This is the stage of construction where we will be:

  • Basting side seams to test fit
  • Finding the best spot for your cups
  • Sewing cups into place
  • Inserting elastic

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I think it’s easier to insert the cups if we take a little time to insert them now rather than waiting till the end as I direct in the instructions.

If you are making the low back variation, you have no choice but to secure your shelf bra in the side seam. This means you will have a little tugging where the elastic is inserted. You can minimize this by using lightweight elastic or by not adding much stretch, but you may sacrifice a teeny bit of support (not that a piece of fabric and elastic really buoy up the lassies all that much, but still). I haven’t been able to McGyver a solution to prevent this. If any of you have any suggestions for keeping that side seam secure while it’s being pulled in by a piece of under-bust elastic, please chime in.

If you would like to add a shelf bra to the high or medium back variations, you can avoid this seam pullage by making your shelf bra two-sided. Simply trace off or fold your back bodice piece to match the length of the side seam of your front lining piece. Insert the elastic all the way around the edge of the bra/lining so the elastic is not attached to the side seams at all. Similar to what I did for my Fehr Trade XYT dress:

adding cups2

I also came across this interesting tutorial for inserting a sort of makeshift bra with straps into tight fighting tops by Daughter Fish on Burdastyle. I haven’t had a chance to try this method, but it seems like it would give a little more support than just zigzagging cups to your lining. If anyone has any success with this method, please let me know!!


Now that your neckline is finished, we can baste the side and crotch seams closed. Use a long basting stitch so it’s easier to remove later. Now we can try on our Nettie and find the best place for the cups.


I put my suit on inside out since my cups can flip in on themselves, but if you are using thickly padded cups this may not be an option for you. Now that you’ve got it on, mark the lining where you would like to attach the elastic. I left the bra lining on the long side to be careful (or to be used as a guide for a bikini or crop top) so chances are you’ll want to take a little off the length.

Nettie neckline and adding cups-14

Tuck the cups in between the bra lining and the bodice and pin them into place once you’ve found the right location.

Nettie neckline and adding cups-16

Carefully take your Nettie off and unpick your basting stitches on the side and crotch seams.  If you are going to remove some length from the lining, draw a horizontal line where you would like your elastic to go. You want to cut off about a half inch below that line so you have room to flip the elastic up once it’s sewn down.

We want to sew the cups down on the wrong side of the lining, so you will have to move your pins over to the other side of the fabric. Carefully hold your cup in place and move the pins. You also want to make sure the fabric is slightly scooping into the cup. You can do this by flattening the cup down and repinning as necessary. Below is a picture of before and after I moved my pins to the other side of the lining.

Nettie neckline and adding cups-17


Once you’ve got your cups pinned well, go to your sewing machine and start sewing with a wide zigzag stitch around the circumference of the cup. When you get to a corner, put your needle down, raise your pressure foot up, and pivot the cup. Move the pressure foot down again and continue sewing.

Nettie neckline and adding cups-18

Nettie neckline and adding cups-19

You will have to gently stretch the fabric as you go to make sure you don’t get any weird folds. Take your time and stay close to the edge. Once you’re done you will have something that looks like this on the wrong side of your lining:

Nettie neckline and adding cups-20


Now that our cups are sewn down, we can insert our elastic. The tightness of your elastic is really up to you. Hold a piece under your ribcage and try stretching it to find something that feels comfortable. I like a ratio of 85-90% of the length of the shelf bra seam but it really depends on the weight and stretchiness of your elastic. The one I am using here is quite stiff, so I used a little less stretch than usual.

Nettie neckline and adding cups-21

Nettie neckline and adding cups-22

Once you’ve cut your elastic, stretch it to match the length of the shelf bra and pin it into place. At your sewing machine, sew a few stitches using a wide zigzag stitch to anchor the elastic to the wrong side of the fabric. Gently stretch your elastic to match the length of your lining and continue to sew till you get to the end.

Nettie neckline and adding cups-23

Nettie neckline and adding cups-26

Turn your elastic under and zigzag again, taking time to gently stretch your fabric so you don’t sew over any ripples.

Nettie neckline and adding cups-27

When you’re all done, it will look something like this:

Nettie neckline and adding cups-28

And that’s it for the shelf bra. This weekend I’ll be back with a post on inserting your sleeves and closing your side seams. Until then, my friends!


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Closet Core Patterns

Hi! I'm Heather Lou, a pattern designer and sewing educator for the modern maker. At Closet Core Patterns, we transform your imagination into step-by-step implementation that helps you create a wardrobe you love - not one you're limited to buying off the rack.

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