Friday, May 1, 2015

Section 9: Creating a Cohesive Brand Identity in Fashion Design

You'll notice that many well-known fashion designer's work is instantly recognizable (even if you're not particularly a fan): Donna Karan - famous for her wrap dress,  Missoni  - zigzag stripes, and Tommy Hilfiger - red, white, and blue, as examples.

Well, in this post, I'm going to talk about my personal design philosophy/branding here at Manic Pop, and how you can develop your own cohesive identity for your work too!

Manic Pop 2012/13


  • Playing Off a Theme/Inspiration: For Manic Pop - Stripes!
Myth: You don't need to "do it all" - focus on what makes your clothing, YOU and work from that.  The stripes element comes from 2 places for me: one is my mod rainbow rings pictured above. I've had the middle one since I was about 8 years old (1994) and it's a mod lucite 60s reproduction ring. 

I've worn this ring all throughout college and then nearly hyper-ventilated when I found the 2nd one (ring finger) in 2010 at a secondhand shop. I do have some actual 60s ones, but these are the ones with my favorite colors.


 Second: I have a collection of rainbow mugs that I started back in about 2002 when I first started shopping at thrift stores. Why rainbows? I don't know. To me, it represents a full color palette and a tool box for creating anything. For when you mix these colors, you can make any color you want. Hokey a little, maybe, but that's what works for me.

So because of both of these inspirations, my work tends to come out a bit retro/mod/60s. I try not to wholly limit myself to that, but it's become a bit of an identity now. I'm not opposed to changing it up a bit, but these elements almost always exist in my work. It also helps that I spent a majority of my childhood/teen years listening to the 60s/70s oldies stations and loving Peter Max-style art. 60s and 70s album covers are huge with me and design elements on those covers leech into my personal design style.

So, define what theme is you. Is it retro? Eco-friendly? Perhaps you have a love of florals? Think of the shapes in your design work, common silhouettes, and textures you like to use. Make a list of all the things you love, then draw correlations between them.

I also figured out a "theme" because of an artist I went to college with. I noticed that she was basically doing just variations of a design she always does using only black, onto a color, clear, or white surface. She made that her "thing".

Think about what your "thing" is and go straight for it. Don't worry about what anyone else says.
  • Define Your Color Palette.
This one is very important! Color identifies a brand perhaps much more than you would think.


 Orange and teal are HUGE for me!

Now, your color palette can vary a bit from collection to collection, but you should have your "stand-by" color palette. These are all colors that are pleasing to my eye and also complimentary. I can mix any of these colors with each other and still make an eye-catching garment. These overall colors my change over time, but it's important to be consistent. Note: I also include black and white with any palette automatically.

An easy and fun way to create your own color palette is to go to a paint store and pick up color swatches that you like. Cut them apart, and play with combinations. Take note of the hues, the saturation of them, and complimentary colors. What plays off the other? What would you place together? Pantone is a great resource for color.

Also, pull out images from magazines that you like and see what colors appear most often. Play those colors into your stand-by color palette. 

  • Have Your Own Personal "Rules".
It may seem contrary to have rules with something creative, but you need your boundaries. Without parameters, you can easily get lost. It's much easier to design within a small(er) spectrum versus letting you mind go absolutely wild. 

A few rules of mine:
 1.) Design in threes. I'm not entirely sure where I got this from other than the fact that when you design, things usually look good in odd numbers. If you take a look at the photos from the beginning of this post, you will see that many things I do are in threes - 3 fabrics, 3 colors, 3 design lines.

2.) Contrast. I love opposing colors next to each other! This is also why I have always loved and done quite a bit of colorblocking. It's easy to do and it makes a pretty bold impact. Black and white is great and.... bonus! Fits within the mod/theme spectrum.

3.) Bright colors. I love bright colors almost to the point of gaudy but hey! That's my thing!
  • Experiment.
Ok, remember all the rules you just listed for yourself? Now forget about them once in a while. It's still important to always create something outside of your box. Why? Because you never know when you might want to incorporate it into your "brand".  I usually do my experimenting in the form of sketching/throwing it into Photoshop.

Maybe you experiment by draping instead of pattern making. Whatever it is, don't let yourself get stagnant. Branding is all about finding that sweet spot between keeping your identity and preventing yourself from stagnation. Keep it fresh, be bold, and always be true to yourself.

And that's how you'll stand out!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Section 8: PDF Pattern Design and Grading

While I currently struggle more with the PDF aspect in pattern design (technical design was never my strong suit), I'd like to end this series with a post about PDF pattern design and pattern grading. This is in no means comprehensive, but I will provide many links in order to make your self-learning process a little less confusing.

