Boobs, Bras, and Quilting

I’ve been paper piecing my final blocks for the Lonestar Burst scrappy throw.  I like to mull while I piece.  Today I couldn’t stop thinking about making bras.  It seems natural to me to discuss bras and boobs while quilting, I guess I’ve hung out with enough quilters to know what gets talked about during an afternoon spent piecing with other women!  So pretend we’re piecing together.

I used a string piecing technique for the middle, which is quite cool and time consuming, but didn’t come out looking as interesting as I’d hoped. The string piecing gets lost.

Boobie Disclaimer- I’m discussing my measurements and underwear preferences in this post.  I usually refrain from both, but this is in the interest of “science.”  I know measurements can be triggering for some, or you may know me personally and have no interest in knowing about my underwear.  That’s cool.  Please stop reading now and come back for the next post, Conversant in Color: Wardrobing.

I tried something using only four colored fabrics that came in two colorways. I like it, but it could be bolder…

Last week, Zoe at “So, Zoe…” posted a great essay about indie pattern companies, and featured many of them in the post.  It’s good, go read it.  In the post, she features Make Bra and I was sucked into their clean, clear website full of photos of bras that look like something I’d like to wear:

Ooooh!  I want to make that!  I haven’t ventured into sewing underwear (do corsets count?), but for me it makes sense.  My bras are dead, dead, dead and I’ve been trying to ignore it.  I can’t afford to buy high-quality ready to wear bras at the moment, but the thought of doing another Target “grab-n-go” doesn’t appeal to me either.  Cheap bras don’t last as long, they don’t fit as well or as uniformly, and I like nice fabrics.  Besides, everything else I wear is made to measure and well sewn, why shouldn’t my bras?

Just scrappy, I like the random ones best…

I’ve been trying to persuade myself to sew some bras for a few months now, but the thought of figuring out the drafting, fiddling with the pattern and gathering all the findings meant I made a pinboard to collect undies inspiration and tutorials, but not much else.  That’s why I was so SO excited to find Make Bra.  The site itself has plenty of info, all kinds of bra styles AND all the findings in one place.  I put together everything I needed for a bra (foam lining and pattern included, but not the fashion fabric) for about 20 euros.  Including shipping from Finland to Australia.  That’s more or less the cost of a Target bra.  Wicked!

I was so excited, I posted about Make Bra on Facebook. That’s where I put stuff I’m SUPER excited about but not ready to blog.  I mean, it’s a balconette bra pattern with all the little pieces arriving at my house! I love balconette bras!  It will take an Act of Dog to keep me from ripping into that parcel the second it arrives and whipping up a new bra.

Then Cassandra asked a very sensible question about bra fitting:

Long story short, I realized I’d skimmed their measurements chart and bought my usual band size- 34.  My ribcage is 33, I’ve worn a 34 band for almost as long as I’ve had boobs, end of story.  Right?

Just scrappy, I like the random ones best…

I bought a 34DD this morning.  Without going into too much detail, I was a 34C before the baby and settled down to a 34D later.  Some of my bras have a 36 band if that’s the cup I could find that fit on the day I went shopping.  I notice those ride up in the back which is a sign of bad fit.  When I was a teenager, my measurements were easy to remember- 36-26-36.   These days I’m a thicker, ever-shifting version of the same shape- 40/41-28/29-40/41.  My bust and hips have expanded more than my waist, to be perfectly truthful it’s a pain to fit my clothes and figure out how to dress without looking either frump-tastic or “sexy”.  But that’s a post for another time..

I may or may not assemble the top this way. I’ll leave it on the sewing room floor until my husband protests or I figure out if I want to just piece another few blocks, make a border, or what.

So after the Facebook discussion I went back to quilting and thinking about bra sizing.  I decided to go back to Make Bra and order the findings for another bra, and to order the size suggested by the instructions below their extensive size chart.  According to their chart, I should add 5″ to my rib cage measurement for my band size.  38.  That puts me in C cup range.

So what am I carrying around?  C or DD?  Who knows?  I do know for sure that bra fitting can be quite treacherous for many of us, so I’m putting myself “out there” as a guinea pig.  What works best?  My intuition and habit, or the sizing chart?   I’ll make both sizes, wear them a bit and we can talk about it.   Make Bra also offers a free pdf panties pattern.  They look pretty good and I keep telling myself to make some panties, so I’ll give that a whorl this week and report back.

Oh!! I want to make this too! It’s the balconette bra, made with stripes and a front closure which is explained thoroughly on their website. A bra hack!

What about you?  Do you find the whole bra sizing mess scary and weird like I do?  How weird are boobs?  Have you ever sewn your own bras?  What are your favorite bra-making resources/inspiration?  I’m a lingerie newb here and I’m positive you’ll know something I don’t, so please do tell me your secrets…

Don’t forget to vote in the Name That Lady poll for Cake’s first covergirl and enter the polka-dot jersey giveaway!


  1. In the perfect world, I imagine sewing ALL of my own clothes, including an amazing wardrobe of lingerie…. In reality, I feel far from ready to sew it though! I am in the same dilemma – I want nice underthings, but they are SOOO expensive…. so just keep on wearing my old worn out things. I need help! Haha.

    • I know! Same! I bought a nice sized remnant of silk lycra, I think it would make two or three sets at least, in a nice deep red shade. It was $13, so I’ll do the costings later in the project.. But I would think the price might be a little “target” and the quality much better. Fingers crossed…

  2. I have also found this site and promptly ordered a pattern.when I read the instructions for sizing later I realised I had ordered the wrong size.
    Isn’t an email to Annele and she very kindly advised me on the correct size within the hour and changed my order.
    My pattern was ordered on Tuesday and I received the pattern on Saturday
    I have just stopped sewing for lunch and can say that she was absolutely right in the sizing.It is a good fit with just a bit of tweaking to do
    This lady deserves a gold medal for outstanding service. It is a brilliant site

    • Ooh! I’m so pleased to know Make Bra worked for you, I was really impressed the with quality of the site… They have hacks! :)

      I’ll try both sizes and see what happens… I’m quite happy to be proven wrong if it means the bra fits well. Then I can have all the perfect bras I want for the price of remnants and findings… Scraps from nicer projects, even…

  3. I’ve also recently become enamored with the idea of making bras! For both economy’s sake and because pretty ones don’t tend to be available in my cup size. I purchased the PinUp Linda Partial Band pattern a few weeks ago: I love that there are a range of sizes included in each pattern, which I expect will help with fine-tuning fit. I have had one cut out for a couple weeks, but haven’t found the time to sew it up (busy busy end of summer tasks keeping me out of the sewing room – darn!). I’ll be avidly following your bra sewing posts Steph! I’ve never found a balconette type bra that fit me well — I’m busty, but with narrow shoulders and end up constantly yanking up the straps since they’re generally set wide on that type of bra — so perhaps making one would be the answer for me.

    • Thanks for the link, Ginny, I’ll check them out. :) I figure it can’t take very long at all to sew a bra together, my speed in general is pretty good… I was so not kidding about ripping into the package as soon as it arrives..

      I find balconette seems to suit my shape best, I feel good in them and look trimmer. :) Everyone is different.

  4. Bra sizing eludes me. I guess I’m too much of a custom fitter by now… not that all of my clothes are custom fit, but that I wish for all of them to be! And, frankly, the logic behind the construction of RTW bras eludes me, too. I mean… I hate the synthetic stuff. I hate that I have to wear a foam half-globe on my boobs, because the bras without it stretch out too much, and even those with the foam stretch out over it. So… I’m going to experiment and come up with a woven bra and see how that works for me… without a full-blown ready-made pattern. I’m that crazy.
    At least now I know I need underwire size 100, though. Easy to remember! I have a feeling that the underwire size is a better indicator than the cup size, because cup sizes differ between manufacturers, and cup shapes differ even with one manufacturer!

