Following a discussion with Carmel about the writing process, I was more aware of just how compartmentalised I am in the way that I develop a design from idea through to finished pattern. If only to get the analysis of the process out of my head (and in case you were wondering), I thought I'd write it down.
I begin exploring a design idea between the computer and the sewing machine - drafting the pattern, testing toiles and tweaking samples in different forms, until I settle on a clear view of what I'd like it to be. (I might also add, that - never one to leave well-enough alone - I'm often overwhelmed at this point by the possibilities for design variation...). I then revise the pattern accordingly.
I make the project again and again, until I know the way forward and the construction processes inside out... until I can begin to write instructions in a stream-of-conciousness sort of way (Molly Bloom, eat your heart out). I begin to map out the instructions this way, and simultaneously start visualising diagrams and photos that need to be included. I cut and paste shared techniques from other instructions I've written and then see if I can improve them.
Then I go back to the machine and start making the finalised design again... several times.... while CONSTANTLY photographing details and distance shots. If the project is a garment, I grade the pattern to multi-size, and use the making-it-over-and-over time as an opportunity to test each for size and fit.
I tend to sew for part of the day and sit at the computer for part of the day.... making necessary changes and adding minute detail and sewing tips as a break between extended periods of sewing and photographing.... clearing it all out of my head before I move on the the next part of the sewing process.
This is the crucial part, where I hone right in on the detail to make sure that my pattern is as close to perfect as I can possibly make it. My brain starts popping with ideas for communicating the processes.... and somehow, that's as exciting as coming up with a new design idea. I'm a geek like that.
I'm reminded of a description I once heard of Joni Mitchell at work on song-writing - that she is blinkered and concentrating like a welder as she writes. (I mean that I get the concentration-at-the-expense-of-all-else bit. Unfortunately, I seemed to have missed out on the ability to play a guitar or write a timeless and perfect pop song.)
I'm also reminded that more prolific designers like Amy Butler employ people to do this stage.... and can see the value in freeing up one's time to design. I'm unsure if I could ever hand over such a key part of the product development process, although that seems like the only way to develop even a fraction of the ideas I have for patterns. My way of doing things is s l o w ....
And this is where I'm up to on my big-girl's dress, which currently has the working-title of "Best" (as in "Sunday best".... a slightly out-of-date notion, but you know what I mean, don't you?). I'm buried deep in the nitty-gritties of the how-to and I kind-of like it here. It feels like home.
In a little while, I'll begin to feel a bit sick of it. The fun wears off, but I have to plough through and finish the writing, diagram-drawing and layout of the text and photos.The next stage is testing the instructions on people from a diverse range of sewing skills, to make sure that the instructions make sense to all, tweaking the instructions based on feedback and then designing the cover.
It's at this point that I. NEVER. WANT. TO. SEE. IT. AGAIN.
The whole thing is then proof-read by a few different sets of eyes and, depending how many changes have been made since testing, the pattern is tested again. Things are tweaked, refined, fixed, and it goes to the printers.
And it's at this point that someone points out a glaringly obvious typo.
So there you have it folks.... and now you know why it takes me so long to write a new pattern, and why the instructions are so very detailed.
I know a few people have offered, but I've forgotten who you are....
- When I finish writing, I'll need to test the pattern on a range of sewing skills and experience with my patterns.
- If you're interested in becoming a pattern-tester for this latest dress, please email me (don't use the comment box unless you have an email address attached to your google identity, because I won't be able to contact you!).
- You'll need to be in Australia and preferably close to Melbourne - I can't email the pattern and I like hard-copy feedback.
- I need people who can sew and give detailed feedback within a week of receiving the pattern - and not just "Oh it was fine". I want all thoughts and feelings noted and any typos or inconsistencies pointed out.
- And I need people with little girls aged 5-10 that can try the dresses on for me and give THEIR feedback, too (although I have the 6-year-old covered).
Ok... now it's back to that welding....
(And yes - there really were 261 photos of the bodice construction for one design variation).