November 28/29, I took a beginner bra making course at Bra Maker’s Supply in Hamilton, ON, Canada. If you ever have an opportunity to take a class there or anywhere with Beverly Johnson, I suggest that you take it!
Beverly Johnson is called the Fairy Bra Mother and she is definitely that. She fits bras so perfectly that you can get a perfect bra on almost the first try, if not the first try. Not only does the class price include the pattern, but it also includes fabric/notions for one bra, a personal fitting and custom pattern by Beverly, as well as an alterations needed after you make your first bra and a wicked pink pen:
Did you know I like the colour pink? Did you!?!
The amazing thing about the workshop are all the sample bras available for us to inspect for various parts of the construction with either the main pattern or other patterns by Beverly through Pin Up Girl patterns. I found it incredibly useful to inspect these and see the pretty variations on the patterns to get fun ideas for future versions.
Our main instructor for the class was Denise. Beverly was available for the fittings and any questions we had along the way.
Denise is a wonderful instructor. She’s very clear in her explanations and was always available for questions or one-on-one coaching, as well as trouble-shooting machine issues and comfort/tea in hand when a machine was deemed broken. Not mine, luckily. My wonderful machine, Jane Eyre, was a trooper and didn’t have an issue with the transportation or the fabrics for the bras. Go Jane Eyre! Reader, I love my machine!
I’m going to take you through the class and tell you about all the wonderful things I learned.
Off the bat, we’re taken into the fitting room one by one to determine alterations to the pattern and try on some mock-ups that have no underwire in them. This allows Bev and Denise to see how the cup fit is and how much to add to the band width.
You will be naked on top during parts of the fitting. Don’t be squeamish about that. It’s just like getting an exam in a doctor’s office. All Beverly and Denise see are what to to with the bra pattern. The pattern used for the class is the Classic Full Band Bra.
They make all sorts of notes on the alterations needed to get the perfect fit.
I had a ton of alterations. Also, as you can see, my size is a 48F. Crazy!
The fittings actually take a while to get through. As soon as you are fitted, you then begin tracing your pattern pieces: Upper cup, lower cup, back band, strap, and front frame. The basic pattern pieces are shown below.
Then Denise and Beverly run around cutting up the tissue that you lovingly traced, slashing out bits and adding in others and making your custom pattern based on the alterations.
This all takes until about noon or 1pm, depending on where you were in the fitting line-up. Cutting out the actual fabric didn’t happen until the afternoon for me and then the sewing began after that.
My alterations for my first bra included cutting my lower cup into two (centre lower cup and armhole side lower cup), extending the back band by one inch (which was later removed after fitting), and all sorts of other things listed on the above page.
As soon as the sewing began, I was in my own world. When at home, this often means my fiance doesn’t get listened to for long periods of time and I forget to eat. Of course, in a class, I have to listen to the instructor and I need to eat for sewing fuel. I was pretty bad about eating during the two-day course.
The seams for the bra have to be a perfect 1/4 inch seam and Denise had a wonderful tip for making sure you stick to the perfect 1/4 inch seam.
Measure 1/4 inch from where your needle hits and stick a chunk of painter’s tape there. It has to be rather thick (cut into the thin painter’s tape while it’s on the roll). Then you are just running your fabric along that to get the right seam. Worked perfectly for me.
The seams also all need to be pressed to the appropriate side (the patterns tells you how to press the seam). Of course, my pattern had the split lower cup, so I had additional steps and pressed the seams slightly differently for the lower cup to make them sit correctly.
The neat pressing blocks they have!
Here are some pictures as I sewed:
The last photo shows how far I got. I did not get very far by the end of the first day.
The second day began and I was the last to arrive (although, first on the first day). We just went straight into sewing and sewed away for the rest of the day with short lessons by Denise throughout.
Check out my cute little corner of the workshop:
I don’t actually have a picture of the bra when I finished sewing. I have a picture of the bra after the final alterations with the fitting.
