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Trans/Non-Binary Chest Binder

A Free Pattern for Chest Binders

This is a free pattern and instructions for making a Trans/Non-Binary chest binder ... there's pros and cons for virtually every type of binder out there. I've settled on the method you'll read below.

But first Let me talk about the objectives of this pattern.

I wanted to create a pattern that would be relatively easy for anyone with moderate sewing experience and a sewing machine/serger, to create quickly and accurately from inexpensive 80/20 nylon/spandex that you can buy at almost every fabric retailer. I say moderate because sewing stretch can seem a bit harder to those who haven't used it before ... the process itself is actually very simple. The only hard part is deciding which way you want to proceed because there's a few options. Please understand that you will have to experiment and perhaps make a few to get exactly what works for you ... not many people get the result they desire the first time around!

I've made quite a big introduction to this binder before we jump into assembly instructions ... please read it all ... every paragraph is important. Click on the icon below to download the pattern as a PDF ... it's completely FREE. Do not redistribute this pattern as it needs the introduction and instructions below ... just copy the link for this page and share that. I don't mind if you use this pattern to sell binders that you make, but would encourage you to do so at a fair price ... just don't be an ass and sell the pattern to others ... I intend for it to be free!

Click To Download

Health & Safety

I'm going to start this discussion with the part no one wants to hear about. Binders are safe when used correctly, very very unsafe when they aren't. The problem is that everybody starts with a different shape and has different needs from and tolerances to binding. A regular 20% 80/20 nylon spandex binder is probably safe for about 8 hours of continuous use, a 24% binder not so long. How long really depends on you so you need to start slow, and work your way up, checking for all the danger signs as you progress. Possible risks of unsafe chest binding include:

  • shortness of breath
  • overheating
  • chest pain
  • reduced exercise tolerance
  • difficulty speaking
  • skin issues, like rashes and blisters
  • back pain
  • scarring
  • a build up of fluid in the lungs
  • broken ribs
  • fainting
If you notice these or anything else that's not normal for you, then remove the binder and take a break ...consult with a doctor about what is causing the problem (wearing the binder may also cause other underlying health conditions to show up so don't dismiss symptoms easily).
Some might like to use binders as sports bras but this pattern is not designed for that. Do not wear this binder when doing exercise, in very hot weather or when you are already sick (wearing a binder when you have a bad cold has been known on occasion to result in pneumonia and fainting). Do not sleep while wearing a binder.
Lastly, I am not a medical practitioner, I'm a pattern maker. I can only go on what doctors have told me and the second hand reports from others who've tried binders or know of people trying them. I cannot stress enough that I'm concerned about inexperienced people making these or wearing them without understanding the implications. Please only go down this path in consultation with a doctor.

Options & Combinations

You have a choice on how you can assemble this pattern ... various combinations are possible depending on how much binding tension you want, your comfort level and your tolerance for tight fabrics against your body. Let's start by looking at the pattern ... they look fairly similar and they are, but the one on the left is at 20% horizontal negative ease and the other is 24% ... both have 0% vertical negative ease.

20% trans/non-binary chest binding pattern
24% trans/non-binary chest binding pattern

Which combinations can you use? Well first you need to decide whether you want soft (20%) or firm (24%). This is your own personal preference of course, but always consider physical health with equal weighting to emotional health ... I can't say this enough. The tighter the binder the lower the duration you can wear it, the softer the binder the less flattening you'll get. But if you consider the following combination options, you may find just the right balance for you. You can assemble this pattern as follows ....

  1. An outer layer (front and back) of 80/20 nylon spandex, with an inner layer of 80/20 nylon spandex at the back and a front facing in something much stiffer like Powermesh is the optimal choice at 20% negative ease. You really need the stiffer front layer to get flattening.

  2. Two full layers of 80/20 spandex, no facings. This will compress reasonably well but not flatten as much as #1 even at 24% ... it's still a choice for those who can't tolerate high compression.

  3. One full layer and one front/back chest facing layer, both of 80/20 spandex, with a front/back shoulder facing of soft liner (softer over the shoulders). This is the same as #2 but with softer shoulders.

