Anne’s adventures in bra drafting: from zero bra to hero bra
I am happy to share this guest blog post from Anne Bertha and her adventures in drafting. – Jennifer
My bra making adventure started in June last year. I am a large cup size: the last bras I bought are a European 90H but are still too small in the cup. I read that in a well-fitting bra, the wires should lie flat against your chest. Well, I haven’t had that in years. More like over a decade, actually. And I’m 33… I don’t have to tell you I didn’t know how a bra should fit at all.
I started by replicating the fit I had in store-bought bras using patterns. It was ok, but I kept searching for a way to get those damn wires against my chest. After making multiple sizes of a pattern and still not feeling happy with the fit I achieved, I almost threw the towel in the ring.
That’s the point where I heard about Jennifer’s book! Somebody on Facebook recommended her wide vertical flat wires for me, and from the moment they arrived, I became a huge fan of hers. I instantly bought the book when it came out, and started reading. The larger sized patterns weren’t ready yet, so I had two options: wait for them or draft one myself. Because I’m a slightly impatient person *ahem*, and also because I believed I could as well draft completely after my measurements since I’ve had no success with other patterns, I started the drafting chapter.
It was an early morning when I started drafting after Jennifer’s book, and by 7:30 AM I had the front and back band done. And then the cup drafting started… I made mistakes. A lot of them. Being a newbie to pattern drafting, I didn’t understand what the book was trying to tell me in some steps. That also had to do with my over-excitement and not trying to read and understand properly, I admit.
The first trial bra I made out of calico was from a draft that was wrong in a lot of places, but I kept on adjusting it until I had a reasonable fit. That process taught me a lot. It taught me different types of common adjustments, how curves affect the fit of a bra, what you can do to fix particular fit issues, … I ended up taking my fabric scissors and cutting my cups up a lot to see where I needed more room.
After sewing a bunch of trial cups, I was happy with the fit. I moved on to the sloper, but kept on needing a lot of adjustments. And then I found out I misread some of the steps in the book. Because all of the steps are kind of necessary, not doing a step right has quite an impact your draft. In my head, there was also this little voice that kept saying: “This book has a logical mathematical approach, and it doesn’t work that well for you, you must be doing something wrong!”
So I started over. And oh my god, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I tried on my first newly drafted cups in my tester frame. The fit is almost spot on, I only needed to remove some room around the apex. I pinched that out, pinned, and transferred it to the pattern. It’s like everything came together. Beneath you can see the difference between my first heavily adjusted draft, and the second draft with all errors eliminated. I made a draft for each cup since they are substantially different.
This was the best result I could get with tweaking a ready made pattern. This is, I think, the fifth size I made, and the best overall fit I was able to achieve in my first year of bra-making.
This is my first (wrong) draft after a ton of adjustments:
This is my first draft done correctly:
What stands out to me, is that in the last draft, the horizontal seam is… Well, horizontal! My next step is to work on the new sloper, and make a bra from that which will fit me almost perfectly and is a style that I like in a fabric I like.
I’d recommend anybody who wants to draft their own bra with Jennifer’s method to become a member of the Facebook group ‘Fans of Bare Essentials’. It’s a group dedicated to Jennifer’s method of drafting. If you become a member and get stuck on a step, you can ask for help. You then hopefully won’t end up making a lot of mistakes as I did.
However, if you do make mistakes, don’t beat yourself up. It’s a learning curve, and from doing wrong you learn just as much or even more than from doing everything right. Of course it’s always more fun if you get advice, explanation where needed, and encouragement. That is what the group tries to provide.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my drafting journey. It took me meters of calico, weeks of my sewing time turned into drafting time, but it feels so good to have fathomed a drafting system that works for me. I seriously feel like I’ve learned twice as much in the last month compared to the previous year.
I’ve become a true bra-liever. I didn’t think comfortable, well-fitting bras were made for me, and now I realise I can make them myself.
Anne started sewing just over four years ago, and is completely self-taught except for a few workshops here and there. She remembers her first weeks behind the sewing machine vividly because she always forgot to put the presser foot down. She started with sewing her own clothes, moved on to bags and now finally also bras. Being a physicist and loving mathematics, she found a new exciting challenge in pattern 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 www.Porcelynne.com.
