Slow Fashion October and Talking Textile Development & Marketing

It’s the first week of Slow Fashion October, and the theme is “Introductions”. I often feel like my participation in online projects like #sewphotohop or things like that would be over the top because I’m already over-sharing online basically 24/7, but  it occurred to me that maybe this would be a good opportunity to introduce you guys to the program that I’m enrolled in at FIT in case anyone else might be interested. My interest in making turned into an interest in slow fashion, and from there, I was so intrigued with where and how textiles are made that I, a passionate non-academic, non-student type, got sucked back into school, something I NEVER wanted to do! But understanding textile processes and wanting to get involved in that world was a natural progression of my interest in slow fashion, so I thought there might be other people out there who have a similar interest.


I am doing a one-year AAS degree in textile development and marketing. The one-year programs at FIT are for people who already have some college, or a degree in another area– you take the major requirements of the regular two-year degree, but none of the general ed requirements (no freshman writing seminar, yay!). They’re geared towards older students who work and are looking for a career change or trying to learn more skills for the field they’re in, and there are a few kids from other schools who are treating the program as a study abroad. Of course, there are some 18 year-olds mixed in, and almost nothing makes me feel my age like being around people who are 15 years younger!

When I was considering going back to school, I overlooked this program for quite some time because it falls under the business and technology school umbrella. Folks, I’m not a business type! I’m a Creative Person! I don’t want to sell things or make PowerPoint presentations! But once I really examined the program, I realized that it was basically everything I wanted to learn- the geeky, technical elements of what goes into creating great textiles. It’s not a design degree (although you get to do a little bit of that), but is instead focused on fibers, weaves, performance, and end use. The first year’s curriculum includes the following eight classes:

1.) Fundamentals of Textiles: This is an intro class to textiles, and it gives you a good basis of knowledge about fibers, production processes, finishing, and applications. I took this class a little over a year ago when I was first considering the program, and it totally hooked me! I would totally recommend it to anyone in the NY area who wants to know a bit more about how different fibers behave, what they are, and how they’re made. They offer it in evenings, and anyone can take it!

2.) Introduction to the Fashion Industry: This class is the basic over to fashion merchandising that all the fashion business management majors take. It covers each step of the process of how a designer’s sketch becomes a product and lands on shelves in retail stores. There’s a big focus on trend forecasting and lots of case studies of fads, trends, successes, and flops. I took this last year as an evening class as it’s also open to anyone, and I think just about everyone in my class was a non-degree student who just wanted to know more about how the fashion business works.

3.) The History of Textile Trade and Technology: This is an interesting one! It feels like a combination anthropology and art history class. We’re studying the way that different technologies for textile creation popped up independently all over the world, and the different forces that shaped and moved textile traditions from one part of the world to others (think: the Silk Road, the Crusades, Viking sea travel).

4.) Color Creation and Sustainable Applications: This is a hands’-on class that is surprisingly science-y. We study the science of color and light, and the various systems for measuring and describing color. A large part of our homework thus far has been painting- mixing different hues, shades, and values, and just generally getting comfortable understanding how different colors work together and how they’re created. We’ve been practicing pitching through exercises like bringing in a printed fabric, and digging through the massive departmental swatch library to create alternate colorways of the print using similar values, but different hues. It’s harder than it sounds! This class is a requirement for the Ethics & Sustainability minor, so my classmates are very interesting and cool.

5.) Fabrics for Interiors: This class is focused on home dec textiles, and the teacher is focused on helping us think through which textiles are best for different applications as well as considering the design and trend perspective, not just technical aspects. Interiors fabrics are so much more varied than I initially thought- when you think about it, they’re not just in houses and hotels, but also in restaurants, cars, boats, medical facilities, campers, well, almost anything!

6.) Apparel and Home Textile Products Manufacturing: This class details the processes by which finished products are designed, sourced, costed, and produced. It’s taught by a garment factory owner and is also really built around case studies and thinking about hypothetical and real-life situations.

