The time is nearing for me to retire from teaching online thorough my Patternmaking Classes. I will be closing these classes in December of 2013.
There has been some questions about what my classes include, such as the 28 1/2 hours of demonstrations in 346 streaming videos. So I decided I should provide some inside information about the content of these classes to supplement the information on my Course Description pages.
Background to My Online Patternmaking Classes
The impetus for these classes has been a long time in development. I started teaching pattern design back in the 1970s using my book How to Make Sewing Patterns. It quickly became apparent that not everyone could learn from a book as easily as I have been able to. When people could see demonstrations of the process of creating patterns, I saw light bulbs go off. They could understand and assimilate the information and techniques very quickly.
With the changes in technology that have occurred in this century, I realized I could put these demonstrations into streaming videos and offer them through online classes. I had started a Yahoo Group to answer questions people had from using my book. So I knew the classes should include forums for the specific questions people would have as they pursued their individual projects. I also developed eBooks as class texts. To help people with specific issues for getting an accurate custom-fit, I developed a process where students could submit photos of their works-in-progress which I could then comment on and send back to them as Fitting Critiques in PDF files. By using gingham for the basic slopers of the body, I have been able to respond with very specific suggestions for how much to change darts and seams with up to 1/8″ accuracy. Much more accurate than is actually required for most clothing construction.
Because these online classes had no bricks-and-mortar requirements, I have been able to leave the doors open for people from all over the world with no limitations for how long they could access the material. But now that I am planning on retiring, the doors will be permanently closing.
The Inside Scoop
So what is inside these classes? I am including links to my specific Course Description pages with some additional information about what is inside each of these classes. Initially I offered them once a year as scheduled classes so they are structured as two or more weeks. But as Independent Studies, the classes are based solely on how long a person wants to take to accomplish the projects.
An Introduction to Pattern Design ($20, plus additional eBook text below)
When you are working from slopers that are accurately fitted to an individual body, most of your effort will go into changing the patterns to achieve whatever design you desire. In order to understand the eight basic techniques used to create designs, this class bypasses the initial fitting and goes directly to working with quarter scale patterns for a generic shape. It uses the portion of a wine bottle that closely resembles the fitting issues for the contours of a woman’s body for the waist-to-hip region.
- Three week duration.
- An Introduction to Pattern Design (24 page PDF textbook $15)
- 13 Streaming Videos totaling 1 hour
- 1 supplemental PDF file
How to Make Custom-Fit Bras ($50, plus additional eBook text below)
When I was teaching pattern design back in the ’70s one of the questions that came up a lot was “How do you make a pattern for a bra?” At the time I was focused on outer garments. When I turned to teaching pattern design online, the question again came up so I decided to finally address this issue. It is the one garment that cries out to accurately fit the body if it is to perform its most basic function.
- Five week duration.
- How to Make Custom-Fit Bras (40 page PDF textbook $25)
- 41 videos totaling 2 hours
- 8 supplemental PDF files
- Four week duration
- Instructions for 9 design variations
- 82 videos totaling 7 hours
- 8 supplemental PDF files
How to Make a Lower Torso (aka Skirt) Sloper ($30 plus text: How to Make Sewing Patterns)
- Three week duration
- Instructions for 5 design variations
- 30 videos totaling 2 hours
- 6 supplemental PDF files
How to Make a Pants Sloper ($30 plus text: How to Make Sewing Patterns)
- Three week duration
- Instructions for 4 design variations
- 21 videos totaling 1-1/2 hours
- 8 supplemental PDF files
How to Make an Upper Torso (aka Bodice) Sloper ($50 plus text: How to Make Sewing Patterns)
- Five week duration
- Instructions for 9 design variations
- 36 videos totaling 3 hours
- 10 supplemental PDF files
The Sleeve Sloper and Variations ($20 plus text: How to Make Sewing Patterns)
- Two week duration
- Instructions for 6 design variations
- 10 videos totaling 45 minutes
- 5 supplemental PDF files
Swimsuits, Lingerie, & Empire Dresses ($30, plus additional eBook text below)
This class came about because when I was teaching my first online class, How to Make Custom-Fit Bras, one of the students said “Oh, this would make a good swim top.” So I immediately became interested in figuring out not just how to make the bottom but also other swim top variations as well as different styles of briefs and thongs. I think I got a little carried away creating variations for this class. The design variations created the necessity for a lot more videos.
- Three week duration.
- How to Make Bikinis and Bandeaux (23 page PDF textbook $20)
- 34 videos totaling 2 hours and 40 minutes
- Instructions for 15 design variations with 79 videos totaling 7 hours.
