Friday, March 27, 2015

Section 4: Sewing Basics/Reading a Commercial Pattern

I was actually going to skip over this post since I know that all of you already sew a bit, but then I realized that there are lots of great links and resources to use for sewing and decided I couldn't skip over all of that!

I also might have a few things that I might be able to clear up on a commercial pattern for some of you - you never know.

We're going to go over a retro pattern - Simplicity 6959 to be exact - because that's a commercial pattern I have used most recently and am familiar with. Much of the information I'll be going over is standard for any pattern so it doesn't matter which pattern you have. Interspersed will be links for sewing tips, tricks, techniques so don't worry if you already feel like you can read a commercial pattern perfectly - there are goodies for advanced sewists too!

Alright, so here is Simplicity 6959 -




The first thing you will want to look at with a commercial pattern is the back of the pattern packet.


  • What size is the pattern? You want to take a a look at what size the pattern is, first of all. This one is a size 10. Patterns currently being sold in stores are usually graded to have multiple sizes and some PDF patterns will ask you to draw your own seam allowances.
  • Take a look at the measurements. How do you know what a size 10 is? On this pattern, a 10 is stated as a bust of 32 1/2", waist of 25" and hips of 34 1/2". (Oddly those are basically my exact measurements.)
  • How much fabric do you need? This will correspond with the size you are buying for and should show the yardage accordingly. Take special care to note the width of the fabric and the yardage they recommend. This will correspond to your pattern layout that we'll discuss later. If you don't know the width while buying, a general rule of thumb is to slightly over-buy fabric. 
  • What does with nap mean? Without? A nap refers to the type of fabric that generally has a pile to it. Have you noticed with a fur fabric, the fur naturally goes one direction and looks messed up if you go the other way on it? That's a fabric with a nap or pile. Other fabrics that have nap will be corduroy, velvet, or suede. (Why would would make this romper in a suede I do not know, but I'm not going to stop you!)
  • Pay attention to the type of fabric you need. Is this a knit pattern or a woven? Generally, knit and woven patterns are NOT interchangeable. This is because a knit pattern is designed to fit more snugly due to the stretch factor and will include minimal darts and seaming that a woven would need. Oddly, this pattern specifies that it can be for BOTH knits and wovens. Back in the 70s, stretch knits were relatively new and most people didn't know how to handle them very well.
  • Sewing notions. This part of the pattern should tell you what you will need to complete your garment including zippers, interfacing, buttons, thread, toggles, hooks and eyes, binding, or anything else to create a finished garment. 
  • Pattern Pieces Given. I really like this one because when buying secondhand patterns, you never know if all the pieces are there. You can see that I went through the pattern and checked off all the pieces included. This is also important because you need to know if you have all the pieces you need to work with on any given pattern. This illustration will also help you with different "views" of the pattern.
  • Pattern View. On this pattern, there are 2 views - a romper or a long-leg jumpsuit. On other patterns there will be multiple combinations so you may have more than 5 views! 

Decide on your view, fabric, and let's go!

First, let's talk cutting layout and cutting your fabric.



Your layout is important because it will help you conserve fabric and lay out all of your pieces according to the grainline. Normally, most patterns will have multiple fabric widths that find the most use of  the least amount of fabric. In fashion design school, a cutting layout may also be referred to as a marker. Yes, there is someone whose job is to figure out the best way to figure out pattern layouts minimizing fabric waste!

You also always want to make sure you are cutting according to your grainline. Please see this link from Collette Patterns about grainline, selvedge edge, warp and weft of fabrics. You'll find that many home sewing patterns ask you to cut on a fold, but in production you will have a full, mirrored piece to plop down on fabric to cut out. When I make patterns, I am all about conserving my paper so I won't mirror my actual pattern piece unless it's an asymmetrical pattern.

If I have a fabric I am using that is scrap yardage and don't have a selvedge edge to go by, an easy way of figuring it out as that the fabric piece will stretch more crosswise than vertically. Why is this? Crosswise stretch will fit better to the body and your garment won't bag out if there is less stretch vertically. This applies for wovens, not knit fabrics.

Pay special attention to whether pieces are flipped on the layout (ie. wrong side) and take into account what type of print you are working with, if any. Extra fabric may be needed if you have a one-way print or chevron, or plaid.

