Sew Your Own Custom Bra Tutorial -- The Materials

This is the second part of the Sew Your Own Custom Bra Tutorial series from the lovely Amber!

   Today's post will cover the materials that will actually go into the bra itself! (Note: Unless noted, all of the supplies came from a premade, custom dyed kit)

   So the first question is this: "Where do I even start to find bra supplies?" Thankfully, a list has already been generously compiled together! Dixie of Dixie DIY has compiled a comprehensive list of where to buy supplies. And it's not just limited to residents of the US! She shares links for Canada, the UK, parts of the EU and even one located in Australia! Be aware that this list may not be 100% up to date; I know Dangelz (located in the Netherlands) are closing down shop, and currently have their items discounted, and Elingera (Germany) are closing down shop as well.

   And of course, don't forget your local stores; you may be surprised to find that you may have a local shop that has these supplies. Some of the bigger box stores will most likely carry the fabrics you'll need, but certain findings such as wires and whatnot may be more difficult to find. Simply do a bit of online research to find out what's available to you locally.

   When buying a bra making supplies; you can go down two routes. You can buy a premade kit, or you can take the time and purchase all of the pieces separately. Either way is fine of course! I will of course cover the materials and talk a bit about them.

(A) Outer Fabric: This fabric is not limited to solid fabric; you can of course use a pattern fabric of your liking! Ideally though, you'll want to purchase a fabric that has stretch and elasticity to it. The material I have here is a satin one way stretch spandex. I've seen and heard of bras being made from a multi stretch fabric. Ideally, if you're going to go this route, you may have to purchase some type of one way stabilizing fabric to give additional support; more on this later. In addition, you may also want to avoid using jersey knit as your primary fabric as well; I'm not 100% sure, but I think it's due to the elastic memory of the knit and it's inability to be supportive enough especially in the band. I do think it still has practical uses in bra making; particularly if you have sensitive skin, and would like the feel of soft jersey knit against your skin while you have a pretty satin outer layer of the bra. The fabric I have here is shiny on the 'right' side of the fabric; the other side is not shiny at all so it will be very easy to know what is the right side and what is the wrong side!

(B) Powermesh: Almost all bras have a layer of powermesh in them. It's pretty self explanatory. It's a mesh fabric that has a multi way stretch to it. There are several weights of powermesh; I recommend a heavier weight powermesh; after all the heavier it is, the more supportive it will be.

(C) If you are wanting to do create something dainty and possibly sexy, you can use lace; both rigid and stretch! If going this route, I would advise to try and also buy a sheer lightweight fabric to back the lace in for extra support and durability; without it if you have heavier breasts, the cups are not going to be supportive whatsoever; I made a bra with just stretch lace in the cups, and it's completely unsupportive. Alternatively, you can just sew the lace over your stretch fabric; this would be a fun way to get a pretty two tone effect! Or you can use the lace for the top part of the cup; whatever suits your fancy! Here I have stretch lace.

Elastics: You'll need elastic for the bottom of the band, and then for the top part of the band and around the arm-line and top part of the band (these are commonly referred to as plush elastics) and possibly elastic for the neckline part of your bra.

(D) The elastic for the band should in my opinion should be at least 3/8" (1 cm). The wider the elastic, the better up to a point; it really does depend on comfort level and availability. I think if you were planning on making a longline bra, elastic that's about 3/4" (2cm) may work very well; since wider elastics tend to be more comfortable than thinner ones when it's required to be extremely firm. When selecting elastic for your bra band, look for one that has a soft fuzzy side; this is the side of the elastic you'll want to go against your skin. Also, you'll find that bra elastics will have loops or other decorative edges; this is called Picot Edge. This has a two-fold benefit. One it adds a bit of decorative element to the bra, and it also helps you properly place your elastic when sewing; you'll eventually want this pointing to the outside edge of your bra when finished.

(E) The elastic for the top part of the band/arm line ideally should be smaller than the elastic for the band. The thinner the elastic is the more overall stretch it has to it, and therefore allows more movement which in my opinion is important especially when it's in the arm line. This elastic can sometimes have a picot edge, and just like the band elastic, look for a fuzzy side.

