Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to Make a Micro Bead Breast Form

A new and inexpensive non-silicone breast form has recently become quite popular—the Silique Fabu-Forms Microbead Breast Form. I recommend the form in BreastFree.org's Breast Form section, under "Non-Silicone Forms." The Silique form is also sold as the Micro-Bead Lightweight Breast Form on the American Cancer Society's TLC Tender Loving Care website. 

LindaLou, a very enterprising and talented contributor to BreastFree.org, decided to make her own pair of micro bead breast forms. She documented her experience on breastcancer.org and has kindly granted me permission to share the instructions here. They are printed below, complete with photographs and an update with further suggestions and refinements. Happy sewing!

I recently purchased a pair of TLC's Micro-Bead Lightweight Breast Forms. 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. I decided I wanted to see if I could make comparable forms more cheaply.

I bought a bag of the Fairfield Polystyrene Micro Beads at Jo-Ann Fabric store. The bag is HUGE!  And dealing with the itty bitty micro beads that fly all over the place is a challenge.


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 cut out 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. I 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 an 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. That's 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't 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 size 8 TLC form. If I make the front cover a little larger with more easement, it will probably make it more squishy but I sort of 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 hope this has been helpful. I am glad to know that making micro bead forms is not all that difficult and certainly is a lot cheaper than buying multiple sets.

UPDATE:
I wanted to update my process for making the micro bead forms at home since I have made a few pairs now. Here are just a few tips with pics if you decide to make your own.

1) I found that trying to piece the larger top cover of the form to the smaller back cover was easier if I ran a simple basting stitch in the front cover first and then gathered it up evenly to fit the back cover.   
BASTING STITCH IN TOP COVER TO GENTLY GATHER TOP TO FIT
 
PINNING GATHERED TOP TO BACK COVER


2) I also found that keeping the seams on the outside of the form tended to make ridges show through the bra or top you wore them in and they just didn't look as finished as I would like. So, I decided to leave a small opening (approximately 1.5 - 2.0 inches) when stitching the front and back covers together (keep right sides together). Then I turned the fabric inside out so the seam was hidden inside.  I folded the raw edges of the opening to the inside of the pocket and pressed them smooth. After filling the form with micro beads I then just topstitched the small opening closed using the sewing machine. 

COVERS SEWN TOGETHER WITH OPENING FOR TURNING


FORM COVERS TURNED INSIDE OUT TO HIDE SEAMS AND PRIOR TO STUFFING WITH MICRO BEADS


FRONT OF FINISHED FORM AFTER STUFFING WITH MICRO BEADS AND STITCHING OPENING CLOSED


BACK OF FINISHED FORM


3) Fabric selection is important also. The fabric for the back cover needs to be either non-stretch cotton or very minimal one-way stretch cotton because you need it to keep the triangle shape of the form. The material for the front cover of the form needs to be a two-way stretchy fabric with generous ease so there is room for the micro beads to fill it out with the desired projection profile in front. Both fabrics should be washable.

4) Stuffing anything with micro beads is a pain in the %$#@!  I thought I must just not be doing it the right way but I have spoken with numerous sewing store employees who say they have never found an easy way to get the micro beads into any project. I tried using a turkey baster but finally gave up (it was too slow to fill and got clogged) and started using a cookie dough press tube which was wider at both ends. I take the bag of micro beads out on my deck and try to fill the forms there to reduce the likelihood of hundreds of little micro beads floating around my sewing room. Definitely keep your vacuum handy if you use them indoors!

5) If you plan on making several pairs of forms it's a good idea to create a muslin pattern that you can label and include any markings as a reference.  I have made a couple pairs for friends and make a muslin cloth template of their form size so I can make more later if needed of the same size. 

BREAST FORM TEMPLATES


Hope this helps any of you wanting to make your own breast forms. It really is not that difficult and certainly cost effective if you would like several pairs or different sizes!

20 comments:

  1. Thank you so much! Your step by step explanation is very easy to understand.

    I stumbled upon your web site today while I was searching for a non-sweaty breast forms. I am 40 years old and using prostheses since 1993. I am afraid of trying new form once I feel comfortable in one. Currently I am using Amoena Tria Aire and Essential Light 2S but will diffidently going to try this homemade option.
    Thanks again,
    VS

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  2. Yes, this is just what I've been looking for. Now all we need is ideas for what to do with the rest of the bag of microbeads. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

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  3. learning to sew, had both breasts removed last March, may venture out, i hate the heave silicone ones and do not wear anything now. thanks for the info

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  4. Simply love your info and truely thankful for your sharing. Please advise two questions?

