Monday, December 27, 2010

Group project #2 – design elements

The theme for my intro to apparel design’s second group project was design elements. Each group had to make a presentation to the class about design element. Some groups were assigned different types of garments such as woven tops, swimwear, and pants. Other groups gave presentations about garment features such as sleeves and necklines. I was in the collar group.

The groups delivered PowerPoint presentations. Pictures were required, but we did not need to bring in any samples. My group’s presentation included flats and photos. Sewing a few collars would have been fun, but if I had been in the jackets group I would have been a lot happier about not needing to make samples.

There were eight people in my group. We each had a few collar types to research. Mine were bertha, mock, cape, and portrait. The bertha collar is a round flat piece of fabric that extends over the shoulders. A mock collar is a neck facing that extends over a top’s neck opening so that it appears to be a collar. A cape collar appears like a small cape worn over the shoulders. A portrait collar is made with two broad pieces extending from the neckline that lie flat against the body and overlap at center front.
The PowerPoint presentations had to be loaded onto the instructor’s computer to use in class. I uploaded my group’s file, which gave me an opportunity to add one extra slide. It is not apparel, but the design process is the same. Many Stout apparel design graduates go to work for Kimberly-Clark designing diapers and incontinence pads, so I figured a cervical collar would be OK. But mostly I inserted it for comedic value. The class thought it was funny, and the instructor appreciated it too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Festivus

I try to keep my blog positive, but not today. Today is Festivus when we air our grievances.

Intro to apparel design: It often seemed that the purpose of this class was to make us want to change majors. The instructor spent a lot of time explaining that the major is too difficult for us and that we will never achieve our dreams of fame and glory. I want support from my instructors; I do not want them to try to get rid of me.

Home sewing: Most of the construction classes at Stout focus on home sewing techniques. I should be learning industrial sewing techniques. Minneapolis Community and Technical College has industrial sewing machines only. Unless I go to work for a company that makes home sewing patterns I will need to know industrial sewing techniques.

Cut and sew knits: I love sewing. This class should have been fun, but it was not. Pattern making was not one of the prerequisites for this class, but the professor thought it was. I had to design all my own patterns, and I was graded on my pattern making. The class should have focused on construction techniques rather than pattern making and design techniques. I am also annoyed that there was no mention of coverstitch machines in the class. Stout has one industrial coverstitch, but this class used only home sewing machines.

Wisconsin: It is too damn cold, and I hate snow. Land’s End and American Girl are here, and Target is next door in Minnesota, but we do not have fashion. I will need to spend some time in New York.

That is it for now. Thank you for listening, and please feel free to use the comments section to air your own grievances. I hope you have a happy and joyous Festivus, and I wish you luck as you engage in your feats of strength.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Group project #1 - color boards

This semester I worked on three group projects in my Intro to Apparel Design class. The first two projects are long since finished, and the third one is due on Monday. Project number one was a color board.
The department keeps all the boards. They are currently on display in our conference room. Mine is the charcoal gray one sandwiched between the browns. At the start of this project my class was shown the boards from last year’s intro class. Next year’s freshmen will get to see mine. I hope mine is shown to them as an example of what to do rather than what to avoid.

The purpose of this project was to learn about colors so we will understand how to use them in our designs. I am not sure what I learned. I found lots of gray fabric and gray items, and some of that stuff made it onto my final board in what I hope is an attractive layout, but what does that have to do with apparel design? I used to own a charcoal gray suit, I currently have a few pieces of gray apparel, and I have a few yards of gray fabrics, but I do not think there is anything I can do with that apparel and fabric now that I could not have done at the start of the semester.

Is this type of color boards used in industry? I have seen trend boards, color swatches, and fabric swatches, but outside of this class I have never seen three dimensional color boards like these. I think my group did a good job, but I do not find these boards inspiring or even aesthetically pleasing. As I look at the boards all I see is a lot of monochromatic stuff thrown together haphazardly.

While this project taught me nothing about colors it did provide a good lesson about group projects. Each group had eight members. That struck me as a large number for a project like this. I think a group of three or four would have been more than sufficient. The vast majority of my group’s work was done by four of us. The remaining four members showed up to some of our meetings, watched us work, and made an occasional comment or suggestion, but ultimately I feel they contributed nothing to the project. The other two projects had similar size groups with similar problems. Three or four of us do all the work, and everyone gets the credit. OK, I know I sound a little bitter there, but the past week I have been spending a few hours every day working on a group project while a few of the people in my group have done nearly nothing. Grrr. Two more weeks to break.
This is fashion?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Many fuzzy balls

As summer came to an end I found myself on a juggling ball sewing spree, but once classes began I no longer had time for frivolous projects. A photo of my juggling balls worked its way into an early assignment for Cut and Sew Knits as an example of what can be done with stretch fabrics. Save for that one cameo, my balls spent the semester in my living room neglected and unused.

I intended to share photos of my balls with you, my loyal readers, but with the excitement of all my classes my balls were forgotten. I will now remedy this shortcoming.
The blue and white balls are knit terry, the pink and brown ones are fake fur, and the rest are fleece. The red balls are stuffed with pinto beans, and the others have lentils. I think lentils are better.

Having balls is nice, but I cannot just leave them out. I went online to search for balls, and I now know their appropriate receptacle. I made a sack.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stupid ice

Ice covered sidewalks are slippery. Who knew? Yesterday morning I walked out my front door, hit the sidewalk, slipped, and hit the sidewalk. Tomorrow morning I will have surgery to repair my fractured right elbow. I am done sewing for the semester. There are two projects left for my cut and sew knits class. I will ask my professor to give me an incomplete so I can finish the class at a later time. If I have to drop the class I will not have to retake it. It is one of many special topics classes. I need to complete 5 special topics credits, but specific special topics class is required. Whether or not I complete cut and sew knits I plan to complete the two projects. My power stretch garment project is a bike outfit – pants and jersey. My comfort stretch garment project is a onesie (with tush flap) and a set of pajamas or a bathrobe. I love biking, and I think I will enjoy my onesie.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A tough semester

Hi, I am back. I know I promised to write more. I am sorry. It has been a rough semester. I took too heavy a course load. The rule from now on is two apparel classes per semester, no more. I dropped two of my classes, so hopefully I will have a little more time now. I did not want to drop the classes, but I felt that if I kept them I would end up failing everything. Spanish and line development are gone leaving me with cut and sew knits, textile evaluation, and intro to apparel design.

Line development was the most time consuming class. I found myself spending more than 20 hours per week doing homework for it, and it is only a three credit class. Even with all the time I put in I had only a C- average. C is passing, so it was obvious which class I should drop. It is not required for my concentration, but it is a useful class nevertheless. I may take it again in the future.These two boys were part of my men’s collection. You see why my grade was so bad.

Cut and sew knits is my only sewing class this semester. I love sewing, but I am having some difficulty in this class. Part of the problem was finding enough time, but now that I am done with line that is no longer an issue. The big problem is that I need to draft the patterns for all my projects, and I have not yet taken pattern making. Pattern was not a prerequisite for this class, but the professor thought it was.
Some of my projects did not turn out so well, but I am pleased with this sweat shirt.

That’s all for today. I will be back soon with more pictures and some info about my other classes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cut and sew knits – first project

There is a story behind my outfit, but I do not think it would make things better; the picture really speaks for itself. This is just the fit muslin. I will bedazzle you with more photos after I finish the project.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Beautiful buttons and noble mollusks

I knew textile evaluation would be a useful class, but I did not expect it to be much fun. I am pleased to have been wrong about that. The textbook, Quality Assurance for Textiles and Apparel, 2nd ed., by Sara Kadolph looked like it would be a dry, boring read, but I am finding it quite interesting. In chapter 5, Specifying and Evaluating Materials, in the section about buttons, I found a passage that made me smile. While describing buttons made from naturally occurring materials Kadolph wrote, “These buttons are usually assumed to be environmentally friendly. If a button is made from a shell, the animal living in the shell has been, at the very least, removed from its home.” (2007). I hope you found that statement as poignant as I do. Please take a brief moment of silence to honor those brave mollusks who made the ultimate sacrifice to satisfy our need for beautiful buttons. Thank you.