7.) Excel for Business: spreadsheets. Lots of spreadsheets. The less said the better!

8.) CAD and Design Fundamentals for Printed Textiles: This one really scared me before I got into the classroom! But CAD in the fashion business just means any kind of computer-aided drafting (so, Photoshop and Illustrator), not AutoCAD, phew! We create print collections, starting with a concept, moving on to a digital storyboard, and finally making multiple prints and tiling them into repeats before presenting them for critiques. We presented our first collections this week, and it was an experience that was the kind of hard where you really have to push yourself, but you can feel yourself growing! It’s been a while since I’ve really felt like I was totally in over my head, but it’s been good, in a way, although there have definitely been moments that were so overwhelming that I was tearing up in the library!

The really great thing about the program is that all the classes are taught by people that work in the industry and are really passionate about what they’re teaching. There’s also a huge interest in sustainability, whether it’s about cleaner processes, respect for traditional techniques, or developing friendlier fibers. My professors have seen firsthand the environmental impact of fast fashion and the factory conditions that accompany it, so it’s been hugely enlightening. Also, the efforts of the department to become more environmentally friendly are really laudable and super interesting- for example, students in the program instituted a muslin recycling program to the school to compost and reuse the yards and yards and yards that the fashion design department goes through every semester! And there’s even a rooftop natural dye garden– how cool is that?? Both of those programs were recent winners of the Clinton Global Initiative University program, so hopefully they’ll be introduced in other fashion schools. More recycling, please!

If you have any questions about the program, feel free to reach out to me! In the meantime, are you participating in Slow Fashion October?

Finished: Ladies’ Tailoring I (TL 111)!

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all having a great week! I’ve been meaning to write about last semester’s class for ages, but kept forgetting! Now that I’m nearly halfway through Ladies’ Tailoring II, I definitely need to tell you guys about Ladies’ Tailoring I!

Ladies’ Tailoring I is the first course in a four-semester credit certificate program at FIT. You don’t have to be enrolled in the certificate program to take it, and you don’t even have to take it for a grade, so don’t let that stop you from taking it! 🙂 My class was a mix of hobby sewers, garment industry professionals, and full-time students, so there was a wide variety of skill and experience levels present.  The professor assumed we had some sewing knowledge, but we didn’t need to have previous experience with industrial sewing machines as she taught us how to thread and operate them. So if you’ve been wanting to take a class at FIT but are nervous about using an industrial, this class was a great way to get comfortable with them!

The class is focused on developing basic tailoring skills for cutting, sewing, and finishing, as well as choosing traditional materials and notions. While we used a sewing machine for construction, most of our time was spent on hand basting and sewing. While my day-to-day sewing isn’t very careful or slow, I’ve definitely found myself developing better sewing habits since I took the class- it really pays off to, say, always mark the wrong side of your pieces, or baste in zippers before stitching them. Taking time to save time, if you will!

The class is structured so that the professor demonstrates a technique, you try it out on a sample, and then you apply it to your garment. In this class, we handed in weekly samples- they accounted for a small percentage of our final grade, but more importantly, we got feedback on our technique before moving on to the final garment. It’s so much better to make mistakes on a sample rather than a garment! The final projects, two skirts, were due on the last class, so we were able to work on them throughout the semester.

In this class, the professor provided patterns for the projects (they were both simple straight skirts, one lined and one unlined), but she allowed us a bit of flexibility with the patterns so you could incorporate different elements in the skirts, as long as you included the required bits at some point (for example, you had to turn in at least one double welt pocket, but you could choose which skirt to put it on). I was happy that I was able to use odds and ends from my stash for every sample and project in this class- woohoo!

Some of the techniques we covered were: centered and lapped zippers, hong kong piping, hand overcasting, lining, applying sew-in interfacing, bar tacks and other decorative hand stitches, side seam pockets, welt pockets, 1/4 top pockets, and hand-worked buttonholes. So, nothing terribly revolutionary if you’ve been sewing for a while, but my skills definitely improved in all these areas and I found that the pocket techniques gave much nicer results than any I’ve sewn using home sewing patterns. But, like all things tailoring, they require many steps and many pattern pieces! But a faced, French seamed pocket is about a million times nicer than my usual “ehhh, just cut out a pair of pocket bags and jam them into the side seams” approach!

