Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Unit Evaluation

In this unit I have been looking much more concisely into men’s tailoring to produce a three-piece suit to a set of measurements supplied by ArtsEd in London.  This has given me the experience of working with an outside client as opposed to working alongside the acting department within the university; working in a very small group as they asked for three suits, and learning more of the skills and techniques involved in professional tailoring.
I have really enjoyed working in such a small group, finding that the tutorial sessions are much more focused and befitting to our needs that that we would get in a larger group.  Working with two people I have not worked closely with before has also given me the chance to get to know them.  We have worked well together, able to approach each other for help and advice when Graham has been unavailable and in being a support network for each other, especially when going to the fitting in London, which was a new experience for all of us, none of us having done a tailoring fitting before.   In particular with the skills and techniques of tailoring, doing this unit has presented both much enjoyment and a considerable amount of frustration.  However, my over-riding feeling at the end of it is that I definitely want to do more, and that this is still the career path I would like to explore.  Tailoring, even costume tailoring, is so different from normal costuming, combining the elements I like without the elements I am not so enamoured with.  Even if I do not end up in tailoring, the skills I have learned over the past few weeks are very useful – not least, how to draft and fit a sleeve so that it sits well and falls in sympathy with the garment. 
There have been many challenges along the way with this unit, not least the fact that I was working with checked material.  The fabric was pure wool and was therefore very malleable, ironed well, sat well when placed and had movement, and was lovely to work with for those reasons.  But, with that movement also came a difficulty when matching the checks as any pressure on the fabric in the wrong place at the wrong time could push it out of alignment.  I found the pockets in particular a great challenge to get looking really crisp with the longer straight seams also presenting a considerable difficulty.  However, this has only improved my patience and my appreciation of careful preparation, and the power of tacking.  The other construction area I have found hard is the sleeves.  The way a jacket sleeve sits in the armhole is one of the most noticeable areas on a suit and they have never been my forte.  This time, I not only had to position them properly, but I had to do ‘easing’, and I still had to match the checks.  At the time of writing this I have not put the top fabric sleeves in the jacket, but have had a day of working with Graham to improve my sleeve pattern, making changes to my calico toile and preparing the top fabric and lining for the real sleeves.  I have found keeping a blog a test of discipline; I found it hard to keep track of what I had done when and how I had reacted to each step with a view to reviewing and evaluating it later in a professional, academic manner.  This is, however, good practice for third year and I will try to keep up some record of what is happening with each of the projects I undertake, especially as I am aware we will need to do an evaluation of our whole time at the university at the end.
There are many areas that I know about where I can improve in the future.  My finishing skills, though much improved, can still be taken further.  My cutting skills are not as good as I would like and accuracy overall is something I feel can always been bettered.  This unit has incorporated a very large amount of learning huge amounts in a very short space of time, trying to absorb long lists of quite detailed instructions and so all the new skills and techniques I have learned over the last few weeks need improvement, not least my note-taking to understand and remember demonstrations at a later date when I come to complete a step without Graham being in attendance. 
In third year I fully intend to do more tailoring, for at least one or two of the project areas.  I would like to advance my knowledge and practise of the skills and techniques I have learned in this unit, looking at a suit from a different era and some culturally specific tailoring.  I would also consider looking into women’s tailoring.  Tailoring is definitely still an area I would seriously consider undertaking as a career and therefore I would like to keep studying it, but also looking at how it can influence my making methods in all areas.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Planning for the next week

Over the weekend we are to prepare the hem of the jacket and attach the side and shoulder seams, which is very exciting – I really enjoy seeing a garment properly come together.  With tailoring, for the ease of working on small areas on great detail, much of the work is done with each of the pieces of a garment separate from the rest, only putting them together when everything that can be done to that piece has been done.  This makes it easier to work on the more fiddly bits, keeping the pieces flatter for longer, and means that once you have done all the preparation work, it doesn’t take too long to put the whole thing together into a recognisable assembly.  The jacket in particular has been a good deal of working on the separate areas before adding them to whole.
For next week, I need to finish my blog entries, write an evaluation of the whole project and make sure my trousers and waistcoat are completely finished.  The jacket, as agreed in the learning agreement, will not have to be finished.  After hand in, we will carry on work on it so that we can ship them off to ArtsEd.

Reflection on the week

This week has, yet again been full of interesting new techniques and steps, accompanied by a beginners’ frustration and more than a little tiredness.  Nearly at the end of this project, and the end of the academic year, we are all rather ready to go home and take a good, properly restorative rest.  WE just have to hang on to our sanity for a few days more...
The checks continue to be a source of difficulty, but it is part of the challenge of this project and I am not sorry that I ended up with them.  I have to keep reminding myself that this is my first suit, my first time working with checks and a whole lot of other ‘firsts’.  I will, and am, trying my best, but I know that not everything will be 100% perfect.  I am pleased with what I have done, and am very pleased with how all three pieces look together, all being out of the same fabric and all those hours lining up the checks does pay off.
There is a huge amount of work to go into the jacket – hand stitching, new pattern pieces, preparation for future steps being laid down, hidden pieces of canvas and stayflex, and of course the machine sewing that is always followed by hand tacking and a light press at the iron.

With the extension having been given, I am more relaxed about hand-in, even though I was given an extension until the following Monday if I needed it.  I feel better about handing in alongside the other two though, and I am confident at getting everything done that was in my learning agreement by the Wednesday. 

New things! Week 4

Putting a flap into a jetted pocket – for my sample, I only did the jets, wanting to get the hang of how to do the ‘simple’ ones before I attempted the flapped ones.
Pad stitching – looks dead easy, is very straight forward, but is time consuming and requires regularity of stitch length, width and spacing.  This was particularly challenging working green on the shoulder canvas which was a difficult contrast to see – to be done in daylight only.
Working on the centre front edge – more stayflex that would probably have been some kind of canvas in yester year, and working with the very small seam allowances
The lapel being separated from the beginning of the collar – this needed precision and guts to cut right down to the sewing line
The lapel iron-aid – this is a very narrow wooden spit on a block that you slide your newly sewn lapel over to help you press it into a very crisp corner, neatly turned and flat as a pancake.

Monday, 9 May 2011

What happened in week 4

In the schedule: 5 days: Independent study; group presentations. Tutor availability 3 days

We started on the jackets; putting in jetted pockets with flaps on the outside pieces, working on the lapels and trimming down the centre front, making facings and linings (matching the checks, of course), putting a plain jetted pocket in the facing of the left-hand-side, and putting in the facing and linings.
Friday was an interesting day as we were technically not supposed to be in the studios as they are being moved around for the exhibition of the third-year’s work, however, G did say we three could come in for another short teaching session where he would show us the next steps to do over the weekend, if we came early enough in the morning.  We were contending with people hammering, moving tables, moving sewing machines and generally crashing about, but, sat on the sofas in front of the white board was a very comfortable way of having a session.
As a whole year we were granted an extension this week, moving our deadline from Monday 16th to Wednesday 18th  

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Planning for the next week


Reflection on the week

A good week.  This kind of reading up in books, working together to get some sense out of the fabric in our hands with the input of G has been very positive.  G also told us that the first suit he ever made was so bad that he refused to wear it, so we know he appreciates the position we three are in.  There was a very good atmosphere in the workroom this week, to the point that even having one’s work criticized, literally being shown where one had gone wrong and needed to start again, we not demoralizing, but weirdly uplifting.
Mistakes need to be made in order to progress: if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn how things can go wrong.  If you don’t know how things go wrong, when they suddenly spring at you in the future, you have no idea how to remedy them or, even, quite what has gone wrong.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho