Bra Drafting with Emerald Erin!

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You never know how one thing will lead to another, and where you’ll end up. When I started planning the Sewcialist Lingerie month this past summer, and looking for contributors, I certainly never thought I’d drive 3 hours through a wintery storm to have one of them draft me a custom pattern! That’s what happened though, and it made for a lovely adventure!

If you don’t know Erin already, let me introduce you! She got started in lingerie making by working for the Fairy Bra Mother herself at Bra Makers Supply, and now she’s opened up a beautiful little shop of her own in Belleville, Ontario where she teaches a variety of classes. She sells swimwear and bra kits on Etsy, and she’s working on releasing patterns of her own in 2016. (Oh, and top tip for Canadian sewists: Erin is happy to do cheaper untracked shipping if you ask. Shipping rates within Canada can be higher than abroad, so I was happy to hear that!) For the past year, Erin has done a Bra-A-Week Challenge, making a bra, bathing suit or corset every single week. I find her bras so inspiring – I love that she shows a real range of styles and has a youthful, modern aesthetic!

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So why did I want a custom bra pattern? Well, the weekend class I took at Bra Maker’s Supply was great for learning how to sew a bra, but after a few weeks I decided the Pin Up Girls Classic bra was just too matronly for me, even after serious tweaks. It also didn’t fit that well, so I decided to clone a RTW bra instead using Andie’s fabulous tutorial. It worked perfectly… except that the bra I cloned was a bit too small, and so was my copy! I made a couple more versions with some extra space added in the cups, but all but one of my homemade bras has now been retired for being beastly uncomfortable. Basically, I could either give up and forfeit the money spent on classes and materials, or I could double-down and invest in getting a bra pattern that would really work!

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I’m going to blog later about about what the custom drafting process was actually like, and how my pattern turned out, but I’d like to start by reflecting on what I learned:

  • It was SO interesting to talk about what is specific to me, my boobs, my torso, and fit. For example, my wires often dig in hard at the top of the bridge, and I could never figure out why. Turns out, I’ve got a bit of a hollow there, and a ribcage that flares out at the bottom, and so with wires just naturally tilt in. To combat this, we’re going to experiment with wire length and making the upper cup more sturdy, so that it pulls on the wires more.
  • Turns out, I like my bands quite tight – which helps explain why my me-made bras weren’t fitting at all. The band on them is quite loose, and wasn’t putting tension on the wire at all. (Can I just take a moment to thank Kristin and Sara, who took me bra shopping last year when I was wearing a 36DD and got me into a 36F? And thanks to delicious food, I’m now 36 G… or FF, as I prefer to say, since my husband’s favourite comic book heroes are the Fantastic Four?)
  • Like most women, I’ve got a larger and a smaller side, so my new pattern has different pieces to fit Leftie and Rightie!

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  • Erin explained that the unlined stretch lace I’ve been using in the upper cup isn’t adding any support, which frankly, makes sense… I started using it that way because with non-stretch fabric in the upper cup, the top of my bust gets smushed flat. Turns out maybe I have more upper cup fullness than I previously gave myself credit for!
  • Erin also encouraged me to try having my bra strap start higher (though still wide-set on the shoulder) so that it offers more support. She also reminded me that the front of straps should to be non-stretch for the same reason… bad me. I knew that before and just ignored it out of laziness.
  • The direction of greatest stretch (DOGS) is something I find a bit confusing, especially when I was cloning a bra and didn’t have pattern markings to follow. Here’s the little cheat sheet I jotted down as Erin explained it: Upper cup DOGS should be horizontal, or up to 45 degrees angles down parallel to an angled neckline; the power bar DOGS should be slightly angled up towards the apex; and the lower cup DOGS should be vertical, or angled towards the apex on a split lower cup. That last one is contrary to some conventional wisdom, but Erin argues that the slight bit of vertical stretch in the lower cup give a more rounded, modern shape.