Bar tack in action!

Overall, I really enjoyed this class. I’m not always a fan of sewing slowly and carefully, but I really have noticed better results in my home sewing after taking this class. Of course, every class experience varies based on the instructor, but mine was kind and patient, and you could come to her with any questions and get a clear answer. And the format she preferred, doing a demonstration and then allowing us to try it right away, made it easier to learn and remember techniques, unlike my patternmaking class where we often had a lecture that lasted the length of the entire class. Like my patternmaking final project, I’ll never actually wear these garments (straight skirts don’t suit my lifestyle or taste), but they’re headed off to Dress for Success, so hopefully they’ll have a happy ending there!

Alright, friends, what are your thought on tailoring? Sound fun? Tedious? Both? Have you taken any tailoring classes, or would you, if you could?

Let’s Go to the (Blog) Hop + Fun at FIT!

Anybody else hear the phrase “blog hop” and get “At the Hop” stuck in their head all day? I mean, I ain’t MAD… it’s a catchy tune! I’ll wait a minute for you to finish dancing.

OK. I was nominated for the writing blog hop by two of my favey-faves, Amanda of Bimble & Pimble and Vicki of Vicki Kate Makes. If you haven’t checked out their blogs before, you definitely should!

Amanda is an Aussie with a heart of gold and an infectious enthusiasm for sewing and life. Everything she posts is a hoot to read and her photos are always hilarious. Plus, she has two dogs as well, so I don’t feel like the only crazy dog lady around!

Vicki lives in the UK and is one of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever internet-met. She is so thoughtful and encouraging, and I would love to share a cup of tea with her and chat her ear off in real life. She’s got a passion for cute fit & flares and always picks a great print! Also, her son is, quite arguably, the cutest child on the face of the planet. I mean, THAT SMILE.

Let’s get down to business. The questions! Now, there were slightly different questions on Amanda’s and Vicki’s posts… I have no idea if these are two separate hops or what that’s about, but I’m being totally cheeky and combining them here!

1.) Why do you write/sew?

I got into film/TV, like most people in the field, because I’m an artsy-fartsy type. But the actual job is all organization, logistics, and problem-solving. I fell into sewing accidentally when a coworker invited me to take an intro sewing class with her and was immediately hooked. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed having a creative outlet! I love that sewing sits at the intersection of creativity and pragmatism- you get the fun process of turning an idea into a finished thing, but it’s also wearable and usable (unlike when I was really into painting and gave one to my parents… who hung it up in their laundry room).

As far as the writing part goes, I’ve always been a writer of some sort, from keeping ridiculous diaries and having an unreasonable number of pen pals as a kid (thanks to my parents who let me use tons of stamps to send letters all over the world!) to writing awkward screenplays in college and keeping a blog about books when I first moved to NYC. But I’ve really appreciated finding the sewing blog community because it’s so much more fun to connect with people over the shared love of craft! I’m an extreme extrovert and I love being part of an online community where I’m constantly finding new bloggers, new techniques, and new ideas. And it’s so cool to befriend people online and in real life that you otherwise wouldn’t cross paths with- it’s nice to interact with people from different walks of life!

2.) What is your writing/sewing process?

My sewing process generally begins with a list of projects to make that I write up every time the seasons change and then promptly ignore in favor of whatever suits my fancy! I’m a “fly by the seat of my pants” person and I tend to make whatever I’m in the mood for, although I’m trying to be a little more focused so that I’m spending my time wisely. In the past I’ve often gotten to the end of a season and realized that I didn’t make the garment I most wanted to wear, so I’m trying to remedy that and prioritize makes a bit more.