Kadolph, S. (2007). Quality Assurance for Textiles and Apparel, 2nd ed. New York: Fairchild Publications, Inc.

Briny Beach by Sir John Tenniel

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Igor Stravinsky, Line Development, and a Horse

I will eventually develop a line or two in my line development class, but first I need to learn how to draw. I knew I would eventually have to take a fashion illustration class, but I did not know this one would be it. A good rule of thumb for college classes is to expect to spend one to one and a half hours studying and doing homework for every hour spent in class. So far I have spent six hours in line development class and about 15 hours doing homework for it. I have another six or eight hours of work to do for it this weekend. I should not complain; drawing requires a lot of practice. I am have already seen some slight improvement in my skills. I still do not draw well, but my croquis now at least resemble humans. I hope to have a few usable croquis by the end of next week.

The first assignment for the class was to copy a picture of a horse and a Picasso sketch of Igor Stravinsky. We turned both pictures upside down before copying them so that we could focus on just drawing lines rather than on creating a recognizable image. It sounds odd, but it worked. None of the students in the class had heard of this method before, but it seems to be a common technique for teaching drawing. Many thousands of art students have copied the upside down image of Picasso’s Stravinsky found in Betty Edwards's book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
Before I began work on my horse I would have said that horse was far beyond my drawing skills, but to my great surprise I drew one. Other horses might not welcome my horse into their herd, but most humans can immediately recognize it as a horse.

Even after finishing the horse I was still skeptical about Stravinsky. The horse had long lines and few fine details. The same cannot be said about Igor. The only way to learn to draw is by doing it, so I got to work. It took a few attempts to get started, but by the time I finished the head I was on a roll and was able to finish the sketch. I am no Picasso, but for my first Russian composer I am quite pleased with myself.

I must learn to draw good croquis, but once I have some I can make copies to use for the rest of the semester. I need six croquis, each in a different pose. My attempts at croquis have not turned out so well thus far, so I will not be including any pictures of them today. Once I have some good croquis (or as my professor calls them, Best Girls) I will post photos.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The first few days of class

Classes began last week. I knew I would have a lot of work this semester, but I underestimated how much. All my classes will require a lot of work, but two of them will demand tremendous amounts of time. Despite the work load, I think this will be a fun semester.


No hablo español ahora, pero quiero aprender. Me gusta esta clase. La profesora habla solamente español en clase. OK, I am not sure that is correct, but it is only the first week of the semester. By the end of this semester I should be able to write a little more.

Intro to apparel design
On the first day the instructor spent a lot of time encouraging people to drop the class. She stressed how hard the major is. She added that most students arrive at school knowing nothing about the fashion industry, and that whatever they expect is probably wrong. Day two was a little more positive. She addressed concerns students raised on the form we filled out about ourselves on the first day and explained what we need to do to succeed.

As I sit in the class looking around at my classmates I feel as though I am in a landing craft waiting to hit Omaha Beach. There are 100 of us now, but soon people will start to drop. By the time we make it to graduation fewer than 30 will be left. I hope everyone makes it, and I will help out my classmates if I can, but my number one concern is ensuring that I make it to graduation.

Textile evaluation
Everyone in class needs five yards of a fabric to run through a gamut of tests throughout the semester. The requirement was a plain weave with staple fibers. I thought my fabric was good enough, but it was not. My filling yarns were made with crimped synthetic long-staple fibers. They were too weak. I needed something with spun yarns. At least I was not the only one with bad fabric. As the class began its first tests three of us ran to Walmart to buy more fabric. My new stuff is 100% cotton. A blend would have been more interesting, but I did not want to risk buying another bad fabric.

Line development
This will be my most time consuming class. The first few weeks will be spent learning to draw, we will then move on to Photoshop and Illustrator, and finish the semester by designing lines of men’s and women’s wear. The professor said she felt it ought to be two three-credit classes – a drawing class and a line class – but the school wants the two topics combined into one. We will do the work of both classes, but receive only the three credits. So far I have drawn a horse and a lot of arms and legs. I need to draw a man with glasses for tomorrow. Pictures will be posted soon.

Cut and sew knits
This class is taught by the same professor I have for line development. She explained that while this is only a two credit class we will be doing the work of a three credit class. Everyone in class will make the same (or similar) items for the first four projects, and we will design our own garments for the last two. I think the design aspect will be more difficult for me than the sewing aspect. Pattern drafting was not a prerequisite for this class, but perhaps it should have been. I will have to draft the patterns for all six projects. The first four are a women’s bathing suit, a t-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, and a bicycling outfit (shorts and jersey). I must then design an active wear item and a casual wear item. My casual item will probably be a fleece jacket of some sort. I have no idea what my active wear item will be.

That’s enough procrastinating for now, it’s time for me to get back to homework.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Textbooks and my fall classes

I picked up my textbooks last week in order to avoid the rush at the start of the semester. Between work and trying to enjoy my last few days of freedom I have not had much opportunity to examine the books closely, but I did give them a cursory glance before sticking them on the textbook shelf of my bookcase.

APRL 101 – Intro to Apparel Design & Development
This class is required for all freshmen starting in the apparel design major. Transfer students do not have to take it, but I thought it would be a good idea to take it anyway. The class serves as an introduction to the college experience and to the world of fashion design. I am already quite familiar with the college experience, but I need to learn more about the fashion industry. I enrolled in the intro class in the hope that it will cover all the information that should have been but was not covered last semester in my fashion industry class.
The three books for the class are Fashion: from Concept to Consumer by Gini Stephens Frings, Fashion: the Industry and Its Careers by Michele Granger, and Inside Fashion Design by Sharon Lee Tate. All three are about the industry, so it looks like this class will be what I need. My goal for this class is that by the end of this semester I should be able to choose a concentration within the apparel design major and have a basic understanding of what my career path within the apparel industry will be.

APRL 185 – Apparel Line Development
I know very little about this class. It is required for two of the three apparel design concentrations, and even if I choose the third one I will still benefit from it. I was expecting a business oriented class about how to market and sell a line, but it seems the focus of this class will be line design. I need to purchase a lot of art supplies, and the two textbooks are about fashion drawing.
In addition to fashion magazines and apparel catalogs I will be using Fashion Sketchbook by Bina Abling and Fashion Illustration for Designers by Kathryn Hagen. My drawing skills need a lot of improvement. Hopefully this class will help, but I expect I will be spending a lot of time on homework and that I will often feel quite frustrated.

APRL 250 – Textile Evaluation
This class picks up where last semester’s textiles class ended. Last semester I learned about different types of fabrics; this semester I will learn how to decide if a fabric is good and which fabrics to use for a specific project. As I pick up textbooks I look for ones with a lot of text highlighted. I keep hoping that students who took the class before will help me by telling me what is important. For this class I found a copy of the textbook that was not highlighted, but had a lot of Post-It notes in it. My highlighting strategy has not paid off, so I decided to try the Post-Its.Sara J Kadolph, who wrote the textbook for last semester’s textiles class also wrote this one, Quality Assurance for Textiles and Apparel. Last semester I often thought that textiles was more a science than design class, but after looking at my new book I realize I have barely scratched the surface of textiles science. This will not be an easy class, but it looks interesting and I think I will enjoy it.

APRL 355 – Cut and Sew Knits
This is my only sewing class this semester, and it is the one I am looking forward to most. I enjoy working with knit fabrics, and I was upset that I did not get to do so in last semester’s apparel construction class. I often feel that design programs focus too much on woven fabrics at the expense of knits. Most of the dresses we see on red carpets are weaves, while most of the apparel in Target and Walmart is knits. Learning to design high fashion garments is fun, but I am more interested in learning to make apparel normal people can afford.