  4. Two layers full layers and one front chest facing layer in 80/20 spandex (facing between the full layers or on the inside). Again not as good as #1, but more compressive than #2 or #3 ... but also hotter.

How does the facing line work? Here's an example using the front panel. You simply cut along the dot/dashed facing line and add a 10mm seam allowance to the pieces you wish to use.

How to make the binder pattern facings

But wait there's more ... yes these can be made by mixing the 24% back with the 20% front for a tension half way between the two ... you will need to ever so marginally true the shoulder seams as there's about 0.5mm difference between the two percentages ... you probably won't notice but I need to mention it.


A closure is device like a zip, hook and eye fastener, lacing eyelets, Velcro or even belted buckles. This pattern is designed to work without a closure. If comment on social media is anything to go by, closures are responsible for more problems than the binders themselves. But that said, there is nothing stopping you from using one because this pattern has zero vertical negative ease ... ie; it only uses stretch in the horizontal direction. You'd need to modify the pattern by removing the width of your closure from the pattern and adding seam allowance with which to attach it. Doing something like inserting a length of hook and eye tape into the left hand side seam (if you're right handed), by removing half the width of the tape from the front and back side seam on that side would be quite straight forward. That's not part of these instructions however as I'm trying to keep everything as simple as possible. Hook and Eye tape seems to be the most popular choice when a closure is used (image below).


Hook and Eye Tape

Measuring & Sizes

Let's talk about sizing. These are labelled by chest size (unbound bust without a bra) as measured across the nipple point on the round. This is the only measurement you need. You will typically just select the size pattern that you measure  ... the size on the pattern is the actual starting chest measurement! The patterns come in 2cm increments, not 2 inch increments. I use the metric system and I also do much smaller increments so you have more control over customising your pattern.

Where to measure the bust

The pattern comes as a layered PDF file ... make the layers tab visible in your PDF viewer and turn off the sizes you don't want, leaving the size you do want as visible. 


Now keep in mind, these are designed to compress the statistical global average which sits somewhere between a B and a C cup. Technically speaking, someone with a small cupped 80cm chest, for example, will be larger in the body than a large cupped size 80cm ... and we don't use bust darting in a binder! Or more easily said, those with a larger starting cup size will start with more shape. Now seeing as we have only one shaped pattern to work with, you must give some consideration to the area under your chest ... if you have a large cup size then there's going to be some area under you chest that won't fit as tightly. You could wear a size smaller binder than you measure but that's starting to add more tension across the chest. 

You're going to need to work out which is the best approach for you ... in the case of a larger starting cup size, I'd recommend going a size smaller than you measure, but using the 24% back pattern with the 20% front pattern ... that way you'll get a better overall compromise. You're really going to need to have a play to see which combination works best for you.


Printing The Pattern

As I've already mentioned, the pattern comes as a layered PDF file ... you make the layers tab visible in your PDF viewer and turn off the sizes you don't want, leaving the size you do want as visible. These patterns are not broken up automatically into A4 or US Letter size ... the page size is 500mmx600mm  so you'll need to use poster print in the print options tab when you go to print it. There's a page about that here if you don't know how to do it.


Instructions On How To Make the Binder

Step One


In this example we're going to create a basic two layered, full panel binder. You'll need to cut out four back panels (only two if you do the next power mesh step) and two front panels from 80/20 nylon spandex in your chosen size, as stated on the pattern label.


Place one left back panel over a right back panel, right sides together and line them up using pins or fabric clips along the centre back seam. Using an overlocker (serger in the USA), stitch the centre back seam, removing the pins before you get to them. Note: I have used 10mm seam allowances and your overlocker is probably only 6.5mm from the left needle to the blade so you'll be cutting of 3.5mm as you sew ... this is important! Repeat for the remaining back panels.