    • Oh Hana, you’re “good value” as they say here..

      I like the foam. Keeps me from nipping.. ;) But I know, I know, it’s kind of bizarre. As weird as I find bras, I couldn’t not wear one… Do please keep me up to date on your woven bra. :) I figure that starting the way I am is pretty close to the RTW I like, and it’s a shortcut to starting from scratch. Once I’ve made one or two, then I can play around with types of fabric, lining, etc. We’ll see what happens!

      • Aww, thanks! :)

        I think the article Herthie posted (Foundations Revealed) is going to be tremendous help! I’d, perhaps, also start with a style I already know I like, if I had one – but I don’t; the best bras I’ve had so far always had foam cups and my experience with them is not what I wish to duplicate. I sweat lots in the area whenever I do more work – even just doing housechores.

  5. By the way Steph, I made a couple pair of the hipsters using MakeBra’s free pattern. They fit me oddly and I found the crotch to be a bit wide for my body type, but I am sort of thick waisted and narrow hipped so undoubtedly need to tweak the pattern a bit :D.

    I’m also excited about using remnants and such to make nice underthings :D! However, I did indulge in a couple beautiful dyed to order “kits” from this Etsy seller (her prices are good and the service was super duper quick — I know her shop is currently empty, but she responded quickly to my inquiry — check out the solds to see the pretty colors):

    • Thanks for the tip. :) I’ll play with the panties pattern this week and report back.. I’ve been meaning to fine-tune a pattern for quite some time now, even basic cotton panties here cost more than ahalf meter of good quality organic cotton jersey or silk lycra. I tried a few “make the panties from your old panties” projects but they were not great…

      I’ll have a look at the etsy shop, thanks!

  6. I hope you’ll forgive me, but I’ve been looking at past photos of you in various tops, and I think that whatever sort of bra you are wearing in them it’s the wrong size. I’m definitely not a fitting expert, and I’m fairly sure I’m wearing the wrong size myself. However your frontage should be sort of brought together and hoisted up a bit higher, if you see what I mean. I’m sure these lovely new bras will do that for you, but I’ve no idea what size they should be.
    Have you read Karen of Didyoumakethat’s story of her trip to Rigby and Peller, suppliers to Her Majesty?

    • I’m sure it probably is the wrong size. :) I completely agree with you, that’s why I like balconette bras because they seem to work best with my shape and frame… Any other cut makes me look… Weird.

      I did red Karen’s story, it was another straw on the camel’s back, so to speak. I promised myself that when I’m solidly middle class and visiting London, I’m going there. :) It sounded wonderful.

  7. I’ll be really interested to see how your bra turns out and how the sizes work. I had a bra epiphany a few years ago when I was fitted at I went from a 34C/D depending on the make, to a 32E and the fit couldn’t be more perfect. You certainly wouldn’t think I was an E cup to look at me, but it’s definitely the right size. Maybe worth checking out their sizing guide on their website? Good luck anyway! x

    • I think so many women have this problem because most stores only go as small as a 34 in the band. It wasn’t until I went to a professional like the one you mentioned that I realised the bands could get smaller. I went from a 10/34 to a 6/28. The cups went from a DD to an FF. I nealy fell over when I saw the size. But the end result was honestly like getting a boob job haha. And a lot cheaper. I don’t know why stores won’t go smaller than 34. There are plenty of people who are smaller than that. (not to mention those that are bigger than the range as well).

      • You know, ladies, now that I think about it my maternity bras had 32 bands… I wore Hot Milk and some other really nice ones and was properly fitted in the store. And it’s exactly like you describe- like getting a boob job…!

        And yes, super super hard to find 32’s. Esp with larger cup sizes. So I bring home 34D’s and the like, but they’re never quite right… I get some of that “cups overfloweth” problem…

    • I second the Bravissimo recommendation. Since I live in the states, I can’t visit them personally, but I’ve ordered from them online. They’ve got the fitting down to a science.

  8. I’ve been venturing into making panties. I’m between a small and medium size, and my panties always tend to ride down. Not to mention, apparently underwear companies have decided to save money by skimping on the crotch. My panties from 2 years ago have a nice 2 inches or so across the crotch, while the ones I bought 5 months ago have about an inch!

    • Good luck on sewing your own bras! If you don’t have a good source for great-fitting RTW, then yes, you should definitely try sewing them yourself. According to other sewing bloggers I’ve seen who’ve done it, it may take a couple of tries, but it’s well worth it in the long run as you have the perfect fit, lift, and the cost is minimal compared to RTW. I’m hoping to try bra-making myself in a couple of years once the little one is weaned and my breasts decide where they want to stabilize. :)

      • I’m really really into the cost vs. high end RTW. I have had some very nice bras, a joy to wear. But so expensive. If I can invest an hour or two of my time and $20 of materials for a bra that might cost $100 + if I bought it, well then, that’s what I’ll do!

        Interesting about the panties… I figure I’ll have to fine tune my preferences, I’ve just avoided trying even though I know I’ll be glad I did it once it’s done… know what I mean?

  9. OK, only just perused the site but I have to caution you – they may suggest adding 4 inches to the band size because that’s the strange way they get you to the right size i.e. it without adding 4 inches, you’d be making a 28 inch band. However, if they’re doing the RTW bra-industry “plus 4” (and you should read up on this, there’s lots of info – I’ve written about it quite a bit on my blog i.e. then steer clear. It means they really have no idea of what they’re doing.

    Also, I’ll suggest that molded bras (which look adorable) are often a fit no-go on deep, larger breasts. The piecing seams and flexible fabric of non-molded bras make them better for fitting the depth. Note: Not suggesting that I’m referring to your body, I’m just saying this in general – in fact, I’m referring to mine!

    When I look at the bra they’ve got on offer for larger breasts (which is seamed, interestingly), it’s a really dull, kind of frumpy design.

    I recommend you look at offerings on Danglez ( The cut is European, which is better than US, for deep breasts on narrow frames. US tends to cater to breasts that are large because the person is large.

    In full disclosure, I’ve made many (and talked about on my blog) many bras and not one has been adequately supportive or perfectly fit, like my chichi ready to wear ones. The supplies I’ve been able to find (fabrics and underwires etc. just aren’t up to the density of my post-child, dense and deep breasts). I really hope to crack this code eventually – for me it will be about the quality of supplies, in the end. And I look forward to seeing how your journey goes!

    Wow, what a book I’ve written.

    • Thank you for your book preview! :)

      I figured I’ll try it their way and see how it goes… The site is so full of information, thorough, well-written (though with a pronounced “accent”) and clear that I figured they might know a thing or two.

      However, large bust + smallish frame = twilight zone for fitting. Always. Fitting anything. I have a 34″ high bust and eventually learned that when using commercial/vintage sewing patterns, I worked best from a 32″ bust with a ridiculous FBA. That’s just what worked for me best. Super weird.

      Molded bras end up both squashing the front of my boobs and making me spill out the sides. They’re so yuck and depressing. I always gravitate towards a well-lined, seamed balconette. Seems to work best.

      Make Bra is Finnish? Maybe they’re European cut? Thanks for the link, I’ll go have a look around. :)

      Yeah, I think this will be a fun experiment. Minimal outlay of cost for supplies, and I’m sure there’s nothing terribly difficult about sewing a bra…

      • I have this whole Narrow Frame – Large Breast FBA alteration I’ve come up with through trial and error, given that “regular” FBAs don’t work for me. (Disclaimer, I am NO pattern drafter.) I’m going to post about very shortly. I think you’re the target market for it. Stay tuned!

