As most of our readers would know, I'm not a fan of gyms as I explained in my post on creating A New Workout Wardrobe: My New Year Resolution. But I actually would love to own a sports bra that gives me not only support but comfort. I think this particular item of clothing is the “unicorn” in our wardrobe. Almost like a myth, it seems to be a never-ending search for that one bra that will give me comfort while securing the girls during a vigorous workout. However, look no further….. the Ultimate Sports Bra Pattern does exist –although you may have to make it yourself.
This project is for making a race back sports bra pattern with a front facing for extra comfort and the ability to insert pads. There's also a 1″ under-chest band for maximum support.
A sports bra is designed to compress your chest. If there's too much compression you'll end up feeling like you want to take the bra off while driving home from the gym –or at least that is how I feel. It's the reason I carry a huge gym bag so I can shower and change from that awful squeeze which can be like being hugged by that smelly old uncle who you can't wait to get away from. Well, I'm trying to change that with this design, which will give you the support without excess compression.
Which brings me to the point of choosing the right fabric. The best fabric for the job is called Supplex if you can find it (I am still looking). There is another fabric and this holy grail of sportswear is trademarked COOLMAX. You'll see it on many high-end sports brands, but you need to buy a lot it as it's not commonly sold at retail.
Thankfully, however, there are many good alternatives that are more readily available. The best option is to use a 4-ways stretch knit or cotton 80%/lycra 20% content. Here are some specific fabric suggestions that should work well for this project:
How to cut and sew the sports bra pattern
Sewing stretch fabrics can be a bit tricky. The ideal way to sew a sports bra would be to use a cover stitch and a flatlock machine. Sadly, I possess neither of these machines but you can make do with a normal machine and a serger would help as well.
I have drafted the pattern pieces on fold, but you will have to draw the other side on a large piece of paper because the best way to cut this type of fabric is by using a rotary cutter and you should never cut knits on a fold.
It is possible to make this bra without a serger/overlocker. This is why in the material list I have given you a special kind of elastic. All you have to do is use a ballpoint needle, a medium zigzag stitch (3.0 to 3.5) and a small (1.0 to 2.0) zigzag stitch to sew the main pieces. I am using a universal Singer ball point needle this time. I will also show you how a normal needle will sew to answer some of the questions I get from beginners who ask about using a normal needle and no walking foot.
If using a serger/overlocker, do not use the knife to cut the fabric because the seam allowance for this sports bra is only 1/4″.
When cutting the elastic, measure the armhole and cut the elastic 1″ smaller. You need to stretch the elastic while sewing.
When sewing the band to the hem, use a small zigzag first then the serger/overlocker if you're using one. This is because you have to stretch the fabric and by sewing a small zigzag first it will make it easier to distribute the fabric evenly without making any pleats. This is a mistake beginners make frequently.
I will be showing you three different types of fabrics: spandex nylon, cotton lycra and rayon/lycra knit although I only finished two bras. A very important point I want to add is that this pattern is unsuitable for stripes. Prints are OK, but stripes will not line up correctly because of the stretch.
- Two yards (more if you are 3XL) Fold over elastic for bra 5/8″ or fold over elastic in 3/4″
- Ball point needle #10
- Thread to match
- 1/2 yard Spandex/nylon 4-way stretch, lycra milliskin nylon Spandex
- Rotary cutter (optional, but highly recommended)
- Serger/Overlocker (optional)
- walking foot (optional)
|Size||Finished Chest Measurement (inches)|
Step One: Sew the back
The back has a curve and if you have never sewn on a curve before, you need to take your time with this. There are no special considerations with it, just do not pull any of the pieces at all. Let the pattern slowly take its shape.
Place both the back/side (piece #3/4) and the back (piece #2/4) right side down. Pin and sew at 1/4″.
This is showing the 80% cotton/Lycra 20%. In the picture, it appears gathered but it is the nature of the zigzag and the normal needle. I actually did not like the look, so I ripped it out and sewed with the ball point needle. See picture below for the look of the small zigzag with a ballpoint.
Step Two: Sew the front and sides
Sew the front and the sides. You could use your serger straight into it, but I found the fabric moving too much so I sewed a tiny zigzag first. I used the serger because I want to improve the durability of the sports bra and increase the support.
Step Three: Apply the facing
Place the facing wrong side down. The right side of the facing will face out aligning with the scooped neck and the armhole. Then use a small zigzag about number 2.5 to 3 to sew the sides.
Align the edge of the facing with the needle so the zigzag will attach it without leaving a space. Here it is in a different fabric for you to see how the facing is placed. This particular fabric is Rayon 60% / Lycra 20% / bamboo 20%.
Step Four: Sew the elastic and the shoulder seams
It is important to remember to stretch the elastic while sewing. To be successful at applying the elastic, the key is to divide both the opening and the elastic in four equal parts. Pin at these four points and stretch in between the points.
Sew the shoulders at 1/4″ or use your serger/overlocker. I apologized for my picture as is it rather dark. I will use a different color thread when making the video.
The amount of elastic will depend on your size. Measure the armhole and cut the elastic 1″ shorter. Sew the elastic ends at 1/4″. You now have a band. Divide the band into four equal parts. Pin the elastic to the armhole which you would have to divide as well into four equal parts. Match the points and pin the elastic. Stretching in between the four points. You want to stretch evenly while sewing or it will buckle and it will not look good. Make sure you catch the facing. Repeat the same procedure on the other armhole and on the neckline.
Here is a shot of the facing where you need to leave the hole open to be able to insert the pad if you plan to do that.
Step Five: Making and sewing the band
Measure the hem (the circumference) and cut a rectangle that is the width(circumference) of the hem minus 1″ by 2.5″ height. Sew the ends of the rectangle at 1/4″. You have a band now. Divide this band into four equal parts.
Pin the seam of the band to the zigzag that attaches the facing. Align and pin the remaining three points of the band with the three points of the bra and sew at 1/4″.
I have to admit to you that I have not sewn this sports bra pattern in any other size than medium and large. So when trying this pattern, make a sample first to test the fit. I find it very comfortable because of the facing and where I would not go running a marathon with it, I think I have great multitasking garment. I must say a prefer the cotton/lycra so far since in the tropics the use of 100% lycra is rather uncomfortable.
Please send me your comments. I always look forward reading them.