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Latest Designer Challenge

Jean | Posted in Feedback on Threads on

“Designers Sandra Betzina, Mary Ray, and Kayla Kennington model the versatile garments they created from colorful fabrics in varied textures”

I just watched the video of the latest challenge and although Sandra and Kayla had very interesting and beautifully sewn outfits, I thought that Mary Ray’s designs were fabulous and she looked fabulous in them.  The other two used innovative techniques in  interesting ways, but — I’m sorry,  their outfits looked like feed sacks on them in comparison. What good does it do to have lucious fabrics, wonderful techniques and hours into sewing if it doesn’t look good ON?? 

Just My Humble Opinion.

Veni, vidi, velcro        I came,  I  saw,  I stuck around.



  1. User avater
    Thimblefingers | | #1

    I agree.  That's the problem with a lot of the "wearable art" - they're modelled on shapeless garments.  Totally unattractive once you put them on.  And if large-size ladies thinks it makes them look smaller, think again.  The embellishments on the already too shapeless sacks only serve to enhance their size.  We should wear the clothes, not the clothes wear us.  That means well-shaped and well-fitted no matter what our size.  I always tell my plus size clients not to wear sacks or only dark colours - a perfectly fitted garment does wonders for even a large figure.  Besides, those styles are so outdated, it's embarrassing to see them in a modern magazine.  No wonder our younger generation isn't interested in sewing.  I taught sewing and flat pattern design courses for a local store.  The owner doesn't understand why her classes are not filled but I was required to teach completely out-dated styles and try to convince the students that these were "better" than the current styles - like pleated trousers, and shapeless blouses and dresses with shoulder pads.  Young women and stylish women either quit or don't continue.  It's time to seriously update our sewing classes and techniques so that younger people are interested.  And surely all those wonderful creative sewing techniques could be showcased on modern fitted styles!  Maybe those women in the sacks need to spend a little more time checking out the latest fashion magazines and boutiques!  Maybe Threads needs to search for women who are excellent sewers and designers and are not famous but keep up with the styles rather than the tired-out rehashes we keep getting.  There are lots of us out here!!  

    1. longwords | | #2

      I agree with you that sewing classes have not kept up with the times. But I think there are several reasons why more people don't sew. Among them:

      Time. Until people can stop working unpaid overtime or commuting long distances or ignoring the television, there will be a lot of people who really don't have time (my problem -- 50 hour weeks) or who won't find time.

      Equipment. Sewing machines are too expensive. To get new people started, especially teens, the essential equipment has to be inexpensive and reliable -- machines that can do a variety of stitches and maybe serging, too, without having tension problems or too-complex threading. The price point should probably be $200 to $300. Depending more on the family computer and purchased software for the computer frills, such as embroidery, is a better way to go than developing ever-more-expensive computerized machines.

      Fabrics. Stores don't sell the fabrics that are being used in the fashions customers see on the rack. For a few years, I was buying machine-washable Sag Harbor separates in Hawaiian-style rayon prints. I would have made my own if I could have purchased comparable fabric. It never appeared in the stores. Newcomers want to see what they're buying, not use mail order. Jo-Ann's is so complacent it carries the same types of things year after year, season after season. The colorways change but there isn't enough variety. I used to live in a town with an independent fabric store, and I bought wonderful stuff -- beautifully printed fine cottons from Italy, embroidered velvet, fabrics for quilts, and so on. Now I spend very little on fabric. Complaining to the store staff doesn't work.

      Patterns. I love looking at patterns. I like to wear top-skirt-jacket combinations. Many tops and jackets, especially suits that don't require tops, aren't designed for the ordinary office. I look great in V-necks, but often they show too much cleavage for my conservative office. Taking time to alter the pattern uses up my patience. The patterns should come with more than one neckline depth, and the heck with the designer's tender sensibilities. Vogue is a particular offender.

      Pattern design. Pattern designers need to more seriously pursue looking at alternate assembly and design to see if there is anything new, and easier, under the sun.

      1. solly | | #3

        I love many of your ideas. I, too, prefer the versatile top-jacket-skirt combo for work and my boss would die if we wore much of the cleavage in current patterns. I do like stylish but then there is the challenge of fit - what shape or ease do some of these designers envision? And, like ready to wear, they are not consistent. I'm now looking at pattern making software as an alternative. It seems to have finally reached the point where it is flexible and creative. I suggest selling the software in 3-4 payments rather than all at once because I think more folks would be willing to take the leap and try it out. I'm getting excited about sewing clothes again. It will also take some doing to stumble on the fabrics - I do some ordering online with some success.