        • Well, I guess I’m of the opinion that if you tinker with patterns and find a solution that works, then it’s right. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it, be very interesting to know. I do remember when I started drafting things that fit properly (in wovens, so more detail than the knits I’ve been playing with lately) the pattern pieces looked sooooooo weird and disproportionate to me. But then I got used to it…

        • Same here… The pattern pieces are sometimes weird, but it WORKS. Unlike many less weird and geometrically more appealing, but totally not anatomical patterns. :-)

          • Yes! And now I can look at a pattern piece and tell if it will fit me without necessarily muslining it. Though I generally do, I hate running the risk of messing up good fabric…

  10. I went to a high-end boutique and got fitted about 5 years ago. I’ve been trying to sew my own ever since. I’ve bought (and made) countless patterns, took a bra class and have yet to have one success. I wear a 36N and no pattern fits me. I will share what I learned in the class, though. It takes an average of 3 “muslins” to get a good fitting bra (assuming you are starting with the correct size). Once you get the fit right, the average bra takes about 1 hour, from cutting to sewing. The fit will change slightly based on fabrics and notions, don’t expect perfect fit with every bra. Good luck! Picking fabric and notions, as well as sewing them is quite fun. I plan on taking apart one of my high-end bras and making a pattern from that.

    • Hey Andrea: I hear you about trying hard and not yet having success with fit. I think, for proportionately large, dense breasts, the supplies available out there are really not up to the job. I feel your pain!

      • I will see what I can do about deep, dense breasts… There has to be an answer for us!

        I’ll give it a try and see what happens. I can be pretty persistent and single-minded when I’m focused on a project, so we’ll see.

    • Thanks, Angela… I think it needs something, maybe some interesting borders…

      Thanks for the link! I’ll go check it out.

      And that uniform is really, really cool. It’s like utility-couture and I LOVE that. Why not use durable, pretty techniques on a garment that will see lots and lots of wear? Makes so much sense. :)

  11. This is something I’ve been looking into recently, but I went to Merckwaerdigh to buy the notions and the pattern. I’m excited, but working too much at the moment to jump in and sew something up. VeryPurplePerson has made some nice underwear, and spoke about the variations in sizing. I find it troublesome finding bras that fit me, so this seems like a practical thing to do, although for some reason it’s very scary.
    I’m looking forward to seeing your posts about this.

  12. I’ve seen a ton of articles about bra-making and sizing lately in the online sewing community! Eventually I’ll get my normal sewing under control and take a dive in. (They keep taking the bras I really like and discontinuing them. Not fair!)

    FWIW on the sizing fight – try this article I wear a 36F/FF/G (depending on dye lot, weather, what the designer had for breakfast) – and my underbust measurement is about 34″. There is NO WAY that I’m wearing a 40″ band on my bra, I’d be miserable. (Overbust is 44″ this week).

    My best suggestion for finding your size is to go to a upscale boutique and get sized and try on a ton of bras in a wide variety of cup and band sizes until you find your happy place. That’s your size.

    Your underwire should absolutely not touch your breast tissue, no exceptions. Wires are meant to hit muscle or ribcage, not squishy bits. Your band should be firm but not tight – giving you good support, but not making huge squishes out or hurting you at all. I don’t think we can strive for Edith Head’s recommendation that the nipples be 2-3″ inches from the armpit… but the further up, the more youthful the look. Do the jump test! (Didn’t everyone’s mom make them do the jump test?) Some bounce is okay, lots of bounce is a bra that won’t last.

    These bras look cool. :) Looking forward to your results!!!!!!

    • Sigh… I know that going to a nice boutique is a great way to get fitted, but for one I’m not entirely convinced Brisbane has a nice upscale boutique I could trust… And for the other, I really really really really can not afford to buy a bra in a place like that. It’s just not happening right now.

      Your mom sounds like she was awesome! No, no one ever took me shopping for bras like that. :)

      • No jumping? No bending over? No putting your shirt on and making sure there weren’t odd lumps or you got the dreaded pointy-boob? I shall faint! FWIW, you don’t have to BUY a bra…

  13. I’m quite curious to see how the sizing works for. The balconet pattern is charming and I’d love to make a few bras for myself but, the sizing system concerns me. The ‘add 5″‘ method is how they measure at mall bra shops and never gave the right fit. Then, I was measured at a high-end boutique and was told to go down two band sizes and up two cup sizes. Bras in that size, across many manufacturers, fit so much better.

    • Yes- I think my next size to try will be a 32E or something. We’ll see. :) I’m not too fussed about this being a “process” and don’t expect perfection right off the bat. …

  14. One thing I have realized after buying bras for 50 years is that a cup size, say “C or D” is not the same size when the band gets bigger. The difference between a 32C is going to be very different from a 40C in RTW. The way I discovered this was I brought a wrong larger size into the dressing room and tried it on and the larger band size had a larger cup…same cup size on the label but much roomier. Maybe this is not a factor in custom made bras but they do not just make the band longer and sew on the same cup. It will be interesting to hear about your new pattern if you compare the cups only from band size to band size.

  15. Sigrid has quite a few archived blog postings on bra making. Anyone who’s interested can find her here:
    I tend to prefer seamless semi-molded bras, so I doubt I’ll be making one myself. (Unless I find a supplier of semi-molded cups in my size–doubtful). Self-fitting, I think, can be tricky, but as with all sewing, I’m sure that you eventually get a better fit than you would have gotten from any manufacturer. For example, if I was going to make my own bra I would change the proportional length of the front and back band. I’m suppose to be an rtw 34, but it feels too tight to me. When I go up to a size 36 band the front seems to move lower–not a good look for a balconette. I recently figured out that by adding an extender to the back, the 34 fits me much better–lift & comfort. So, if I was going to make a bra I would probably make the back band a little longer and/or make the front shorter. Also, a common alteration I’ve seen is to move the cups closer. Some of the bra patterns seem to place the cups somewhat farther apart. Anyway, too much work for me personally, but you can really make some beautiful things!

    • Oh! I’ll have to go read then, Sigrid is so sensible. :) I am positive that in the end I’ll have some kind of super-custom perfect fit bra, and that’s fine. I don’t mind the work it takes to get there.

      • I’m looking forward to seeing your results–I won’t be surprised if you will change my mind about making bras! I have made my own panties several time though, with patterns traced off of my store-bought favorites. It’s a fairly easy project, best done as a production line, and definitely cost effective. The only tough part is finding a nice knit (for cotton undies) with the right amount of stretch.

        • Well… I like to work with nice knits and tend to collect them, too… I actually have a box in my sewing cupboard full of underwear-appropriate remnants and small pieces because I always figured that eventually I’d get around to making my own panties. It makes $ense. ;)

  16. I used to work in an upscale lingerie boutique, so I learned a lot about sizing and the proper way to fold $200 thongs, haha. I also like seamless molded bras, so I probably won’t be making any. A lot of women end up wearing bras with bands that are too big or have been stretched out and cups that are too small. A D cup in a 34D is a smaller D than the D cup in a 36D, and a 32D is even smaller. They’re all a D but they’re all different sized cups. A lot of women don’t consider this. The best way to size involves a lot of trial and error. If you’ve always worn a 34C, try on a 32D and a 36B and compare what parts fit best and go from there. Best wishes on your sewing!

    • Oh! Hahah! That’s a nice racket, $200 for a handful of fabric. :) Love it.

      Molded cups don’t fit the shape of my breasts, but I’m sure if they did I’d LOVE them. :)

      I might go try a 32 band if the other experiments don’t work out. Thanks so much for that!

  17. i never buy a bra without hoooouuuurs of fitting……being a c/d cup its hard to find something that not look like orthopedic care. all this nice and cute stuff is only made for a-b. and i hate this foam lining! i have enough by myself – don´t need this extra padding. play long with the thought to make my own bra pattern – it should finally start!
    am very excited about your results!

    • hehe. Well.. C/D cups aren’t too bad here, I can usually find something… It’s just that sticky price/quality issue.. I do definitely like balconette the best, seems to work best for me, so that’s what I look for.

