Thursday, 11 July 2013

Taking pattern making to a new level...

I trained as a pattern maker, a long time ago. Way, way back in 1977. All the things I learnt back then have lasted all these years.. decades! I went to a place called Leggats Academy of design, in Johannesburg, and did a one year course in just about everything you needed to know. Mornings only, 5 days a week. Passed with Honours! I loved every minute of the course, and then ended up in a job grading patterns, which was a very lowly thing to do. Why, oh why, didn't I reach for the stars, and not accept the first job that came my way? Why didn't I jump on the first plane to Paris?

Well, the reason for that , fellow bloggers, is LOVE. I had met a fella who I thought was fabulous, handsome, and funny, and any thoughts of moving away from him was out of the question. So much so, that when he left South Africa, to return to work off his university bursary obligations, I wanted to go with him, much to the disappointment and chagrin of my parents, who had managed to leave Zimbabwe (Rhodesia in those days) and set up a new life in South Africa. After 32 years of marriage we are still together, so I know I chose the right one.

Anyway, I digress...

I have loved my job, and where it has taken me. I ended up as a freelance pattern maker and grader for smaller factories that didn't want to employ a full time designer. Lots of styles, lots of experience. Some pretty weird things too!  I was able to continue here in New Zealand, and was fortunate to be able to teach
 a bit at Massey.

Here's my farewell 'card' from my students... Drawn on a couple of pocket pattern pieces!
 I can't imagine how they can stretch a course to a 4 year degree, but have often thought it would be fun to find out and get that piece of paper saying I have a degree in Design.

I did attempt to retrain myself in computer pattern making while I was at Massey in 2000. Lectra, or Gerber, I can't remember. I absolutely hated it. That was an amazing epiphany, after grading for so long, being responsible for hundreds of trees being chopped down and made into cardboard so we could make these big unwieldy patterns, I thought I would really welcome a newer, cleaner, efficient way to produce patterns and clothing. But no, it was really horrible. Cold, and calculating, no excitement whizzing my pencil along a piece of paper, no soul.

So I went back to hand making patterns, and for a while I lost interest in clothing altogether and tried other ways of making money.

But now I'm back! When my lovely daughter Juliet got involved with sewing, and blogging, she dragged me back to what I love doing most. Through learning about all you lovely sewist bloggers out there, and all the exciting indie pattern companies, I'm preparing myself for pattern making in this century, I've been given the opportunity to learn another CAD pattern making program, Optitex

A whole new way of making things. 3D imaging to see how a garment will look. I'm enjoying the opportunity, but a sneaking feeling comes over me when I see the 3D 'avatar'.

 She has no soul.

However, when I look at a lot of real life models, standing in clothes in such a gawky way, not smiling, being clothes hangers for clothes nobody would like to buy anyway, where is their soul? Are they trying to be that same digital avatar? For instance, have a look at Sad, very sad.

Compare that to lovely blogs of real people, in real clothes, who loved making their creations.  Smiling!

I'll take that anyday!


  1. I'm never inspired by the models wearing new clothes or even on the pattern websites...I usually add to my pattern wishlist AFTER seeing versions on other blogs ;) Must the that extra "soul" factor...and smiles help

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Did I comment and remove it? I don't think so... Today I printed off a computerised pattern from Siberia, of all places, and have started stitching it up. The picture was a computerised one,which did put me off a bit but the pattern was so cheap and I could get it in my size. Watch this space...

  2. Wow - so interesting to learn about your pattern making background. We the smiling bloggers think you are pretty awesome :D

  3. Wow what awesome life experiences :) how lovely you and your husband are still together. Congrats on choosing the right one :D

  4. I couldn't agree with you more about soullessness of model pictures/catwalks etc. It is about strut and pout. Is that what beauty is? I hope not!

    Anyway, I love that you have found a fascinating new tool and hope you find soul too. Bottle it if you can :)

    1. Last year we were lucky enough to go to the Kapiti/Horowhenua business awards. I know it was just little old Levin, but it was fabulous, mainly because we had the entrants for Miss Horowhenua that accompanied the business finalists onto the stage. They were stunning, they wore fabulous clothes, and they SMILED. I felt as if I was in Hollywood!

      I can't stand seeing sulky girls plodding along the catwalk.

      Bring on the smiles! (I'm sure they would sell more clothes if they did)

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