Sunday, January 31, 2010

A swatch, a bag, and a seam

I spent the first weekend of the semester sewing, studying, and doing homework. I hope I can keep up these good work habits for the next four years.

I mounted the 125 swatches in the kit for my textiles lab. Hopefully they are still in the correct order. If by the end of the semester I can identify all 125 swatches I will consider my tuition money to have been very well spent.
As I was mounting my swatches I was thrilled every time I found one I recognized: muslin, corduroy, denim, and duck. Of those muslin is the one I know the most about, and even for muslin I cannot yet fill out all the lines in the book. As I learn more about textiles I will start making smarter choices at the fabric store.

Last semester I learned how important experience is while trying to sew. Tomorrow my apparel construction class will make tote bags, so yesterday I made one at home.I already had a copy of the pattern we will use, so the bag I made at home is quite similar to the one I will make in class. I had to guess about the exact way to attach the pocket and handles. My methods may not be the ones I will use in class, but any sewing practice is good. I will use a serger for the seam finishes in class. I do not yet have my own serger, so I had to find another way to finish the seams. I used denim, so I decided flat-felled seams would be most appropriate.
I am quite fond of flat-felled seams, but they were by far the most difficult part of the project. I do not know if I will be using them for any of my class projects this semester, but I plan to work on them a lot at home. One year ago I would have laughed at the notion of having a favorite seam. Now I look forward to learning additional types of seams, and I wonder if I will find any of them as pleasing as flat-felled seams.

The swatches are swimwear tricot, brushed tricot, raschel crochet, raschel knit lace, Coolmax® mesh, and pleather. I could tell you what my book has to say about them, but I would not understand it. Ask me again in a few months.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The first week of school

The first week of the semester is over. We are still just getting started, but I think I have seen enough to have a good notion of what the coming few month hold in store for me. My goal for the semester is a 4.0 average, so I will be spending a lot of time studying. Studying and doing homework is a break from my earlier college strategy of doing just the bare minimum to get by, but looking at how earlier attempts at college turned out I think a new strategy is necessary.

I will not be learning about apparel design or the fashion industry in my sociology and packaging classes, but the classes are still interesting. While they are not about apparel/fashion, I expect that some of the lessons learned will prove to be useful in my eventual career.

I will not be using industrial sewing machines for class this semester, but I hope to be able to spend some time on them in open lab to retain my skills. In class I will use an Elna 3210 mechanical lockstitch and a Juki 4-thread serger. Some computerized lockstitch machines are also available. I will spend some time learning how to use them, but I plan to do most of my work on the mechanical machines. So far I have just sewn a few lines on muslin in order to learn the machine, but I think I like it a lot.

I will not be working with any knit fabrics this semester; the serger will be used for seam finishes on woven fabrics. I will spend a lot of time sewing on muslin rectangles, but I also have four projects to make. Next week I start work on the first project, a tote bag. The other three projects are a pair of pants, a skirt, and a shirt. The pants and shirt will be for me; I do not know who the skirt will be for.

This semester’s sewing class is an introductory class as was the class I took last semester, but I will learn a lot more this time. Last semester was mostly about using industrial machines. I learned how to use the machines and how to follow a pattern to make shirts. My class this semester will go into much more detail. Not only will I learn how to make items, I will learn how to modify the patterns in order to fit the items to a specific body.

The textiles class will probably be my most difficult class this semester. There is so much I need to memorize. In textile lab today I looked at canvas swatch under a stereoscopic microscope. I knew it was a woven fabric, but I had no idea how much detail I would find. The threads on the lengthwise grain were made of three pieces of yarn laid parallel to each other, while the crosswise grain thread was made of one larger piece of yarn. I had no idea fabrics were so complicated, and this is a comparatively simple fabric. It was exciting, but also daunting to realize how little I know and how much I have to learn.

My fashion industry class has only met once. We were supposed to meet yesterday, but another class was using our classroom. This should be sorted out by next week. The class seems interesting, but I do not have much to go on yet. I already have an idea for what my final project will be, but I will keep that to myself until I start working on it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Notebooks, folders, textbooks, and a computer

My classes begin Monday. This is my last weekend with nothing to do. I could spend it in a productive manner by sewing something, but I probably won’t. I plan to take advantage of these last few days free from obligations by sitting on my sofa watching movies and eating cheesy poofs.

Yesterday I picked up supplies for the semester: notebooks, folders, textbooks, and a new computer. Students at my school do not need to purchase their textbooks; the school has a textbook rental program. A $5.22 fee is added to the cost of each credit to cover the cost of books. Students pick up the books required for their classes at the start of the semester, and return them after the semester is over. Books a student wishes to keep can be purchased at reduced prices. I far prefer renting books to purchasing them. In the past I would spend a few hundred dollars each semester on books. The only thing I needed to buy this semester was the fabric swatch kit for my textiles class.

