Merckwaerdigh BHS10, View D

Another Merckwaerdigh kit creation:




I underlined most of the bra in the by-the-bolt stretch mesh from Fashion Fabrics Club. The mesh was dyed on the stove using Jacquard acid dye in Ecru. The result is deeper than ivory but lighter than most light-colored nudes. I have sometimes seen this color referred to as “natural.” It is a good neutral for the ivory and peachy pink in this lace.


Here’s the white vs dyed ecru mesh:


For the sake of comparison here’s nude, white, and the ecru mesh:


When I posted my last BHS10, View D bra on Pattern Review someone wrote a rather lengthy comment about how I basically destroyed my mesh by dyeing it on the stove. They must have thought I was boiling it in a cauldron or something! In actuality I carefully monitored the water, keeping it at or just below 120ºF to the best of my ability. (I would switch my 5-gallon stainless steel pot to a cool burner if it started getting above 125ºF.) I generally set the burner to medium-high and then lower it as time goes on. I stirred constantly, leaving the fabric in the water for about 10 minutes. Halfway through the process I dissolved a teaspoon of citric acid into the water and continued stirring and stirring. After the 10 minutes were up I took the fabric out of the water and washed it in a five gallon bucket using Dharma Trading Textile Detergent. The water was probably around 100ºF. After I finished washing it I put it in my spin dryer for a minute, then draped it over a laundry rack near the wood stove so it could completely finish drying. I was very conscious to not stretch or otherwise stress the fabric until it was completely dry and cool. I know lycra doesn’t like heat but it turned out fine, especially since I’m using it as a reinforcement for my lace rather than firm standalone support. I don’t consider bras forever items anyway due to the regular exposure to sweat and body oils while being stretched around the body, not to mention the damage laundry detergents and the washing process do over time.

If you’ve never worked with acid dyes – or any other dyes – before, here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • I highly recommend using the Dharma Trading dyes over the grocery store RIT. You need far less of it, plus you can get dyes that are actually made for the fabric you’re working with. The colorfastness is much better. RIT is more of an all-purpose dye. It is meant to dye plant-based fibers, protein-based fibers, AND nylon. However that means that it dyes nothing particular well. When I would use RIT and did the post-dye wash I would get some very colorful water. The Dharma dyes seem like they “bond” to the garment better and I don’t have crazy amounts of dye discharging in that post-dye bath wash.
  • The Dharma Trading website has excellent, in-depth tutorials. Print them off and read them in their entirety before starting.
  • Keep a timer handy. Partially through the dye bath you’ll need to add vinegar or citric acid (acid dyes) or soda ash (fiber reactive dyes).
  • Always prewash the fabric using Synthrapol or the Dharma Trading Textile Detergent. This will remove any dirt/grease/oils that may be lurking on your fabric and help prevent splotches. Keep the fabric wet until you can put it in the dye bath.
  • Make sure the materials you use – the bucket/pot, measuring spoons and cups, thermometer, and stirring utensils – are reserved for dye use only. Dharma Trading doesn’t sell the toxic stuff, but you still don’t want to cook your food in the same pots you’ve been using to dye fabric.
  • Wear a mask and gloves. You don’t want to accidentally inhale dye powder and the gloves will keep your hands dye-free as well as protect them from the chemicals. I also wear a big plastic apron to protect my clothing.
  • If you dye on the stove, stick to stainless steel or enamel pots. Sometimes the dyes react oddly to aluminum.
  • If you are dyeing nylon-coated rings and sliders place them in a stainless steel tea ball so you don’t have to try to pick them out of the water. (Sidenote: I usually have to leave the rings and sliders in the dye bath for a longer time than the fabric in order to get a similar level of saturation.)
  • Make sure you match your dye to your fabric. The fiber reactive dyes will not dye nylon or other synthetics, and the acid dyes will not work very well for cotton.
  • In general nylon dyes very well, and polyester poorly (if at all). It depends on the fabric.
  • Dyeing fabric is more of an art than a science. You have to use your judgement and be comfortable experimenting.

