There aren’t many specific memories of my adolescence that stand out. There were the usual moments of teenage angst I’m sure and I remember lessons I learned and feeling certain ways but specific memories are few and far between. I lived a fairly bland life. However, there is one thing I do remember clearly. I was 14 and at the supermarket with my mom. Like many moms, she didn’t have a lot of money to spare but she allowed me the treat of a magazine. I chose wisely and picked out the Australian edition of Elle magazine. What was in those glossy pages kindled both my love for fashion and my desire for bra making.
In that edition was an article about Colette Dinigan from Australia who at the time specialized in lingerie. I had always been an avid seamstress which an inkling that I might like to be a home economics teacher but fashion wasn’t really something that played at big part in my life (at the time). But when I saw the delicate lingerie that Colette had designed I was determined to figure out how I could make those for myself. The fact that Colette grew up in New Zealand also inspired me.
It was an ambition that had to be tabled for 5 years. Yes, I still sewed. Yes, I bought more fashion magazines than any teenage girl needs. I even managed to sew enough ballgowns for my friends to make enough money to buy a Collete Dinigan lace evening gown. Which I adored even though it was 2 sizes too small for me. Though in retrospect it was just a slip dress made from eyelash lace.
That article fostered my ambition to not only design and sew on a higher level but also started my love affair with NZ indie designers. I loved to mix my own home-sewn creations with those from my idols. Zambesi, World, Sister by Kate Sylvester even the brand Luna who you might now know as Pattern, Scissors, Cloth. Yet even though I wanted to study fashion I never really wanted to be a designer. I just wanted to create. To bring garments into existence. To know HOW.
My university years took me away from my stopping grounds of High Street in Auckland City to Te Aroha where I stayed while studying at the University of Waikato. It was a small rural town where my parents owned the local supermarket. But it did have one special thing. The Bendon bra factory. (Which unfortunately closed after I moved to the US.) I used to pop into the factory store every few days to see what new pieces they have. One day I spotted a box on the floor by the door where they were selling remnants and supplies from the factory. I picked up some fabric, elastic, and some underwires and finally my bra making journey had begun. I fumbled along for a while trying to figure things out myself and made some pretty terrible things. Luckily small towns being what they are and the fact my mother would tell everyone who worked at Bendon that came through the store what I was making help wasn’t too far away. The ladies from the factory were very supportive and always stopping by the store to give me tips. Eventually with the help of some Stretch and Sew patterns I was able to make a few serviceable bras.
When I moved to the US I started taking fashion classes at the local community college and eventually transferred to FIDM. While at the community college I was able to take a semester of independent study and I focused on lingerie construction. Unfortunately Los Angeles is more of a swimwear town than lingerie so most of the supplies and mentorship available was specific to swimwear so my project had more of a swimsuit feel than the delicate lingerie I was hoping to recreate. I still continued to sew bras on and off over the years after that but it was a very lonely pastime with not many options available for supplies.
However, several years ago I started to notice a surge of bras start to pop up in the sewing blogger community. So I dusted off my patterns and started to create again. Finding supplies at an affordable price was still difficult so I shifted the focus of the my craft supply business to exclusively selling bra and lingerie supplies. The move paid off and I love being able to sell a product I’m truly passionate about. I feel confident that I can make almost any bra that I can visualize and have moved into drafting and grading my own bra patterns. I’m finally the bra maker I always hoped of being.
We know you were looking forward to our annual Valentine’s Day sale last week which unfortunately had to be post phoned due to medical reasons. But we are ready to make it up to you with 20% off all in stock items. Use coupon code CHEERSTOHEALTH which is valid until March 4th. Use it on either www.bramaking.supplies or in our Etsy store. Check out our new Aruba Aqua findings which are up on the website this week.
Offer applies to in stock items. Coupon code does not apply to wholesale orders. Coupon code does not apply to shipping costs. Free domestic shipping on orders over $45 available at https://bramaking.supplies only. $45 minimum purchase after discount required to qualify for the free domestic shipping option. Some exclusions apply.
Written by Kimberly Hamilton, a graduate of De Montfort University’s Contour Lingerie program who now works as a bra pattern cutter in Germany. Her blog is a treasure trove of technical information and intimate apparel insights.
The name is a mouthful for this English only speaker but I love the behind the scenes look of how she develops her lingerie patterns. I also appreciate that she still does all of her illustrations and patterns by hand.
I love Sofia’s blog for her helpful computer illustrated diagrams of pattern manipulations for bra making. Encourages me to keep on working at getting better at Adobe Illustrator for the sake of my bra making.
One of the most comprehensive bras making blogs on the internet
Your favorite bra making blog didn’t make my list? Let me know in the comments below. Best is always subjective and as much as we like the sound of the word and how definitive it makes us feel there really is no such thing. I just couldn’t resist the alliteration of the title. ;D
Or alternatively how to become a better and more independent sewer.
