Key points to put on a Spec sheet

If you’re new to this blog, or lingerie design itself, you may wonder what a specification sheet is or if you need one for your lingerie designs. And whilst I have written about “how to spec a bra and brief” and drafted out templates so you can draft your own ones out, if you haven’t seen these , or want to know how important a spec sheet is then you need to know the following.

A specification sheet is a detailed sheet, with all the important measurements of your garment with it’s base size and all the other sizes you wish to produce. As well as standard information like your company name and style number/name of your garment, it will have a technical drawing with reference points to garment.

For example if you were to spec up a brief, you would have the measurement of the medium waist say for example 30cm then you would list the waist measurement of all the other sizes. So small would be 27.5cm and large would be 32.5cm (going on the grade of 2.5cm on the half).

If you need your lingerie graded, some graders won’t need a a spec sheet to work from and will just apply standard grades, and can produce the spec sheet for you .

It’s a bit like the chicken and egg, in which comes first, the grade or the spec. To write a spec sheet, you need to know how much everything grades by, but to get your lingerie graded you need to take the information off the spec sheet.

Some graders will be able to do your spec sheet for you, but some will want to work off your spec sheet. So it’s a balance of finding what works well for you.

When it comes to briefs I usually start with approximately eleven measurements :

And after that it would be extra measurements if you have more detail or seams on the brief, for example if you’ve a brief with a top part of fabric and a lower part then you would need both these measurements.

On a bra I usually have the minimum of twenty measurements, but depending on the bra style only 15+ may get used, These include, top of cup, through the cup - going through the fullest part of the bust, the length of the wing - relaxed and stretched. For a more detailed list of all the measurements, they are listed in the book “How to spec a bra and brief”

spec sheet for a bra

Not only do pattern makers and graders follow your spec, so do quality controllers, when you receive your sample or your range back from the lingerie manufacturers, the lingerie spec will be what you measure your lingerie by, ensuring all the lingerie manufactured are within tolerance (a measuring discrepancy given to all make-up of garments) before they can be sold.


So the key points to put on your lingerie spec sheet, are the following:

  1. Company name

  2. Style number or name

  3. Garment description

  4. Date

  5. Technical drawing of your lingerie including references and arrows)

  6. POM (Point Of Measurement correlating to your reference points)

  7. Sizes

  8. Tolerance each POM has

There are many different layouts of spec sheets, I tend to stick with my tried and tested spec sheet, which lay out has been used by factories. If you are wanting just a layout of a spec sheet to use, then your get the design sheet of the spec sheet here.

Questions to ask a lingerie manufacturer

You have your lingerie sample ready, or your design complete, the most common problem for new designers is getting their lingerie sewn up and sourcing a lingerie manufacturer. An underwear manufacturer is not the same as a clothing manufacturer, it is more specialised. Although if you are just doing a run with soft separates, some clothing manufacturers will take on your lingerie to sew, it all depends on the factory.

There are quite a few things to consider when sourcing a factory, and a few questions to ask before you make your decision.


Important question to ask a underwear manufacturer when sourcing one, is how long are their lead times. This is how long the factory will take to produce your lingerie. Different factories will have different times, some might be booked up a year in advance. Also sometimes issues in production aren’t found until the last minute which means your lead time has increased and your lingerie production delayed, although most if not all problems should be sorted out before the final run of production. Also if you are going with a factory based in China, remember they shut down for Chinese new year,


This is the amount of lingerie that you will need to place in one order for one style for the factory to take it on and make it up. Overseas factories tend to have a higher minimum (some as high as 2000 pieces) but a lower cost, whereas your factory nearer home, with have lower minimums but a higher price. You need to work out which one will be more cost effective to you. Remember with higher minimums you will need more fabric, more quality control and higher shipping costs for the space it takes to ship.

french lace lingerie


Think where your manufacturer is. The closer the factory is the more control you have to have control, and visit the factory to see workmanship, working conditions and the quality of the garments going through production. That said you can build up a relationship with an overseas lingerie factory and support how they work. The key is to know about the factory that you are going with.


