June 08, 2015

Hawaiian quilt pt. 1

I started a quilt. The idea for this quilt has been floating around my head for a few years. I had some Hawaiian printed cottons left over from other projects and I wanted to use them in a modern style quilt. I have only three colors to work with, purple, green, and white. I had a hard time visualizing the overall look of the quilt, so I drew up a version using Inkscape*. I could have taken this a step further and scanned the fabric into the drawing, but this was close enough. I still have not decided on the final borders. It partially depends on how much of each color I have left after piecing the blocks. I'm fairly certain I will not be using green on the outside border. I may go for white instead with green bias binding.

Here are the actual fabrics, cut and ready to go.


The pattern came from Fat Quarter Fun by Karen Snyder and is called Summer Fun. I really liked this quilting book. Most of the patterns are simple, using primarily fat quarters for the tops. This particular quilt is a bit small, IMO, so I've added some additional blocks to bump it up to a full size. I'm also using yardage instead of fat quarters. Because of that, I think I should have cut and sewn things a little bit differently. More on that later. I'm excited to finally have started this project.

*Inkscape has some nifty drawing tools, including cloning. I did not use that feature here, but it would have been a perfect opportunity to use it.

May 28, 2015

Blog Hop - Four Questions and Answers

I was nominated by Olgalyn of the O! Jolly! Crafting Fashion blog to participate in a Four Questions and Answers blog hop. It was nice to get to know Olgalyn. She has a very stylish blog and does lots of interesting projects, so be sure to check out her blog.

1. Why do I write?

I started this blog in 2006. At that time, blogging was the new internet thing. People were getting published and making a name for themselves with blogging. I guess people still do. I am a pattern maker and technical designer and I wanted to share what I had learned over the years working in the fashion industry. I hope that my writing has helped others -- it has certainly helped me. Writing has helped me work through some difficult topics and ideas in pattern making. Doing so helps me understand those topics more deeply. One of my college teachers gave the class an assignment to write sewing instructions for someone else. It was extraordinarily difficult and blogging has enabled me to improve in that area. I try really hard to lighten otherwise dull subjects and bring them down to earth. I also like to share fun projects that I am currently working on so that the blog is not always weighed down with such heavy writing.

I also write a reading blog. This is just a place for me to keep track of what I'm reading.

2. What am I working on?

So.many.projects. Seriously, I try to be monogamous in my non-work, hobby related projects because I just haven't had the mental or physical energy of late to do too much. It doesn't always work. I set a goal to make a quilt this year. I was finally able to start it this month. The fabrics came from Blackpearl Designs (unfortunately these prints are no longer available) and have been sitting in my stash for quite a while. The quilt idea has been percolating for at least a year.
I'm also spindle spinning some local fiber (pictures to come later).

I have two big long-term projects. I've been writing a book on the sizing and grading of children's apparel. It is over half done, but I had to put it on the back burner earlier this year because I started working as a pattern maker again. Things have slowed down a bit again and I hope to pick it up again this year. I'm also working on a software project, but I've also not made progress due to work-related priorities. I am determined to finish both projects eventually.

3. How does my blog differ from others in its genre?

I tend to write about technical topics in the fashion industry, primarily on grading and pattern making. My most popular blog entries are neck circumferences for infants, tutorial on how to remove/reduce sleeve cap ease, and how to sew set-in sleeves. So my blog is not very fashionable or fashion oriented even though I still talk about it.

4. How does my writing process work?

In the past, I would be inspired by a topic or a current project and just immediately sit down and write. There was little planning or photo taking. It took until this year for me to sit down and create a publishing schedule and calendar with self-imposed deadlines. I did pretty well with it until February when I took on some new pattern making work and I couldn't keep up with it. I take more time with my writing, so I try to write when I have time and schedule the posts to appear more regularly. The goal is to publish twice a week, though it still varies due to my work schedule. I keep track of my blog ideas in my bullet journal.

It's at this point that I'm supposed to nominate other bloggers. I must confess I'm drawing a blank, so blame me if the blog hop chain runs dry. I would appreciate some suggestions in the comments below.