Home Economics made me the sewer I am today and I am forever grateful for the lessons that it has taught me. It saddens me that this is not a system of education that is easily available to the next generation. While it still exists in some form or another today I feel much emphasis is being placed on the fashion aspect of it rather than the sewing itself which is the core skill at the heart of any home ec program.
I took 10 years of home economics altogether. At my intermediate school, it was compulsory to take cooking, clothing, woodworking and metal working for 2 years. In high school, one year of home economics was also mandatory but I continued to take clothing and textiles every year after that. Once I had emigrated to America I then continued my home economics education by studying fashion at El Camino College and FIDM for another 3 years. I still considered it home economics because most fashion departments evolved out of the home economics programs, renamed and adapting for the changing world.
High school is 5 years in New Zealand in case your wondering since we start intermediate school at ages 10-11. At some point, the name changed to textile technology around the same time typing class got a makeover. I can’t remember what they called it since I never learned how to type.
I’m glad they didn’t rename it “Fashion” like many home economics department did because I feel it turns it into something more fanciful than it is and places the emphasis on the artistic not the technical aspects of sewing.
Home Ec as I experienced it was not a cupcake course. In the final three years of high school, I was assessed not only by my completed garments but also by a technique notebook and a three-hour long exam just like every other academic class. It taught me to be disciplined, that your methodology matters and also to accept that criticism is part of the process. The requirements of the class allowed me to apply the same academic discipline to my sewing as I did to the “other” economics.
Projects were never as simple as grabbing a pattern and fabric and going at it. You had to select your pattern, have it improved by the instructor. You then had to make your alterations and then calculate the yardage needed. No trusting the fabric requirements on the envelope. Fabric buying was almost always a field trip worth looking forward to. Once the fabric was selected you were to test your layout and no cutting until the instructor approved. The order of operations had to be planned and submitted with a list of techniques that had been previously demonstrated in your sewing notebook (that deserves it’s own separate post). Construction was slow and meticulous with every seam pressed as needed.
It sounds like a lot of work and it was but if you followed this level of discipline you 90% of the time end up with a completed project that you were proud of. Every year I took clothing the process was quicker as I had built up my knowledge of fabrics and techniques. It’s the discipline and thoughtful analysis that has made a fast and accurate sewer. While I still occasionally end up with items that don’t work out it usually can usually be traced to skipping steps or using materials I know won’t work.
I understand that many people might have chosen not to take home economics for what it has historically represented and I appreciate that. I chose it because of the skills I wanted to acquire from. Since for most of us our days of home ec is long behind us but we can still use some of it’s methods to ensure success. Technique notebooks for both sewing and patternmaking skills is still part of my process and I still have the ones I did in college and add to them occasionally. I am in the process of building a bra specific library of notebooks that covers sewing, patterns and fabric dictionary so I make sure even if I forget I still have a reference.
Did you take home economics? Did your experience match mine?
Expand your creativity with one of our lace bombs. You’ll receive 10 yards of assorted stretch laces in widths of at least 5.5″ to 9″ wide. Each assortment will contain 5-10 different laces in 1-2 yard cuts. Unfortunately, we cannot take requests for colors and / or longer length cuts. Each assortment is picked from our inventory which is always changing and may include laces not listed on our website. A great way to build your stash at an affordable price and perhaps pick up an exclusive lace not available elsewhere.
Please note if you buy more than 1 assortment lace pieces will still only come in 1-2 yard pieces and some styles may be duplicated as all assortments are prepacked.
I’ve been working on a few bra projects that aren’t quite ready for publication yet. (Yes that patternmaking project is still in the works) but I took some time out this weekend to make a couple of things that aren’t bras. It was nice to whip up a few things in an afternoon.
I apologize for being a little behind on starting this project a rare spring cold has gotten in the way. I have however started to collect together the tools I need to complete the project and I thought I’d share with you my tool kit. Most of these I’ve collected over the 15+ years I’ve been making patterns though I haven’t been that active lately. Not all of these tools are necessary to make a bra pattern but they are nice to have.
This first photo is tools that will primarily be used for my first pattern test of the Foundation Revealed method but are still useful to have. A ruler in centimeters is important for bra making because it allows for more precision. I grew up in a metric system so it’s base 10 system is familiar to me. These are the compasses I prefer to use and I love to use them to add seam allowances around an oaktag pattern. You’ll notice one has a metal point and a toothpick. I use the toothpick side to skim along the pattern edge and the metal point to crease an edge. I started doing this when making shoe patterns because that’s how shoemakers do it. I did purchase a new one on the right so I could have two set at different width. A protractor and 45 and 30 degree angles. The colored sleigh curves are from a set I picked up for $1.50 at Daiso a Japanese style dollar store. The metric ruler is from there also. I also have regular traditional pattern makers french curves which I buy multiples of because they are clear and you will misplace them. The most important tool in this picture those is the flexible ruler used for measuring the breast root and copying curves. It is less useful for actually measuring the curves though. You can pick almost everything in this group up at Staples or Micheal’sRead More