Bra Drafting Course and Third Edition Update

I have been super busy these days, between back to school, teaching workshops, making patterns and video editing my online courses, I have barely had time to share what I’ve been up to.

I started teaching 3-day workshops at my studio in Florida. They have been wonderful, but so information packed, that it is exhausting. I have two more workshops planned for the remainder of this year and I am thinking that might be all I do. While it has been fun to get back into teaching, I think I would rather utilize my energy to make content that everyone can enjoy, not just the few that can train with me on an individual basis. Next year I may offer one on one training by the day for those who want to pick my brain, but not sure if there will be any takers. Only time will tell. If you are interested in any of the spaces left for this year, my workshops are listed under the books & classes section of my website.

My online course is now live. It covers the basic draft for the band and cup, plus how to create the sloper and manipulate it. I have broken the videos into steps, so some videos are only 30 second long and some are a few minutes. I did it this way so you don’t skip a step. Watch the video, do the step, rinse and repeat. Here is the link to the online course.

I finally did a video announcing the third edition, only 2 months late.

Update on the rest of my life

Summer was a challenge this year. We did not do any camps for Emily, so she was needing our attention nearly full time. Although even when she had camps, I still felt like we were giving her our attention 24/7.

Emily started school a month ago and the direction her class was taking was not agreeable to us, so after about 2 weeks, we pulled her from school and enrolled her in a charter school. I am so glad we did. I have been feeling completely exhausted for months, possibly up to a year and I can now attribute it to Emily’s school. She was clearly unhappy and acted out at home, making us completely drained of all our energy. In the 2 weeks since she has been in this new school, everything has changed. I am no longer exhausted and feel like I can join the productivity train again. I even made it to the gym that I’ve been supporting forever but never go to.

Needless to say, my exhaustion was linked to Emily. Damn me and my empathy. I am back on the band wagon again. I finished my bra drafting online course and made it live a few days ago, but haven’t officially announced it until now.

The Spanish edition of Bare Essentials is almost done. Its just back with the translator to make sure everything looks good. My new pattern set is rounding up testing which I hope to release in about a month. I think that’s all?? But probably not.

My next big projects are to get back to my other unfinished books – one is a sloper drafting book for the Pattern Design series and one is the athletic wear book for the Bare Essentials series. Both books are already partially written, but far from finished. I’ll probably toss a coin to choose which is next, but likely it will be the Pattern Design book since that is fresher in my memory.

Now that a big portion of my projects are completed, I expect to start posting a little more regularly. I also think I have a few guest posts coming up soon. Stay tuned.

How It All Started

I consider myself a pattern maker first and a designer second. I have always been fascinated with how things work. As a teenager I started making clothes by how I thought they were made. I would lay my clothes on top of fabric and cut around the outside edges and sew them together.

I never fully understood how or why garments were put together. After several failed attempts at various garments, I decided to save up all my money and buy myself a dressform. We had a Cloth World and I would go in once a week and look at the dress form I wanted. Over the course of probably a year, I was finally able to save all my money for my first big purchase. For a teenager in the early 90s, $100 was a lot of money.

The first thing I made for myself was a dress for my friend’s birthday celebration. The dress was so tight I could not sit down at her party, but I really don’t think anyone noticed. That was the first time I ever started to understand fit. It was another 6 years before I’d take my first pattern making class. During that time, I resorted to working with knits so the fit wasn’t as important.

The first day of pattern making was the best day of my life (at that period of my life). I finally understood how all the parts went together and why. I thrived in my draping classes because I learned how to make physical changes to a pattern with visual observations.

My school only scratched the surface of the knowledge I desired. School gave me a head start, but it was my drive to understand fit that I supplemented my education with experimentation. I started collecting all the books I could on pattern making and design. I loved it all, but I really struggled to understand the industry taught directions.

I questioned the why of things, but I never received answers except the parental “because I said so.” Most of what we learn as students is just accepted as fact, but I always struggled with that. I needed to understand why something was 1/4″ or 3/4″. What was the reasoning behind these “facts.”