I've spoken with independent pattern designers in the past, and many use a similar process for pattern design though everyone has different techniques.

My college spread technical design into a few courses, some being Computer Patternmaking and Production Systems. From all my notes, it appears I took at least one of these courses in 2006, so perhaps my information is dated.

My old binder for Computer Patternmaking in 2006. Yup, liked vintage fashion even then!

In the industry, there is an absolutely completely different system for importing your patterns into the computer (a giant table where you apply grade rules to each point of the pattern). After the blocks are imported, your computer then goes by whatever rules you set up to grade the pattern by, known as a rule table.

 Photo of my old rule table.

This makes it super easy - you just apply the points to the pattern pieces and then BAM the computer spits out a perfectly graded pattern for you (that is, unless you apply the wrong grade rule).



My graded patterns from school. A few months ago, I was trying to figure out a way import grade rules to Illustrator for fast pattern grading, but I kinda gave up. I am assuming you can "create an action" that essentially corresponds to how you will shift your pattern coordinates, but I haven't finished and applied this idea.


Now, without these machines that cost thousands and thousands of dollars, the process is a little less straight-forward. Almost everyone I asked who does PDF patterns uses Illustrator -- it's a relatively kludgy program with lots and lots of buttons and options and might be more confusing than flying a plane, but if you like technical design and the computer, you will get a hang of it much easier than I did.

So how do I get my patterns into the computer?! 
I make all my patterns by hand, so this is a good question. There are a few ways of getting this accomplished: One way (the first way I did it) was make a copy of my master pattern for the Petra Dress and then cut up the pattern, scanning piece by piece full size into Photoshop.

I then re-attached the pieces (one by one, yes) and made them each into a pattern piece in the computer. This is tedious, but still very accurate.

Someone else mentioned having a giant scanner that you feed pattern pieces into and then grading from there, but I wasn't able to buy a giant scanner at that time of my life. This may be helpful for some people out there.

The third way I've learned is that you can import your pattern blocks into the computer. Yes, you can digitally draft your blocks into Illustrator! You will need to turn on all of your line measurement tools and from there, you can plot the correct length points. I am, by my standards, an Illustrator idiot and I found this not so difficult to do. You need to take some time to master the controls, but once you do it seems like a breeze.

This video shows more or less how I digitized my patterns in Illustrator. 

How do I create patterns in Illustrator?
Using your imported and saved blocks, you can essentially use real-life techniques like slashing and spreading to create your actual sewing patterns. I don't really know in-depth the controls to use, but I do know it's important create a copy of this block, manipulate that block, create a new layer and then trace over your manipulated pattern pieces to create a new pattern piece, much like in real-life. There are probably a few video links on YouTube, but as of writing this post I haven't found anything super-helpful for you guys.

Is Illustrator accurate?
People have asked me this, YES! Illustrator is very accurate. Many people use this program for many other technical drawings aside from drafting sewing patterns. As long as you have all your measurement tools turned on, then you should be fine as far as accuracy goes.

How do I grade my sewing patterns in Illustrator? 



This is something I'm still working on figuring out completely, but I have seen a few ways of doing it. One way to do it is by literally moving the end points of each piece around the designated amount it needs to be adjusted. From my understanding, this may not be accurate enough because you want the amount you're grading by distributed throughout the entire pattern, not just on certain points. But maybe I'm wrong since there was a book I used in person a while back that just shifted the points on a pattern using the connecting lines of each pattern piece. See this video for one way of grading a pattern. 

One of the other absolute best ways I've found that has helped me understand pattern grading is this post by Threads. It helps to become familiar with this in real life before trying to apply it to Illustrator. When I was working on my PDF pattern, I actually did cut and spread my sewing patterns based on the guidelines from this post while in Illustrator. I personally use a 2" grade rule, meaning the size difference between each garment is an evenly distributed overall 2".

You do have to figure out some simple math - dividing fractions - for this, but the Threads article is really good at spelling it out for you.

I did buy a pattern grading book online but it's more geared toward industry pattern grading. While I think it might be helpful for me to figure out how much to shift pattern pieces by on certain garments, I'm not sure I am reading what it's telling me correctly. I'm sure with a little bit of patience and playing with it, I can figure it out.

Ok, I designed and graded my patterns, now what? 
You're going to need to learn how to tile your patterns onto multiple pages.

Example of a tiled pattern.