Designing and Patternmaking for Stretch Fabrics by Keith Richardson makes me even more excited about this class. It seems that I will be learning not only how to sew knit fabrics but also how to design knit garments.

SPAN 103 – Elementary Spanish I
I am also taking a Spanish class for which I have a textbook, but this blog is about apparel design so I have not included a picture of it. I would rather take Mandarin or Cantonese, but Stout does not offer any Chinese languages.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Magazines and other school supplies

The professors for my line development and intro to apparel design classes recently sent me lists of supplies I will need this semester. Both classes require fashion magazines. I read Vogue and a few other magazines in the library, but for the classes I will need to cut out pages so I had to purchase subscriptions. I now subscribe to Vogue, Harper’s BAZAAR, W, and InStyle. Last night I went to Walmart and purchased the September issues of Vogue and Elle. With a combined total of 1,500 pages those two should keep me occupied until my new magazines start arriving.

Both classes also require a lot of apparel catalogs. I ordered catalogs from J. Crew, Land’s End, L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and International Male. The first four sell clothing I like but can rarely afford. I will never buy anything from the fifth, but I think it might be a fun one to use in class. I will start collecting Kmart, Target, and Walmart sales flyers from the Sunday newspapers. I suspect we will be looking at a lot of expensive clothing in class, and I think it might be useful to have some examples of the clothing college students can actually afford.

I need a lot of art supplies for line development. I bought a large pack of colored pencils yesterday, and I still have all the supplies from my fashion sketching class. The list of required art supplies left me feeling quite nervous about the class. I was not sure what this class would be, but I was not expecting this. I will learn more next week once class starts.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A trio of balls

My sister recently took up juggling, and she asked me to make her a set of juggling balls. It seemed like a reasonable request. She suggested I stuff them with split peas, but I decided to use pinto beans instead. I was more likely to eat the pinto beans than the peas, but I thought the peas might split further under the stress of juggling. I will pick up some more pinto beans tomorrow, and today I will eat garbanzo beans.

I had never made juggling balls or any other sort of balls, and I did not have a pattern for balls, but how difficult could they be? Armed with a ruler and a piece of chalk I sketched out a quick design. My plan was to learn what was wrong by sewing it, but to my great surprise it worked out well. I completed the set, although on the third ball I had to augment the pinto beans with some great northern beans.

I used a piece of fleece I found in my fabric collection to make the balls. I have owned that fleece for at least six months. I do not remember what I originally had planned for it, but it works quite well for juggling balls. Does this justify my habit of buying lots of fabric I do not need? This was the first project made entirely on my serger; it was used only for seam finishes before.

My pattern worked, but I think I can make better ones. I will experiment with a few other designs. All future balls will be made with matching color thread. I did not have cones of red thread; I will buy some tomorrow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A trio of shirts

What is the collective noun for shirts? Herd of shirts? Gaggle? Flock? Bunch? Oh well, it really does not matter, three shirts are not enough to deserve a collective noun. I will figure it out after I make a few more.

Anyway, during finals week last semester I made a shirt for my presentation in my fashion industry class. I made another two in the next few weeks. My plan was to make at least three more before posting pictures here, but then classes and work got in the way. I had time to make one shirt for work, but I will not be showing you a picture of that one yet. You will have to wait until I make a few more work shirts, and then I will post pictures of all of them. In the mean time you will have to content yourselves with these belated pictures of the three shirts I made in June.

I wore this shirt for my fashion industry class presentation. I started it using an industrial machine at school, but the lab closed after classes ended, so I had to finish it at home. I began work on this shirt after finishing the one for my sewing class. This one is a little nicer, which reinforces the point I keep making about the importance of experience. The shirt is heavyweight unbleached muslin. I like this fabric a lot; I will dye some blue to use for shirts for work.

This was my fifth long sleeve tailored shirt, although only the third one to be completed. My technique still needs a lot of improvement, but I do now know how this pattern works. I wanted to add something to this shirt, so I made box pleat pockets with pocket flaps. I think these pockets add a nice bit of character to a shirt. I may add epaulets to the next shirt I make with this fabric.

The moment I saw this print I knew I needed to use it for a shirt. This is the shirt that got me insulted at Jo Ann Fabrics. I am still annoyed about the implication that men do not sew, but I now enjoy this shirt even more. By wearing this shirt I feel I am shouting out, “fuck you” to everyone who says only women sew. On a more technical note, I should point out that that the left placket could have been better. It is well made, but the print does not line up. I prefer attached plackets to folded in ones, but with this type of print a folded in placket would have been more appropriate. Mistakes are how we learn.

The next shirt was well made, but I am not sure if it is aesthetically pleasing. I bought two spools of multicolor thread because they were on sale, but I did not know what I would do with them. I thought maybe a black shirt with green, yellow, orange, and red topstitching would look good. Now I do not know. Is it fetching or hideous? I will have to wear it and see what sort of comments I get.

I think multicolor topstitching is more appropriate for women’s wear and that it would work better with denim. If my sister ever sends me her measurements I will make such a shirt for her.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer vacation

Hi. Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. I’ve been too busy with work and class to sew anything or write about all the stuff I’m not sewing. But now that classes are finally over I can take some time to update my blog.

I took three online classes this summer. The two business classes are required for apparel design students, and the gym class is required for all students at Stout. I plan to take most of my out-of-major requirements during summer sessions so I can concentrate on apparel design during the school year. I took weight training, basic merchandising (which ought to have been called retail management), and intro to international business (which was aptly named). All three were online classes. On online gym class seemed odd, but I took it anyway. I had to keep a journal documenting my workouts, take a short quiz, and write two short papers. Going to the gym was fun, and I intend to continue working out now that the class is over. The two business classes were interesting, but they required a huge investment of time. Perhaps the professors give more assignments in online classes, but the big problem was that each class compressed an entire semester’s workload into just four weeks. The classes did not run concurrently, so at least I did not have to deal with both at the same time. For the past eight weeks I have spent more time each day doing homework for one class than I spent last semester when I took five. I enjoyed the classes, but I think I would have learned a lot more had they gone slower. Two concurrent eight week classes would have been better than two consecutive four week ones. Oh well, maybe next summer. I got an A in all my summer classes so I can’t complain too much.

I did a little sewing at the start of summer, but I haven’t touched my sewing machine in eight weeks. My mother gave me a serger in June, but so far I have only used it for seam finishes. My goal for this week is to learn how to make polo shirts.

Again, I apologize for making you wait so long for a new post. I will try to never again go so long between posts. I will have some photos for you in a day or two, and I promise to post at least once per week for the remainder of summer and more often than that once the semester starts.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Interfacing lesson

A few weeks ago I made a hat. I used two different fabrics, a bottom weight twill and a medium weight plain weave. Interfacing needed to be attached to some of the pieces of each fabric. After carefully cutting out all my pattern pieces I fused the interfacing to the appropriate ones.

Everything was going well until I needed to attach an interfaced plain weave piece to a piece of twill that had no interfacing. All the pieces were the right size when I cut them out, but suddenly they no longer fit together. I preshrunk the interfacing and both types of fabric, but fusing the interfacing to the fabric caused it to shrink some more. The twill retained its size, but the plain weave pieces were suddenly far too small. I was able to salvage the project by trimming the pieces that did not shrink.

My instructor at MCTC taught me to fuse interfacing to fabric before cutting out pattern pieces, but both my instructor at Stout and the guide sheets in commercial patterns advise fusing the interfacing after the pieces are cut. I think my instructor at MCTC had the right idea. For everything I made since that hat I fused before cutting, and I have had no more shrinkage problems. This method requires a little more interfacing, but the stuff is cheap.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Insulted at the fabric store

This morning I was at Jo-Ann Fabrics. The woman cutting my fabric recognized my shirt’s print. I bought the fabric for the shirt at Wal-Mart, but apparently Jo-Ann also sells that print. She asked, “Did someone make that shirt for you?” I am a man, so clearly I could not be the one who made the shirt.

