Sunday, April 9, 2017

the waiting game, continued

So, I posted an impatient update about our house/moving sitch last month. Fortunately time finally feels like it's passing more quickly, and in two (very busy) weeks we'll be up in Portland for good! I am definitely operating at unsustainable levels of stress and sleeplessness at the moment, but I'm so glad the end is in sight. I haven't shared much about my school/work/sewing situation in awhile though, so I thought I'd update everyone on what's going on there.

As you may recall, I quit my job in September to take sewing classes full time. What I didn't mention at the time was that this was prompted by our (at the time still secret) move - it added urgency in the form of a limited timeline to take classes here, but the soon-to-be lower cost of living also made it much more feasible to drop down to a single income for the foreseeable future. (Side note: HUGE thanks to Tim for being so supportive, both emotionally and financially, as I follow my dreams! <3)

It's been about seven months, and I have indeed been taking classes the whole time, with a few much needed weeks off in December. It's been really incredible: I've learned a huge amount about so many aspects of pattern drafting, design, construction, and some of the ins and outs of having a business in the fashion industry. The full program at my school, Apparel Arts, consists of a long patternmaking program (it's estimated at 2.5 years of work, but you can move at your own pace), plus ten elective classes that each run for a couple of months. Each class meets once a week for 3 hours, with varying amounts of homework in between. I won't be able to finish the entire program, but I'm pretty pleased with the dent I've made since starting the patternmaking class while working full time just over a year ago.

While the program has been amazing and so useful, I've been surprised by how much time and energy it takes up. Working at my own pace, and with a hard end date, has made it really hard for me to take weekends off. I end up doing some amount of work every day, sometimes working way longer hours than I ever did at my previous tech job. As we get closer to move date, I've been putting even more pressure on myself to get as much done as I possibly can while I still have my teachers to learn from. When you couple that with buying our first house and then preparing for a cross-state move, it's been exhausting. I'm ready for a change of pace, and even though I'm sad there are some classes I won't have gotten to take, I'm feeling so ready to take it easy for a little bit and then work on starting my own business soon (and of course, to work on getting my work/life balance into a more sustainable place).


Since September, I've taken seven electives in addition to the patternmaking program. It's been really cool exploring so many different areas of apparel design and creation. Here's a bit about what I've learned:

Patternmaking: This is the class that started it all when I first starting taking it after work in March 2016. I've been taking this once a week since then, and I've made it more than halfway through the curriculum. The class teaches flat patternmaking: going from my body's measurements to a set of slopers that act as base patterns for things like skirts, bodices, or sleeves, and then patterning and sewing rough versions (muslins) of tons of variations on those basic components. I've drafted and sewn muslins of dozens of skirts, bodices, collars, and sleeves, and I designed, drafted, and sewed two skirts and two dresses out of actual fabric, including all the finishing touches of a real garment. Soon I'll have completed seven units of the curriculum, and that only leaves two more (pockets and pants) to do on my own.


Fashion Illustration: This was the first elective I started last fall, and it actually started during my last week of work - so much for time off! I learned how to draw the traditional tall, lean fashion illustration model, as well as how to render various types of fabric and garment details. It was really fun and useful, and I feel like I'm in a great place to use what I learned in my own way in the future. Also - I learned that I really like painting with watercolors and would love to take it up as a hobby if I ever find free time again!

Sergers & Knits: One of my favs <3 I love wearing knits (ie. stretchy stuff like t-shirts, cardigans, or leggings). This class went over some of the basics of sewing knits, various types of knit fabric, and then some drafting. I love how simple the drafting and fitting process is compared to wovens, and everything just seems so easy to sew and wear! I enjoy the technical challenges of making a well-fitted woven garment, but knits are such an instant gratification palate cleanser in comparison.


Textiles: This was one of the more "academic" feeling classes, but the things I learned will be useful for years to come. We worked through a huge swatch book, talking about the properties of hundreds of types of fabric, as well as how they are created, dyed, and used. I definitely need to look back through the book several more times, as it was a bit of information overload, but it's fantastic having real sample fabrics to see and touch as I think about what to use for future garments for myself or to sell.

Construction: I sometimes refer to my current situation as taking "sewing classes", but honestly this was the only class that was specifically about sewing. We covered so many aspects of sewing garments. Some things were review, some were easier/better ways to do things I thought I was okay at, and others were totally new concepts that I'm really glad to know now. Since I'm a self-taught sewer and plan to work on my own for at least awhile, I'm really glad to have this solid foundation to help me construct things in clean, smart ways, even when I'm the one making up the instructions.

Corsetry: I almost didn't sign up for this class, as it's outside of the standard certificate program and I don't really have a personal interest in wearing corsets, but it was a really cool class and i learned an incredible amount. This class took up all of my Saturdays and one Sunday in January, as well as lots of homework time in between. We used a commercial corset pattern (no drafting in this class) and dove right into fitting and construction. I learned how to install a busk, grommets, and boning, how to lace and fit a corset, what fabric choices work well, what the different boning options are and which are better for different parts of the corset, and so much more. I'm still on the fence about whether I'll make another (it was a TON of work for one garment I may never wear!), but I'm so glad I have the skills to do so if I decide to. And at the very least, I learned some things that will come in handy for creating lingerie or boned strapless dresses.


Draping: This class is sort of a counterpart to the patternmaking program, and it has seriously been so cool. Basically you take a square of muslin fabric and a dress form, and you create things that might take many hours to draft with flat pattern drafting. It's not a complete replacement for flat patterns, but I've started learning what works best in each medium, and it's just been a lot of fun overall. Since I don't have room for my own dress form, I've had to stay at the school to do all of the homework for this class. Seriously one of the first things I'm going to buy once we move is my own form, so I can play around with draping in the comfort of my own home - I can't wait!


Design Principles: This is one of the classes I was simultaneously the most excited about and the most scared of from the start. I feel really comfortable learning technical skills, but pushing myself creatively has been scary since I was a teenager. This class was a combination of fashion history lessons and exercises in building our personal design aesthetics, complete with a brand and 8-piece collection at the end of the course. I stressed hardcore about my final presentation, but in the end I left the class with a company name and aesthetic that I hope to make a reality and an illustrated clothing collection that I'm pretty pleased with!



I'm spending the next two weeks finishing up my draping class and getting as far in patternmaking as I can, in addition to dealing with moving logistics, packing up the whole house, and taking a quick trip up to Portland to see the house in person! Our move date was scheduled based on when my last elective ends, and the timing ended up working out perfectly with the house renovations we're having done.

After we get to Portland, I'm going to give myself some time to move in and start furnishing the house. I'm also hoping to build myself a drafting and cutting table; this one looks relatively approachable. Once I get settled at home, I plan to take a few weeks to just relax and sew for fun - it's been so hard to do that when I feel like every minute (and flat surface in my home) should be dedicated to schoolwork while I'm here. I can't wait to have a dedicated room to do it in!! After that little break: business time! I want to try creating and fitting a few things for myself and friends as I work out what direction my business will go in, and I need to find a good small business lawyer to help with the logistics. Ideas around all of this have been solidifying for the past few months, but I'll wait to share more when things are more concrete.

So, that's my life right now, in this weird limbo period before things change dramatically. I'm really hoping to start taking photos of the things I've sewn again, once we move and have much better lighting and private outdoor spaces for that sort of thing. In the meantime, things will certainly be quiet here for a little while longer, but you can always follow along on instagram. See you on the other side!