Also before you place an order with a lingerie manufacturer I would be asking or making sure that I understood the following :

  • Minimums (as discussed previously).

  • Sampling - who pays for this, is it included in the price, what if you need another sample made - who pays for this? Also if you decided to not go ahead with production who owns the rights to your sampling?

  • Prices - so important, what do you prices include?? Tech packs? grading? Just manufacturing? Also what are their payment terms? Do they provide credit or will they provide on your second order?

  • Shipping - What are their terms? Do they pay for shipping? Most lingerie manufacturers will be expecting you to look after shipping of the garments, especially if this involves Tax or import duties.


Be clear on everything before you place an order, you wouldn’t employ someone without talking to them first and the same should be with business, don’t worry if you’re opting for a foreign manufacturer, in my experience when dealing with suppliers or manufacturers they have all spoken fluent English. Forge a relationship with them, and remember each country has it’s own business culture so you may need to adjust your outlook.

Attending trade shows is a good idea as you may get to speak to people directly or start a relationship with a lingerie manufacturer that you may not have if you would have say just emailed them.


Thirteen steps to planning out your lingerie range

Where to start? You have an idea or design in your head, or mapped out and a sample staring you in the face, but where to go from here? And what about next season’s range?

Should you start that as well or be thinking about your first range?

So many questions it can be confusing and time stressful to fit everything in. So I’m going to go through each stage of what it takes to get from idea to manufacturing, feel free to dip in at any point that you are along the time line.

I will do an example if you were making it all yourself, obviously this would be different if you were getting the samples and production outsourced by a lingerie manufacturer.

This  time line  with further examples and blank sheets is available to buy in the design sheets

This time line with further examples and blank sheets is available to buy in the design sheets

Let’s begin..

  1. The design - have you finalised your design? Including fabrics and the sizes you are going to be covered.

  2. When do you plan to launch? This is important to know - it may get put back, as things often take longer than you would like, especially in the start, but if you can begin to work towards a date, it’ll be easier for your next collection and you can then work backwards, deciding when you need to get things done by.

  3. Sample sheet/style progress sheet: I think this is great place to get everything down in one place. How often are you flipping through a notebook looking for information on your designs, by separating each design onto it’s own page, you begin to jot down notes, on fabrics, trims, styles, and what you else you need. I would then duplicate this when you have all the correct information.

This  progress style sheet  is available to buy in the same pack as the time line

This progress style sheet is available to buy in the same pack as the time line

4. If you’re doing the sewing yourself then you don’t need to get a technical drawing done as it’s only you that needs to understand how you’re sewing it up. So next you need to think about Patterns, are you going to outsource these or are you going to do them yourself.

5. Fabrics: Have you ordered any for sampling? If you are ordering online have you asked about how much they have? I’ve have fallen victim before to ordering 1 meter of fabric loving it , getting all my samples signed off, only then to discover that the fabric isn’t available anymore. You can either buy more than your sampling if you know that, that’s definitely the fabric you want. If you’re dealing with fabric manufacturers then they should be able to knit you more but there will be a minimum, if you’re buying online then check the quantity. This is where knowing your launch date is important because you know exactly when you need to have the fabrics by.

6. Trims: Basically the same as fabrics, though harder in some aspects as you need to make sure you have everything: elastics, (maybe more than one style), rings and slides, hook and eyes, and strapping.

7. Are you planning on dying everything, or buying black, white or notions already dyed?

8. Right sample time: if you’re making it then you should have your fabric sampling, you don’t need to make your sample in the correct fabric to start with if you want to see if you’re pattern works. However I recommend making it in the correct fabric and trims for your fit first, as you get more efficient with this, by all means pick similar stretch fabrics. This is the joy of designing lingerie rather than outer wear, you’re not having to outlay loads of money for meters of fabrics.