I cannot boycott Jo-Ann Fabrics, but I will not return to that particular location.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Semester review, part 3: textiles

Textiles was my favorite class and also the one I found most difficult. After watching students at Minneapolis Community and Technical College struggle through their textiles class I knew it would not be easy, but I was still surprised at how much I had to learn. I thought the class would consist of memorizing many different types of fabrics. I certainly had to do that, but there was so much more. It is not enough to know what fibers a particular piece of fabric is made of, I need to know everything about those fibers.

Each week there were two lectures and one lab. I found the lectures fascinating, but unfortunately a lot of my classmates did not agree with me. I meticulously took detailed notes while others connected with their friends or tended their farms on Facebook. I studied, did all my homework, and got an A in the class. I suspect the farmers did not do quite so well.

The class covered five broad topics: serviceability concepts, fibers, yarns, structures, and finishes. Serviceability concepts use the properties of a fiber, yarn, fabric, or finish to describe a textile product’s suitability for a particular use. I need to be familiar with these concepts and be able to apply them to specific products in order to choose the correct textile for whatever I am making.

We spent nearly half the semester learning about fibers. I learned the properties of many natural, regenerated, and synthetic fibers. With the aid of a microscope and a book of matches I had to be able to determine if a fiber was natural, regenerated, or synthetic. If it was natural I had to be able to identify it, and if it was regenerated I had to be able to tell if it was cellulosic or protein (azlon). As I studied fibers I often thought that the class belonged in the chemistry department rather than apparel design.

Yarns was the shortest, and I thought easiest, part of the class. Yarns are filament or spun, plain or fancy. Identifying fancy yarns was the hardest part of this section, but it was not too difficult.

Fabrics may be one of three structures: weave, knit, or non-woven. I had the most fun learning about weaves. I can visualize how a loom works, and I had no trouble identifying specific weaves. I found knits quite confusing. I learned enough to identify different knits, but I cannot visualize how a knitting machine turns yarns into fabrics. I suspect that if I spent some time with a knitting machine it would make a lot more sense, but looking at diagrams, pictures, and videos of the machines did not help me. I thought non-wovens were boring, but it might have been that we were nearing the end of the semester and I was very busy with projects for other classes. I was mortified to learn that the doll outfits I thought I made out of felt were really made with needle punched fake felt. I have nothing against the fabric itself, I just do not like things that are not labeled truthfully.

Learning about finishes was interesting, but I thought the lab could have been more exciting. Rather than just looking at fabrics to identify the finish I would have liked to have applied a finish or two myself. Studying coloring techniques inspired me to tie-dye the shirt I made for my apparel construction class. Despite numerous warnings that I would be foolish to try it, I am sorely tempted to try combining muslin and lye to make mercerized cotton.

After learning about fibers, yarns, structures, and finishes I had to apply my knowledge to identify fabric samples and use the serviceability concepts to explain how the fabric should be used. Identifying samples was the hardest part of the class for me. I can look at a piece of fabric and tell you its fiber content, yarn type, structure, and finish, but I have a lot of trouble remembering fabric names.

The content of the class will be very useful for me, but it was the professor who made the class so much fun. My classmates at MCTC often complained about their textiles instructor, and they hated their class. I am glad I waited until I got to Stout to take the class. Textiles can be a painfully dull topic, but Dr. Rhee made it fun and exciting. I am looking forward to taking more of her classes.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Semester review, part 2: fashion industry class

Before the start of the semester I was excitedly looking forward to my fashion industry class. I know I want to become a designer, but I do not know exactly what it is I want to do as a designer. I know very little about the fashion industry, so I am not sure who I want to work for or what sort of job I want. I hoped this class would teach me what I needed to figure out what I want to do. It didn’t.

I wanted to learn about fashion companies and how the industry functions. The class was about how to run a company. I do not feel at all prepared to run a company. The class was taught by an instructor from the apparel design department, not one from the business department. I will be taking two business classes this summer and more in the coming semesters. Perhaps those classes will prepare me to run a company, but I do not want to be the boss. I just want to work for someone else, collect a regular paycheck, and be told what to do.

The apparel design department’s intro class is not required for transfer students, but I will be taking it next semester. The intro class covers a lot of the stuff I hoped to learn in the fashion industry class. Fashion industry was a required class, so I’ll just think of it as three credits closer to graduation.

Although I feel I did not benefit much from this class, I did have a lot of fun with the final project. It was a group project. We had to design a product and create a company to market it. I wanted to make national costume doll outfits to coincide with the World Cup, but the other members of my group did not like playing with dolls. One of the women in the group once saw an article about using fabric with piezoelectric nanowires to generate electricity, and she thought clothing that could be used to recharge cell phones would be a good idea. The technology does not work, but our instructor loved the idea.

For the project we needed in a binder describing our product and company, and we had to make a three minute presentation advertising the product. I was not happy about having to design a marketing scheme for a product that I know could not work, but I had a lot of fun with my sales pitch. Unfortunately the other members of the group edited out some of my best bits. I set a price for our product, then used the following explanation to justify that price:

The technology upon which this product is based does not in fact exist. Piezoelectric nanowires exist and can be used to generate electricity, but there is no known process for waterproofing the wires. Atmospheric humidity is enough to render the wires inoperable. Our project is a work of science fiction. There are no data to support our price estimates. With a great deal of fanfare, Daniel Cole pulled the numbers from his ass and declared them to be good.

I felt honesty is good, but I was overruled. My teacher did not see my price explanation. Perhaps that was best. My final grade for this class was an A.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Semester review, part 1: the other classes

The semester is finally over, and it is time for me to share with you what I learned. Two of the five classes I took this semester had nothing to do with apparel design, but were still required for my major. I will begin my review with my thoughts about those two classes.

SOC 110 – Introductory Sociology I expected this class to be inane and painfully dull. If it was not required I would not have even considered taking a social science class. My plan was to get it out of the way early so that as my apparel classes become more difficult over the upcoming semesters I will not have to spend time with other subjects. I was pleased to discover that my expectations were unfounded. The class was both interesting and fun, and the professor did a great job presenting the information to us. I always looked forward to the lectures. The class was not easy. I needed to spend a lot of time studying, and the paper and two essays I wrote took a lot of work. I am pleased to say the effort I devoted to this class paid off; I got an A.

None of the topics covered in the class related directly to apparel or fashion, but I was able to write my paper about the fashion industry. Early in the semester the professor gave me an article about fashion from a sociology journal. It was not for my paper; it was just something he thought I would find interesting. He was right. The article, “Fashion” by Georg Simmel, is about the driving forces in fashion. I agreed with what Simmel had to say, and what I found most fascinating about the article was when it was written. The language seemed a little archaic, but at first I thought that was just how sociologists wrote. I was more than two pages into the article before I realized how old it is. What Simmel wrote about fashion in 1904 is true today. Simmel suggested that the driving force in fashion is the desire of rich people to distinguish themselves from the rest of us. New fashion is expensive, so only rich people can afford it. Soon poor folk will be wearing cheap knock-offs, so the rich people need something new to wear.

Although I enjoyed this class a lot, I have no plans to take any more sociology or other social science classes. I will only take classes required for my major and minor.

PKG 100 – Packaging and Society I would not have taken this class had it not been required. Unlike sociology I expected this class would be both interesting and relevant to my major, but as was the case with sociology, my expectations were wrong. Part of marketing apparel is how it is packaged, and although this class is required for all apparel design students the packaging of apparel was never mentioned. The instructor spent the entire semester talking about how food and medicines are packaged. I got an A in the class, yet I feel I did not learn anything. Well, I did learn that the period following the fall of the Roman Empire was called the Dark Ages because the sky was dark for 800 years, but I suspect that may not be entirely accurate. The class is over, I got a good grade, and one more requirement has been taken care of, so I will not drone on about it any more

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Choosing my concentration and minor

Apparel design students at UW-Stout must select one of three concentrations within the program. I have not yet picked mine. I do not need to declare a concentration now, but I should decide on one as soon as possible. Most of the apparel design classes are required for all three concentrations, but there are other classes that are required by only one or two of them. Any extra information I learn will be useful, but I want to graduate as soon as possible, so I need to spend as little time as possible in non-required classes.

