Today I want to talk a little bit about selecting fabrics for the Watson and I’ll share a few examples from my own projects.
I know that shopping for lingerie fabrics and bra-making supplies the first time around can be a little bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Bras in particular use a few materials that you may not ordinarily use in other garments, but these aren’t difficult to find. Little amounts also go a long way, which brings me to a few suggestions as you go shopping:
- Stash. Once you make a bra or two, there’s a really good chance you’ll have extra lining and elastic which make gathering materials for the next project much easier. Stashing linings and a few elastics for lingerie is just as useful as stashing zippers, thread and interfacing for other garments.
- Neutral colors are your friend. Shop for neutral-colored elastics, hardware and linings and mix them into your sets. Neutrals can be black, gray, nude-ish colors, or even white. These colors are also easier to find. A nude lining or powernet works underneath most fabrics. I use nude mesh and linings for many bras that have bright colors as their main fabrics.
- Mix and match. I like to think about the elastics and the hook & eye as accents. Instead of trying to get all matchy-matchy, I save myself the frustration of finding matching hardware and buy (or dye) the elastics in bright colors that might accent or contrast with my main fabrics.
- Dye. This is my personal tactic in making lingerie: I buy all my elastics and lining materials in white and in enough yardage for several bras and then I dye them before a project. Obviously that adds an extra step, but I have gotten fast at this step and have a stash of dye colors, so this is easier for me.
However you gather your materials, online shopping is the way to go, particularly with hardware and elastics. I include my favorite sources in this post and have also curated a list of supplies for the Watson on Etsy.
For even more ideas, I publish a very big list of bra and lingerie making resources.
The best fabrics for the bra cups are going to be a 4-way stretch lycra knit or stretch mesh. These fabrics tend to have quick and perfect recovery, which means they don’t loosen up or relax with wear. Some terms you might want to look for in lycra fabrics: 4-way spandex, lingerie lycra, milliskin (which comes in matte or shiny/satin), tricot lycra, satin lycra, or even swimsuit lycra.
Although I recommended 75% stretch, stores don’t often list the stretch percent of fabrics. I wouldn’t worry too much about getting this exact stretch. Several of my test fabrics had less stretch than that. A good general rule of thumb: if it is a knit, has at least 15% spandex, is sold as a swim, dance or lingerie fabric with 4-way stretch, then it’s got potential.
Here are two sets I made from lycra and stretch mesh. For the bands on both, I doubled the stretch mesh. Doubling a lighter stretch mesh is a great alternative to a firmer powernet.
On this bra I used stretch lace and a firmer powernet for the band. The bikini is made from stretch mesh.
If you want to use stretch lace, look for some with spandex content. Without the spandex, the lace won’t be supportive enough or it will “grow” in wearing.
It’s also possible to use natural fiber knits on the bra and bikini. A medium weight cotton/spandex jersey will probably be your best bet, since cotton tends to have a firmer fit. One of my favorite early makes of this pattern was a cotton knit Watson (which I snuck onto the blog over a year ago!). I still wear that bra a lot.
This is a version I made from a Tencel/spandex jersey as an experiment:
Tencel is a rayon and like all rayon jerseys this was a very drapey fabric that doesn’t have a lot of support. It also tends to lose its shape after awhile. This set turned out much bigger than others in the same size, so if making either the bra or bikini out of a rayon-type jersey, consider going down a size or taking in the cup seam.
Although I recommended powernet for the band, it is just a suggestion. And it isn’t always easy to find a matching color of powernet. If you want to use the same fabric on your band that you are using in your cups, you’ll need to reduce the stretch by doubling it as I did in some of the above samples or shortening your band piece.
While we’re talking about band fabrics, you might be wondering about those terms like stretch mesh, powernet, powermesh… what’s the difference?
Net and mesh are interchangeable terms for a fabric that that is knitted with an open hexagonal structure. Here’s a firm powernet on the left and a lightweight stretch mesh on the right:
Stretch nets and meshes come in all sorts of weights and “feel”. They can be very sheer, lightweight and drapey, or very tightly knit and firm in their stretch. The term powernet usually refers to a stronger weight, firm stretch mesh that’s good for bra bands. Usually the description will give you a hint as to how strong it is.
For the bra, you want to look for 3 different types of elastics:
- a plush back elastic for the hem
- a plush-back lingerie elastic for the top of the band and the neckline
- a strap elastic
Here’s a close-up of what a plush-backed elastic looks like:
The bikini just needs your favorite lingerie elastic. It could be the same elastic you use to finish your neckline if you want to match!
Shopping for Fabrics
These are just a few options and ideas for your main fabrics:
Top Row: Lace Print lycra from Harts Fabric, Stretch Mesh from Spandex House, Taupe Dot on Black lycra from Girl Charlee. Bottom Row: lingerie stretch lace from Etsy’s MarynotMartha, Rainbow Stretch lycra from Tessuti, Lingerie Stretch fabric from Sewing Chest UK
Shopping for Notions & Linings
For linings: My favorite bra lining that I use for all bras is the sheer cup lining from Bra-makers Supply. It’s sheer but firm. You can also substitute 15 denier tricot or 40 denier tricot fabrics. These are very common and easy to find nylon lining fabrics (google them!), but keep in mind 15 denier is very lightweight. Alternatively, you may fuse a tricot knit interfacing. Any kind of fusible interfacing that works with knits and has a direction that doesn’t stretch is a good candidate.
That’s it for today. I hope this guide has been useful and helps you understand how to choose your Watson materials. Happy hunting!