area somewhat



23. MY BRA LETS ME "BOUNCE" TOO MUCH. CAN I STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING?


Basically, you want to reduce the stretchability of the bra cups. You can use the suggestions above or check the band, too. Sometimes, the band is too loose, or the elastic is dead. When this happens, the support element is gone from the band, and the cups are left to bounce around on their own. Remember, if the elastic is dead, the bra is dead! You can't put it in your bottom drawer and hope that it will recharge itself. The best memorial service for a favourite dead bra is to cut up one side and clone it into dozens of future bras.



24. I WANT TO USE SOME PRINT FABRICS IN MY BRAS, BUT I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO DYE FINDINGS TO MATCH. ANY SUGGESTIONS?


Oh yes! Here's a tip I learned from snooping around the Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein bra sections of my favourite department store. Take the band pattern piece and trace it on another piece of paper. Cut it in two vertically just where an underarm seam would be if there were one. It should run roughly parallel to the cup seam. Add seam allowances and a sewing notch if you like, to the cut line. Make the section of the band that attaches to the front from the fashion fabric, and make the back band from white, black or nude Spandex, whichever colour most closely blends with your fabric. Use hook & eye, sliders & rings and strap elastic to match the back band, and from the front you will be in the fashion fabric, while from the back you are all one colour, too.



Sewing the Bra

25. WHAT THREAD SHOULD I USE TO SEW BRAS?


When it comes to thread, you have a couple of choices, as always. If you want to dye the bra afterward, you need a dyable thread, so it would need to be either cotton or nylon (yes nylon dyes extremely well!) I recommend the Nylon Lingerie and Bobbin thread T-101, or T-102 for my classes, but it only comes in white and black. It is dyable, but if you are using red fabric, for example, just use a good quality polyester thread. Don't use cheap thread, it isn't up to the challenge and will frustrate you the whole way. As an aside, some of the older machines just don't like the finer nylon threads, if that is the case, use a good quality polyester thread. If you are sewing cotton fabrics, use cotton thread. In any case, use a size 50 or 60 thread, not anything heavier.



26. WHY DO YOU RECOMMEND A STRETCH NEEDLE INSTEAD OF A BALLPOINT?


Back in the 1960's (when I was young...) knits were new and the regular needles just weren't working. It was very frustrating to sew on this wonderful new 60" wide Crimplene fabric and have skipped stitches. Schmetz responded by producing a slightly rounded ballpoint needle to allowed it to slide between the knit courses without piercing the knit yarns themselves. When Spandex was developed soon after, the elastomeric nature of the fibres made it imperative to have a needle to slide through the microscopic yarns without piercing, which would causes runs in the fine fabric, so the Stretch needle we born. Its tip is even more rounded than the ballpoint. As a general rule, use ball-points for knits like double-knit, sweatshirt and T-shirt fabric, but use Stretch needles for the Stretch fabrics, like Spandex or Lycra.



27. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SEW A BRA?


The first bra takes a whole day, if you have to fiddle with the fitting and everything. And, of course, you are learning. Everything looks so strange! The second bra, you will do in about half that time, and by the forth bra, you can put one together in about an hour. That is, with no interruptions, so put the phone on the machine, send the kiddies to school and put the dog out.



28. HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST ME PER BRA?


If you have daughters, granddaughters, nieces or sisters in any of the "Spandex sports", such as figure skating, dance, gymnastics, swimming or aerobics, you may have a stash of bra fabrics free for the digging. All you would need to buy are the elastics, hook & eye, and sliders & rings, and wires, if you use them. You could even do without sliders & rings, since you are making a custom bra, not one that is expected to fit thousands of other women. The best way to buy elastics is to measure the amount you need to make one bra, then multiplying it so you have enough in one purchase to make lots of bras. For example, if you need 1/2 metre (19") of elastic to make straps, then buy 2 or 3 metres, rather than 1/2 m. You'll have enough for 4 or 6 bras, rather than 1. Bras sew much faster when you sew them assembly line style and buying the components in bulk puts the cost per unit down because there's less waste. The cost of each bra should be between $10 and $15 CDN, depending on the quality of fabric used, but I know lots of women who sew bras for less than that.



29. HOW MUCH FABRIC DO I NEED?


I can make four bras from 1/2 metre of 60" wide fabric, but in order to make one, I need .3 metres. Doesn't make sense, does it? A lot depends on the direction of greatest stretch, whether it is found on the lengthwise grain, or the crosswise. You'll also need more fabric if you are going to double the cups for whatever reason. Now, I don't particularly need four bras in the same colour, so I make matching bra and panties out of slightly less than 1/2 m of fabric 60" wide. Since the panties I like cost $25 in the store, and the matching bra is $35, I can make the set for a fabric cost of $12. Findings bring it up to about $20 total for the set.



