Your bra can be sewn by machine or by hand. I chose to sew by hand, as my machine has a push-button control that makes it hard to sew precisely, but machine sewing has the advantage of speed and a neater finish.
Most of the supplies you need can be either bought from a craft store or specialist supplier, or salvaged from an old bra. I managed to save wires, straps, hook-and-eye tape, and a small amount of powerknit fabric for the back band, from a past-its-best bra.
- non-stretch fabric for cups and (optionally) the front half of the band. A fat quarter is ample unless you are making a particularly large size.
- stretch fabric (preferably ‘powerknit’ or similar) for either the whole of, or just the back half of, the band. For a half-band, about the size of a pocket hanky is plenty.
- channelling – if you can’t find or salvage some underwire channelling, use knitted interfacing, folded double.
- bra straps, or elastic and sliders to make straps.
- 1-2cm wide elastic for bottom of band – up to 50cm (if elasticating the full band)
- approx 0.5cm wide elastic or lingerie elastic for upper edge of band and arm edge of cup – around 1m
- hooks and eyes – you can buy these loose or in tape form, or salvage from an old bra
- ribbon, lace, or piping for top cup edge. This stabilises the edge and stops it stretching on the bias.
- scissors, pins, needle and thread, etc.
The first step is cutting out – don’t forget to leave a seam allowance, and make sure your left and right cup pieces are aligned the same way on the grain of the fabric, to avoid odd cups due to the fabric stretching on the bias. For the cups, you’ll need to cut 8 lower cup sections (doubling the lower cup for added support) and two upper sections. For the band, you can either cut the entire band from stretch fabric, or cut the two of the front half (from side-seam to side-seam lines on your pattern) from non-stretch fabric, and two of the back section (from side-seam line to centre-back) from stretch fabric. Leave seam allowances at the top and bottom edges, but not at the side edges, as you need some negative ease in the band.
To assemble the cups, double the lower sections, so you are actually sewing four pieces together. Sew the centre seam, then press the seam allowances apart and topstitch bothe sides of the seam. Sew on the upper cup section, press all the seam allowances to the upper side of the seam, and topstitch the seam allowances into place.
If you’re making a half-band, sew the two layers together along the bottom edge, wrong-side-out, then turn right-side out, press and topstitch the seam. If you’re making a full stretch band, you only have one layer so you can skip this step.
Cut pieces of channelling (or doubled-over knit interfacing) about 3-4cm longer than the underwire. Baste into place along the outer edge of the cup seam, covering the seam allowances, then sew into place. Sew back-and-forth across the centre end of the channels several times, then thread the wires in through the underarm edge and sew over that end several times as well.
Measure your back elastic by holding or pinning the bra up to you, and then stretch the wide elastic across either from sideseam to sideseam (half-stretch band) or underwire-to-underwire (full stretch band), so that it is tensioned but not uncomfortably tight. You can then cut this length of elastic in half to get the right size piece for each side.
Pin the elastic to the band fabric at both ends, on the right side (start on the wrong side if using decorative elastic), then stretch so the elastic and fabric match and pin along the whole length. Us a stretchy whipstitch to sew the lower edge of the elastic to the fabric, then fold the elastic to the inside of the band and sew in place with a zigzag stitch or other elastic stitch. If you’re making a half-stretch band, you can now sew the sideseams once the lower elastic is in place.
Use the same technique to sew narrow elastic or lingerie elastic from the back strap point, under the arm, and up the armhole edge of the cup to the front strap point. Sew the strap across the centre back edge in the same way, as pictured.
Sew the fronts of the straps in place, and sew hooks-and-eyes to the ends of the band, aligning the hooks so that they won’t scratch when worn.
Finish by sewing lace or ribbon across the entire front top edge, and for the professional touch add a small bow between the cups.