The three concentrations are apparel design, apparel development, and apparel product management. I am leaning toward design, but my advisor seems to think product management would be better for me. The design concentration prepares students to become designers, while product management is more about running apparel companies. All three concentrations require a few business classes, but if I pick product management I will be only two classes away from a business minor.

I am taking the introductory apparel design class next semester. As a transfer student I am not required to take it, but I think it will be quite useful to me. I will learn a lot about the industry, and I expect the class will help me decide which concentration is right for me.

I have already fulfilled most of my general education requirements, so I may have time for two concentrations. Or I may choose a minor. I am considering Spanish, technical writing, and business administration. Learning another language can be quite useful. I will take a Spanish class next semester, and even if I choose to not minor in it I will take a few more. Quiero aprendar a hablar español. I would rather learn a Chinese dialect, but Stout does not offer any Chinese classes. The other two minors would be nice resume builders too. I will choose a concentration and possibly a minor before registering for spring, 2011 classes. The apparel design and business classes I chose for summer and fall are required for all three concentrations.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One more shirt and my first portfolio page

The third garment I made for my apparel construction class this semester was a shirt. My instructor felt that the shirt was the most difficult project of the semester. I had a little experience making shirts and none making pants, so I had more difficulty with the pants. I think the hardest part of making a shirt isn’t the actual sewing, it is understanding what to do. I already knew how to make a shirt, so as my classmates struggled to figure out how to make plackets, collars, cuffs, and all the other odd bits I was able to concentrate on getting everything made well.

I think I did a very good job with this shirt. It is far from perfect, but I see consistent improvement with every shirt I make. I had a lot of trouble with sleeve plackets and cuffs on previous shirts, but now those two seem easy. My collar stands are getting better, but they still need a lot of work.

Unlike the previous two projects for my class, this one did not require a fit muslin. We did a tissue fit instead.The torso fit well, and my pattern had neck sizes marked in inches, so those two areas presented no problems. I thought I would have to lengthen the sleeves, but after pinning my pattern to me my instructor said the sleeve length was good. I should have lengthened them. The sleeves on my first shirt were too short and I did not have enough fabric to make new ones. I was ahead of schedule, so instead of making giant cuffs I made a new shirt.

I need an unbleached muslin shirt for my fashion industry class. My plan was to make that shirt after I finished the broadcloth one for apparel construction, but after I gave up on the broadcloth shirt I decided to use the same shirt for both classes. I used a heavyweight muslin that looks quite nice for apparel.

I am not sure where the idea came from, but at some point I found myself thinking that as much as I liked my natural color shirt I would like it even more tie-dyed. Once an idea gets lodged in my head I cannot shake it. The local stores did not have a great selection of dyes, but I think the colors I chose work well together. I am almost done with an undyed shirt for fashion industry.

Every year the apparel design instructors at my school meet with industry representatives to evaluate the program. The most recent feedback they received was that Stout graduates are skilled in the technical areas of apparel design but have difficulty with presentation, communication, and technical writing. The department will try to work on those areas. Most classes will now require students to make some form of presentation. Instead of a final exam for apparel construction, we had to make portfolio pages and present them to the class.

I never made a portfolio page before, I do not know how to use the software usually used for portfolio pages, and there was only one brief lesson in class about how to make a portfolio. My pages for this class did not have to be up to professional standards; the purpose of this assignment was to introduce us to portfolios and presentations. I included photos of the shirt, samples of fabric and notions, and flat drawings of the shirt and some of its more difficult parts. I think my instructor was pleased with my portfolio. Tomorrow I get it back and find out what I did wrong.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sewing with the wrong plumbing

I finished my sociology paper about gender disparity is fashion design schools a few weeks ago. I would have written about it here sooner, but I wanted to wait to until I got it back with a grade and comments from my professor. I got 44 out of 50 points. It is not a very good grade, but I do not think it was a good paper so I can’t complain. I knew what points I wanted to make, and I had a lot of good data, but I had a lot of trouble using sociological concepts to support my arguments. My professor thought I had some good ideas, but he felt I failed to draw strong links between cause and effect.

I can sew a shirt, but I cannot form a proper sociological argument. That’s OK. I want to be a designer, not a sociologist. I enjoyed the class, but if it was not required I would not have taken it. I will not bore you with the full text of my paper; I will just sum up the main points.

Only a small percentage of fashion design students are men. Fewer than 4% of bachelor’s degrees awarded to apparel design students at UW-Stout go to men, and other schools have similar percentages. The fashion industry is generally perceived to be one for women and gay men. Most straight men wish to avoid the stigma of working in such an industry.

While the majority of fashion design students are female, the majority of big name fashion designers are gay men. The fashion industry is one in which success is determined by customer perception. So long as customers believe that gay men are better designers they will have a far greater chance of success than do women and straight men.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Inaccurately labeled fabrics

I had two projects to do for my textiles class this semester. The first project was about labeling laws. I got an A, and I learned a lot about labeling, but I would not say that I had a lot of fun writing about labels. The second project was a lot more enjoyable, but as I applied what I learned from the first project to the second one I became quite angry. Everyone in class was assigned four fabrics for the second project. I got plissé, serge, georgette, and bengaline. I knew nothing about my four fabrics, so I had a lot of work to do.

I had to provide a detailed description and a photo of each fabric. I also needed ads for a products made with each fabric. Fabric swatches were not required, but I thought it would be nice to add them. I could only find plissé and georgette, but that was two more than most people in class included in their projects, so I thought it would be good. It wasn’t.

I had no problems with the photos and descriptions or with ads for serge, georgette, and bengaline products. Most of the “plissé” items I found online did not actually contain plissé. Plissé is made by treating cotton with caustic soda. Most of the “plissé” items I found were actually seersucker or embossed fabric.

My two swatches were from Hancock Fabrics. The fabric sold as plissé was actually embossed. Georgette is a lightweight sheer balanced plain weave with filament crepe yarns. My swatch is a lightweight sheer balanced plain weave with low twist filament yarns. I did not lose any points, but it was still damn embarrassing.

My mistake was thinking that fabrics would be labeled correctly. The labels I wrote about for my first project listed fiber content and care requirements. The FTC has extensive regulations for content and care labels, but there seems to be nothing regulating fabric names. The only thing preventing you from calling seersucker plissé is the potential negative reaction of your customers, and I do not think there are too many people who know the difference.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hot iron, short sleeves, bad shirt

My apparel construction class began work on our shirt this week. I have made shirts before, so I expected to have no problems with this project. As my classmates were still working on collars and front plackets all I had left was cuffs, buttonholes, and hem. My plan was to have the shirt finished by now so I could spend the weekend and the last week of class studying and working on other projects. My optimism was foolish, but at least I have time to make another shirt.

I ran into two problems. My fabric is a polyester/cotton blend, and my iron was too hot. The heat setting was fine for pressing the fabric flat and pressing open seam allowances, but my front plackets became horribly distorted. If the crinkled plackets were the only problem I might have been able to turn in this shirt, but I ran into a bigger problem with the sleeves. Instead of making a muslin for the shirt we just did a tissue fit. I thought my sleeves were long enough. They weren’t. This problem could be fixed with huge cuffs, but then the shirt would look silly.

I need a greige goods shirt to wear for my final project presentation in my fashion industry class, but I did not plan to have that shirt finished by the time my apparel construction shirt is due. Now I will have to use the same shirt for both classes. So the shirt I made with fashion fabric is my muslin, and the shirt I will make with muslin is my finished product. At least I am getting a lot of experience making shirts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fifty dollar presser foot

I started work on my shirt. My pattern calls for ¼ inch seam allowances. I think the 5/8 inch seam allowances on most commercial patterns are too big, but ¼ inch seems awfully small. Half inch seam allowances are better. Where I will be making flat felled seams I increased the size of my pattern to allow for ½ inch seam allowances, but for the rest of the shirt I want to try making the ¼ inch ones.

