tutorial: how to add bra cups to a shelf bra

Hello! I’m Lyndsey Stanfill, and I’m here to share how I modified the Tribeca Knit Cami to add cups to the shelf bra.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra

A well-fitting ready-to-wear cami with a shelf bra is hard to find when you have a full bust. Very often, the bottom of the shelf bra will fall across your bust instead of under your bust. I have purchased high-end camis designed for large bust sizes and have the same challenge.

When the Tribeca Knit Cami was released, I was excited about the opportunity to sew a cami that fit my body. However, I knew I wanted to add bra cups to the shelf bra for shaping and modesty so that I would be confident wearing the cami on its own. I tried several methods for adding bra cups, and I will walk you through the process I prefer.

Full Bust Adjustment

When you make a full bust adjustment in a woven, you add width and length. Knit fabrics usually only need minor adjustments on the width because the fabric’s stretch allows for additional width. However, a knit fabric that only stretches one way (like a jersey) will likely need extra length, depending on your bust size.

To ensure I would have enough fabric for the bra shelf, I added 5” below the Lengthen or Shorten line on the bra shelf pattern pieces. This was much more than I needed, but I wanted to ensure I had enough to work with.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami: Full Bust Adjustment-Add plenty of extra length

Then I followed the cami instructions as directed, adding only one step in the process. Essentially, I just draped where I wanted the elastic to fall:

• Form the elastic loop as directed in the “Finish the Shelf Bra Section” and set it aside.
• Try on the cami (all steps completed except for the elastic on the bra shelf and the bottom hem) and pull the outer cami up and over your bust out of the way.
• Place the elastic loop around your torso, under your bust, where you want the final placement. Try to keep the elastic level around your body.
• Mark the bottom of the elastic. I only marked the center front placement.
• Remove the cami and measure the distance from the bottom of the shelf bra to the mark. You will need to add back ½” for seam allowance and a fold. For example, if you measure 3 inches from the bottom of the shelf bra to the mark, the adjusted measurement is only 2.5 inches.
• Remove the adjusted amount from the entire shelf bra, i.e. remove an even 2.5” band from the bottom of the shelf bra.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami: Full Bust Adjustment-Place elastic under your bust
Place the elastic loop around the shelf bra under your bust. Mark the bottom of the elastic with chalk. Add back 1/2″ for seam allowance and fold of the fabric.

Now you will have sufficient length for your bust and can proceed with the instructions for finishing the shelf bra! After completing the cami, I went back to the pattern pieces to adjust the length to the new measurement. I had allowed 5 inches to be safe but only needed 2.5” in the final adjustment.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami: Full Bust Adjustment-Note the final length for future usage

Adding bra cups to the shelf bra

I decided to use the same process I use to add swim bra cups to a bathing suit. I examined the construction of several ready-to-wear camis that used a more sophisticated method but ultimately decided to keep it simple. Since the shape of the cups varies based on availability, I was hesitant to use a technique that required altering my pattern pieces.

This method works best when the cami is finished. Before starting, it may be helpful to mark the center front of the shelf bra with chalk as a reference point. I found that I didn’t need to do this with the V-neck version but did need to with the bateau neck version. You also may want to mark the apex of the bra cup, but usually, this is pretty easy to identify.

Step 1

Put the cami on in front of a mirror. Pull the outer cami up and over your bust, exposing the shelf bra. Place the cups over your bust, matching the apex of the cups directly over the apex of your bust and making sure the inner edges of both cups are equidistant from the center front. Pin only the top of the cup to the shelf bra. Use chalk to mark the top and sides of the cup while the cami is still on your body. Since the bust of the cami has a little bit of negative ease, you will need this reference when you are at the machine.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-The top edge of the bra cups are pinned in place

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-The top edge of the bra cups are pinned in place-close up

Step 2

Remove the cami, being careful not to pull out the pins. Set your sewing machine for a wide zig-zag stitch–I used a width of 5.0 mm and a length of 1.8 mm. Place the edge of the cup in the center of the zig-zag and stitch the length of the cup top, backstitching at the beginning and end. Since the cami is no longer on your body, the knit fabric will have retracted to its original shape, so you will need to gently stretch the fabric, lining up the edges of the cup to the chalk lines you marked when the cami was still on your body.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-Zig zag stitch top edge of bra cup in place