During your cutting layout, this is a good time to figure out if your pattern has seam allowances. Most commercial patterns will have a 5/8" seam allowance all around. Production patterns however, tend to have 1/2" seam allowances with 1/4" on enclosed seams. This is something we'll talk about more once we get into pattern making. I find that the reason you are given a much larger seam allowance on home sewing patterns is to allow for any adjusting you might need to do on the seams. A production pattern has already gone through all the sizing/editing it needs if it's mass-produced (or even a hundred) so there is no adjusting needed.

Seam allowances and accuracy is why I advise to really only stick to using one sewing machine with your work. Why is this? Different sewing machines are well.... different. While it might make sense to have one machine set up for wovens and one for knits (accounting for tension, stitch length, needle types, etc.) it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to switch from machine to machine if you have multiple because you can't be sure you're as accurate. My general process is wovens for my sewing machine and knits on my serger. This is also typical of most designers. Lately, I've been finding a zigzag stitch on my machine for knits then enclosing with my serger makes me less panicky about knit-sewing.  My serger cannot convert to a coverstitch machine, so I tend to do a faux coverstitch on my sewing machine with a double needle.

 Pattern Markings - 


 Get to know your pattern markings! They will help you. The most basic ones are the straight grain, fold grain, stitching lines, notches, and places for adjustments. Never skip over cutting or marking your notch points! This will also help you maintain accuracy as you sew, making sure pieces match up correctly as you cannot always tell if a pattern is sewn right matched edge to edge at the end of seams.

Directions - 
As always, read your directions before you start. Most patterns have detailed illustrations, but I also find it's best to have additional resources on hand. One book that I have had since 2004 in fashion design school is The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. I actually use my mom's copy of this book from the 70s and this is what she frequently referenced. The new edition is actually required purchasing in fashion design schools. I also own the Singer Sewing Book that has some great visual references. Many of these show up in thrift stores, so keep your eyes peeled!

Simplicity also has a great method called the Unit System of Sewing. I had been doing this for years because when you develop your own patterns, you need to have a general order of operations with sewing. I was surprised to find an image that was spelled out so succinctly a method I had been employing all along on my own.








Finishing -
One thing I do to all my garments is decide what seams are going to be exposed as in, not covered up by a lining or finished in any other way. This is mainly what I use my serger for, other than sewing knits.

Once I determine which seams will be out in the open, I serge these seams for a more finished look. In the past, this is why pinking shears were common.

Many new sewing patterns will advise you to use a binding around the edges of armholes versus armhole facings. This makes sense as lots of times I have to blind-stitch down my armhole facings so they don't get flappy and as a result, I have less of a clean look happening on the front of my garments. 

Now I am definitely not going to go through all the sewing techniques there are - this is why there are books! But I am going to provide you all with some links that I think are worth looking at for great sewing and ease of sewing. Please reference Burda for many useful sewing techniques on just about anything you might need to know!

Helpful links:  
Before you sew. 
Basics of sewing machine needles. 
Choosing the right type of fabric for your project. 
Choosing the right type of thread. 
Zipper tips and tricks. 
Sewing curves.

Pinterest also has really great tutorials and techniques as well! Don't be afraid to reference things - even pros do! It's better to reference and do it correctly versus struggle and get annoyed at something you're working on.

Learning sewing can be daunting - there are many, many things to learn and even after 10 years of sewing and holding a BFA in Fashion Design, I don't know everything. My suggestion is to get the basics down and then gradually build by adding on a new technique here and there.

Typically in a fashion design school, sewing classes are broken down into Construction 1 and Construction 2 courses, with the second being more advanced sewing projects. The main reason these classes are offered is because as a designer, you should be familiar with how a garment sews together.

If you end up working in the industry, you typically won't have to do too much sewing due to a production team (unless you're a sample-maker) but you will have to know how to relate your ideas if you are a pattern-maker and guide your team in an assistant designer position.

An independent designer is going to work much closer with sewing as they will likely be doing their own sample making for each garment as well as doing their own custom design work. There are many pathways to go down as a fashion designer.