On home machines the edge of the presser foot is 3/8 inch from the needle. I can sew ¼ inch seams like this, but it is easier with a ¼ inch foot. I remembered seeing a ¼ inch foot at Jo Ann Fabrics, so I hopped in my car and drove 30 miles to Eau Claire.

Only one ¼ inch foot was in stock, but one was all I needed. The foot cost $4.99. I did not need any fabric or notions, but I am unable to enter a fabric store without buying lots of stuff. On a sales rack I found two bolts of dupioni silk marked down 75%. I did not need dupioni silk, but at $4.00 per yard I felt I could not afford to not buy some. Two colors were available, green and gold. I am not too fond of either color, and there was not enough of each for a single color garment, but how often do I get an opportunity to work with silk? After I make a few cotton shirts to become comfortable with my pattern, I will make a silk shirt.

I bought a few other pieces of fabric from the sales rack along with some thread that was on sale. I had a 40% off coupon, but the coupon could not be used for sales items or machine accessories. I did not want to waste the coupon that cost $0.10 to print in the library, so I bought a bolt of interfacing. You can never have too much interfacing. The presser foot was the only thing on my shopping list, but I ended up spending more than fifty dollars.

The presser foot does not work!

It is labeled a universal foot. The package states it can be used with both Brother and Elna machines, but it does not fit on my Brother or either type of Elna at school. It is a snap-on foot, which both Brother and Elna machines use, but the back end of the foot is too close to the presser foot holder. The foot cannot move freely, and it does not rest flat against the feed dogs. With the foot at an odd angle it does not hold fabric in place. Stupid foot. At least I got some silk.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My first pants

I turned in the pants for my apparel construction class on Wednesday. This was the first time I made a pair of pants. It was not an easy project. I usually make a few practice items before the one I turn in, but for this project I did not have time to do so. All I could fit in was one extra muslin, but even that little bit helped a lot.

My pants are not great, but for a first attempt I think I did a good job. The pants fit well, but I will probably never wear them. I did not make back pockets. The requirements for the project were front pockets, fly front with zipper, and waist band. I put a back pocket in one of my muslins, and was very bad. I found making pants difficult enough and I did want to risk mangling the pants with a poorly made back pocket.

Belt loops were not required, but I added them to my pants. Wearing a belt during my final fit gave me a little wiggle room in the waist size. I did not like my pattern for belt loops or their placement, so I designed my own loops and put them where I like. My pattern called for me to make belt loops by sewing a thin tube of fabric. Turning the tube was too difficult, so I wanted to find a different method. I examined a few pairs of pants and found that belt loops are commonly made by folding a piece of fabric and covering the raw edge with a coverstitch. I do not have access to a coverstitch machine, but I do have a double needle for my lockstitch. The double needle is not as good, but for belt loops it is good enough.

I used matching color thread for the pants. The contrasting thread was used here for contrast.

The fly front was the most difficult part of the project. It took me a lot of time to finish, and my seam ripper saw a lot of action. My finished fly is not great, but it works and there are no exposed unfinished edges. My instructor warned the class that the waist band would also be quite difficult, but I found it easy. The method I use to attach sleeve cuffs worked well for the waist band. The bottom hem, while easy, proved to be a time consuming process. The hem had to be hand stitched. Had I done it at home rather than in lab with all my classmates to distract me I would have needed less time, but working in lab is a lot more fun.

I used one of the computerized machines for my buttonhole. Last semester as I was working on shirts I wrote about how easy it was to use my home machine to make buttonholes. Compared to the school machines, my home machine seems overly complicated and difficult. The buttonhole feet at school have a special slot into which I insert a button, and this tells the machine how big to make the hole. At home I must measure the length of the hole myself and hope I get it right. On my home machine I must stop after each part of the hole and change the setting on my machine. At school I just hit the gas pedal and let the machine do all the work. The school machines even give me a choice of a few different types of holes. I made a keyhole buttonhole for my pants. It almost seems too easy. Sewing should require more effort.

Muslin Muslin Pants

Monday, April 12, 2010

Men wear clothing too

The pants and shirt I am sewing in my apparel construction class must fit me, and I need to supply the patterns. The women in class have had no trouble finding patterns, but for the men it is not so easy. Not only do we need to find pants and shirt patterns; the patterns must meet certain requirements. The pants need a fly front and real pockets – no patch pockets. The shirt must have a collar stand and sleeve cuffs.

The local Wal-Mart carries only Simplicity patterns. The only Simplicity men’s pants pattern has patch pockets. Simplicity has a few men’s shirt patterns that meet the requirements for my class, but the shirts do not look good. They lack yokes and sleeve plackets.

The nearest fabric store with a better selection of patterns is in Eau Claire, 28 miles away from home. I found McCall’s patterns on sale for $0.99, but there are no McCall’s pants patterns that meet the requirement for my class. McCall’s offers a shirt pattern with a collar stand, yoke, cuffs, and sleeve plackets, but I have used this pattern before and I do not like it. Parts of the shirt fit very poorly. Perhaps the fault was mine, but I did not want to risk it. I bought a Kwik Sew shirt pattern and a Burda pants pattern.

I had very few options as I searched for patterns. Men’s clothing makes up a very small portion of the pattern books. McCall’s offers more patterns for menswear in the costumes section than in the men’s section. I understand that most of the people who sew are women, but surely some of them have husbands, boyfriends, fathers, and sons who wear clothing. In a few years I will be able to design my own patterns, but for now I must rely on commercial ones. Perhaps if more menswear patterns were available more men would sew.

Friday, April 2, 2010

They're dropping like flies

At the start of the semester there were 20 students in my apparel construction class. Six are majoring in education, one in business, and the rest in apparel design. One of the apparel design students dropped the class a few weeks ago after realizing that sewing was not for her. Another apparel design student plans to finish the class, but she will be changing her major. I do not know how many people have dropped out of my textiles class, but last week the woman I sit next to in lab told me that next semester she will be transferring to another school where she will major in something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fashion industry. Students who were here last semester have told me that it is rare for only two students to give up on apparel design after taking the apparel construction class; usually five or more drop out.

There are usually about 200 students majoring in apparel design at my school, but on average only 30 earn a degree each year. There are a lot of people who drop this major after or during their first year. I knew my major had a high attrition rate, but I do not enjoy watching it happen. I love what I am studying and doing, and I wish others did too. Some of my classmates share my passion for the work, but others seem overwhelmed and dismayed. I think their expectations for the program were misguided. A lot of students seemed to expect the glamour of high fashion they see in magazines and on TV, and did not think they would have to do any real work. I try to help and encourage my classmates, but for some of them this just is not the right field.

High school seniors who are considering attending Stout to major in apparel design have been visiting my apparel construction class. We try to make the class look fun, but I hope they also see that it is a lot of hard work. Last week six prospective students watched as we struggled, and often failed, to make pants pockets.

Apparel design can be a fun and rewarding major, but it is not necessarily easy. Hard work and long hours are required. Realistic expectations and a passion for the work are required to do will in this major.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My textiles class is finally finished with fibers. We are beginning yarns in lecture, and in lab we already covered yarns and are now moving on to woven fabrics. Our first task was to use magnifying glasses to examine fabric samples and identify the weave. We then had to diagram some weaves.
I had no trouble with plain and basket weaves. Twill weaves were a confusing, but after I started to draw a diagram they became a bit easier. Satin weaves had me stymied. I read about satin weaves in my textbook, I looked at diagrams, and I used a stereoscopic microscope to examine some fabric, but I still did not understand the weave. Fortunately I had one more task to perform for the lab, and it was that last task that finally allowed me to understand satin weaves.

I do not know if my school has a loom, but we did not need one to construct weaves. We wove strips of construction paper. At first it felt like a silly assignment. As I constructed a plan and basket weave I thought this would be a good art project for kindergarten students, but for college students it seemed a little demeaning.

