Applying underwire channelling

I sew on the band elastic in the way that Heather explains in her tutorial – narrow zigzag (length 2.0, width 1.6 mm) along the inside edge of the elastic, then trim seam allowances. I add channelling before I topstitch the elastic.

This is how I measure the length of channelling to use. I measure the curve of the band along the seam line and add 1 cm. I want the channelling to stick out above the bridge by 1 cm and end just below the arm where I will be attaching the elastic. (In reality of course I hold the measuring tape exactly along the curve but couldn’t do that and take the pic at the same time!)

This is an alternative method of determining the length: slip your underwire into the channelling and cut it 1 cm longer on each end. I read this on Jessica Tromp’s website. (When I learnt to make bras I was taught to just sew down the channelling from beginning to end, pulling it slightly while I sewed. I think measuring is much more accurate and gives great results.)

I also sew the channelling on directionally, always starting at the bridge with my needle left or right (straight stitch, length 3.0 mm). I line up my presser foot with the outside edge of the channelling, which is lined up exactly with the seam allowance. Remember to check that you are sewing it to the right side of the cup seam! For a full band bra, the channelling is sewn on the “inside” of the cup. I don’t pin my channelling except at the beginning and end.

I leave a 1 cm tail above the bridge and end just below the seam allowance under the arm.

Next, I trim the seam allowances close to the stitching. I use small sharp scissors for this, and hold them at an angle. This cuts all the seam allowances at once and grades them at the same time.

Based on a tip Beverly Johnson gives on her blog, I have developed this neat way of securing the end of the channelling and flattening it at the same time. I fold out the channelling and stitch the last 8 mm or so of it using my Bernina’s auto-darn stitch. It is a straight stitch, 2.0 mm long, which stitches backwards and forwards, starting on the left side of the foot and moving the needle one setting towards the right with every row of stitching. You can also do this manually.

This is what it looks like when it is finished – lots of closely spaced little rows of stitches. It really reduces the bulk of the channelling where the underarm elastic goes over it.

Topstitching the channelling

After topstitching the band elastic, it looks like this under the cups.

I trim the elastic so that the channelling will fold over smoothly without any ridges. It’s safe to do this!

Next, a lot of pinning. It really helps to pin the channelling. I fold the channelling over and pin from the right side. I prefer using quilting pins here because the channelling plus elastic and several layers of fabric end up really tough.

I stitch with a straight stitch, (length 3.0 mm) with the needle one “notch” to the right of far left, with the edge of the presser foot aligned with the fold of the fabric on the cup seam. Since using this system with the wide channelling, I haven’t had significant problems with the topstitching missing the channelling or stitching too close to the seam. Yes, I do stitch directionally from the bridge to the underarm edge. I have found that doing a double row of topstitching (i.e. another line close to the seam line) makes the underwire uncomfortable for me. I do like the look of the double line, though, so am thinking about doing that row before folding the channelling over.

Here you can see the stitching on the inside.

And this is what it looks like on the outside. I find that I have to stitch a little bit closer to the seam at the bottom of the cup to compensate for the extra bulk caused by the elastic here. Just a tiny bit, so the wires can still go through easily.

Finishing the channelling ends

This is the inside of the bra after I have stitched the underarm elastic on using a narrow zigzag. You can see the “darned” bit of channelling just below the stitching.

Next, I trim the fabric close to the stitching, turn the elastic to the inside and topstitch with a three-step zigzag from the outside. I find that letting the stitching fall close to the inside edge of the elastic keeps it from rolling to the outside.

The elastic folds neatly over the “darned” channelling and the three-step zigzag stitches everything down, with no bits poking out or forming uncomfortable bulges.

You can insert the wires now or wait until you have attached the straps and do it as the last step. After I have put in the wires, I try to press them in as far as possible to create a little free space at the top of the bridge. Then I sew back and forth with my darning stitch to close the ends securely. I sewed four rows of stitching here. Cut the ends of the channelling off as close to the stitching as possible.


  1. CurvyGirls areChic said

    This is awesome thanks!

    Starr and Ian said

    I have taken Beverly's Shelley bra Course with her at the Saskatchewan Stitches Conference in 2013, going again in 2015. This was almost like being there,

    Cvetak Zanovetak said

    Thanks for manuals

    Pat Loayza said

    What type of fabric are you using to sew this bra? Great tutorial!

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