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Book Review: Patternmaking for Underwear Design, by Kristina Shin PhD

3 April 2013, 14:55

You’ve heard me mention this book a few times as I’ve been experimenting with various drafts, but I felt it deserved a full review because, frankly, I’m a little obsessed with it right now. My mom surprised me with this when I was ill with shingles and the subsequent nerve damage pain, and it gave me something to focus on right as I was in the midst of my last bout of lingerie sewing.

It’s “Patternmaking for Underwear Design”, by Kristina Shin, PhD, and here’s a (pretty bad) shot I took of it’s cover:

It’s primarily a book for drafting your own bras and lingerie (but much more, too), and the biggest difference I’ve seen here in that these bra drafts all start with the underwire shape, and build from there. Every other bra draft I’ve seen starts with a bodice sloper, which is then adapted into a bra shape. The approach taken here makes a lot more sense to me for getting an accurate fit, since there’s so much variation in breast shape and distribution for women who even wear the same size bodice. As anyone knows who’s ever sewn a bra, finding the right size underwire is absolutely key, so it really seems right here to use that as a starting point. And it helps that most women can make a small incision in a well-fitting bra and just trace off one they know fits them!

There’s not really any construction or sewing instructions included in this book, but there are a few pages at the beginning with stuff like tips on cutting lace…

…and the wide variety of bra backs you can use once you’ve got your basic draft sorted out…

…plus several pages of various tables of measurements for different sizes, and exactly what to measure, both for the breasts and the rest of the body.

Here’s an example page from the leggings draft so you can see the style of instructions and diagrams. I personally found these easier to follow than Metric Pattern Cutting and WAY easier than any of the Pattern Magic books!

Here you can see the drawing for the babydoll nightie draft, and it’s nicely detailed on the front and back. The last step of each draft is always a page showing you all of the pattern pieces, and a suggested seam/hem allowance around each, too.

There are instructions here for drafting a full brand bra, partial band bra, sports bra, and a few cup seam variations. There are also drafting instructions for a teeshirt, leggings, boy short panties, G-string, and brief panties. You can then mix and match these drafts to create a bodysuit, camisole, and even an old-school button-down pyjama set!

Here is a compilation I made showing the tech drawings of all the different drafting instructions included in this book! There’s a ton in this book!

Some build on others, so like the frameless bra (“hook-up bra”) is based on the framed bra draft (“basic underwired bra”), and the bodysuit uses the basic t-shirt and brief drafts.

So far I’ve drafted myself the basic t-shirt and the leggings drafts, and both are the best I’ve ever had – the t-shirt is far better than the one I made from the Pattern Magic (Bunka) instructions, and the leggings are vastly better than the one I drafted myself from Metric Pattern Cutting.

Here’s me in my t-shirt sloper, which I actually like so much I wear it around the boat at the weekends, and I used it as the basic for my disco running top!

The next step for me is to attempt the basic underwired bra draft, because I’m pretty happy with the band fit on the Elan pattern now, but the cups are just deeply, deeply unflattering (oh, not dissimilar to a duckbill!). However, on first appearances the basic bra draft doesn’t seem to be as clear to me as the teeshirt and leggings draft, so I’ve emailed the author asking for some clarifications. Mainly, in the bra draft, she uses measurements, whereas the others it was “Hip/4 * 90%” so you could easily plug in your own measurements. I’m sure I’m just missing something, so I’m hoping to update this review once I’ve had a reply and the chance to test it out.

What became apparent to me is that this book and the upcoming “Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction” by Norma Loehr, are pretty much the most perfect bra-making companions. I’ve had the privilege of testing Norma’s book before its release, and it’s an absolute must buy for anyone interested in sewing their own bras (seriously, there’s one gem of bridge fitting advice in there alone that’s worth the purchase price!).

Kristina’s book gives you fantastic drafts, but no advice on fit nor how to construct the garments. Whereas Norma’s gives no patterns or drafting instructions, but provides amazingly good tips for improving fit and best ways to assemble bras.

I’m happy to announce that Norma’s book finally has a release date of April 15, and I’d strongly recommend buying Kristina’s book now (US & AU & CA) to get your drafts in order, and you’ll be ready for Norma’s by the time it’s released!

EDIT: Norma’s book is out now, for Kindle, which can be read on iOS, Android, Kindle devices, and pretty much everything you can think of!

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  1. I love independent reviews, thanks Fehr :D

    Caffy @ http://www.bundana.blogspot.co.uk

    Caffy Bundy    Apr 3, 05:26 PM    #
  2. I own this book too! I haven’t had a chance to try it out though.

    Karin    Apr 3, 06:06 PM    #
  3. Thanks for the thorough review; I think I need this book. Have steered clear of sports bra patterns but this could convert me! Love your T shirt, too – a great way to color block and use up scraps!

    Oh, and a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you! Your new dress is lovely.

    — M Kate    Apr 3, 06:46 PM    #
  4. Thanks for the review. Looks like a good buy.

    Vicki    Apr 3, 09:27 PM    #
  5. Thank you! I’ve been on the fence about picking up this book and couldn’t find a copy anywhere to take a peek before buying.

    That said, the bra draft is the essential bit for me and the amazon reviews make me leery. If there’s a clear way to make the draft work in other sizes I’m sold, so I’ll be following any updates with interest.

    — Gillian    Apr 4, 12:10 AM    #
  6. These will have to go on my wishlist!

    — Karen M.    Apr 4, 01:53 AM    #
  7. I already thought this book seemed interesting the first time you mentioned it and the review doesn’t disappoint! Thank you for sharing.
    I have to say bra-drafting is pretty tricky whatever system you use (although I also like a method starting with the underwire because there’s just so much room for personal variation with bodice slopers) and tends to take several muslins and re-drafts to get right. In that sense, I’ve really needed fitting advise along with drafting instructions, so I can see why you recommend buying both books.
    I look forward to your review of the fitting and construction book!

    I have one little issue with the t-shirt sloper though (warning pattern making geek talking here): I think the shoulders are a bit too short for you. Judging from the seams, the t-shirt is supposed to have a normal set-in sleeve but it looks like a half-raglan one. A pity because the fit of the rest of the t-shirt is so good.

    lauriana    Apr 4, 07:39 PM    #
  8. Very interesting, thanks for the full review. Does anyone know how this compares to Beverly Johnson’s Bramakers Manual book?

    — JustGail    Apr 5, 02:24 PM    #
  9. Can’t wait until your update from the author. This book sounds like something I would like to give a try…

    CGCouture    Apr 6, 02:29 AM    #
  10. I have this on my Amazon wishlist in the hope that ‘The Management’ may look there before my birthday!
    I might even hint that he should.

    Kim Hood    Apr 6, 02:16 PM    #
  11. I thought about this book, after reading your review, I’m going to purchase it! I just made my first bra, I’m not happy with the cups either. I love the idea of drafting my own.

    the nerdy seamstress    Oct 9, 03:27 AM    #

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