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.
Introduction to My New Wires
I finally found a little segment of time to film my introduction to the new vertical flat wires I am carrying. Pardon my appearance. I wasn’t planning of doing the video yesterday, but I saw 15 minutes that were available to me.
This video gives a little detail on the differences of the most standard wires used – regular underwires and vertical underwires. After explaining the differences, I explain why I created the vertical flat. I’m still nailing down which size is most appropriate for me.
In traditional sizing, I am recommended to wear a 54 wire. In my testing, the 52 vertical flat fit well and barely moved on me, but once I was driving, I did feel it moving down a bit. I did not alter the bra pattern. I just switched out the wires, so its probably a combination of the pattern and possibly I need to try the 50 vertical flat.
I named these wires myself because I was the one that created them. I’m still hashing out the recommended bra sizes to wear these, so if you test them out, let me know what size worked for you (as well as what size is recommended for you in traditional charts).
Grading a Bra with PolyPattern
I had intended to hold on to these videos for later publication, but I encountered an issue when I went to do a tutorial on how to digitize with PolyPattern, so I decided to just go ahead and release the videos. They would be a little out of order for anyone who is unfamiliar with the software.
The series I just released I filmed a few months ago when I was grading my California Dreaming Bra. These videos show you how I graded it, then imported it into Illustrator to make them pretty for downloads.
I was planning on doing the digitizing tutorial, then a truing tutorial, a basic drafting a sloper, a bra drafting sloper all within PolyPattern prior to releasing this set. I changed my mind. I wanted to show how easy the software is to use for the grading and converting to download.
If you are interested in this software, you can download the demo version under the Books & Downloads tab. Play around with it and let me know what you think. Once you test it, I can give you access to the pricing info. Its actually not bad compared to other CAD software, I just can’t publish the prices to the world. You need to be a secret agent to get that info. It is in lines with the pricing of Wild Ginger’s Cameo Pattern Design and Grading modules.
I will be doing the videos of everything mentioned above, but I am heading off for the holidays in a few days for a couple weeks, so videos will pick back up in January. Although I did just create a legging pattern from kids aged 18 months through size large in kids. If I can get my butt together and do that video today, that will be the last one before the end of the year. If I don’t get to that today, then I wish you all a Happy Holiday! If I do, I’ll post about it before.
The complexity of altering a bra sloper
I created this draft of a stylized bra design from my completed draft. It a bit complex if you have never done pattern drafting before, but know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When manipulating a pattern you need to remember this important rule – what you take away from one piece in volume you need to make it up on another pattern piece.
This isn’t going to result in a perfect fit after each pattern alteration, so it is important to test the fit prior to moving on to good fabric. I wish you all luck in this journey. The more designs you experiment with, they more knowledgeable you will become.
Here is my challenge. Draw a bra design and submit it to me for a drafting tutorial. I am open to as many as possibly. Let me know what your starting bra is and we can work from there. Not all designs must be created from your initial draft, so if you are daring, maybe submit the new design and scan and send in your starting pattern as well. The more challenges I receive, the more education I can pass on. You can email them to me at jennifer at porcelynne. For me to post, I will need to know which pattern you are starting from (if its another design out there) with the link to the product so I can share it will everyone.
Here are your videos for today.
Splitting the Lower cup from the Bra Draft
I have done a few new videos and this is the latest. This takes the drafted bra sloper we created and splits the lower cup for fit. This will help you get a better idea of the fit. Splitting the lower cup is really just for practice as you may not want a cup with a straight seam across the cup with the split lower cup. This is a good first step to understanding the manipulations involved with changing a bra draft.
Altering your Bra Pattern for a Different Size Wire
I worked on this little video after I had a few questions regarding using a different wire size with my bra pattern. This one is specifically for changing the wire size, but not the wire type. I will work on a different video for changing the wire type.
Drafting Videos 5..6..7..8..
I finally was able to finish the drafting for the bra sloper. Its in 4 parts. It gets pretty mathematical, so be forewarned.
Enjoy. Coming soon will be pattern alterations.
To Error is Human
I never claim to be perfect, so please never quote me as so. I actually skipped a step when drafting the back of the band, but this video shows you how to compensate for missing the step.