I won’t spend much time educating anyone here on all the details of what a binder is- if you’re unfamiliar and want to learn more, google is your friend! But in short, a binder (or a “bro” as my wife likes to call it) is a type of undergarment that women, men, and people outside of the gender binary use instead of a bra. Claire likes hers to be more like a sports bra, with full coverage and and a firm (but not too tight!) fit that keeps the girls down and out of her way. She has been buying her binders online from different stores, and although she seems to appreciate that her needs have been addressed by some indie retailers, it’s been hard for her to find a perfect bro that matches both her style and shape.
She asked me a few months ago if I could add some type of fabric to the inside of one of her RTW binders to keep nipplage from peeking through her shirts, and eventually that request morphed into “can we just try and make a binder?” Of course I was up to the task, and with her guidance, we designed a bro that suited her needs better than what she had purchased from retailers. Binders need to be stretchy, but also firm and tight (much like a well-made sports bra), so I opted for a knit ponte fabric comprised of cotton, spandex and nylon. Normally for a sports bra I would want to make it out of a more breathable fabric to wick sweat away, but since this isn’t going to be worn for working out, we were able to settle on a regular apparel fabric (you could go either way, honestly). The ponte has stretch and great recovery, so it won’t sag at the end of a day of wear and will likely hold up over time better than, say, a knit jersey.
- I used Jalie Pattern #3247 , a very simple but smartly constructed sports bra, and went up 2 sizes bigger than Claire’s measurements called for (not sure if this is a brand-wide thing, specific just to their sports bras, or based on personal preference, but I find their sizing to be a bit small- even when I was dancing regularly I didn’t like my undergarments to be this tight LOL).
- We added about three inches to the length of the two pattern pieces to bring the bottom down further to the mid-section. I also re-drafted the back piece to make it broader, keeping the straps as drafted – it’s still a racerback, but just has more coverage over the back and shoulders.
- To give the front of the bro extra structure, we lined the front piece with self fabric and sandwiched lightweight bra foam between the two pieces to cover up the aforementioned nipplage. The important thing to note about the foam is that the pattern piece has to reach at least partway up the straps, otherwise if it’s just cut into a rectangle it will fold up on itself inside of the garment. It also must be trimmed at the bottom so as not to get in the way of the allowance that is alotted for attaching 3/4 inch elastic to the edge and folding it up to create the bottom band.
- I applied foldover elastic (FOE) to the neck and armholes before seaming the rest of the bra together with my serger!
The application of the FOE was a huge deal to me because in the past I have always hated using it. I would attach it using my regular sewing machine and a zigzag stitch, the same way most everyone else did, but I found it to be incredibly finicky to manipulate and my results were always less than professional looking. Lot’s of people have no problem using this method to attach FOE so I am sure that with practice I would have gotten a lot better, but thankfully I didn’t need to! See, I recently peeped a really cool trick on TailorMadeShoppe’s Instagram feed a few weeks ago (they provide gorgeous bra notions/ fabrics/ kits to the sewing community via their etsy shop) where they briefly showed themselves using a coverstitch machine and binder attachment to apply FOE to the edges of a garment.
WHAT?!?!?! My mind was legit blown! It had taken me months to finally learn how to use my coverstitch machine to apply regular binding (essentially a long strip of knit fabric that, with the aid of an extra attachment called a binder- HOW IRONIC!- gets folded in on itself to encase the raw edges of a garment) and when I did, it felt Makerlife-changing. But applying FOE using the same principles? Could it be?
(quick shout out to Button and Trim Expo in LA’s garment disctrict- I had no idea that I needed to make five garments covered in multi-colored pompoms! Or that you could buy reams and reams of affordable FOE in every color and pattern imagineable (25 cents per yard, to be exact). I also bought some beautiful bra and panty laces for $2.50 a yard- this is a definite must-visit if you’re ever in the area and looking for trim!)
ANYWAYS, the reason this was such a big deal to me is that one of the trickiest parts of getting a coverstitch machine to apply beautiful binding is getting those damn fabric strips to cooperate! The fabric has to be the right weight and texture, and it needs to be cut perfectly straight across the whole length, otherwise it will curl in on itself and make it practically impossible to be fed through the binder’s folds. When binding application works, it’s like magic! But if one thing is just a little bit off, it can become incredibly frustrating, and I can’t tell you how many cute knit tee shirts I have had to rip the binding off til the neckline was raw and wavy only to ultimately discard it cause it just looked too rough. So using FOE would take that whole part out of the equation! No more cutting long strips of temperamental fabric, and because FOE already has finished edges, it doesn’t need to be fed through the “wings” of the binder attachment to create a double fold- it just has to go through the main opening and then folded once on it’s way out of the attachment. If you have never worked with a binder attachment before, this probably reads like another language to you, but guess what…I MADE A WHOLE TUTORIAL ABOUT IT TO SHOW YOU!
Okay, wait- let me lower whatever expectations you might have and be real with you. This is NOT a professionally done tutorial! It was not rehearsed or planned out at all, and although some aspects of the quality are pretty fantastic thanks to Claire behind the camera, you can tell it’s my first time doing this (and possibly my last LOL). However, months ago, when I finally figured out how to use my binding attachment and was bragging about it on my IG, littlegreenorchids (online friend, obvi!) asked if I could explain in better detail how I figured it out. I was super into the idea, but I knew I would need to help to do it since I couldn’t film and sew at the same time, and so it just ended up taking forever to actually get it done. BUT WE DID IT!
This video is pretty hilarious to me since it took me so long to get it done for one person, but it’s not even what she asked for -she wanted more information on how to make and attach regular double fold binding, not FOE, and there is also a whole trick for removing threads from your garment when your stitching is done that I wanted to explain to her, but somehow didn’t make it to the final edit of this video. So littlegreenorchids, HERE IS THE VIDEO I MADE YOU THAT ISN’T ACTUALLY ADDRESSING ANYTHING THAT YOU ASKED FOR. I hope you enjoy it!!!!
Again, thanks to Claire for helping me complete this and making it much better than it would have looked if it was just me on my iPhone! This post is kind of all over the place, so if anyone has specific questions about making the binder that I failed to address, let me know! Now I’m off to cut out 1,000 soft bras from OhhhLulu patterns 😉