Take your time, have fun, and practice! I didn't feel comfortable with many of my sewing skills for about 5 years after I first learned. It's ok to make many mistakes. It's ok to have to rip out multiple seams. It's ok to even have to trash a garment! The most important thing to learn is that you learn something from all your mistakes. Get good at hiding and fixing mistakes! Rarely is a home-sewn garment 100% perfect unless you've made the same piece a bunch of times. The reason a garment from a store looks so perfect is because in production facilities, usually one person will be sewing the same seam or same types of seams over and over and over again all day long.

Don't be afraid to test new things out with sewing. If you find a process to be more comfortable, then do it. Everyone sews differently. If your garment is wearable and looks finished on both outside and inside relatively, then you are doing just fine!





Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Paprika Patterns' Jasper Sweater

Hey guys, I think I found a new favorite sweater!


I've been slightly intimidated by stretch knits for a while though. While I almost always have great successes with stretch knits, I shy away from them still for some reason. When I saw Lisa of Paprika Patterns post about her Jasper Sweater design long ago, I knew I had to have one!


While this pattern is designed for heavier-weight stretch knits, I purchased my fabric online and apparently can't read because it mentioned that it was lighter weight in the description when I bought it. Initially, I wasn't as excited about the grey fabric when I received it (fearing it looked too much like a subdued leopard print) but it grew on me and now I want to wear this hoodie every day!

Let's take a closer look:


 This pattern came together really, really easily. If you're fearful of stretch knits, please do buy this pattern! The notches led the way the entire time and even though I wasn't sure at times how things would go together during construction, I didn't have any problems. The grey fabric actually now reminds me of sea coral!
 Believe it or not, I chopped off 3" of the sleeve to make the cuff hit mid-hand. I guess being 5 feet tall, I have short arms!


 Close up of the single-welt pockets. Lisa had a slightly different way of sewing them than I have done before so I did have to pull it out a few times before getting it right, but I actually like her process better. Maybe, sometimes I simply just can't read and that's why I was temporarily confused. I get too excited and sometimes my own knowledge gets in the way.
The way that the hood is constructed is really inventive. Looking at the patterns I was like, "How in the world will this go together?!" but I love what she designed.

I can't say enough great things about Lisa - not only is she super nice and helpful, I am super-impressed that she is entirely self-taught. A few years ago, she was just experimenting with clothing construction and design and now she's got her own PDF patterns out! In my opinion, she completely surpasses anything I have ever designed, proving that schooling means very little when it comes to natural ability.

In my opinion, being self-taught allows her to be more creative when designing patterns. So often in design school, people are hounding you for not doing things "the right way" and allowing little room for expanding on an idea. I'm assuming she has none of those roadblocks like I do which is awesome. We need more designers out there like her!


Also, let me nerd out for a quick moment about the beautiful serged insides!


I don't know what it is - maybe I am a snob in many ways, but so often I see people all over the place using their sergers incorrectly. I see them using it to finish off an exposed edge on a knit and that's it. No faux coverstitch, not using it on insides, just a raw, serged edge flapping around in the breeze. It's like if I did a hem and just did the hem only with a serger and left it like that. It just looks unfinished to me. That's fine if it's an intentional design detail but as a whole on everything you make? No.

I have found for me with stretch knits, I prefer sewing them with a zigzag stitch on my machine, then going through and chopping off the excess on the seam through my serger, sealing both edges of the fabric at once. The zigzag stitch allows me more room for error as I can pull out mistakes far easier than starting with just a serged edge. Ideally, you would sew entirely on your serger with a stretch knit, but I am also one who likes to "break rules" if you come up with something that works better for you.

When I pulled this sweater off of my machines, I went "Look how clean and professional this all looks!" But then I realized... I actually am a professional. Whoops. I tend to forget since it seemingly was such a struggle to get to this point (and I know I always have more to learn). You always know what you started off like but sometimes don't take the time to give yourself credit for how far you've come.

Anyway..... Lisa is a fantastic designer and I highly encourage you to pick up one (or all) of her patterns! I also had the privilege of testing out her Jade Skirt pattern almost 2 years ago now (has it actually been that long?!) and that's a great pattern too! Her directions are clear with nice illustrations and she's always posting additional how-tos on her blog about her patterns. I love that her designs are clean and simple but also unique. They are edgy designs that definitely stand out and you can always make them have your own flair to them.