    1. Are the home made micro beads "Foobies" cooler than the silicone ones?
    I'm newer mastectomy and having "BIG" troubles with the amount of HEAT, hotness, and sweat in silicone Amoema 390.

    2. Are the Micro beads finished forms washable?

    Thanks again, and God Bless

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  5. Yes, they are cooler than silicone and yes, they are washable, though it may take a while for the microbeads to air dry.

    There are also many other non-silicone options, most much cooler than silicone. Several of those options are reviewed in the Breast Forms section of BreastFree.org, under the heading "Non-Silicone Breast Forms." Among the forms described there are the Silique microbead forms, so if you don't wish to sew your own, there is a reasonably-priced ready-made alternative.

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  6. Do you have any suggestions on making the pattern (correct size and shape) when you don't have a pre-made form to start with? I've had bmx and would like to make these for myself. Thanks for your excellent tutorial!

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  7. You can check out the original breastcancer.org thread on this subject and ask any questions you might have. Here's the link: http://community.breastcancer.org/forum/82/topic/754464?page=3#idx_90

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  8. I am thrilled to see a sew-your-own foobies tutorial here! I now know what to do with the extra beads I have left over from the knit-your-own project I recently completed. (I knew I was going to have a single mastectomy. As an avid knitter, I wanted something to keep my hands busy that would also be something I could use post-surgery.)

    Knitters can find that pattern at the Knitty website. Just search for Tit Bits or go to http://knitty.com/ISSUEfall05/PATTbits.html

    I had to pour a certain amount of the micro beads into a separate tub, then use that tub and a canning funnel to guide the beads into the casing inside my knitted form. I used a single chopstick to "encourage" the beads to move through the funnel into the casing.

    I'm happy to share my experience making my versions of the tit bit. Feel free to email me!

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  9. Words cannot express how much I appreciate the information you shared.8years ago I had a bilateral with no reconstruction. I have the issues you addressed. Thanks so much.

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  10. Thank you for your idea. Prosthetics are so expensive! My new bra (for bilateral) and forms were over $750. I'm afraid to wear it, it's so costly. I thought I'd experiment with homemade ones.

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  11. Hello to everyone who will be reading this. I like many of you can't wait to make these forms but I have a problem I can't sew. Would any of you who read this be willing to make me some? Or better yet if anyone reads this and has some forms of any material that they are no longer using and would be willing to donate them to me I would be forever greatful. Just post your email address on here and ill get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you to everyone and God Bless.

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  12. If you're interested in micro bead forms but can't sew, please check out http://mastectomysolutions.com, specifically the following page: http://mastectomysolutions.com/items-for-sale.php. The woman who created the website will sew breast forms for you at an extremely reasonable price.

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  13. Adding to my prior comment, please do not solicit donations of forms or clothing on this website. Donations would require exchange of emails or other personal information, which I cannot publish here. If you need breast forms or other mastectomy products and don't have insurance (which would cover them), contact the American Cancer Society in your area, or local hospital boutiques.

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  14. I am so sorry about that Barbara it won't happen again. To give you all a heads up if you go to pinkstock.com I believe they can make you forms for a fair price but they also can make swim puffs

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  15. Unfortunately, the pinkstock site no longer seems to be working.

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  16. Well that's not good for the woman who ran it was extremely sweet and always so wiling to help out when she could.

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  17. Hello to all who will be reading this and happy late Merry Christmas. I just wanted to say thank you to Barbara for all that she has done for the women in this world such as myself and I cannot express just how much the microbead forms will change my life.

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  18. I was surprised to find this site because I made myself these forms about a month ago using the Poly-fil poly pellets. They are none toxic and washable. I am older so I made a tear drop shape with a neck and used a funnel held in the neck to put the beads in then hand sewed shut. The neck also is good to pin the form in a regular bra. I made three to interchange. I'm glad someone else thought of this.

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  19. Hello to all and Happy Late NewYears. I just wanted to say to anonymous I think it's wonderful that you made the forms but what I'm really wondering is how well are they working for you?

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  20. To the last poster and all others who wish to get more feedback about these micro bead forms, I suggest you join the original discussion at breastcancer.org: http://community.breastcancer.org/forum/82/topic/754464?page=4#idx_91. While I welcome comments here, this blog isn't designed for extended dialog. Thanks.

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