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What I Made: Marlborough Bra

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Say hello to Malborough, a ray of sunshine and the newest addition to my bra wardrobe.

The author of Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction, Norma Loehr released this pattern last year. It took me until now to make my own and the reason was that I was perfecting the fit of Amber Rosalind. I’m a one project at a time type of sewer.

Available in approximately 40 sizes (30A-40DD), the pattern is geared towards smaller busts. I cut a 32A and with one alteration, which was related to design (adding ¼” to the top of the upper cup since I wasn’t using a scalloped lace), it fits perfectly. Perf-ectl-y! The PDF contains 9 pages for directions and 2 pages for your bra pattern, which are printed onto one page. No taping – woot, woot! The pattern suggests a stable, non stretch fabric for the cups and the bridge, but from successes from previous bras, I used a yellow, stretch lace for all pieces and lined all pieces with a nude stretch mesh. The lace has 30% stretch in all directions, and underlined with the mesh, the fabrics together have about 25%.

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All notions were dyed to match the fabric using RIT. I normally using Dharma Trading’s acid dyes, but I ordered the wrong shade of yellow. Most all purpose dyes such as RIT contain two kinds of dye that are mixed together – a direct dye which does a fair job of dyeing cotton, and a ‘leveling acid’ dye which will dye both wool and nylon. It is best to use pure acid dyes on nylon – which this elastic is made of – because you avoid wasting the direct dye portion that cannot stick to nylon. However, I didn’t want to wait for another mail order, so RIT it was! The dye is a little uneven, but is my fault as I didn’t agitate the notions consistently while dyeing.

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For the most part, construction wasn’t too tricky. I was unsure how the three cup pieces would come together, especially at the strap points. If you don’t get the width exactly right, the strap elastic doesn’t match the width of the strap point and causes it to look messy and home sewn. It wasn’t the strap point that gave me trouble – that came together beautifully – it was sewing the upper and lower cups. The upper cup has a notch, but the lower cup doesn’t, so if you’re not careful, you can easily sew the lower cup upside down. Yep, I did the first time around!

Lately, I’ve wondered if there is a standard for zigzag stitch length and width when it comes to bra making. The only “rules” I had come across was that the zigzag width shouldn’t be more than ½ the width of the elastic and widening the width or shortening the length increase stretch. Tasia and Novita’s zigzags are much longer than what I use, but I didn’t think they were wrong. I assumed it was their standard. Then, Amy shed light on this question. Here’s what she wrote last week in a post discussing sewing lingerie elastic:

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“Most modern machines come with a 3-step zig-zag, but if yours doesn’t, don’t worry. I’ve made many bras and underwear without it, and never had a popped stitch on them. The best place to use this stitch is on a firm, plush elastic. It is often used and the top and bottom of bra bands, and very occasionally on underwear.

You don’t need to use it everywhere, and one reason has to do with preventing elastic fatigue. In manufacturing they do a lot of testing for the best elastic tension and stitch type for each elastic and how it interacts with the weight of the fabric. The more stitches and thread you put into an elastic, the more you impact its ability to rebound. A firmer plush elastic can handle the heavy stitching, but lightweight and very stretchy elastics will lose a lot of their rebound with a 3-step. This is the most frequent cause of wavy edges—when an elastic has stretched further than the actual length of the opening and is not able to rebound back to the original or smaller size.

In general, I recommend only using the triple zig-zag on elastics that are 3/8″ or wider, have a plush backing and are fairly firm.”
So there’s the answer – it depends. As a black and white person, I hate that kind of answer! There is no standard and what stitch is best to use depends on elastic width / quality and fabric it is being sewn on to. Just as with finding the right interfacing and tension, it’s best to test a scrap piece of elastic beforehand. If you experience elastic fatigue, increase the length of the zigzag (so there will be less stitches). If the zigzag is more the ½ the width of the elastic, reduce the width.

This bra doesn’t have sliders, meaning the straps are not adjustable. I’ve been trying to use what has accumulated into a large bra notions stash before making another purchase. So when the elastic stretches out and I need to shorten it, I will accordingly. Easy alteration!

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Because of the three piece cup, there are many design variations for the Malborough. So, I’ll definitely be sewing more! Also, I can’t wait to teach the women attending my bra workshop how to make their own!

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18 Comments

  1. Reply

    Melissa

    I really love this set! The fabric is so sunny and cheerful! I’ve just begun to delve into the world of bra making with Watson, but expect Marlborough won’t be far behind.

    • Reply

      maddie

      Welcome to the wild world of bra making! The Marlborough is a good (and doable) step up from the Watson. If you have any questions, you’re more than welcome to email me.

  2. Reply

    Emerald Erin

    Your Marlborough bra looks great- I love the yellow- so sunny and pretty, and it looks great as a matching set! So many beautiful bras so little time to sew them all! 🙂

    • Reply

      maddie

      I couldn’t agree more!

  3. Reply

    Nicole

    Please, give us your fabric sources! I adore that yellow stretch lace! What is the pattern for the underwear?

    • Reply

      maddie

      I would have given the source of the lace, but I bought the last of the bolt and they weren’t ordering more. The pattern for the panty is self drafted. If you’re a size xsmall/small, I’d be happy to send mail a copy to you (if you paid for shipping cost too).

  4. Reply

    bimbleandpimble

    This is such a cheerful set! I am waiting with baited breath for something similar for larger cup sizes… I win prevail with bra making one day!

    • Reply

      maddie

      Don’t be scared! I know you can do it! The Malborough is geared for smaller chested women as it’s is available in only 40 sizes. Although that’s a lot, the first bra pattern I first used – Pin Up Girls #1200 by Beverly Johnson – comes in over 90 sizes. It is also a full band bra and was designed to be used with low stretch fabrics, so it’s very supportive. The link is below:

      http://www.bramakerssupply.com/site2009/cart/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=7&cat=Full+Band

  5. Reply

    Summerflies

    Very pretty. I love the yellow … bright and cheery.

  6. Reply

    Sara @ Sew Sweetness

    I love this, it is so beautiful!

  7. Reply

    sallie

    Maddie this is so gorgeous! It looks like the fit is perfect on you, and that fabric and color/notion combination is pretty much my favorite thing ever. Well done!

  8. Reply

    Birgit

    So pretty! I love the yellow, it makes me think of Spring and sunny mornings.

  9. Reply

    Gina

    Hi Maddy! Beautiful set. Where do you get your metal rings and sliders? I see you use them and I find them rather difficult to find in the US.

  10. Reply

    Stacia | Paper Swallow Events

    I adore your studio space, and this set is absolutely beautiful!

  11. Reply

    Amy

    More gorgeousness! And sorry to be so un- black and white about elastic, haha. Your tips are good–practice a few trial zig-zags! I think I finally found my favorite one for the hook & eye (especially the hook) but I practiced and kept ripping out on a trial bra until I got the one I liked.

  12. Reply

    natashaestradalvn

    I always find the back closures dye unevenly with the Liquid Rit dye no matter what. It’s the fault of the dye I think it takes up so quickly it’s hard to get it to even out.

  13. Reply

    Annah

    Hello!

    I’m looking at making this, but want to, like you, use a solid rather than a lace for the top of the cup. Is this easy to do? Do you think it still fits okay? I’m on the bigger end of the boob spectrum (32E) so I’m really nervous!

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