Prototype Tester Info – Knee Braces

Greetings, Knee support prototype testers,

Welcome to the first phase of the testing process!  The following contains all the info you’re going to need to get started.  Please take the time to read it all the way through to make sure that you get the best possible fit and that we collectively keep things as safe as we can. 

It’s a *lot* of information, but then this is a super-complex project.  You might want to hang on to this info to refer back to in the future if needed.

This is just for your reference, and you don’t need to reply to it unless you have a question.  The the info and consent form I’ve emailed to you is the one you need to reply to.

Making the duct tape cast

  • You’ll need to make a duct tape cast of your knee and the surrounding area, which will serve as the basis for your custom pattern, and mail us the resulting cast. 
  • We’ve made both a video tutorial and a written/photo tutorial for the duct-taping process.  You can find the written/photo version here: https://www.felixandkitty.com/bracing/knee-brace-taping-tutorial/  I recommend that you read through the written version first, then and cross-reference with the video version, to make the process as clear as possible. 
  • The video tutorial has been delayed a bit due to technical difficulties Felix encountered with his new video editing software, but it should be up within a few days.  I’ll email you the link as soon as it’s ready for you.

Choosing your fabrics (you need to pick two)

  • You’ll need to choose two fabrics for your knee brace, one for the stretch under-sleeve and the other for the boned lace-up bands. 
  • The fabric for the lace-up bands is where you can really have some fun!  You can pick one fabric from our online gallery here: https://www.felixandkitty.com/info/fabrics-trims/fabrics/.   For structural reasons, please stick to the following categories only: Brocades, Ducks, Faux sueded, Lace overlays, Silk brocades, and Velveteens.

Safety and other caveats

  • Please remember that this is the very first phase of testing for a completely new, highly experimental design concept.  I’ve made several prototype versions, but you’re the first real-life test subjects.  I absolutely cannot guarantee that this design will 1) work or even stay up on anyone else’s body, 2) be effective for correcting any particular issue, or 3) be comfortable or useful to wear.
  • I’ll reiterate this because it’s a really, really important point: if you can’t walk safely unassisted, and/or if you’re currently dependent on a professional-level custom orthotic knee support device, and/or if you have any medical condition which could make it unsafe for you to test a tight-fitting brace-type garment (such as but not limited to problems with compression or circulation), and/or you require high levels of immobilization or lateral support of the knee, and/or you cannot obtain a go-ahead from your physician to test out this kind of device, you are NOT a good candidate for this test!  Your safety is our paramount concern.
  • That being said, the final responsibility for your own safety and comfort really rests on you.  It’s up to you to decide how long, how tightly, or how often you want to use this item, and to keep an eye on yourself.  Since I can’t be there to cluck over you and examine your every move in person, you’ll have to be your own watchdog.
  • This prototype knee support device is intended to provide light to moderate support and some lateral stability with the use of hinged support bars, as well as compression above and below the patella via boned lace-up bands.  It is not meant to replace serious orthoses or provide unloading for the knee joint.  If that’s what you need, you really want a specialist to fabricate something for you.

Padding, or lack thereof

  • The side support bars *must* intersect some of the hard protrusions around your knee joint, at least on some bodies.  There is no way around this due to the disastrous anatomy of the human knee.  This is something that didn’t bother me at all, nor Felix, when we tried out the prototypes – but I can see how it might be a problem for some.
  • We decided not to use thick padded fabrics like scuba or neoprene for the under-sleeve, which is how off-the-rack braces usually provide padding for hard parts.  That’s because for most people, such fabrics are hot and non-breathable to wear, which was a major complaint many of you raised about currently available braces.
  • Instead, we’re suggesting that you use selective customizable padding only where and if you need it (not everyone will!).  Pieces of foam or gel pads work well and are easy to find – think shoulder pads or bra strap pads, or even cut-up gel soles, cut to the size and shape you prefer.  I think the lace-up bands should hold the padding securely in place during wear. 

Taking back-up measurements

  • Though the pattern will be made from the duct tape cast you’ll be sending us, I’m still going to ask you to take measurements, for two reasons. 
    1. I intend to draft separate patterns from the measurements and see how they stack up next to the patterns I make from the duct tape cast.  If I find a formula that works, it would mean that future users (if any) won’t need to go through the taping process.
    2. Comparing the measurement-based pattern against the actual pattern I’ll make from your duct tape cast will serve as a safety check against taping and measurement errors, and hopefully make the pattern more accurate.

What happens next, and how long will it take?

  • Once you return your info and consent form (this is the next email you got from me), I’ll get Felix to send you our standard tester invoice for materials, plus tax and shipping for your location.  Once that clears, you’ll be locked in as a tester, and I’ll start on the measurement-based part of your pattern drafting while I’m waiting for your duct tape cast to arrive.
  • I’ll make everyone’s braces in the order in which I receive *all* of someone’s info, including the email form and the duct tape cast. 
  • As I’ve mentioned, each single brace takes roughly 35-40 person-hours, so the turnaround time is obviously not going to be anywhere near as quick as it’s been for previous test projects! 
  • Until the first phase of testing is done, working on these will be my full-time job, and I’ll make every effort to get them finished as promptly as I can. 
  • Your finished braces will be sent by Canada Post business mail.  They’ll be shipped insured, and you’ll get a tracking number as soon as they are on their way.

Tester photos and feedback

  • After you’ve received and tried your new braces, any feedback and photos you can share would be most appreciated.  
  • Most new concepts usually undergo multiple phases of testing after the design is improved based on testers’ feedback.  FYI: in this case, if the prototype doesn’t stay up adequately for some leg shapes, the loose plan is to do an add-on test of a suspension system added on to the same item.
  • If you’re not comfortable with your photos being shared or posted for others’ reference, please make sure to let me know when you send them, and I will use them for private data collecting only.  Otherwise, I’ll assume it’s okay to use them for future photo galleries, product descriptions, informative articles, etc.  You’ll never be identified by name, of course, and only your legs would show (not, say, your face).

Thank you so much for participating in this test, and please let me know if you have any questions that aren’t answered here. 

Kitty

P.s. I’ll be sending/have sent the measurement and consent form as a separate email (that’s where you’ll actually be filling in your measurements and other info info).