Tutorial: Cloning a bra

Hi, Sewcialists! My name is Andie and I blog over at Sew Pretty in Pink.

Back in November, I took Beverly Johnson’s beginner bra making course at Bra Maker’s Supply in Hamilton, ON. I was very lucky to learn how to make a bra from the Fairy Bra Mother herself. In the course, Beverly fits you and the instructors and her do any necessary alterations to the pattern. We used the Classic Bra pattern from Pin up Girls. By the end of the course, I had an okay fitting bra, but not a great fitting bra. I had a lot of alterations ahead.

My main reason for taking the class was to be able to make cheaper bras in better fabrics and a wider range of colours. My 40HH size often meant my bras were around $100 each and only available in black, white or beige. Customs charges, exchanges rates, and shipping fees to Canada made the cost of shopping online unrealistic even with decent sales. I am lucky, however, to have a well-fitted bras even though they are in boring colours. Because I knew what a nice fit in a bra felt like, I didn’t want to spend the time tweaking the Classic Bra to my size and taste. I wanted to take my well-fitted bras and clone them.

Bev has a tutorial on one method of cloning using freezer paper. I followed the traditional method. This does mean taking the wire out of your bra, though. You can put it back in but you may want to choose an older bra that you are ready to retire.

You need some knowledge of sewing a bra in order to use your cloned pattern. I had only sewn one bra before cloning my own bra. So it is possible to do this at a very beginner stage. Please note the tutorial is just for creating a pattern. Not for sewing a bra. If this is your first time sewing a bra, I suggest Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr to help you understand not only how to sew a bra but also how to alter the fit. I used this book to help me alter the fit of my pattern pieces. It helps you understand the fit issues and the pattern pieces you need to change based on the fit issues.

I am not an expert in bra making, but found this method really worked for me.

Before you start, try the bra on and note any fitting issues so that you can do some flat pattern adjustments. Also, check the stretch direction and note the stretch percentage in the fabrics. Note where the elastic is pulled and try to determine how much it is pulled by. You can do this by pulled the material flat and checking the difference in the length. This information will help you sew the bra later. I’m not going to be going over fit issues or sewing in this tutorial. Just the basics of cloning a bra.

Time to gather your supplies:

  1. You will need either a piece of foam core board or a cardboard box flattened out and made into a piece big enough to pin your bra to. I used a cardboard box, because it was what I had on hand. You can also use cork board or anything that you can stick pins into without ruining the pins.
  2. You needs pins. I recommend pins with either a pearl head or something on the end. Not flat top pins, because you will get sore finger tips with those. I used them the first time I cloned my bra. Ouch!
  3. You need paper or tissue paper. I chose paper this time so that I can show you more clearly how the pattern piece looks and how to add in seam allowances.
  4. You need pencils and rulers. A regular ruler and a french curve are good for the project. You can do it without the french curve, but it does make it easier.
  5. And, of course, you need a well-fitted bra.

Step One:

Take the wires out of your bra. You can do this by making a small hole at the end of the channeling and working your wire out of the channeling.

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Having the wire out will also make it easier to order your wire later. You can use the charts on bra supply websites and match them directly to your bra wire.

Step two:

Lay your paper over top of your cardboard and make sure you have a piece big enough for your pattern.

Step three:

Start pinning.

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You pin at the stitching line. You will be adding in seam allowances later. Just make sure to not pin on the top stitching line. In the picture below, you can see the line of stitching to the left of the pins. That line is the top stitching. If you pinned along there, you would have to add in even more Β once you take the pins out.

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Be sure to get your fabric flat. In the below picture, you see I stretched the elastic under the arm out so the fabric laid flat on the paper. This is probably the more difficult part of this, because the pins will want to pop out. Make sure you really secure them in your cardboard.

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All your pin holes will connect together to become your pattern pieces. Be sure to stick them into the corners and get them pretty close together.

Step four:

Connect the dots.

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The most difficult thing to photograph are teeny little pinholes. You can sort of see above the little dots that are below the french curve. Using the french curve or freehanding, you will connect the dots. If you are freehanding, I suggest more pins and make them closer together to get an accurate pattern piece.

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Here is the pattern piece once the dots have all been connected.

Step Five:

Add in seam allowances.

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Bras have a standard 1/4 inch seam allowance. I added in seam allowances by marking a 1/4 inch on my ruler and then making dots and connecting them again. You can use any method you like for adding in the seam allowances.

