People often ask me how I approach designing a garment. Do I start with the silhouette, the fabric or yarn, or a general concept of texture, mood, or other.
I would have to answer that for me, there is no one way. I do not have a formula. The approach more often is controlled by a trigger, i.e., what it was that excited me. Sometimes it is the fabric, another time, it is a garment I’ve just observed. It is different each time, and that is part of the joy for me.
Since I have just embarked on a project (that is in its beginning phase), I shall take you along with me, as it runs its course. Of course, this may take its gentle time, as some of my projects do. I tend to work on more than one thing at a time. I would not say that this is a good thing, but it suits my personality.
Where did it start?
This time, the project was inspired by a piece of fabric that I saw in the Haberman’s booth at the Sewing Expo Show in Novi, Michigan in September. Haberman’s has the most wonderful fabric, and I always vow I will not buy another piece at that show. But I generally weaken and waltz home with a piece of something irreplaceable, fantastic, and completely necessary in my life! (if only that were the truth).
So, at this show, the fabric that spoke to me was a fur-like fabric, somewhat akin to a polar fleece, but more, like fur. (see the illustration). I just fell in love with it. It came in three colors, and it was a challenge to settle on which color I would choose. As soon as I saw the fabric, I knew I wanted to sew with it, but combine it with hand knit pieces as well. I had petted the fabric a few times, coming and going from Haberman’s booth. Then, on one particular exit, I saw a very intriguing garment hanging up on display. It was made of the same fabric in the black and white version. I liked the garment a lot, so when this happens, I generally stop myself and ask, “What are the distinguishing features of this piece that you like”? Then I mentally make notes about what specifically it is that has caught my attention.
In this case, I would say the following of the garment. It…. was a short cropped bolero-style garment
had a wide collar with full sleeve cuffs
had an extended cap sleeve which expanded further into deep cuffs.
had a ruffle effect running around the lower edge of the garment
I did not need more than this. No measurements, no trying it on, ….nothing. I just needed to remember the key features that caught my fancy.
In designing, it is rarely my goal to copy a garment precisely. Where is the fun in that? Rather, I would prefer to use key features of the garment as a starting point, and then do my own thing, within the loose structure I have given myself.
Sometimes, the next step for me is to sketch my concept. It is generally pretty rough, as I am not a great artist when it comes to drawing by hand. But, through persistence, I have learned some basics of proportions, and I can get a general drawing down, enough for me to understand what I meant, and that is all I need. I generally start by drawing a head and the sense of a neck. I often put a center line, that extends through the head and down into the body. Then, I draw half the garment. Once I am happy with the half, (and presuming the garment is not symmetrical), I draw the other side. Sometimes I “eye” the proportions between the two sides, attempting symmetry. If I am having a bad drawing day, then I either use my pencil (or a ruler) to measure key spots on one side, and use this held point to help me on the other side. When it is really a bad day for drawing, I simply fold the paper in half on my center line, and go to a window, hold the paper up to the light on the glass, and trace the second side.
Here you can see my hand sketch. It’s not bad… it communicates to me my thoughts. Trust me, they are not all this readable; sometimes they are pretty bad, especially if I am in a car, on a train, or walking.
Note: I often bypass the sketching step and go straight to the computer. This time however, the sketch became a way for me to communicate to a friend what I was thinking.