I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Section 3: Collection Planning/Concepting

Hi everyone!

Now that we know how to sketch and put our designs in the computer, let's go ahead and talk about collection planning!

In fashion design school, planning a collection is discussed throughout your time there, but it is perhaps the most important during your Senior Collection where in the first class you do the sketching, concepting, and planning of your sewing patterns. I'll be getting into sewing/patternmaking shortly after this post.

For my own personal process, I start out with images - inspiration photos, seam line ideas, photos of a particular place, etc.

Here is an inspiration board I did in 2009.


I personally like to do digital collages as I can edit them as I see fit, but you may want to use a corkboard with images. Some people cut images out and make collages in blank books, others even make Pinterest boards. This board (or whatever method you choose) should be what inspires you! It can be about anything.

Some really good visual resources that designers use (and ones I was taught to use in school) are trend forecasting books like Promostyl and Collezzioni.We had thick binders of these in the library at school which are arguably way better than the free content out there, but it's a reference point. I also at times like to look at collections on Style.com to see how other designers put together collections.

I want to go off on a tangent here about looking at other designer's collections - it's about Inspiration VS Knockoffs. 

In my school, it was totally a popular "thing" to look at other designer's collections and then pretty much do a rehash of what a specific designer's collection looked like. This is an absolute NO in the industry. No one wants to see the exact same thing as another designer's previous collection and no one wants to slight another designer by ripping off their work.

That being said, there are only a few combinations in silhouette, garment construction, and things that look good on a body -- very little is absolute original. I don't believe in copyrighting designs as it stifles creativity, but you should more often than not as a designer be putting out your ideas from your own inspiration.

Inspiration isn't pulling directly - while my own work borrows heavily from retro styles of the 60s and 70s, rarely is it an absolutely direct knockoff. If it is, I say so. Inspiration comes from imagery - it can be a shape, a place, a general silhouette, but you should be able to take these ideas and mash them up into something new. I tend to like lots of colorblocking, flowing lines, and 60s silhouettes.  

Please disregard this information if you are someone who just sews for fun. However, if you get inspiration from someone else's work, give credit where credit is due! Currently, I am knocking off nearly exactly a Chloe dress from 2013 and I will be giving credit to the original designer as it is not my original work. This copy is for my own use and I will not be selling any reproductions of this design even though I did entirely my own pattern work for it.

Back on track ---


Key Questions to Ask Yourself During Collection Planning:

  • What is my theme? For this collection I was working on, I went with a theme of the Carnival. I was actually inspired by Wicker Park's long defunct Earwax Cafe in Chicago during this one, but I also made it a bit more broad. Broad is good! It gives you something to work with and allows you freedom in what you might design. 
 Exterior image of Earwax Cafe, Wicker Park, Chicago, IL.

 Earwax Inside.

 When coming up with a theme, I tend to think of places, types of people, or musical genres at times. This brings me to a few more key points.

  • Who is wearing your garments? It very well could be just you if you're a home sewist, but if you're planning a mini collection for say, Etsy or to shop to local boutiques, you are going to need to figure out your target market.  To figure out your target market, you need to ask questions like,
  • What age group am I looking to capture the attention of? For this collection, my target market was from 20-35 in the age demographics. They are young, hip, love music, are artistic professionals, and probably frequent Wicker Park if they're in Chicago or Brooklyn if in NYC.
  • Where is this person going? Are they going out for a night on the town or is this casual every-day wear? Is it over-the-top stylish or more subtle? Will this collection be suitable for work or for off-time? For this collection, my aim was casual-wear that customers could wear at a hip workplace or every day. If you're sewing at home, does the garment need pockets for where you're going? Are you taking into account the weather of where you live?
  • What season is this? In the industry, there are two big seasons - Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. It wouldn't make sense to have a giant, heavy sweater in the midst of a bunch of summer styles. If you're a home sewist, think about upcoming seasons when you're sewing/designing and prepare for the upcoming season. There are also Resort collections that designers put out usually in time for people to buy before a nice warm getaway during winter. As an example, the Carnival collection presented here was a Spring/Summer collection based on the lightweight jacket, short sleeves, and sleeveless garments.