 One way I've seen people do this is by creating a 7x10 tile. 8 1/2x11 is the standard size of printer paper and you will not want each page to print too close to the edges. You'll need to notate where your pages need to be taped together to create the full pattern and always place a test square on a pattern piece so you can make sure your printing settings are correct. This is usually a 4x4 square. I like to make mine look like a Burda pattern, but you can reference any PDF pattern you have. You will want to print borderless and no-scaling when you test your printed version of your pattern. This is a unique way to create and tile your own sewing pattern from a physical pattern, but it seems like it's for only one size.

From there, that's really it. You will want to create cutting layouts, specify yardage for sewing (I've made a marker before in Illustrator), type out sewing directions, and any other necessary construction techniques.  It could also be helpful to make a sheet of all pattern pieces included with numbers on them so your customers know which pieces are which. You will also need to make a key showing which lines are each piece. This is usually done in Illustrator with varying dashed lines corresponding to a certain size. Also, make sure your customers know which notions to buy like zipper sizes, buttons, etc.

If you are using the digital patterns solely for yourself, you can skip all this extra work!


Monday, April 20, 2015

Psych Lace Dress and Zwan

Sometimes I like to make life difficult for myself and this dress experiment is no exception.


This is one of those designs that came to me one day and I just had to get working on it. The process I used to make it is much like the Trafalgar Dress.

I created a silhouette I wanted and then went ahead and traced the lines I wanted onto the muslin. I had also recently seen this tutorial on sewing opposing curves without pins and wanted to try it for myself. Lately, I have been cranking through the fabric I have and I have a TON of little teeny scraps. Needless to say, I used the scraps for the colorblocking on this dress. 


The dress isn't 110% perfect as the opposing curves even though clipped and pressed (a ton) still don't lay entirely flat, but I am mostly pleased with the design detailing of it. The dress is also fully lined! I needed a way to encase all of the clipping that was going on, so I just went for a full lining. 


Here are some photos of it on my dressform....



I had to edit the sleeves a bit for my giant upper arms (seriously) but I also noticed while making this that I have a TON to edit on my actual sewing blocks. I had edited them before a while ago, but I noticed recently that the bust point is in the wrong place, some darts are not aligning correctly, and things overall aren't working as well as they should so I am moving right along and spending some time really editing my blocks.

It's boring, but it's something that needs to be done.

 The lace collar on this thing is pretty cool. It's one of those things I impulse-bought at Textile Discount Outlet (2121 W. 21st St. in Chicago if you want to spend hours on 3 giant floors of fabric, trims, etc.). I'm pretty certain I bought it for like, 50 cents or something and it's just been hanging out in my stash for years now. It's definitely made for a neckline. It could even be intended for wedding dresses, but I liked the usage of it with my typical colorblocking.

 I also think it might be time to break up with my long-time favorite, polyester poplin. It shows movement way too well and crinkles as you move. I am definitely transitioning into using fabrics with a slight bit of stretch (even if it's only 2% stretch) because I think that the fabric lays better. That, and now that I am not scared of ANY stretch-knit, I'll be buying it a ton more.




So yeah! Fun experiment with scraps. If I were to do this again, I perhaps would go with a more a-line design on the skirt because then the slight pull the opposing curves make would be much more easily camouflaged.

This is definitely something I will still wear despite minor flaws, but usually that happens the first go 'round of anything.

I also like that this dress somehow reminds me of the vector artwork from 2003 album Zwan's "Mary Star of The Sea".
I've also always loved this from this album promotional material too:


I've always been a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan (long before I ever even thought of moving to Chicago) and I have yet again been listening to Zwan. The 2nd half of my junior year of high school was all-Zwan all the time as the album had just come out in 2003. It's a shame that they didn't put out more, but I'm sure they had their reasons. I'm still planning on visiting Billy Corgan's tea shop in the suburbs (who'da thought, huh?) at some point or another.

And if you haven't heard Zwan, I highly recommend checking them out! I love that their video for "Lyric" is soooo Chicago-heavy. I had never noticed. It's them under the el tracks, walking around parts of Wicker Park and also walking around nearby the Metro in Wrigleyville - all places I know far too well!

So here is both the full album as well as that Chicago-heavy video. Enjoy!





Friday, April 17, 2015

Section 7: Digital Textile Design

Hey everyone!

This is something I have been playing with a bit lately - digital textile design! In this post, I will be taking you step-by-step with how to do your own seamless prints for Spoonflower.

 (Side note: I've fixed that off-color blue in there since this repeat was saved last)


 Back in college in 2007 or so, I took a surface design class where digital print design was part of what we learned. Fashion design school will generally teach you a bunch of surface design techniques - from distressing denim, to screen printing, to a batik, hand-stamping, fabric dyeing, and lastly, digital design.