 

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Thanks to Erin, I’ve come home with a bunch of new fabrics to try: some kits of the duoplex/stretch mesh combo I’ve used before, but also some beautiful delicate-but-sturdy bra tulle and wicking fabric to play with! I stocked up on elastics and findings too, so expect lots of bras in the future!

If you are interested in bra making, I’m hosting Lingerie Month over on the Curvy Sewing Collective this month! We’ve got some really great posts lined up, so come check it out!

Up next, my new bras!


26 thoughts on “Bra Drafting with Emerald Erin!

  1. Thank you for sharing this adventure with us! I was hoping that your drive across the winter storm would be well worth it! I can’t wait to see your new bras and the ones you’re going to make! So exciting!

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    1. Hand on heart, they are the comfiest bras I’ve ever worn! That’s partly the fabric I’ve been using, but the wires are night and day more comfortable too!

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  2. This girl seems so young and talented. I wish Belleville Ontario would be closer to Montréal! Is it a private class or a small group lesson?

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    1. Crazy but true – I just looked it up, and it’s 3h40m from Montreal. Not a day trip, but maybe not impossible someday? Or get some friends together and get her to come to Montreal!

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  3. This is great info, I have the problem with wires poking me in center of my chest too! I usually remedy that by cutting down the wires and pattern in the center front. Even though you are bustier than me, it sounds like we have some fit issues in common. I wish there was someone within a three hour drive of me to help with custom fitting. I just saw that the fairy bra mother announced a bra-making workshop in SLC for May and I’m seriously tempted, at least its within driving distance (12 hours, ha), but it would be hard to justify a whole week off of work. Anyways, I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product after that teaser shot on instagram.

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    1. All I can say is that I suddenly really don’t want to wear any other bras! It’s partly the fabric, partly the wires, and partly the pattern, I think!

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  4. What a great day you had, wish my trip to Canada was a bit closer to Ontario. Very interesting information and I look forward to reading more about your experience and how your new bra wears.

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    1. It was really fun to see the measurements become a pattern! I wonder if there are any custom bramakers near you who could give a lesson?

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    1. LOL – I’m pretty sure the first thing I said was “You are so tall!”😛 She’s just as lovely IRL as she seems online. Her mom is great too!🙂

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  5. AAAAAH, I am so excited for you! This sounds so fun! I can’t wait to see what you make. And thanks for linking to Erin–I’ll be adding her blog to my Feedly, and her shop items to my wishlist!

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  6. Thanks for the shop info link! I’m debating whether I can fit in a soft/lounge type bra this month for CCC, as my weekend sewing time is pretty limited this month, and part of me feels like it would be silly to go through the fitting process before Hobbit is weaned. But I think I’ve decided to spring for a bra kit after I’m done nursing to reward myself for sticking with it.🙂 I’m catching up on posts now, but looking forward to seeing your results!

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  7. Great tips on DOGS, especially the power bar. I think that is where I’m having a problem fitting into on of the patterns I’m still struggling to get away from a flat squished look. Must go back and check my dogs. Thanks so much.

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  8. I realize that (given my ridic schedule right now), if I don’t say something about this now – I’ll never do so! I think it’s awesome that you’re working on bra fit and that you’ve found an excellent companion on the journey. What I will say (which I never shut up about) is that the road to proper bra fit is extremely complicated, not least of all because our bodies are always changing. It’s much easier RTW to buy for that reason alone. Nothing can compare with the joy of creating, by hand, a bra that fits. But allow me to get on my regular soap box (if you would): for women who have heavy, large breasts (that are not self-supportive) – using the materials avail to the home sewist may be a lost cause. I’m not at the extreme end of that equation, by a long shot, but I still have not been able to create an adequately supportive bra (by my admittedly very high standards). IMO, it’s far better to spend a zillion bucks on a RTW that actually fits, lifts and supports, than to make one that doesn’t quite hit all of those targets. In the meanwhile, I’ll continue to try making them and I hope, with the assistance of your wonderful posts to come, I’ll crack the code. And I’m totally down with a meet up.

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