Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pinch Hitter

So, I was working out a fitting problem with my sloper while my mother was here, and I began to have this feeling I had early on in this project—this book (Armstrong) isn’t always the most…clear. It IS a textbook, and no doubt is meant to be used in conjunction with a classroom teacher, but there’s still just something missing. Well, first off, all the measurements are based on a dressform and not a real person, with no instructions for measuring a real person—which is just fine for a student I suppose, but not very effective for real-world application. The instructions for taking those measurements aren’t always clear either. And the size charts listed in the book are…well…not “plus size” friendly. This burns me a little—no, A LOT. I really detest the sizeism that exists in the fashion world, and the relegating of size 12 and above into the backseat. “Here are the fashions for this spring, maybe they’ll look good on your fat ass. Not my problem” (yeah, I’m talking to you Karl Lagerfeld) You never see an candidate on project runway designing for plus girls, do ya? And before anyone decides to get up on me about health and etc—I’m not talking about size 20, or morbidly obese women—hell, I’m not even talking about “obese” women. I’m talking SIZE 12—the size I was in high school and after, when the comments about my body were definitely NOT in the negative…)

I really have no desire to create a size 3 garment. Ever. Unless it is a 3T garment. Or I have a skinny friend.

And I’m not trying to say that Armstrong is sizist—I mean I KNOW this is a text book for young fashion students. I just find it disappointing that it is in no way connected with the real world.

Back to m fitting problem…there was a gap in the armscye, (that’s a fancy word for armhole for the rest of the world)both front and back. Front was easy—just add a dart. But the back involved opening the seam, moving fabric down, and other mysterious activites that didn’t fix the problem. We just kept trying to fix it and the book just had some strange diagrams and extremely vague instructions. In the end, we kinda took a wild stab at it and hoped it worked. I’m still not convinced it solved the problem…

There was also an issue when I was drafting the sleeve pattern. There was no explanation of where the arm cap measurement was—just some chart to follow (A chart I might mention that I was not on size-wise, so even more guessing) and the measurement for the armscye circumference and its corresponding sleeve measurement wouldn’t match unless I took 2 inches off my bicep. All I kept thinking was, this CAN’T be right.

I should mention my innate fear of sleeves. They still trip me up. Especially the set-in eased sleeve that is a part of most women’s garments.

For those of you who don’t sew, a brief primer: when a garment is made, you usually put the bodice (front and back) together first leaving a hole for the arm. Then you sew the sleeve together so that it is a tube with one curved/funky end. Then you “ease” the top of that sleeve a little—which are just little gathers to make the sleeve fit around your shoulder and allow movement. Then you match up that tube with the armhole, and after some fussing and sometimes cursing, you pin the two and sew them together. If you do it right, you can’t even see the gathers and you have the whole range of movement with the sleeve. If not…well, you rip it out and do it again. It has been said that the ease of a sleeve is the most difficult sewing you ever have to do—and I agree.

This fear I have of sleeves comes not only from my own lessons from my umpteen years of sewing, but from a job I had last year. The big job—the mu’u mu’u job. Yeah—those sleeves were just CRAP. I was working off a pattern drafting program that I no longer use, because it is crap, and the sleeves were just horrid. No movement, horrible ease, bad, bad, bad—and no doubt one of the many reasons I was not asked back to that particular Halau for another job. So, as you can see, sleeves just make me nervous.

So when I found this fitting problem in my own sloper, I was not happy with just guessing and hoping it was right. If someone puts on a garment and cannot move their arms naturally, you lose business. Period. I have thrown out more than one commercial pattern that was just a poor draft for the sleeve and armscye. I want answers on how to fit this properly—not vague diagrams. Remember—this set of patterns isn’t for the clothes one wears—they are the base for those clothes. You make these right, and the fit of the fashion garment will need little to no alteration.

So…for the time being, I am going to stray from Armstrong and move over to Don McCunn for the sloper production. a) he is measuring real people (and shows you tricks to measure yourself in tricky places—like that center back seam…) and b) he has videos. I am already a member of his Yahoo group (How-to-Make-Sewing-Patterns-subscribe@yahoogroups.com) and frankly find his methods clear and concise. I’ve checked out his book previously, and just ordered my own copy for a reference tool. I’m not too keen on his design asthetic(hello, the 80’s called), but his sloper instruction is the best I’ve come across. So, for now, while I am making these slopers, I’m gonna follow hi method, and once I’ve got a sloper with which I am comfortable and UNDERSTAND then I will turn back to the Armstrong to begin the design aspect of my learning.

Now, this is not to say the Armstrong is bad—the new edition might even address those things with which I take issue. But since I have no desire to fork out $150 for a new book, I’m gonna work out what I can.

When I was trying to explain this to my husband, he made a simple statement: that book was probably written by a seamstress. And while she was no doubt a good seamstress, she isn’t the best writer and or teacher. I know there are others who would VEHEMENTLY disagree with that statement, but I don’t. I have no doubt the author knows her stuff—she just doesn’t know how to explain it very well.

Lessons learned this week:

  • Fashion hates real women
  • Sleeves are not to be trifled with
  • Sometimes you just gotta watch someone do it to understand how
  • I’m not gonna make friends in the fashion world

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