Sunday, August 31, 2008

Interesting Links

In the comments for why balance patterns helen left a
link about removing a fish eye dart from the rear of pants that I thought was a good, clean, demo on a rather complicated pattern alteration. On this same web site there are a lot of other little demos. I didn't find any that were quite so well explained but there were some interesting ones anyway, many of which explain a "Full Bust Alteration" . Regrettably this is not something I have trouble with but its good info for doing other people's clothes.

The next one I want to mention is IPCA which I found through FI's links. This web site which sells patterns made by independent seamstresses is mostly patterns for the older, home sewing, crowd but it is an interesting idea. It is a collection of small pattern companies with reasonably regulated pattern standards. One of the pattern makers is Coni Crowford. I once went to one of her seminars here in Portland. I was quite fun. I must say I didn't wind up learning much I didn't already know but it would be a great expose on pattern drafting for anybody wanting a leg up on their hobby.

There is good book on how to make dress shirts by David Coffin. It is also the only book on dress shirts that I can find. It contains a lot of good info but is terribly organized. If you happen to want to sit down and try making a shirt you will find your self flipping back and forth through the index and a variety of book marks trying to get from step to step. But I also found a video that how to copy a finished shirt pattern which I think is a good intro to copying garments but I don't agree with all of it. I am much more thorough about truing my patterns. I also use my front pattern to make my back pattern and then compare it to the shirt. On cheap shirts there is no guarantee that the pattern was accurate to begin with and copying can make things very distorted. I think the best shirts to copy are expensive checked shirts. The checks give you a built in grid for checking your seams. For another good intro to copying clothing check out this book which also has its own issues. I would recommend checking it out at the library because once you see how its done you will probably never need to crack the cover again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Balancing Patterns

There seems to be a lot of interest on the subject of balancing patterns, and I wanted to just leave a quick note saying that I'm really enjoying everyone's input and I am planning on writing a couple more posts (complete with slightly skewed sketches to illustrate and confuse everyone...) about balancing patterns with darts, princess seams, and more complicated shapes, as well as a tutorial on draping balanced sleeves.
Unfortunately I am extremely busy getting ready for a VERY exciting trip to China in a couple of days - yes, I will be visiting the fabric market in Shanghai - but I plan to use hotel and airport downtime to complete those posts. Thanks for the interest!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

In God We Trust

I went in to the boutique In God We Trust last night on my way home, I've been wanting to check it out because they're carrying a bunch of bags from Beckel Canvas -- the canvas and tent company that Carly and I used to work at together -- one of which is the bag that Carly designed that I've never seen. Our Thursday night drinking and discussing sessions (after which this blog is named) partially grew out of a need for feedback and ideas while Carly was designing and testing this bag.
Carly's bag is really cute, much more feminine than the classic Beckel bags, and I really liked the thin rolled straps. Carly I'm curious if you tested it out with a leather bottom, or had decided that a dark canvas bottom was the way you wanted to go? I do like the canvas, I just hadn't realized that was the fabrication based ont he photos.
The bags were featured prominently in the window - and it turns out that they're displayed in the window of the other downtown Soho store as well. The girl working, Brooke, told me that everyone LOVES the beckel bags, and comments on them often, which warmed my heart. Congrats Carly! The Williamsburg hipsters love your work!

This picture has been posted before, but here it is again - the one being dicussed is on the right.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why Balance Patterns

There have been two comments that I want to address. The first was left by Chrispy commenting on Hannah's balance sketch she said...
"Ok I understand the principle but why balance them. Is it so they lay better on the body?"

This is a complicated question to answer because there are different reasons for different aspects of balance. I want to preface all of with the fact that this is just my understanding and could be wrong. In this case we have lumped together a few different ideas so I'll try to address all of them.
Balance is:
1: Keeping your side seams parallel.
2: Making the front larger than the back.
3: Keeping your shoulder seams parallel.
4: Aligning grain along the side seam or any seam for that matter.