As I moved on to a twill weave I began to understand the value of this project. Twill quickly went from slightly confusing to very easy.

Then there was satin. As I began to weave my strips of paper together I still had no understanding of the weave. It took me a few tries to get the piece started, but once I made it to my fourth correctly inserted filling “yarn” I finally had a basic understanding of the weave.

Satin still is not easy, but at least I now understand how it works. This silly assignment turned out to be quite useful in teaching me about various weaves. Next week we will look at fancy and novelty weaves. Oy vey. I need to go buy some construction paper to play with at home.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Skirt - 3rd time's the charm

I apologize for allowing so much time to pass since my last post. In the week before spring break I have been overwhelmed with tests and papers. But now spring break has begun and I can spend time on important stuff such as making a few shirts for myself and writing blog entries.
My apparel construction class has begun work on pants; our skirts were finished a week ago. It took me three attempts to make a skirt, but I am quite pleased with the finished product. There were problems with the seam finishes on my first skirt. I could have torn out the stitching, but I had enough fabric and time to start over. Skirt number two was going well, but at some point between one class and the next the fabric got stretched. Where the skirt used to hug the mannequin’s curves nicely it now has an unsightly bulge. I tried to steam it out, but I could not shrink the fabric enough. I was not happy about this, but I wanted a good grade so I started my third skirt.
I chose a different fabric for the third skirt in hopes of avoiding another unfortunate stretching incident. The first two skirts were a cotton/rayon blend. The skirt was made for a mannequin, not a person, so I did not care if it is dry-clean only. I chose the fabric for its print, weight, and price. I used 100% cotton denim for my third skirt. I wanted a fabric I could trust.

I learned the pattern’s idiosyncrasies on skirts one and two, so skirt number three was easy. The only bit I found at all troublesome was the hem. I was required to hand stitch the hem, and I had no hand stitching experience. I now know how to hem a skirt without the aid of modern technology. I do not like hand stitching, and I do not intend to use it too often, but it is always good to learn new skills.

I got an A for the skirt. My instructor pointed out that the side seams do not line up perfectly with the line of my model’s legs, but it was close. She acknowledged that it is easier to get a close fit on real people, so I did not lose any points for that. I was a little upset that she did not have any comments about my seam finishes. There was no requirement for a specific type of seam finish as long as there were no exposed unfinished edges. The rest of the class used sergers to finish their seams. I do not like the look of serged seam finishes, so I made flat felled seams. It is my favorite seam and the most appropriate one for denim.

I considered making a skirt for myself instead of for the mannequin. It would have been fun to wear a skirt in class for the final fitting, but I decided it would be better to make one for a woman’s body. I do not have curves in the right places. There is not much demand for men’s skirts, so I thought it would be wise to learn to learn women’s skirts first.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Disregarding care labels

I recently completed a small project about label laws for my textiles class. As part of the project I had to examine the labels from a garment made of two or more types of fiber. I needed to explain what the information on the labels means. I also had to assess the care instructions to determine if they are appropriate.

A brief search of my closet turned up some shirts, a sweater, and two pairs of bicycle shorts that met the fiber requirements for the project. The shorts contained some synthetic fibers I have not learned about yet, so I did not use them. The sweater had the most interesting combination of fibers. It contains cotton, acrylic, and two other synthetic fibers, but I was unable to use it. I have never washed the sweater, so I cannot comment on its care instructions. No, I do not have a dirty sweater in my closet. It has never been washed because it has never been worn. That left me with a choice between a cotton/rayon shirt and a cotton/polyester shirt. Both have been worn and washed a lot, but only the cotton/poly shirt has been ironed, so that is the one I chose. Had I picked the cotton/rayon one my responses would have looked the same. I have not followed the care instructions for either one.

Care instruction labels never attracted my attention before this semester. I knew to separate whites and darks, and to not use the higher iron temperatures on synthetic fabrics, but I never considered a temperature setting other than high for a washing machine. For white shirts I set dryers at medium temperatures, but for all other items I used the highest dryer temperature setting. In the Laundromat dryers 12 minutes at high heat costs the same as 12 minutes on low heat. Other than a few white shirts that were slightly singed by dryers on high and one olefin carpet that should not have been ironed, none of my textile products have been damaged by my care. (Ink stains from pens left in pants pockets in the wash don’t count.)

The care labels for both shirts advise me to wash cold, dry low, iron warm, and use only non-chlorine bleach. The cotton/rayon shirt is dark blue, so I do not bleach it, but the white cotton/poly shirt is always washed with a large dose of chlorine bleach. The cotton/rayon shirt is dried at high heat, and the cotton/poly at medium. Both shirts are washed at high heat. My iron is set near its highest setting for the cotton/poly shirt. Neither shirt has suffered any damage from my aggressive care.

It seems to me that care labels are overly restrictive. I found labels recommending low heat settings for 100% cotton shirts and pants. Before taking my textiles class I did not know that rayon is easily damaged by heat, yet my two 100% rayon shirts have survived multiple hot washings without harm. I treat my dry-clean-only garments correctly, but why must I treat my machine-washable items so gently? I suspect manufacturers exhort us to exercise such caution in how we wash our garments in order to avoid responsibility for the routine wear and tear that garments experience. I will continue to disregard most care labels, and I will accept the blame for any damage to my clothing in the wash.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Textiles review: manufactured regenerated fibers

The final part of my textiles review covers regenerated fibers. I imagine my textiles reviews are not as exciting to read as are my normal blog entries, but writing them was quite helpful to me. The test was yesterday. I found it easy. I am sorry if you do not care for these reviews, but I plan to write more of them next time a test rolls around. Fortunately that will not be for a while, so I may now return to my normal irreverent blogging.

Manufactured fibers are formed into fibers from chemical compounds. They do not exist in fiber form without human intervention. Manufactured fibers may be regenerated or synthetic. Regenerated fibers are produced from naturally occurring polymers that do not occur naturally as fibers. Regenerated fibers are made from cellulose (plant) or protein (plant or animal). Synthetic fibers are made from polymers that do not occur naturally.

The Federal Trade Commission gives fibers generic names based on fiber chemistry. Manufacturers may also use trade names for the fibers they produce.

Fiber production
The process of producing a manufactured fiber is called spinning. Whether fibers are regenerated or synthetic, the spinning process is the same. The only significant differences occur in the production of the solution from which the fiber is made. Raw materials are made into a spinning solution (dope) by dissolving them in chemicals. I do not have the necessary knowledge of chemistry to understand the solution production process, and information about that process is not taught in my class, so I will speak of it no more. Fiber manufacture follows three steps:
1. Prepare a dope or melt
2. Extrude the dope or melt through a spinneret to form a fiber
3. Solidify the fiber by coagulation, evaporation, or cooling.

The spinneret is like a showerhead through which the dope is forced. The size and shape of the holes in the spinneret determine the size and shape of the fiber.

Manufactured fibers may be used in filament or staple form. Filament yarn is made by twisting filament fibers together. Filament tow is a rope of thousands of untwisted filament fibers. It is cut to make staple fibers. The fibers may be crimped.

There are three basic methods of fiber spinning:
Wet spinning: Raw material is dissolved by chemicals to produce a dope. The fiber is spun into a chemical bath where it solidifies. Wet spinning is the oldest and most complex method of fiber manufacture. The solvent and chemical bath are hazardous materials that must be recovered. Wet spinning can be used to produce acrylic, lyocell, rayon, and spandex. Wet spinning is rarely used.

Dry spinning: Resin solids are dissolved by chemicals to produce a dope. The fiber is spun into warm air where evaporation of the solvent causes the fiber to cool and solidify. The solvent must be recovered, but without the chemical bath there are fewer hazardous materials than in wet spinning. Dry spinning can be used to produce acetate, acrylic, modacrylic, and spandex.

