Shopping for bras can be frustrating. Bra boutiques have staff to help you find the best fitting, most flattering styles, but their prices are high. Department stores have lower prices but most don’t have experienced staff. Sewing your own, custom fitted bra is a third option. Interested in sewing your own bra? Not sure you want to commit to buying a pattern? This post is a how to sew bras Maya Bra project review.
The free pattern and tutorial are available here:
The Maya Bra pattern is for personal use only.
For the purposes of my review, I’m going to summarize the steps, tell you what I did differently (if anything) and share my general thoughts about sewing this bra.
The Maya bra features an underwire and the three-piece cups can be made with either cut-and-sew foam and fabric or, all fabric. Depending upon your choice of materials, you may wish to underline the cups. Unfortunately the written tutorial is incomplete. I recommend the “Bra Making 101: Sewing The Maya Bra” video series by LizSews (Liz Sews – How To Sew A Bra: Maya Bra part 1) if you are new to bra sewing. Liz demonstrates how to sew a non-stretch cup, foam lined Maya Bra.
Step 0 Gather Materials
The Afi Atelier discussion on choosing your materials was a real eye opener for me. Despite having sewn other bras (Pin-up Girls Bras Project Review), I learned the most about selecting suitable materials from this tutorial. It had never occurred to me that I could use stretchy materials for the cradle, provided that it was lined with a non-stretch material. Similarly it hadn’t occurred to me that high-stretch fabrics could be underlined with Powernet to make the band. With this new information I realized that several fabric I had considered poor choices for bra making were in fact, great choices.
For this project, you’ll need a main fabric that is stretchy (eg stretch lace, lycra blends, or knits). Powernet is needed for the back wings and a non-stretch material will line and stabilize the cradle. The lining fabric for the cups can either be stretch or non-stretch. You will also need elastic, underwires, and bra hardware. You’ll need cut-and-sew foam if you’re making a foam cup bra.
My main fabrics were spandex blends (black with blue strips & white zigzag) and stretch rayon (pink) left over from sewing other bras and panties, and a low-stretch lace (beige and cream). I also used some left-over Duoplex (white & pink) and leftover Powernet (white, pink and beige). I purchased cut-and-sew foam, sheer lining, underwires, and bra findings kits (they contain elastics, straps and bra closures) from Bra-makers Supply and hand washed the sheer lining before beginning this project.
I sewed my low-stretch lace bra without foam cups and lined the cups with sheer bra lining. I lined the bridge with sheer bra lining and sewed this entire bra with a 6mm seam allowance.
Step 1 Sew Cups
Maya bra cups may be either fabric and/or lace, or fabric (and/or lace) and foam. I tried both. I marked the inner end of the upper cup pieces with an “I for “inner”. This made it easier to match up the pieces correctly.
The cut-and-sew foam that I purchased was finished on both sides with a soft polyester knit so I omitted lining the foam and the ribbon seam covers. I had some trouble with skipped stitches when I was sewing the foam cups together. A brand new ballpoint sewing machine needle, a wider zigzag stitch and a Teflon presser foot significantly reduced this issue.
I zigzagged around the perimeter of the foam cups to reduce bulk. This caused some stretching of my foam cups. I re-enforcing the neckline and underarm edges with tricot tape for my third Maya foam cup bra prior to zigzagging the perimeter.
I referred to Liz’s video tutorial on sewing the cups (Liz Sews – How To Sew a Bra: Maya Bra part 3) to double-check the neckline seam length. I used a zigzag stitch to secure the perimeter of the fabric and foam layers (as per the AFI tutorial).
For my first Maya Bra, I trimmed the underarm foam to reduce bulk (as per Liz’s video) but I recommend not trimming the underarm foam line if you’re using a stretch material. My pink rayon stretched out a shape when I was sewing on the underarm elastic resulting in significant underarm gape with my first Maya bra. I omitted this step for my other foam cup Maya Bras. For my subsequent Maya Bras, I stretched my elastic quite a lot along the underarm edge of the foam cup which reduced underarm gaping.
For my lace cup bra, I sewed the lace cups, sewed the sheer lining cups and then sewed the lace cups to the sheer lining cups along the neckline seam. When I sewed the cups together along the perimeter, I also top-stitched ~3mm from the neckline seam.
Step 2 Sew Band
The bra band consists of two back panels and the bridge panel which holds the cups. The back panels are stretchy and the bridge panel is firm. For my black and blue cotton lycra bra, I lined the cotton lycra back panels with Powernet and lined the bridge with sheer bra lining.