As someone who never fit the mold of ready to wear, drafting for myself using these industry standard methods never worked either. Why didn’t they? And why do all the books teach the same thing? Why don’t any of them answer why?

When I started teaching, I enjoyed the challenge of my students coming up with an impossible design and helping them make it a possible design. I asked colleagues why we did something a certain way and the response was usually something around the fact “because the book teaches it that way.”

This was when I made it my personal goal to help not only me, but others understand why we do things. There are reasons for everything and just trusting what was done for 100 years does not mean it is correct.

I wrote my first book on running a small design business. It was a great project as it helped me unearth the problems those other books did not teach.

I had kind of forgotten that I loved writing as much as I loved designing. Visiting teachers years later, they were all surprised I didn’t become a writer and went the route of design.

The second book I wrote was on drafting undies. I worked on this book for months, experimented with everything. There were a handful of books already out on the subject, but most taught drafting for the industry standard model. I struggled to make it relate to myself. I pulled inspiration from everything, but I wrote everything based on my own experimentation.

A year or two later I began my journey on writing about bra drafting. This was even more elusive than panty drafting. There was some information out there, but none of it relevant to my body shape or size. Everything was shrouded in secrecy. I hated that. I concluded that drafting info was only provided to show the industry standard base size. But what about those of us who aren’t millionaires and want to design for ourselves.

I looked at bra design as a pattern maker. I needed to understand every aspect of it. I developed my own methods and within a year, my methods were being copied and published as other’s work. I get it, I do. Once the information is out there, its up for interpretation. I did a second edition that included a more unique grading method, but I still felt that the book was missing most shape specific drafting data.

I decided to make it my mission to find a better and more accurate way to get drafting measurements. I wanted to create a calculator to help. I introduced drafting with this calculator in the third edition as well as a new way to manipulate the drafts more like a traditional sloper for ready-to-wear.

In the months since the book release, I have encountered “silent” issues related to fit that I was previously unaware of. While I do not plan on writing another edition, I do plan to cover the issues on my blog. I have a few pending items to take care of, but I will be covering that secondary.

There will always an exceptions to the norm, what I hope you get out of my books and articles is the understanding to know how do make things for your own unique self. Just remember that because I don’t cover it, it does not mean the issue does not exist.

Until then, enjoy drafting.

A Wire That Fits

I am happy to have the first guest post on my blog written by Jane Ramsey. Jane happily helped me test and experiment with changes for the new bra drafting book.   -Jennifer

If you wear an underwired bra you may think the wire is an evil torture device. There are many reasons for this. A wire that pokes you in the armpit, or sternum, that creaks as you breathe, that digs into your ribs, that snaps in two….

All of the above are signs of an incorrectly fitting wire. Too big, too small, too long, too narrow….

Ideally you need to find a bra style that incorporates your best fitting wire. The easiest way is to make your own or have a custom made bra.

There’s a massive range of shapes and sizes of underwire. Short, regular and long. Vertical, flat vertical, regular, demi… this list is not exhaustive.

Then there’s wire size.
The numbering convention is based on the ‘right’ wire for a B cup. So a 40 wire works for a 40B and it’s sister sizes 42A, 38C, 36D, etc. This isn’t an exact science, our bodies don’t conform to these standards. Bra designers don’t always stick to the formula either. This can be a good thing, because we may need different wires even in the same size bra. If you’re making your own bras, or if you are having a custom made bra, finding the perfect wire for you is the best place to start.

For myself and my customers, I have a simple tool, a piece of heavy duty electrical wire, the type used for hard wiring a cooker or shower.

The plastic insulation stripped off, the ends looped round to prevent injury and then the wire bent into the approximate shape of an under wire.

To use, I simply place it in the breast crease, the inter mammary fold, ensuring it follows the trace of the breast root, without sitting on breast tissue. This gauge of copper wire is malleable, soft enough to bend easily with your fingers, firm enough to hold the shape when you take it off the body.

An added bonus is, you can just flip the wire to check you need the same size wire for both breasts. Most of us are slightly asymmetrical, some of us have a greater degree of asymmetry. Rather than just padding out one cup of a pair of matched cups you might want to make different cups for each side… I digress, that’s a whole other blog post.