30. I DON'T SEW THAT WELL, BUT A BRA WOULD BE AN EASY FIRST PROJECT, WOULDN'T IT?


No! Do yourself a favour (and your bra teacher) and learn basic sewing first! Sewing on slippery Spandex, in a curve, and trying to hold elastics in place while guiding everything else under the needle in exactly the right spot, is not for the faint of heart. That being said, sewing a bra is not difficult sewing, IF you already know your way around a sewing machine and a piece of fabric. I have experienced sewers tell me that making a bra has been the most challenging thing they've ever done, more so that tailored jackets. Learn to sew first, you will be rewarded for years to come.



31. DO I NEED SPECIAL STITCHES ON MY MACHINE TO SEW A BRA?


You will need three stitches on your machine, and the good news is, they are ones found on virtually every machine. The first is a straight stitch which should have a length of between 2 and 2.5 mm or between 10 -12 spi. Make sure you are sewing with 1/4" seam allowances, too. The second stitch is a zigzag, with a length of 2 and a width of 2, or if your machine doesn't use mm settings, it's a small zigzag. It is used to sew on the picot edge of the elastics and the channeling. The third stitch is the decorative zigzag, also called three-step zigzag, broken zigzag, elastic zigzag, multi zigzag or multiple zigzag. It's also called a serpentine stitch on some machines. The width should be set to 4 or 5 (the widest) and about 1.5 - 2 long (not the normal setting for this stitch) What you are looking for is a decorative zigzag that has the width to hold down the non-picot edge of the elastic and a medium length to build in stretch.



32. DO I NEED TO BUY A SERGER


For some machines, yes, but for others, the space from the needle to the edge of the presser foot is more than 1/4", sometimes almost 3/8". Measure correctly, and if the space is too large, either move the needle position to make it right or use a 1/4" foot available at most sewing shops or on-line at www.sewfancy.com. If you are a quilter, you probably already recognize a 1/4" seam when you see it. If the seam allowances on the cup seam of a bra are too wide, the cup will be too small, and if the seam is too narrow, the cup will end up being too large. To paraphrase a recent movie, Size DOES matter!



33. I LIKE WIDE SUPPORT STRAPS. IS THERE ANY WAY I CAN DUPLICATE THEM?


Of course! If you like wide straps and your pattern doesn't include them, make your own pattern. Draw a rectangle the width of your elastic and sliders if you are using them, plus two seam allowances. For example, if you use 5/8" elastic, your rectangle will be 5/8" + 1/4" +1/4" = 2 1/4" wide. The length will be approximately 10". Draw a cross line 2" from either end and at the 5" centre mark. Mark a point at the centre on both sides (or only one) indicating the width of the strap at its widest point (plus seam allowances). Connect this point with the 2" mark and smooth out the curve. Cut four of these comfort straps from fabric and fuse padding to two of them. Sew one fused strap RST to one unfused strap and turn RSO. Your wide strap can be pressed, topstitched if you like and connected to your bra as any other strap.



34. MY WIRES ARE TOO LONG FOR THE CHANNEL. SHOULD I MOVE DOWN IN WIRE NUMBERS UNTIL I FIND A SIZE THAT FITS?


Wires have a diameter that is peculiar to their size, if you move down a size in wires, you are decreasing the diameter the wire can contain, which will cause the wire to poke into the breast. What you need is a SHORTER wire, not a smaller one. Shorter wires just have less length in the arms. You should try a demi wire or if that is too long still, you'll have to nip and dip.



35. What is Nip and Dip?


You can use wire cutters to snip the arm length, then dip the cut ends in Liquid Rubber used for coating metal tools ( you may find some in your workshop) Or, you can coat the tips with nail polish and let dry. Dip several times until you get a nice "bead" on the end. The more the end is protected, the less likely it will be to wear through the channel in the washing and wearing process.



36. WHICH END OF THE WIRE DO I CUT?


If the wire is too long for the channel by 1/2" or so, the length can be cut from the centre arm, which is the coloured tip. If the arm needs to be shortened by an inch or more, remove half from each side and coat the ends. This will preserve the curvature of the wire.



37. WHAT SUPPLIES DO I NEED TO MAKE A BRA?


You'll need a pattern, some fabric, elastic for the band, elastic for the strap (if you like elastic straps) slider & rings to make the straps adjustable, hook & eye tape for the back and if you use wires, you'll need them and the channeling to hold them. Like any sewing project, there are other notions and gadgets that will make life easier, but that's the basic list.



