A Homemade Bro for My Girl

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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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?

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(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 😉



17 responses to “A Homemade Bro for My Girl”

  1. Jess Avatar

    Whoa. I’m still getting over the fact that this is a binder DIY using a binder attachment ?! I’ve actually never heard of a binder attachment, and now I’m so intrigued because I love bias binding finishes but get so frustrated when I can’t get them neat enough. And don’t even get me started on FOE frustrations….

    Thanks for the binder/bro details! I’d love to hear Claire’s review of how it compares to purchased versions. I think my partner might be interested in this ‘bro’ concept & style, so thank you!

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      That’s a great idea! I would love to do an interview with Claire to ask her about her experience with storebought binders vs homemade ones. Thank you! SHe actually hasn’t had a chance to wear her binder yet because she just dyed her armpit hair pink? And she was afraid of messing up the fabric and elastic with the residue? But hopefully by the end of the week the color will have faded a bit and she will be able to answer a few questions for inquiring minds LOL! Thanks so much for reading and for your helpful comment!

      1. Veronik Avatar

        If she used regular hair dye in a shade of pink, she shouldn’t have to worry about any permanent dye transference – most of those colours in the ‘manic panic’ vein aren’t permanent. If it did transfer onto the elastic, she’d only have to soak it prior to washing it. BTW, the only hair dye that I know of that is both permanent and not-found-in-nature is vidal sassoon purple.

        And, thanks for the reminder about using attachments on the cover stitch. I have a bunch from thrift stores, but I’ve only ever used them on regular sewing machines. Is yours just taped or does it also have a screw?

        1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

          She has been dying her head and armpit hair for years and unfortunately has had it bleed onto a number of things, so she would rather be safe than sorry, which I fully support. The binder is taped.

  2. Siobhan (Chronically Siobhan) Avatar

    This is so cool! It’s a shame that androgynous underwear is difficult to find and expensive to buy. Even underwear sewing patterns are inclined to be super frilly – I’d love to see Jalie release some unisex / utalitarian style underwear for everyone (instead of say, men’s trunks/women’s briefs patterns).

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      I agree- I think that would be really cool, too! Although I don’t want to own a business and have never been interested in developing a line of patterns, I always thought that if I DID, I would make it an inclusive line of designs that provided a ton of sizes and ways to adjust to different body types, no matter where on the gender spectrum someone’s style was…so like, dresses and skirts and pants and shorts for a range of sizes that include different drafting to accommodate people with different shapes, like slim hips and wide shoulders and curvy thighs, etc. I also thought it would be cool to have a brick and mortar store with like, seasonal color palettes and fabrics but in a range of styles for all types of gender expression- so you could find the same flowery button down in a cut that worked well for a more masculine shape as you would in a cut that was drafted to accommodate a curvier body that might also have boobs. I think it would be so cool for people in and outside of the gender binary to be able to shop in one space surrounded by clothing that speaks to them specifically instead of a masculine-of-center woman sorting through the racks at Top Man, surrounded by cute garments but still struggling to find something that suits her body. If I ever win the lottery? That’s what I’m doing. I guess I have to start playing the lottery though lol.

  3. Aspen (little green orchids) Avatar

    Oh my gosh this is so good. I love that you did this! I swear I was so nervous when you started stitching that my face was a half inch from the screen and my hands were all sweaty. This is some kind of sorcery. And I love it. I’m so obsessed with my coverstitch, but using that attachment has been my final hurdle I was too scared to touch. ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      I cannot WAIT to see the cool stuff you make with this technique now!!!! I still owe you a video of using regular binding on the machine, though! lol

  4. Siobhan (Chronically Siobhan) Avatar

    I can’t love this comment enough! With all the news coverage of some stores doing away with gendered children’s clothes, I’ve been thinking, why not adults too? Let’s hope you win the lottery eh! Or society catches up to your dreams 🙂