Once I have my bent wire, I compare it with printed wire charts to find the best match. There is very little difference between the sizes but the wrong size can dramatically affect your comfort and the fit of your bra. When wearing the right wire, you will barely know it’s there, unless you have other conditions affecting your sensitivity.

Wire fitting. 4 easy steps.

1. Bend the wire to the approximate shape of your breast root. (You can trace the wire in your best fitting bra as a starting point).

2. On your naked body, place the wire in your inter mammary fold, or breast crease.

3. Adjust the shape of the wire so it follows the shape of your breast root. Making sure it doesn’t sit on breast tissue.

4. Match it to your printed wire charts.

This wire trace is clearly bigger than the 40.

The 42 looks pretty close, the bend at the end of the wire was where I bent it so it didn’t poke Kathryn in the armpit.

Yes, all my mannequins have names.

The 44 is too big

Finally I checked against the vertical wires. A regular wire is much more suited to Kathryn. Some people have a wide, flat root, they would benefit from the flat vertical wires, as you can see, this chart is labeled with my best fit wire, a 42 vertical.

Just a reminder, weight fluctuations, water retention, dehydration, even our menstrual cycle can affect our breasts enough to make a wire that’s a perfect fit one day too big or too small another.

All of the wires mentioned above can be bought from

Supporting you through the ages, Jane is a dressmaker with decades of experience having started sewing clothes by the time she was 10. She has a passion for historical clothing and the foundation garments that provide the right silhouette for each era and has recently expanded that passion to finding a comfortable bra that fits well.

Announcement of Classes

I taught at a bra making conference this past weekend, and while it was a little overwhelming due to class size, I have decided to start teaching again. I have set up five 3-day workshops to teach pattern drafting and manipulation of bras. The best part is that I am limiting class size to 5 individuals for each class.

I was planning to write this post later this week, but just by announcing it on Instagram and Facebook about an hour ago, I have already started booking classes and I know some of you want to know as soon as they are available.

The class days are all Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That way if you are taking off to come to Florida, you only need to take off 2 days, then enjoy an extra day in the Florida sunshine over the weekend after your class ends on Saturday.

The times are scheduled for 9am to 4pm with lunches and snacks included. We have a cute little neighborhood restaurant called Stone Soup that we like to frequent for lunch. If weather permits, we can walk, but we can easily drive over there in my hubbie’s Highlander.

If you are traveling here, I encourage you to stay at the beach to take in the relaxing atmosphere after classes, but we have hotels and AirB&B nearby too. Take an Uber to my studio and I’ll drive you back at the end of the day. I can also try to coordinate with everyone on their arrival times so one of us could come get you from the airport if you don’t want to deal with a rental. We can work out the details once you start scheduling your travel, but please check with me first before depending on us for airport pickup. I will not drive to the airport after 11pm, as I will be asleep, 10pm is probably pushing it.

Here is the link for the classes:

Feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

How to determine what size your bra was drafted for

How would you like to know what size your bra was actually drafted for?

Since there are so many different ways people measure for fitting bras, I thought I’d try to shed some light on why some people measure some ways and why some people measure other ways.

The first thing to cover is how people measure. I have encountered 4 different measuring techniques, but the one thing that is common among all of them is that you subtract your band number from your full bust measurement to determine your cup size. For each inch difference, there is a cup size.

The differences come into play based on how to come up with the band size. The most common measuring technique is to take your underbust measurement and add 4″ or 5″. Specialty shops generally take your underbust measurement and add 2″ or 3″. International measuring either take the underbust measurement as your band size or your chest (above the breast) measurement as your band size.

So, which one is correct? The short, but frustrating answer is, “All of them.” Each one of them were developed based on how a pattern was drafted, but how do you know what measurements they were drafted for?

The next short, but frustrating answer for that is, “you don’t know.” I am on a quest to find out what sizes these bras were drafted for.

