Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Patternmaker Needs To Get Good At Sewing (For Their Own Sake)

Weekends should always be devoted to your family (in addition to the time you set aside during the week for your family as well) but if you're going to do something for your business/career you should focus on those activities that don't necessarily make you any money right away but will help bring your career or business forward.   My personal example being my lemon tulip lingerie pattern.   I started sewing it today,  little machine sewing,  little hand stitching.

The first thing I'm working on is getting the facings and waist and bodice band together.  My past experience has been that small pieces get lost or damaged if you've got kids and pets so I'm avoiding the problem totally by hanging these sewn up sections on a hanger.   As for protecting my other work on the ironing board,  I've covered it all up with a blanket to keep my cats from putting pulls in my work.

I've started catchstitching the self fabric interfacing to the back bodice band already (see photo below)

and it had me reflecting on what Kathleen Fasenella said "a patternmaker should have exceptional sewing skills".   It's true for the benefit of both the clients in need of patternmaking services and the patternmakers themselves.   Speaking as an entry level patternmaker making money from providing this service I understand the reasons for this are:

1. being able to sew up your own patterns will crystalize several things:

     (a) where the notches need to be when you get confused
     (b) how much fabric a design actually needs
     (c) the fit resulting from your approach to drafting
2.  if your pattern turns out well,  you'll have full confidence in the product/service you're offering, you won't think it fit because you applied your knowledge of pattern drafting as well as you could,  but you KNOW your pattern is accurate.   This is confidence for a patternmaker.

3.  Confidence results in taking less time to do your work simply because your not hesitating any more about whether or not your making the right move.

Aside from all this perfection though,  I've got to make mention of how important is is not to be a perfectionist,  at least not right away.   My mom taught me how to sew and went a long way in inspiring me when it comes to fashion.  However,  she was a self proclaimed "non-perfectionist" which was good for me because it allowed me not to be quite so intimidated by the lengthy process of garment design,  development and construction.   Chances are, if she had enforced perfection,  I might not have took this career path.

Case in point,  I took my perfectionist attitude to my art and I didn't get nearly as far in developing my skills as an artist as I did in patternmaking and fashion design.   To this day I'm still intimidated by the thought of picking up a brush or pencil.  Although I do intend to overcome with this when I get the time.

If you'd like to read more about fashion, information on the industry and online schools check out my site at:

If you're a designer or home sewer and you'd like to find some cool eco-friendly fabrics and more check out my resource page at:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I dedicate everything to my mom

This morning as I was laying out my pattern pieces and the fabric pieces I cut from them,  I recieved a call from Manitoba that my mom had suffered a massive heart attack around 8:15 am.   She never made it to the hospital.  

My parents had a sudden divorce several years ago after being together around 31 years, in the end it didn't work out and my mom left to live out on the prairies again.  I was always very close to my mom but this situation seemingly evaporated our active closeness to the point where months would go by,  even a year and she never called.   I had to find her number through a bit of investigation.   The guy she was living with couldn't even keep the phone lines open.

She never even got the chance to see her little grand daughter,  my daughter Salma and her grandson all grown up into a big almost 5 year old boy.   Before she let me know that she was leaving my father,  I had a dream that I had lost her,  she was beside me one minute and was gone the next after telling me she'd meet up with me outside the building to go home.  When I looked for her she wasn't the dream I had the unmistakable feeling that I'd just completely lost her.

And here I was, this morning,  looking over the work I'd started,  after this terrible phone call.   I wouldn't have been into this work,  atleast it wouldn't have been as ingrained in me if it hadn't been for my mom.   She'd take me to the fabric and pattern department in Woodwards department store downtown back in the 80s and we'd be there for hours looking through pattern books and searching for just the right fabric.

She would get a pattern, cut it out,  lay it out on the living room floor and I'd watch her put everything together into a beautiful garment.   I was always facinated by this and wanted to learn the secrets of why the pattern pieces where shaped the way they were.   She'd sew them on her shiny black and gold enameled Singer sewing machine.   As she turned the wheel,  it would sound like a tiny train.   She put me on the path I'm on today.  

She always talked about making the world a better place,  helping both people and animals in whatever way was needed and protecting the environment out of the sincere love for everything that God created.   She talked about these things as long as I can remember.   I loved that about my mom.   I loved that about my mom.  I always wanted to be like her,  but go a step up and be able to make her dreams a reality.   To make an impact,  a growing one, throughout my life so that I leave the world as a better place than when I came into it.  So the world's children and other innocent creatures will be able to face a safer,  brighter future than the one I thought I was facing.