(Not shown) The last elastic that can potentially be used for the neckline area is called lastin. It's a clear, durable elastic that comes in widths from 1/8 inch (3mm) to 3/4 inch (18mm). I've got a bra that uses it, and I've seen it being used in swimwear, knit shirts, and even in modern cloth diapers! I've got one bra that utilizes lastin in the neckline; the bra has a lacy construction, and it gives the neckline both stretch and shape; the benefit of it is that it does not show through the lace. For bra making, I'd recommend using something between 1/8" to 1/4" (6mm) if you plan on exclusively using it for the neckline of your bra. You can easily find it on ebay as well as etsy in larger quantities in yards or possible meters.

(F) Strap elastic: You can go two ways with the straps; pre-made straps where all you have to do is sew them onto the bra, or you can buy a length of strap elastic and the extra bits. If you have larger/heavier breasts, you may find that a wider strap will be more comfortable than a narrower one; I prefer straps that are 1/2" (13mm) wide. If you are wanting to purchase pre-made straps, and you have a metal/nickel sensitivity, be sure to check the content of the hardware on the straps so you don't accidentally buy something that you will react to. If the content is not listed, contact the seller.

(G) If you are planning to make your straps, make sure the size of the ring and sliders are close in size to the straps as possible. Too large sliders, and the sliders will not stay put. Too small; well the elastic isn't going to lay flat and possibly won't even feed through properly. The rings can be bigger than the straps but this can potentially be uncomfortable.

(H) If you want to make a convertible bra, you'll want to purchase these hooks; I will of course be covering how to construct  the straps and bra to utilize the hooks. I pulled these out of an old bra which is why they don't match the rest of my materials.

(I) Eye and Hook tape: This can come with 1, 2, 3 or more rows of eye and hooks, and typically has 3 columns of eyes. I find that optimal width is 2 for a basic banded bra, but of course, it's all about comfort and stability. It can also be purchased increments such as feet, yards or meters, depending on your source. I would definitely avoid the one column eye tape; I think this is more commonly used with corset making.

(J) Wire channeling: This can come in two different materials; synthetic (typically nylon) and wool. If you have a sensitivity to wool and are unsure of the fiber content of the wire channeling, feel free to contact the seller and ask. It's typically fuzzy to ensure comfort.

(K) Plastic boning: I almost forgot about this! Boning is wonderful in bras, especially if you have issues with the band wanting to roll on itself. This will hopefully prevent this from happening, but also it gives additional support and structure for the cups. You can typically buy it by the yard where it also comes with fabric channeling; the boning I have here was taken out of an old bra. You may also be able to buy it in pre-cut lengths similar to what I have, but I'm not sure.

And last but not least, underwires.

   This is probably going to be the TRICKIEST purchase of making your bra. More often than not, we're limited to specific brands because they typically use a very specific style of wire, and every company out there will sell a specific type of wire; the hardest part will be figuring out who will have the kind of wire to fit your breasts. Luckily, there are some sellers who have wire width charts available for download so you can print the charts and determine if the wires will work with your shape or not! Also when printing, be sure to double check the print guide against a ruler to make sure you printed it properly; otherwise you're going to be surprised when your order arrives.

Sellers that provide printable wire charts:

Bra-Makers Supply (located in Canada) If you look at the sidebar, you'll see a section that says "Information to Download". You'll see a variety of links. The second one "Underwire Must-Know Information" covers the different kind of wires they sell; and at the very end of the PDF file, they have an illustration that compares the variety of wires they sell against each other. The links below the must know information are the charts of the different styles of wires they provide. Be sure to print at 100%; each chart will have their own instructions on determining if you printed it at the right scale or not. 
Elingera (located in Germany)If you go to the product page, at the bottom of the product details they have links to pdf files of the wire width charts. Be sure to print at 100%. 
Sewing Chest (locted in the UK) They have a pretty comprehensive list of information regarding wire purchasing. I would start by visiting this page and click the last link; this will show a comparison of the different styles of wires they offer and how they compare with each other. The print guide is a 1" square and is present on all of the PDF files. Be aware these wires are made by Marks & Spencer's.

  If you plan on buying supplies from other sellers, feel free to contact them and see if they can provide information or any type of printable chart to help you determine the size and style of wires you need. It's also important not to get caught up in the wire size, but rather what's going to fit you! The wire size is not always going to be consistent with your actual bra size.

  If you can't seem to find wires that are perfect for your needs; for example, the wires are the perfect width and shape, but the wires are too tall, you are not doomed to ill fitting wires! There is a way to clip and retip the wires; I will be covering how to do this and the stuff you need when I start discussing specific alterations.

Check these out: