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I take your questions and do my best to answer them, vol. 2

March 29th, 2009 by tatterdemalion

Bernice recently left a comment on my “Crash Course on Dart Moving“.




I like taking questions from the audience, and I like being able to help people who are struggling to figure something out. If anyone out there has questions, please ask them. It may take me a few weeks for me to get back to you, but I will get back to you. I can’t give a 100% guarantee that I know the answers to everything, but I have to be getting close to knowing everything. (Right? Right? C’mon, somebody back me up here!)

Okay, this explanation is going to be on the long side, so bear with me. Because the first thing I’m going to talk about is the whole reason or purpose for darts.

Here’s a sheet of paper. We’re going to pretend it’s fabric, because like fabric, it is flat.

paper or fabric, you choose

(That’s my brother’s mouse, and my brother’s speaker.) And here in this next picture is a can of Parmesan cheese.


(And that’s my brother’s mess. I take absolutely no responsibility for that mess. It’s all his.) The poor, abandoned cheese container has no clothes. But we’re going to fix that.

no darts

So we take our fabric and wrap it around the container. Perfect fit, right? And no darts! This is our “guy” example. His clothes need no shaping. He doesn’t understand why you always get so grumpy about clothes not fitting, because how complicated can it be? You just wrap some fabric around yourself, and you’re good!

We will try not to do violent things to our guy example, even though he has no empathy or understanding and thinks everyone in the world is just like him.

Here’s a girl example:


She has curves.

If she takes a piece of fabric and wraps it around her, it’s not going to fit her the same way it fit the guy. Here’s a cutaway example so we can see what’s happening:

the speaker covered

The fabric fit our guy example the same way all over. There was nothing complicated about that situation. But in our girl example, the fabric covers her just fine at the largest point, and it’s loose everywhere else. In order to get the fabric to fit her the same everywhere, we need to do this:

speaker with a darted cover

We’ve pinched out the extra. What does this look like when we take the paper off?



So, darts are shaping that is made by taking away fabric where it is too loose. Generally speaking, anyway. That’s the idea; tuck it away in the back of your head for the moment—we’re going to talk about something slightly different now.

Here is another mild-mannered piece of fabric/paper:

another example

Hello, fabric. This fabric has no shaping. It has no darts.


Here I’ve drawn on a 1″ dart. So now this fabric has a dart, but it is an “unsewn” dart, so there is still no shaping. Let’s “sew” this dart.


Now instead of laying flatly on the table, this fabric has some shaping.


See what I mean?

Now what happens if we make the dart bigger? Here I’ve made the dart into a 2″ dart.


And when we tape it up, the shaping is even greater.


The larger we draw our dart,


The taller our shaping becomes.


Some people phrase this as “The bigger the bump, the bigger the dart.” I think of it as simply the difference between two measurements. You have to take as much as necessary out of the bigger measurement to make it equal the smaller measurement.

Now let’s move on to a real life example. Here’s me. In an old t-shirt. A Land’s End boys’ t-shirt, to be exact.


(The mess is all mine, but I still don’t take any responsibility for it. I have lots of good excuses, but they take too long to type.)

Since it’s a boys t-shirt, it has no shaping whatsoever. Somebody has sewn together two flat rectangles, and put sleeves on it. It’s meant to fit our cheese container, which needs no shaping. It’s all the same anyway on a boy. But I am not a boy, and this means it doesn’t fit me the same everywhere.

What this means is that there are darts when I wear this t-shirt, but they are un-sewn darts.

Remember in our examples? When we put the flat piece of paper on the curvy speaker, suddenly there were these big gaps that weren’t there when we put the same piece of paper on the cheese container. And do you remember in the second example, when we drew the darts but didn’t sew them?

Well, this is what happens when you put the unshaped fabric on a shape. It tries to make darts.


Did you see them before I pointed them out to you?

This is what we call “un-sewn darts” or “fullness” or “extra fabric”. If you put an un-shaped piece of fabric on something that has shape, there is “leftovers”.

So here we “sew” the dart. I’m pinning out the fullness; I’m “creating” a dart; I’m shaping the fabric.


And in this extremely blurry picture, you can see it’s still all loose and unshaped on the left side.


So that’s what you call a bust dart. This is what happens when you put in a waist dart:


Since my nickname is not “Miss Skinny Through the Middle”, I find these waist darts to be hugely unflattering, and in real life I’m not going to use them. But if you were a guy, “waist darts” are the only darts you’d ever use, and even then, probably only if you were working on a jacket/sports coat/etc.


So shaped on the right side,


unshaped on the left. The shirt is the same. It’s just that one side has “unsewn” darts, and the other side has “sewn” darts.

You can also shape the side seams. Notice the unsewn darts on the left?


In real life, I would use the bust dart and shape the side seam, but I wouldn’t use the waist dart. This is now seriously into sausage-casing territory, which I call “Not a Good Look.”


In general, you can always use smaller darts. It just means you will have “less shaping”, or your garment will look more like the paper on speaker. But you can’t really make darts bigger, beyond a certain point. Could we have made the darts bigger on the paper on the speaker? No! Could have we made them smaller? Yes, but it would have been a looser, less shaped fit.

So what does any of this have to do with anything? Well, to answer Bernice’s questions:

(1) Your pattern probably does have darts, they’re just unsewn and undrawn. You can put them in. Probably pin-fitting a muslin would be the way to go (just as I pin fit my t-shirt), simply because it’s the most straight forward. Putting in darts will change the fit, though, so if you already like the fit, don’t bother with the darts.