My writing process is pretty unorganized. I take blog photos and then sort of blast out a post without thinking through it too much. I’ve recently started a little notebook to keep notes in for each project because I often forget what changes I’ve made to a pattern, what size I cut, or what changes I’d like to make the next time. Hopefully this will help me remember things and write more detailed posts!

3.) How does it differ from others in its genre?

I don’t take things very seriously around here, which might be different from some blogs. Sewing is about experimentation and play for me, rather than a serious pursuit. I want to do a good job and use the right techniques, but I like to try new things and don’t mind looking a little goofy. Also, pugs! (See also: Where Heather Grows and Shanni Loves for more pug-spiration)

4.) How do you keep motivated to blog?

I feel like I’m checking in with my friends when I blog, but even when I’m not blogging with super frequency, I like to stay on top of my blogroll and see what everyone else is up to. Blogging has always felt like a dialogue to me, and since I’m super chatty, I always want to do it. The only thing that’s a mojo killer for me is feeling obligated to post. I receive a lot of requests to review books or pattern test, and I only say yes to a few things because I don’t want to feel like blogging is a heavy responsibility. The second I “have” to do something, my inner rebellious teen just doesn’t wanna do it and I don’t want to blog at all, so I try to keep obligations to a minimum. I feel like you would be able to tell if my heart’s not in it! Also, if there’s a garment that I don’t feel like blogging about, I just don’t do it! I try to review every new pattern I try, but I hate asking Man Friend to help me with photos of a basic garment or something I’ve made before, so I just skip ahead to the next thing to cut down on the number of photo shoots he has to do.

5.) What are you working on right now?

Ooh, I’m so excited to tell you! I’m starting in on a coat project! Right now I’m still not quite settled on the fabric or the pattern (I want to make six or seven coats, but I NEED to just make one), although I’ve gotten the options down to two fabrics and two patterns and I just need to make the final decision. I’ve just ordered a used copy of The Complete Book of Tailoring by Adele Margolis and am anxiously awaiting its delivery! Still trying to decide if I want to go crazy with interlining and tailoring… decisions, decisions!

Now, I had a hard time deciding who to choose to do this hop next, so I decided to cheat a little and pick the authors of the two blogs I’ve followed for the longest time and for the shortest! I haven’t emailed them, so don’t feel any pressure to do it, girls, but do check out their blogs, everyone! Gail at Today’s Agenda is one of the very first bloggers I followed that’s still active, and I’m anxiously following her October tailored blazer project! Chloe’s blog, Loops and Life, is brand new to me, but I love her style and kinda want to steal all her handmade clothes! If any of you readers want to answer these questions, consider yourselves nominated!

OK, I have a little business to attend to! Patricia from Laurence King Publishing asked me to announce an event that’s happening at FIT on Tuesday, November 4th. They’re bringing three of their authors to FIT to speak about their books. I’m really looking forward to Karolyn Kiisel’s draping demonstration- I’ve watched her on the DVD that accompanies Draping: The Complete Course, and she’s super entertaining! New Yorkers, come check it out! You don’t need an FIT ID to get into this event, luckily. 🙂

Speaking of FIT, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet on the blog, but I’m taking a ladies’ tailoring course this semester and it’s super fun! I’ll give you a full run-down when I’ve finished the class, but… I’m sort of scared even saying this out loud… I’m kind of getting into slower sewing processes. I KNOW. It’s very soothing for this fidgety gal to do repetitive hand sewing!

Alright, what’s shaking with you guys? What are you working on these days? What’s new?

Finished: Patternmaking I (PM 121)!

Hi, all!  If you heard a gigantic sigh of relief radiating from the east coast of the U.S.A. last week, that was probably me turning in my final project for my first patternmaking class at FIT!  It was such an adventure– I’ve been excited to tell you guys about it, but struggled to find the time to post!