Digital print design was a little lesser-focused on back then. One of the most exciting things to happen not long ago for print designers is Spoonflower. Before them, there was almost no way for anyone at home to a repeat on fabric except by hand. We had a giant fabric printer in one of the design labs at school, but we only got to use it once to print out our "scarf" designs or very special projects. My scarf, unsurprisingly enough, included the Chicago skyline.

Front side with skyline (designed by me in 2007), and back side, mod faces fabric.

I also love that I found and used what I call the "Mod Faces" fabric for the opposite side on this. I actually bought the entire bolt at the fabric store in probably 2005 when I saw it. I was a poor college student, but I justified it as a "school purchase" though I had no idea what I was going to do with any of it.


 Yup. Here is me (if you can believe it!) in 2007 with said scarf. I used to dye my naturally very-red hair black!

I've come a long way from those years - both personally and design-wise. I would have been 21 in that photo, or close to it.


Ok kids, are we ready for the process of digital design here?!

1.) Draw, sketch, doodle. It can be ANYTHING. However, you do want to think of a motif of some sort. I advise just freely drawing for a bit, see what you are drawing the most of. You don't want to cram too many motifs into one fabric (unless I guess, if that's what you're going for.) Maybe you are drawing lots of typewriters. Maybe you want to do a floral design. Or maybe you're just going for a repeat of one or two ideas, like cassette tapes and hearts. I like to pull out my Dover art reference books (usually from the 70s or 80s for me) and get inspiration. I also have a few books about repeat prints so I'll take a look at those and get a sense of what I might want to do. 

Whatever your motif is, it should make sense. 

 I like to use tracing paper in some of my motif design work to get the symmetry just right.


 Before importing into my computer, I personally will use a Micron pen over my pencil sketches, then erase the pencil. It's advisable to use something that will scan well - markers might be a good idea if you are not filling in with color on Photoshop. You could even scan in something previously done, like a watercolor if you wanted to. 


 Experiment which medium you want to use. I tend to stick with my pencil sketch then Micron method because I like hand-drawing my prints. Other people will use exclusively Illustrator to make their shapes and/or clean up their hand-drawn images. 

2.) Import and scan your sketches into Photoshop or editing software. You will want to scan these images in at 600 dpi.

At this point in time, it doesn't matter what size your sketch is because when we go into Photoshop (and since we scanned at such a high dpi) we can adjust relatively what size we'll want. 

3.) Open a new document and change settings in Photoshop. This is where you want to think about how big your repeat is. Although in Spoonflower you can now change the size of your repeat very easily, I do this so later on when I proof it, I can get an idea of how big the design is. 

My settings are usually 4 inches by 4 inches (because I like to keep my repeats square) and I like this size for garment design. Set your dpi at 600dpi still for this. Spoonflower also specifies your prints to be in 150dpi. This is very important because depending upon the dpi you use, the print in Spoonflower will end up either larger or smaller than you wanted!

HOWEVER, DESIGN YOUR PRINT IN 600dpi!

We will change the dpi later on. 



I go ahead an isolate each thing I have drawn and then copy/paste or resize as necessary. 

3.) Play with shape and arrangement. If you are doing a seamless repeat with a background design, it may be necessary to get the back looking just right and then add your shapes over the background. This is what I have done with both Victrola prints and this one. 

Otherwise, play with sizing of your shapes, arrangement, and add in colors now. Remember that this is only ONE small section of your print. You don't want to go too nuts with shapes if you want a clean design. Also, none of your shapes should touch or "fall off" the edge of your artboard ever.

My first thing was making a "background" for my other motifs in my print. (In the end, this didn't work out the way I wanted it to, but this is a way to do it.) So I started with this simple shape.


From this image, I copy/pasted and then overlayed those images. make sure those images do not go off the edge!
 
4.) Offset the image. Before you offset, you will want to flatten the image. Save BOTH versions of the PSD (editable mode) and flattened format. I know this sounds excessive, but trust me - if you mess something up and need to go back, you will have every reference point!

From here on out you just want to go into filter > other > offset. Make sure "wraparound" is checked. Try horizontal first, then vertical. For this one, I overlayed the same shape over the other to get it to be a full, seamless repeat.  

Here are the other iterations of the offset:


I just kept going until I "filled in the holes".

In the end, my repeat of just the background ended up looking like this:


Now, after this I overlayed those cool flower-things I drew that look like psychedelic tulips. It looked ok small, but when I proofed it, it became too busy. 

 
Yeah, way, way, way too busy.