I'm going to start with 2 because its easier. The front needs to be bigger so you can breath. There is also an element of "Looking right". Even though the side seam is not exactly 1/4th of the way around your body it looks like it is. The greeks were really into this idea and made whole buildings that looked "right" but weren't. The columns got bigger at the top to make them look straight for example.

As for 3, this is a way to keep your shoulder seam straight. The length of the neck line and armsye shouldn't change just the orientation of where that shoulder seam connects to the neck and armsye. When that seam is straight the shoulders are parallel as in Hannah's balance sketch. In this diagram the black would be correct where as the blue and orange would not give you parallel shoulder seams. Hopefully from this you can imagine how you could move the orientation of your shoulder seam in order to make them parallel.

Now for the biggy #1
Why keep your sides seams parallel?

This is a diagram of "how a dart is born" from one of my favorite pattern manipulation books "Basic Pattern Skills For Fashion Design" by Zamkoff and Price. I think that it does a good job of explaining how taking a dart out of the front changes the grain line on the side seam. The green line comes from when you keep your cross grain parallel to the floor across the bust and around the back. This is only possible where the darts are taken out along the princess line. The other line is how the grain gets distorted when you take a dart out on just the bottom.

This is where my question to hannah came in. It is easy to fold up the dart and keep the side seams parallel but the way that it distorts the grain lines at the side seam is a choice that you have to make as a designer. For me it will depend on the design on the fabric for instance you could match the stripes at the side seam if there were no darts. It might also depend on how I might want to distribute the ease. If you have bias grain going across an area where you might need more room you could use the bias to reduce bulk.

4: I also like to think about the side seam being not so much a break where two pattern pieces come together but as a large dart that just isn't connected anywhere. If you imagine a standard fish eye dart where it goes from skinny to wider to skinny again, it would seem weird to not have it be symmetric. But if it was symmetric you could slice it down it center line and lay the two pieces on top of each other and they would be not just parallel but identical. This is what you are aiming for when you balance your patterns.

The other comment I wanted to respond to is about the gaping at the back of Taylor's dress. liron said...

"Great dress.
might I ask why you were worried about the side seam? I mean, why would there be a problem if you pinch the extra fabric from the center back and taper it to nothing on the side? (I am really asking as I am new to pattern making). You could also do it in more than one place-it just might give it some more balance (I think)."

I'm going to respond to this in the same post because it takes exactly the same sort of thought process to understand this issue as the balance stuff. This is not to say that its the same issue it just feels similar. so this is a sketch of the general shape of the back pattern piece of that dress.

If I just pinch out the part that's gaping I worry about the distortion it causes. This sketch is the same as the first with a dart removed at the place where its gaping. Its a little exagerated but I wanted you to be able to see it.
The issues that come up are the angle in the back line, the angle it put in the side seam, as well as general shifting of the grain along the whole top part of the pattern. My thought was to do it anyway because the amount I have to take out is so small (unlike this picture) and then just true up the pattern. It always bothers me though to feel like I'm letting things slide that could be understood so if anyone has any suggestions or knows why I should or shouldn't do it like this feel free to speak up.

This is pretty big for us

I just wanted to say thanks to Kathleen for linking us to Fashion Incubator she has made it possible for our poor little blog to take it's first steps into the big world. I also want to thank her for her kind words about our work and our blog. We have been avid FI readers for quite some time and we are excited to be accepted as part of her web of awesome sewing information. It is also wonderful for us to make connections to other FI readers. We welcome comments of any sort and from anybody. I am happy to try to answer any questions asked and will try to get to things in a timely manner although life is always crazy. Also we are not the most computer savvy bunch and I apologize for any way that our blog might be difficult to navigate. It had worked for us until now but that might need to change. So if you have tips or advice about anything feel free to comment (although I can't promise I follow it). So welcome. Browse, peruse, and enjoy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Up date on Taylor's dress

This version of the dress is made with an old sheet and lined with Hannah's fuchsia leopard print. It was made to double check the final fit of the dress and see if Taylor could ride her mini bike in it. Also the open back was an experiment to see if it would be over the top but I think it suits Taylor and the dress. As a "Wear around town" dress I really like it. The color combo of the green and the fuchsia is really fun. It also makes me excited about doing it in the final fabric which is going to be a sea foam green dupioni. As you can see from the pictures I'm going to deal with the gaping in the back opening and tension lines on the waist band. (This is why we make mock ups).
Its too bad about the purse strap because you can't get a good feel for the cowl, but trust me it looks really nice on her.

