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

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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