9. Fitting: Time to fit the lingerie - don’t be dismayed if it doesn’t fit at this stage the way you want . Expect one-to-two fitting sessions at least, but if you’re getting to your fourth fit and don’t seem any more forward, start to question your design or fabric choice. Unless it’s a tricky design fitting for the larger cup market or something you have your heart set on, it may kill your soul with the constant fits.

Example of a spec sheet , a blank version and tips to fill one out can be found under the design sheets

Example of a spec sheet, a blank version and tips to fill one out can be found under the design sheets

A book for those who wish to learn about  writing their own specification sheet  for their lingerie

A book for those who wish to learn about writing their own specification sheet for their lingerie

10. Seal: This is your final garment with everything correct, how it will fit, the correct fabrics and trims, this will be the sample you refer to when you need to know what is stitched where and how. (any extra fits are put after this as you may not need this column.

11. Specification sheet : This is the sheet with all the measurements you need to make your lingerie in different sizes, it’s also so when you make your lingerie you can check against it to make sure it all measures correctly. Decide whether you’re going to do this yourself outsource it.

12. Grade your pattern: If you’ve got your designed all signed off, then it’s time to grade the pattern to all your sizes. Having the spec sheet done, you will be able to see how much each part of the pattern needs grading by. Again you need to make the choice whether you are going to outsource this or do it yourself.

For those wanting to grade their own  lingerie a book  is available.

For those wanting to grade their own lingerie a book is available.

13. All done !! Now it’s time to cut your production and start to get it made.

Spring Summer 2019 Trends

Because the Spring Summer 2019 colour is truly beautiful a re-cap is needed. Spring summer 2019 brings the Pantone colour of the year : Living coral 16-1546, an energising colour. Spring Summer brings in our innate need to be playful. The lingerie trends brings in elegant lines, meeting fantasy laces, that shimmer in subtle hues and shades with a transparent touch.

Fashion Trends are wide circus stripes meets giant spots and wide ribbons, with high gloss and metallic colours. Deep crop tops and longline bras are prevalent with silhouettes being voluminous and consisting of many layers. A lean to nature is noted in this season.

*All images from Pinterest

*All images from Pinterest

Three things I always do whilst running my lingerie brand

Running my lingerie brand Vanjo, this time around is completely different than the first time. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and all the best ideas I have avoided the pitfalls that I suffered the first time and applied the successes and all that worked to the brand.

Vanjo the first time around was just about the lingerie, my USP back then (and still today) was providing lingerie in the bigger cup, smaller back section and using fabrics that were either organic or reclaimed. I stocked in shops and boutiques and sold online.

Today I only sell online, as it’s not only Vanjo that I work towards, I write and sell the patterns used in the collection, and freelance for start up brands and write advice and books for people wanting to either start their own lingerie brands or make their own lingerie.

So let’s digress and start with what worked for my lingerie label.


Designing I could do but business I didn’t really have a clue.

So enrolled and went to as many courses and talks as either possible or that I could afford. First up was the Business course with Invest NI, which covered writing a business plan, forecasting sales and meeting up every week with like minded people who were starting their own business, above all it was lovely to chat to people even though in a different industry, were in the same boat of striking out on their won. Also I gained a £250 grant, and got contacts for someone to help me with press.

I attended talks given by previous applicants from ‘The apprentice’, talks about SEO and websites, basically anything I didn’t know about I sought out if there was courses or talks on the subject, not only did this keep me progressing forward but it got me meeting real people which seemed like a luxury in the first few months of working by myself all the hours of the day.

Winning the Shell Live Wire Award

Winning the Shell Live Wire Award

I applied for a Princes Trust loan, and with that gained a mentor whom I met every fortnight, where I could pick her brains and talk through any concerns or worries. I applied for and got accepted for a course that was being held by Belfast City council about trading over the boarder. I entered and won the Shell Live Wire award for the Lisbon area in Entrepreneurship. It was important to me to try and gain as much knowledge and insight into the business side of things that I didn’t know about.