How to Make a Body Double (aka Dress Form) ($40)
Thia class requires at least the upper and lower slopers. A bra sloper makes for a very accurate body double that you can adjust based on the bra being worn for special occasions.
- Four week duration
- 49 videos totaling 3-1/2 hours
- 6 PDF files
The basic concept of the Bust Sling Bra is to support the breast from above instead of from the side (which is the cantilever structure of a conventional bra). For more on the comparison of these two structures see my post Introducing the Bust Sling Bra. It was my hope in developing this design that it would provide a more natural and comfortable support for the breast.
From my research I learned that one of the most sensitive times for a woman’s breasts is when she becomes pregnant and then starts nursing. It was my hope that the Bust Sling could be used as a nursing bra such as the one you can see in the photo below.
While the example above supports the bust sling with a strap around the neck, other variations are possible as you can see in the description of my online class for Bust Sling Bras.
It is with great pleasure that I have recently heard from Kenna who made one of these custom-fit nursing bras for herself and has reported the results of using it. With her permission I have included her comments below. To give you an idea of the support she requires she wears a “DDD” cup in a conventional bra. She is not the model you see in the photo above.
Bust Sling vs. Conventional Bra
As for nursing, the bra works very well. I have quite a bit of experience with
conventional nursing bras. Usually the part of the bra that falls away for
nursing is the part of the bra that supports the breast. Therefore, when you
nurse, the bra drops the breast. I love the fact that the bust sling does not
do that. The breast is supported through the nursing, and that feels better to
me. I do have to hold my baby a little further out from my body due to the
projection, but that has not been a problem.
It’s not unusual for women with ample busts to struggle with fungal growth on the skin underneath the breast. This is a real problem. Your design prevents skin-on-skin contact, which prevents sweating, which prevents that fungal growth. A+ for the help in that department.
The other day I started experiencing pain from a clogged milk duct. Guess what! The fact that the Bust Sling Bra has no underwire and is very gentle on the breast tissue made it the perfect bra to wear while trying to prevent the pain from turning into full-blown mastitis. Another A+.
Cost and Durability
Kenna is new to sewing. She found this an easy bra to create.
It’s nice to know that even a beginner’s experiences can be useful. I plan to recommend this bra design, and your class, to anyone who asks me about nursing bras. I find your design very refreshing. Bras have been a constant source of angst for me for many many years.
Another little tidbit about your approach that I love is the cost factor. When I buy conventional bras, they easily cost me $60.00 per bra, if not more. Then they last for no more than a year, and often times less than that. If I launder them adequately to prevent fungal growth, they will last no more than 3 months. With your approach, I can make a bra out of material that can be laundered, and I can do it very economically.
All these things have me very excited! I get good fit, adequate support, ease of care, better skin health, and a great nursing bra for a very reasonable price.
For the last four years I have run the Yahoo group How to Make Custom-Fit Bras. During this time I have listened to the issues women have with the design of conventional bras. The result is the concept for a different type of bra based on a suspension structure rather than the cantilever structure of conventional bras. I call this alternate type of bra a Bust Sling Bra. I was pleased by the response of one of my early testers, Becky Hess. One of her first experiments was to wear it for 9 holes of golf. An exercise that requires a lot of upper body movement.
I made one of the test bra slings. I am happy to report that it is the most
comfortable bra I wear. I wear it every chance I get. My girls are on the large
side and the bra sling gives me great support, and lift.
There are a variety of issues I have responded to with the design of this bra as I describe in my online class How to Make Bust Sling Bras and Variations.
- It eliminates the need for underwires, see more.
- Some women have no separation between the breasts, see more.
- It can be front opening even with a separating zipper, see more.
- Bra strap width, see more.
- Support of the bra from the back includes a variety of different options, see more.
- East/West drift can be controlled at the rib cage and the full bust level, see more.
- There are several options for preventing elastic from rolling under the bust, see more.
- There is no tension to allow for a longer usable life for the bra, see more.
- The design can contain the “fluff” of soft tissue around the rib cage, see more.
- The bra should be capable of including a bra cup or prosthetic device, see more.
- The design of most conventional bras for large breasts are ugly, see more.
Bra underwires are problematic for women for several reasons.
- Underwires are not the right length poking the underarm area
- The left and right breasts can be different sizes
- Some women need an underwire that is flat on the bottom. No commercial underwire is shaped like this.
- Underwires ultimately poke through the channeling with time.
The conventional bra uses an underwire to hold the bra cup close to the body, particularly at the breast bone in front. The Bust Sling Bra eliminates the need for an underwire by using a suspension structure that follows the natural contours of the body.