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Step six:

Repeat for all your pattern pieces.

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Band piece

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Upper cup

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Lower centre cup

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Lower outer cup

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Bridge piece

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My cloned pieces with several pattern adjustments

Your bra may not have all of these pattern pieces or they may look completely different from mine.

Step seven:

Note the stretch direction on the pattern pieces and name/date the pieces. When you make pattern adjustments, I suggest tracing and dating the new piece again so that you aren’t just constantly altering the same piece over and over. It will fall apart that way. You can toss out the other piece, but I suggest keeping them until you’ve tested the fit on the new bra. You might want to go back to the previous alterations and use those instead of the new ones.

Finished….Sort of…

You don’t really get away with not having alterations and muslins with this method. You still might have fitting issues for a few different reasons:

– The bra itself was not a perfect fit

– The fabrics you are using are different

– Errors in the cloning process

– The position of the sun (joking!) and many more

Bra fitting is a difficult process and gets all the more difficult the large size you are. Sewing the bra is a breeze in comparison! Very minor differences can lead to very odd fitting issues in larger sizes and you can’t really check the fit until the bra is done. If you have a smaller size, this can be true as well due to different size breasts or the shape of your breasts. Don’t get discouraged that you will still be tweaking the fit as you go. The point for me was to get a little bit closer to having my style of bra and for a cheaper price than I was used to for my size. I’ve gotten that and, with each bra, I get closer and closer to the perfect fit.

Here are the three bras that I’ve created with my cloned pattern, including my largely failed first bra:

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Top beige one I created for my wedding day, centre one was my second cloned bra, and the bottom one was my first using the cloned pattern. I’ve now made four bras in total including the Classic Bra. My best fit so far is the top, but it will only get better from here.

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34 thoughts on “Tutorial: Cloning a bra

  1. Pingback: Tutorial on Sewcialists blog! | Sew Pretty in Pink

  2. gilliancrafts says:

    Thanks again for this post – I lost a bit of momentum after coming home from the bra course, because somehow my brain started wanting PERFECT FIT right away. Thank you for the push to get going again!

    • I totally understand that! I didn’t make another bra for months after my class, because the fitting hurdles were too much. Now I feel inspired and ready to take on anything since I made this cloned pattern. πŸ™‚ Honestly, fitting is the most difficult part of bra making. I’m glad to help push you to get going again. πŸ™‚

  3. Great tutorial, Andie! My first bra was a clone, and I think back and wonder how I did it. I didn’t know anything. It goes to show, just what you said, it’s not that hard.

  4. Fantastic post! I haven’t done any cloning myself – since all of my RTW bras are molded foam cup bras- but it’s a great technique and you did a great job on the tutorial!

  5. What a great post Andie! I’ve loved seeing all of your bras. They’re so pretty, and I’ve enjoyed seeing their names! Cloning a bra makes so much more sense to me than trying to figure out tweaking a base pattern…I mean, it’s already closer to fitting. Pregnancy has shifted everything around for me, but I do have a couple of bras that the band is perfect on me, even if the cup needs refining. I reckon I could pin out what I don’t need just like you would on any other muslin before I attempted to clone it. Do you think that would work?

    • Thanks so much, Elizabeth! πŸ™‚

      I would still clone the bra normally, but make the alterations in the flat pattern. Pin the excess out like a dart and take a wedge out of the centre of the pattern pieces. I can show you how to do this once you are ready for that stage. πŸ™‚ You might need to do a couple more muslins for this to get the fit right.

  6. Pingback: Lingerie Month Round-Up! | Sewcialists

  7. Anna says:

    wondering…if the bra MUST be stretched to make the pattern…what if the fabric chosen is a different stretch? would it not make more sense to clone the pattern with NO stretch? Just wondering, before I take my ONLY good bra apart…

    • Hi Anna,

      You can clone a bra no matter the fabrics used. Using like fabrics in your clone is recommended, but if you choose to switch up fabrics in terms of stretch keep in mind that you may need to adjust your pattern for that and make pieces smaller for more stretchy fabrics or bigger for less stretchy fabrics. All fabrics have a degree of mechanical give no matter the type. So even if you aren’t using a stretchy material, your fabric will have a slight stretch that might be larger in one direction than the next. In garment sewing, that mechanical give doesn’t matter much, but in bramaking it’s very important and slight changes can cause major changes in fit. That’s why I say to note the stretch percentage, even if the mechanical give is only 5%. I hope that helps.

