I totally knew this was going to happen. I knew that once I started bramaking, I’d love it. Of course, just like all other Jalie patterns I’ve made, Jalie 3131 has convinced me that all the inspirational loveliness that Andie puts out or the perseverance and problem solving that Gillian has gone through is a worthy effort.
Not unlike the first oath I took regarding sewing claiming that, “I’d never sew my own clothes,” I made a solemn promise that I’d never make my own bras. Despite my small ribcage and at times very large bust, I’ve never had a problem finding good RTW bras in my size, and always new and for a decent price on Ebay. For a long time, I’ve had no desire to jump on the sewing community bandwagon in search of beautiful laces and duoplex and the like.
But then my friend Linda took a bramaking class, and I was fascinated by the construction. I bought a book, made a granny bra with really miserable underwires that poked and twisted when I moved my torso. I shelved the whole notion of bramaking for a time when my before/during/after nursing body finally gained some stability in that region.
So why is it, that nutso me is embarking on trying to make some sense out of bramaking literally a handful of weeks before the whole nursing crazy train departs again?
Blame it on my shoulders.
Due to my personal physiology and playing violin my whole life, my shoulders have a tendency to stretch beyond a normal range, leaving me open to injury, namely tendonitis. During a flare up, the resulting pain that radiates down my arms can be so intense that simple tasks like turning a door knob can reduce me to tears. And immediately postpartum, I ALWAYS have a flare up. The added weight in my bust, the loss of strength in my abs, and the less than ergonomic position that nursing initially puts you in (especially in the middle of the night) is just enough pull my muscles past their limit and leave me hobbling off to the chiropractor.
This time, I’ve at least got a plan to war against the pain. I discovered Essentrics which is really, really helping my shoulders and has been so friendly to my life right now. I seriously haven’t felt this strong or properly stretched out since I was in college when I was able to spend multiple hours a day stretching, breathing and monitoring my posture with the military level discipline needed for the pain to go away.
My pain prevention plan also includes sleep bras. I’ve been experimenting this pregnancy with wearing a bra at night. The bra keeps everything from shifting uncontrollably while sleeping and it’s taken the edge off of my shoulder pain which has flared off and on as sleeping on my left side often compresses my shoulders together. So I jumped headfirst into this bramaking bit again, and discovered that it is actually possible (despite my past vehement protestations) to make a soft bra that actually has support in it.
Jalie 3131 sleep bras
I started with Jalie 3131, a really nice basic soft bra and cami pattern. I’ve become a Jalie fangirl over the years because of their excellent drafting, and good, if not clever instructions. I’ve never made a Jalie pattern up that didn’t look absolutely clean and lovely, even if I needed to tweak the fit. I also chose Jalie over other soft cup patterns because they have so many sizes available. I wear a size 30 band in RTW (32 in pregnancy for comfort), and many, many patterns don’t come in bands that are that small. I know how to grade down patterns where I need to in regular clothes, but bras? I didn’t want to bother grading down when I’m just learning how things are put together. Jalie further makes the bramaking experience less intimidating with it’s very clear construction video that even shows you how to properly install nursing clips.
On my first attempt, I went by Jalie’s sizing chart. The resulting bra is comfortable, but I suspected that the band was way too big and the cups were comically too small. It’s funny this whole sizing bit. A full bust measurement can be divided any number of ways on any given person…on me, at this stage of pregnancy, it’s less ribcage and more bust…on someone else, it could very well be the opposite. Clearly, I needed to go up sizes in the cups and down sizes in the band.
Yet, I kept the band the same for #2, experimenting with lining the back band with powernet for more stability. The first bra I lined with ponte, which is soft and stable enough (especially for sleep!), but not nearly as supportive as the powernet. True enough, the powernet did add more stability and support, but the band was too big still. The cups were getting better after going up 4 sizes. After taking in 2 1/2″ total on the back band, this bra is totally wearable.
#3 is just about a triumph though. I went up 3 more sizes in the cup for that immediate postpartum growth. I used powernet to line the back band AND the front band, and I folded out 2 1/4″ on the back band, making it smaller than the smallest size, but no matter, it’s what I needed. Jalie has very helpful charts for how much elastic you need to cut. I ended up using 1″ less than the smallest size, which was just about right. I also raised the CB 3/4″ so that I could use a 3 hook closure vs. the 2 hook closure it’s drafted for. When support is the name of the game, extra hooks are always a good thing.
I’m really amazed at how supportive #3 is. The added elastic behind the cups for the nursing clip adds even more support. For the next go, I’ll add a more stable cup lining to see if I can build in yet more support.
The only thing I don’t like about this bra is the shaping on the cup. It’s only a one piece cup that is gathered to fit the band. For a small cup size, it’s not going to matter much, but larger cup sizes are going to get a less smooshy shape from a multi-piece cup. This is to say nothing against the pattern since I’m using it for sleep. Support trumps shape in this case every time. I bought the Watson Bra when I finished this bra just to compare the difference with the 2 piece cup in shaping and to see if the longline style can offer even more support. There’s a lot of variables in bramaking…possibly more than other sewing I’ve attempted, though the construction is not difficult. It’s very interesting to see how changing one tiny detail will affect the whole result.
I am glad to have an array of bras of various decreasing/increasing bust sizes, which will no doubt be useful with all of the flux that is heading at me like a freight train. My next bra that I’m finishing at the moment is bigger yet in the cups for immediately postpartum.
Anyhow, I imagine that the black and white bra will be great in the first week after the baby comes when my chest is really too sore to wear my good underwire bras that have been converted into nursing bras with clips. Certainly, I’ll be happier to put it on, knowing that I’ll at least get some degree of support and style unlike anything I could get in an utterly laughable nursing bras. I look forward to not having an aching chest because my very sad and ugly nursing bra has stretched itself out completely on me in the first 5 minutes of wearing it. And I’m very, very curious to see whether a good bra can prevent a full on tendonitis flare up.
My full review is here.
Have you made Jalie 3131? Have you dipped your toe into bramaking?
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Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.