January 29, 2015

The Myrtle Cardigan Finished!

I started this knitting project April 2013 and I finally finished it December 2014, about a week before Christmas. I would work on the sweater in the evenings in front of mindless television. I could only manage about 2 rows per evening before I had to set it down. Towards the end I was finally comfortable enough with the lace pattern that I could pick up some speed.

I did modify the pattern for me. I lengthened the body of the sweater by two repeats and raised the neckline by two repeats. The sleeves have lace down the center of the sleeve and stockinette for the rest. The sleeve mod was a good choice because I couldn't figure out the pattern instructions for an allover lace pattern. I think it looks just fine with the stockinette. There is still some remaining funkiness on the sleeve cap decreases, but I made it work. I was a little concerned the sweater would be too small, but it blocked out to the right size just fine.

A lot of the reviewers on Ravelry rated this pattern with medium difficulty. I rated it as difficult, just below advanced. This is because the knitter has to really pay attention to the pattern instructions, which are not typical. Some knitters have complained about that. I think for a lace design, it would be difficult to design a pattern that works in multiple sizes. The designer came up with a really interesting approach by using blocks of lace and building the size. I'm not sure every size works equally well. For example, the lace pattern for the sleeve as written in the medium size just didn't work for me. I'm not sure if it was me or not, but it was not clear. Overall the pattern needed some refinement and further editing. For experienced knitters this is a minor problem. For beginners, or advanced beginners, this pattern would be difficult. I'm so grateful for Ravelry. I spent quit a lot of time looking at other people's projects so I could see what other people experienced. I was able to mark several projects as helpful, and refer back to them.

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll in Sapphire Heather
Needle size: US 5 and US 6

January 27, 2015

Creating sizing systems

This is a continuation of my review of Sizing in Clothing. The previous blog entries are History of Sizing, and the Book Review.

By Downtowngal (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
What does it take to create a sizing system? We often taken for granted a size chart on a retail website or print catalog. And when something doesn't fit, it's easy to blame the size system used by the manufacturer. And we've all been there. Shopping for blue jeans or a swimsuit causes a lot of anxiety and stress as we go through more than one size to find something that fits. A. Petrova discussed all of the variables that go into making those size charts that help you select the right size in the article Creating Sizing Systems found in the Sizing in Clothing book.

So what does it take? The first big step is to measure a population and then to divide that population into various body shapes such as Misses, Petites, Tall, Plus, etc. Each category is defined by certain control dimensions such as height, weight, waist, chest, hips, or whatever is considered the key dimensions. Usually there are 3-4 key body measurements. These kind of measurement studies are expensive and are usually undertaken by government, universities, and trade organizations.

Next, each category is subdivided into sizes contained within a size range. Each category is labelled a size designation. It could be Small-Medium-Large, or numbers such as 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. These size labels are meaningless until associated with a set of body measurements. (We could get into a discussion of vanity sizing here but it really doesn't matter what you call a size. It's the underlying body measurements that are key). In the US, we are accustomed to knowing what size to start with when shopping without knowing our body measurements. In the EU, there are similar difficulties though there has been some push to adopt the centilong system. This system identifies a size by height with some corresponding girth measurements. Not all European manufacturers have done this and some are as inconsistent in application as their American counterparts.

A. Petrova continues the article with some ideas on how to develop size systems or charts based on garment styles versus just body measurements. The biggest disadvantage to this idea is that the customer would need to know several size scales when shopping, making shopping a complicated experience. The advantage is that fit could be fine tuned, maybe.

So who is to blame when clothes don't fit? Is it the size chart? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many variables that it is hard to select just one reason. The fit model used in pattern development may match the size chart, but not be representative of the consumer. In other words there could be a mismatch between expectations and reality between the manufacturer and the customer. Grade rules may not match or equal actual body grades - which is a discussion for another article. Perhaps the size chart information was incomplete, lacked sufficient instruction, or had a typo. Poor construction or poor fabric quality play a factor. When analyzing sales information and returns, all of these things have to be considered.