        1. longwords | | #4

          Maybe the pattern companies should take their cue from catalog sales. There are several places I order clothing from that will answer questions about the dimensions. ("What does this knit top measure right under the arms?" I ask, and they say "40 inches" or whatever.)

          Patterns could easily give a measurement chart for the size (the ostensible size of the person wearing the garment), the actual finished dimension of each size, and the amount of ease for each size. In the age of information, it is baffling that they aren't providing more information.

          In regard to fabric, why can't more of the chain fabric stores carry swatches for better dressmaking fabrics, if they don't want to invest in bolts? It works for interior design.

          Pattern companies and fabric stores should have a terminal or phone line where people can call or type in suggestions and requests AND get answers 24/7. Successful catalog companies have been changing product lines based on customer comments for years. Why isn't the sewing industry, which is struggling for customers, also seeking feedback? If they know better than we know what we want to buy, why aren't we buying it? Because their business model is out of date.

          1. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #5

            Most of the pattern companies actually do show the finished garment measurement on the pattern at the bust and hip, and sometimes waist and arm girth.  This I find very helpful as I don't have to measure the pattern.  Also Vogue and Butterick patterns use an ease chart to determine the fit of their patterns.  Each pattern states on the description - Very Loose Fitting, Loose Fitting, Fitted, and Close Fitting - there might be more, I'd have to look them up.  Anyway, in the back of the Voque patterns catalogue there is a chart that defines wearing ease and designer ease for Bust and Hip for each of these fits for different types of garments so you know how the garment was drafted to fit.  Years ago I photocopied the chart and keep it handy to use when altering patterns.  It also helps when reading the pattern description to understand the fit of the pattern (less surprises).  I also use the ease chart when teaching pattern drafting as most people don't know how much ease they should add to make a garment fit the way they want it.  Hope this helps!

          2. longwords | | #7

            It has been some time since I compared the numbers on the pattern with the measurements I got when I made up a garment, since I do very little sewing for myself now. But the last time I did, the amount of ease specified was greater than I would have expected based on the figures on the pattern envelope.

            The last couple of things I sewed I based on ready-to-wear things that I really liked. (This was after a fruitless search for similar patterns). But I will take a closer look at the patterns, since I am looking for something for this fall. Although when I'll find the time to sew, I don't know.

          3. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #8

            The numbers I'm referring to are not the body measurements that the patterns give but a separate measurement printed on the tissue at the bust and hip points.  It gives what the actual finished measurement of the garment will be when you're finished sewing it.  I use this measurement to compare to how I want it to fit when I'm done.  And, yes, I find that patterns are excessive in their generous ease compared to the body measurements.  My measurements are in the 8 - 10 range but I have to make a 6 smaller to fit properly.  I usually recommend a size at least 2 sizes bigger than what you'd wear in a high end RTW and 1 size smaller than the pattern sizing would suggest.  Even the Vogue Ease Chart I mentioned, can be a little excessive - although it depends on your size.  I go with the low end of the ease chart and only use the upper end amount for larger clients.  And even the pattern companies differ in their fit.  I have developed a method of altering purchased patterns before cutting to take some of the agony out of altering at fitting.  It's based on pattern drafting, can take upwards of an hour, but it works wonders.  So much depends on experience - the more you sew, the more you figure out the various patterns idiosyncrasies.  It's just too bad that they couldn't be more true to the measurements and standardized in fit.  Although, I guess most people eventually find that they prefer one company to another because the fit is better for them.  But this problem is one that I find turns a lot of people off from sewing - 1 or 2 bad experiences and that's it!  I don't blame them.  Fortunately I started sewing young enough that it didn't matter and by the time it did, I had it all figured out.  

          4. solly | | #9

            Thanks for the helpful information. I couldn't remember seeing any of these measurements marked on my patterns so I reached for a handy one that I hadn't opened yet. I only went as far as the skirt but it gave not only the finished measurement but the ease they had allowed. I'm certainly glad you helped educate me. I must have been looking right past them assuming I knew what was "always" there. We can all keep learning, thankfully. :-)

  2. Teaf | | #6

    I completely agree with you on the latest design challenge; I didn't even look at the video because the photo made it clear the garments were not very flattering or realistic.  They reminded me of playing with my sisters and my mother's fabric stash, doing fashion shows in the living room, where she'd delight in the many "get-ups" we'd create.  A fond memory, but not an inspiration for sewing clothes to wear in public!

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