Melt spinning: Resin solids are melted to produce a dope. The fiber is spun into air where it cools and solidifies. It is the cheapest method of fiber production, and there are no solvents to be recovered. It can be used to produce nylon, olefin, polyester, and saran. Regenerated fibers are not produced by melt spinning.

Fiber modifications
Every step of the fiber manufacture process can be precisely controlled to produce uniform fibers with specific characteristics.

Spinneret modifications: The size and shape of spinneret holes can be adjusted to produce fibers with specific dimensions. Hollow fibers may be created by adding gas forming compounds to the dope, by injecting air into the fiber as it forms, or by altering the shape of the spinneret hole. Hollow fibers are good insulators.

Molecular structure and crystallinity modifications: The molecular structure and the degree of crystallinity of a fiber contribute to its properties. These can be altered in the manufacture process by a controlled stretching of the fiber after it exits the spinneret or by selecting specific compounds used to produce the polymers. High tenacity fibers may be produced by stretching the fibers to line up the molecules and /or by chemical modification of the polymer to increase the degree of polymerization. I am not really sure what that all means. I never liked organic chemistry. The molecules are too big. I prefer physics where all the really exciting stuff happens in spaces smaller than an atomic nucleus.

Dope additives: Chemicals may be added to the dope to alter the fiber’s properties. Dyes may be added to color a fiber. Solution dyed fibers retain color better than fibers dyed after they are produced. Dye-accepting chemicals may be added to make a fiber more dyeable. Whiteners may be added to make fibers look whiter and resist yellowing. Delusterants may be added to reduce a fiber’s luster.

Modifications in fiber spinning: Crimp may be added to manufactured fibers by altering the way the fiber cools and solidifies. Filament fibers can be cut to create staple fibers.

Bicomponent fibers: Two polymers may be combined in a single fiber. Bilateral fibers are spun with two polymers side by side. Core-sheath fibers have one polymer encircled by another. The different polymers may react differently to heat and moisture, or each may have specific characteristics that are desired in the finished fiber.

Regenerated fibers
Regenerated fibers are produced from naturally occurring polymers that do not occur naturally as fibers. Cellulose and protein may be uses to produce regenerated fibers.

Rayon, lyocell, acetate, bamboo, and PLA are regenerated cellulosic fibers.

Azlon is the generic name for all regenerated protein fibers.

Rayon was the first manufactured fiber. The earliest form of rayon was invented in 1846, but it was highly explosive. Commercial production of viscose rayon began in the U.S. in 1911. Rayon is produced with the wet spinning method.

There are three types of rayon: Viscose rayon, cuprammonium (cupra), and high wet modulus (HWM) rayon. Viscose was the first type of rayon commercially produced, and HWM is the newest. Cupra is sold with the trade name Bemberg®. HWM is sold with the generic name polynosic and the trade name ModalTM.

Physical structure of rayon
Rayon can be either staple or filament. The fiber has lengthwise lines called striations. It has a serrated or indented circular cross section. This is caused by the fiber collapsing in on itself during coagulation from loss of the solvent. Cupra and HWM have a rounder cross section than viscose.

Properties of rayon
Aesthetics: Rayon can be produced to look like cotton, flax, wool, and silk.

Durability: Rayon is a low tenacity fiber that loses up to 50% of its strength when wet. HWM rayon is stronger than cupra, and cupra is stronger than viscose. Viscose has a breaking elongation of 8% to 14%. HWM rayon has a breaking elongation of 9% to 18%. Rayon may be permanently damaged by water.

Comfort: Rayon has a soft, smooth hand. It is highly absorbent, a good conductor of heat, and it does not build up a static charge.

Appearance retention: Rayon has low resiliency and dimensional stability. Viscose rayon may stretch or shrink. HWM rayon has better dimensional stability; it is less likely to stretch or shrink.

Care: Viscose rayon should be dry-cleaned. Cupra and HWM rayon may be machine washable; read the care label. Rayon is resistant to heat and may be ironed with high temperatures. Rayon may be damaged by silverfish and mildew, so it should be stored dry.

Environmental impact: Most rayon is produced from wood pulp. The fiber is biodegradable, but it cannot degrade if it is placed in a landfill. The wet spinning process uses large quantities of chemicals that may contribute to air and water pollution. Cupra is no longer produced in the U.S. because manufacturers were unable to comply with water and air quality requirements.


Lyocell was introduced in the early 1990s. It was originally sold as a type of rayon, but it differs from rayon enough that it now has a separate generic classification. Lyocell is sold with the trade name Tencel®

Physical structure of lyocell
Lyocell fibers can be staple or filament. The fibers have a smooth surface and round cross section.

Properties of lyocell
Aesthetics: The luster, drape, and texture of lyocell can be varied. Lyocell imitates the aesthetics of the natural cellulosic fibers, but it most closely resembles cotton. Lyocell fibers may pill.

Durability: Lyocell is the strongest regenerated cellulosic fiber. Its breaking tenacity is 4.8 to 5.0 g/d dry and 4.2 to 4.6 g/d wet. Lyocell has good abrasion resistance and poor elongation.

Comfort: Lyocell has a soft, smooth hand. It resembles cotton. It has excellent absorbency and poor thermal retention.

Appearance retention: Lyocell has moderate resiliency; it wrinkles, but not as badly as rayon. Lyocell has moderate dimensional stability. It may shrink, but not too badly.

Care: Lyocell may be machine washed on gentle cycle or dry cleaned. Read the care label. It may be ironed with high heat. It may be damaged by mildew and insects.

Environmental impact: Lyocell is produced with the wet spinning method, but the solvents are recycled so hazardous waste is not produced. The chemicals used to produce lyocell are less harmful than those used to produce rayon. Lyocell is biodegradable, but if it is placed in a landfill it will not degrade.

Acetate was introduced in the U.S. in 1924

Physical properties of acetate
Acetate fibers can be staple or filament. Acetate typically has a lobular cross-sectional shape and lengthwise striations, but the shape of the fiber can be altered in the spinning process. Acetate is thermoplastic; it melts in high heat. Acetate dissolves in acetone.

Properties of acetate
Aesthetics: The aesthetic properties of acetate are excellent. It has high luster, good drape, and smooth hand and texture. It is often used to make fabrics for which good appearance is more important that durability and ease of care.

Durability: Acetate is not a durable fiber. Its dry breaking tenacity is 1.2 to 1.4 g/d, and it is slightly weaker when wet. Acetate has low abrasion resistance and elongation. Acetate is resistant to mildew and moths.

Comfort: Acetate has a smooth, soft, but slightly clammy hand. It has moderate absorbency. It builds up a static charge. It is a moderate insulator.

Appearance retention: Acetate has poor appearance retention. It has poor resiliency and elastic recovery, and moderate dimensional stability. It may shrink. Acetate may experience fume fading – its color changes. This may be prevented with solution dyeing.

Care: Acetate should be dry-cleaned. It melts at high temperatures, so it may only be ironed on low heat.

Other regenerated fibers
Bamboo is a type of rayon that uses bamboo as the source of cellulose. It contains no bamboo fibers. In the past few years bamboo has been marketed as an environmentally friendly fabric, but the claims were unsubstantiated. The FTC has recently taken action against manufactures of bamboo rayon barring them from making deceptive claims about the fabric. The FTC does not recognize “bamboo” as a generic name for bamboo based rayon.

PLA (polylactic acid) is a regenerated cellulosic fiber made from cornstarch. The FTC approved it as a generic fiber in 2002. It is sold with the trade name Ingo®. We had some PLA in lab. It seems great. I would like to find some of it to play with.

SoySilk® is a type of azlon. It is made from a soy protein that is a waste product of the tofu manufacturing process. Yummy. It is a durable fiber with a soft hand, great drape, good colorfastness, excellent absorbency, good comfort, and good thermal retention. We had some SoySilk® in lab too. I liked it a lot. If it isn't too expensive I want to use it to make a shirt.

Silk Latte® is a type of azlon made from milk protein. It is similar to SoySilk® but slightly less durable.