5.) Change the dpi on your swatch.  On your 4 X 4 print, you will want to save your swatch at 150 dpi. The reason for this is that this is what Spoonflower specifies for printing. Too high of a dpi will make your print very, very small if you don't change it. Also, if you had any fuzzy edges on your print, this likely won't matter anymore. Even if there is a very minor hint, this generally doesn't matter when your fabric is printed.


6.) Test Your Print Out! I'll do usually 11" X 17" to check how the print goes. I also will make an 8 1/2" by 11" to print from my printer. If you want to get a bigger test print on 11 X 17, you can always head to a FedEx/Kinkos to test further, but this is probably not necessary. Select all on your inital 4 X 4 swatch after offsetting. You will then go into edit > define pattern and then you'll be able to use a fill swatch of your repeat. We also talked about this in the Computer Design section where we learned how to fill patterns into our drawings.


So I went back to the drawing board and just played a little with the flower because that's what I liked the most anyway. 



I would definitely buy this print over the last one!


Side note: I always have the rulers on with my Photoshop. The reason why this is because I can always pull down my guidelines to line things up. This print looks less-lined up because of the way I drew the flowers. I also have a little bit extra on one side in the middle between the repeat so you get  a little more distance between two sets for a less regimented version of this pattern.


7.) Save and upload to Spoonflower. Once you get it just right, you will need to upload the 4X4 swatch to Spoonflower. Remember, you want to upload your 150 dpi version so you don't affect the size of your print! 

Truthfully, the print I designed here will probably go through more iterations before I find a version of it I like. Or maybe it won't. You never know.

When you design a print, think about the cutting of the fabric. You will want to design your pattern (to get the most use) as a 2-way pattern. A one-way fabric will have you cut more out since you want to have your print going all the same way on your garment.  

Play with the type of canvas you use on Photoshop. Maybe you get a better repeat with a rectangle versus a square.  Maybe you want a much bigger repeat, so you may want to do a repeat on a canvas over 12 inches by 12 inches. 

Whatever the case, decide what works best for what you design! If you find some way that is better and easier, go for it! The only thing that matters in the end is if the print looks appealing to you and is a good quality-print, meaning an appropriate dpi like we discussed. 

As always, feel free to leave me a comment, ask questions, or even link me to some of your work!

Happy repeat designing! 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Section 6: Advanced Patternmaking, Concept to Creation

Hope you guys didn't get too frustrated out there drafting your blocks!

Patternmaking can be tedious and there is a lot to learn. It took me about almost 5 years after design school to be comfortable with patternmaking and to be confident in my drafting skills. This doesn't mean you will take as long to learn as me, but note that there are MANY elements to learn in pattern drafting, many mistakes to be made, and lots of trial and error.

Be patient and kind to yourself and soon enough you will be drafting like a pro!

That being said, let's go over the process of patternmaking from concept to creation with lots of little tips and tricks and the basics that you need to pay attention to while patternmaking.

Patternmaking 2 is yet again another 11-week class but I don't think that is nearly enough time to learn how to be proficient in making your own patterns. Take your time learning! There is a lot of ground to cover. As such, this will be a fairly long post. 

You will need to heavily reference a patternmaking book for this post. Like I mentioned in the previous post, I recommend any of the Helen Joseph-Armstrong patternmaking books and I own the 3rd edition.


Obviously not my best sketch here, but hey! I wanted to show the flat versus the real-life design.

Now, I am detailing a basic process because it wasn't necessarily spelled out for me in design school. We all learn differently, and I tend to like step-by-step processes and then be able to deviate from it when necessary. I felt like I was just given a bunch of information and then "have at it" in school.


I'm going to be using the Chloe Dress since this is the most recent design of mine as of writing this post and I am recently familiar with the process I used.

1.) Idea. Of course any design process all begins with an idea. We learned how to sketch a basic illustration, how to do flat sketches, and how to present them. Now is the time to really refer to your flat sketch and be sure your design details are planned out, ie.) darts, seams, buttons, tucks, pleats, and garment specifications are visible. Really pay attention to all your design details!

This is also the time to gather any swatches and find the material (or at least have an idea) of what you want to work with as this may or may not affect your patternmaking depending upon type of garment and type of fabric.

2.) Select The Correct Blocks.


1/4 scale patterns.

For this design I went ahead and chose my Torso Block since my original idea was supposed to have a fold-over/attached top like this image I found with corresponding pattern instructions.

At this point I actually used my 1/4 scale patterns that can also usually be found in the back of your pattern making book and did a test-run of what I would do for my sewing patterns. This might be helpful if you're using some manipulations you're less familiar with or if you just want to do some preliminary work before cutting up a large bunch of pattern paper.

