Oh you were expecting a non-lingerie post…. I’m the worst. I swear I have a bunch of non-lingerie garments to share. I just need to find the time to take pictures. Sooooon.
This was originally posted on the Curvy Sewing Collective for Lingerie Month.
Today I am reviewing the free (YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT!) Maya Bra pattern from AFI. AFI wrote a great post about why she made this a free pattern. It’s worth a read. I’m extremely happy about the free part since most bra patterns are $15-$20 plus shipping in some circumstances.
The Maya bra is a three piece foam cup bra with lining and an outer fabric as well as a full cradle and band wings. AFI includes different band wing pieces for a 2 eye hook and a 3 eye hook, as well as pieces for the foam cups and the lining/main fabric cups. This saves time changing a pattern for bigger hooks and takes the guess work out of removing seam allowances for the foam pieces.
The size range is extensive and AFI adds new sizes all the time. There is a range from EU 60C/ UK 28C / US 28C to EU 100J/ UK 44GG/ US 44J in letter size and A4 size in English and Romanian. If your size isn’t available for download, simply comment on the download page and ask when that size will be added. AFI is pretty responsive to comments.
To choose your size, you need to know two things: rib cage measurement and wire size. There is a guide on how to measure and how to choose your size along with downloadable wire charts.
I am a 40H in some RTW bra sizes. But I didn’t choose my size based on that. I followed the guide on how to measure. I measured my ribcage at 44 inches and used my wire size 60 that I’ve found to be comfortable in other bras I’ve made. Based on that, I sit at the very end of the size range with a US 44J. I printed off that size and got to work.
Using Emerald Erin’s tutorial on how to piece the foam cups, I found sewing the foam cups went well. The foam pattern pieces have the seam allowance taken out saving you that job. You butt the pieces together with no overlap and use a satin stitch to sew them together. Using the satin stitch in Erin’s tutorial, I was able to put the foam cups together very quickly and the seam is super strong. At this point, you can sort of hold the cups up to your breasts and test a bit of the fit. Unfortunately, it won’t give you a really clear indication of how the cups will really fit since there will be all sorts of factors affecting the fit (gravity being the big one). With bra making, you test the fit when it is all done. It can be a costly endeavor to fit a bra pattern.
You can compare with other bras to get a general idea of fit. I was sewing another bra during one of my versions and able to do a bit of comparison:
These are pretty close in size which is a good sign.
The instructions are great for novice bra makers to follow along with. However, they aren’t complete just yet. AFI is working on them all the time. Unless you have experience sewing a bra, I wouldn’t suggest you begin with this pattern as the instructions aren’t complete. Once they are though, I think a novice bra maker could follow them easily; AFI provides pictures and clear instructions for the steps that are available. You will need to have some experience with sewing to sew a bra. Beverly Johnson says that as long as you can set a sleeve, you can sew a bra. Think of that as your beginning point.
Construction process was easy. I did disagree with the materials required. AFI uses cotton fabric for the cradle and the lining, stretch lace for the bands, neoprene for the cups, etc. These are good materials when someone is making a bra for a smaller bust and band, but the materials need to be a bit better when making a bra for a larger bust. Instead, I used no lining fabric (I suggest you do line it with sheer cup lining, though; I was lazy and would definitely line it in any future versions), a stretch satin for the main fabric and one layer of the cradle and stretch lace for my 3rd version with black duoplex on the cradle, lined my cradle with sheer cup lining, and doubled powernet for the band wings. It also suggests boning for the sides where the cradle and the band wings meet. I’ve had this in bras before and found it horribly uncomfortable so I left it out, but I did put channeling in that location and that provides enough support to keep the sides from wrinkling.
The first version I made was very large in the upper cup. While I am full all over, I do seem to have a shallow upper cup and a narrow shoulder. Since the method for measuring yourself doesn’t take into account the bust measurements and instead goes by the wire measurements, it does have a much larger cup than may be necessary for your two measurements. My upper cup ended up being far too large. The lower cup seemed okay in that first version, but it was difficult to gauge that. I had more than two inches of excess fabric in the upper cup on each side. The bridge (where the wires meet between your breasts) was also coming away from my chest quite a bit. The band was a little big as well.
Here is a front-on picture without the excess pinned out and then a picture with the excess pinned out. You can see the difference. The bridge comes away from my chest, but that is difficult to get a picture of.
Here is a wonky side picture to show you the wrinkling in the band indicating that it is too large.
Version # 2
For my next version, I removed two inches from the upper cup and one inch from the band. I noticed in the this version that the lower cup didn’t have enough room. It created quite the push up bra experience and was fine to wear for a day, but since the bridge sat away from my body by an inch or two, it was rather uncomfortable by the end of the day. Under the arm came up too high in this version, however, and is a little uncomfortable.