May 26, 2015

Grading from body measurements pt. 3

This is part three of an ongoing discussion about N. A. Schofield's article Pattern Grading found in the Sizing in Clothing book. Part one is here, part two here. I recommend reading the previous parts of this series before reading this one.

So what were the results of Schofield's experiment? I can't reproduce the actual results here, but it was something like this.

Imagine the square is a bodice pattern piece in one size. The star is supposed to be the same pattern piece but graded to the next size. Clearly, the two shapes have no proportional relationship to each other. The problem is further compounded by a different grade for corresponding pieces.

Imagine these are front and back bodice pattern pieces. Each corresponding pattern piece was graded separately based on the measurement data for that body location. Now imagine trying to sew the front and back together. It can't be done. Schofield freely admits the difficulty in the results. Though she also believes we need to learn how to deal with new shapes in pattern pieces in order to achieve superior fit.

Schofield's experiment left me with a lot of questions. I did not understand completely why she rejected the ASTM measurement data, nor why she went back to essentially raw data. Her grading methodology left me a bit confused. The results were clearly not suitable for industry application. Superior fit is the holy grail of fashion, but I'm not convinced that grading is the entire source of the problem. Superior fit, for each individual might only be achieved on an individual basis. In this case, 3D body scanning and customized clothing is the answer, but is it practical?

I would like to see this experiment repeated. The factors that will impact additional experiments are the measurement data and grading methodology. Why not use ASTM measurement data? Why not use traditional grading methods? I always support those who are willing to test ideas and theories. This was a worthy attempt by Schofield to ask important why and how questions.

April 16, 2015

Grading from body measurements pt. 2

This is part two of an ongoing discussion about N. A. Schofield's article Pattern Grading found in the Sizing in Clothing book. Part one is here.

My initial reaction to the idea of grading from body measurements was, "Well, of course we should." And in fact, we do for children's clothing. It seemed rather obvious to me to look at children's clothing as a model. Children's sizing is based on the idea of growth, meaning that the measurement intervals between sizes are not always consistent.

Let's look at an example for a 4-6x size range.*

For sizes  4, 5, 6, 6x
Chest: 23, 24, 25, 25.5
Waist: 21.5, 22, 22.5, 23
Hip: 23.5, 24.5, 25.5, 26.5

The grade works out to be, choosing size 5 as the base size:
Chest: 1, 0, 1, 1.5
Waist: 0.5, 0, 0.5, 0.5
Hip: 1, 0, 1, 1

In this example, we have a 1" chest grade, except for size 6x which is 1.5". The waist is a 0.5" inch grade and the hip returns to a 1" grade for all sizes. Each body measurement area has it's own grade.

In women's clothing a 2" grade means that the interval change between the sizes will be 2" for chest, waist, and hips. Though even this isn't true across all brands, and you will find variations. (IMO, this is a good thing)

I don't know the history of women's sizing well enough to explain how this mode of practice came to be nor exactly why. It is clear that it does make grading, especially hand grading, much easier in practice. It is also unclear to me that grading is the source of our fitting woes. Nevertheless, it does make sense to me to go back and look at body measurements and devise a more precise grade rule.

The question then becomes, which body measurements do we use? In my children's example above, the numbers are still nice and easy to work with. The body measurements have been intentionally manipulated to be easy to work with. Raw measurement data was averaged, sorted, and studied to arrive at some numbers. Those numbers were not easy to work with, so a group of industry professionals sat down and made them that way. They modified certain measurements by about 1/8" to achieve consistency. Their modifications were rather minor and easily fall within a statistical margin of error. If you read their reasoning, it makes sense. This manipulation of measurement data for ease of use continues today in more modern measurement studies. It seems deceitful, but at the end of the day is infinitely practical. ASTM D4910 inherits this method of data handling from the measurement studies done in the 1940s, but does provide some updated measurements.

