As a clothing and jewelry designer, some people might assume I make a few sketches, and send them off to some foreign land to be made. Sadly, that is true of most designers these days. Personally, I prefer to be a part of the process from start to finish.
1.) It starts with an idea or inspiration. A lot of my ideas come from dreams, actually. I usually keep paper and a pencil by my bed, so I can make a sketch when I wake up while the idea is fresh. I love it when I have dreams of being in the audience at a fashion show, and the models are coming down the runway with new designs, never seen before. Ideas also come from just playing with fabrics and shapes. Or from taking an old style and giving it a new and different twist.
2.) Once I have the sketch, I can choose fabrics and decide which materials will best suit the style. Will the fabric need to have a stretch or will it need to hang and drape? Sometimes certain fabrics will inspire me, and I will get an idea for a design after seeing a new material.
3.) Now it’s time to make the pattern. Yes, I actually make the pattern from scratch. I don’t like using commercial patterns, as I find the fit is sometimes off. I use the old fashioned style of drafting patterns on brown paper. When making a pattern for a client, I will use their measurements and make the ideal pattern to fit their body shape and exact dimensions. Making a pattern can take between 2 and 4 hours.
4.) Cutting… I will lay the cut out brown paper pattern on the fabric. I try to be judicious about how I utilize fabric, so I don’t waste material. Cutting a pattern will take about an hour or two. My favorite scissors are Fiskars Soft Touch. They are great for cutting any weight of fabric, including layers of denim. They also have a lock, which is imperative because they’re quite sharp (I cut myself the first time I tried them). The best part, is that they can be used for lefties as well. I’m ambidextrous, so I need scissors which can be used with either hand. Now I sound like a sales rep for Fiskars! I promise you, I’m not.
5.) Time to sew. Typically I will make the pattern and cut it out the same day. Then I’ll start sewing the next day. I have about 6 sewing machines– including the old black Singer which belonged to me grandmother. That’s the first machine I ever used and I taught myself how to sew on it when I was 15. Grandma had a stroke when before I was born, so she sewed with one hand and her teeth. She made beautiful garments and curtains with her disability. The two machines I use most are my multi-stitch Singer, and my Juki serger. I really enjoy seeing the final product taking shape. Sewing a garment can take anywhere from an hour to several hours, or even days depending on how complicated it is.
6.) Fitting is next. If I’m making something new for myself, I try it on several times to see how it looks and feels. Some garments don’t look like much on the hanger, but look amazing on… and it works the other way around too. If I’m making something for a client, I like to have him/her come for a fitting before they take it home. I will often leave the hem unfinished just in case there are final touches to do. If I’m using silk or velvet, I usually make the garment a bit on the larger side. I can’t let the seams out, because the needle scars those particular fabrics. There will be permanent holes left in the material.
7.) Finishing touches. The last part of completing a design may require hand sewing, pressing, steaming, adding trim or embellishments. This can be very time consuming, especially if a design requires rhinestones, sequins or beads. My beaded purses take one hour per square inch. Therefore, the finishing can take even longer that the first 6 steps.
So there you have it. Hopefully this gives some insight into my creative process. It also gives you an idea of where cost comes into effect. That’s why my dresses are not available at Wal-mart!