Bra sewing basics: Should I make a bra toile?

Make a bra toile

When sewing a pattern for the first time, it’s normal to make a toile, or mock-up. This test-run allows you to make any necessary alterations for the pattern to fit your body. Whilst it’s always tempting to dive straight in to a project in the excitement of starting something new, taking the time out to sew a toile can help fit issues that can be a nasty surprise after finishing.

When sewing a toile for garments, you typically use a cheap cloth that mimics the drape and weight of the final fabric. But with lingerie, things are slightly different. Lingerie-sewing typically requires a degree of stretch, either by choosing cloth with stretch properties, such as knits; cloth containing elasticised fibres; or by cutting on the bias. Stretch fabrics behave differently – they’re not predictable like a plain-weave cotton. Therefore, it’s often impractical to just use a cheaper fabric to sew your bra toile, as there is no guarantee that the toile fabric is going to behave in the same way as your final fabric – which means that it won’t necessarily fit in the same way either.

Speaking of fit, it’s pretty much impossible to fit a bra until it is completely made up. Unpicking a bra to make fitting adjustments after you’ve completed it isn’t entirely practical, due to the many lines of small, strong zigzag stitches you’ll have used. As well as being tedious, you risk damaging the material.

So considering that every new bra pattern you choose risks giving different results with every new lingerie fabric you obtain, what’s the solution to making a bra toile? We think that you have three main options…

1. Cut your losses – but be prepared for backup

You could just leap in and make up the bra in your chosen fabrics and elastics, perhaps choosing inexpensive findings. Purchase enough materials so that you have the option of making a second bra afterwards. This is not the time to use that precious scrap of antique French lace! Our bra kits make it easy to gather all the materials you need in one place.

Try it on at the end, and assess the fit critically. Immediately order ultram canada transfer any alterations to your pattern. With luck – if your breast and chest shapes match the pattern – the  bra may be entirely wearable! Alternatively, it might be wearable with a few minor alterations (what I like to call a ‘wearable toile’). However, be prepared that this could turn out to be just a practise-run, testing out your sewing techniques as well as the pattern and fabric. In this case, sew up a second version of the bra, using the pattern adjustments that you’ve noted.

2. Sew a bra toile

If you don’t want to commit the energy to making up a complete bra that risks being dodgy – or alternatively, you have only a small amount of fabric that you want to use – you could try sewing a toile using a different fabric. Stretch, measure and compare the handle, weight and stretch properties of your mock-up and final fabrics. The important thing here is to carefully analyse the different fabrics and elastics in use, and choose toile fabrics that resemble your final fabrics as much as possible.

When sewing your bra toile, you can skip some topstitching, and you can attach the bra fastening using a long basting stitch so that it can be easily unpicked and re-used. However, you should grade and/or clip any seam allowances as normal, as this does affect how the bra will sit on your body.

3. Compare and contrast

If you’ve already sewn a few lingerie sets, you’ll start to have a feel for the way that different fabrics behave, as well as an understanding of bra pattern-cutting. You can use your experience to guide you, by carefully comparing shapes and measurements of well-fitting patterns to new ones. Consider the shapes of curves, and the distances between cups. Analyse where the fullness of the bra cup sits and how this might compare to your own breast shapes.

How do you approach a new bra pattern? Do you bother to sew test-runs? Do share any tips you have in the comments!

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