Everything I do in my life,  every success and difference that I am able to make,  I dedicate to my mom.   The beautiful spirit that nourished and cared for the best in me.  I'm setting out to fulfill your dreams mom and try to raise my children to be the way you wanted me to be.  I love you with all my heart.   And I'm sorry for the misunderstanding between us that happened after you left.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Patternmaker's Update: It's Been A Crazy Week

Okay,  so on our holiday weekend I'd planned to get my first portfolio piece completed,  I was raring to go and then I sat at the sewing machine to figure out stitch length and thread tension that would work for this beautiful but thin and slippery fabric I want to sew the lemon tulip lingerie pattern out of and...

The little rubber wheel that creates the traction necessary for new bobbin thread to be wound around a bobbin had melted into a gross black goo around the wheel it was supposed to be on.  And that wasn't all,  there was a piece of broken plastic from the socket that held the top thread spool,  so there was only one thing left to do. Open her up and see if I could fix the problem(s).  I'd found a crayon in the machine as well as the clip of marker top,  my daughter's doing for sure.

I've fixed a sewing machine I had before,  several times,  with success.   And I also repaired a scroll saw,  on my own,  again with success.  I took time and patients and all but I did it so I had no inhibitions about opening up this Brother sewing machine and seeing if I could get it up and running again.   Well after all was said and done, with an attempt to fit the wheel with a quintupled rubberband and then when I decided it wouldn't work because it was getting shredded,  I headed for the toy box in search of a little car.    Have you ever seen them? Little hard black rubber wheels,  they might have been just the thing I needed,  I did find one,  and I did fit 2 of the cars wheels on the bobbin mechanism,  but when I tried to run the machine, they too began to melt.  Yuck,  you know?   Okay,  so maybe the Brother company has the right wheel...I'll just have to email them,  I thought.

Then,  the needle bar somehow got misaligned too,  so that the needle completely missed the bobbin case.  No luck at all trying to figure that one out.  I did what I always do, compare adjacent pieces,  look for what looks like it's fitted wrong,  was there something sitting in the plastic case the wrong way?  Nothing made any sense.  Why did this time have to be a problem I couldn't fix?

WELL,  my husband came to my rescue and told me he'd get a new on for me on Monday,  which he did along with a new computer to replace this beat up HP laptop that's been giving me a hard time.   He's been watching me work on these computer patterns and get article projects done and realized I'm dead serious about what I'm into so he's offered his loving support and got me a beautiful new Singer sewing machine and a cool new Acer computer.

So I've been setting up the computer with all the programs and things I use to work and getting a new client's pattern completed (I actually just sent it off a few minutes ago).  It was my very first corset pattern for a designer in Saudi Arabia.  I hope they keep me on as a client.   It takes me a little longer to do work for a new client because I usually need to first prepare a brand new sloper for them from scratch,  they don't give me one.  I'm not sure why,  I guess they don't know about it.  I did hear that companies and designers are supposed to provide the patternmaker with the sloper in the size they want though.

Any while doing a bit of research this week also had me discover the reason behind the necessity of perfection in a patternmaker's work.   Thought it was just a pickiness thing?   Think again.  A person familiar with home sewing could easily make this mistake (I did for a while and I am a perfectionist) but the thing about homesewers,  as Kathleen Fasanella puts it, " homesewers expect too much from themselves"  they're highly skilled,  where as the people working in a factory are not and don't need to be.   This is why the pattern has to be perfect,  flawless without so much as a 1/32 of an inch mistake,  yes I'm not kidding you,  don't even allow yourself a 1/32 of an inch mistake.

Because,  the people working the factory sewing machines only have a small part of the garment to sew and they may not be aware how everything else is supposed to fit together they also won't know if something is a little off.  And the mistake will go from one person to the next,  no one knowing how to fix the problem, with chances being that the one mistake will cause additional mistakes and you'll end up with imperfect garments.   The horror.   And everyone will know it was your fault,  you are the one who made a mistake!

Any way,  how do you solve/prevent this problem all together, simple,  when you're working on the computer,  (God bless these things) set your nudge distance to 0.031 (this is the 1/32" I was talking about)  and work under a microscope,  in CorelDraw 9 for example,  this means zooming in till 1" is about 5" or 6" on the screen.  Make sure all your points,  lines and curves match up everywhere under this "microscope" and remind yourself that this attention to detail is what will set you apart from the rest.