      I like the foam lining because… It smooths everything out. I can’t wear unlined bras, it’s obscene. ;)

    • The world’s your oyster at that size! Look online at Bravissimo or BraStop or Large Cup Lingerie or Figleaves. Hell, you can even do high street bras at that size – Huit, Princess TamTam, Donna Karan. Don’t dispair, just shop online. (Worst that happens is that you have to return your first batch of bras for alternate sizes.)

      • kristin – maybe it´s because i´m in gemany and some things doesn´t work there like in other corners…. but i searcht tamtamm and dk – tamtam had exactly 2 boring models and dk nothing in my size…. they had not my size at all at the options. if i would not have such a healthy self-confidence, i would think i´m a monster. i´m a designer and i know it is muuuuuch easyer to make clothes etc. for people with not so much curves. not only the construction of the pattern, the manufacturing too. and easy-peasy manufacturing makes great profit! since the industrial revolution the women have to go slimmer and streamlined – until the creazyness now for the tourbo-kapitalism textile industry. sorry for the rant.

        • I’ve always thought living in Germany would be very interesting, it does seem that the german approach to many things is quite different, often in a good way. Sorry it’s so hard for you to find what you need, maybe Make Bra will work for me and you can try them? Hooray for the return of the artisan-sewist!

          • i´m looking forward to your bra-makings :-)
            and living here is so and so – often easier and more relaxed, sometimes more complicated. i had a very good time in australia in ´99, but wouldn´d live there for the rest of my live – seasons you know ;-)

  18. I’m convinced the ‘add five inches’ thing is snake oil. I used to get put in a 36A by bra fitters in department stores. I couldn’t wear underwired bras at all as they were so uncomfortable. Then I got properly fitted and have been wearing 32C or (when I can find them) 30D ever since. Sooo much more comfortable and no problem with underwires at all. The thing that really surprised me is how much less visible under clothes a properly fitting bra is!

    Best of luck making your bras. I may have to give this a go myself; there’s not much choice of styles in my preferred size.

    • Thanks, catherine. :)

      The Add Five Inches thing might be one of those things that works for more or less most people but not for some. I find that on sizing charts, if you’re a proportional “outlier” then there’s more guesswork involved in getting the right size than for someone who is more proportionate…

    • I agree on the snake oil comment! If I were to add 5 inches to my underbust measurement, I’d be wearing a RTW 40/42 band. WAY too big. Even a band at my underbust measurement size is too big, because I’m broader in the back and narrower in front, so I wear a 34 band and DD/F cup. They fit perfectly, and if the bands get a bit too stretchy on the last fastening, I move to the next fastening and can keep wearing the bra. Long before I was ever professionally fitted, I was wearing 36Cs, and the bands always felt too loose, and there was a bit of side spillage from the cups. After my fitting at a local bra salon, I’ve bought nothing but 34DDs and as long as the cuts work for my bust shape, the bras fit wonderfully.
      However, I’ve made a few bras, and it’s important to note that bra patterns also vary in the way they calculate sizes. In one Canadian bra pattern size chart, I would absolutely need to cut a 40/42 band, because a 34 or 36 would be way too small. But in another bra pattern brand’s sizing, I have to cut my RTW size. So bizarre.
      Threads magazine has a few articles on bra making that are available for reading online:

  19. Steph you are wonderful. I wouldn’t put all the deeper coloured stars in one corner like that but it’s kind of fun!
    As for bras, measurements be damned, if I were dragging you out bra shopping, something I’ve had to do to many an actress to make her presentable for stage, I’d start with a 34E and only then be willing to try a 36E, before a DD. That’s based on only eyeballing 2D photos of course, but the standard formula for measurements tends to result in too big a band and too small a cup. :)

    • Oh you…

      I had thought to make 4 stars with colored backgrounds and scatter them evenly, but I decided I liked the look of the white background stars so much that I’d just finish them off. I may well remove the colored backed ones and replace then with white… Then I can use the colored ones for pillow covers or potholders or something….

      OH! I do wish you could drag me off bra shopping. What fun we’d have! Sigh. I do have very large breasts… I generally do my best to ignore them, but I suppose I should stop that…

      • Makes perfect sense, the white background ones look so different in the way they balance and contrast. Perhaps just one more patterned one to make a cushion cover to go with the throw? Or a defiant row of three across the back? :)
        Bottom line is that we all have the breasts we have. Acceptance is cheaper and ultimately more satisfying than plastic surgery, and less painful than surgery or stuffing them into the wrong bra cups! hehehe My sis wears a G cup and I am virtually flat chested without a bra. We would both have been happy with the same amount of boob distributed between us more evenly! But if you honour the ones you have and wear the correct size, they look better, and tend to be less conspicuous as a result. :) Not saying your bust is conspicuous now, but I have a wardrobe mistress’ eye for what is and isn’t (not what should or shouldn’t be! Big difference!) xo

  20. Ha, isn’t that funny, I just spent an exorbitant amount of money in BnT yesterday because I was down to one bra that didn’t hurt/ride up/cause spillage. I’ve considered making my own bras before (I even have a well-fitting-but-now-too-worn-out bra that I ripped apart and make a pattern off, and fabric cut out – even sewed one cup together, but then got distracted by child clothes), figuring its got to be cheaper than what I can get at BnT, but buying patterns/supplies online just worries me. In aussie sizes I wear a 16F. According to bra size conversion sites, this puts me in a US 38F/G, or a european 85H, but from my measurements, according to the Make Bra tables, theres no way an 85(40)H would fit on me and I ought to be a 90(42)G, which puts me in an 18E aussie bra, which, from experience, rides up in the back and therefor ends up giving me less support. Its all far too confusing.

    • Ah! I keep thinking I need to just bite the bullet and do that, but I never can find bras there that quite suit my shape. Cute stuff, though…

      So confusing. It’s silly how confusing it is. I usually find that when I sew something, the sizing becomes less confusing because I’m focusing on shape etc so we’ll see if that helps…

  21. Hi Steph. I second others who have recommended getting fitted at the very best bra shop in your town. One that specialises in larger sizes is probably the best choice. It may well be transformative – it has been for me and many other people! The following shops came up on my search for Brisbane stockists of Freya, which is where I’d start in terms of the likelihood of someone knowing how to fit rather than how to sell:
    Myer Brisbane City, 91 Queen St, Brisbane, Queensland

    Evie Boo
    Shop 10, 293 Adelaide Street, Brisbane, Queensland
    07 3229 9191

    Big Girls Don’T Cry Anymore
    28 Baxter Street, Fotitude Valley, Queensland
    07 3257 1644

    Isabellas Passion
    Shop 1045, Westfield Carindale, Brisbane, Queensland

    Then, you will have a much better idea of what you are looking for in best fit when you make your own. I’m a 34HH and I’m reconciled to buying high end bras forever, as the engineering involved at my size seems likely beyond home sewing.

    • Yes, well, oh my! Few things here.. Freya is a great brand! I love their stuff. If I could, I’d go stock my lingerie drawer with Freya. I can’t afford them, like literally can not….

      Myer never impressed me with their customer service… I tried them post baby and was wildly disappointed and embarrassed. Evie Boo is alright, I won’t go into Big Girls because I object to the name and haven’t heard of Isabella’s Passion… Thank you for the suggestions!

      The engineering may be beyond most home sewing, but I’m pretty weird and experimental with my sewing sometimes, and I love a good engineering challenge. So I think I may just find something that works for me… We’ll see!

      • I used to wear Freya too, but I found that Fantasie fits me a little better and their balconette style has a more rounded and natural shape (for me). Unfortunately, it’s a rather pricey brand too. For D+, I guess there’s no way around it (except for making your own that is). Still, I’m just glad that I can buy online. It used to be so difficult even finding a D+ that didn’t look like a victorian nursing bra or something.

