I learned to sew with commercial, patterns. To smooth out the pattern pieces and pin them to the fabric, I learned to cut some pieces of a garment on the fold of the fabric, to observe the grainline and place the pattern pieces always on grain. To cut the fabric out using dressmaking scissors - kept specially for fabric and never allowed near paper. I was taught to mark the dart points and 'internals' on a garment piece with tailors tacks - temporary sewn tufts that mark where things are sewn to or placed. Then i was taught to follow the assembly or construction steps included with the commercial pattern. Latter I bought and read books that outlined different construction methods - and I felt brave as I began to stray from the directions.
I learned to sew clothes some 30+ years ago, and I'm still sewing clothes. The past few weeks have provided time and space to haul out fabric I've bought but never sewn, and my sewing machines and sew the dresses I've not had time or energy to sew.
As I've been doing this I've become aware of the way in which my process has changed. I make my own patterns now, this morning I got up and began to dressmake, by 9am I had a dress pattern sorted. I used a basic dress block and divided off a midriff section, removed the darts from it, added some seams to the skirt pieces so I could manipulate the grain lines to make the skirt hang flat at the front and in soft folds around the sides and back. I made a lining for the bodice and worked the darts into small tucks and some into ease. I cut out the pattern pieces using a sharp blade, no scissors, then I decided where the grain lines could go depending on how I wanted the fabric to fall and stretch. Then I began to cut the dress out, where once I would have pinned tissue paper patterns - now I place brown paper patterns, secure them with stones (weights), and use a ball point pen to outline the garment shapes on the fabric, I don't cut any pieces on the fold, I cut all pieces single layer - it improves the fabric usage and allows for more flexibility in how things can be placed. The people who taught me how to sew would have been shocked ! I sometimes use felt pen to dot the outlines on knit fabric, and I do still use chalk when working with good wool fabrics. Part of me is horrified that I drew on the fabric - but another part remembers when I first began working with people trained in industry and seeing how they worked fast and cleanly with ink and pencil - not slowly with chalk or tissue patterns, and no one pinned anything. Moving the pattern out of the way once the outline is traced lets me cut more accurately. Besides - when I cut, I cut inside the ball point line - so the ink isn't part of the final garment.
Then I sewed, I used all the 'industry' methods I've learned, I chained seams together, I sewed as much as I could flat, I didn't use pins, but instead held the fabric taut and slightly turned up in front of the machine to counteract the action of the feed-dogs pulling the under-layer more than the top layer. I inserted the invisable zipper in one go, and machined the facing in place so when turned out the right way the garment and facing formed a neat clean finish. By 4pm I had a finished dress - and that included a quick trip to town to buy fabric to line the bodice and buy a zip, and a break for lunch (home made bean salad), it also included getting out the sewing machine and the over locker and setting them up (in my ideal craft room those machines will be on standby - not in a hallway cupboard). The dress is all finished except for the hem - and those are always better if the garment hangs for a day or so and let's the weight of the fabric settle how the dress falls.
At the same time today - little cub sewed her second pair of leggings, this time in a silver stretch fabric. I want to set her up to be confident and efficient with sewing, I want her to know how to do most things and be able to work out more complex things - and I don't know how to go about teaching her. Do I make her learn the traditional methods that are my foundation, or do I show her how to draw on the fabric with ball point and cut with a rotary cutter? Do I let her play and make mistakes (I sure did) or do I supervise closely so the fabric and time isn't wasted? Luckily I don't don't have to worry for much longer as she has chosen to study fabric technology - and her teacher is one of the graduates of our fashion degree so I know she is comfortable with industry methods. But I'm still wondering about how much history and tradition is needed to inform good contemporary practice.
Usual content of knitting will resume next post - I promise
(not posted by blogsy - as it is buggy right now)