Bramaking Sew-Along Prep: Pattern Choices

Alrighty, today let’s talk through pattern options! I know there are a lot of patterns out there, and in the end each one of you will have a unique preference for shape, style and materials. But I want you all to leave with a feeling of accomplishment! Yes, you can make a bra. So for the sake of simplicity and ease of teaching, it’d be ideal if we were working from the same or similar pattern.

The most basic bra pattern is a two-piece cup with a band that runs under the cups. And this is usually the pattern block from which all other bra designs originate! So I’ve narrowed down the wide world of pattern options into a few that would make for a good first bra-making experience, and which can be sourced from more than one store:

Pin-up Girls #1200 (Classic Bra)

Pin-up Girls #1200 (Classic Bra). This is my favorite basic bra pattern. The grading covers a lot of sizes–all the way down to a 30AAA as well as sizes for narrow band and large cups (up to 30H/I). Available: Bra-makers Supply, Elingeria. Update: Bra-makers Supply now has a shop on Etsy (no kits/fabrics, just patterns).

Elan 645

This is also a very nicely-drafted pattern with a wide range of sizes and is constructed much like the Pin-up Girls pattern. Available: Elingeria, Sew Sassy, Fabric Depot Co., Bonnie’s Pattern Shop (ebay), Vena Cava Design (UK).

Option for larger sizes:

Danglez DB4

This might be a good option for those who need more coverage, especially around the underarm. If you run above an E/DD especially with a smaller band, try Danglez DB3–this one sizes into the I cups and has what’s often called a “powerbar” seam along the side of the cup for support. Available: Elingeria, Danglez (apparently her shop is going to close so there’s a sale!).

Elan 520

This is very similar to the Elan 645 but is made for fuller band/cup sizes. Available: see the Elan pattern above for shops.

You might notice I left out a lot of popular patterns, but I did so because they either have limited size options (Merckwaerdigh, Kwik Sew), limited or specific underwires that won’t be easy for everyone to buy (Make Bra, which uses long underwires and often the same underwires for several cup sizes), or special construction techniques. That includes all partial band patterns, because they are constructed a bit differently and I won’t have time to cover both.

Truly, a basic pattern goes a long way. The tack I’d like to take in this sew-along is to share some ways to modify a bra pattern to your liking–changing the neckline shape, softening the curves, changing the seaming. I’m going to make a very simple version of the Pin-up Girls pattern with few frills and then a modified version with lace and some easy shaping alterations.

Some questions that came up:

Can I leave out underwires?
Yes–with these patterns you can make a supportive bra without them.

Will you make a foam-cup bra?
No, I won’t be making one in the sew-along, but I have a little treat waiting in the wings for some time in February. I’ve written a tutorial showing how I adapted my pattern for foam shaping. (A bra which I haven’t blogged about!)

Just as an FYI, there are two types of foam cup bras: those that use pre-molded cups (usually seamless t-shirt bras) and those that use pieced and sewn foam. The pre-molded cups seem to work best using a pattern specifically designed for them. The latter are sometimes called “cut and sew” bras and use what’s called polylaminate or spacer foam as a lining. (The Make Bra patterns are built around this lining.) Any pattern can really be adapted for it. They’re fun to make because you can use just about any fabric on the outside of the cup without worrying about support. Some of my best RTW bras have this type of lining and I might offer some suggestions later on the sew-along, but if I do it’ll be short and sweet. If this is your first bra, I’d recommend getting used to basic construction without it, so you don’t fight with the foam!

Can I use my own pattern?
If you already have a pattern that fits, or your own personal block, chances are you already have a head start and can follow along for whatever parts you want to follow! I can’t address the particular techniques of your pattern, however. But if it’s similar enough you’ll have no problem and perhaps others can chime in with help!

I hope that covers it! I’ll be back next week with a bit about sizing and materials and then we can start our shopping.

41 Comments on Bramaking Sew-Along Prep: Pattern Choices

  1. Michelle L
    November 30, 2012 at 10:35 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you,I just ordered my pattern!

  2. Cherie
    November 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm (3 years ago)

    Amy, I need to do this! I put it up on my blog linking to your sew-a-along, and ordered the Elan 645 bra pattern. I haven’t added to my blog in a long time, so this will be fun to document for me! Looking forward to the next post!