        • Oh! I know! the victorian nursing bra thing… One of the most hideous shopping experiences I ever had was looking for bras when I was barely pregnant… I had a huge surge of some kind of hormone that meant my breasts knew I was pregnant even though my tummy didn’t show it… I didn’t know the shops very well here (still dont) and all I could find when I went out were the ugliest ugliest things imaginable… It’s the only time I ever cried in a fitting room- my body was changing so much, I was a young first time mom, and my only bra options were ugly beyond description. It’s a little comical when I look back.. hehe. I’ve since found a few places that stock larger sizes, but still.

  22. Hmmm…. I will confess that making any undergarments other than a custom-fitted corset does not interest me. I loooooove French lingerie, and splurge once every decade or so, and order my seamless molded cup bras from discount sites in the US. I highly admire anyone willing to sew their own undergarments, but I would rather wash my floors with a toothbrush than attempt my own! Good luck, Steph, and I look forward to following your adventures!

    • my ribcage is 38″ and my cupsize is H. trust me: there is no pattern i would trust.

      besides which, i have absolutely no interest in making my underwear, i’d rather spend my time doing other things, like wearing it. although well-fitted underwear is EXTREMELY expensive, the fit you get is superb. there’s a place in manhattan called Intimacies or Intimacy (i forget) that measures you and sends you out into the world with a bra that really fits. nordstrom’s does the same thing and if they don’t stock your size, they’ll bring it in. you have a choice of style (sports, full coverage, balconette, etc.) and you don’t have to pay for it if you’re not satisfied with the fit. to balance things out, the bras cost over $100. yes, i know. skip lunch.

      but my mother, who never sewed a stitch, said that if you wear correctly fitted underwear, you could wear the cheapest dress and still look good. she was right. and if you wear the right bra and then wear properly made clothing (which we all do, right?), you can look fantastic! it’s worth saving the nickels to get the greatest fit in your life. BTW, almost nobody knows what size bra they really need unless a professional fitter tells them, and that includes small-breasted women, one of whom introduced me to Intimacies.

      • Sigh. If it were just a matter of skipping lunch, I’d do that. My lunches are usually leftovers from the night before or miso soup with veggies and comes from my refrigerator. It’s more a matter of skipping rent, young Ecologists and indie pattern designers don’t tend to make the big bucks, though there are other advantages…. ;)

        Thanks for the tip, if I ever find myself in Manhattan I’ll check them out.

        Your mother is a very wise woman.

        • Don’t worry about not being in Manhattan, I ended up less than thrilled with the experience (I wear 28E/F so even the fancier places do not store it). I am also on a tight budget, and currently have two bras that fit. If you look online, Parfait Affinitas seems to mostly be <$US40, or you could check for detailed measurements of the bras from several brands, you even have a bra resale forum for not really used bras.

          • I do fully intend to prowl that island a bit in some future time, see what they could do with my boobs, etc… hehe. ;)

            Thanks so much for the links, the second one in particular sounds like an absolutely fantastic resource! Awesome!

    • Bahahahah, Tia Dia. I think you may live a little closer to France than I do. ;) I wasn’t very interested in sewing my own bras either until I noticed that the stitching I find on most of my bras is fairly basic (definitely do-able on my regular machine) and the fact that I can’t afford good bras and don’t really fit into crappy ones. hehe. I’ll be sure to document the process. For Science!

  23. Fabulous post Steph, as well as the info gleaned from reading through the comments. I’m all over the idea of making your own unmentionables – and although I’ve yet to try, I have bought two patterns and some supplies from that Dutch company with the unpronounceable name stating with M (I’m not even going to try and spell it). I came across Make Bra a few weeks back whilst doing some bra-making recon and agree – love the styles and it’s exactly the kind of stuff I’d like to wear. The only thing stopping me from getting started is the sizing. I’ve always been fitted every time I’ve bought bra’s (I love pretty under things and will happily skimp on spending on clothings to have nice lingerie) so I’m confident I’d be able to tweak the fit of a bra once I’ve made it up. But I have no idea when it comes to selecting a single size pattern or even getting the right shaped underwire! I don’t think whipping a bra out of my handbag at spotlight or lincraft to compare underwires would go down to well… (maybe I’ll just go early on a Sunday morning). I’d LOVE to hear more about how you go with this process – I’m sure it can be achievable!

    • Thanks for that, Melanie! :) There’s SUCH a wealth of info in these comments, it’s great. Love it. I think I’ll have heaps of fun looking at bra making and bras over the next few weeks…

      I think part of my issue is I don’t have the money to invest in good lingerie, and the other is that I so seldom enter clothing stores I have developed an aversion… Which is fine. We’ll see what I can do with Make Bra, but if they’re not that great then they’re not that great…

  24. I’ve been wanting to make a bra for years! Like you, I make everything else to fit me so why not a bra? The only thing stopping me is the patterns. I don’t like bras with high bridges in the middle. The bras I wear have two separate cups with a thin strap between them. I can’t find a pattern for those kind anywhere. Well, I found a pattern but it’s never in stock (I think it’s a Canadian company). I think the bra pattern manufacturers seem to cater for girls with bigger boobies (I’m a B sometimes going to a C depending on weight). There may be bra pattern makers out there I haven’t found yet, so I live in hope.

    • That’s interesting… I’m only recently looking around into the world of bra-making, but I’ll be sure to share whatever I discover… :)

    • Carol, You might try elan patterns–they make a pattern like what you’re describing, and they go down to A cups, unlike many of the more popular pattern companies. I also find the industrial-strength patterns a bit much for my smaller figure. :) I think fabricdepot sells them in the US.

  25. I ABHOR bra shopping! Last time I went shopping, I was a 34DD (but I think I may have shrunk a bit since I lost some weight….) which is near impossible to find in a regular line (most DD start at 36 if the line even carries DD) but in a plus size line I need like a 34C which they hardly make either. Oy. I’ve never made my own but it might be worth a go.

    The one time I got measured, they told me I was a 36B. If I wasn’t such a nice person I would have laughed in the girl’s face.

    • Yeah. It’s not awesome. No one ever really taught me about how to buy bras either, I was sort of on my own in that department…

      34C seems like a common size to me… Maybe it’s quickly sold out because it’s common, which can make it hard to find? :)

      Did you at least try the 36B? I don’t particularly expect the 38C to work for me, but I’m willing to give it a try just to see/compare. For science! Hehehe. :)

      • Well, I can only wear a 34C if it’s from a plus sized line and they never make B cups. My worst shopping experience was looking for a strapless bra so I couldn’t really cheat on the band size. The first store I went to didn’t even carry my size… :( That’s also when the old to small bra that I couldn’t squeeze myself in anymore and the new much bigger bra that came home with me were labled the same size-34C. Something is definitely not ok with this.

  26. I’m a 34AA. It’s nigh on impossible to find anything pretty that fits in RTW. The bras that are small enough in the teen section do not fit because the cups are too closely spaced to the center (mine are wider apart).

    I would like to try to woven bras, if only to see if quilting and the like could add bulk that would be favorable under clothing (and that’s really why I wear padded bras—so my clothing fits better and appears more attractive and balanced).

    • That would be so frustrating! Everyone has different fit issues, and I’ll definitely be talking about mine through this process but I also want to be sure to focus on the construction… What I learn, how it works, what might be possible in terms of engineering and style.. I think that would be useful regardless of our individual sizing stuff… And I’d love to see how your idea would work out in practice, so if you do any experimenting, do let me know. :)

    • My daughter, who is 12, has recently started wearing a bra. She’s a 32A (same cup size as 34AA) and I’m the one who’s finding her bras. Let me say, I feel your pain. It’s practically impossible to find something that isn’t padded all to hell and molded (that doesn’t cost a bomb – she is in a changeable phase, after all). I know you’re interested to have additional volume in your cups, but I think it’s a dicey scene for the very small-busted ladies everywhere, whether they want molded cups, padding, or seamed cups. I’m at the other end of the spectrum so it’s giving me an appreciation that bra fit is a challenge for most breasts, regardless of size.

