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Sewing your own lingerie is a seemingly intimidating experience because of the new materials and techniques out there. With expert guidance and knowledge, making your own bras and underwear is actually fun and rewarding, especially when the fit is perfect. Read on to learn all about the fabric and notions most commonly used for lingerie projects.


Some lingerie sewing patterns are designed for woven fabric; however, it's much easier to achieve a perfect fit with stretch fabrics that move with your body.

Most knit fabrics with stretch are suitable for lingerie. Choose a mostly natural fiber, such as cotton, or a blend, such as bamboo rayon with a 3% to 10% Lycra content. The Lycra gives the fabric good stretch and recovery, while the natural fibers are breathable and have natural softness. Likewise, select a natural-fiber blend for underwear to maintain breathability and proper recovery. Experiment with fun synthetics for lingerie accent panels, such as stretch velvet, lace or sheer power mesh.

Choose inexpensive fabric remnants for the first few lingerie projects to perfect the new techniques without breaking the bank.


Sewing patterns indicate how much fabric stretch is needed. Some patterns require a fabric with 25% stretch or 50% to 75% stretch.

To determine the fabric stretch, cut a 4"-wide strip away from the cut edge on the yardage. The cut edge has less tension than the interior fabric, so it stretches more and causes an inaccurate measurement.

Gently pull the fabric across a ruler and measure how far it stretches. Each inch the fabric stretch is 25% stretch. Don't pull the fabric taut, pull just as much as would be comfortable to wear.


Always measure elastic stretch in the same way as fabric, and also take note of how long it takes to return back to the original 4" length. Choose an elastic that snaps back quickly for long-lasting lingerie that holds its shape.

Choose elastic with 25% stretch for a bra under-bust band to provide good support and stay in place. Choose elastic with 5,0% to 75% stretch for underwear to prevent lines on your derriere.

The three main types of elastic are woven, braided and knitted.

Woven elastic is very strong and doesn't run when snagged or narrow when stretched. Most woven elastic has vertical stripes to prevent rolling, also called non-roll, which is used for waistbands and inside casings.

Braided elastic has horizontal ribs and narrows when stretched. It's comprised of many stretchy threads that are braided together and around elastic cords.

Knitted elastic doesn't narrow when stretched and is usually the softest elastic. It's made of one continuous knitted fiber and may contain encased elastic cords.

Clear elastic isn't woven or made of any fibers, it's a continuous strip of clear, stretchy plastic. Use clear elastic for straps or stitch on the garment interior to prevent slipping during wear.


Learn about the most widely used elastic for lingerie construction.

Picot elastic has one or two decorative long edges, usually a little wave or dot design, but can also be intricate and lacey. Apply picot elastic over the lingerie right side or on the wrong side to only reveal the decorative edge.

Ruffled elastic is similar to picot because there's a ruffle on one or both long edges and it can be applied over or below lingerie. Use for underwear or as a decorative bra strap.

Stretch lace is available in all widths and designs. Use narrow stretch lace as a trim, apply 1"- to 2"-wide lace to garment edges or 8"- to 10"-wide lace as fabric for small garments.

Satin elastic is sturdy, shiny and commonly used for bra straps. Satin strapping elastic doesn't have much stretch and is therefore used for under bust and strap elastic to provide excellent support.

Brushed elastic has one or both sides brushed to make a soft and fuzzy surface. The brushed side is worn against the skin.

Fold-over elastic, also known as FOE, is easy to find and work with. One side is satin and the opposite side is matte brushed. Most fold-over elastic is 5/8"-wide and has a foldline along the vertical center to create a perfect fold over the fabric edge. It can also be applied flat on projects.

Pre-fold elastic is folded over a fabric raw edge, however it doesn't lay flat like fold-over elastic and always remains folded. Most pre-fold elastic is woven with a decorative edge to resemble picot elastic. Use it for underwear or bra edges.


In addition to the fabric and elastic, there are some additional pieces used in bra making that elevate handmade lingerie.

Hook-and-eye tape, also known as bra-back closures or bra hooks, comes either by the yard or precut tabs. Tape by the yard is measured by the width between each hook and eye. Precut tabs are heat sealed along the edge and measured by the overall tab length from top to bottom. Precut tabs have a built-in shield, but other hook and eye tape may not have a shield.

O-rings and slides are used to create adjustable straps and are measured in millimeters or fractions of an inch. Select rings and slides that match the chosen elastic strap width. Purchase sets either in clear plastic, metal finishes or nylon-covered metal. The nylon-covered metal is usually black or white. Dye the white pieces with synthetic dye to match the project.

Underwire is a flat, narrow curved wire that fits under the bust to shape and lift the bustline. Select a proper-fitting underwire that rests completely flat against your ribcage. If the center-front gore or cup lower edges aren't resting flat against your ribs, the wire is too large for your bust size. If the wires are poking into the side of your bustline, the wires are too small.

To purchase the correct underwire size, trace the breast root, the point at which your breast attaches to your chest, with a piece of wire or a flexible ruler. Compare the shape to the wire-sizing chart provided by the underwire manufacturer. If you have underwires on hand, trace your breast root with a washable marker, and then compare the underwires directly to your body.

Once the correct size is found, buy underwires in the next size up and down to compare all three sizes to determine the best fit. Most women's breasts differ in size and shape from one side to the other, so different underwire sizes are needed for each breast.


Most lingerie notions are nylon or polyester, which makes dyeing an easy and quick way to match the project.

To dye notions, fill a sink with cold water. Wet all the notions in the cold water so they take the dye evenly. Mix the dye according to the manufacturer's instructions in a large pot on the stove, and then place elastic, nylon-coated rings and sliders and hook and eye tabs together in the dye. Stir the pot often and check the color absorption, making sure to keep the water hot.

Once the desired color is reached, remove the notions from the dye and place into a sink full of cold water to stop the color absorption. Once cooled, hang everything to dry. The longer the notions are left to dry, the more colorfast they become.

Once dry, gently hand wash the notions in warm water and detergent until the water runs clear; hang to dry.


Rit Dye carries DyeMore dye for synthetics:




Always begin with much less dye than needed. More dye can be added to achieve a darker or more intense color

Fabric dye uses chemicals that shouldn't be ingested; so don't use any pot for food after it's used for dyeing notions.

Different products absorb dye at different speeds. Fold-over elastic and bra hooks are thin and soak up dye very quickly, while rings and slides take longer. Place hooks, rings and slides in a mesh bag to easily check the dyeing process separately from other notions.
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Article Details
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Author:Hines, Sophie
Publication:Sew News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2018
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