Thursday, September 1, 2016

Liberty Undies!

No matter how enthusiastic a sewist you may be, there's probably some project you've dismissed with an 'oh, I'd never sew that'. To tricky, too dull, too easy to buy ready-made? I'm pretty sure I've said it about underwear in the past. But Fiona and I are both beginning to pause and realise, 'never say never'!

Thanks to the ever-inspiring internet I happened upon a free bra pattern called the Maya Bra by Romanian blogger Ana at her blog AFI. Armed with a kit from Booby Traps (Sydney/online), and AFI instructions and more from Cloth Habit, I ventured in. And my first bra was quite a decent fit and quite comfortable! And a world of possibility opened in front of me (cue heavenly harps).....
AFI Maya Bra pattern in Liberty 'Lady Zadie', other components from Booby Traps online
*NB: photo above is not my first attempt!
One of the biggest revelations to me was that bras don't have to be made entirely of stretchy fabrics. In fact many require that at least some parts (cups and 'frame' at front) are non-stretch. And what fabric is very fine, very stable and very pretty? Liberty of London Tana Lawn!
AFI Maya Bra pattern in Liberty 'Heads & Tails', other components from Booby Traps online

 While I was exploring Liberty bra-making I also discovered a knickers pattern suitable for Liberty fabrics.
The Maker's Journal is Melbourne-based, and came to my attention via The Handmakers' Factory who ran a knicker-making workshop. I highly recommend the 'Tried and True' pattern for bias-cut wovens. I'm gradually sewing myself a drawer full! (Beautiful printed pattern from Etsy store here.)
The maker's Journal Tried and True knicker pattern in Liberty 'Heads & Tails'

Alterations: I found the sizing extremely accurate but I did add a bit extra to the back rise for personal preference. Tightening up the waist elastic (cutting it about 5cm shorter than according to pattern) also helps the knickers stay where I want them. The online instructions to attach the elastic are good but do not mention how to portion out the elastic along the length of each edge. If you'd rather not wing it, I suggest stretching your elastic right along each edge and pinning it at the halfway point, or quarters or other points of your choice, to help it be evenly distributed.

Liberty Tana Lawn is the perfect fabric for the Tried and True knickers and it's such a delightful little luxurious treat to yourself. If you choose a non-directional print, and arranging carefully, you can cut a pair of any size (8-14) out of just a fat quarter. (You may even have enough scraps left to embellish a matching bra.)

Selflessly, I have also tried the pattern in seersucker so I can recommend that to you all. From a 55cm cut of this 110cm wide Japanese cotton seersucker you can make 2 pairs!
Tried and True knickers in Japanese cotton seersucker

You'll also need a tiny amount of cotton jersey for the gusset and between 1.5 - 2m of scalloped lingerie elastic per pair, now available at The Drapery. I am pleased to report that the elastic we have in stock (in cream) is the most firm and 'springy' of the lingerie elastics I have tried yet.

The second bra pattern I tried was the Marlborough Bra by Orange Lingerie. There are many beautiful versions of this bra to be seen on the internet. Very inspiring! Norma, the woman behind Orange Lingerie, is very responsive to questions about her patterns and shares lots of good information on her blog.

Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra with Liberty 'Fairy Land'
And the third (but unlikely to be last!) pattern I have made is the Chelsea Bra by Elise Patterns. A very pretty bra but I measured myself incorrectly and it turned out too big. I will size down and try again! (Briefly - when measuring, have arms by sides, exhale and hold tape firmly. The exhale bit is very important!)

Elise Patterns Chelsea Bra in Liberty 'Lodden' (personal stash)
I'm not going to waffle on too much about bra-making here because I realise it's not for everyone. But if you have any specific questions about the patterns I have used, sizing, notions or other aspects please comment below and I will be happy to answer!

A few of the other places I have found useful underwear sewing information:
Measure Twice Cut Once blog
Emerald Erin blog
Marilla Walker Instagram
Life of a Fairy Bra Mother blog 

How about you? Have you sewn underwear? Are you tempted? What's holding you back?

- Jane & Fiona xx


  1. They all look fab! I made a pair of knickers using a kit I was given but I discovered that a mismeasurement of a couple of centimetres makes a big difference! Have never tried to sew a bra but now feeling rather inspired by your post. I will be able to wear it under one of the Marilla Walker Roberts dresses that I made after seeing yours.
    Just wish I could pop into your shop to buy my supplies.

    1. Anne I'm so pleased to know you've made the Roberts dresses! I absolutely live in mine. I wish you were near enough to pop in too! The underwear sewing things is quite a rabbit hole to disappear down, but tremendously enjoyable. So much to learn, always :)

  2. You've been bitten by the bug! I am still holding out, under the theory that sewing my own ridiculous F-cup bra (WTF?) would be too depressing, lol! But these liberty bras are gorgeous! And I can imagine how amazing it feels to achieve a good fit in a beautiful fabric!

    1. Yes I am definitely finding this addictive! You know cup size is only a proportional thing relative to band size (well I'm sure you do know) so I'm assuming you must be a pretty tiny band size. I am coming to the conclusion that even though every RTW bra I own is a 34D that my sewing pattern size is closer to a 36C - you might find your pattern size is quite manageable? That is, if you want to find another sewing obsession :D


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