Sunday, August 30, 2009

Details and Photos

Last night I showed a preview of my latest bra, but let's go back to the beginning for this pattern (Danglez DB4).

This copper-colored bra is where I had last left the pattern. Looks good, no? Except after wearing it for an extended period of time, it drooped and the girls with it. Not so much from the cups, since they did contain everything within. It was the band that was failing. It just didn't want to stay in position, no matter how tight I made it.

So, back to the drawing board, as they say.

During the interim, I ordered this bra.

It arrived, I tried it on, I hated it. It's the next "model" of the bras I used to wear that fit perfectly. Once I found out that my beloved bra had been discontinued, I bought up every one I could find in my size, which is why I'd been off the bramaking bandwagon for some time. Sadly, even those finally wore out and I was desperate. And at that point, they were so worn out that cloning a pattern from one wasn't going to be a solution either.

So I kept trying on the hated new model wishing for it to fit, because it was so close. But the bridge and center front of the underwires felt like they were about to touch my chin and the straps felt way too short. As I said, I was desperate so I pushed the underwires downward into the channeling as far as they would go and sewed across the top. That solved the feeling that they were about to scrape my chin, but they still stuck out at the center front instead of laying flat. Horrible. I certainly don't need a third bump there. And the straps - they're nice and pretty and all, but the padded area ends right as it gets to my shoulder. Clearly, whoever graded this bra up into the larger sizes did not try it on real humans. If anything, I'm *short* between shoulder and bust point and straps are never too short for me.

The one fantastic thing about this bra, though, was the fit of the band. It was firm and comfortable and didn't ride up even with those short straps. So the brain kicked into gear and I decided to morph the RTW band onto the Danglez pattern and have another go.

This is the original Danglez band.

This is my morph of the RTW band with the Danglez pattern.

And these are the two pattern pieces:

The straight-across pattern is the original Danglez pattern piece. You can see how the RTW shape drastically curves downward in comparison. The reason this downward curve works so well is because that downward curve acts as a counter-balance to the weight of the heavy breast tissue in front. The other difference is that on the Danglez pattern, the greatest stretch is running around the body. This is a no-no for a bra band. You want a firm band, not one that has no resistance at all.

I already knew all this but had a brain spasm or something when I was tracing the original pattern to sew because I didn't even notice the potential problems. (But it was nice to have this confirmed by Beverly Johnson in her Bra Makers Manual, which I ordered a week and a half ago and which arrived yesterday. If you have this book, it shows how to alter a straight pattern into the downward curve. More on this book in a later post.)

While I was tweaking, I also decided to have one more go at the cups since I felt like the upper cup was still too wide and the straps were still not sitting exactly right. So I tried the copper bra on again and pinched and pulled. I took it off and pinned out the amount of the pinches at the center seam …

… and I pinned a "slash/overlap" into the top cup to bring the straps further inward.

These are the old and new pattern pieces. The original is on the top left. Not a huge amount of difference, but 1/4" goes a long way in a bra pattern.

I also decided I wanted a smidge more coverage near my underarm so I extended the sides of the upper and bottom-outer pieces. This is the bottom-outer piece below. The bottom-inner piece remained unchanged from the original.

Then I sewed up a bra with my new pattern changes. And had a meltdown when seeing the results. Arghhh!!

It technically fits fine, but there was just too much bulk at the center cup seam and the cups would not lay smooth no matter what. This is what I saw looking down. Not very pretty, is it? LOL!

And then work and home intervened and I had to stay out of the sewing room for a couple of weeks. But I finally finished this latest bra yesterday and it's a winner. This time, instead of double-layer lower cups, I made them single layer and this solved the bulk problem. But there's not quite as much support so …

… the last tweak I'm going to do is to add a "powerbar" (as Beverly Johnson calls it), which is a side panel on the outside of the cup which forces the girls more inward and center. The powerbar acts like if you took your hands to the sides of your breasts and pushed them together for mega cleavage, but less dramatic. Just a little more needed lifted, not mega cleavage. ;-)

I also traced off a pattern from the RTW bra for the padded straps and lengthened them so the padding actually hits the tops of my shoulders. I improvised with what I had here and used a layer of poly batting for the padding. I'll see how these straps come out of the wash before I decide if this was a good idea. But they look and feel pretty for now.

Mirror bra shots don't always tell the whole story since arms and shoulders are lifted just to take the pic, but this bra is 97% TNT now, and I'll definitely be wearing it until I get the next one made.


  1. Lots of work involved to get a good fitting bra but it is worth it. Too bad about the copper colored bra not fitting as it is so pretty.

  2. Thank you so much for all this information! I'm going to be embarking on my first attempt at making a bra as soon as my Bra Makers manual arrives and I accumulate all the materials needed.

    My girls are huge but I need a fairly small band. Finding a good fitting rtw bra is impossible so I give up on RTW and will hope that eventually I'll end up with a pattern that works for me.

    Please keep us posted on using the batting in the straps and how that holds up. Sounds like a good idea!

  3. Thank you for your wonderful post. I look forward to your take on the Bra Maker's Manual.

  4. OMG! It IS a possible to get a bra to fit. Of course, my girls will be a challenge that probably will take a number of trials. Thanks for all the info. I just might give this bra thing a go.

  5. I've been tossing around the idea of bra making for a while, so your information is very useful. I'm also going to hunt down the Bra Makers manual. Thank you!

  6. WOW....this is amazing.
    There are so many different brands and styles of bra's out there and so few fit well... it's absolutely awesome all the work you have put in to achieve such a perfect's definitely rewarding :)

  7. What a great fit! Way to persevere and make one that fits so well. Good luck on pumping out a couple more so you have extras for wash day.

  8. Debbie-what are the 'power bars' made of,please? My breasts aren't so much big as wiiiide, and my back is really wide.I need to get everything pointing forwards.
    Until I read (some years ago)that you had this problem, I thought I was the only odd one out. ;-)))

  9. I know it's been said before, but I think you are a sewing genius. I love how you take us along with you as you analyze fitting and construction challenges. You also have a great eye for what works. It has been great seeing how this has evolved. BTW, I also have the spreading-to-the-sides problem (in addition to a migrating-to-the-south problem). Not yet keen to embark on the bra making, though I desperately need to!

  10. The powerbars in my RTW bras are made of cotton. The bras also have an additional piece of support in the side band, almost pointing toward the armpit (inch away from the top of the wire, two inches from the bottom).

    The additional piece reminds me of a collar point that you can buy from Dritz (in flexibility and size), and it's also in channeling that appears to be the same or very similar to the wire channeling. It adds support to the band.

    Jill (Dungeon minion)

  11. Hi Debbie, so glad your new bra worked after the disappointment. I am just at that point (second bra with adjustments a total flop). Since you are such a dab hand at all things knit and elastic, I was wondering what percentage of stretch you use for the band and underarm elastic? In my previous bra I used -20% and it fit well, but gave a VBL, so I used 0% on the latest one and it has no support. Would love to hear your opinion!

  12. My heavens, that was a lot of work and frustration. Genius is 1% inspriration, 99% perspiration. Hey Debbie, watch out for that sunburn! Time to make a simple hat?

  13. Thank you for your fantastic post. I am recovering from surgery and would love to get back to my bra making. RTW have never fit me correctly, the ones that do are $50+ and out of my price range. Does anyone have any ideas where I could find a used copy of the bra makers manual, I am not able to swing the full price at the moment.


Thank you for each and every comment. I appreciate them all, but I have to be honest and let you know that I'm usually bad about answering questions. I hope you understand that there just isn't enough time in the day to do everything I want to do.

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