I started with a paper with a line on the far left. I also did a lower horizontal line, but that was unnecessary (skip that if you are doing this yourself). I pinned the center of each bra and lined up the center front to the left line.

I first marked the position of the wire with it just sitting. I then straightened the band, which moved the wire and marked the same point on the bra with the wire sprung. That was done for a later post, but thought I’d explain what I did.

With the side of the band straightened out, I marked where the side seam was on both the top and bottom of the bra, then marked where the back ends before the hook & eye.

Each one of these is a different manufacturer, let’s determine what size these were actually drafted for. I did a video as well (link is at the bottom) but it might be a little technical and boring, except for the parts where the cat tried to get some love while I was filming.

I repeated this for 4 different bras. Notice that the angles of the side seam are very different, meaning that the body proportions these were drafted for, were very different as well.

I marked a horizontal line from the center front to the top and bottom of the side seam and indicated the measurements.

I then drew in the back lines from the side seam to the back and measured those as well.

Once all those measurements were recorded, I then tested the back for stretch. Now, the one thing I had taught in my previous books is to take into account the stretch of the back fabric, but in actuality, you need to know the stretch of the elastic, which is generally snugger than the fabric. In fact, you can really use any stretch fabric you want for the back, IF you have the right elastics to stabilize the fabric.

Ok, so to test the stretch, I tested the elastic itself. I marked in pins at 0 and 5″. I then lined it up to a vertical and horizontal line and stretched the elastic to a comfortable stretch. This stretch was not the full amount the elastic stretches it, its the amount it stretches before you hit resistance. The point beyond resistance can be very uncomfortable.

I then referred to my stretch ratio chart and reverse engineered the back lengths. I took the amount of the back (and really only the underbust measurement matters) and divided it by the stretch ratio to determine what the measurement it should fit on a person.

Ok, now I’m jumping around a bit. Lets first determine the difference from chest to underbust. Subtract the underbust from the chest amount for the front and multiply by 4. That is the difference for the entire bra between the chest and underbust measurements.

To determine the actual underbust measurement this was drafted for, add the front band, the new underbust measurement on the back plus 1″ for the hook & eye. Then multiply by 2. Voila. That is the underbust measurement this was drafted for.

Then add the chest difference to determine what chest measurement this was drafted for. Voila. Now you know.

One thing to note is that bras are designed for generally the smaller measurements in a range, so a comfortable fit would be for those two measurements plus up to 1″, maybe 1 1/2″ max.

The next question I approach is which measuring guidelines match each of these bras:

Black Bra: 38C by Maddie & Coco (cheap bra from Bealls)
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 30″, Chest 35 1/2″
Measuring technique: Chest +2/3 or Underbust +8
5 1/2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust

White Bra: 38B Body Frosting (cheap imported brand)
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 31″, Chest 33 1/4″
Measuring technique: Chest +4/5 or Underbust +7
2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)

Nude Bra: 40C Wacoal
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 32 3/8″, Chest 35 3/4″
Measuring technique: Chest +4/5 or Under bust +7/8
3 1/2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)

Brown Bra: 42C by Pink (Victoria Secret),
Measurements drafted for: Under bust 36 5/8″, Chest 41 3/8″
Measuring technique: Chest measurement
5″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)

Ok, I was not expecting those measurements for those sizes. Now I’m curious what the manufacturers recommends.

Just checked Wacoal. They recommend under +3/4, but no mention of the chest. As far as I can tell, this bra was possible drafted based on the fabric stretch and not the elastic stretch. The fabric stretched far more than the elastic did. Wacoal always fit me best, but the bands were often a little tight for me based on their recommendations.

I also checked Victoria Secret and at least their measurements match their recommendations. The other two brands are cheap and likely made in some factory with little to no reference of sizing.

I can see why so many people wear the wrong size bras. It isn’t really an issue with the measuring, it’s an issue with the drafting. Every part of the bra needs to be accounted for, in every aspect of the draft. (A wire discussion will be a later post.)

The elastics play an integral part to the way a bra fits and if the bra is only being drafted based on the fabric and the elastic isn’t incorporated into it, the bras can fit drastically different based on which notions are used.

