I’m in the middle of writing one of the most labor-intensive sewing instructions I’ve written so far. The pattern itself won’t be difficult to sew, but perfecting all the pattern pieces and writing a very clear set of instructions can be incredibly challenging. The harder it is for me, however, the easier I hope it will be for our customers. And this is going to be a good pattern. I’m really excited about it.
I usually love my job, but there’s a point during the development of each pattern when I think to myself, “This is never going to work. What have I gotten myself into?” It’s a panicky feeling, but I’m gradually learning that it always works out if I give it time. Before having S, I designed very complicated outerwear with zipper garages, gussets, and all sorts of crazy technical details. The next time you go to a sporting goods store, look at the ski jacket shells (by which I mean, the outermost of the various layers you can assemble—the waterproof, breathable one). That will give you an idea what I’m accustomed to doing, from sourcing the fabrics to choosing the zipper pull. It’s the masochistic side of me that adores the pages and pages of elaborately detailed drawings which comprise a design packages of this nature. I think that quality lends itself well to writing sewing instructions, too, but sometimes I need to remind myself that I can do it.
Today I was thinking about my first day of design school. After years of sewing for myself and watching my Mom sew for us, it was quite a shock to enter the classroom. Our wonderful, almost-retired Italian draping professor gave us a polite dressing-down, telling us to ditch the pincushions and the cute little sewing scissors. What we needed was a box of stainless steel straight pins (no glass heads, please) and a pair of (giant-looking) 10” or 12” shears. And home sewing machines? Hmph. We should invest in an industrial sewing machine. (Industrial machines, by the by, weigh a ton, sit in a tray full of oil that keeps the machine lubricated, and only stitch straight stitches forward. I never bought one, even though my 60+ year old Singer nearly didn’t make it through the strenuous workout I gave it that year.)
Now that I have experience with both home sewing and working in the garment industry, I find that I bring a little bit of both to my current work. I still dip into a bowlful of steel pins regularly (which drives everyone crazy because we’re constantly finding pins on the floor at the studio and at home), but I keep a cute little pincushion (with glass-headed pins!) near the sewing machine as well, for when I sew more delicate fabrics or have the luxury of a little more time to spend. I still love my dressmaking shears, but I also still use a home sewing machine. I don’t own a serger (or merrow machine, as it’s called in the industry) because I suspect that many of our customers don’t own one either. It would make life much easier and make my sewing go faster, but I like to write patterns using the same sewing methods our customers use because I think it helps me to write a more accurate and realistic set of instructions.
It’s a funny combination, but it works.