38. I FIND THE CENTRE CUP SEAM IRRITATING TO MY SKIN. CAN I PREVENT THIS?


A couple of things may help, one being the use of the Seam Covering G-501, G-502 and G-504. It is a bias-cut 15 denier nylon tricot in a 5/8" width. Just position the covering over the opened cup seam and sew down either side of the seam close to the stitching. Trim off the excess. This makes the seam flat and smooth, and if you check out RTW, that's just what they do. Another thing I just thought of that may be causing irritation - is your tension OK on your machine? Too tight tension will cause the seam to tighten and that won't be comfortable.



39. IS IT POSSIBLE TO MAKE A SEAMLESS BRA AT HOME?


In the factories, they use a breast-shaped mold to heat-set the fabric for bras, which is then inserted into the band. Unless you have one of these at home, you can't make a seamless bra just like at the store, but there are ways to simulate that seamless look. It involves using gathers and repositioning darts, which I can't go into here...



40. IN YOUR CLASS YOU MENTION USING 1/2" ELASTIC ALONG THE BOTTOM OF THE BAND. EXPLAIN WHY, PLEASE?


The standard elastic for the bottom band in the industry, is 3/8". I discovered that in better quality RTW bras, the elastic across the bottom was bumped up to 1/2". By increasing the width of the elastic 25%, the support also increases, since the bottom elastic carries the weight of the breasts.



41. IF I START MAKING MY OWN BRAS, DOES THIS MEAN I'LL NEVER BUY ANOTHER BRA?


Maybe not! But before the stockholders at WonderBra and Victoria's Secret start trembling with fear at the thought, let me say that I still buy bras with features that I can't duplicate myself, such as a truly seamless cup. Also, I buy bras, when I'm away, so I can bring them back and clone them for myself and my classes.



42. I JUST GOT A MACHINE WITH EMBROIDERY CAPABILITIES. WHAT IDEAS HAVE YOU GOT FOR EMBELLISHING BRAS?


Lucky you! There are LOTS of ways to embellish bras with those great new embroidery machines. Karen Dean, Educational Director for Husqvarna-White Sewing Machines in Canada, shares this tip: "Scan in the shape of the upper and/or lower cup, customize a lace or embroidery design to fit inside the seam allowances, and stitch it out. The result will be a perfectly sized custom embroidery that you can duplicate in unlimited colours and fabrics". One of the prettiest bras I've seen used tiny roses scattered on the lower cup, which is not the place you expect to see embroidery! Personally, since I live in the "honey capital of Canada" I have a bra (and matching panties) made from yellow Spandex with bees embroidered on it! Go wild, girl!



Fitting the Bra you Made

43. OK, I MADE THE BRA AND THE CUPS FIT ALL RIGHT BUT THE BAND IS TOO LOOSE (TIGHT) WHAT DO I DO?


If the bra seems to fit in the cup, but the band is too tight, you'll need too move up in the band size, but you'll move down a cup size. For example, if you make a 36D bra and the cups are fine, but the band is too tight, you'll make a 38C. The cup sizes change with the band sizes, so a C cup on a 34 is not the same as a C cup on a 36 or a 38. If the cups are OK, but the band is too loose, the opposite is true, you move down a band size, but up a cup size. For example, your 36C cup is good, but the band is too loose. You'll go to a 34D. If you lay the cup patterns over each other, the 34D and the 36C are virtually identical.



44. MY MEASUREMENTS DICTATED ONE SIZE BUT THE BRA STILL DIDN'T FIT. WHAT DID I DO WRONG?


Probably nothing! Sometimes the measurements just don't work, due perhaps in part to incorrect measuring, or perhaps you have a very broad (or narrow) back that is throwing off the relation between the high bust and the full bust, making you seem to be larger (or smaller) than you really are. Try making a cup in the next size up (or down) and try it on your naked breast. The breast should fill the cup with only about 1/2" or so around the outside for the seam allowances. If the cup is much larger than that, try one size down again until you get the right fit.



45. MY CENTRE CONNECTOR STILL DOESN'T LAY FLAT AGAINST MY CHEST, YET THE CUPS SEEM TO FIT. HOW IS THIS PROBLEM SOLVED?


If the centre connector doesn't lay against your chest, it means that you still need more depth in the cup. To test if this is true, release only the seam across the cup but leave the rest of the bra intact. the connector should move in to the chest wall and the breast will protrude from the cup. Have someone measure the distance of the gap, and add half that much to the upper and lower cup seam, tapering to nothing at he centre front and the armhole.



