2018 Bra Challenge

At the end of 2017, sew-alongs started popping up like daisies all over the message boards at Pattern Review. A dress a month, the 50 yard dash (sew 50 yards of fabric in 2018), and the Burda Challenge are just a few examples. Everyone’s enthusiasm as they plotted out sewing plans for the new year was infectious, so pretty soon I was proposing my own challenge: a lingerie sew along where I will attempt to make 12 bras in 12 months!

Above are some of the patterns I’m considering trying:

  1. The newly released Hanna Bralette from Studio Costura
  2. Simplicity 8228 by Madalynne
  3. The Sierra Bra by Madalynne (a pattern that was free but now seems to have disappeared from her site; luckily, I downloaded it long ago) – The pretty black version in the photo collage above is by Lille Linemore on Kollabora.
  4. The Marlborough Bra by Orange Lingerie
  5. Cloth Habit’s Watson Bra is the pattern that first inspired me to sew my own bras. This sheer version is by Oonaballoona.
  6. The Harriet Bra by Cloth Habit
  7. The Fenway Bra by Orange Lingerie – This amazing version is Made By Toya‘s and is embroidered by hand.
  8. The Romy Bralette by Ohhhlulu
  9. Merckwaerdigh’s Mix 30 Bra – This version is by Sewaholic (sigh, how I miss her).

A few other Pattern Reviewers have joined my sew along thread with challenges of their own, because not everyone needs 12 new bras but they have other lingerie projects to tackle. Twelve bras in 12 months might seem a little excessive, but I’ve been making do with just one bra that fits ever since I finished breast feeding. I wanted to lie and tell you I had two. But it’s one. I’m cringing just admitting it. So needless to say, I could use some other options. Also, I have to say that while sewing bras presents many challenges and a somewhat steep learning curve, it is REALLY satisfying. When you finish sewing a bra, you just can’t help but feel smug, even if it doesn’t turn out perfect.

Since it is already almost March (ahhhhh!) here’s a quick recap of my January project:

Watson bra and briefs

This is the Watson Bra and Bikini set from Cloth Habit. As I mentioned, this is the pattern that first inspired me to sew lingerie. Some understanding family member (Susanne?) bought this pattern for me back when it was first released in 2014. That winter, I had to take a work trip to Peoria, IL (glamorous!), so I packed up my sewing machine and other necessary supplies and sewed my first Watson in my hotel room during the evenings. I sewed two more not long after that and loved them a lot but outgrew them when I got pregnant.

So when I decided to do this 12 bras/12 months challenge, I thought starting out with my old (and only) standby bra pattern was the way to go. Amy of Cloth Habit has a very detailed tutorial for this bra on her blog, which makes it very beginner friendly. I followed her instructions for selecting my size, and the only fitting alteration I made was reducing the cup volume by making the cup seam curve less pronounced. (There are instructions for this on Amy’s blog post about alterations.) I think this is going to be a standard bra adjustment for me.

My Watson bra

I used a stretch nylon lace for the outer. The cups are lined in stretch mesh, and the cradle and band are lined in power mesh. The briefs are stretch mesh. I’m still learning what materials are appropriate for bras, but my general understanding is that your back band must be supportive but stretchy, your frame/cradle needs to be firm and should have minimal stretch or no stretch, and the cups can be stretchy or not, depending on how much support and shaping you want from them. Cloth Habit’s post on bra anatomy is a really helpful guide to bra terminology and appropriate fabrics if you are a beginner to bra sewing.

Watson bra – inside and back clasp

As you can see in my photos, the insides of this bra are a little messy, but this doesn’t bother me at all. I know others take extra pains to make their bras pretty on the inside, and I do care about this for other clothes I sew – just not undergarments. Not yet anyway.

I have to give a shout out to Meg and her bra review that pointed out to me that Watson doesn’t have any support directly under the cups. There’s a seam there, but no elastic to actually hold anything in place. So I went ahead and sort of haphazardly sewed some elastic onto the seam allowances of the cups. It was a bit of hack job, but noticeably improved the comfort of this bra over my earlier versions. I don’t have to repeatedly tug the band back down into place on this one. If I do this again, I’ll try to improve my method and take some process photos to share.


My other big takeaway from making this set is that when adding elastic to the leg holes on a pair of underwear, you really don’t need to stretch it much (if at all) around the top of the hip curve. I stretched this elastic way too much as I sewed it, and now it adds extra bumps to my silhouette that I could do without. Next time I may also take some width out of the back band, because right now it fits on the tightest hook. Bra makers tend to recommend fitting your bra so that it fits on the loosest hook when it’s new, so that as your elastics stretch out over time you can tighten things up.

Despite some minor imperfections, I very happy with this set. I’ve been wearing the bra a LOT. Not surprising, since it’s now one of two bras in my arsenal! Next up I have a muslin of my first underwire bra to share, but I’ll save that for another post.

If you’d like some solidarity in sewing your own lingerie this year, I hope you’ll check out our discussion over on Pattern Review and share your own makes. There are some lingerie gurus there just waiting to give their excellent advice. Also, I’ll tag my makes and struggles on Instagram using #lingeriesewalong, and I hope you will too.

Ta ta for now! (Haha! Get it? Couldn’t resist.)


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