Portland Designers

I wanted there to be some compiled info about those Portland designers that stand out to me. There's Adam Arnold who is known for his wonderful attention to detail and his special ability to make men look sexy. On a side note his studio is less than two blocks from my job and he has been reusing the same window displays lately. tisk tisk.
Adam Arnold

My new favorite is a broken spoke. If you want attention to detail this is it. If this man does anything but lock himself in a room matching stripes and counting stitches I will eat my hat. It's beautiful and even at the price he sells it at he can't be making any money so buy up now before he learns better.
A Broken Spoke

Then there is of course Leanne Marshall who is going on to project runway fame but whose fairy inspired Leanimal collections were the worst of DIY designer style. Although I will say that I have seen some stuff that was nice and her excessive use of ruffles can be interesting but there is no gaurantee that her choice of fabrics and proportion will be flatering.

Bottega bag

I saw this in a fashion magazine the other day and it reminded me of your origami screen Carly-- but much much uglier. The plain brown leather version is more attractive, but apparently they didnt show that one on the runway.


Last weekend I discovered a dying technique call Shibori, traditionally used to dye silks in Japan. I love the organic quality of the lines, how they're delicate and imperfect at the same time. My roommate Lillian and I have been playing around with dying 15 oz cotton canvas, for the purpose of sewing up some bags. So far we've only splattered and dunked canvas in bleach, (navy turns an intense rasberry color!) but we have plans for deep magenta and avocado dyes this weekend. It'll be intersting to see how the shibori techniques translate into heavy canvas, and also if we can manage to produce some patterns that are not in any way hippie/granola-esque.

I wish I could find a better picture of's a piece by polish artist Pawel Althamer, called "Skin" --currently exhibited at the New Museum in NYC. The whole thing, which is anatomically correct, is made from animal intestines. The photo I saw in the New Yorker shows it better, you can see the seams and construction more clearly. It raises a lot oF questions for me, such as - why did he decide on raglan sleeves? How much was the patterning of the piece dependant on the size of the intestines, and did he need to find really big animals? Also, im curious if he studied classic leather glove making techniques for the hands and feet. Did he pattern it all himself, or have help, and if so, did he sew it up himself? because it seems like finding someone to contract it out to might be difficult....
Also, how did he make the nipples?

Holy Crap 2!

In other news, I am still in school.  I have about a year left if you can believe that.  I feel like I've been going forever.  I am preparing to create my Senior Collection, which will actually walk down the runway next Spring.  I am currently working on the concept, and began doing my sketches last week.  I have always found inspiration boards to be a little cheesy, but i guess ideas have to come from somewhere.  Anyway.  I am  taking inspiration from the circular fields as viewed from the air.  Perhaps you've seen them from a plane while flying over the dry sunshiny states.  They are formed by circular irrigation techniques, and form a huge irregular polka-dotted pattern over large spans of land.  I found it remarkable how they resembled sequins, yet the two are polar opposites.  The graphic appeal of the fields is a side effect  of their function, and sequins intentionally create sparkle and glamor.  Here is what I have so far, although I expect it to change and evolve as it develops.  It reflects my color palette somewhat accurately also. This board is still in a serious state of flux, including the name, font, and general layout. Any feedback is welcome.
This board will be accompanied by three or four more, including a color and fabric board, a technical flats board, and another one with the clothing on the figures.  Overall I will be designing four ensembles.  It will be a high end line of women's clothing with an androgynous feel.  I plan to use very muted, non-shiny sequins sparsely, and include a some broad graphic screen printing.  It will generally have circularly inspired seamlines and stylines without being too blatant.  I plan to use mostly natural fibers, specifically cotton, silk, and wool.  I would also like to include some hats, belts, bags, and possibly some handknits. Holy crap, right?!  We'll see how it goes!