  • Where is my collection being sold? Think about where your garments might feel at home. Is your product high-end? Is it for a special type of consumer, ie.) clothes for skaters? Does it feel best at a local boutique or a mass-retailer? This Carnival collection was an excercise in collection planning, but my ideal retailer was a fun boutique-style national retailer like Brooklyn Industries. It could also feel at home with Urban Outfitters or H&M. Asking these questions will also lead you to your price point.
  • What is my price point? Obviously keeping in mind production costs, how much is your customer willing to spend on a garment? For instance, my customer for this particular collection would not want to spend $400 on the lightweight jacket. The jacket would more likely retail between $120-$150. Home sewists, how much money are you willing to spend on one garment?
  • Keeps your looks consistent. For consistency on the Carnival collection, I kept a few ideas in mind - the little bits of frills on the garments in this collection, some geometric seam lines and collars, and shapes. The clover-like shape on the t-shirt also makes an appearance as a print on the vest. This helps create a cohesive look and also helps your customers mix and match. 
  • How will my customers mix and match pieces? You typically want to sell multiple pieces versus just one special piece (duh, more money!) so think about how a customer might mix and match your designs. As a home sewist, ask yourself how the garment you're working on mixes into your wardrobe. If you're working on a special piece, disregard this.

  • Diversify your product line. Make sure your customer has options! As a general rule of thumb, when I do a collection for fun and of the size of my examples here, I plan for at least 1 pant, 1-2 jackets depending upon season, 1-2 sweaters (lightweight or heavy), at least 2-3 tops, 2-3 dresses, and 1-2 skirts. Also think about basic layering pieces. As a home sewist, what pieces are you missing from your wardrobe? Play with mixing and matching the pieces you designed and come up with different styling combinations! 
  • Keep within a color story. You should be using similar color fabrics and keeping within a color story. Re-use perhaps different colorways of the same print. You can see on the side of my croquis illustrations, I pulled out colors with the eyedropper tool from the boards and stuck to those colors. This helps create a cohesive look and again helps your customers mix and match. Home sewists, what colors do you love to wear and look best on you? You don't need to have a rainbow of clothing, just know what you like!
Pantone is also a really great resource on color trends. I wait impatiently each year for their "color of the year"! Another site to play with colors is COLOURlovers. This site is perfect for putting together a palette. The link is for my own account so you can see what I have done.

In closing, always have fun with creating a collection! Make sure you tell a story and in general, stick to some type of theme to create something cohesive.

I hope both home sewists and more selling-oriented independent designers got some good ideas from this post.

As always, feel free to leave me some questions and comments about this!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Chloe Knockoff at the Dubuffet Sculpture

Finally here to post something new I designed!


Ok, if it looks familiar at all, it's because it's a sort of a knockoff of this dress by Chloe from 2013.

I loved the lines on the dress and with my love of colorblocking, I knew I had to find a way to make it my own. Initially, I was going to to the same overhang-thing on the Chloe dress but something in the patternmaking of it cinched the waist way too much. So I salvaged it by cutting the overhang part off and just attaching the bodice to skirt like a regular dress.

 This is actually the first thing I've designed and made in about 7 months (yikes) - I've been using commercial patterns for the last few things. So, being a teeny bit rusty I made quite a few errors somehow. I know how to fix them all, but ugh!

When I first tried it on, it was SUPER tight. I couldn't imagine why since I had made it fit my dressform and then it dawned on me - I forgot to include wearing ease on the pattern. Grr. So I ended up letting it out 1/4" on almost every seam, making the waist increase by 1 1/2".

I also fought with the invisible zip for some reason even though I have done many. This dress was full of ridiculousness, but all-in-all, I think it turned out really well, even if the blue fabric crinkles like none other!

I thought this Dubuffet sculpture paired nicely with the lines on this dress - it's downtown Chicago at the Thompson Center. If I remember correctly, many Chicagoans actually hate this sculpture but I don't know why. I like the contrast of the dark lines on white and the geometric look of it.

If I need to make another (the blue fabric I just remembered doesn't wash well AT ALL) I still have plenty of the pink and green left. So basically, I ended up with a wearable muslin here.

