Small-Busted Material Tips
If you are reading the CSC and have a small bust, chances are good that you probably have a larger band size than most RTW manufacturers expect someone with and A, B, or even C cup to have. This is Megan representing Team Small Bust, and this is a problem I’ve struggled with for the last 15 years or so. The good news is that now that I know how to sew, I don’t have to deal with it anymore!
If you have a large band size and you are anything like me, it can be a struggle to mitigate the band-cutting-into-back-fat issue. Though it may seem counterintuitive, I have found that a good firm powernet and firm band elastic can help a lot, and I’ll share links to my favorites below. In my experience, because the materials are more firm, they are able to provide more support without being overly stretched, which can cause bands and elastics to buckle, roll, and cut into your back. I find that a good firm band stays in place all day!
As for other elastics and strapping, I typically use the pattern’s recommended widths/types of elastics as I find my smaller bust doesn’t need the extra support of heavy duty elastics, like the ones Andie mentioned that she uses above. One of my favorite tricks is to use the pre-made straps from Sew Sassy (linked below), they are really cheap, dye well, and keep me from having to source the appropriately sized sliders and deal with all those fiddly bits.
While your milage may of course vary, I like to use foam in all my bras. This is not so much to provide padding as it is to provide additional shaping and structure. I have used pre-made foam cups in sports bras, lounge bras, and bathing suits. I simply insert the cups between the lining and fashion fabric, if you want them to be removable you can leave the lining open at the side seams. I use cut-and-sew sheet foam, as Andie mentioned above, in all of my underwired bras, following this EXCELLENT tutorial from Cloth Habit. You can add foam to most any pattern using this tutorial! The sheet foam you can buy is typically fairly thin and compresses down when you wear it, so it doesn’t add much padding but it does give a nice smooth appearance.
Did you read what Andie said above about Duoplex and sheer cup lining being her favorite materials for bra cups? Well, I’m going to recommend the same materials but for different reasons. For the first several bras I made, I was all like “lace! stretch satin! give me all the pretty things!” but I was having to refit my pattern every. single. time. Don’t be like me!
Consistent fabric choices will give you consistent results and you won’t leave you guessing how the fit will be every single time you make a new bra. I love Duoplex because it comes in a variety of colors and is smooth under knits, which I wear a lot. Also, the Duoplex sold by Bra Maker’s Supply has Pantone colors listed and you can buy coordinating stretch fabrics to from BMS to make matching undies. If you want to experiment with lace or other stretch fabrics for your bra cups, I suggest you fit a bra pattern in sheer cup lining and then use it to underline every other type of fabric you want to use.
And one final tip, don’t forget to use your precision sewing presser foot of choice (like an edgestitching foot)! I use the satin stitch foot for my Janome and the channel under the foot allows me to feed the elastic through and keep the topstitching a consistent distance from the edge. Don’t even ask how long it took me to realize how hard this was to do with the regular foot!
MEGAN’S SHOPPING LIST:
Pink Boylston Bra:
- Boylston Bra pattern from Orange Lingerie, added 2 inches to largest band size
- FJ-6 Duoplex from Bra Maker’s Supply, fuschia, for cups, straps, and frame
- FP-7 stretch mesh with spandex, from Bra Maker’s Supply, white, for wings
- F-325 polylaminate foam from Sew Sassy, nude, for cup lining
- FL-11.80 sheer cup lining from Bra Maker’s Supply, nude, for lining the bridge
- EB-672 FIRM band elastic from Bra Maker’s Supply, white
- PE-401 plush finishing elastic from Sew Sassy, white, for upper band and strap finishing (“underarm elastic” per pattern)
- BS894 premade straps from Sew Sassy, white
- UW927 Flex-Lite underwires from Sew Sassy
- CH922 Bra channeling from Sew Sassy, white
- HE952 one hook three eye tape from Sew Sassy, white (cut to desired length once bra is finished and use a very small zig-zag stitch to finish cut edges)
- Geneva from Seamwork Magazine, sized down 1 size and added 4” to rise, modified panels a bit
- FR-51 stretch satin from Bra Maker’s Supply, fuschia (not highly recommended as it is only 1-way stretch)
- Swimsuit lining fabric from Joann’s, white (this is my FAVORITE fabric for undies, for those of you that like something thin, stretchy, and quick-dry/non-cotton)
- PE-401 plush finishing elastic from Sew Sassy, white, for leg and waistband finishing
- FOE726 fold over elastic from Sew Sassy, for alternate leg finishing on white pair
- SLT-530 wide stretch lace trim from Sew Sassy, embellishment on white pair
Bra Making Suppliers
We’ve put together the following list based on regions of bra making suppliers. Stars indicate recommendations from us. If something is not starred, we have not ordered from this location.
Etsy and eBay are also great sources for bra making supplies ranging from rings and sliders, underwires, to stretch laces and elastics. Andie has bought a lot of stretch laces and premade bows from eBay and fold over elastic in lots of colours/prints from Etsy.
- Arte Crafts*
- Sew Sassy*
- Corset Making Supplies
- Tailor Made Shoppe
- Bravo Bella
- Needle Nook Fabrics (Phone orders)
- Bra Essentials
- Susan of Measure Twice/Cut Once not only has separate bra making supplies, she also makes and dyes bra kits which have all the supplies are dyed in super funky colours. She also has a great tutorial on her blog for cloning one of your own well fitting bras – I have tried this and it worked a treat!
- Sew Squirrel sells patterns, and supplies online. She has some great kits for “findings” i.e. all the supplies excluding fabric and underwires.
- I have been getting my supplies lately from a local bricks & mortar store Make It Fabrics whose website unfortunately is atrocious! However their in store service is brilliant and their supplies are extensive. They have loads of powermesh, stretch laces, all the elastics, hooks and underwires for a huge variety of sizes.
We’d love to here your recommendations in the comments! And if you have any questions about materials, now is a great time to ask!