I also lined the bridge of the stretch lace bra with sheer bra lining. I sewed the centre bridge seam (right-sides-together) folded the shear lining over the lycra for a cleaner finish. For the other Maya bras I sewed, I folded the center bridge over by the seam allowance used only Powernet for the back panels. I used my Teflon presser foot to avoid skipped stitches when sewing the bands.
Step 3 Sew Cups To Band
I finished the centre bridge during Step 2 so, my cups and band fit together perfectly. The AFI Tutorial recommends hand basting before sewing the cups to the band with your sewing machine. I didn’t do so with my first two Maya Bras and had rip some stitches where additional material got caught in the seam. I sewed more carefully for my subsequent Maya Bras and didn’t have to hand baste or rip stitches. The AFI Tutorial ends here.
Step 4 Sew Elastic
I referred to part 5 of Liz Sew’s tutorial (Liz Sews – How To Sew A Bra: Maya Bra part 5) for this step. Liz demonstrates sewing the bottom band elastic, first seam for the underwire channel, shoulder straps then top elastics. I prefer to sew the shoulder straps (so I don’t forget them), bottom band elastic, top elastics and then the underwire channels.
Liz sewed her straps 1” from the short end of the band but mentions that that they can be sewn farther in if sliding shoulder straps is a problem. It is for me so I sewed my straps 1.5” in from the edge. The strap ends are sewn to the exterior of the bra and then folded into the interior when the elastic is sewn on. The elastic is sewn to the exterior of the bra and then folded into the interior to hide the raw edge of the fabric.
For a few of the previous bras that I sewed, I stretched the bottom band elastic a little bit too much, making my bra a bit tight. I followed Liz’s suggestion of not stretching the bottom band elastic at all. Snipping into the seam allowance near the middle of the band helped make sewing the elastic along the curve easier.
Step 5 Underwire Channel & Closures
I referred to part 6 of Liz’s tutorial (LizSews – How To Sew A Bra: Maya Bra part 6) for this step. Liz demonstrates finishing the underwire channels, top-stitching the cup-band seam, attaching the straps, inserting the underwires, and then attaching the bra closure. I prefer to finish the underwire channels, top-stitch the cup-band seam, attach the bra closure, insert the underwires and then attach the straps.
I’m not sure if the additional top stitching along the cup-band seam is structural or decorative. I’ve used this step with one of the previous bra patterns I’ve sewn and I used it again here.
I used a 3 hook closure for my black and blue Maya Bra and a 2 hook closure for my other Maya bras. The pattern includes different band pieces depending upon which of these closures you use and both patterns worked great. Just be sure to follow the directions carefully and cut out the correct pieces for your bra closure.
That’s it! There are five main steps! Here are some photos of my finished Maya bras.
While wearing my first foam cup Maya Bra, I noticed gaping along the neckline edge of the foam cups. I suspect the Maya Bra cup shape isn’t the same as the shape of my breasts. AFI Atelier includes a short tutorial (Upper cup adjustment) for adjusting the upper cup with darts if you notice the same thing. I didn’t have enough fabric to try this method and cut out new upper cup pieces. I added two darts along the neckline of each of my upper cups pieces (without redrawing them as per the tutorial). This reduced the gaping and altered the overall shape of the upper cup pieces.
The Maya Bra is a full band bra with a narrow band and either foam-lined or fabric-lined cups. The straps are all elastic so choose wider elastic and hardware for wider straps. The back attachment position of the straps can be customized. Afi Atelier’s size calculator makes it easy to obtain your bra size, underwire size and the bra pattern. Between the well written instructions on the Afi Atelier website and the LizSews video tutorials, it’s easy to make a great fitting bra. That being said, there are multiple bra styles because there are multiple breast shapes. If the Maya Bra cups don’t match your breast shape, you may need to add darts to the upper cup. I recommend following the AFI Atelier tutorial for doing so. Not stretching the bottom band elastic resulted in great fitting bra bands each time.
It took about the same amount of time to sew this bra as it took me to sew a Pin-up Girls Ruby Bra with a foam cup (the methods are similar). Lining the Maya Bra fabric cup version did take a little longer than sewing a Pin-up Girls Classic Bra, but not longer than sewing a Maya Bra with foam cups. I like how the cup seams are hidden in my Maya Bra lined fabric cup version.
Overall, the Maya Bra is a great introduction to bra making.
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