 Originally, I also had the tucks symmetrical but upon sewing, I decided that I actually liked them both on the side, much like  the original Chloe dress. They obviously had more fabric in their tucks but I didn't necessarily want it to be too drastic. I also tried to avoid darts the first time around, going with more of a boxy look but then decided that I actually wanted it to be more fitted so I added darts to the bust during pattern making.

I think it worked out well!


I'm actually enjoying doing some knock-off patterns right now. I have a few more that I might do, but not sure. I have a huge queue of garments lined up, it's really just about figuring out which ones and making them!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Section 2: Computer Design/Illustration

Hi everyone!

Hope you enjoyed the last post and got a few useful pieces out of it. As a reminder, this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, but merely an introduction to what usually is an 11-week class at my alma mater (at least from 2004-2007).

In conjunction with fashion sketching, this next segment focuses on the computer design aspect of fashion illustration.

 Computer design board of mine from 2013.

This is personally my favorite way to do design work and to get a quick idea of where I should place colors, how something might look finished, etc. These are also very good ways to present your work whether online or to a potential customer.

For computer design you will need the following things:
  • Scanner
  • Micron pens
  • Photoshop or similar editing software

If you don't have a scanner, you can go to a FedEx/Kinkos and use their scanner/copiers which is what I used to do before I had a scanner or a printer! (Poor college student solutions, y'all.)

First, scan your flats or croquis sketches into your computer at 300 dpi. You will want to Micron all the edges first and then erase the pencil on them. Make sure all your lines touch another line otherwise you will run into minor coloring problems later (I'll explain.)

 I usually have a seperate folder for each collection and folders inside that collection folder of flats and croquis.


 2 things -

After opening selected items I am editing, I typically will use the magic wand. Hit select----> inverse. Edit, copy, edit paste into your new board.

Shown above is my new board. I like to use 11 X 17 on my design boards and definitely make sure you use a 300 dpi!

Now is a good time to clean up around your flats or croquis. I tend to make notes around all of my flats, so this is why I have to clean it up. I also don't usually adjust the size of either flats nor croquis, but go ahead and do what's best for you!

Now you can go ahead and fill colors! I use the paint bucket for this step.

Some notes: Technically, in fashion design school with a flats board you will be taught to draw one half of your image in Illustrator, then mirror the image and connect them both to create one flat garment. I am doing essentially a quick and dirty method because I just want to quickly see what a garment might look like and post up my images on the internet somewhere just for concepting purposes or to show someone else. 

Also of note - the top on the right was adjusted going into Image----> adjustements ----> threshold and made a tad bit more clear. I don't typically do this, but the option is there for those of you that want to adjust the way your sketches appear.

People make beautiful flats boards and this is an example of what a true flats board should look like, done in Illustrator. 



Now this is the fun part. How do I get my patterns onto a garment in Photoshop?!

First, open your pattern in Photoshop. Ideally, this would be the true, seamless repeat but it's ok if it isn't if you're just looking to get an idea of how it will look on a garment.

Hit "select all" on your pattern then go to edit ----> define pattern. 

 A box will then pop up asking you to name the pattern. 



 Take a look at the upper left hand corner and you will see your pattern that you defined in the swatches box. From here, you can select the pattern you want to use on your garment. After that, you can use the bucket to fill in the areas that will have a pattern on it.


 As you can see, because the red/white pattern I have here is not the full repeat, it doesn't quite match up. However, this can still get your idea across.

I've gone ahead and used my self-designed Victrola repeat on here just to show you what a seamless repeat will fill like.


  Now, in all actuality, I would scale down the Victrola repeat to get a closer idea of how it will look on the garment. You can do this by opening your repeat and going into image----> canvas size and scaling the repeat down. Save this one as another file, don't save over your original!

You will then want to go back in and define the pattern again with the new size settings, then fill away!

I did this when I was getting an idea of the print on my vintage romper, although I did something slightly wrong because it shouldn't have the white line in there on the repeat. It was a quick look, so I didn't bother adjusting.


After filling your garments, I like to go in and shade a little bit to make the garments look less "flat".

