So, I finally went and made a bra. And actually, I made this one back in September 2018 when Lauren was a tiny baby. I’ll catch up on all the unblogged stuff eventually! This is Jalie 3131 which contains both regular and nursing versions of a cami and simple bra (more of a bralette really). I made the nursing version of the bra, and here’s me wearing it back in May of last year when I still had need for breastfeeding access.
I’ve just realised that I’m blogging a leopard print bra on Valentine’s Day, which really wasn’t planned! Honestly, I wouldn’t class this particular bra as sexy, and I’d honestly forgotten it was Valentine’s Day. I am planning a lovely meal for Andy this evening so all romance is not lost, but we’re not big Valentine’s people. It’s a bit of a Hallmark holiday in my mind, and I don’t like being told I need to buy tacky crap covered in hearts to let someone know how much I love them.
Anyway, on with the sewing stuff. I first bought the Jalie 3131 pattern back when Gabriel was a tiny baby, but never got my act together to sew it up. I had just enough in the way of bought nursing bras to see me through, so it never got to be my top priority. He didn’t sleep all that well either, so I was pretty much a zombie for his first nine months.
Lauren has been much more predictable in terms of her nightime sleep, although napping is a different issue (she will only go down in a darkened room!), so sewing did happen when she was a baby. Not much, but some. When a couple of my old breastfeeding bras gave up the ghost I decided I needed to make a replacement, pronto.
And luckily bra sewing is the perfect project with a little baby around. Tiny pattern pieces, short seams. It’s the kind of sewing you can do when you only get a few minutes at a time.
Now, I say this is my first bra project and it’s certainly my first completed bra, but I did get most of the way through attempting a nursing bra when Gabriel was little. However, I made poor choices with fabric (cotton interlock was too thick and to compound problems I used 2 layers) and tried to adapt a non-nursing pattern (Kwik Sew 3594). It all got too tricky and in the end I abandoned it in disgust, in a nearly finished but clearly never-going-to-work state. See zombie-brain, mentioned above.
Luckily Jalie 3131 takes all the guess work out things by including instructions for adding the nursing clips, and really it’s very simple. Of course, I didn’t have the right size nursing clips in the right colour (these are not easy things to buy in the UK, even online), so I used some I salvaged from one of my worn out bras. Yes, they’re too wide, but as no one was really going to see them I didn’t care all that much. They worked, and that was the important thing. Here’s a pic of them working, in which I’ve completely managed to obscure the clip:
As you can see, there’s a piece of elastic used to anchor the straps so they don’t ping off down your back somewhere while you’re feeding baby. Very useful.
I followed my measurements which put me in Y for the full bust but two sizes down, a W, for the band. I ended up cutting the Y cups but graded between the two sizes for the band, cutting W width and Y height. This would of worked brilliantly if I hadn’t initially measured myself so soon after giving birth (late July, I think, so just under 3 months after). More on that later…
I don’t have much to say about sewing this up partly because it was uneventful, but also because it was so long ago! One thing I do want to comment on is the cup style. Unusually for a bra it’s a one piece cup, which has the bonus of being comfortably seam-free, but means you have to gather the fabric under the bust to get shaping. It also has the side effect of really flattening your boobs, a bit like a sports bra, but without the strong support of a sports bra. It’s particularly noticeable from the side:
Like I said, not particularly flattering in terms of giving you a perky bust shape, but I actually found it kind of useful for smooshing my giant breastfeeding boobs down enough to fit in my beloved Cleo dresses. I don’t know if I’d have been able to wear them, otherwise!
It is also a supremely comfortable bra, thanks to those soft, stretchy, seam-free cups. I can see it being excellent for sleepwear if you want/need to wear a bra in bed. I’ve never felt the urge, but if that changes I’ll probably be reaching for this pattern again.
Now, the big problem I had once I’d finished the bra and went to try it on: it was way too big! I ended up pinching out 2″ to get it to sit correctly. I thought initially this was a problem with the pattern, but then I remeasured myself and realised I’d gone down 2 band sizes in the two months since I measured myself. And no, I hadn’t measured wrong to begin with. This kind of ribcage contraction is normal after pregnancy. I just hadn’t realised how quickly it happens!
In the end I just unpicked the hook and eye pieces and the part where the straps attach at the back, then trimmed down the back of the bra like so:
It wasn’t difficult or time consuming particularly, and definitely worth doing as the final bra fits like so:
Or at least, it did fit. As soon as Lauren weaned herself my bust shrank down and the bra now gives pretty much no support whatsoever (these pics were taken back in May). Still, I had about a year of good wear out of it. I reckon I must have worn it twice a week, which means around a hundred wears. Not bad! It wasn’t showing any signs of being worn out by that point, so clearly lingerie sewing is worth doing if you want to be sustainable and sew stuff that gets worn loads.
Anyway, I think I’ve waffled on for long enough about this one. I’m still planning to have a go at the camisole view at some point, as it has a built in shelf bra which is always great in the summer. I’d like to try a more structured, multi-piece cup pattern with underwires for my next bra, though. Maybe I should have another stab at that Kwik Sew pattern…
Also, some final thoughts on body image. I didn’t really want to post these pics originally as my body looks all soft and wobbly, but hey, that’s the reality of having a baby. And you know what, now nine months have elapsed since taking the pictures I can see the beauty in my post-baby body. That’s progress, right?!
Pattern: Jalie 3131 Bra and Camisole
Size: Combination of Y for cups/band height and W for band width (although it ended up being more like a U for the band)
Fabric: Some scraps of poly/lycra dancewear type fabric from Fabric Land in Bristol (leftover from making this bikini), plus some cotton lycra bought from Girl Charlee UK (now defunct). All bra making elastics and notions from my stash, except the 2m of black fold over elastic used to finish cup edges (£2.49 from eBay seller)
Modifications: Shortening the band by about 2″, plus trimming the back band to fit in the hook and eye I had.
Other inspirational versions: There aren’t many reviews of this pattern out there, but I love the multiple versions made by Elizabeth Made This, and Very Purple Person made a cute lace version. Also, if you want a really thorough dissection of the pattern by an expert seamstress check out the post by Anne the Clothing Engineer.
Where do you stand on the whole soft vs underwired bras debate? Does comfort triumph over style?!
Coming Next Week:
It’s half term so I know I won’t manage a kids clothes blog post on Tuesday, so I’ll be back on Friday with this super-simple Seamwork Margo pencil skirt in a gorgeous quilted ponte. I’ve got a lot of love for this skirt, although I don’t wear it as much as I thought I would. Find out why by reading the post 🙂