Please, please don’t read this if you know me and don’t need to know about my breasts or underwear or discussions of size upset you. /end disclaimer. (Also, the banner picture is from grocery shopping today at the markets. I thought the mushrooms looked gorgeous, and the soup I made from them was even more wonderful.)
So the other day my package arrived from Annele at Makebra. I got really excited when I discovered her site. I finally felt like I could tackle bra sewing, and I posted about it enthusiastically. So many of you went to visit her, Annele wrote to me and we’ve kept up a lively email chatter since then, most of it centering around my boobs.
Annele knows about bra-making, I’m in awe of the depth of her knowledge and wish I could absorb all of it right now. She’s interested in my sizing issues and understands my lack of dsicretionary funds, so she was kind enough to send me two extra sizes to try and a few extra bra-bits. Thank you, Annele!
Apparently, I’ve always worn the wrong size bra- “big” band and “small” cups. Apparently, lots of women do this partially due to the laziness of bra manufacturers and partially from habit and inertia. I mean, cup size is sort of hard-wired into our sense of identity, isn’t it?
But I started paying more attention and even uncovered a bra hidden in the depths of my dresser that fits better than anything else. It’s a 12E. (US 34 DDD/E, UK 34F, EU 75G- convertor here) Yeah. E. It’s the best fit I have, but I think the cups may be slightly too small. The “gore” (middle part) doesn’t lie flat against my chest, though the entire bra keeps me comfortably uplifted through the day.
Chasing bra fit (not to mention learning to sew bras) is something completely new to me. I know, I know, I should know better and I do. I really do. I don’t really like having large breasts and never have, so my reaction was to generally ignore them.
It’s a pain to have a large bust. People assume things about you that aren’t necessarily true (hey, sexy lady…), bras don’t fit, blouses gape, most clothes make you look much heavier than you are unless they’re carefully close-fitted, they start succumbing to gravity from the age of 25 and girlfriends roll their eyes when you whine about how much it sucks to have big boobs. So I’ve kept my mouth shut and more or less ignored them up to now. (Though we were on pretty good terms while I breast-fed Lila…)
Anyway, my package arrived form Finland and I tore into it like a ravenous raccoon on garbage day. The first thing I noticed- no instructions. Bras are one of those things you can easily sew if you know how to sew them, but what if you don’t have a clue?
These are the two patterns I chose to work from first- 80 F and 75 G. The band sizes are different, but the cups are the same size. Here you can see the pattern pieces for the foam cups- they’re identical. The instructions are minimal.
I didn’t actually know where to start. Learning a new skill always means a steep learning curve, and I expected I’d have no idea what to do with all these bits and pieces. It helped to look closely at everything and take stock.
Annele also sent me a 75DD bra pattern and underwires. They’re the size I “should” wear according to traditional bra sizing methods that add 3-4″ to the ribcage measurement. They are the smaller underwires here. When I held them up to my body I could see immediately they would cause nothing but pain and torture should I decide to make the 75DD and wear it. I set them aside. If you’re a 75DD, email me and you can have the underwires and pattern for the cost of shipping. They’ll just gather dust here.
The first sewing step on the Makebra site (no paper start up instructions) shows you how to make the foam cups. The foam is pretty standard and not interesting, I’m already thinking I can use other materials in place of the foam (hemp fleece…) once I master the trick of sewing bras.
I cut the bra pieces from a piece of remnant purple rayon jersey leftover from one of my Bow Tie Tees. It took less than 20 cm (8″) of fabric. I love how little fabric bras use!
I used the 80 F size first. Like I said, the only difference between the two bra patterns is the band size, you can see it here. I like that the pattern has little colored seam allowances, it makes it easier to understand where I will sew.
My chosen cup style comes in three pieces. I ought to have marked right and wrong sides, or chosen a fabric with an obvious right or wrong side. Either way, I didn’t and ended up making myself two left cups. I swore gently and re-cut a right cup. Again, the instructions for this step were pretty non-existent. However, it was not complex and actually rather self-explanatory once I paid attention to the diagrams that came with the pattern.
After some head-scratching and plain old experimentation, I ended up with something that resembles a bra. Not so bad, right? Right?
Sigh. There we go. The fugliest bra in the world. I didn’t line the cups because it wasn’t in the instructions. I will for the next one. I also mis-aligned the underwire casing and stitched it *to* the cup rather than *around* the cup on the band. That’s ok.
If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I have a tendency to just jump in with new projects. I’m that kind of learner. Sure, read a bit ahead of time, but I don’t try to figure out everything before I “get my hand in.” I don’t mind making mistakes and not knowing what to do, I’ll make it up or figure it out. I know others aren’t like that, and that’s cool too.
When I approach a “new” skill, I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself to make a perfect new thing. There’s too much to learn at first when honing a new skill (which type of elastic goes where…?) and to expect a perfect finished project on top of everything else is just not reasonable. I *should* make a mess the first time I try to make something “new.” That’s normal.
I even accidentally trimmed the fashion fabric when I was trimming the seam allowance. Lesson learned- don’t try to trim after sewing the underwire casing. Trim first, then sew the casing. And sew the casing to the band, not to the cup.
By the time I got around to stitching on the hooks and eyes, I had a list of things to do the next time and had pretty much written off this bra so I got lazy. It doesn’t fit. The band is too big and creeps up my back to settle nearly between my shoulder blades. Not awesome. That said, the cup seems to hold everything well, the underwires don’t dig in and it fits slightly better than most of the other bras I own.
The instructions for Makebra bras are very much geared towards someone who has sewn bras before. Also, Annele is in Finland and while her English is very engaging and clear, the technical writing leaves much to be desired for an English-speaking bra-newbie. That’s cool, I can’t expect someone else to do my sewing for me and I figured it out relatively easily from the pages on the MakeBra site. In the end, I realized that sewing a bra isn’t very difficult, but does require a bit of practice.
I’m nearly finished with my second, a white with blue lined cups made from linen-cotton jersey left over from my poor doomed SpinaLace top. It’s already much nicer than the purple one, and in size 75G. Once I work out my system, I’ll definitely document, document, document for the other bra-newbies out there.
So tell me- have you ever, ever seen a fuglier bra? How do you approach learning a new skill? What do you think about the weird relationship we have between our cup sizes and our identities? Do you have any tips for me?