I don't typically use my 1/4 scale patterns, but I found in this instance it was helpful.

Pay special attention to if you are making a woven garment or a knit garment because your block sizing will different. 

3.) Find Corresponding Manipulations in Your Book. 
This is why I had you get familiar with dart manipulations in your books. Where are the darts on your design? Do the darts somehow work themselves into seamlines? Are you working with a knit that will likely only need one bust dart? Does a skirt have flare? Is it an a-line or a circle skirt? Does it have a yoke?  Do you need to make a button placket or pockets?

If you're overwhelmed, just manipulate the blocks one at a time. Important note: YOUR BLOCK SHOULD NEVER BE CUT! Think of this as your "master pattern". I usually trace of the block exactly as is to a piece of paper, then cut and tape and manipulate.

Also get familiar with "added fullness" in a garment. Your book will be very detailed in this patternmaking principle. Added fullness is achieved in a garment by using the slash and spread technique, meaning you will be slashing your patterns along certain lines (usually up to or through a dart point).

Don't neglect adding ease to your patterns.  Ease will help you with sewing and the wearability of the garment. I found I forgot to add ease to the waistline of this dress pattern because even though it fit my mannequin perfectly, it was too tight while wearing. No one wants a too-tight garment! See this link for a good overview on how to incorporate ease in any type of garment.

Here is the pattern making work I did while working on the Chloe Dress.

 You can see on this pattern, I have the "fold over" piece at the bottom still (this ended up getting changed) as well as made the bodice have one big bust dart. Originally I had crossed out many of the darts because I wanted more of a boxy-fit dress but once I got it into muslin, I didn't like what I did. (We'll discuss a muslin in a minute.)

On one half of the front skirt, I added some fullness (see the triangle shapes?) by closing the darts at the top and then allowing where I slashed to open up. Here, due to my tucks I added 3" of extra fabric to make the tucks I wanted. There are 3 notches up at the top which tell me where to bring what points of the pattern together. The 2 outside notches will be folded to meet the center notch to create the tucks.

This is one half of the back pattern. Here, I slashed and spread in multiple areas to eliminate the shoulder dart.

Please see this link for a more detailed discussion of both manipulating darts as well as added fullness. Like I have mentioned, this blog post also says that by learning these two very basic pattern manipulation techniques, you can make virtually any pattern!

Depending upon your design you can have any combination of pattern manipulation variations. Play with stylelines, change where seams are, and overall experiment.

Your first draft of your patterns will look very messy. This is perfectly ok! You will go ahead and clean all of this up later.

A word about notches: I tend to perhaps over-use notches. Notches help provide an ease of sewing and matching your garment pieces up correctly. As a rule, you should always use one notch on the garment front in any given area, 2 notches within close proximity (usually about 1/4" of each other) denotes the back of a pattern. Ie.) Your sleeve block should have had you put one notch on the front half of the sleeve where the back of the sleeve cap should have 2 notches close together.

When I do notches on my pattern, I just draw a line with a small cross at the end so it looks like a "T". When cutting my pattern, I just do a little snip within the seam allowance (not too close!) and I can usually always see this on my fabric. I do not own a notcher, but you can if you like.

You also should have a notch at the end of each dart line that ends at a seam allowance. A bust point is generally marked with an awl, but I don't do this. I just make a small hole in my pattern and mark with chalk.

At this point of patternmaking, I was just trying to get the silhouette and fit correct on my dress. If you are planning on any unusual seam lines, you will be marking these unusual lines on the muslin.

You also want to match up seams and "walk" your pattern. Fold closed any darts while walking - ie.) checking that the skirt seam matches the bodice seam, just like you would sew it. Check that the front and back shoulders match, as well as all side seams.

4.) Make a Muslin. When you make your muslin, you want to use fabric similar to what you would be using in your finished garment. General muslin fabric is typically a woven, but if you are working with a jersey knit you will want to use perhaps scrap jersey knit to create your muslin. This helps you get a more accurate fit and an overall look of how the finished garment hangs.

To make a muslin, I usually will plop down my messy preliminary patterns onto the muslin fabric and trace around. From there, you want to add on your seam allowances. Remember, 1/4" seam should be used for all enclosed seams and 1/2" should be used for all the rest of your seams. If you're not sure, go ahead and use 1/2" seams on all edges of the pattern and you can edit your seam allowances later.

In my Patternmaking 2 class in school, we would do a 1/2 muslin first (one front and one back) and only pin it together. I tend to skip a 1/2 muslin and before cutting my first muslin out, I will match up my pattern paper on my dressform just to see. This isn't super-accurate, but sometimes I notice things like a mis-matched shoulder line and am able to edit it really quickly.

