HOW TO MAKE A MICRO BEAD BREAST FORM
There has been so much positive discussion lately regarding the TLC brand Micro Bead lightweight breast forms (thanks Coonie!) that I decided to try a pair for myself about a week ago. I have been thoroughly impressed with their lightness and comfort. While the TLC forms are reasonably priced at $40 each, buying a pair with shipping is $86 and I decided I wanted to see if I could make comparable forms more cheaply. I know several other ladies have expressed interest in making their own forms so thought I would post my method with pics in case it is helpful.
I bought a bag of the Fairfield Polystyrene Micro Beads at Jo-Anns Fabric store (thanks Lovemygarden and Sunshine99!) The bag is HUGE! And dealing with the itty bitty micro beads that fly all over the place is a challenge, but I am still meditating on that issue before trying my next form.
I bought a lightweight polyester/spandex stretchy knit fabric in white to use for the front cover on the form. I wanted to find a slightly heavier and less stretchy fabric for the back cover so it would keep its shape. The back cover on the TLC form is 100% cotton with minimal stretch only. I decided to buy a piece of lightweight soft cotton corduroy in a pretty pink pattern. I preshrank the cotton fabric when I got home since I did not want it to shrink later after the form was made.
I decided to use my size 8 TLC micro bead form as a template to cutout the front and back covers for the new form. For the back cover I set the form on its back and just traced an outline around the form using a sewing marking pen. I made the tracing about 1/4 inch larger to allow for the seam to be sewn later.
Here is the back cover fabric cutout. You can see the 1/4 inch seam allowance around the edge.
I then needed to make a pattern for the front cover. I decided to drape the front of my TLC form with the white stretchy fabric so that it would allow for the extra fabric needed to make room for the micro beads and provide some projection of the breast shape. I made a very rough outline using my marking pen around the form.
I then placed the pink back cover in the rough outline to compare sizes. I knew the white front cover would be larger than the pink back cover but wanted to make the shape uniform, so decided to add a full 1/4 inch margin around the shape of the back cover to create my front cover template. I thought this would allow enough ease in the front cover to provide movement of the beads similar to the TLC form.
I then cut out the front cover pattern in the white fabric and placed the front and back covers together for comparison. When I make another form, I may allow a little more easement allowance on the front cover.
I then pinned the front and back covers together in preparation for sewing the seam. I had to work the larger front cover to the edges of the back cover and try to distribute the extra fullness evenly in the front. I used several pins to hold the covers in place.
I sewed the front and back covers together using a basic straight stitch about 1/4 inch away from the fabric edge. I had to go slowly and gently stretch the fabric to work the extra fullness in from the front cover. I also left about a 2 inch opening to use for filling the bag with the micro beads. I was curious what the weight of the covers was before adding the micro beads so I used my kitchen digital scale to check the weight. They only weighed 0.30 ounces.
I then had to figure out how to get the micro beads into the form covers without making a huge mess. I decided to work over by the trashcan, and cut an opening in the top of the micro bead bag big enough to allow a one cup measure that I could fill with the micro beads. I used the barrel of a cookie/frosting gun and placed the bottom end of the barrel inside the opening in the form covers. I held all this over the trashcan while I poured a full cup of micro beads into the barrel and into the form. The little micro beads are full of static and stick to everything. Make sure you keep a vacuum handy to clean up any spillage. You can also rinse your hands in water to get them off your hands.
I filled the form up to the point where I felt it had enough fullness but still left some room so I could finish closing the seam with a overcast edge stitch. This is one place I goofed because I should have gone ahead and done the overcast stitching before filling the form with micro beads except for the 2 inch opening. It made it much more difficult to overcast the entire seam after the form was full of beads.Thats how I ended up with micro beads all over my sewing machine!
Here is what the overcast finished edge looked like on the form. Hopefully between the straight stitch and overcast stitch I won' get any bead leakage from the form.
I checked the finished form weight and it weighs the same as my TLC form at 0.85 ounces.
Here is the newly made form compared to the TLC form from the front side.
Here is a comparison of the backs of the forms.
This is a shot trying to show the projection/fullness of the forms from the bottom angle.
The new form is a little fuller and less squishy than the sz 8 TLC form. If I make the front cover a little larger with more easement it will probably make it more squishy but I sorta like the way the new one is now. It doesn't shift shape as much and tends to stay in the right position slightly better than the TLC one. But overall the home made form feels and looks a whole lot like the TLC one. I put both forms into one of my Target camisole tops and you really can't tell a difference in clothing. (the home made foobie is on the left side of the picture, the TLC is on the right)
I am probably going to make the other form tomorrow using the pink corduroy and then I may try making another pair of forms using different fabric and maybe changing the size a little. I want to tweak the process a little plus I have enough micro beads to make a bunch of forms! I want to finish adding some bra pockets to older tops I have so I can convert them to wearing with the forms when I choose or go flat when I want.
Hope this has been helpful. I am glad to know that making the micro bead forms is not all that difficult and certainly is a lot cheaper than buying multiple sets.
UPDATE NOTE 6/24/10:
Thanks to everyone for all the good suggestions on how to manage the micro beads! I spent some time today brainstorming myself on that issue and also on testing the micro beads compatibility with water. This may not be a very "refined" solution but I experimented with what I had on hand!
I ended up using a turkey baster to provide more controlled access to the micro beads and for easier filling of breast forms, pillows or similar type pouches.
I inserted the small tip end of the baster tube into an opening in the top of the micro bead bag. I wrapped the plastic bag tightly around the baster tube and secured it with a couple strong rubber bands. I used the baster bulb head to cap the end of the tube so the bag can be stored this way.
When needing to fill a test pouch with micro beads I removed the bulb cap and attached the pouch to the tube with rubber bands while the bead bag was still upright.
With everything secured, I then turned the bag upside down and gently pushed on the bag to help force the beads into the test pouch. A little shaking of the bag helped also.
After filling the test pouch with beads I pinched it off at the base and uprighted the bag to slowly ease the pouch off the tube. Those little micro beads still manage to float around no matter what you do, but at least this was a little more controlled spillage! I used my hand vac to quickly pick up the rogue beads.
I then stitched closed the opening in the test pouch and threw it into a sink of sudsy water that I had just soaked my compression garments in. I'm gonna tell you ladies that if you wear breast forms made with micro beads when you swim make sure the forms are very secure inside the suit breast pockets! These little puppies are like the "Unsinkable Molly Brown"! That little pouch floated on top the water even after I repeatedly pushed it down and made sure it was fully soaked!
After letting the pouch float in the water for 10 mins, I squeezed it out to see what it looked like. Even when soaking wet the little micro beads did not clump together. I could still feel them rolling around in the pouch even though they were damp. I had just taken a load of laundry out of the dryer so I threw the pouch into the warm dryer and set it on air dry for 20 minutes. The pouch was still a little damp when I took it out but after another 10 minutes in front of a fan the little pouch was dry and the beads seem no worse for the wear!
So my initial assessment is that the micro bead forms should do fine in water as long as they don't slip out of their containment and float away! I also don't know whether repeated exposure to chlorinated water might break the beads down but I suppose they should last about as long as a swimsuit does anyway.
Hope this is helpful info!