Go into the dodge/burn tool on your left side tool panel. Burn will make the edges darker and dodge will lighten up whatever you swipe your brush over. Make sure you select each layer you're working on before doing this, otherwise you won't see any changes.

You can see a bit of shading with the dodge/burn tools here. Play with the size of brush you use as well as the opacity on it to get the effects you want.

After all that, go ahead and play with how you're arranging your flats or croquis! This is what my finished board ended up looking like.
I actually don't know why this looks so pixelated since it says it's a 300 dpi on my Photoshop. I may have had to re-download it from the internet somehow when my last computer died a few years back, but hey.

When saving your work, you will want to save 2 versions - a flattened and a working layers version. The working layers version will be in .PSD format and will allow you to make edits still. It will also be a larger file. 

The second one (go into layers---> flatten image) with the flattened image lends itself to be saved better as a JPEG. This is also a smaller file. Once you save something as a flattened image, there is no going back which is why I advise saving both working layers and a flattened image.

Below is my "Inspiration Board" for this mini-collection. This type of board is optional, but I tend to make one in order to understand which hues I will be using. I usually place images, prints, or even fabrics that I might use in the collection or just use photos that give me a general feeling I want the collection to convey.

I'll be going more in-depth about collection-planning in a later post and how to make a more cohesive collection.



So that's mostly it!

Have fun, play around, and feel free to develop your own techniques. My process isn't a be-all-end all, but it's an insight into one way of doing it.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I will get back to you!


Friday, March 6, 2015

Section 1: Fashion Illustration


Hi everyone, and welcome to my first post in this series in the Talks about Fashion Design!

This first post we will focus on the art of Fashion Illustration, since lots of fashion design starts with an idea in mind, right? Of course, different designers work differently so while this may not always be your exact starting point, I find sketching an idea helps you figure out how to design the garment.

In design school, fashion illustration is actually broken down as an 11-week class if you're on a quarter system like I was.

Let's get started!


Fashion illustrations by me in 2008/09.

There are some absolutely beautiful fashion sketches out there - ones that are a true work of art. But the basis of all fashion sketching is the croquis.

The what?! A fashion croquis! A croquis is basically a template of a figure. There are a few designers who draw freehand (no way is right or wrong) but I consistently pull out my 2 favorite that I have used all throughout my design career.

A fashion croquis is typically 9 heads tall - the equivalent if you took the head of the figure and placed it end to end 9 times. This elongates the figure and makes the clothes look more appealing. This is why models tend to be slender and tall - clothes just look better in those proportions to the eye.

I actually got in trouble in design school because I made my figures look a tad bit more realistic and fuller. What looked normal to me looked like a plus-sized figure to my teacher, but hey - whatever. 



One of my favorite books I have that helps me out with some croquis is New Fashion Figure Templates by Patrick John Ireland. It has a lot of templates you could trace right out of the book and use underneath your sketches. Another one that was really popular in my design-school days is 9 Heads.

Let's back up a bit though - in using your croquis, you want to keep the croquis as a template. I tend to like thicker lines on mine so I can see it through my paper easily that I'm drawing onto.

My personal method is that I place the figure underneath another piece of paper (usually you can see right through regular printer paper placed on top of the template) and just draw.

Other people will go straight to blocking out the figure and spec-ing out the proportions. I like this video for showing how that is done. You start out with blocky proportions and then go in and re-shape the figure as you go. I have a few books that talk about this method of fashion illustration.



Yet another method I use for developing figures is pulling out figures in magazines! This is super-easy and gives you updated poses easily.

These days, I actually do a lot of flat sketches.

What's a flat sketch?

A flat sketch is the garment you're designing with all correct darts, seamlines, front and back. I do this because my sketches are more of an idea and deciding how to go about the patternmaking process. How will I fit said garment? What silhouette am I going for? I play with seam lines, design details and figure out where the design is going. I also write notes to myself about it.

 Flat sketches from 2011, recently posted on Instagram.

Typically, I will throw my flat sketches into the computer and make a mini-collection board, but I am going to split computer design into another upcoming post.

For now, here is what an illustration of mine ends up looking like after some digital editing:

I'll be talking about how to do some of the digital techniques in an upcoming post. 