  27. I’ve considered it. My bras are at least fifteen years old, and it shows. And as I’m very, very plus-sized bras for me run around $80 each… if I can find them. Large size bras are darn near impossible to find, anyway! And, well, I’d probably use my sister as a guinea pig because not only is she plus-sized, but she’s… how shall I put it… gifted in the cup size department! And to be honest, I’d probably use leftover lycra from things like swimsuit projects from this summer for muslins because it’s onhand and leftovers to boot.

    • Yes… Lord knows I have a massive big stock of remnant fabrics that would be perfect for lingerie, I don’t need to buy bra or panties fabric to indulge my lingerie making curiosity.. Just the findings and the patterns, and at 5 euro a pattern it’s not a big deal… :) I hope your experiments go well! If at first you don’t succeed…

  28. For Stephanie –

    it’s very important to not get fooled into thinking that you can make up the the difference in size by switching out cup/band size. although it feels like a fit, the band will ride up in the back if it’s even a bit too loose and the cup won’t properly hug right around and under the breast itself and still fit all the way around your breasts unless they’re really deep enough. even though they’re called ‘sister sizes’, they’re not the same. the sizes mentioned aren’t hard to find online and it’s worth checking out catalog companies like jcpenny or even sears. they may not be the hotties you’re looking for, but they are out there in great number. try victoria’s secret also. my daughter is 34-DD and finds good looking bras in the store at jcpenny. good looking brand names.

    • Thanks for the tip, Barbara… :) I think I’m on the right track, and the cost of ordering bra makings from Finland and plain bras from Penny’s would probably work out about the same for me. I do like to get my hand in and play, so there’s that, too. :) I used to wear VS when I was a teenager, but last time I was in the US I wasn’t terribly impressed… Maybe I just hit them at the wrong time.

      • Victoria’s Secret doesn’t know what they’re doing. Last time I was in there, all the sales girls weren’t even wearing correct bras and they’ll shove you into whatever size they have to try and sell you something. Just keep in mine that their fitting advice is dreadful. Nordstrom or Dillards are the only dept stores here in the US that I know carry decent bras above a D cup, but you still have to be careful about them not putting you in a band size too big. Just today, one tried to tell me I was a 38 band, when I usually wear a 34…

        • I had the same experience with Victoria’s Secret. They put me in a 38C, in which I felt unsupported. I went down the mall to Nordstrom and they fit me in a 34DD, which was like a boob lift and felt like I wasn’t even wearing a bra. A vastly different experience, all within a half hour.

  29. Oh, I can’t wait to hear how this goes! Bra-making both terrifies and fascinates me—I will conquer it someday, I swear. I always feel guilty complaining about bras since I “ought” to be easy to fit, but really finding a good fit is almost more trouble than it’s worth. My breasts are kind of wide and flat for the standard “B” that my measurements suggest I am, so most underwires are too narrow and leave me with bruises. /sigh. So often it’s just easier to go without, although as I’m wearing more wovens now that I’m sewing, I’ve noticed that I prefer to wear a bra with wovens.

    Which is a long way of saying that I hope this turns out super-well for you.

    From what I gather the Bravangelists seem to favour your band-sizing method, so you’re probably on to something. The “Standard” method usually puts me in a 34B, but the “Bravangelist” method would have me in a 32C or maybe even a 30D (as my ribcage is 29″). I have one 32C that’s probably my favourite bra of the moment, but I haven’t found a 30D to try on yet… it would be pretty fun to be able to say I was a D cup, though… ;)

    • i just looked at the bravangelist site and while they look comfortable i think that every dress and top pattern that i own would have to be adjusted to accommodate a squashed bosom. aside from the work involved, i’m not sure that that’s the woman-look i want for me, either. i don’t believe that comfort has to come with squashiness. i enjoy looking like a woman. i think a well-fitted bra is comfortable and still fills up your bust darts, and now we’re learning that they re available at more affordable prices. hey, if you hate them, they can be returned, right?

      • ooops! that sounded bitchy and i never intended that. i’m so sorry. please don’t take me personally.

        • I don’t take anyone or anything much personally… Don’t worry! I don’t know that it’s possible to be a blogger and have a thin skin. :D Besides, I didn’t see anything bitchy.

          I’m not interested in being a convert to any particular sizing system or brand or whatever. I just want to wear properly fitting bras without shelling out tons of cash I don’t have. :)

      • OK, so my bad—I was using “Bravangelist” as a generic term for the various bloggers I’ve run across who advocate (passionately) for properly-fitting, supportive bras, typically with a smaller band-size and larger cup-size than the usual/traditional fitting methods would give you. ;) I’m actually not at all familiar with that particular website (nor most of the ones discussed here, as I’m not at all large-busted). Sorry for the confusion.

    • Well, Taran, you know me.. I’ll mess with it and if I make huge mistakes or anything, we’ll all learn something.. That’s what it’s all about, right? I’ve sometimes suspected that my “shape” is the one that 50’s bullet bras were made for… Makes sense I guess, given that it’s my easiest era to wear in general…

      HAhhahahahaha! I love that you used the term “Bra-vangelists” and love it even more that it’s an actual website and you didn’t know it. hehe. I wouldn’t have known that either… You sooo should get your hands on a 30D pattern and let me know how it goes. That would rock…

      • Oh, and the Make Bra site would have me in something like a 34A, which terrifies me… I’ve never met an A cup with an underwire width that covered more than half my breast. Ok, maybe a 40A might…

        Can’t wait to see how this goes! ;)

        • I have this exact problem–If nothing else, now we know there’s two of us. :) I wound up making the 30C band/underwires with the depth reduced in the cups to the length of a B cup in the same size….I got the idea off ClothingEngineer on PatternReview–You might take a look at her reviews, she’s done really nice ones for patterns for smaller breasted women.

  30. I recently ordered a bunch of bras from Lane Bryant, because I want wire free bras – I find that they are actually more supportive for me because I can do them up tight enough. I must have a wide torso or something, because the best fitting underwire bras dig in for me.

    I’m comfortably a 18DD (that’s a 40DD, correlating exactly to my rib measurements) in the triumph and berlei bras I have. When I was ordering I went a bit mental trying to do bra size calculations using websites. They had me anywhere from a 34F to a 46C. WHAT? I am currently wearing a 40DD pretty comfortably, but I could have done with going up a cup size and down a band size, I think. Lesson learned! I did try bricks an mortar stores, but seems like wire-free bras stop at a D cup. Not much to be found in a 16E, either!

    And nice patterns and fabric options stop, pretty much across the board, at an 18 or a DD. I would LOVE to make my own, to get those options back. has a non-underwire pattern, I’m trying to work up the nerve and the skills to give it a go. Anyone tried them?

    • sometimes lane bryant and other stores have an end-of-season sale on bathing suit tops that fit and look exactly like bras. in my opinion they ARE bras. check them out as good substitutes. sometimes you can score a solid black, pink, white, or neutral for under $10US.

    • Yeah, I’m really intrigued by Lane Bryant, their history and their “re-invention”– haven’t they applied themselves a little more in the past few years to better sizing? I seem to think I read something like that. It’d be cool to work for them a bit and see what they do, or see a “fly on the wall” type documentary, but I doubt many people would be into that besides me… :)

      • Lane Bryant does a decent job with bra fitting, but they only go down to a 36 band, and in that band size, only go up to a DDD/E. I have to say that the rest of their clothing has gone downhill in the last few years quality-wise, and I’ve told them as much.