Looking at the Misses body measurement chart, ASTM D5585, it seems to be arranged and handled in the same was as the children's body measurement chart. IOW, the chart does not show a 1, 1.5, or 2 inch grade in the body measurements. It is a lot like the children's example above. There does seem to be a disconnect between measurement data and grading, at least on the surface. Individual companies will decide how to interpret and implement measurement data, and therefore their grade rules. (IMO, I think this is a good thing). And some will use a 2 inch grade, and some will not.

So what measurement data did Schofield use? She rejected the ASTM charts and created her own version of measurements derived from body measurement studies. This presented a problem because measurement studies do not always include the measurements needed for pattern making and grading. Schofield did not normalize the data, in other words make it easy to work with. Also she had to figure out how to deal with missing measurement data. I no longer have a copy of the article and can't look back, but Schofield selected certain measurements over others. How and why she handled those measurements puzzled me.

I believe Schofield's goal was to remove the idea of maintaining an ideal proportion or predictable pattern shape. She wanted to see what the body measurements really did between sizes.

Her results were almost predictable. More on that later.

*These measurements come from the withdrawn child measurement standard CS151-50. Measurements are in inches.

April 09, 2015

Grading from body measurements pt. 1

Pattern grading is the process by which new sizes are developed from an existing pattern. There are various methods or processes used to grade a pattern. These methods include slash-and-spread, shifting, and CAD. At the end of the day, each method accomplishes the same thing, a new size.

The apparel industry has received a lot of criticism for their sizing, especially of women's clothing. At it's core, sizing goes hand-in-hand with pattern grading. You have to define your sizes in order to grade a pattern. In order to grade a pattern you have to know body measurements for each size. The common grade rules for women's apparel is the 1", 1.5" and 2" grade rules used in the United States. Similar grade rules are found in Europe and the UK. The primary criticism is that these grade rules are not based on anthropometric data, or actual body measurements. Instead these grade rules are just pulled out of a hat without regard to women or their fitting needs. These arbitrary grade rules are merely for the convenience of industry.

This is the point of view taken by N. A. Schofield in her article Pattern Grading found in the Sizing in Clothing book. The goal of her research was to test the idea of creating grade rules based on actual body measurements rather than an arbitrary grade rule. There has been a lot of criticism of the industry over sizing and it is a worthy goal to research alternatives. Asking the why questions. Why does the apparel industry do things the way they do? Why do we grade women's clothing this way? Can we do it differently? I've asked a lot of these same questions as I've looked at children's clothing. When I started out, I didn't understand the why and sometimes the answer was not satisfying. Well, that's just how it is is not a very good answer. I can totally get behind Schofield's motivation.

And yet, I feel like I am setting up to be very critical of Schofield's research and I don't want to give the impression, as an industry professional, that even asking the questions were wrong. She was right to ask the question and to test an alternative. The results of her research are interesting and ironically (and indirectly) add support to current practices.

So here are some of Schofield's main arguments:

1. 1", 1.5", and 2" grade rules are not based on anthropometric data. Meaning it is not based on body measurements or the proportional relationships between body parts/areas. These grade rules were intended for the convenience and ease  of hand grading.

2. Grade rules should be derived from body measurements. This means that grade breaks between bust, waist, and hips should not be consistent. Instead of a 34-36-38 chest measurement, we should be seeing a 34-35.5-38 (just as an example), chest measurement.

3. Size prediction and also body measurement prediction needs refinement. This idea is rather complex. Body measurement studies create a lot of raw data. In order to make sense of it, statisticians will test size prediction by using one or two body measurements. So can you predict the overall body size by using just the height or chest measurement? And if you do that, what influence does that have on other body measurements? If a person gets taller, do they also get wider? It is a complex question and not easily answered because there are so many variables. Statisticians bring order to raw measurement data so that we can organize the body measurements into sizes. They do this by averaging and, in some cases, normalizing the data so we can work with it easily. Schofield implies that we should just rely on the measurement data.

The ultimate goal of this study was to improve overall fit of women's apparel by basing grade rules on actual body measurements. I'll have to break up my review of this study into multiple blog entries because I have a lot to say about it. So stay tuned.