Step 3

Try the cami back on, pulling the outer cami up and over your bust to check the placement of the cups. This is the most crucial step! If the cups do not look equal, now is the time to remove the cups and try again.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-The rest of the bra cups are stitched across the top edge-close up

Step 4

If the cups are in the correct position, pin around the rest of the cups and create a chalk mark around the outside of the cups.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-The rest of the bra cups are pinned in place-close up

Step 5

Remove the cami again, being careful not to pull out the pins. Sew around the remaining edges of the cups so that the entire cup has been stitched. Try the cami on again, pulling the outer cami up and over your bust to check the final placement.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-The bra cups are completely stitched in-close up

Step 6

If you are happy with the placement and stitching of the cups, you can now remove the jersey from inside the cups. Remove the cami and turn it inside out so that the inside of the bra shelf (the side that touches your body) is face up.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-Inside view of shelf bra

Carefully cut away the fabric, staying 1/16” to 1/8” away from the zig-zag stitching. Be careful not to cut the stitching. I like to use applique scissors for this step.

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-Trim away fabric from inside of bra cup

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Tutorial: How to add bra cups to a shelf bra-Final view of cups with fabric cut away

You are done once you’ve cut away the fabric from both sides! Try on the cami one last time to see the final results!

Final look

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami V-Neck-With Bra Cups added to Shelf Bra

Liesl + Co Tribeca Knit Cami Bateau Neck-With Bra Cups added to Shelf Bra

I am thrilled with how this adjusted Tribeca cami turned out. The shelf bra covers my entire bust. The cups provide enough modesty that I am comfortable wearing this cami on its own. I’ve made both the V-neck and the bateau neck versions, and I am guessing I will make this pattern many times for a summer staple!



 

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18 Comments

  1. Cindy

    Thank you. I’ve been thinking of doing this for ages and you have figured out the whole process for me.

    1. Great! I’ve tried a few methods, but this is the one I find works most consistently. Good luck!

  2. Lisa

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I really wanted to make this cami for myself but find shelf bras really inadequate and unflattering. I am now moving this towards the top of my queue!

    1. Totally agree, Lisa! I haven’t worn a cami for years for exactly that reason. I’m really happy with how this turned out. I will definitely make more.

  3. Cindy Cooksey

    Nice, clear tutorial. Even small busted women like me might prefer a shelf bra on a cami. Yours turned out great. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Very true! Cups add a really nice shape, regardless of size!

  4. Ginger

    This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing Lyndsey.

    1. Great! Glad it was helpful!

  5. Cheryl Odonnell

    I’m going to do this on my next swimsuit. If I don’t see the crotch seam I can make it work.

    1. Great!!!

  6. Kathy

    Great tutorial. Thank you for providing this information.

    1. Thanks, Kathy!!!

  7. Polly

    I bought the pattern thinking, if only I could find a way to add bra cup’s, it would be the perfect summer top. Thanks for sharing your tutorial.

    1. You will love it!

  8. Sarah

    Excellent tutorial! I have recently fallen in love with cami making, but hate to also have a bra strap showing! Camis are a great way to use small pieces of leftover knit fabric. I will be adding so many of these to my summer wardrobe, and layering into the fall.

    1. Yes! This exactly, Sarah! I can’t go without a bra and I don’t like the straps to show! Good luck with your making.

  9. Loved this tutorial Lyndsey. Thank you! Can you tell me a little bit about what kind of foam (?) cups you used. Are the available quite easily everywhere? Thanks.

    1. Hi Asmita! For foam bra cups, I like to order from a swimwear or lingerie specialty business.
      The cups I used for this blog post came from SewSassyFabrics.com and are called basic swim cup inserts. They only cost US $4 a pair and they have a nice soft feel to them. I usually order several pairs to have them on hand for future projects.
      I do not like the Dritz molded foam cups which are easily available in many box chains. They are more rigid, cheaper quality and are three times more expensive.

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