  5. Kristin P Avatar
    Kristin P

    Loved your video! It’s very informative, but also, Claire made it really funny too! Hope she enjoys wearing the binder you made–you made putting it together look really easy! I have a serger that converts to a coverstitch (through a 30 minute process that involves much swearing) but I’m not that well-versed in how to use it. So for me, coverstitch is the last frontier. You just made it seem much less scary and worth the time invested to figure it out, so thanks! I guess I should be more try-curious 😉

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks for watching, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’m actually the one who edited our footage- she just held the camera, therefore I was in charge of the funny, lol. Good luck with trying out your coverstitch conversion, if you can figure it out it will be totally worth it I’m sure 🙂

  6. Tasha Avatar

    But the part I’m confused about: So this binder attachment doesn’t actually go with the machine? Does this particular coverstitch have binder attachments? If so, is there a reason you did not use it?

    Sorry if these questions sound a little ditzy

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      HA! It felt like sorcery to me when I saw it on IG, too! My first thought was, oh my machine won’t do that, cause she was using an industrial coverstitch, which I thought had powers that my regular guy did not. And lo and behold, weeks later on a whim while I was about to do something on the machine, I was just like, hmmm, let me try it at least….and ALAS!
      As for the binders…I think that my machine in particular (I have a brother Coverstitch) only has two binders that are made by the machine’s company. I am also pretty sure that both of them are double fold binders and that the difference between the two is just the size of the bias tape that you can create. So I bought one of the official Brother binders for almost a hundred dollars which is crazy cause the machine itself was like $350 ish I think? Anyways, that binder has a little knob on the bottom that fits into one of the grooves on the machine which is how it is attached, and even though it’s just a plastic knob, it’s very sturdy. I finally learned to use the binder, after a very looooong learning curve, but I realized that the binding it produced was bigger than I wanted. It was fine for certain garments like t- shirts, but for something smaller and more fitted, like a sports bra or a cropped tank top, it just looked too bulky (I can’t remember but I want to say the size of this binding was 1 1/2″ or 1 5/8. The other binder that brother sold wasn’t the right size I wanted either, but then after some internet sleuthing I learned that there were tons of binder attachments in different sizes made for industrial machines that you could buy on eBay. They would work fine on most coverstitch machines (the listings would usually include the various models of machines they would work with), but the kicker was that you couldn’t securely attach it to your machine. Of course that was an easy hurdle to bypass- you just use tape or putty to stick it to the machine and then take it off when you don’t want to use it anymore. Easy peasy! So I bought a smaller binder (I think its 1 1/8″?) that is also a double fold, but as you can see in the video, you don’t need to use the folds of the binder to make it work with the FOE. WHen I saw Tailormadeshop use it on her IG, I was concerned about the tension of the FOE, because when I apply it with a regular machine on a garment, the instructions always make you quarter the FOE and match those quarters to the quartered edges of the garment (you know that drill, I’m sure) to make sure that the FOE is evenly distributed and tight all the way around. Of course with a coverstitch machine you can’t really change the tension of the binding that is going through the attachment, so I wondered if it would come out too loose or something. Thankfully it did not- the tension was perfect, probably better than what I was able to achieve on a regular machine. The binder attachment controls the tension automatically so it comes out pretty damn perfect.
      I hope this was helpful, Tasha!

      1. Tasha Avatar

        Thank you. I have this coverstitch as well but I’ve only used it a couple of times because it lives in the box when it’s not in use (no space for it the room I work in :-/ )

        This was very helpful. I will look up the 2 that come with the machine first maybe on youtube and google to see how they work before I invest. I have some knit t-shirts I want to wear and the one I want to base them off has the neck bound using a coverstitch. It looks SO clean.
        Thanks for bringing this to light!

  7. Priya Avatar

    Hey Jasika. I’ve been looking on Ebay and all of the binder attachments are double fold on each side or double on top and single on bottom. Can you let me know what you searched for? Im super frustrated and dont want to buy the wrong thing. Thanks so much for the video.

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