      • I only knew of Lane Bryant from the international fatshion community, but when I was having a little hissy about not being able to buy nice bras in Australia, someone recommended them to me. I’m pretty happy with the bra I settled on, minor sizing issues aside. But they only ship by courier, so it’s $30 postage out here. Them’s the breaks – I got the bras in a sale so they were only about $20 so I felt ok about it. To get a non-underwire bra here would be $60 so I guess I win?

        I’ve definitely heard people complain about the fit and quality of their clothing – when I was buying this lot of bras a couple people warned me that their clothes sizes are weird, and not to bother unless I could try them on. I’d say their bra sizes are weird, too – I initially ordered a few different styles in a 40D, because I’d been told their cup sizes run large, although I didn’t find that to be true. Some of the bands were SO big, and some SO tight, all from the same company, same brand. No idea what that’s about! I wouldn’t really recommend them unless you can go into a store, or you are willing to pay for multiple return postage runs to get it right – although they do at least make making returns simple.

        Will definitely keep an eye out for the bathing suit tops! That was actually what got me into non-wire bras – I bought one a couple of summers ago because I couldn’t find bathing suit tops that wouldn’t fly right off, anywhere, and I just wore that and bikini bottoms to swim in – it covered more than most bikinis, and no one was the wiser!

    • Bra-makers Supply has FANTASTIC patterns! But pay very careful attention to sizing. They don’t offer their sizing chart online, so you’ll have to email them to find out what pattern size range to order.

      • Good to know! I put on one of the LB bras this morning – same exact type of bra but in a different colour. And it’s WAY too small. How does that even happen? Three of these supposedly identical bras in a 40 band have been too big, just right, and too small. How? Had a teeny hissy fit and became determined to make my own.


  31. Love this topic can’t wait to hear more I have started on my corset journey and think that bra’s will now be added to my list of achievable things thanks for the link.

    • Cool! Let us know how it goes. Corsets are fuuuuun.. And I keep telling myself that surely if I can make corsets I can make bras. Right? Right? Though to be fair, I haven’t made a corset for about 6 years…

  32. I’m so not ready to sew a bra, but knowing me I’ll get there. On my previous “never” list were jeans (my favorite thing to sew now) and a winter coat (a time consuming project but like vacuuming–one where you see progress and it’s very satisfying), so I imagine at some point the girls will get some proper attention. One thing I’m curious about is if I can adjust the whole matter for my petite frame. At this stage of my pregnancy, I’m still in the same band size, but I’ve had to go up 2 cup sizes in my regular bra–unfortunately the maker adds an extra row and a little more depth under the armscye–space that I just don’t have–the bottom of the deeper bra ends up around my waist…so uncomfortable.

    I have a 30″ ribcage, and I usually opt for a 32 band because I can only find 30 bands online. I’ve always been curious whether or not choosing a band that is the same size as your ribcage would fit better–it seems like it should…I mean, why would you add 5″ when the circumference is where you’re measuring in the first place? Is it an ease thing? I do know that I swim in 34 bands, so I’d be suspect of you going up to a 38. Is there a place close to you with someone who can fit you? My usual strategy is to get a good fitting every couple of years and then just buy those bras for cheap on Ebay. The Chantelles that I’m in now are something like $80 in stores, but I’ve been getting them for as little as $20 on Ebay.

  33. Hooray! I am so excited to hear about your bra making adventures! I am a 36H and have come to the conclusion that bras in that size don’t exist – or if they do they are the most boring, prudish looking things around :) I also cannot afford to buy the ones I find in the stores or online. My mom and my sister had to go in together to buy me a bra for my birthday this year since it was like $75. (in the end, I have been terribly disappointed with what I bought. It may be the right size but it is uncomfortable and does not look good under some of my clothes. boo-hiss!) And to replace them every six months like the salesperson said?!? yeah, right. I just wasn’t sure they made bra-making supplies for larger-busted women… definitely keep us posted on your progress!

  34. I’ve sewn my own bras for years, off and on. Elan has very good patterns, and you can buy kits with all the hardware included. Good old Kwik Sew has multitudes of bras that make up much prettier than their technical drawings might indicate. My most successful attempts to replicate the all-cotton, no-elastic bras of my youth have come from using advice found in Beverly Johnson’s manual, and her patterns … I think it’s called The Bramaker’s Manual. Will save my pennies to afford book two — the first one cost $95 US, plus shipping. Worth every penny for the industry secrets and a thorough explanation of the engineering necessary to make a proper bra. Bras are small projects, easy to assemble, infinite in the choices of fabric and fasteners. You’ll enjoy playing about. (I break my personal rule about never buying used underwear in thrift stores, to access hardware and underwires at a low cost … just a thought.)

    • Oh cool! I think playing with bras will be a nice way for me to experiment and play around without undertaking a huge experimental dress project when I don’t have the time for it..

      And thanks for the tip on findings… I often save fasteners and etc from my clothes before they’re cut up… Hmm…

  35. Steph,
    Thank You for posting about Make Bra. I already ordered a pattern and supplies from the site. This is the only bra pattern I’ve found in my 34/36 band but really large cup size, and I have looked high and low. I’m a bra-making newb also, so I didn’t want to make my own pattern. The pattern they have for large cup sizes looks supportive, with a 3 part cup, and pretty. I am really excited to get my pattern and goodies. It will likely take a bit to get to the US, though.

    • Well, I would expect a package from Europe within a week if I’m lucky, and I’m further away… Though packages between here and the US seem to take much longer.. Hmm. It’ll be so exciting to get into it, though! I can’t wait.

  36. Hi, I’m Annele from Make Bra. It has been great to follow this lively debate.

    Finding a right bra size is the most challenging part of the bra making and it is important that it succeeds. I focus here on the rib cage measurement because it seems to be (and it is) the greatest problem.

    In the European system, if your actual rib cage measurement is for example 85cm, your band size is 85.

    Confusion starts when the measuring tape is turned over, and inches will be used…
    However, I would like to point out that the confusion is caused by manufacturers who handle this rib cage measurement in two different ways. Nothing wrong with inches itself! Let me explain.

    Some manufacturers have it like the most of you prefer, actual rib cage measurement = band size, only rounded to the nearest even number. This method sounds reasonable for me and is equivalent to the European system.

    To not to be too easy task to choose your bra size, there is also an old-fashioned, add 4-5” method widely in use among manufacturers (including Make Bra). If the rib cage measurement is an even number, four inches is added and if the measurement is an odd number, five inches is added to it in this method.

    For example your actual rib cage is 33, 5” is added and your band size will be 38. This 38 is not your rib cage measurement any more, it’s your band size. It is your own measurement after 4-5” subtraction. And, most importantly, this does not mean that the bra band would be 4-5 inches longer than you really should have. It actually doesn’t mean nothing. This only seems like playing around with numbers. Don’t ask why this method is so widely used. I don’t know. I hate it and use it.

    So when ordering bra patterns from Make Bra, take accurate measurements, handle them like described above if you like. Forget all the bra sizes you ever had. At last convert your measurements into centimetres with the converter on the measuring page and place them on the size table. Choose the band size first and then the bust measurement. There is your bra size!

    And if you are unsure even after this about it I’ll be happy to help you, so please ask!

    Regards, Annele

    • Thanks so much for that, Annele! It’s quite clear, and makes sense. It’s easy enough to just take the ribcage measurement in cms and use the sizing chart that way. The tape measure has inches and cms right there, so handy. Thank you for this, and for your very kind emails! I can’t wait to get my package in the mail and start experimenting! :D

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  38. Oh boy that was a lot of discussion.

    I have enjoyed making many bras but like KLine (and I’m glad to see she chimed in, she’s the godess of bras), not all have fit. Two bras I have made and loved have ended up having plastic fixings break so it’s well worth getting metal ones.