And it still is.

Although I don’t have the luxury now with working at home with children, I still seek out courses I can do, or talks to listen to excel my knowledge. I the past couple of years I complete B-school by Marie Forleo, went to a talks done by EVB and Cissy Wears (Instagram) done the free course by Boss Babe and currently working through the video and worksheets for #mindsetreset by Mel Robbins

So if you don’t know where to start or can’t afford all the courses you want to take, then start with the free stuff, not all the stuff I listen to is business based, but it is all about hearing someone else tell you, you can do it, which is especially important if you’re in the midst of balancing a sideline and your new work.


This isn’t about knowing how to make a bra, or running a business, this is about taking all the data you have about your business and analyzing it. I set aside, one or two working days to gather all the information I have and have a look at it all. I don’t have the luxury of time for this, but I don’t have the luxury not to do this. With Vanjo I use to look at what were the three top sellers (32FF, 28FF & 32DD) and the bottom three (28E, 30C & 28D) , with this information when I had spare time I knew which bras to sew up so they could be shipped out straight away. It also helped me when I was talking to potential buyers, I could advise them on the size range they needed to buy. I could also see how much I had sold and which range was performing the best, so could plan and build up on my goal’s with this information.

Now-a-days I use this information to plan what I’m going to do next, more writing? Patterns? etc. I also know if I have to drop any of my designs if they aren’t performing or what to update and expand on.


It can be overwhelming when you first start and money can only stretch so far, but one thing I do recommend is keeping control of your brand. In the past with Vanjo I can name occasions that spring to mind where I gave control of my brand to others and in the end it didn’t reflect very well in the end.

The first one was doing photoshoots for my lingerie. I teamed up with someone, who for samples would do my photographs. The problem was I didn’t check, the model or the style of photographs, I was so busy sewing and getting the first collection out that I didn’t prepare what I wanted for the second lot of photos. Needless to say I didn’t like the photos that came back. They didn’t reflect the brand at all. I thought the shots were quite cliché and the model they used looked really young, and the shots weren’t that fashion based. It all felt a bit wrong to look at if you get what i mean.

Which meant that I had to re-shoot them in the end anyway.

I still apply this rule to running my current business, I’ve had offers for freelance work that I’ve turned down because it didn’t reflect the values of myself or my company, and try to seek out and take on work that resonates with me or is helping designers begin their own brand especially the ones that seek to make a difference, not just the jobs that will bring in the money.

Just by understanding and making time to keep your brand image consistent will save you time and money for the future.

VAN JOURNAL: "Your Comfort Zone will Kill You" SUMMER 2019 COLLECTION

When designing a collection, you have to make the decision whether to follow fashion trends. How much do you want your designs to fit in with the fashion world, but also then be dictated when they go out of fashion?

When I worked for the high streets I followed the trends closely, produced, Winter looks, Autumn looks, Summer and Spring looks. It was fast paced and turn around from design concept to garment was speedy.

With my own collection I don’t follow trends, sure I look to see what is about, but because I buy reclaimed fabrics and trims I am not governed to what the fabric supplier design and produce for that season.

Another reason to not follow trends if you have your brand is that you produce a brand which is strong to what you want to portray and you don’t compete with the high streets or those that have the speed and money to produce on-trend collections.

So what has Vanjo in store for the Summer months of 2019?

The collection name is “Your comfort zone will kill you” and it isn’t about breaking out of a day-to-day lives that may be hard already, it’s about pushing the boundaries slightly. Appreciating what we have and adding a bit of zing back into our lives if they have turned a bit grey. Living life simply but with meaning.

Colours are strong, colours are clashing, and like the collections before black makes an appearance . The beach, the sea are still a strong influence and to echo the fluidity of the sea, fabrics are see through and delicate. Shapes are inspired by the retro eras past, reflecting strong designs and colours.