46. MY BRA GAPS ALONG THE TOP EDGE. WHAT DOES THIS INDICATE AND WHAT CAN I DO?


That gapping across the front from the armhole area to the centre front indicates that you are narrower across the chest and shoulders than the pattern allows for. To remedy this, mark in the estimated amount at the top edge where the strap attaches. Redraw the curve from here to the cup seam. If you wish to alter an existing bra, you'll have to pick out the upper elastic back to the wire line, redraw the curve then reapply the elastic.



47. CAN I MAKE A NURSING BRA PATTERN FROM MY REGULAR BRA PATTERN?


Yes, you can make a nursing bra pattern from a regular bra pattern by cutting two layers of the upper and lower cup from similar weight scrap fabric. From one set you will cut away the center of the cup so there is essentially a "ring" of fabric at the outside edge, which will support the breast while nursing, since the strap assembly will hook to this. The outer layer is made as usual, except the normally attached area at the centre front connector will need to be left free to flip down. Both layers are attached at the bottom and the outside curve of the cup. The access clip or hook would attach to the top of the inside ring. The clips we have been using are either the hinge closures such as C-402 or C-403 or the swimwear hooks H-600. We are still sourcing out suppliers for commercial type clips. You would then add the appropriate seam and hem allowances to the edges you have cut or left open, according to the way you wish to finish them. Trace the new pattern on paper or drafting film and you have a nursing bra that fits as well as your regular bras!



48. CAN I MAKE MY REGULAR BRA PATTERN INTO A MASTECTOMY BRA?


There's nothing more unselfish a gift you can give than your time to make a mastectomy bra for someone you care about. Or it may be for yourself. You can make the bra to fit a store-bought prosthesis or you can make your own from layers of Fusible Padding F-995, begin by cutting two layers of the upper and lower cup from similar weight scrap fabric. Sew the cup seam together, then find the bust point (it's the area with the greatest curve at the middle of the cup). Fold the cup in half up and down with the middle passing through the marked point. The two halves should lie flat or very nearly flat. Cut apart on this fold. Trace these new pieces on paper and add about 1" to each cut area. These can be finished if you like, but normally this type of fabric doesn't fray. Make the outer shell as usual but both layers are sewn together and treated as one layer during construction. Afterwards, the prosthesis can be inserted and it will stay in. The inside cup acts like the cover on a pillow sham, with the two layers overlapping in the middle to hold the prosthesis in place. You can even make the prosthesis if you like.



49. SAY WHAT?


Of course you can...just think of the prosthesis as a glorified shoulder pad and you'll see that it can be made easily with a little thought. Just build up layers of Fusible Cup Padding F-995 over a pressing ham until you get the shape and thickness you want. You can cut each layer a little smaller than the one before to achieve a natural shape. The Fusible Padding will stay in that position even after repeated washings and wearings.



50. BUT IS THERE A WAY TO DUPLICATE THE WEIGHT?


You asked, so I'm going to share a tip from the cross-dressing community to simulate the weight of a natural breast. They use one leg of panty hose and fill it up with the right amount of millet, or rice. Twist the top, then flip the leg wrong side out back to the toe. Repeat a couple of times. The twisting and turning keeps the grain from working through, and because the filling will give a little, it's the closest thing to the real thing. And to paraphrase Martha Stewart, they can be made from things found around the house.



51. CAN I BUY OR IS THERE TO MAKE PUSH-UP ENHANCERS TO AUGMENT MY CUP SIZE?


Definitely. You can make the padded biscuits (as they are called) from the Fusible Padding F-995 as above, or you can special order the Push-up Enhancers from Bra-makers Supply. They're not in the current catalog, but they will be next time. These special foam enhancers will actually increase the bust size by one whole cup size. They fit nicely inside the lower cup, and because they are under the breast, they can't be seen under your clothing. This can be a problem with molded, padded cups found in RTW, the ridge between bra and skin creates an unsightly lump.



52. I HAVE A FAVOURITE BRA BUT THE MANUFACTURER DISCONTINUED IT. IS THERE ANY WAY I CAN MAKE A COPY?


You can clone your own bra, but it is best to cut it up to get the best results. Gulp! Relax...you only need one side cut up, then you can make dozens more bras just like the original, but better, because they will be in your choice of colours and fabrics!



53. I LOVE THE STYLING OF THE WIRED BRA PATTERNS. CAN'T I JUST MAKE THEM WITHOUT THE WIRES?


There is a difference in the engineering of a wired and non-wired bra, but basically, if the bra has a band under the cups, then the bra could be made without the wires, however, if the bra pattern is for a partial band, that is, no band under the cups, then it needs wires as part of its support system. If you make a pattern intended for wires into a non-wired version, it won't look the same, so the styling of the bra that attracted you in the first place might well be gone.