January 20, 2015

Relying on old body measurements and pattern drafting instructions

There is a certain bit of nostalgia when looking back in time. We often say, "They don't build things like they used to," implying that we paid closer attention to quality and details. This same kind of thinking is also found in pattern making and sewing. There is a general assumption that the way things were done in the past are better then they are now. Some pull out old measurement charts and drafting instructions to recreate the past for a better present. We don't even have to go very far. There is the hope of a stylish outfit made of a 1950's sewing pattern and thinking that it will fit.

Before I go any further, let me say there is nothing wrong with looking backward and trying to understand how things were done. It is a fun exercise to draft a pattern using old instructions or sewing up that vintage pattern. This is about using old body measurement data and pattern drafting instructions to create modern clothing.

There are some key factors that make up a size - height, weight, girth, and shape. I suppose in the 1890s pattern makers and tailors were just beginning to understand the relationships between each of those factors. At least for men's clothing. Women's clothing was still a guessing game requiring customized fit. It wasn't until the 1940s that we began to see the connection to height, weight, and girth. Statistical analysis could finally show that when one factor changes, the others do as well. The studies done by Ruth O'Brien and her committee allowed us to see and understand body proportions and shapes and use that information to predict overall size. This information was not truly implemented until the 1950s and 1960s. Other studies have come along to add to our knowledge. A study in the early 1970s expanded our knowledge of children's body measurements. Another study, SizeUSA, was released in 2004 and greatly enhanced our knowledge of the US population using 3D body scanners.*

If you draft a pattern using older drafting instructions and body measurement charts, you will create something that is based on that time's understanding of body proportions and measurements. If that is your goal, then all is well and good. But if you find a free measurement chart dating back even 50 years, then you are placing your product in the 1950s.

We know this because not only has our understanding of anthropometry increased, but we know that the body measurements of a population change over time. If you are interested in creating your own line, it is in your best interest to obtain the most recent (and reliable) measurement data you can.

*Unfortunately the SizeUSA data is held behind a very expensive lock and key. Access is only available to those willing to pay a pretty hefty sum despite the study receiving tax dollars. Some ASTM body measurement charts have been updated to incorporate the study data. The ASTM children's body measurement chart is a mash-up of data that incorporates multiple studies dating back to Ruth O'Brien's 1941 study and some more modern data.

January 15, 2015

1,000 blogs in my feed reader and counting

I read. I read a lot. I probably read too much. I read books, and if you want to know what books I'm currently reading, you can check out my Reader's Loft Blog. I read all kinds of books from young adult to adult non-fiction of some rather heavy topics to fluffy romances. I also read blogs. I probably have 1,000 feeds in my blog reader.

It's the blogs that get my biggest time sink. I keep meaning to cull the herd, so to speak. There are some blogs I never get around to reading because they either post too frequently or the subject just doesn't inspire me. Other blogs have not been updated in years, long abandoned by the writer. I need to go through my list and delete these, but with 1,000 blogs, that may take some time. Some blogs start out with one focus but then change completely. These types of blogs get deleted right away. And then there are the blogs that have fantastic photography with lots of project inspiration and they go commercial. Commercial as in they start pushing products that have nothing to do with their original blog focus. And they post several times a week. Often they disclose it is an affiliate or paid posting, but all it does is clog my feed reader by taking up space. I wouldn't mind if it is once in a while, after all I also post affiliate links so I understand why they are doing it.* But not every day. No thanks. I also do not like blogs that only allow the feed catcher to get the synopsis and not the whole article. I don't like having to open the blog article in a browser because it just adds time. If I can't skim it in my feed reader, it often gets skipped.

So I started looking through my blog feed reader, you might be wondering what blogs are catching my attention. Here are some of my favorites (in addition to the ones listed on the right):

Cooking and Health
Fat Head
Counting My Spoons
Gluten-free on a shoestring

Susan B. Anderson

Sewing Princess
ReFashion Co-op

World Label

Awful Library Book

With over a 1,000 feeds, it is hard to narrow it down to just a few. Believe me there are many more. And, of course, if there is something that you read that is fantastic, leave a link in the comments.

*Any links to Amazon should be considered affiliate links.

January 13, 2015

What size is your pixel?