(All images taken from Pinterest)

(All images taken from Pinterest)

What tension to sew elastic onto bras and briefs

When you begin design your own lingerie, and want to know how to sew underwear it can be hard to know where to start, with what tension to put on your elastic to sew your brief or bra. Because if you don’t get the tension right (ish) to start with when it comes to fit how will you know if you’re fitting to the pattern of your bra or the fit of your elastic.

For example when you make your own lingerie, if the brief digs in at the waist do you loosen the elastic or add more into the pattern?

When sewing elastic I now go on the feel of the elastic and from this to make every piece consistent I have marked my sewing machine with lines, to where to pull the elastic, so no matter how many pieces I make each leg will measure the same. On the same style, the same amount of elastic tension should be used whether your bra size is a 32C or 32F.

What type of elastic to use

The manufacturers do lots of testing on elastics to ensure you use the right type for the right area, generally a bra uses a brushed back elastic, and the firmer and wider it is the more support and control it will have. Briefs can have brushed back elastic, but I wouldn’t use such a heavy elastic or as wide, a softer more delicate elastic is usually used on the brief. This is because the bra will tend to have a heavier fabric, so a heavier elastic can be used.

Each type of elastic has elastic fatigue, which means that it can be only stretched to a certain point. The more you stretch the elastic and sew then the more stitches you are putting onto a smaller space of the elastic and with lighter weight elastic, this causes the elastic to go wavy on the rebound. (I wrote more in depth about this on sewing fold over elastic)

How much to pull the elastic

So you’re ready to sew and to make your own lingerie, so how much do you stretch the elastic for your lingerie? Generally elastic works best when stretched 3-8%, with 8% only being used on the smaller parts of the garment as it’s a bit extreme, as remember the more you stretch the elastic the more stitches you are putting on that space of elastic.

applying elastic tension for bras

As a general rule when making a new brief I put more stretch on the elastic, than say the under-band of the bra.

The underarm/top of the wing I usually put the same amount of stretch as the under-band, tightening up over the underarm as this is an area which tends to flip out, and you want that part to contain your breast, not to have the squishy underarm arm that can occur.

On the neckline of the bra I don’t stretch the elastic that much as I don’t want it to dig into the breast.

All this is done very intuitively, and as stated I have done trial and error with how much to stretch the elastic to and have marked my sewing machine where I pull the elastic to, to ensure every garment is the same. My advice would be get a bra you already own and stretch the under-band to see how much it stretches by. By doing this again and again you get to know the feel of how the elastic and how it should be applied.

sewing elastic tension on bras

If you’re working with non stretch fabrics on your briefs then you will need to stretch the elastic further than stretch fabrics, as you need to give the fabric it’s ability to fit over you hips but then come back to it’s shape when being worn.

Also if you have a full brief, style brief you will be stretching the elastic slightly more (so to enclose your bottom) than if you were sewing a Brazilian style brief which falls over the fullest part of the bottom, so less tension to the elastic would be applied so not to dig in.

If you’re still unsure and like to be led by mathematics then another way is to measure what say the brief waist is measuring and reduce it by 5%, cut the elastic by that measurement, sew it so it forms a loop then pin it at the half and quarter to ensure equal tension around the whole garment. And then go from there, adjusting accordingly. So if your waist finishes at 29cm on the half you would cut the elastic to 57cm. (29x2= 58cm to get whole of waist measurement. 58+2cm = 60cm you’re adding 2cm to overlap the elastic and sew together to form the loop. 60-5% =57cm, so if you sew then your would reach 28.5cm which is 5mm in tolerance to the waist measurement, or if you’re wanting to get it exact then you need to reduce your seam allowance on the elastic - basically this exercise is to get you to feel the tension of the elastic applied rather than exactly work it out).

How to attach elastic with 3-step stitch

If you are wanting to make your own lingerie, whether that it is learning to sew yourself, or needing to know what stitch to use when writing a tech pack. The three-step stitch is a similar stitch to zig zag but instead of just going up and down like a zig-zag stitch does, the stitch literally does what it says and takes three steps (sews three stitches on the up and three stitches on the down).