54. SOME OF THESE BRAS ARE PRETTY ENOUGH TO BE BATHING SUITS. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE AND CAN I MAKE MY BRA INTO SWIMWEAR?


The only difference between bras and bathing suits is the hook system in the back and the absence of sliders and rings in a swimsuit, and sometimes even swimwear has S&R. You can easily make your bra pattern into swimwear by both lengthening and narrowing the area where the back hook is to fasten. Lengthen the band by 2" on each side and narrow the centre back down to about 1 3/4" high. Use a 3/4" swimwear hook H-600 to close. If you prefer a smaller hook such as the 1/2" H-400 or the 1/4" H-200, make the necessary adjustments to the depth of the band. You should line the suit with swimwear lining F-601, F-602 and F-603. Cut an extra set of upper and lower cups from the lining. Sandwich the two upper cups between the lower cups and stitch all four together in one go. Trim the seam back hard to clear the excess, this will help the seam lie smoothly across the breast. Finish the top edge with clear elastic or chlorine-resistant swim elastic.



55. HOW DO I CHANGE MY BACK CLOSING BRA INTO A FRONT CLOSING?


Easy! First, cut the band with the fold of the fabric at the centre back. Then, use the centre connector piece as a pattern for the front closure. Trace the outline of the connector on paper, then choose your front closure (we have several). Make small interfaced tubes of fabric and feed them through the connector holes: stitch. Lay the fastened closure and the fabric tubes on top of the paper pattern and pull it tight. Sew it directly to the paper, and when you are ready to sew the connector in, this piece will take its place. Tear away the paper pattern afterwards. The interfacing F-991 will keep the tubes from stretching while wearing.



56. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE CENTRE CONNECTOR IS TOO CLOSE TOGETHER (TOO FAR APART) WHAT CAN I DO?


You cannot believe how the spread at the front can affect the comfort of your bra! If it is right, you don't even think about it, but if it is wrong, it's seems VERY wrong! Happily, this is a very easy adjustment to do in the pattern stage. Unfortunately, sometimes you don't know you need more (less) space at CF until the bra is done! The Elan patterns take into account the individual spacing between different cup sizes, but the Kwik-Sew ones don't, they assume everyone in that band size has the same distance between their breasts. To the pattern piece for the centre connector, just add (subtract) a tiny bit on each side. Tiny like no more than 1/16" or at most 1/8", there are two sides to the connector, so if you add (subtract) 1/8" each side, in actual fact, you are adding (subtracting) 1/4". That's a lot.



57. IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY I CAN CHECK MY SIZE OTHER THAN TRIAL AND ERROR?


Oh yes, you can do the "wire test", a simple way of determining whether the size of the cups will fit your body. Simply figure your size according to the measurements, and refer to the chart to determine what wire size you would take. To do that, go down the left hand column of the chart until you find your band size, then go across until you find the cell under your estimated cup size. The number in that block is your wire size, or wire number. Try that wire on your naked breast, the wire should sit in the wire line crease nicely. Lift up the breast and look at the bottom curve - there should not be any space between the wire and the breast. If there is you need a smaller wire. If the wire fits, then make that size bra, but if the wire you use is smaller, make the bra in the cup size indicated for that wire.



Modifying the Basic Bra

58. I HAVE ONE BREAST LARGER THAN THE OTHER. WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE THIS LESS NOTICEABLE?


Most women have one breast slightly larger than the other, and it's perfectly normal. If the size is different, you may wish to pad the smaller one to make them appear the same size. Try the fusible cup padding F-995 and use as many layers as necessary. Don't use the regular Fusible Fleece found in most stores, it is too thick and bulky. You want thin and pliable. If you don't wish to pad, you can fit both sides separately, pin out the excess on the smaller side, then for future bras cut each cut individually.



59. I LIKE TO WEAR A PADDED BRA - IS THIS POSSIBLE TO MAKE AT HOME?


Absolutely! Some women wear padding to even out different sized breasts, some do it for the extra feeling of support they get from a firm cup, and others just like the feel of it. Whatever your reason, it's easy to do. The fusible cup padding F-995 can be fused to the wrong side of the fabric of both upper and lower cups. Cut a second set of cups from a lining fabric, which may or may not be the outer fabric. Sandwich the two upper cups between the lower cups and stitch all four together in one go. Trim the seam back hard to clear the excess, this will help the seam lie smoothly across the breast. Don't use the regular Fusible Fleece found in most stores, it is too thick and bulky. You want thin and pliable. If you don't wish to pad, you can fit both sides separately, pin out the excess on the smaller side, then for future bras cut each cut individually.



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