Not as much excess in the upper cup, but the bridge still comes away from my body.
Very little wrinkling in the side, if any. You can see a bit of the push up effect of the bra by the cleavage happening there.
Here is a comparison of the previous version with this one:
The upper cup of the first version is folding inside the upper cup of this version.
I added a nice little detail for this bra since I was pretty happy with it:
For my third version, I increased the volume in the lower cup, narrowed the bridge, and decreased the upper cup yet again. And then I made a disaster sewing… I decided to just make the pieces for the main fabric and trim the seam allowances once I cut out the foam. I definitely did not trim them enough and had to rip the cups out after I sewed up the bra. My seam ripper broke after the first cup and then I used a knife. That turned out to be a great idea and I got the other cup out in half the time. Now I have a knife in my sewing room. Quite the badass here. When I resewed the bra, the issues seemed to be almost the same as the previous version: not enough room in the lower cup and the bridge sits away from my body. The fit it better under the arm, though, and the issues are better albeit in minor ways.
No wrinkles on the band, but you can really see the bridge issue in this version. Probably due to the fabric choices and not lining the bra with a non-stretch lining. There is also definitely not enough room added to those lower cups.
Here is a comparison of this version with the first version:
The bigger first version is super squished inside the third version.
I think the Maya bra fit me a lot better than the first time I made the Pin Up Girl Classic bra. Helps that I am using a wire size that is comfortable for me. Maya definitely flatters much better and has a nice round shape instead of the pointy shape of the Classic bra. Except for the upper cup being far too wide, the fit was pretty good. The bridge being too wide is a common issue I have, as well as it not sitting against my chest completely. This is true in RTW. There is a very narrow space between my breasts and it’s difficult to fit for that and still have enough space for the channeling and wires.
I know I will eventually get the right fit with the Maya bra. In the meantime, I’m not using up too much in materials since I can pull apart the bigger bras and try again. I will make the pattern again since it is such a nice shape and the foam really pushes my breasts up. The whole push up bra thing is a novelty in my size!
My advice for anyone trying out this pattern is to compare that upper cup to a bra that fits you well in that area and see whether you need to take it in first. I think the upper cup is likely the part that would not fit for a lot of people unless they have very very full breasts that haven’t felt the effects of gravity ever. Since none of us are lucky enough to live in zero gravity, we’ll have to deal with upper cup adjustments. The bridge may also be too wide. Again compare it to a well fitting bra and adjust before making your first version. There are some things we can do to alter bra patterns before we sew them. If you need some help figuring out some basic bra pattern adjustments, Norma Loehr’s Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction has a section on bra pattern adjustments based on the fit issue. There are also many amazing tips in the first Beverly Johnson Craftsy class. Or you can check out these Cloth Habit posts: cup adjustments, and band and frame adjustments.
With bras, the larger the cup, the more adjustments and failed bras you will go through. Sorry everyone… BUT! You can always baste the entire bra together to get the idea of how it will fit before completing the bra. Compare to your other bras to see if the fit will be similar. The important thing to remember is that even though the fitting curve is steeper with large bras, once you get a good fit, you can make all the bras at a lower cost in most cases than RTW. My RTW bras cost me between $60 and $200. The bras I cloned were $80 bras. In comparison, my materials cost me on average $25-$30. If I do factor in labour costs, I actually end up with a $150-$200 value bra for the price of $25-$30. That is a pretty sweet dollar savings and I get the bonus of having a custom bra in my style. Even cloning a RTW bra, it took me until about the fifth one before I could say it was really good. There are always fit issues. With bras, you have to be a lot more precise. My advice to you is to take it slow, be patient, and not get discouraged. Also, feel free to tag me or message me privately on Instagram to ask for help. I love talking bramaking! There are also two great private facebook groups where you can ask a bunch of people for help: Bra Making Forum and Bra Makers – Beginners through Intermediate. You can always use the contact page on my blog and we can chat through email as well.
Size Range (1-5): 5
Instructions (1-5): 3.5 (5 for the ones that are complete, but lost marks due to incompleteness of final steps)
Construction Process (1-5): 4
Final Fit (1-5): 3.5
Overall Rating (1-5) + Explanation: 4
The Maya bra is a great foam cup bra pattern with an impressive size range and an amazing shape. It is unfortunate that the instructions aren’t complete just yet and that places it in the intermediate bra making experience zone. Once the instructions are complete, I can see it being a good place for beginner bra makers to start. Not for beginner sewers, though. You need to have enough experience to confidently set a sleeve to be able to sew a bra.