      Also: You don’t need to “ruin” a bra to make this, though! Make a small opening to take out the wires and then you can close it up with some interfacing and a small piece of fabric on the inside of the bra.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!! πŸ™‚
      Andie

  8. Chris says:

    Thank you, great way to clone the pattern. I have a perfect fit bra and its always out of stock or in the wrong colour. Thanks to your tutorial, I will replicate it. Really appreciated. Kind regards.

  9. Dee says:

    I’m glad I’ve come across your post. I am going through a time getting a perfect fit & I’ve made 4-5 bras already. With each one though, it gets better. I’ve been using the Pin Up Girl classic pattern so far. I’ve purchased the Shelley, but haven’t tried it yet. The bra you cloned is exactly like a couple of rtw bras I have, so I may have to try the cloning route as well. I also have the very full, round shape breasts & think that cloning, or at least the Shelley pattern should work since it’s made close to the style of my rtw bra.

    • Dee says:

      Thanks for replying. The bra you cloned, I have the exact same one in gray color, lol. It’s really a nice bra, but the wires are thicker & I’ve noticed it has a horizontal cross cup seam, compared to the diagonal seam & thinner wires for pin up girls. I like the thinner wire though, it doesn’t bug me too much. I’m going to start the cloning process this week. It will be refreshing to finally have a bra that’s really close to that perfect fit. During the cloning process, what did you do about the straps? The straps are slightly different from the material/shape used in pin up girls.

      • Your RTW bra sounds lovely. πŸ™‚ I find the wires I get from Bra Maker’s Supply to be pretty firm. I think their thickness is just slightly under the thickness of my RTW bras.

        I actually changed my straps from the RTW version to something more like the classic bra. I used a fabric strap with an adjustable portion in strap elastic on the back. It’s thinner than the classic, bra, though, but I used the pattern piece from that and just narrowed it. I don’t like super wide straps.

      • Dee says:

        Andie, if you don’t mind my asking, what type of wires did you use for your bra? I had been using the WL 58-60 from sweet cups supply. When I took the wires from my rtw bra, they are the vertical kind. If you use the wires from sweet cups or bra maker, do they work for you?

      • Dee says:

        I am so nervous. I have my pieces cut out from cloning my rtw. I added my 1/4 seam allowance, but ended up adding some more when I compared it to the pattern pieces from the bra maker’s classic pattern. I almost forgot I have to allow room for attaching & turning elastics & to add the channeling, etc. I also had to add a little to the bridge & take a little off the back band where they meet under the cup because there wasn’t enough room on the powernet to cur out the back band. I’m sort of glad I’m doing it this way. I was spoiled by the other patterns being already prepared for me, lol. This way helps me to see the bigger picture. I’m going to go ahead & start putting it together this week & see how it turns out.

      • That’s so exciting, Dee! It helped me to refer to my BMS Classic bra pattern with the instructions and where to add seam allowances. πŸ™‚

      • Dee says:

        Good Morning Ms. Andie,

        I just wanted to give you an update on my current bra project. I’ll have to go back to the drawing board on it because it’s too small, lol. I didn’t finish it all the way yet but I compared it to the bra I cloned it from & for some reason it’s not the same size. I don’t know where I went wrong, but I’ll have to figure it out. I am a little frustrated because I thought for sure it would be a near perfect fit. I may have to go ahead take apart the whole bra I’m using for a clone.

      • Dee says:

        It’s ok, I’m not going to stop until I get it right. I think I figured out what happened too. I broke out my tape measure & was off it seems by a couple of inches when I started measuring the pieces. I also cut the bottom pieces of the cup in the opposite direction with the dogs than how they were on the actual bra. My straps were way too thin. I’ll be back at the drawing board for this, lol. I ordered some tricot fabric, the 1 that looks like simplex & duoplex fabric. So I’ll practice with that until I get everything right before ordering actual kits again. I also ordered techsheen for back band & order a couple of findings kits. I have to get to work on expanding the pattern pieces.

  10. mrskaptur says:

    I was looking to purchase a bra it looks like you only offer how to make a bra is that true I need something that lifts and separates by 30DDD bra size

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