This stitch is useful when you are using non stretch fabrics and the because the stitch takes three-steps on the up and three steps on the down it allows for more stretch and non cracked stitching.

attaching elastic using 3-step

The beauty of three-step is that you can do it one operation (unlike the zig-zag stitch where by you usually attach the elastic with zig-zag then turn it under the garment and secure it with another line of zig-zag stitching).

The down side of using a three-step stitch is that you are governed by the width on your sewing machine.

I usually use the 3-step stitch either with non stretch fabrics (briefs), as this stitch is good is you are needing more tension on your elastic to stretch. (I wrote about how much tension you need to apply here), or I use this stitch on lower wings, under-bands, or top of wings.

Below is a extract from the book How to write a tech pack for a bra and brief which has all different descriptions of type of stitching.

extract from how to wrote a tech pack for a bra and brief

I also use this stitch when I need to put elastic behind a lace edge and turning the elastic is not an option.

Depending whether you are putting the elastic behind a scallop or on the edge of the fabric depends whether you are turning your fabric (seam allowance).

attaching elastic with 3-step


If behind the scallop of the lace, then put the lace down with right side down onto the sewing machine, so the inside of the garment is facing up towards you. Then place the elastic brushed side up, just at the base of the scallop.

Stretch the elastic to the desired amount and begin to sew, and that’s it! If you find it easier to sew with the elastic under the fabric then you reach the same outcome (just reverse it so the right side of the fabric is facing you), it’s just that I find it easier especially when beginning to see where about’s your elastic is going and where the stitches are in relation to the elastic.

attaching elastic with 3-step


If you are attaching the elastic on a cut edge of fabric, with the fabric right face down, turn the amount of seam allowance you have allocated inwards, and placing the elastic over this (right side facing you) begin to sew, stretching the tension of the elastic as you sew.

attache elastic using 3-step stitch

Again if you want to sew with your elastic underneath the fabric ( reverse it so the right side of the fabric is facing you and you turn the seam allowance under the fabric, with the elastic underneath).

It’s all a matter of personal choice.

attaching elastic with 3-step stitch

The change in Selling E-books to Europe

*Please note that this may be a boring post and covers not lingerie but what is happening at Van Jonsson Design HQ regarding selling e-books in Europe. THIS DOES NOT affect any digital sales outside of Europe.

A few years ago, the laws changed on charging VAT when selling in Europe on all e-books and e-patterns, basically anything digitally that you’re buying. Which means that when someone buys a digital download that lives in Europe, I have to in turn pay a different amount of VAT to that country I sell to.

Now whilst digitally there is a lower VAT rate for some countries , they are still not all the same. So I haven’t been adding the VAT for each country just absorbing it. The average VAT is 20-27%.

The UK did “attempt” to make it easier by stating you had to register to VAT (usually it’s voluntary unless you’re making above the £85,000 threshold, which as you will appreciate I do not!) then after registering each quarter you have to work out which country bought your book , then send money to each of those countries with the paperwork, as well as holding certain information about each order.

As you can imagine this can become very time consuming especially when as the GDPR came into play last May.

how to write a tech book

This year I have been trying to streamline all things paperwork to spend time on the things that matter in the business, new content, new books and new designs rather than constantly be dealing with the amount of paperwork that comes into the business. And with baby number three due end February there is literally only so much one person can do.

So with this, for 2019 all European purchases will be via Etsy or Kindle, where they have a bigger team to deal with all the VAT, there will be links on the shop taking you directly there. Sales of the hard copy of the book haven’t changed and can be bought still through this website, also if you are using a gift code for digital items then this is okay as well.

I apologise if this causes you longer time in your transactions, and no doubt it may result in less sales to the European market, but I hope to re-establish all sales within this website by next year and will be keeping an eye if any changes are made to the digital downloads rules sales within Europe.

Please contact me if you have any questions regarding sales or purchases and I’ll be happy to help and answer any questions. (