And just for the sake of reference,  should any of you be using CorelDraw 9 to draft patterns,  like myself,  when you've powerclipped something into a 'container' to be able to cut it up into separate,  perfect panels,  make sure your cutting path ( this can be a straight or shaped line) isn't closed.  If it is a closed path for some reason the interior of this path gets rid of the pattern piece you're trying to slice through.

Okay,  so now I've got another dress pattern to do for my client in New York and I have to watch the dvd that came with the Singer sewing machine so I can start sewing with it fairly quick.  Maybe this weekend,  I'm hoping,  unless something else comes up.   But my deadline is either by the end of this month of April,  or at the very least the first week or two of May.

If you'd like to read more about fashion, information on the industry and online schools check out my site at:

If you're a designer or home sewer and you'd like to find some cool eco-friendly fabrics and more check out my resource page at:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sewing Your Own Digital Pattern You Drafted, Printed And Cut Out

I cut my lemon tulip lingerie pattern out yesterday and looked it over,  going about the task of sewing it in my mind (yes I'm a little apprehensive,  I haven't sewn in a while,  about 2 years and don't know how well my machine is going to handle the work).   Aside from that though,  working with a pattern you've drafted yourself is an indispensable learning experience and this won't be the only time I do it.   I'm going to sew my own samples once I get started.

So what did I learn about patternmaking for this exercise so far?  Okay,  2 things at this time:  Take a look at the picture below of my pattern's sleeve pattern...

1.  Most of the cap on the finished sleeve to this to-be bias cut block is going to be gathered to hopefully create a bit of a "puff" to enhance the tulip shape.  So;  The area to be gathered should be marked from beginning to end,  and in this case with the top of the sleeve cap being notched on both sides of the sleeve overlap.  And oh oh,  I forgot the little arrows at the ends of my bias grainline.  And where are my annotations?   Ughhh,  well,  the patterns I did for my client have been getting a lot more professional since I did this one a while back,  so I won't get too mad at myself.

Next lesson:

Take a look at the original pattern this sleeve was drafted from.  Because the spread from the central underarm area isn't spread evenly (see the highest notch on either side nearest the center of the underarm),  with the difference in the degree of the spread between the front and back of the sleeve cap,  there will be an uneven ratio of fabric to gather.  One side is about 8" and need to be gathered to 4 1/8" and the other side is 5 inches and need to be gather to about 3".  Next time I'll know better.  So the rule is this,  make sure there's a uniform distance between each spread so your gathers will also be uniform.   I do think I read this before,  but now it's definitely crystallized...nothing like hands on you know.

Now,  I spent the morning preparing for my first portfolio piece.  I want to get everything right,  so I pulled out all my sewing books,  organized my sewing equipment,  dug up some old sewing machine needles,  cleaned my sewing machine,  pulled out my lovely fabric and ironed out all it's creases (see the photo below, I didn't buy this non-eco fabric, however,  it was given to me about 15 years ago and I never knew what to do with it till now) 

Photography tip here,  to take a beautiful shot of a piece of satin jacquard hang it off of something and put another light source on it to show off it's double textures and shine.

So,  now,  I'm going to take the little bit of fabric I took off the ends of this material and figure out which stitch length,  thread tension and thread size to use.   I'm thanking God that I won't have any top stitching to do because I don't have any yellow thread.  I'll have to use one of my white threads.  All the edging and hem work to do is going to be faced for a clean smooth edge.  I'm thinking about blind stitching the facing to the garment if necessary though.

Oh,  yeah,  I also have to cut out the pattern blocks.   I don't want to tailor tack the darts though as I don't want the fabric marred,  so I'm going to make a piece of graphite paper and trace the interior of the darts onto the fabric,  lightly though so it won't show up in the finished garment.

Also,  because I want everything to turn out perfect,  I'm making this an industrial sewing exercise,  I've got my books out and open to make sure:

-  all the seams are sewn in the right direction in orientation to fabric grain and garment block
- all seams are graded to the correct width
- everything will be pressed properly
- and all the right finishes are applied

This little project may take me a while to finish though as,  hey I'm scared,  but I love this project so much,   I got to do it,  but I want to do it totally right.

I'll be keeping you posted

If you'd like to read more about fashion, information on the industry and online schools check out my site at:

If you're a designer or home sewer and you'd like to find some cool eco-friendly fabrics and more check out my resource page at: