While August might have you thinking back to school, sewists in the handmade garment community are celebrating all things undergarments thanks to Braugust, the annual photo-a-day challenge hosted by Ying of Tailor Made Shop. Now in its third year, Braugust encourages sewists of all skill levels to share their handmade lingerie, swimwear and activewear on Instagram throughout the entire month of August.
To celebrate #braugust2019, Ying is trying out the latest trend in handmade undergarments: sports bras! If you’ve been thinking about making your own sports bra, this Spoonflower designer’s review of five different patterns made in Sport Lycra will be the perfect starting point for you.
#BRAugust is a month long photo-a-day challenge focusing on bra making, swimwear sewing and activewear sewing (as of this year!). It’s meant to encourage sewers to make some pretty lingerie, swimwear or activewear for themselves (or others!) and to meet other sewers in that space and to have fun.
Ying: Sewing your own sports bras are becoming more and more popular and it’s easy to see why! Making a sports bra means you can make one that fits you well and you can pick and choose the style and cut that works for your body. You can control the level of support and the fabric design of your sports bra projects. AND most sports bra patterns come together pretty quickly.
But at the same time, sewing your own sports bra can seem intimidating. I know a lot of sewists tend to have a mental block about sewing things like lingerie, swimwear and sportswear—they are often surprised that these garments can be done on a domestic sewing machine.
I want to let you know that you do not need a fancy sewing machine or specialty machine (such as a serger/overlocker or a coverstitch machine) to sew your own sports bra! You can achieve more professional looking finishes and stitches with specialty machines but it is not necessary for the completion of your sports bra.
Every single bra done in this post is done entirely by my BERNINA home sewing machine using only the following stitches:
Most machines will come with both of these stitches by default, but if yours doesn’t come with the lightning/stretch stitch, you can use a small zig zag stitch to substitute for it.
The other thing about sports bras is that you don’t need a lot of fabric to make them! For the sizes I was making I knew I didn’t need more than ½ yard of material to complete any of the sports bra patterns shown here so I used Spoonflower’s Fill-A-Yard® feature to get two prints out of every yard.
Sewing your own sports bra may seem scary, but depending on the pattern you choose, it’s easier and more approachable than you might imagine.
All of the sports bra patterns shown here—and modeled by my wonderfully amazing and fit friend Zoe—are available in PDF format, which means you can purchase them and download them instantly. They all have detailed, well-written instructions and there’s even one free pattern included on this list for you to dip your toes into the world of sports bra sewing if you’re not ready to shell out for a pattern just yet!
Most of the patterns here are also rated intermediate, but fear not: almost all of them have video sewing instructions in addition to illustrated and written ones.
The Ultimate Sports Bra by So Sew Easy is a fun sports bra design that features really interesting style lines on the front and back of the bra. The pattern is designed so you can add removable foam cups for extra coverage. This is a free pattern and there are video sewing instructions for it to help you complete the project.
A note about this pattern: I actually had to adjust the facing pattern piece slightly to get it matched up with the self layer. This is the only thing holding me back from recommending this pattern to an advanced-beginner sewist.
While this pattern is labeled as intermediate, it only has a few pattern pieces and there are no princess seams to be sewn, so I think this project can be tackled by an advanced-beginner sewist. My favorite thing about this pattern is that you have the option of adding a back closure. After you work out and are tired and feeling gross, the last thing you want to do is struggle with getting your sports bra off. The hook and eye closure makes it MUCH easier to get the bra off!
This pattern has you using the same fabric for the front self and lining pieces so I picked out two colorways of this lovely geometric fabric by Crystal Walen and used one for the self and one for the lining. It makes for a fun detail! For a super-chic version, try out the mesh overlay option with the crossover band elastic.
The Power Sports Bra by Greenstyle Creations is a versatile sports bra pattern that comes in many views! With this pattern you can make a custom sports bra that suits your style and needs. You can make a racerback front and then choose from a racerback with optional pocket or a racerback with optional keyhole. Or you can make a strappy front and then choose from a strappy crossback or a strappy U-back. This pattern also gives you the option of making adjustable straps and it’s even possible to make it nursing friendly.
I made the strappy front version with the crossover strappy back view featuring Holli Zollinger’s fabric for the self layer and Mint Peony’s design for the lining. I used both fabric designs for the double straps and the prints compliment each other really well!
The Power Sports Bra Pattern uses the bra cup and band size system, which allows for a more nuanced fit. There is also video sew-along available for this pattern.
The Dunbar Sports Bra is actually View B of the Dunbar Top Pattern by Sewaholic Patterns. The View B Sports Bra features sweetheart seaming in the front and a full lining that allows for removable foam cups.
This pattern is rated intermediate and I would agree mainly for these two reasons: knits are already fiddly if you are a beginner sewist and this pattern has you finishing the neckline and armhole raw edges with knit binding. The sweetheart seaming in the front may also be a little challenging for a beginner sewist.
For my take on this pattern, I opted to finish the neckline and armhole edges with ¾” fold-over elastic in fun contrasting colors.
The Christina Sports Bra by Porcelynne Supplies comes in an extensive size range, for a total of 182 sizes! The pattern features wide straps, a super fun overlapping band detail and is designed so that the support is mostly in the body of the bra and is not reliant on the bra band for most of the support.
For my take on this pattern, I used Theresa Rizzuto’s abstract watercolor print and I chose to finish the armholes and necklines with a white fold-over elastic. This pattern does not come with instructions for adding foam cups, but it would not be difficult to add foam cups to it before sewing on the bra band. The patternmaker has a video series on constructing the Christina Sports Bra.
I also want to take a moment to talk about support. My friend Zoe and I are both small chested so we do not need a lot of support. However, I know that many who are looking to sew their own sports bras are interested in how to make them more supportive. I want to preface it by saying that I am not an expert on this subject and I am sharing what I’ve found by working with these patterns.
A lot of the sports bra pattern instructions will indicate that level of support will ultimately come down to fabric choice. Medium to heavy-weight fabrics with lower stretch percentages will provide more support. You can also add powernet in between the lining and self layers for additional compression and support. Some patterns even suggest two layers of powernet cut in the opposite stretch directions for extra stability and support.
Finally, I want to mention that there are other sports bra patterns out there in addition to the ones we’ve shown here. As sports bra sewing becomes more popular, there will be more and more pattern options available. I highly recommend sewing your very first sports bra—it’s more accessible than you think and with some practice, you can have a great addition to your handmade wardrobe!