15 thoughts on “Merckwaerdigh BHS10, View D

  1. I am enjoying your variations on the bra theme. I am ready to attempt my first bra with a kit I purchased. I am concerned that it is difficult to find the fabrics I want to make my own bras. I hope someone will compile a comprehensive listing of sources for bra making fabrics. It would be easy to get the wrong materials which would make a big difference in the fit of the bra. The larger online fabric sellers do not list the fabrics needed in any easy to find or understand way. How, without actually seeing and feeling the fabrics can we tell which have the proper amount of stretch or firmness needed? I have ordered some samples from one of the sites that specialize in bra supplies, and they are out of the country. I ordered my first pattern and kit from Canada, and the shipping from other countries is rather high. It would be cheaper to buy bras from my local Kohl’s store, but I recently lost a lot of weight and my bra size is hard to find, a small band and a large cup, so I am hoping to make my own so that I can have an entire wardrobe of pretty bras.


    1. There’s a few of those lists posted if you hunt on Google. The problem is that it is a moving target. Bra supply boutiques start and go out of business all the time. (I’m still missing Elingeria.) Bramaking is unique in that you are unlikely to find most of what you need at a regular fabric store. The marketplace is mostly smaller online boutiques and people selling on Ebay and Etsy. The difficulty in sourcing is why I always post where I bought my materials.

      How do you know whether a fabric will work or not? A combo of experience and comparing it (along with the pattern piece) to a bra that fits well. In many ways it is like choosing the right interfacing for a jacket or coat. Some places – like Sew Sassy and Fabric Depot – sell samples. You could use those to judge the weight and amount/type of stretch the fabric and/or elastic has. The band and overall fit of the bra is very much personal preference as well as a matter of measurements. You will need to experiment to find out what you like best. In my case I find that underlining most of my bands with the mesh from Fashion Fabrics Club gets me a band that’s tight enough to bring the wires close to my body, but not so tight that I notice it all day long. Others may prefer a really snug band, especially if they are a larger cup size. You also need to pay attention to the type of elastic you use – some has a “softer” stretch than others. Before I sew the elastic to the bottom band I wrap it around myself until it feels comfortably snug, cut it to that measurement, then cut a few more inches off to account for the back closure.

      Once you get a band you’re happy with you can then adjust it based on the fabric you want to use. Part of the reason why I like the Make Bra patterns so much is that the foam lining makes it much easier when your materials have a lot of variation. Once you perfect the pattern you know those cups will always fit.

      I like sewing my own because of the potential for customization and because it is creative and satisfying. I truly enjoy the process. It is a good way of exercising my sewing brain, especially during this time of year when the landscape outside is getting colder, bleaker, and darker each day. The fact that I might save money vs buying RTW is just a bonus. Often it ends up being about the same as what I would pay for a midrange RTW brand like Maidenform. I’m going to be completely honest – it is just like any other RTW garment in that if your primary focus is saving money- and you’re already buying at the lower end of the retail scale – you’ll probably find yourself annoyed and frustrated. You would be better off buying according to cup size and altering the band to fit.


    1. I have too many of these kits laying around…I need to do *something* with them! A few people mentioned that seeing a photo of the finished project vs the kit I started with helps, so I’ll keep posting.


  2. I’ve struggled with dyeing my own lingerie notions and that’s because I know that lycra and those synthetics can’t/shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures above 120 degrees, but the dyes from Dharma advice to bring the pot to a boil. Does your water ever reach a boil?


  3. Beautiful work and great tips. I’ve also used dyes from Dharma and agree they are much superior to others. The instructions are also detailed and take much of the guess work out. You mentioned in a previous reply that you use more dye for nylon. About how much more? Do you weigh your fabrics and calculate dyed amounts by weight? For pastels you would use less dye or shorter times? Your posts are always so detailed and I’m gathering materials to give bra making a try.


    1. I used more dye because I was dyeing the fabric in much cooler water and for a lesser amount of time than was recommended. I think the general rule for pastels is less dye for the same amount of time. I wasnt concerned with repeating colors or accuracy, which is the biggest reason for weighing fabric and measuring precise amounts of dye. I just wanted a ballpark color. I used probably a teaspoon of dye for 2.5 gallons of water and added a teaspoon of citric acid halfway through the dye bath. (After you add the citric acid the color gets much more saturated.) I have found the Dharma Trading staff extremely responsive and helpful, so you should definitely contact them if you have any specific questions.


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