I have a problem, that problem is I want to sew everything that it is possible to sew. That is why when I saw the @sewcialists post on Instagram about their upcoming #allchestswelcome August I saw an opportunity to finally concentrate on one project that has been on the back burner for over 2 years – making my own hook and eye closures for my hand-made bras.
Initially my motivation for wanting to make them was seeing hook and eye closures that matched the cup fabric on a bespoke bra-making website. Oh my, as makers we all love that little detail that elevates our hand-mades that one little notch and for bras here was mine.
Another issue I was having was the quality of shop bought closures. I was finding that the ones I bought were made from what appeared to be a plastic based fabric and had been heat cut in the manufacturing process. This left a sharp edge top and bottom that drove me mad when I was wearing them.
So two years ago I bought a pattern, I followed the instructions, I made, I wore, I was disappointed. Here is the first, and up to that point only, hook and eye closure I had made. Yes it looks bad, no it doesn’t quite do the job it should, yes I have tried to fix it, yes I am embarrassed and yes I really wanted to get this sorted.
I became even more determined to get this project up and running when I started reading through the comments on the original #allchestswelcome post. I didn’t realise all the issues that people were having with bras and their need to make their own as their specific issues are not addressed by big brand bra makers. One comment that stood out spoke about allergies and that was it. I messaged the Sewcialists and offered to do a blog on how I finally got this sorted, or not.
At the moment I am very happy with how things have gone. It took a few attempts to get to a version that I was happy with along with a method that was consistently producing a good item. As I always say in my blogs, the method I have used is my method and is not necessarily the correct way. It is there for you to adapt and change to however works best for you. I hope the information in this post will be sufficient for you to give it a try for yourselves but if you have any questions please ask.
So let’s get going.
The tools and materials I used for the hook and eye closures are:
- White medium interfacing – I have specified white for a reason which I will talk about later.
- Fabric pencil, chalk marker and a normal lead pencil
- Tweezers – I found them invaluable for picking up and placing the hooks and eyes
- 1/4” quilters tape
- Size 2 hooks x 3 and eyes x 9
- A standard foot for your machine
- A button foot for your machine
- A zipper foot for your machine
Cutting and Preparing the Fabric and Interfacing
The pattern has developed as I have been testing my construction methods and wearing the finished product. Hopefully you will be able to create your own from the diagrams below.
These are the patterns for the main fabric.
For the interfacing for the main piece, remove the 3/8” hems from both ends and the 1/4” seam allowance from each of the long sides. The markings for the main piece are as above.
For the interfacing for the hook piece remove the 3/8” from the bottom only and the 1/4” seam allowance from each side. The markings for the inside hook piece are
Start by cutting out your main fabric pieces, x1 for the main/eye piece and the two hook pieces. For correct placement of the interfacing I mark the 1/4” seam allowance on the long edges and 3/8” fold allowance on the short edges on the main piece and 1/4” seam allowance on the short edges and 3/8” fold allowance on one long edge only on the hook pieces.
Cut out the interfacing pieces and attach to the main fabric, inside your markings.
The next stage is to mark up the pieces with the folding, sewing and placement lines using a fabric pencil following the notches on the pattern.
Making the Eye Piece
With the main piece fabric side down and the blank area at the top we will start to fold the fabric to create the pockets for the eyes to sit in. To do this fold the fabric under at the second line from the bottom (right sides together) then fold the bottom (small) piece of fabric back so the fold sits on the first line.
Repeat this for the 4th line folding down to meet the 3rd and the 6th line to meet the 5th. Turn over and press well. All the pockets for the eyes are now created.
The eyes can now be inserted and fixed into the pockets. This can be done in any order that you like.
To do this attach the button foot on to your machine. If your machine does not have a specific button stitch use a zigzag and disengage your feed dogs.
Start by adding a strip of quilters tape to the inside of the fold just down from the edge. Now using the marks on the interfacing of your inside hook piece, position the eyes in the pocket leaving approximately 1/8th” of the eye proud of the fold.
Close the pocket so the eyes are now encased. We are now going to secure the eyes in the pocket using the button foot, but before we do this we need to locate where the eyes are so we can get the stitching in the right position. This is the reason for the white interfacing as we are going to use the same technique as used in brass rubbing to indicate the location of the eyes. We are only going to be sewing through the pocket fabric, so no stitches are visible on the completed piece, so with the main piece folded in half lightly move the pencil, using the side of the lead, over the area where the eyes are. Et voilà, the location of the eyes are revealed.
Now you can place the fabric under the button foot with the position of the eye known. Ensure that the second stitch is within the fold and secure the eyes in place (2 secure points for each eye). Repeat this for all 3 pockets, so 9 eyes secured in total.
The next stage of securing the eyes is to change back to your standard foot and set your machine to a shorter stitch (I use 1.6) and add a line of stitching midway through the fold to further secure the eyes in place. I walk the machine over the positions where the eyes are to avoid the needle hitting the metal. If the needle is going to hit an eye I will position the needle slightly back and I find this is sufficient for the next stitch to avoid the metal of the eye. Moving the needle back also ensures that the stitches stay short and more secure.
Then finally, top stitch the pocket closed as close to the edge as possible. When you do this you will be securing the pockets to the pocket above to increase the rigidity.
When this is done fold the short edge seam allowances of 3/8” to the wrong side and press. Fold the fabric in half, this should be at the final line on the interfacing, and sew the side seams together.
Turn right side out and press. The main “eye” piece is now complete.
Making the Hook Piece
To create the hook piece, I have come up with a little sewing technique which helps produce a secure seam along with the holes required for the hooks to sit in.
The diagram for the stitching has been expanded to show the path easier.
Starting at the edge sew to the 1st mark. Reverse back to the edge. Sew to the 3rd mark. Reverse back to the 2nd mark. Sew to the 5th mark. Reverse back to the 4th mark. Sew to the edge. Reverse to the 6th mark. Sew to the edge.
Now to create the holes for the hooks where there is only one row of stitching snip the thread of one stitch on one side only. This is sufficient to create a hole big enough for the hook to be passed through.
When the hooks are passed through the gap the hooks need to rest on the inside piece. Fold the fabric over the hooks to expose the top seam allowance. A pin can be used to keep this out of the way. Attach the hooks to the seam allowance using the same method used to attach the eyes. Use a pencil to indicate the position of the fixing eyes and the button foot to stitch, however this time set the stitches at right angles to anchor them against the pull on the hooks. Due to the hooks being being proud of the fabric, the standard sewing foot cannot get the stitching line as close as needed when doing the second securing row. So to complete the stitching to secure the hooks the zipper foot is used.
I complete the stitching with the needle moved as far over to the right as it goes and stitch as before with a 1.6 stitch length.
Then to double secure the hooks in place as a lot of pressure will be placed on these hooks, use the zipper foot to sew a line of top stitching in between the hooks. To create a firm line of stitching I sew up to the hooks and then reverse back. Sewing up to the end hooks is not an issue as the back of the foot is out of the way and the stitching line can go from the edge of the fabric to the hook and then be reversed back to the edge. For the spaces in between the hooks I begin the stitching in the middle, sew to the hook, reverse to the previous hook then stitch forward to the hook again. This produces a firm secure seam. While sewing in between the hooks the back of the foot will be balanced on top of the back hook.
When this is done fold the seam allowances of 3/8” to the wrong side ensuring it is over (not under) the top seam allowance and press. Fold the fabric in half, right sides together, so that the ends meet. This will leave a 1/8” overhang of the front piece at the top. Sew the side seams together, turn right side out and press. The hook piece is now complete.
So now it is up to you, if you want to, to make this technique your own. Change what does not work for you, adapt it to how you want or need it to be. Take your own version to the next level. One idea I had was to colour the hooks and eyes, maybe a spray paint or possibly gel nail varnish?, to match or contrast with the fabric, I have only found them readily available in black, white or silver. Maybe use large statement hooks and eyes, possibly corset hooks, which may also be good for anyone with dexterity problems. If you would prefer 4, 5, or more hooks so that it is longer, the basics are there to expand the pattern. Just enjoy your sewing and make what is best for you.
Mercedes lives just outside Brighton with her husband Graham and their two cats, Maggie and Erica. Although their two children have both flown the nest, Mercedes ensures that they still remember where she lives by using them as guinea pigs for new designs and fabrics she wants to try out. Having worked in IT for over 20 years and serving as a reservist for 13, Mercedes has a passion for all things technical and wants to know the ins and outs and whys of everything. Having finally conquered her fear of stretch fabrics 5 years ago, it is now her passion. Developing new techniques and encouraging others to use and love this fabric more has become her crusade.
Mercedes was a contestant on series 5 of the Great British Sewing Bee and can be found at @ohsewthatmercedes on Instagram and at ohsewthatmercedes.wordpress.com
Thank you thank you thank you!
As a fellow lover of anything technical with a need to know the how’s why’s and wherefores of everything I loved this post. This is the part of sewing bras that concerned me most, my fingers can go from highly dexterous to numb and clumsy on any given day so a selection of bras is what I have. If I’m making a new bra, a nice bra for wearing out though I want it looking perfect and all parts colour matched, your tutorial on eyelets is smashing though I’m sure I’ll be practicing on paper and fabric scraps several times first. I never even considered alternative closings other than a front zip so you’ve given me some options to consider. Bookmarked, saved, noted and very much appreciated by me and I’m sure, many others.
With best wishes from a very hot, sunny Suffolk
Thank you Wheelybad, I am so glad you have found it useful and it has given you some ideas to make it good for you. I was only thinking this morning about using the same method for the hook side for a single row eye side to create a front opening bra. However I reckon you would need to reduce the width to make it comfy. Worth a play with though.
Best wishes to a very hot and sunny Suffolk
In a word: WOW!! I haven’t really been tempted to make my own bras yet (too much stuff-sourcing), but this might have tipped me over.
Hi PoundCake, yes that is the one thing about bra making that can be a pain. For your first couple buy a kit, I know they can be expensive and wasteful, but it will give you a good idea of the quality of elastic and power net you need. Once you are happy you can start sourcing your own and of course make your own hook and eye closures
Thankyou for this. For all the reasons you mention, which I might overlook but US patterns are made for imperial sizes that aren’t available in Oz, so the hook and eye closures I can buy in local stores never fit right.
How to use buttonhole foot is most helpful, but I have never used mine, if I can’t get it to work any reason I can’t see them in hand? Your folds mean stitches will never be seen, and in my experience hand stitched hook and eyes seem stronger.
Yes of course you can sew them in by hand. For some reason my hand sewing is the worse which is why I went down the fully machine created route. As I said the pattern is yours to play about with to make it your own.
Thank you very much for this article. It could not have been more apt for me. I have toyed with the idea of making my own clousures in the past because they are very difficult to track down where I live and the company I at long last found who always had my preferred ones in stock has just gone into administration so I have frantically been looking for a new supply source as I only have a few left. I even asked my daughter to be middleman for an shop that does not send abroad. She kindly sent your article on to me so I will now give it go and if I am happy I will never have to spend precious sewing time sourcing closures again. I started making my own bras about 5 years ago due to no being able to get cotton bras anywhere. I can’t wear poly next to my skin and certain elastics are a problem too so I found a good vintage pattern and adapted that to fit. Thanks again for sharing your method and showing it can be done 😉
Thank you so much for your comment. I did think I was the only person that wanted to make their own hook and eye closures but so pleased that you are going to be making your own now too. Sourcing ready made ones is a nightmare and then the quality that arrives can be very dodgy sometimes. Glad you found a pattern that you have been able to adapt to your needs, elastic can be another sourcing nightmare. Enjoy your making xx
This is just what I was thinking about doing, literally 3 days ago! Thank you!
You are more than welcome. Enjoy
This is great!! Is there any chance you would consider doing a YouTube video on this same process?
Hi Tanya, someone has already asked about doing a video. I don’t have very good equipment, or much experience, so it won’t be the slickest, but I will give it go. 😁
Wow! Never thought of making my own!! They look great!
Thank you. It was a fun project.
Thank you. It was a fun project.
If you have white nylon coated hooks & eyes you can dye them with acid dyes. Same with the other hardware you might need in bra making, just make sure they are nylon coated. Acid dye is commonly used to dye animal fibres but it also works wonderfully on nylon. Great article!
Hanna, thank you so much for that great to know. I am going to repost this article with some videos on my own site, may I add this information?
No problem, of course you may! It’s not my original idea so go ahead. Cloth Habit has a great tutorial on this: https://clothhabit.com/lingerie-friday-dyeing-the-notions/
Ah, another thank you, I will give it a read 😁
Thank you!! I have been wanting to make my own bras for a while and already have a couple patterns and even some bra making kits, but I just haven’t taken the time to do it yet. I had planned to figure this out if/when I ever got around to actually making one, so you saved me a ton of frustration! <3 <3 <3
Enjoy your bra making adventures, I am going to be making another tomorrow, 🤞. I hope you find the instructions and method works well for you x