Some things to keep in mind while fashion sketching: 
  • Where is the center front of the garment? 
  • How am I going to shape this garment? ie.) with darts, seamlines, tucks, pleats?
  • How does the fabric fold? I recommend getting a yard or so of fabric and playing with the way it hangs and how it folds.
  • Take a look at garments online to see how to draw them - look at other illustrations, photos of garments, etc.
  • Play with color, shape, seams. This is the part where anything is possible!
  • Where is the zipper going? Buttons? How does the person get into this outfit? This will help you later on with patternmaking. 
  • Try out different mediums! I love watercolor pencils, personally. Some people love markers. You could also use charcoal, or even paint your drawings. 
I have uploaded a bunch of croquis to my Photobucket account to get you started! This will be the ongoing account for any of my personal resources I have on file in my studio. I have also included some menswear croquis just in case any of you out there would like to do some menswear design!

Have fun, practice, and know that there is no "wrong way". I felt like design school was really firm on techniques and ways of doing lots of things, but the right way is only the way you feel most comfortable with and feel inspired doing. 







Monday, March 2, 2015

Introduction: Manic Pop Talks About Fashion Design

So... I've decided I'm starting a new, on-going series of posts that have to do with fashion design.



As many of you may know, I graduated with a BFA in Fashion Design from the Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago back in 2007. It was a great experience, albeit stressful but I wouldn't trade what I majored in for anything. (My 2nd and 3rd choices were journalism or psychology, so clearly I picked the best major!)

Over the years, many people have questioned how useful my degree is or snarkily suggest that I am "not using it" in my work life (the answer to that is actually, it's helped rather than hindered, but that's another post altogether.)

 At an exhibition of my work (the whole store was filled) at Lomo Chicago, August 2013.


And who cares how I use my degree anyhow? Right?! It's my life.

Especially within the past 2 years, I have been astounded by how many resources there are out there for young and beginning fashion designers. From Burda, to Pinterest, to independent blogs, to even books in the craft stores and book stores - with a simple Google search you can pretty much find out how to make anything you want.

 Patternmaking for the scallop top dress in 2013.

Back in 2004, there was very little out there for design. Sure, there were sewing patterns to use, I'm sure there were some books I could have used, but as a 17, 18 year old growing up with only my mom and sister around, there wasn't really anyone to teach me sewing/design and all the information to take in about it was daunting.

Also remember that in July of 2004 when I started fashion design school, Project Runway wasn't even a thing at all - it came out late 2005! I think the popularity of that show is what sparked a bit more interest in sewing and design again and I am grateful since there are so many books out there to help along people.

I could have saved a ton of money by not going to design school but I'm glad I did. Most jobs in Chicago require you to have a Bachelor's in something (yes, even retail management) so it's great that I went for anything at all and even better that I went to school for something I sincerely enjoyed.

I'll be giving you guys a peek at old stuff I did in design school throughout this series as well as sharing links, sharing some of my favorite books, resources, and helping you along as a designer!

 Old inspiration board, digital collage. 2009.

I downloaded and saved a file of the current class list at my alma mater, so I'll be touching on many of the things on there coupled with my personal experience and tricks I learned even after college.

Currently, here is what the "class list" looks like, starting on March 6th, 2015! All following posts will ideally be posted every week, on Fridays.
  • Fashion Illustration  - 3/6/15
  • Computer Design - 3/13/15
  • Collection Concepting and Color Stories - 3/20/15
  • Trends and Forecasting - 3/27/15
  • Sewing Basics/How to Read a Commercial Pattern 4/3/15
  • Pattern making for Fashion Design (might be broken into 2 posts?) - 4/10/15
  • Digital Textile Design - 4/17/15
  • PDF patterns and Grading - 4/24/15
  • Creating a Cohesive Brand Identity - 5/1/15
Note: Exact dates are subject to change, but I'll definitely be going down the line on this list.


This is obviously no substitute for going to design school.

If you want to be taken seriously in the industry and work for large companies, they expect you to have a degree. However, that doesn't mean that if you're amazing that you can't work in design. There are many that do and I believe that you don't always have to have a degree so long as you are determined and learn the required skills. I've seen it done before!

 This isn't meant to be a comprehensive series, but merely an introduction to areas that any designer should take time to explore more as well as some tips and tricks!


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