Over the last year I’ve gotten many great emails with all sorts of questions about bra and lingerie making. Some readers have asked about techniques, and others about patterns and fitting. I love getting these kinds of emails and if I don’t know the answer, I hunt for it. So I thought it was about time I started to dedicate some regular posts to your questions.
Your #1 question, by leaps and bounds: Where do you find your bra and lingerie fabrics? To which I often reply, all over the place! There are some tips in this post of the Bra-making Sew Along, and I often include my sources at the bottom of my sewing projects, but I have never centralized it all in one place. So today I published a new page on my site to make your research a bit easier.
Click above to visit the new page! For the rest of today’s post I’ll share a few shopping tips along with some of my personal favorites.
Where Do I Start?
If you are brand new to bra-making, I highly recommend starting out with a bra-making kit. You may not like the colors or the fabrics in a particular kit, but it’s a very good way to get used to all the little tidbits you need, especially while you experiment with construction and fitting. After a bra or two you will get a feel for the fabrics and notions you prefer and need. On the supplies page, I noted all the stores which sell bra-making kits. Some of these kits are specifically designed for making a company’s particular patterns. I’m able to use most of a kit in my own self-drafted bras and what I don’t like I stash away for “bra muslins”.
Annnd, because I’m a rather small size, I’m often able to get two or even three bras out of one kit.
My Personal Favorites For Basics
I buy most of my basic bra supplies from Fabric Depot Co. in Texas and Merckwaerdigh in Netherlands. I stash several basics in white and dye them. This practice works for me because I love to dye and I’m a bit of a perfectionist with color!
From Fabric Depot Co.: strap elastic, plush band elastic, tricot linings, medium weight powernet for firmer bands. All of these things are top quality but in limited colors. Most of her elastics are nylon-based and not polyester so I am able to dye them. For strong, supportive bra cups, I buy the “opaque stabilized tricot”. This is very much like the Duoplex that Bra-makers Supply uses in their kits, and it takes nylon dye beautifully!
From Merckwaerdigh: hook & eyes, neckline elastic (for the stabilizing the top of a lace cup), underwire channeling. I love her channeling. She sells a ton of colors of these products but I usually buy white!
Underwires: I buy my personal bra wires from Sew Sassy, as I like their wider shape. For larger cup bras, my favorites come from Sewing Chest UK. Most of their wires are very firm gauge steel, which means they hold their shape well, and come in a great range of shapes and lengths.
Laces: I’ve turned into a bonafide lace huntress. These days I trawl Etsy and Ebay for both stretch laces and non-stretch “tulle” laces for for more supportive cups. On my resources page I mentioned some of my favorite shops and some search tips.
Gold and silver hardware: Sewing Chest UK and Bra-makers Supply. As some of you have discovered, dyeing the nylon-coated rings and sliders isn’t the easiest thing in the world–some dye colors take to them better than others. While you can find pre-colored nylon rings, I just pass in favor of silver and gold. They are a bit more expensive but such a lovely extra touch on a bra. Clear plastic is always a neutral option but I just don’t like plastic. I also rescue the hardware from old bras.
It never hurts to ask: Many of the shops that specialize in bra, lingerie or corsetmaking are one-woman run businesses. And they often have product in their inventory that they don’t list online or in their catalogs. If you are having trouble finding something close to your favorite underwire, or want a different color of something, or more or less of a certain fabric, call or email them. I have found some great products this way, and all of the women behind these shops are super friendly.
Swatches are My Best Friends
When I was first learning about bra fabrics, I collected swatches. This was a great way to get a feel for a fabric before committing to yardage. I recommend swatches before purchasing just about any type of tricot or powernet/stretch mesh. The quality, weight, stretch and drape of these fabrics vary wildly, and oh, how I wish sellers would include gram or ounce weights in their descriptions. (Hint, hint–I know you’re reading!)
But I’d love to help you navigate. I look forward to doing just that in an upcoming series of posts that will help demystify lingerie fabrics. Next week, I’m going to talk foam, foam, foam.
Is there a fabric or notion you have had trouble finding? Or is there a fabric in one of your favorite store bras you wish you could find?