I first started bra making when the Watson pattern was released and had an initial success. I got the bug after that, had a January blues splurge on supplies- I find these still rather patchy in the UK and the choice is limited- and made a few more with a mixed results. By the way, if you're looking for UK supplies, I have a list here. I made a white, everyday Watson for my daughter - perfect fit. I made another for myself and it was hopelessly large. Bras are a balance of compression and stretch and changing any of the variables- different fabrics, elastic - can make a huge difference. After that, my interest and confidence waned and with the exception of a few pairs of knickers I concentrated on clothes and quilt blocks...
Fast forward to April. I ended up cancelling my trip to USA and selling my Glamp ticket. I sold it at a loss for a quick sale but I had a goal for the money, Madalynne's UK Bra Making Workshop at The New Craft House. I had seen the dates months back but dismissed it as too close to Glamp, now that was no longer happening I needed a pick me up and I had a feeling this would be just the ticket. It was a 'splash the cash' sort of spend but I had a feeling it would be worth it and as it turned out, it was, with bells on.
The goal was to complete a bra and learn along the way with the aim that it should be close to your desired fit and a detailed trial bra for you to perfect further bras at your leisure. I think there were twelve of us and Madalynne kept the pace up so that we all systematically sewed the same section at the same time. There were breaks for lunch and afternoon tea and the food and drinks were thoughtfully chosen and fuelled us nicely.
We all experienced the wonder of using Odif 505 temporary adhesive spray; more commonly used as a basting method for quilters, as an ingenious method of holding double layers of fabric together, stopping elastic from slipping as it's sewn and as a temporary measure for sticking the hook and eye sandwich in place before sewing. Hannah and Rosie supplied us all with Microtex 70 needles, thread and extra elastic when needed and everyone had an individual cutting mat and rotary cutter to use. You can get an idea of helpful tools and resources below. The oddly shaped scissors are Appliqué duck bill scissors, great for trimming layers safely.
Maddie shared her considerable expertise and answered our many questions. By 4pm, we all had a completed bra and rushed to the nearby ladies room to try them on. Most people ended up with a pretty good fit. Mine fitted perfectly on the cups, even the upper cup which is the area I have the most problem getting a snug coverage. There was room for improvement but all minor. My underarm area had stretched out whilst sewing so the fabric was probably a bit too stretchy and I will use a less stretchy fabric for this or line it with something non stretch.. The bridge could be a smidge smaller- maybe ⅛" reduction in width and the back band could be tighter- I think I will reduce this by ⅛" on each side for the next one but to have a well fitting underwired cup without padding is a first for me in either home made or ready-to-wear. The cups are made from lace and a firm, good quality powernet. This provides a little bit of give which works brilliantly for a small bust. Not sure how it would work in a E cup or bigger but I saw another participant with a D cup and her fit looked great.
There were three people who needed extra fitting but Maddie did take the time to work out what the issue was and describe how it could be rectified on the next bra. In the break times, all the sewists sat and chatted and we all commented how impressed we were with the class. Many people commented how good it was to do a class with advanced skills.
I came home encouraged and full of fresh knowledge, skills and understanding. Maddie, Hannah and Rosie help make the day a total pleasure so the class felt like an investment for my future lingerie sewing. Bra making is a very specific skill and I certainly know a lot more than when I made that first Watson. In hindsight, I needed a bit of time to pass to understand how the different fabrics worked together, my sizing and it helped that I acquired a vintage Bernina or two- both of which I find sew very stretchy things like elastic more easily than my Janomes. But I was still a little stuck especially with the idea of ever getting an unpadded, underwired bra to fit. Maddie had a liberating approach, not too many rules but enough to feel secure. The mix of powernet and lace seems like the perfect combo for support and adequate coverage- you know what I am saying ladies. The whole day was packed full of activity and the company was lovely. If any of you want to learn more about sewing lingerie and get the chance for a Bra Making with Madalynne workshop, I recommend it. It was a lot of money well spent. I can't wait to make another, this weekend is already pencilled in...