Stitching together the CB seams

Optional Powermesh Step (Recommended)


If you want to do a Powermesh compression layer (recommended), separate the front panel pattern at the seam line as shown in the Options section above. Cut the lower chest section from Powermesh and the shoulder facing from either softer lining or regular 80/20 nylon spandex. Pin them right sides together at the facing seam and overlock cutting off 3.5mm as you go.

Using an oprtional powermesh facing

Step Two


Take one front panel (or the Powermesh combo) and place it against a back panel pair, right sides together. Align the side seams and hold with pins or fabric clips. Overlock the side seams cutting of 3.5mm as you go. Now do the same with the shoulder seams. Repeat for the other front and back panels.

Sewing the side seams with an overlocker

Step Three


Turn the inside layer (the one you want on the inside of the finished garment - this would also be the Powermesh layer if you used that) right side out. Place the outer layer (the layer that'll show when you're finished) inside the inside layer so their wrong sides are together. Pin or clip in place.

Putting the layers of spandex together

Step Four


Apply 10mm flat rubber or braided elastic to the edge of the arm holes and neck hole using your overlocker with the blade dis-engaged or by using a zig-zag on a regular machine. Apply 25mm soft braided elastic to the edge of the waist hem in the same manner.

Step 4.jpg

Step Five


Turn everything the right way out. Fold under the elastic on the neckline and top stitch with a three step zig-zag or cover stitch (the best if you have one). Repeat for each arm hole and the waist hem. When top stitching elastic, try to get the left side of the stitch line to just go over the edge of the elastic, but as close to it as possible. That's it ... you've now made a basic binder!

Step 5.jpg

... and this is how the optional Powermesh version looks.

This is the power mesh version
An image showing the powermesh liner

How To Adjust The Binder Pattern

If you have experience in pattern making you may want to edit a few things here and there ... and I'd encourage you to adjust a pattern to improve your binders comfort ... just always keep in mind the potential hazards of improperly fitted binders and the signs to look for ... check, check, check!


The Side Seam Adjustment

The first adjustment one of our testers made, that I'd like to mention, was to tighten the binder below the bust by taking a little bit out of the side seam at the waist. Their rationale was that it shouldn't change the overall shape of the body as everything is already tight, but it should lift the bust a little better into the center of the Powermesh facing. While it did actually pull into the waist a tiny bit, it wasn't noticeable under clothing and it did hold the bust higher to compress squarer ... the client started as a C cup and only showed a tiny bit of bust that wasn't prominent all after binding. This would typically be an adjustment for a larger bust and I don't have test results on that as yet..

Adjusting the side seam of your binder

The Shoulder Adjustment

If you are shorter or taller in the body, there is no reason why you can't tweak the length of the shoulder straps so they sit flatter. The straps are cut square so it's an easy job to take off or add a little bit two both straps or either. That's an easy one.

One of our testers has a child that's very sensitive to bulk at the shoulder seam, so the tester moved the seam further forward as you see in the image below. While it looks like it's a long way forward, the new seam line became the seam line for the Powermesh facing as well. In this way they really moved the facing up higher and eliminated the shoulder seam all in one go ... I like this modification.

Adjusting the shoulder seam position of your binder

Changing The Compression Layer

A number of people have mentioned that they believe Powermesh isn't strong enough to compress the bust in a binder. Power mesh is still a stretch fabric, but it has rapid onset rebound ... this is why it's the world's most popular compression/control fabric for shapewear. But there's more to it than that ... it can distort and conform to the body when the wearer twists and leans forwards and backwards. Non-stretch facings made from denim or cotton twill do not do this as well (more often not at all) ... they do flatten better but they don't conform to a curved surface under high tension anywhere near as well as Powermesh. Why do I bring this up? What happens to a non-stretch fabric that's pulled tightly against the skin and suddenly pulled along the bias when there's nowhere for it to go? It can snap-roll ... it's a bit like ripples in a swimsuit only snap rolling is sudden and can do anything from pinching the fat layer in the skin to breaking ribs. 


You may get away with something like a light weight stretch denim that has about 15% stretch in it. The only issue I see with that is heat build up, and this pattern isn't designed for taking most of the stretch out of the front panel. 

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