I highly recommend making a full muslin. You will have to make a full muslin if you are making an asymmetric design anyhow. I know it's more work to make a full muslin, but you will be much happier with the end result. Go ahead and sew together your full muslin at a basting stitch (stitch length 4).  You will want to use a basting stitch because it will be easier to rip out after making your edits.

This is a good point to figure out exactly how you will be sewing together all of your pieces and working out how to sew the garment together. 

Here is a photo of my full muslin on my dressform.

Here, I drew lines on where I wanted to change the neckline, and where I would be cutting apart my muslin for my contrast pieces like the wavy neckline and the wavy skirt piece. Check your fit now on your muslin and get it just right!

5.) Remove Your Muslin and Edit Preliminary Patterns. You can't see it on my photo of my preliminary patterns, but I hadn't planned on the bust darts in this pattern. Once I got it onto the dressform, I decided that it needed darts to get closer to the shape I was looking for. 

 This is what my muslin looks like after opening up again.


During this part, you will want to open up your muslin flat again after making appropriate markings on your muslin and use this as a basis for changing your preliminary pattern. Perhaps you have made so many changes that you just want to lay out this piece and trace it onto an entirely new piece of paper - whatever makes sense to you!

I really should have followed my own rules on this dress. I should have traced around this piece and yes, cut apart at my wavy line to trace around and produce a pattern for each piece. Using a tracing wheel is fine too, but make sure your patterns match your muslin otherwise in your finished garment you may have some errors. I actually did that with this garment - had errors on my sample! But that's why it's technically a sample. 

6.) A Second Muslin May Be Necessary. Depending upon the complexity of your garment, you may need to make a second muslin. Take the time to check your patternmaking if you're unsure. It's best to check and check again rather than cut out some beautiful fabric or an awesome design only to find a whole slew of errors. 

Don't forget to create facing patterns or lining patterns! I like all-in-one facings for sleeveless patterns but if you have odd seams like this Chloe Dress pattern, you are going to want to enclose them with a lining for the wearer. I tend to make my lining patterns from the basic silhouette of the item I'm making. For instance, with this pattern I made my lining pattern of the bodice before cutting apart my contrast colorblock seams.

I also almost always add pockets in my dresses and have a side seam pocket type developed that I use for virtually all of my dress patterns. Check your book for making different types of pockets on garments. 


7.) Create Your Production Patterns. 




 This is where we're going to go ahead and add all of our seam allowances. Any enclosed seams like a collar, a neckline, neckline facing, etc. Some of you may want to do all this after sewing a sample and making even further edits, but this is a matter of personal preference. 

Before making your final patterns or cutting your fashion fabric, take a moment to think about how the wearer will get in and out of the garment. Does it need a zipper at center back? This is the option to use if you have a small head hole on your garment. Otherwise, if you have a big enough head hole or are making a skirt, a side zip may be desirable. Please note that on a woman's garment the zipper is always on the left side of a garment, as are the buttons. This is standard industry practice. 

Mark the end of a zipper with a notch on your pattern. 

At this point, you want to make sure all your grainlines are correct. I always draw mine on my blocks and as I manipulate the patterns, you can see how the grainline changes depending upon my edits.

Again, make sure all your seams match after tracing from your muslin!

8.)  Cut and Sew! Finally! We made it! 

During your first cut/sew keep notes for yourself as you're sewing. If something is wonky as you're sewing, you will want to correct this on your pattern. 

For the Chloe Dress, during sewing I found that I preferred the tucks to be on the left side of the front skirt however the tucks were fine in the back. I actually (for the first time!) had to make some sizing edits. I don't think I was paying all that much attention to my ease on this pattern for some reason, but it is important! 

Keep in mind that your first go-round of a pattern is a sample. In the industry, it's not uncommon to make multiple samples before creating a mass-production line of the same garment. If your pattern isn't perfect IT'S OKAY! 

I once talked with a well-known independent pattern designer who said to me that she rarely gets it right with the first sample so multiple iterations of the same garment is not a bad thing.

For me, even later on after wearing a garment, I find that I should have done something slightly different. The Space Dress I made a few years back is actually better off without the sleeves  as far as wearability goes. And it's not too late to edit this! 


Closing notes:
If need be, after the sample, go back and edit your patterns again. I've had to edit my patterns for the Chloe Dress again, and that's perfectly ok. I used to beat myself up about this. I would think, "If I were a better pattern maker, this wouldn't have happened!!" 