Why don’t you try this yourself and share with me what you discover about your favorite brand. How does their measuring size up to the actual bras you have?

Here is the full video:

This is all part of the research I did for the third edition of my bra drafting book. Now, I know that some of you are wondering why I would write a third edition in 7 years. Not sure if you knew this but the big textbook publishers do a new edition every 2 years, so I’m not far off.

BUT, I do not plan to write another edition of this book, EVER! When I wrote my first book, I researched all the available information out there and tested and tested. I developed my own drafting techniques and they worked. I still say that they worked, even though I am writing the 3rd edition.

What changed is me. My body changed after having a child so I began to look at drafting a whole lot differently. The second edition also included instructions on how to draft in CAD. The second edition I am also proud of. I have found a few typos and wording that could have used a little more editing, but the second edition showed different ways to do the same thing.

Over the past 3 years I have gotten involved with a few bra making groups on Facebook. It has opened my eyes to even more issues that ALL bra drafting neglected to address.

I decided last year that I was going to do more scientific and mathematical research to thoroughly understand the underlying issues and how to fix them by drafting a truly custom fit. That is what I have been working on.

I created a calculation to determine the horizontal measurement for a cup draft based on the wire size, under bust, full bust and chest measurements. I then was able to create a calculation to determine the vertical measurement of the cup incorporating one additional measurement, the chest height. With these new calculations, I have been able to get to a more accurate draft on the first try.

Those are just some of the reasons for the third edition. I’ll share some more in my next post.

Silent, but Busy on the Home Front

I know I have been silent lately, but I have been working on some big things. As you can see, I gave my website and blog a facelift, a much needed facelift. I believe it is more mobile friendly now, so be sure to let me know if you encounter any issues with either.

I also created and developed an online course website with a PolyPattern Training Course. I plan to begin working on some courses in conjunction with my bra making book release, but more on that in a bit. It took me a while to get it right, but at least I will no longer be working on web design for 3 websites so I can focus on what is really important.

Another big project I have been working on for several months is to create a full product catalog to make it easier for everyone to see my product offerings under one cover. There will be a few new products I’m adding to the catalog in about a month, so I’m only going to be offering a few printed catalogs in the meantime, but that still will be a few weeks away.

I have a big underwire shipment coming in a few weeks with three new underwire styles which I am really excited about. But unfortunately, with all the imposed tariffs from our current president, my wire prices have gone up a bit and I have seriously reduced the markup to keep the prices reasonable. (In a related note, we have been actively researching to develop our own wire bending machine, but haven’t had a chance to really research the available material in the US for making custom wires.)

Here is our present catalog. Not sure why it is showing link text in Chinese, but I’m hoping to get to the bottom of that too.

As if designing/redesigning three websites and creating a catalog isn’t enough work, I am also actively testing my new drafting instructions for bra making and I believe I have create two successful calculations to determine the horizontal and vertical bust measurements for drafting based on 5 simple measurements that everyone can take. I’m just waiting to confirm with a few more testers before I declare it confirmed.

The next step to work on in my book is my pattern manipulation instructions, but I feel like I need to have my block drafts perfected first. I’m almost there.

AND…..I am also working on some new bra patterns. I know I state I have been working on these for a while, but in the process of all my book research, I have decided to offer a set of patterns for various different wire types and sizes as well as variations for torso shape and bust depth. It has been a fun project, just ask any of my testers.

I plan to release the cups and bands separately as they will be designed to be mixed and matched with new designs. I have so many variations for both, it is proving challenging to figure out how to split them up. I have been working on the band range initially.

My first pattern set is for the regular wire in band sizes 28 through 52. Each band size has 8-10 variations for wire size and 3 variations for torso shape, from tubular to v-shaped. This accounts for chest measurements that are larger than underbust measurements.

I’ll be working on the band patterns for the vertical wire and my flat vertical wires as well as bands for all my new wires – the long vertical, short vertical and demi. With the demi, I plan to create two bands – one for a traditional demi wire use and one more vertical in style for larger bust sizes. Those two will be the last I work on.

AND…………..In addition to all of that, I have been trying to downsize my product offerings of items that are not intimate apparel industry related. It has prompted me to completely re-organize my sewing room to make it more functional for myself, for my daughter and for being able to bring students into my studio for workshops. Here are a few photos of my new workshop layout.

I know sometimes I say I plan to do things, but you may not see things happening. Always know that there is never “nothing” going on with me. Stay tuned and you will see some amazing things coming your way soon.

New Blog, New Courses, New…

I have been working on this redesign since September. It is amazing how long it actually takes me to implement changes when it is just me. I used to think that my employees slowed me down, but perhaps they made me more efficient with my time.

With no employees, I now do it all. I am still one website away from my full redesign, but two sites are done.

Ok, so I did say two sites. If you notice on the navigation bar at the top, I have a link for online classes. This is new. I presently only have two online classes done. One for the demo of PolyPattern and one for the full training of PolyPattern. That course took me a couple months to get together, but now I have a lot more support for the software.

As many of you may know, I am working on revamping my drafting instructions for bra making. This takes a really long time. I just completed phase one of new directions. Phase 2 starts next week. The plan is to release an online course to work with the new book. I’m not sure exactly how I will structure it, but I’m thinking I can offer a discount for the course if you get the book, or get a discount on the book if you buy the course.

My goal is to have the drafting completed by mid June. I am teaching a drafting class at the Bra Making Conference in June, so I have to have a working copy completed by then. Two months isn’t much time, so I have a lot to work on before then.

I would love to commit all my time to this but unfortunately I still have to run my online shop nearly full time. I just ordered more supplies and will be expanding my offerings for larger wholesale quantities. I have already put together a catalog for this, but I can’t release it until I update my website. The catalog looks nice! Its 58 pages right now and it might grow 2 more pages after my last edits are done.

On all other fronts, things are good. My daughter got into a gifted program for critical thinking and problem solving. I’m so proud of her. She also got switched to another class after a bully punched her and she defended herself with a pair of scissors. Not happy about the scissors part, but proud that she stood up for herself.

Now that the blog is updated I can get back to posting again. See you soon!

End of the Year Update

This time of year is always nuts. My business is super slow and my daughter’s schedule is super busy, plus trying to figure out what to get my loved ones for Christmas is just a nightmare. For a small business like mine, Christmas time is the slowest time of the year, but it is also my busiest time of year, with preparations for January and beyond.

Here is a fun photo of my daughter while I digress a moment.

December is a cacophony of projects for myself. I had originally planned to release my new sports bra pattern a few weeks ago, but decided that December is the worst time to release anything unless it has something to do with gifting.

Sewing patterns are usually a personal project and not a giftable, so January is a much better time to release a pattern. And that is exactly what I’m doing. I currently have an amazing group of ladies testing out my new pattern in sizes across the spectrum.

The samples look great and I’m really glad I took my time to get this one released. I have completely rewritten my instructions and reformatted my pattern downloads so the sizes can be turned off with layers in Adobe Reader. I am not sure if this is inherent to Illustrator, or if it was an extension I downloaded to do it. I honestly can’t remember. I just tried looking for the extension and couldn’t find it, so the extension I’m thinking of mine not be this one.

Anyway, back to my year end summary.

Amongst my many projects, I have also been working on putting together a website for online courses. The first course I have written is for the software PolyPattern. It is my way of offering a better support system for the software.

The second course will be related to the pattern book I released a few months ago, followed by the third course on grading. The website is in need of a few more revisions, but I’ll announce it in early January.

Let’s see, what else is on the docket for the new year. Once the course website is rolled out, we will then be rolling out our website and blog redesign. As if I didn’t have anything to do already.

I hope to start working on revising my California Dreaming pattern late January/early February. I will be renaming it, but don’t worry, if you bought this one already, you will get the revisions too.

In early March, we will be rolling out (for beta testing) our inventory management software. My husband has been working on this full time for the past year, but I have been working on some version of it for about 4 years now. It’s the only way I’ve been able to keep from overselling with all my online marketplaces. I will be so glad when this is ready to go. If you are interested in possibly testing it, check out the website and sign up for the newsletter on there.

