Anne’s adventures in bra drafting: from zero bra to hero bra
I am happy to share this guest blog post from Anne Bertha and her adventures in drafting. – Jennifer
My bra making adventure started in June last year. I am a large cup size: the last bras I bought are a European 90H but are still too small in the cup. I read that in a well-fitting bra, the wires should lie flat against your chest. Well, I haven’t had that in years. More like over a decade, actually. And I’m 33… I don’t have to tell you I didn’t know how a bra should fit at all.
I started by replicating the fit I had in store-bought bras using patterns. It was ok, but I kept searching for a way to get those damn wires against my chest. After making multiple sizes of a pattern and still not feeling happy with the fit I achieved, I almost threw the towel in the ring.
That’s the point where I heard about Jennifer’s book! Somebody on Facebook recommended her wide vertical flat wires for me, and from the moment they arrived, I became a huge fan of hers. I instantly bought the book when it came out, and started reading. The larger sized patterns weren’t ready yet, so I had two options: wait for them or draft one myself. Because I’m a slightly impatient person *ahem*, and also because I believed I could as well draft completely after my measurements since I’ve had no success with other patterns, I started the drafting chapter.
It was an early morning when I started drafting after Jennifer’s book, and by 7:30 AM I had the front and back band done. And then the cup drafting started… I made mistakes. A lot of them. Being a newbie to pattern drafting, I didn’t understand what the book was trying to tell me in some steps. That also had to do with my over-excitement and not trying to read and understand properly, I admit.
The first trial bra I made out of calico was from a draft that was wrong in a lot of places, but I kept on adjusting it until I had a reasonable fit. That process taught me a lot. It taught me different types of common adjustments, how curves affect the fit of a bra, what you can do to fix particular fit issues, … I ended up taking my fabric scissors and cutting my cups up a lot to see where I needed more room.
After sewing a bunch of trial cups, I was happy with the fit. I moved on to the sloper, but kept on needing a lot of adjustments. And then I found out I misread some of the steps in the book. Because all of the steps are kind of necessary, not doing a step right has quite an impact your draft. In my head, there was also this little voice that kept saying: “This book has a logical mathematical approach, and it doesn’t work that well for you, you must be doing something wrong!”
So I started over. And oh my god, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I tried on my first newly drafted cups in my tester frame. The fit is almost spot on, I only needed to remove some room around the apex. I pinched that out, pinned, and transferred it to the pattern. It’s like everything came together. Beneath you can see the difference between my first heavily adjusted draft, and the second draft with all errors eliminated. I made a draft for each cup since they are substantially different.
This was the best result I could get with tweaking a ready made pattern. This is, I think, the fifth size I made, and the best overall fit I was able to achieve in my first year of bra-making.
This is my first (wrong) draft after a ton of adjustments:
This is my first draft done correctly:
What stands out to me, is that in the last draft, the horizontal seam is… Well, horizontal! My next step is to work on the new sloper, and make a bra from that which will fit me almost perfectly and is a style that I like in a fabric I like.
I’d recommend anybody who wants to draft their own bra with Jennifer’s method to become a member of the Facebook group ‘Fans of Bare Essentials’. It’s a group dedicated to Jennifer’s method of drafting. If you become a member and get stuck on a step, you can ask for help. You then hopefully won’t end up making a lot of mistakes as I did.
However, if you do make mistakes, don’t beat yourself up. It’s a learning curve, and from doing wrong you learn just as much or even more than from doing everything right. Of course it’s always more fun if you get advice, explanation where needed, and encouragement. That is what the group tries to provide.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my drafting journey. It took me meters of calico, weeks of my sewing time turned into drafting time, but it feels so good to have fathomed a drafting system that works for me. I seriously feel like I’ve learned twice as much in the last month compared to the previous year.
I’ve become a true bra-liever. I didn’t think comfortable, well-fitting bras were made for me, and now I realise I can make them myself.
Anne started sewing just over four years ago, and is completely self-taught except for a few workshops here and there. She remembers her first weeks behind the sewing machine vividly because she always forgot to put the presser foot down. She started with sewing her own clothes, moved on to bags and now finally also bras. Being a physicist and loving mathematics, she found a new exciting challenge in pattern drafting.