Three ways to work with classic knit fabrics in bramaking

When I started bramaking back in 2018 (wow, that’s a long time actually) I did not know about the different properties of the various fabrics I am using today.

As you might guess, I went about it all wrong. I did not have as much access to bra knowledge back then (even though Emerald Erin was definitely around). I did not know that every type of fabric suitable for bramaking will still have different properties and behave differently which in turn will affect the fit.

Instead of adjusting my patterns for each bra I stuck to a very simple principle: I always make the same bra!

What? Well yes, every bra I make, has a base layer that (almost) never changes: Powernet (in consistent quality and stretch/recovery) and sheer cup lining (stable). With a consistent base layer you can basically use any material on top.

That said, if the material on top is very stretchy (like basic knit fabrics for everyday wear) you will – most likely – get a wrinkly bra when wearing it. This happens because the base layer is stable enough to hold its shape when worn but the knit is not. Depending on how stretchy your fabric is, the wrinkles might be neglectable but if you work with a thin and flowy bamboo jersey you will need to make adjustments to your top layer. Bonus: With a knit you can even cover the back pieces and make bra completely out of the same fabric. Mind you, the bra will still fit you perfectly because of the stable base layer but the wrinkles might show through clothing.

I have experimented with three different methods to cover my bra with knit fabric: the Make Bra method, the Brabuilder’s method and the AnnieandMyra’s method.

The Make Bra method (the “Poppy Fields” bra)

The way I usually deal with stretch fabrics, is to drape them over a cut and sew foam base. I make sure that my cut and sew foam is stable (because again, it might affect the fit). Also, you need to remove the seam-allowances on the cup-seams.

Cut your cut and sew foam on a single layer. I use a rotary cutter but you can also draw on the foam with a pen and then cut the pieces out with your scissors.
Butt the edges together and sew the pieces with a zigzag.
These are the finished cups.
Then sew the cups with a straight stitch or a narrow zigzag. I you’re using a straight stitch I recommend using a walking foot.

If you don’t have a lot of projection, you might get away with just draping the fabric over the cup without a cup seam and without having the cups collapse or the fabric’s pattern distorting.

I topstitch the seams with a zigzag. Most patterns will tell you to use two lines of straight stitches. I prefer the zigzag because it gives me a flatter result with knits.
Then I drape the fabric cup onto the cut and sew base. It is important to slightly pull on the fabric when you do this. You can stretch until you experience fabric distortions or cup collapse.
This is what it looks like on the inside. You can see that I have about 1cm (3/8″) of excess all around. Baste and cut off the excess.
I usually finish the edges of a cut and sew foam bra with with FOE.
The bra pattern I used, asks for a knit backing of the frame so I just used powernet as a base for the whole bra. Both layers have stretch so there was no need to stretch or adjust the top layer.

Result: No wrinkles anywhere on the bra, fit is excellent. This is the Brabuilder’s May kit. You can read more about it here.

Pros and cons of this method:

+ easy 

+ quick

– cut and sew foam might feel very hot and bulky for some people or in some wheather.

Brabuilder’s method (the “Midnight Bloom” bra)

If you enjoy the weekly and now monthly Insta-Live’s from Sue you know that with her bamboo jersey she recommends scaling down the pattern pieces for the top layer. So, I took this tip and copied my pattern pieces of the Black Beauty Bra with a scale of 95%.

If you can use your pattern pieces without adjustments you can just print them at 95% but I have had to heavily adjust the Black Beauty to work for me. I have laid the 95% pieces on top.
Cut your fabric with the 95% pieces and your sheer cup lining with the regular 100% pieces.
Barely visible, but the sheer cup lining is at the bottom and the smaller fabric piece is on top.
Now, it’s time for pinning. You need to stretch the fabric piece over the sheer cup lining and match the seams exactly.
I basted the whole piece with a straight stitch but you can just as well use a narrow zigzag. Make sure you stay inside the seam allowance. You can see that the bamboo has recovered and made the lining “balloon”. This is what we want.

You need to do this with every pattern piece before starting to construct your bra. Next, you can just sew your bra as usual.

Here is an inside view of the bra. You can see that when the bra is not worn there are wrinkles on the inside. That’s just the bamboo’s recovery. Also, please excuse the mismatched threads – it was a tester.
No wrinkles!
No wrinkles! Not even on the frame, which is always tricky.
I love how this looks and I used up some stuff on my stash (bonuuuuuus!)

Pros and cons of this method:

+ very lightweight and breezy bra

+ comfortable

– takes a lot of time to baste

– will probably not work for fabrics that only stretch one way, because of the “all-over” scaling of the pattern pieces

The AnnieandMyras method (the “Botanical” bra)

If you’re into bramaking you must know about Jennie from AnnieandMyras. She shares all her knowledge with the bra sewing community on her Instagram account. One of her Insta highlights is working with spacer foam. Spacer foam is stretchy and thinner than cut and sew foam. So Jennie recommends a stable middle layer or stable underlining of the knit top fabric. Jennie used a bamboo jersey from Brabuilders but I did not have any bamboo jersey left so I used a cotton jersey instead. My fabric was not as slippery as the bamboo and not as stretchy.

Jennie’s method consists of basting the knit onto the sheer cuplining with the help of her iron. Since Jennie puts so much effort into her channel I will not copy her content but urge you to go check it out yourself.

Some wrinkles but not that noticable.
Some wrinkles along the frame but with just the iron I was not able to stretch the fabric as much as needed. Might be the difference between bamboo and cotton…
This is my result. I used the Jessica Bra by BWear.
Isides. Look wrinkly because the spacer foam is stretchy but when worn it’s the softest bra out of the three I made.

Pros and cons of this method:

+ Spacer foam is soooo soft

+ Quicker than method 2

– Still some wrinkles. But might be my mistake.

Some additional notes

I have seen Madeleine Van der Werwe in a documentary (min 17:00, in German) using a method of pinning each and every piece onto styrofoam first and then stretching the top layer (cut out in the same size as base) onto it. This will probably work best as it will take the individual stretch of each and every fabric into account. I have not tried this method yet but I certainly will.

Phew, this has been a lenghty one but I hope, it helps!

By the way – of course I made some matching undies!

Materials I used:

  • Poppy fields: Brabuilder’s bamboo jersey with findings kit in color She-Shed. FOE from local seller. Wire will be 48 vertical long by Porcelynne
  • Midnight Bloom: Bamboo jersey, powernet and sheer cuplining from Brabuilder’s, channeling, rings and sliders (15mm), hook and eyes, and strap elastic from BWear, 48 short vertical wire by Porcelynne, FOE from local seller.
  • Botanical: cotton jersey, strap elastic, piping elastic, rings and sliders (12mm), channeling and hook and eyes from BWear, spacer foam and powernet from Brabuilders. Band elastic from local seller.

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meet the author

Hi! My name is Nadine and I’ve been sewing my own clothes since 2017. I love making underwear – especially bras. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, cooking and reading!

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