So, that is the plan for early next year. Do you think I can get it done? I hope so.

Now for the wrap up and thank you portion of this post.

As a little news round up for this year, I am grateful that my new pattern drafting book has been received positively. I have at least one school picking it up for the Spring semester in 2019, but I hope more will be too.

I would love to thank my husband for all his support of my business venture and his partnership in raising our wonderful family. As some of you may have picked up from posts here or there, we added a 4th member to our family this last year.

No, I did not have another baby. If so, that would have been very awkward since she is 20 years old. Early this past year, we welcomed Hanna into our family full time. We may not be her biological parents, but we call her daughter and will forever be a part of our family. I wish we could have taken her in 5 years ago when she came into our lives, but life has to itself play out.

While I wished we could have been her foster parents when she needed one most, we are glad to have her in our lives now. I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a wonderful new year. I’ll see you back here in a few weeks when the new Laurel Sports Bra pattern is released.

Getting a Pattern Ready for Sale

As I’m trucking along in the 7th hour of putting the pattern sizes together, I keep thinking that people really don’t know what it entails to get a pattern ready for release. I am hoping I’ll have this pattern ready for release next week, but I still have hours left of making the sizes look good and have to update my directions still.

Here is my journey of labor and love for a pattern. (Apologies for not photographing more steps in my process.)

1. Initial design phase – this involves sketching and creating my initial pattern. For the Laurel, I started with my Christina Sports Bra as my base. Altering the pattern in my software is getting easier, but I used to do this step by hand.

I cut and paste the pattern together in my software, double check the seam measurements, the waistline measurements, side seam measurements, across bust measurements. Once I feel like I have a working sample, I print out the first draft and sew a sample for myself. This was my first sample

I can then evaluate major and minor changes to my base size. For the Laurel, I was able to get changes in my base size completed after this first round. For the Christina, this phase took about 6 samples. The Christina was started from scratch, so initial patterns in a new silhouette are more labor intensive.

2. Initial grade for the J cup band range – I start this grade based on the Christina grade, but because the seams are completely different, there is a lot of trial and error.

My grading is done in two parts. First for the J cup (my size) for all band sizes, then for each cup size in each band size. There is a lot of back and forth to make this work. The side seams and waistline have to remain the same as the Christina so I stay consistent in my sizing.

Then I need to make sure both sides of the princess seam line remain the same for each size increase. I also have to verify the measurement across the bust is increasing by the right amount. The last point to adjust is the strap point and a point on the armhole which affects the armhole coverage.

If you were wondering, I usually need two notebooks and a clipboard out to help me keep the numbers straight. I also have a spreadsheet I use to help me determine what each measurement should be. When I get to the size 40/42 in the range, I make changes in the pattern shapes to accomodate a slightly different body shape.

This initial grade takes about two to three 6 hour days (for the wide 150 sizes range I cover for the sports bras).

3. Writing initial directions & test fit – I do a rough set for my pattern testers to follow for testing fit of my graded range. I then send the patterns to my testers for checking fit.

I generally give about 2-3 weeks, but sometimes less if its an easy sew. At this time I take a tiny break from my patterns to work on my many other projects.

4. Test fit evaluation and changes – after reviewing 4-6 different sizes I determine if the changes that are needed are a simple grade change or a more complicated pattern change that is needed. Luckily the Laurel Sports Bra was a simple grade change. I neglected to check the measurements on the new pattern of the center front to the armhole. Most of the patterns were off by 1/2 an inch, which affected the fit for everyone.

I also discovered a little pattern problem with the waistband which caused me to have to adjust the waistband pattern and the waistline measurements of the patterns. I also realized this is a change that needs to be made on the Christina, so I will go back after all these steps and update those patterns as well. I honestly don’t think anyone would notice the issue on the Christina, but I’m a perfectionist, so I, of course, have to fix it.