Everyone’s final fitting was different. Some had very little or nothing at all to change for the next bra. I, however, was not so lucky. I had multiple alterations. I tried on the bra and there were plenty of things to make better. The only issue with bra making is that you can’t fit along the way as you can with other garments. It’s only the complete garment that gives you the full picture. My first bra wasn’t lost. As I write this, I am wearing it. It is not perfect, though. We had to add in darts in the cups and the bridge, as well as shorten the band. Beverly also made changes to my tissue pattern and ensured that I had some extra white fabric to try another bra to check the fit. She also said that I should come in to see if there was anything further that needed to be done. I’ll head back once I make another bra.
Let’s take a look at my first bra:
Those blue dots are from fabric markers. The thread is in a pale pink so that we can rip out stitches, if necessary. And all the bras were in white fabric. You can see the darts in the bottom pictures. The shortened band was simple to change and not have anyone be the wiser. A wider hook and eye piece was added and the ends of the band with the previous hook and eye cut off. My pattern pieces were also altered by Beverly to make the lower cup horizonal rather than diagonal. I’m interested to see how this makes the fit better. Beverly said this type of cup is better for a large bust, as it provides a better shape/support.
Since then, I have added some hot pink ribbons at the centre and at the part where the upper cup and strap meet on both sides, as well as weaved the ribbon in the upper elastic. I haven’t taken a picture of that yet, since I’ve been wearing it pretty consistently since. I will try to take a picture when I show you my next bra.
Upon wearing your first bra, you’ll notice what needs to change. I will be shortening the fabric portions of the strap for the next one, as I find that I wear it on the smallest elastic setting and still find it too long. I will shorten by an inch and adjust the elastic appropriately. I also think the back band should be snugger. I’ve considered shortening that as well, but it could be remedied by doubling the power mesh, as Beverly recommended. My underwires are also not the right size, as they hit me in an awkward spot. I will ask Beverly about that when I go back for another fitting with the next bra and ask for a replacement of the other wires I bought.
It was also my birthday during the course. I celebrated turning 34 appropriately by buying lots of sewing things:
I got a beginner quilter’s kit, which comes with a rotary cutter, square ruler, small cutting mat, chalk pencils, thimbles, pins, and safety pins at Walmart. Yeay, first rotary! I have two more large cutting mats on their way from Joann’s as part of their cyber monday sale. I bought notions, lace, and fabric for two more bras: turquoise and fushia, as well as the notions for my next test bra.
Unfortunately between a long commute to Hamilton and not eating properly for two days, I have been unwell since. I have fibromyalgia (chronic pain and fatigue are the main symptoms among other things), as well as many food sensitivities, which means I wasn’t able to really carry a lot with me without being in horrible pain and didn’t have many options for food while there. The second day I did manage to eat more, but find that any changes in my eating schedule or just my schedule in general tend to set off fibro flare-ups like crazy. I didn’t get home until 8pm and was up at 6am both days. I felt pretty defeated all last week (I cried a lot and stayed off social media for the most part…pain makes for an emotional and reclusive Andie), but did manage to put pdf patterns together towards the end of last week and then cut out a bunch of things on Saturday (although, I regret doing too much of that as I was very sick that evening). I am starting to feel a little less horrible in the fibro department. All of this is to say that it was difficult to find the energy to write this entry until now and I feel like it wasn’t as fresh in my mind, but I am definitely a fan of the class. I will answer anyone’s questions if you feel like there are gaps in my retelling.
I can’t recommend the class more and will definitely be taking more classes there in the future. There is a swimwear class and various others that are right up my ally. Of course, that will all have to be after the wedding! I also purchased the Craftsy class Beverly teaches called “Sewing Bras” during Craftsy’s Black Friday sale. I wanted to make sure I had a back up to reference when my foggy memory failed.
If you’ve ever been afraid of trying out bra making, but always wanted to, take the plunge. Seriously, the actual sewing is relatively simple and fitting can be worked out over several test bras. As long as you go into bra making with the understanding that your first bra will likely not be perfect, you will be okay. Beverly says, if you can set a sleeve, you can make a bra. That statement is very true.
Have you ever thought of making a bra?