  3. Corinna
    December 1, 2012 at 2:11 am (3 years ago)

    I’m going to be using the pin up girl pattern, because elingeria has a pre-packed pack (ha I’m so good with words! :D) with everything you need for that pattern. But I hope I find a way to add some kind of lining because I really don’t feel comfortable without one.
    I’m excited :)

  4. Stephanie
    December 1, 2012 at 5:13 am (3 years ago)

    I’m really intrigued by this sew-along. I have a long running frustration with bras and a very limited choice in my lingerie drawer since I’m an unusual size 75 G (European) and not many bra shops cater to this size. Or if they do they often just seem to grade up a pattern that was obviously designed for smaller breasts in mind and therefore just does not work in this size. If I have time I’m definitely joining your sew-along, but I have one question: I have a perfectly (!) fitting bra that looks very similar (if not identical) to the bra patterns in this post – could I just trace a pattern from this bra and then sew it up? – or would you recommend I start from an actual bra pattern and then perhaps comparing this to my bra? I’m just a little afraid that I’ll be sewing a bra and putting all this work in and then it does not fit.

    Thanks for running this sew-along!


    • Amy
      December 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi Stephanie–knocking off your bra is definitely a possibility. I’ll send you an email!

      • Melissa W.
        July 20, 2013 at 12:09 am (2 years ago)

        I also have a bra I’d like to knock-off. It’s my favorite and it is being discontinued! Would you send me info on how to do it? Thank you!

    • Dagmar
      September 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you Stephanie.
      Duh for me!!
      I just wrote a similar comment far below yours. I hope this thread is still running. If you, or Amy, would be so kind as to forward me Amy’s email response to your post above, I would greatly appreciate it.

      Also, I am so proud of the 36G I found at Nordstrom Rack, I’d love to send a picture of it–not that I want to infringe on copyright laws!

  5. Heather Lou
    December 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm (3 years ago)

    I think I like the proportions of the Elan best. My favourite kind of bra is the demi-cup (what can I say, I wear a lot of deep scoop neck things) but this looks like a good solid workhorse bra.

    Amy, I am getting SO excited to take this bra-making journey with you! (Haha)

  6. Nola
    December 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm (3 years ago)

    I just ordered the Élan b645 pattern and would like to ask if you recommend a two way power mesh or 4 way stretch for the back band? Notions list is always fun, sort of the hardest part of any sewing project. Can’t wait to venture into “intimates” . Thanks for offering this sew along!

  7. Nola
    December 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm (3 years ago)

    I just ordered the Élan b645 pattern and would like to ask if you recommend a two way power mesh or 4 way stretch for the back band? Notions list is always fun, sort of the hardest part of any sewing project. Can’t wait to venture into “intimates” . Thanks for offering this sew along!

  8. Trice
    December 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm (3 years ago)

    I think I might join along. I will probably use Bravo Bra #2 from Bravo Bella. I have this pattern already adjusted for my size with the help of the pattern designer (there is no bra pattern in my cup size, sad face). Hopefully this will be okay.

  9. Annette
    December 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm (3 years ago)

    I plan on joining. I will be ordering the PinUp pattern and kit that goes with it. I should have plenty of time for everything to arrive by mail.

  10. Carolyn
    December 5, 2012 at 5:43 am (3 years ago)

    Hi Amy, is it too late for me to join in? I think I’ll have recovered from my Christmas preps by Jan 7th!
    I’ll be using my KwikSew 3300 pattern that I have used for five bras, it works really well for me and my shape. It has a partial band and underwires, and I prefer to alter it by insert a cut-to-size foam cup too… I’m going to be trying out some new knickers patterns to match too and I’m looking forward to hunting out some special pretty fabric for my new set.

    • Amy
      December 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm (3 years ago)

      Absolutely! I’d love it if you came along. I’m assuming that those with experience and a pattern they know and fits well will run with that. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

  11. ginny
    December 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm (3 years ago)

    Amy, I already own the Pin-Up Girls “Linda, Partial Band Bra” pattern — will that be close enough, or should I order a full band pattern for the sew-along? I generally prefer a partial band style, but don’t require much persuasion to add another pattern to my collection 😀

    • Amy
      December 9, 2012 at 1:11 am (3 years ago)

      Ginny, I have this pattern, too. I won’t have time to demonstrate the partial band style of bra (they are a little bit different in construction and fit) and my mods will all be on a full band, but it’s really up to you!