    I have made two Elan patterns and one Kwik Sew pattern. The KS 2102 is just not my shape. It fits my MIL well. The problem is both of us wear about a 38D, but she fills the top part of the cup as well and I don’t. You could put a fist between my chest and the bra at the top but it looked lovely on her.

    Elan 510 was nice as a front closure option. I did not have the best lift but it was great for a low cut v top. The plastic closure at the front died. The elastic upper cup was starting to stretch out so I have not found a fix for the broken clasp.

    Elan 645 is a little retro in styling but once I got used to the lift and separate, oh boy I loved it. The shoulder strap ring broke in July.

    Figuring out what style you like in RTW is the way to go when picking patterns. Odds are if a style didn’t work in RTW, why invest the time in making it yourself? It’s probably not going to work any better. And not all bra patterns are worth adjusting to fit you. Honestly, I’ll never make the KW 2102 again because it’s just not made with my shape in mind.

    And yes, there is nothing special about sewing bras. Straight stitch, zig zag and if you have it a three step zig zag is all you need. And patience.

    I would also recommend The Bra Makers Manual from Beverly Johnson, I love my copy. She also sell it on DVD that would be a whole lot cheaper to ship than the book.

    • And for supplies, I stock up at Sew Sassy once a year when my parents are in Florida to save the brokerage fees coming from the US to Canada. I like their channeling (the 922 covered stuff, not 909), stretch satin, underwires, elastics and powerknit. One day I’ll make the trip to Hamilton to see the Bra Makers Supply store in person. The stuff sold in our chain fabric stores is just a joke. The elastic is just too stretchy to be good for bands nor for straps.

  39. I don’t have anything to weigh in on how to measure (it’s so confusing) but I learned a ton from the articles on Her Room ( about the construction of bras, what styles work for what situation and what they aim to do (or where they aim the goods!) and so forth,910,30.html I’ve not purchased from that site so I can’t speak for their customer service or anything. Also, I can’t vouch for their info being accurate as I’ve not independently verified what they say – I don’t care *that* much about bras. :) But I thought I’d offer up what I found to be interesting on the matter. Personally, one of the first things I do when I get home is take my bra off and put a cami on. Can’t go braless out and about but who gives a darn at home!

  40. I’m a little bit late to the party here, but I’ve enjoyed both your post and the comment discussions below it. I think I’m pretty lucky. I’m a 36D (although I’m considering using a bra strap extender from my recent weight gain – cups fit fine but the ribcage band is a bit tight), and my best friend introduced me to Warners This Is Not a Bra series. They’re excellent and don’t feel like any bra I’ve ever worn before! They have foamy molded cups, but the shape works for me (I think, anyways). And at $38 Canadian at full price, I’m not complaining at all! Well, except that I’m nearly at the max size they make, and the selection usually sucks in the larger sizes, but I know I’m lucky to find my size period.

    My interesting fit quirk when it comes to bras (and haha, this might be tmi, but I don’t really have any shame when it comes to discussing body stuff) is that one breast is larger than the other. It’s not too obvious, or no one has pointed it out to me anyways, but I can see it when I look down, and I can definitely tell when I look down at my bra since one cup is always looser than the other. It doesn’t bother me at all, and I’ve heard of much worse size differences from others to be thankful that my size differences is so slight. But if I were to make my own bras, I wonder if it’s something I could address. Maybe use a slightly thicker padding (and I don’t mean push-up) on the one side? Different cup sizes would just look off and emphasize the difference, I think.

    Granted, I still have yet to brave making pants, so there’s no way I’m going near bra making anytime soon. Although if Warner ever stops making my bras, I may have to consider it…

  41. I have MakeBra bookmarked. I have started researching making bras. For me buying bras are expensive and limiting. I am also not a huge fan of shopping online since all sizes/brands are not created equal. Next month, I am taking a bra making class.
    You should definitely share your bra making journey.

  42. Just to chime in – I get almost all my bras from HerRoom – they’re terrific on shipping and returns and I like the notes they put in each listing about shaping, fit, etc. Also read the reviews… one-and-only bra is the Panche Superbra Tango II – the ONLY unlined, unmolded, thin strapped, balconette, unmatronly bra I have ever found that is fully supportive of my 42DDD bust.

    THANK YOU to Annele from Make Bra – that was great information


  43. You keep on doing this to me, don’t you. Just when I think it’s too tricky, costly, much of a pain in the butt, to make my own undies, up you pop with a cracking new site and a whole bag of temptation.
    I’ve got to tell you that I can’t remember the last time I bought my own undies. It’s a standing joke in our house, with a splendid punchline, that I get new undies for birthday and Christmas, and Mother’s day if I’m lucky, courtesy of the husband. Thankfully he has excellent taste…no scarlet cutaway nasties for me. In fact, I couldn’t tell you my bra size without checking a bra band, or asking him. The thing that frustrates me is how, as in clothing, the fit fluctuates between brands (although to give him even more credit, he could tell you which brands fit me best too).
    So, I’ve bookmarked Make Bra.
    I may succumb.

  44. i\’m curious to know if anyone but me has figured out the exact cost of making their own bras, not counting the fabric, which i\’ll assume will be made of stretchy left-overs for the prototype. i realize that the second will be far less costly, but let\’s say there is no second one and the first is the only. what will it cost you? mine would cost in the neighborhood of E29. the reason is that there\’s only one pattern that has my size and it costs more than the other sizes. also because it has more structure, it needs more hooks and eyes. that\’s to 30% of the price of a custom-fitted RTW that i know will fit perfectly and has a wide variety of styles. beyond a certain size, bra making is not a good idea unless you want to do it s a hobby rather than a fitting certainty. i\’m a 38H and when i gain even 10 pounds on my wants-to-be-overweight body, i need an I cup.

  45. “Bra size calculators” tell me I should be a 38A. I used to wear ill-fitting 36B’s, now I wear 34C or B depending on e.g. my water retention for the day. If you were to look at me, well, you would probably guess B or C cup. I remember reading somewhere that this has something to do with the fact that bras are made of stretchy materials nowadays but people were supposedly thinner in the past and if an A cup fit me, flat-chested women would be out of luck. I am pretty sure that at a boutique or even a Victoria’s Secret they use other methods to determine what size you should be wearing; I’m pretty sure my measurement is thrown off by the fact that I have a very large ribcage for a woman. (High bust 36, bust 36-37.) It’s really a shame that Make Bra isn’t a more body-conscious brand! (Or else their sizing is truly insane.)

  46. Have enjoyed following this post and the many replies – am waiting for my makebra package to arrive. Was already looking around to have another go at bra making so your post was very timely. Found this very detailed list of bra making suppliers in my search when I came across Dixie’s blog:

    As she notes Booby Traps (Aussie site) have recently updated their webpage after being very mediocre for a number of years – looks to have much better range of offerings. Looking forward to seeing the results of your bramaking adventures.

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  49. “My bust and hips have expanded more than my waist, to be perfectly truthful it’s a pain to fit my clothes and figure out how to dress without looking either frump-tastic or “sexy”.  But that’s a post for another time . ”
    Thank you for this line. I am learning in my middle age years that often others can say exactly what I struggle to communicate and this line describes my life since 21 years old. Unfortunately my job meant I had to pick frumpy–high school teacher! Now SAHM but I really hate being frumiest mom on the block. So I am sewing to find a happy balance and I am just thrilled to hear others fight the battle with me!
    And, amen to bra building at home. I am wearing mt two best nursing bras within an inch of their lives until I learn how to make my own!

    • Yes… I don’t know where that balance lies. If I could just completely quit caring what other people think of me, then I could forget about it. But. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found SAHMs to be pretty narrow-minded and critical. Maybe not openly, it’s all that unspoken disapproval type thing. Ugh. Heaven forbid I should show my figure at the park, better to just wear a frickin burka….

  50. Pingback: Finished Object: The Fugliest Bra In The Universe « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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