However, there is nothing wrong with my pattern making. Pattern making is all trial and error. Don't beat yourself up unnecessarily like I do. I felt like this wasn't reiterated enough during my schooling. Don't get mad, just fix your mistakes. Pattern making is tedious and often times frustrating, but with enough practice, like anything else, it will become second nature. Walk away from a particularly frustrating pattern for a day or two and revisit it. Sometimes I have my "a-ha!" moment with things after clearing my head.

Play with 1/4 scale patterns and see what you can work out. See my board on Pinterest for additional patternmaking exercises posted of vintage patterns. Also search pattern drafting on Pinterest to find more pattern ideas!

Patternmaking can be very exciting once you get the hang of it. After you learn how to make sewing patterns, any idea in your mind is possible! And even if you don't delve into patternmaking, this post can also help you learn how and why to edit commercial patterns.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Space Dress Redux

So I had this dress I like to call "The Space Dress" hanging around in my closet upstairs and I thought, "Why don't I ever wear that thing?" Then I realized it was the sleeves. So I took them off!



I made this dress sometime back in 2012 and apparently a few things have changed about my body since I last wore it. I can't even believe 2012 is 3 years ago. Observe how the exact same dress fit me back then.

I always have my measurements saved in my pattern making book somwhere and around then, the measured at 33" but in 2015.... I have gained nearly 2 inches on my hips! Thus, less movement and more....bunchiness. Whoops.

My bust size has also increased an inch and my waist is only about a 1/2" bigger so... yeah. I guess I have a more womanly body at almost 30 years old now. Either that, or it's a combo of winter weight as well as living in Michigan and driving all the time. Or maybe I've had time to relax and actually not be stressed out. When I'm stressed, I tend to not eat so it could be any combination of those factors.

Let's talk about why the sleeves were a no-go (aside from the fact that typically I have a larger upper arm and I have to edit my patterns anyhow....

Nothing wrong with this side.



But then THIS. 
The reason why this would happen is that I would have sewn the sleeves together the same way, thus resulting in two right sleeves.

This isn't what happened. I do remember a few years ago, I opened up the sleeves, sewed them the opposite way (by flipping it the other way) and it STILL ended up like this. I took photos in the dress anyway and thought it looked cute and it didn't feel weird wearing it, but I never did.

Either way, I remedied the situation by taking off the sleeves.

I like that you fix one thing, and another problem arises. Typical life! But I do love my apparently new hips, even if it means this dress doesn't quite fit the same as it used to. 



And the "cool in the 90s" pose. 


I have another dress that I finished recently which you may have seen me working on if you follow me in Instagram.... it's a true piece of art.

After I take and post photos of that, I may disappear for a few weeks due to me carting myself back to Chicago just in time for my birthday!

Life got weird in 2014 and I'm glad I took a time out. I hadn't even taken any large chunk of time off since... junior year of high school. FOR REAL!

My mom didn't let me take summer off after senior year of high school and I went straight to college July 2004 in Chicago. From then, I was thrust into heavy-coursework 11-week classes, usually 4 at a time, and at one point I worked 2 jobs while in college. No one could afford either my rent or to cart me back and forth every year between school). I completed a BFA in 3 years versus the typical 4. As soon as I graduated, I found a full time job after a month. From then, I transitioned into my long-term retail management job for almost 6 years (ok, I had paid vacation there) until January 2014 where I lost my first job ever and was suddenly with absolutely nothing to do for the first time in.... 11 years. So, I guess I had it all coming to me. Some people have financial help from parents or a partner, but I am proud to say that I carved my own way and didn't have either of that type of support from anyone. I had essentially 50-50 roommate deals with live-in boyfriends but no one funded my life that entire time I was in Chicago. That was all me!

And yeah, I am proud of myself. Lots of people are out there screwing off in their 20s or minimally employed. I did it the opposite way for a year - the end of my 20s was a break and a chance for redirection.

I earned the right for a long break in 2014 and it really only made me stronger. Before all of that, I used to act like the world was falling apart over really stupid stuff. And now I realize it wasn't anything to really worry about. Things generally work out. Maybe not how you wanted them to, but they work out.

I learned that Michigan wasn't for me (no matter how hard I tried) and I'd rather go back to a city where I can find a job, where I am actually paid what I'm worth, and I get to do the type of work I like and live a decent life. I don't know how to be an adult in any other place but Chicago (or a big city at least.)

But sometimes you don't know what you want or need until you try it out. I have absolutely no regrets trying it all out in Michigan, but I definitely do not prefer living here. Long vacations? Hell yes. Life? Nope. Not even GR. Sorry.

So let that be a lesson that even though life might throw a detour at you, learn from it and enjoy your experience. You never know what you might find along the way.
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