The class, PM 121 (Patternmaking I: Misses’ and Womenswear), is the first class in the patternmaking certificate program at FIT, a credit program for evening/weekend students.  Over the course of 15 weeks, we learned the basics of drafting front and back bodice slopers as well as sleeve and collar variations.   We started with the absolute basics, spending time learning how to take careful, accurate measurements before we began developing and fitting basic bodice slopers first in paper, then in muslin.  (Just a note if you’re planning to take the class– you’ll be working with a single dress form, so unless you are lucky enough to have the measurements and proportions of an older dress form, you probably won’t be able to fit into anything you make).  Once we perfected the fit of our slopers, we studied variations for bodices, yokes, sleeves, collars, and necklines, and our final project was drafting, patterning, and sewing a blouse to fit our dress form and conform with industry standards.

Here’s my bodice sloper in muslin form! Remember darts are drafted to the apex, so excuse the, erm, pointy bits…

One thing I really appreciated about the class was getting a little better grasp on some of the rules of pattern drafting.  I tend to be a sort of “let’s wing it and see what happens!” type of person (probably not the ideal seamstress, ha), so it was good to learn the textbook method for things I’ve been doing wrong all along like adding seam allowances to patterns or drafting facings.  Once I learned some of the rules it was fun to learn where I have more freedom to experiment (for example, you can draft a collar to any size, but you want to make sure it’s always 1/4″ deeper than the collar stand so your stand doesn’t peek out beneath the collar).  These are probably really obvious to most of you, but I didn’t know them coming into the class.  I also appreciated the emphasis on working from seamlines– it really does make fit or style alterations much quicker to work from a sloper without seam allowances, something I haven’t experienced before since I sew mainly from commercial patterns with the SA already added in.

The final project in all its glory! The poly charmeuse (brought in by a classmate who works for Vera Wang) was tough to press and there are some odd wrinkles from the twill tape on the dress form underneath it, but you get the idea.

I’m really glad that I learned some techniques that will be really helpful for my personal sewing (things like drafting a sleeve placket or a collar stand).  While many of the things we drafted are pretty old-fashioned or dated, it’s still good to know how to do it.  But, if I’m being perfectly honest, I found the class experience to be a bit frustrating at times.  Since my crazy job schedule leaves me with limited time to sew, I tend to be a results-based sewist and enjoy quicker projects more rewarding.  Sometimes it was hard to make myself work and work and work on patterns and muslins for garments that I couldn’t fit into and wouldn’t wear even if I could.  Patternmaking is time-consuming and can be very, very tedious, and there was a lot more homework than I anticipated.  Since class and homework sucked up almost all of the free time I normally dedicate to sewing my own garments, my fun hobby turned into a bit of a chore and I had a tough time keeping up with my Mood Sewing Network deadlines.

Look at those sleeves! The cropped bodice with the 1/4 circle sleeves looks like Daisy Duke joined a church choir, ugh!

If I sound a little negative about the class, it’s not because of the quality of the class, but rather because patternmaking isn’t really my strong suit.  I’m sloppy, don’t enjoy detail work, and am terrible with numbers, so I continually made lots of dumb mistakes that took a long time to fix and really frustrated me.  And I’ve never been much of a student, so it was an adjustment to be back in class, especially a nearly-four-hour class at the end of a long work day.   But the information I learned in the class was really good and I’ll definitely be utilizing it in the future.  Plus, if you’re a NY resident, the tuition is really affordable (the rate for an entire semester is about the same as what you would pay for a four-session class at the average Manhattan sewing studio, and I’ll guarantee that you will learn a lot more).  I’m really impressed by the wide variety of classes offered at FIT, and if my schedule and budget allow, I’d love to keep taking classes there (not to go all Portlandia on you guys, but I spied students working in a jewelry lab with soldering irons and little blowtorches and guys, I WANNA USE LITTLE BLOWTORCHES!).

So, let’s hear from you guys!  Do any of you have any experience with patternmaking or with sewing classes?  What were your experiences like?  And for you patternmakers out there, does it get easier?  Am I basically doomed if I’m the kind of person who goofs up measurements or adds them up incorrectly?  Are you interested in drafting your own patterns?  Would you take a patternmaking class if you could?