5. Export patterns from software into PDF I can turn into my pattern downloads. At this point, most people might think I am nearing completion, but in actuality, I’m only about half way through this process. I next make all my lines pretty by adding styling and colors to the pattern pieces. This took me 3 hours.

6. Rearranging patterns for download – this sounds easy, but the patterns are not all together. All the A cups of each pattern piece are together and each other cup for each pattern piece are all grouped together. I have to then take each band and each cup and separate them into each band size. That alone took about 2 hours.

Once they are all in their own files, then comes the daunting task of nesting each pattern set together, adding pattern info, grainlines and sizing square.  Then grouping them and placing them in the Letter, A4 and A0 formats. Each band size takes 1.5 to 2 hours to organize and get ready for downloading.

7. Filming the tutorials – I take the time to film directions and generally sew two samples together in case there are alterations I’m showing in the directions. I plan out the best steps for construction and mark up the initial direction I created to follow my tutorial.

8. Updating the directions – this generally doesn’t take too long, but I often have to illustrate steps that were not previously illustrated.

9. Editing the video tutorials

10. Creating the online listing and uploading the files for download.

11. Pattern release!

Well, there you have it. I still have from the middle of step 6 and 8-11 to complete, but I’m taking this tiny break to write this post about my process. Luckily I filmed the tutorial on Monday, so I at least have most of that done, all I need to do is film my intro for the videos.

Spiral Binding Do-it-Yourself

I almost always spiral bind the drafts of my books while I’m editing, so I am often dropping by the Office Depot to get spiral binding done. Unfortunately, my Office Depot is the only office supply store in about a 10 mile radius, so they are often overworked and understaffed.

For the last 4 binding projects, I had to drop off the book and wait until the next day to get it spiral bound and even then, they still hadn’t done it. Each spiral binding trip cost me about $5 for the binding and covers, plus about an hour of my time to drive there and back and wait.

I decided that my newest book would best be viewed in spiral format. I have thought this about all my others as well, but when you self-publish, you are slightly limited with your options. I also really wanted my book to be color (as well as all my others, but I learned how to do it this time around). The cost to print my book in color on Amazon was way more than I wanted to spend and it also would cause me to price my customer out of buying it.

Because of the cost factor associated with Amazon color printing, I chose to have my Amazon book printed in black & white. I also sell my book with a distributor using a different printing service. Luckily their color costs are about half of Amazon’s so my book sold through Ingram will be in color, but still perfect bound. The spiral option is available only by me and my manual labor.

I searched more and more and found out that I could get color copies of my book printed for personal use on Barnes & Noble Press. This is a perfect solution. I ordered 20 copies from Barnes & Noble Press in color so I could spiral bind them myself.

Now for my decision to bind them myself. I factored the price of binding 100 books at $5 each, which obviously was $500. I felt that was a little much, so I decided to price out the stack cutter and the binding machine on my own. The two machines cost about $250 total plus the coils were another $20 and the clear plastic cover sheets were another $10. So, for the grand total of $280 I could buy the machines and do the binding myself. That was really a no brainer. And I can bind any future books for only the additional cost of the additional coils.

Here is the stack cutter. I line it up and cut off 1/8″ of the spine.

Here is the stack in progress. The spines on the left, the cut books on the right and the clear covers in the middle.

The is the binding machine to cut the holes. It is a lot of work, but I got a binder that can punch up to 20 sheets at a time.

The coil binding of the machine I found to be useless. It was too difficult to control. There is one speed to it, so it is more work to try to use it than just manually coiling it. I opted to manual coil them. One of these days, when I have more patience, I will try to get the coiling part to work for me. Here is the stack before I trimmed the coils to size.

Because I had such issues with the coiling part of the machine, I wonder if I could have found a machine that punches the holes without the coiling for half the price, but I’m not going to return this one and deal with it, so I’m not going to get myself upset by looking up the price difference. I have to pick my battles and today’s battle is for my daughter to pick up her little people off the dining room floor. (I really thought she would be outgrown of the little people by now, but she likes to line them all up like they are walking around the room in a single file line. I guess it beats her playing video games.)