      • ginny
        December 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm (3 years ago)

        Thanks so much for that info Amy — I’ll go ahead and order a full band pattern for the sew-along 😀

    • Amy
      December 20, 2012 at 9:01 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi there, I’m assuming from reading your blog you mean a foam-cup bra? Just about ANY pattern can be transformed into a foam cup bra (I’ve done it). I’m going to write some stuff on this later in February after the sew-along but it would just be too much for little ole me to cover. Plus it’s much easier to get your fit down first without messing with foam and then trying out foam techniques after you’ve made a bra. Just my opinion!

      The Sewy bra is pretty! It’s also a partial band bra which has a little bit different construction than what I’m doing but I’m sure you’ll pick up some things along the way if you want to use it!

  12. Donna Rae
    December 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm (3 years ago)

    I posted somewhere here that I was thrilled about the bra sew-along but can’t find my post. So thought I would post again to let you know Thank you for doing this. I have been wanting to learn to sew a bra for as long as I can remember.
    I signed up to follow you blog via email so I don’t miss anything. But I will be checking every day, just in case!
    I am going to buy my pattern now on-line then take a list of what to and not to buy with me to Hancock’s to get an idea of the fabrics. But probably will buy what I need on-line. Depends on what they have. I am very excited.

  13. Jo
    January 8, 2013 at 7:40 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi Amy
    I would like to join if it is not too late. I have a couple of patterns in my stash (Kwik Sew from memory) – not exactly the same, but probably close enough given I am late for ordering and receiving a new pattern in time (in Australia). Many thanks for hosting! I am looking forward to learning some new techniques!
    Jo (Sydney)

  14. Marieke
    January 9, 2013 at 5:44 am (3 years ago)

    I love your idea of a sew-along on bramaking.
    I am going to try the pinup- because they have their special ideas about a style without wires…..
    I see, however, that you mention that Danglez has a sale. I have read that it’s just a sale on fabric and notions. She will go on in the patterns!

  15. debm
    January 9, 2013 at 10:34 pm (3 years ago)

    Just realized I have a Pin-Up Girls pattern floating around somewhere as well as the Kwik Sew one. And I suspect I’ll find one or two more when I hunt through my sewing jungle…. It’s amazing how disorganized things get while humming through a project… :-)

  16. Lisa
    February 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi! Just found you and have a question regarding patterns. I’ve yet to make my 1st bra but will be VERY soon. I wear a 36F or G, usually a foam molded cup (Le Mystere’) bra. I’m confused as to which pattern would be best for my first go. Do you have suggestions to a pattern that possibly would require less tweaking in the fit? Once I get a few under my belt, then I would be more open to twiddling around more to get what I’m looking for. I’m excited to see what you have coming soon with the foam cup bra. All the offerings posted from the sew-along are gorgeous and exactly the type of bra I would like to eventually end up with. Thanks!

    • Amy
      February 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi Lisa! During the sew-along some women tried the Sewy Rebecca bra and really liked its shaping for larger cups. Bra-makers Supply just released a fabulous pattern called Shelley, which has three seams at the bottom of the cup for shaping. I don’t know which pattern would need less tweaking in the fit–every bra and bust is different and most of us did some tweaking! But I think you might like both of these patterns. Starting with the right underwire makes a big difference–that was the biggest thing we learned in the sew-along–so be sure to buy a few underwire sizes to test out their shape and size.

      • Lisa
        February 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm (3 years ago)

        Thanks! I measured my fav bra’s underwire and ordered a couple sizes that are close to that today. Will be ordering the patterns from Bra Makers Supply so I can get started.

      • Dagmar
        September 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm (2 years ago)

        Thank you! I just wrote a “reply” below without reading the comments above! I will look for the Shelly pattern. But I still want to try making a bra similar to the Nordstrom bra I have, and would love feedback!

    • Dagmar
      September 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm (2 years ago)

      Good luck! I want to make the same size myself!

  17. Niki
    June 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm (2 years ago)

    Has anyone tried any Makebra patterns? I have one lying around that I got a little while ago (#DL01), but haven’t tried it yet.

  18. Mary
    August 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm (2 years ago)

    I need help with finding a bra pattern in my size. I am a 38 DDD and I searched through the websites posted and none of them have patterns for me. I need something easy to follow that includes underwire(can’t live without them). If anyone knows of any please respond ASAP.

    • Amy
      August 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Mary, you might want to check out Bra-makers Supply for their Pin-up Pattern “Shelley”. A 38DDD would be the approximate equivalent of their 38F (the Yellow packet). (They go straight from D to E, etc.) Their Classic bra also uses that size but I think the shaping is better in the Shelley pattern. Hope that helps! Danglez also does this size, although I’m not sure their patterns are still available online.