In addition to the textbook rental fee, a laptop rental fee is also added to tuition. Students get a new computer every two years. I already had a computer, so I am not sure what I will do with my new one. The fee is not optional, so now I have two computers. My music, photos, and other documents are on my old computer. The new computer has some good graphics programs that I will probably need in future semesters, but for now I plan to continue using my old one.

Click here for more information about UW-Stout’s textbook rental system or here for information about laptop rental.

Following is a list of the textbooks I received and my thoughts about them. I have not yet read the books, so these are not reviews, just my initial impressions.

APRL 145 – Interior Decorating/Design Textiles

- Kadolph, Sara J. Textiles. Upper Saddle Rivers, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. 2007.

This looks like a good book. I need to memorize a lot for this class, and this book will make it easier. There are a lot of pictures and table. A list of key terms can be found at the end of every chapter along with some discussion questions. Furthermore every chapter ends with a suggested reading list that includes page numbers which will make any additional research I have to do a lot easier.

- Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc. Basic Swatch Kit. Smyrna, TN: 2008.

It is a swatch kit. I have never had a swatch kit before so I have nothing to compare it to. The swatches are bound together with a rubber band, and a warning label on the package warns me to not remove the rubber band lest I get the swatches out of their proper order. Without such a dire warning I probably would have removed it. The plastic bag already tore, but I was planning to make a snazzy new bag anyway. Sixty dollars seems a lot to pay for some scraps of fabric, but it is the only book I had to buy so I can’t complain.

APRL 166 – Apparel Construction

- Brackelsberg, Phyllis and Marshall, Ruth. Unit Method of Clothing Construction. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc. 1999.

This book is intended to be used as a textbook. I think it will be a very useful tool, and I may purchase it at the end of the semester.

- Reader’s Digest. New Complete Guide to Sewing. Montreal: The Reader’s Digest Association. 2002.

I already owned a copy of this book. It was my textbook last semester at MCTC, and I was not surprised to learn I would be using it again. The book is intended for home sewers, but it is still quite useful as a textbook.

APRL 274 – Fashion Industry

- Johnson, Maurice J. and Moore, Evelyn C. Apparel Product Development. Upper Saddle Rivers, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 2001.

I was hoping to see The Teen Vogue Handbook on the required list for this class, but I suppose Apparel Product Development is more appropriate for use as a textbook. The first edition of this book was titled So You Want to Work in the Fashion Business: A Practical Look at Apparel Product Development and Global Manufacturing. This book seems to provide a detailed and impartial view of the fashion industry. Hopefully by the end of this class I will have a better idea of what exactly it is I wish to do in the industry.

PKG 100 – Packaging and Society

- Hine, Thomas. The Total Package. Toronto: Little, Brown & Company. 1995.

I do not know what this class will be about, so I started reading the book. The book seems to be about the way manufactures package their products for sale. The book is interesting, but I find it difficult to read. I feel it is poorly written, and I am not sure it is an appropriate textbook. The author states facts and refers to studies, but never cites the source of the information.

SOC110 - Introductory Sociology

- Ferris, Kerry and Stein, Jill. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2008.

The title says it all, this is an introductory sociology textbook. I am not too excited about sociology, but the book is filled with big colorful interesting pictures, so maybe the text will be interesting too.

- Goodwin, Jeff and Jasper, James M., ed. The Contexts Reader. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2008.

This book is a collection of articles from Contexts, a magazine from the American Sociological Association intended to introduce sociological research and perspectives to non specialists. I think sociology articles written for non sociologists will be easier to read than ones written for sociologists.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What I did on break

I apologize for letting so much time pass since my last blog entry. Classes at MCTC ended on December 15, and classes at Stout begin on January 25. I planned to do a lot of sewing while on break, but I have not had the time. The move from Minnesota to Wisconsin has been very time consuming. My sewing machine, fabrics, and tools were among the first things I boxed up. The sewing machine and tools have been put away in my new apartment, but all my fabric is still in boxes.

I love my new apartment. It is larger and nicer than the apartment I had in Minneapolis, it is in a better neighborhood, and the rent is nearly 30% less. I have a dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer in my new apartment. I do not own enough dishes to justify the use of the dishwasher, but I am excited about having a washing machine and dryer. I hate going to Laundromats.

I did a little prep work for school over break. I took the English Composition CLEP test, and my score was high enough to place me out of two semesters of required English classes. Yay, two classes closer to graduation. With the English class out of my schedule I had room for something else. I enrolled in PKG 100, Packaging and Society. I have no idea what this class is about, but it is required for my major. I will write more about it after the semester begins.

I am feeling quite nervous about the coming semester. It is not my classes that scare me, rather it is my classmates. I am nearly twice the age of most of the other apparel design students. Will I find new friends, or will everyone see me as the weird alter cocker? Oh, well. No point worrying now. I will find out soon enough.