March 03, 2015

So much to do, yet so little time.

I knit this dishcloth in January. I wanted something mindless after finishing up the Myrtle cardigan. I used a size 8 needle and worsted weight cotton. This is my favorite dishcloth pattern because I like the square corners. I can't seem to do that on granny's favorite (diagonal) dishcloth. The larger needle keeps the stitches a bit looser, which I prefer for washing up. This pattern is the double bump dishcloth and is found on Ravelry.

I am back to pattern making and technical design again, which means my free time has shrunk. It is great to get back into it as I did miss it. The added work has delayed the grading book, yet again and made it more difficult to pursue other interests. It has also made me more tired. I haven't been able to get a handle on this chronic fatigue yet. Despite the extra work, I have to make an effort for down time and that is hard to do with two busy jobs. Mindless knitting in the evening is one of my go to activities.

February 10, 2015

Size standardization

In academic circles there is the idea that we need one measurement and sizing standard to solve all our fitting problems. A top down approach with no allowance for variation. Customers often complain that manufacturers have no idea what they are doing because nothing ever fits. Manufacturers face an enormous challenge in trying to interpret size specifications while at the same time meeting the needs of their customers. The more I read about sizing the more chaotic it seems. At the end of the day there is more than one way to look at size standardization, and I think only one battle to fight.

One standard to rule them all

Yes, the idea that one standard can be established for everyone. By forcing compliance we will have peace on earth, and yes, our clothes will fit! Considering the variety of shapes and sizes in the United States alone, the idea is really a fantasy.

  • One standard guarantees that some of the population will not have any clothes that fit. One could argue this situation exists today, so why not try one standard. With no allowance to adapt to fit the wide range of shapes and sizes, then outliers will never have clothes that fit.
  • Our population is constantly changing. The most recent sizing study revealed that we are taller and weigh more than we did in the past. One standard would quickly become outdated.
  • Sizing studies are very expensive and labor intensive. Studies are not done frequently, so manufacturers will always be behind what is happening in the real world.

Loosely conforming to a standard while yet adapting to meet a customer's need.

Even if one standard to rule them all is unrealistic, we still need a standard. ASTM and the latest Sizing USA study have provided us with a standard that any manufacturer can use (for a price, of course). These measurement and sizing specs can act as a guide, a place to start. As a manufacturer develops their customer profile, they can adapt these standards to meet the needs of their customer.

Over the years, it's important to compare your product against these standards. I've seen patterns and sizing drift from these standards naturally through errors. These errors are not intentional, they just happen and can easily pass from one style to the next. So a careful study and comparison can bring things back. This includes measuring fit models and comparing them against the standard and analyzing customer returns due to fit issues. 

In-house size standardization

Once a sizing standard is established for a brand, it is important to adhere to that standard during product development. As an example, all new pants styles have the same finished length and waist sizes as specified. Variations in fit can come from multiple sources due to fabric variations (or problems), construction issues (taking too big/small a seam allowance, cutting errors), or variations in a pattern. You have to be careful not to draft a pattern from scratch every time. Pattern makers in the industry will use the patterns from an already proven style to develop the new style. This practice ensures consistent fit across styles. A quality control process through each step of development and production is necessary to find problems before they become big ones.

A few words on vanity sizing

Vanity sizing implies that a manufacturer wilfully chooses to ignore a size standard and relabel a size smaller than it actually is. I do not believe there is a vast conspiracy to do this intentionally. Instead I think manufacturers are trying to meet the needs of their customers while trying to conform to a standard.

*This blog entry was inspired from my reading in the book Sizing in Clothing and more specifically the article Sizing Standardization by K. L. LaBat. I made very few notes on this article and don't remember much of what I read. I did make a note that LaBat tried to prove the existence of vanity sizing by studying children's age-based sizing. I thought the argument was rather weak.

February 03, 2015

Bullet journal follow-up

On December 1st I started bullet journaling. I started with this pocket size journal because this is what I had on hand. I like the size because it does fit in my purse, but it is almost too small. I feel cramped when writing in the journal. I have acquired two new hardcover journals in just a bit larger size, so perhaps a follow-up is in order when I transition over. In the meantime, I'll use up this one.

I made the mistake of not leaving enough space for my index. I probably should have left 2-3 pages in the front of the journal for the index. Others have mentioned that it is hard to do forward planning in a bullet journal. It can be. I will often write the date for a future event in my daily task list as a note. As I review the past month when setting up the next, that note carries forward or is placed on the new month's calendar. Others have figured out ways of creating a spread with monthly calendars, but this journal is too small for that. Another difficulty is finding the monthly calendars. You can look at the index, but a long index takes time to look through. So I jumped on the bandwagon and purchased some washi tape. Just a little bit of washi tape on the edge of the paper for the month spread makes it easy to find it again. This one roll of tape should last a really long time. I found some inexpensive rolls at Walmart, but Martha Stewart has some pretty tapes too (below).
I've learned that a really good pen makes a big difference. I'm loving the Pilot G-2 pens. They write super smooth and have nice dark ink. I never realized how much harder regular ballpoint pens were to use. They require more pressure to write and the ink is just not that dark. The pens do last a long time but I find that I can never find one when I need it. You'll want several to stash all over the house.

I spend a little time at the beginning and end of each day to write and review my many tasks. I am using this journal to keep track of tasks for my two part-time jobs, my small business, and personal tasks. I imagine if one of my jobs became much more involved, I would add a separate journal. For now I only have one journal to keep track of.

This style of journal is great because I really do use it as a mini-brain dump. Any sticky notes that get handed to me are immediately copied into my journal so I don't lose the information. Who hasn't lost a sticky note that became unstuck and floated away? Ideas that float around in my head are written down. I don't have to exert energy in the effort to try and remember something.

I'm staying more on task. Tasks are carried forward until done or until they become irrelevant. That "to-read" list has finally been collected and I'll know what books to get next. That project that I've wanted to start, now has a place to go. It really has helped reduce my stress. If you haven't tried bullet journaling, give it a look. It may work for you too.

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.