What else? Briefly...

I sent a letter to Adam Arnold today, to ask him for an internship.  This is something I've been talking about for like a year, and I'm very happy to have finally done it. So, put some good juju out there for me on that one, cuz it would be awesome!

I'm planning a trip to LA at the end of September to shop for fabric.  So if you have any inside tips, please let me know... Or if you're interested in joining me! 

And I have a new favorite drink that I recommend.  I had it for the first time at PokPok.  It 's Plum Wine topped off with a reasonable amount of soda water, and lots of ice.  Super easy and delicious.  I know it's like technically Fall now, but it's a good Summer drink!

I may seem invisible, but want you guys to know that I'm always checking out your entries.  You guys are doing a great job on all your projects, and are inspirations to me!  Thanks for being such wonderful girls! You make womankind proud!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Holy Crap!

Yes! I'm still alive!  And rather than make gradual entries explaining the various projects in my life, I'm going to post one big one!

What have I been up to?  Well, I work at a dog supply store, believe it or not.  This takes a little imagination for some, and I'll try to keep it brief.  Basically the owners have two businesses, one being a retail store, and the other a doggy apparel company.  As I'm sure you guessed, they have a room in the back of their retail store that's filled with wonderful industrial sewing machines, fabric, patternmaking supplies, and a wealth of budding product ideas. This is where I hang out, like a weird secretive teenager or something.  They hired me to do random sewing jobs and product development. (I swear it gets more interesting if you hang in there).  All of this was with the promise of the opportunity to design down the road somewhere.  I do occasionally make dog coats, but they actually have them produced by a factory in California.  They actually have quite a large stock of them, and sell them all over the country and in catalogs.  This is Marnie.

Out of a general love for dogs, the owners have taken an interest in the African Wild Dogs, who are very amazing and sadly endangered animals. In order to raise money for the African Wild Dog Project, they designed a fleece fabric that looks like their beautiful marbleized furry coats. They also have big ears.  See how cute?

Well that's Marnie again, but Wild Dogs too.  ANYwho... it was my job to help design garments out of this fabric.  Fleece not ever being a first choice of mine, was a bit of a challenge at first, but I've gotten more used to it.  They coat that Marnie is wearing is the Cozy Coat pattern that they've been using for years.  I didn't have anything to do with the design of that.  I was very excited to design actual people clothes!  That's right, for people, not dogs.  I usually have to run that by people twice.  There are companies out there who make hoodies for dogs, but we are not one of them.  At any rate, we developed a pattern for a women's zip-up hoodie, which came out very nicely.  I designed arm warmers, a hat, a child's hoodie, and am working on a Men's hoodie.  I wish I had a picture of the women's one, because it is a little difficult to imagine, but very nice.  The shoulders, sleeves, and hood are made of the AWD fabric, and the body is made of black fleece.  It has a nicely fitting contoured hood, with raglan sleeves in the back. The front is a combined raglan and yoke, making the sleeve one continuous piece from center front, down the sleeve, and around to the back.  It's nice and long and fits closely (aka not frumpy!) and has a large kangaroo pocket as well.  What else?  Well, I'll have to post a pic later.  Thanks for humoring me, fellow patternmaking geeks! Here is a picture of the Children's one I did.  Oh, and my adorable nieces who agreed to model them for $2 each!  Warning: cute little "ear gimmick"!
The idea is to sell them wherever we can, hopefully even zoo gift-shops and the like, and donate a percentage or a dollar amount to the cause.  Here's a link for more info on the African Wild Dog Project:

Oh yeah, and I am currently working on doggy shoes!  They present interesting patternmaking challenges.  So far we've come up with an interesting moccasin style boot! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Goat Rocks

Last week end I went hiking with my dad, his friend, and various friends and family. We went to the goat rocks wilderness area. Its a beautiful area full of craggy peaks and alpine wildflowers. Its right near Mount Rainier with wonderful views of the mountain. My dad's friend lives in france with his french wife and their two teenage sons.
Us hiking

Our campsite

MT Rainier

from left to right we have simon, Eric, Ellen, my sister Olivia, Me, Pete, Sam (Pete's brother), and Elaine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jil Sanders collars

Have I mentioned that I love Jil Sanders. I know Hannah doesn't totally understand my affection but the attention to detail, the quality fit, and pattern work makes me weak in the knees. Check out these collars. Although I think the men's line looks aweful.