      • Mary
        September 2, 2013 at 7:43 pm (2 years ago)

        Thank you. I will look into that.

  19. Dagmar
    September 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm (2 years ago)

    There’s a picture I’ve clicked on above, with “bra-making” pasted across it, of a purple and black bra.
    I would like to make some bras that have a longer under-bust area such as I see on this bra, but not necessarily long all the way to the waist (those bras are usually uncomfortably short for my long torso!). Shall I just use the regular underwire pattern above and lengthen the under-bust portion?
    I put on some weight lately and have bloomed into a 36G bra-size! I am resisting suggestions to have reduction surgery, and I’d love to lose weight. But in the meantime, comfortable bras ( meaning bras with mega support and firm construction) are hard to find. I finally found a really sexy! 36G at Nordstrom Rack that fits perfectly, extends 1.5″ below the bust and has six hooks in the back!! I was thinking of trying to duplicate it on my own.
    P.S. Except maybe when teaching school children, I don’t mind at all looking busty! I find “minimizer” styles annoying–what’s there to be ashamed of? I don’t like being flattened and squooshed, and I can’t stand my breasts being slammed together into single-line-creased cleavage. Any ideas? Thanks.

    • Amy
      September 18, 2013 at 2:08 am (2 years ago)

      Hi Dagmar, the purple and black bra was one of my own patterns. It is fairly easy to change the vertical length of bands on any bra pattern to be as short or as wide as you want and I have details on various band alterations in this post. Cloning a bra is a fun experiment. Go for it! (The how-to is outside the scope of my sew-along tutorials but I’ve cloned quite a few bras with great success.)

      re minimizers… I don’t really understand them. In the last decade, bra design has only gotten better for larger-cupped women and there are more & more brands devoted to gorgeous bras that celebrate (lift & separate!) your needs. Cleo & Panache are two of my favorites (having seen and dissected their bras). I think their design & fit blows most department store bras out of the water. Here’s a good rundown in the real leaders in larger bra sizes.

      • Dagmar
        September 18, 2013 at 6:42 am (2 years ago)

        Wow. You’re awesome.
        You’re right about bras getting more busty-friendly in recent years. I resist sharing all my theses (tomes) on the topic; but being super-busty can become a preoccupation for us “full-figure gals.”
        I was big up top in the 70s and smashed into fashion. My size was generally available in white and beige only , except maybe at Fredericks of Hollywood, etc.
        I fit better into fashion when big breasts “appeared” in fashion; for me it was mid-eighties–when Victoria’s Secret started putting ill-fitting bras and “airbrushed” cleavage onto its models. But VS still didn’t sell anything larger than a D in the stores I went to back then!!
        Maybe the popularity of implants also increased bra sizes and styles, a bonus for me. But then from the 90s to the present everything got more padded, even very large sizes–not a bad thing, just not always necessary.
        I definitely will check out Cleo and Panache–thanks! Some of my best-fitting brands have been Wacoal, Goddess and Lunaire; the last two being fairly inexpensive.
        I am really excited about trying to make my own bra–just started sewing–geometry is my favorite math–now I’m enjoying some engineering and construction!! Thank you kindly, Amy.

  20. Claudette Sanders
    February 25, 2014 at 9:35 pm (2 years ago)

    I want to make my bra with more support along t he inside of the bra. My artifical breast keep sliding .forward into the center of my chest. So i need to .place a support piece in the lining of the bra. How can make that piece fit inside my bra.

  21. Fran Graham
    April 18, 2014 at 6:40 pm (1 year ago)

    Does the ion up girls bra pattern come in a PDF at all? The shipping to Australia is too expensive. Also, is it possible to make a pattern off a bra I have? I have so much trouble getting comfortable bras but have the most comfortable one at home :)

    • Amy
      April 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm (1 year ago)

      @Fran, I don’t think it comes as a pdf. You might want to check out my Bra-making Resources. You might find a pattern closer to home. (Booby Traps in AUS has patterns.) It is possible to make patterns from your own bras, underwear, etc. I don’t have a quick answer for how to, but I use a rub-off technique similar to what is described in these books:

      Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit
      Patterns from Finished Clothes

  22. sue
    June 4, 2014 at 5:47 pm (1 year ago)

    Hi, What pattern would you recommend if I do not want the line across the breast? thanks Sue


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