Separation between Breasts
Some women have no separation between the breasts at the full bust level. This means that the underwires of a conventional bra can not go high enough to provide adequate control of the bra. The Bust Sling bra only requires the thickness of the fabric to fit between the breasts to provide appropriate support. I trust that this fabric riding between the breast will improve comfort in warm climates where perspiration and other issues can be a factor.
The largest clasp for a front closure for a conventional bra is 1-3/8″. This is not tall enough to reach the full bust level which is important to prevent East/West drift. The Bust Sling Bra removes the tension around the rib cage allowing for a variety of different kinds of front closure devices including separating zippers. This should be of special benefit for women with mobility issues who find it difficult to use a back closure for a bra.
Bra Strap Width
The largest readily available width for bra straps for conventional bras is 3/4″. Conventional wisdom is that these straps should not support more than 10% of the weight of the breast. When the bra strap is narrow it can pinch nerves and result in other serious health issues. After consulting with a friend who is a doctor, he said that the issue is not placing weight on the shoulders but the width of the strap. He pointed out that back packs use a wide strap.
The width of the strap for Bust Sling Bras can be up to the full width of the shoulder–even wider than that found on back packs. For women whose breasts are smaller or self supporting, the straps on a Bust Sling can be as small as 1/8″.
Support from the Back
Given that the Bust Sling relies on a suspension style, the support from the back up to the shoulders is an important issue. But like the width of the strap this will vary with the needs of the individual. For this reason I show variations for the back that include a halter style around the neck, an “X” back, a racer back, and a hybrid that uses the same kind of band around the rib cage as found in a conventional bra.
An important issue women have with bras is the East/West drift. Large breasts can tend to spread to the sides. The Bust Sling uses two means for controlling East/West drift. First the position of the Bust Slings can be adjusted at the rib cage. But for many women additional support can be added to the full bust level using a bridge between the two Bust Slings. As mentioned in the topic of the front opening, this bridge can incorporate a zipper. If desired the bridge can even be carried above the full bust level.
Rib Cage Elastic
Some women have trouble with conventional bras because the elastic band under the bust rolls up and becomes uncomfortable. For the Bust Sling Bra you can use any type of elastic of any width including the wide non-roll elastic used in waistbands. I have even made a dress for my model that uses no elastic at all around the rib cage. Depending on the body, this could be an important consideration for women who have scar tissue from surgery.
Life Expectancy of the Bra
I have heard comments from women who say a bra will only last them three or four months before it looses it’s tension and is unusable. The structure of the Bust Sling is such that it does not depend on tension around the rib cage. As mentioned above it may even be possible to make a Bust Sling garment with no elastic. This means a Bust Sling Bra should have the same life expectancy as any other garment that is laundered regularly.
Support for Fluff
I have heard for women refer to their soft tissue around the rib cage as “fluff.” This is a fun term but obviously can be uncomfortable when it is pinched by a tight band around the rib cage. With the Bust Sling Bra the support comes over the shoulders minimizing the tension around the rib cage. In addition by offering different styles for the back such as the racer back and the hybrid, there is an inherent ability to support this fluff in a comfortable way.
The Bust Sling can include a pocket for either one side or both to include a bra cup for profile enhancement or a prosthetic device.
One issue that seems to come up pretty frequently is that conventional bras designed for large breasts are ugly and institutional looking. Fortunately I don’t consider that an issue for the Bust Sling Bra because it can be used with any type of fabric and any type of elastic. The lines can be changed to create different designs as long as the underlying structure is maintained. Furthermore the structure of the Bust Sling can be used to create Empire style tops, dresses, and gowns that do not require an additional undergarment.
I have developed a new design process for my online patternmaking class How to Make Bust Sling Bras & Variations.
The premise of this design is that the conventional bra has been designed for the young woman in her reproductive years. When women enter their post reproductive years, both the body and the personality can change dramatically. But the basic structure of the conventional bra remains the same.
The conventional bra is based on a cantilever concept where the weight of the breast is supported by the band around the rib cage. My Bust Sling Bra changes the support structure to a suspension style that follows the natural contours of the body.
Because the structure of this bra provides support by following the natural contours of the body it can be used to create garments with built in support that require no additional undergarment. This approach also eliminates the need for underwires. It is an open design concept that can be used to create garments for women of all ages.
The design is motivated by the comments I have been listening to for the last four years through my Yahoo group Custom Bras. I trust with this one design concept I have been able to address almost all the issues women are faced with in a conventional bra.