Last September I began to follow a discussion on pixels in the Inkscape Developer's mailing list. The concern was centered around units and how they are used in Inkscape. In the early days of graphical drawing it was assumed the user would want to see their drawing full scale. In other words if you drew a box that was 1 inch square, you would want to see that displayed on the screen. In order for that to happen, a definition had to be created to tell the computer how many pixels were equivalent to one inch.

In digital imaging, a pixel, pel,[1] or picture element[2] is a physical point in a raster image, or the smallest addressable element in an all points addressable display device; so it is the smallest controllable element of a picture represented on the screen. The address of a pixel corresponds to its physical coordinates. LCD pixels are manufactured in a two-dimensional grid, and are often represented using dots or squares, but CRT pixels correspond to their timing mechanisms and sweep rates.  (Wikipedia)
Over the years pixel sizes, and screen resolutions, have changed. We have far superior displays on our desktops then those early developers did. We can fit more pixels into that one inch than was ever thought possible. The whole discussion about pixel sizes and resolutions, gets rather complicated. Generally speaking, what a user sees on screen is what they want to get in print. How to achieve that is rather difficult.

Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator are vector drawing programs. This means that drawing lines and objects are stored on the computer as mathematical equations. Vector drawing programs are known for their precision, accuracy, and scalability. Programs like Gimp and Photoshop are raster-based drawing programs, programs that allow you to manipulate individual pixels. You cannot scale images up, only down, because the computer cannot fill in the holes. Lines are fuzzy because they are built of individual pixels. Both pieces of software have their advantages for different uses. The differences have begun to blur in the last few years. Inkscape and AI can now do things that were exclusively in the domain of Photoshop, and yet store the drawing as a vector drawing. Of course, Inkscape and AI are used in an environment in which the vector drawing is displayed via Pixels.

There is one reason to bring this topic up, as complex and boring as it may be. There is an increasing trend among indie pattern makers in the use of Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator for pattern making. In fact, you can take classes on the subject from various sources. These software programs do work - to a point. I've noticed with Inkscape a tendency for a certain fuzziness. I've created precise drawings where I've entered the dimensions and printed them. The measurements of the printed drawing were always a little off. Inkscape is not entirely at fault, though the developers have worked on improving this in the up coming release. There are a lot of variables that we have to contend with. Your display, drawing, and printer all play a factor in the accuracy of the measurements used.

The best way to test your current setup is to draw a square in your program, such as 1 inch x 1 inch. Print it out and measure it. Be sure to look at the print quality and width of your lines. Are the lines cleanly and clearly defined? Does your square measure as expected? Do you have to measure to the outside or inside of the line to achieve the desired measurement?

I took some time to test Inkscape with my current display and printer. First, I'll show you the printed results.

The print out is pretty good. I drew a 2 inch square and it printed out as a 2 inch square. BTW, this was a square with a 1px stroke and no fill. You would think with these results, there would be no problem.

But next, I measured what I saw on the screen. The 2 inch square actually measures 1.875" x 1.875".  If this were an actual pattern piece, an 1/8" can make a difference, especially in grading. This kind of error would become magnified with each grade step. Also, the placement of critical components such as pockets, drill holes, buttonholes, seam allowances, darts, and notches could all be off by just a little bit. This is part of the problem that the Inkscape developers were concerned about.

And here is where the fuzzy math comes in.

I drew a square and entered in the exact dimensions for width and height of 2.000. Clicking off the square and then reselecting it shows that the square now measures 2.011 x 2.011 inches. Not a big deal if creating a drawing for the web or a poster. But it is a big deal when creating a precise drawing. As a user, until I print something out, I have no idea if the drawing will measure as expected. If I make adjustments, I have to take into account what I see on the screen and what Inkscape reports back to me. Fuzzy, much?

I don't know if this is a bug specific to Inkscape (0.48) or my hardware. I also don't know if this will be true in the next release (0.91). I don't know how Adobe Illustrator tests out. I do know that Inkscape and AI are not the greatest tools for pattern making and grading.

Perhaps you are thinking this is much to do about nothing. If it mostly works, then why worry about it? Specialized apparel CAD systems are optimized to not only create high precision drawings, but to do it efficiently. Sure Inkscape and AI have their place, maybe they will work for you. But if you really want to get to the next level, you need the right tools.