Things I need to learn

Because of my job I need to learn Adobe Suite. Susanna makes all kinds of drawings and tech packages and what not and I would be more useful to everyone if I could do some of that work for her. Susanna had a great idea to help me learn. She says I should make a booklet on how to make a dress shirt. I think its a fantastic idea. I'm going to write it for the "some but not much" sewing skill level. If anybody would like a copy when I'm done I would be happy to distribute it. just send me your address to or post it in the comments. I might even be able to post some pages as it goes along.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

balancing patterns

Here's a kind of crappy sketch to illustrate the basic principle behind balancing a pattern - the pencil represents the front bodice pattern piece and the green line represents the back bodice placed over the top.

Doing it small, without the gridded dot paper I usually use meant that thiings ended up a little out of proportion, but I think you'll get the idea. Basically you want you back to be parallel with you front, but 1/4" tp 1/2" smaller. You lay the back pattern, face down, over the front pattern, liing up the center fronts and center backs (which generally will also be the grain) as well as the waist and bust lines. Tke your shoulder lines and move them so that they are parallel with each other with the front bigger than the back, but make sure as you move them you're not changing the measurement of the armhole or neckline.
Do the same with the side seam, again, making sure youre maintaining the same total original measurement. This is sometimes easiest if you draw a line directly in between the two lines, trace it off with a tracing wheel, and then re-draw your side seams, etc, the desired distance inside or outside of that line.
Theat's the basics, more to come.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Birthday present

My father is really hard to buy presents for because if he wants something he will just go out and buy it. I usually get him quirky books but I've gotten him books so many times now I figured I would have to mix things up. I tried to find something in Terrazign that he would find interesting and there was no way he could buy.
We have a 100 ton press that mostly gets used for molding felt but we occasionally have fun squishing stuff on it. I squished some pieces of pipe on it for him.

I'm pretty proud of my wrapping job.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hannah I need you

If you are interested I want you to write about balancing patterns. I think you are uniquely positioned to have opinions on this topic. I'm not going to prompt you too much because I want you to talk about what you know and have noticed. But I want it all from side seams parallel to crazy asymmetric drapes.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Things I do wrong

I've decided to do a post on all of the things that I've been doing wrong at work lately. I've been on a little spree of incorrectness, and alas, what Carly told me as I was leaving for NYC, "you might make mistakes, but you don't make the same mistake twice" (this was in reference, i think, only to sewing and patternmaking. I can think of several obvious examples in the rest of my life.) is no longer true. Last Tuesday I made the same mistake at least half a dozen times. So I'll start with that one:

The lining and facings have to be reversed on all lined asymetrical garments, because the right side of the lining is facing towards the body, instead of away from it, like the Self fabric is. This means that you cannot trace a coat lining, add the necessary lining ease, and call it good. You have to trace it on the wrong side of the paper, flip it over, and retrace it. And then, because it's asymetrical, you have to do the same thing with the other side of the garment. And then with the right back, and left back of the garment. There are also facings for the neck, and cuffs and hems and whatever little pieces that the designers have decided will add some flair to their piece, and they all have to be traced and flipped and traced again as well, and then, god forbid, it might be a coat with a vent or something of that nature, and there has to be extra fusible cut, besides that fusible that's pre-pressed on the facings, and you have to make mirrored patterns for those pieces too....
It adds up to a lot of opportunity for incorrectly traced pattern pieces.

I think that this post will have to come in installments, I don't want to think about all the things I do wrong all at once.