sewing & needlework
…hacking the Harriet…

…hacking the Harriet…

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years, is when the tickle of inspiration is less of a tickle, and more of a smack around the head, I need to follow it. For whatever reason, some projects get under my skin and will not leave me in peace until I get stuck in and start creating.

Most recently, I came across a super pretty valentines themed lingerie set on Instagram. It had been a hot minute since I’d sewn some underthings (I did cut out a pair of knickers a month or so ago, which I put in a safe place and promptly forgot exactly where), though I had both a kit, and a pair of padded cups sitting in stash. Maybe that’s why this set grabbed me? Supplies in need of a project? I’ve tried, over the years, to find a common thread with these “must do immediately” projects, and I’m yet to work out what it is. In this case, I had the supplies. In other cases I haven’t, and have instead raced out to buy what I needed.

Whatever the reason, my brain decided, despite the number of other projects I have on the go at the minute, that I needed this set. I picked up the “It’s Not Me It’s You” knickers pattern from The Lingerie Formula, and decided, for the bra, to use the Harriet from Cloth Habit, since I already had it. For the set I had in mind, I needed to hack it in two ways – one, convert it to a partial band, and two, to adjust it to add the padded push up cup.


The second adjustment was actually the easier, in a way. To account for the extra volume needed in the cups, I took the super technical step of wearing a closely fitted singlet, and slipping the cups into position, before taking my measurements as I normally would for bra making.

My band size stayed the same. an obvious conclusion, but I do like to remeasure with each make to be sure I get the right fit, especially for something firm fitting like a bra. It needs to be comfy or I’m not going to wear it.

The second measurement, full bust, was about as I expected – two cup sizes larger than my regular size. The bra itself would end up my regular size on the inside, the upsize was solely to account for the volume of the cup insert.

To actually use the insert, once I had the bra cup assembled, I laid it on top of the insert, and then adjusted the cup and the insert so the top edges aligned first of all. I pinned these in place, and then worked my way around the bottom, pinning once I was happy with the placement, taking into account the seam allowance, and space for the wire channeling. Finally, I worked up under the arm, which actually required a small pleat to make it fit.

With the placement of the insert sorted, I then used a little trick I noticed when I pulled apart a Victoria’s Secret bra for my big kit sew up last year. I set my sewing machine to a narrow, short zig zag, and worked my way across the top, attaching the bra cup to the insert with three tiny patches of zig zag in a coordinating thread. The base of the cup ended up being attached as I attached the second half of the wire channelling, the stitching running along the overlocked bottom edge of the insert.

(yes I still need to clip the inside threads!)


I had a bit of an idea of how to manage the conversion from a full band bra to a partial band bra. Spatial awareness, however, isn’t my strong point, and I didn’t have enough fabric to recut if I mucked it up, so I went tutorial surfing, and came across this great bra pattern conversion tutorial by Kat Makes. I followed it through to create a partial band Harriet pattern. I should have had my first Harriet to hand though, as I mucked up one piece, assuming I knew where the wire ended. I was wrong. I ended up cutting the top piece of the cups a bit short, but was able to create a work around.

The tutorial I used to create the pattern also had some helpful construction advice to adjust the regular construction steps. I cut the bridge to take advantage of the pretty lace edging, and then I placed it to help cover the transition to where I mucked up the top piece. Since I no longer had the seam allowance to attach the channelling all the way to the top of the cup, nor the fabric to recut, I actually, for possibly the first time in my life, gave thanks for being small-busted. I don’t need the support of a wire – a firm band, and the shaping of the channeling, is enough for my needs. It gives me the flexibility to adjust the construction, and I was able to end the channeling at the bridge/cup seam, and then just attach the free edge in the same way as the top of the cup.


It ended up being a super cute bra. I don’t especially love the cup shape (I used padded cups from spotlight), so wouldn’t wear it under a fitted top where shape matters, but for under a comfy tee, or under a slip, or other layered outfits, it will work fine. I’m also thrilled with the matching knickers – I adjusted that pattern to cut the front feature panel in two pieces, not on the fold, so I could use the lace edge as as feature. This was my second run through the Harriet, and I do really like it as a pattern. I don’t think I would attempt another padded bra with these particular inserts, though. I might try and source some better designed cups, or just wait for my favourite commercial bras to die so I can salvage the cups from them.

For an on-a-whim project, I had so much fun making up this set, and love the end result. And with another two finishes under my belt, I’m inspired and invigorated to keep working through my other ongoing projects towards another finish. As always, making begets making.

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