(2) Once you “put your darts in”, you can’t really make them bigger. That’s just the shape you are. But you don’t need to make your darts bigger in order to put in pintucks.

All darts disregarded (either sewn or unsewn), all you need to do to add pintucks is slash-and spread.

Let’s move on to little pattern examples, of which mine are unfortunately very poor quality. I apologize, but I’m running out of steam here, and I really want to get this answer to you this weekend. Otherwise it’s anyone’s guess when I’ll finish it.

If I had a “dartless” pattern that I liked, and I wanted to add decorative tucking down the front, I’d mark off the section I wanted to tuck, like this:


Then I’d slash right up the middle of that section, and spread it apart as far as I needed it,


and tuck it.


Now if I had a shaped pattern, and I wanted decorative tucks down the front, I’d arrange my darts like this:


Mark off my area I wanted tucked, like this:


Slash right along the straight line and add my extra fabric, and tuck:


Now I think what Bernice was talking about was doing “functional” tucks, using tucks to take in the fullness instead of darts. In that case, you can leave the darts without having a perfectly vertical line, and simple tuck out the fullness at the top and the bottom. This will mean the tucks won’t make as straight line down the front of the shirt, but rather will end before reaching the bust.


And that was my rather pathetic illustration of the origin of darts, where they came from, how they got there, what they’re doing there, and what happens when they leave. If I was being paid to do this kind of stuff, I would have taken the time to actually have unblurry, focused pictures. But as it is, it has taken me 5 hours to do all of this, and everything else I was supposed to do this weekend is calling my name. So as far as picture quality, I guess you’ll have to take what you can get. As far as understanding it, however, please let me know if you have any other questions. I will keep working at it until it makes sense for you!

Posted in Articles, Technical, Tutorials | 4 Comments »

Sometime you feel like writing, and sometimes you don't

December 30th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Actually, lately, it hasn’t been so much a lack of wanting to write as a lack of wanting to write about sewing. This surprised me, though it should not have. I always have mulitiple projects started, because after a time I get sick of working on one, and work on something else instead. Why would it be any different with my writing? It’s not a lack of sewing (tangentally) related things to write about, it’s just that I don’t feel like it, for some reason. I expect it will come back, shortly, or at least shortly in the grand scheme of things. It’s beginning already, a bit, I suppose, or I wouldn’t be here tonight.

I don’t have any grand thoughts, but when I was reading the selection for the Essay of the Week, thoughts flited through my head. Here are a few qoutes from the essay, with my emphasis added:

And yet the celebrity architects of the past cannot be equated with those of today. None of them, not even Wright, deliberately cultivated a signature style based on a trademark mannerism, such as Gehry’s fluttering metal membranes or Richard Meier’s palette of bathroom white. Stanford White’s work was superb, remarkably so, but he designed in the common style of his day. The classicism of his Brooklyn Museum cannot easily be distinguished, even by an expert, from that of Carrère & Hastings’s New York Public Library, Whitney Warren’s Grand Central Terminal, or Cass Gilbert’s New York Customs House. The idiosyncrasies of White stamp his personal life, not his buildings, which one would never mistake for a vehicle of personal expression.

The works of a starchitect, by contrast, are poached in the personality of their makers. How this all came to pass is deserving of some careful consideration, for much more is at play here than the mere vulgarizing effects of today’s celebrity culture, where publicity begets more publicity, and no distinction is drawn between accomplishment and notoriety. For until we have an understanding of the nature of the architectural celebrity culture, we cannot know if we should shrug or mourn.

The archetype of the celebrity architect, of course, is Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959). As prodigious as his architectural achievement was, he also permanently changed the American conception of an architect. With him begins the modern image of the architect as free-spirited genius, a part Wright played with relish: decked out in a long cape and cane, and topped by a magnificent mane of flowing white hair, he made his own physical appearance a declaration of imperious authority. Here was the model for a long line of architects who learned that a signature style began in the dressing room, and that one should handle a hairbrush as deftly as an I-beam. (It is notable that this image has far more in common with that of the tempestuous orchestra director than, say, a painter or sculptor.)

His designs did not even seem to be the product of conscious thought, but spontaneous eruptions of life spirit, much like the curses that he continually fired off. “Furness held Louis captivated,” Sullivan wrote, “especially when he drew and swore at the same time.”

To judge from the autobiography, what Furness taught Sullivan was not so much architectural but personal style. From him he learned that a building is “in its nature, essence and physical being an emotional expression,” and that its designer must be in a state of “high and sustained emotional tension.”

The Fountainhead, whatever its literary or philosophical merits, impressed itself deeply on the public mind. It was taken for granted that an architect was not a carpenter-builder who had read some books and learned to draw, as he had been in the nineteenth century; nor was he a scholar who had been to Europe and made measured drawings of the great cathedrals. He was now an autonomous creator, who made “buildings out of his head,” as Sullivan put it, and a growing number of aspiring young architects took this to be essential to the nature of architecture practice.

The central task of architecture has always been what Louis Kahn called “the thoughtful making of space.” The great architects of the past—from Borromini to John Soane to Wright—were makers of distinctive spaces, which were often achieved by ingenious exploitation of structural systems. The melancholy spaces of the Bank of England, for example, were unthinkable without Soane’s use of hollow terra cotta pipes to make vaults and domes of extraordinary lightness, which he deployed as freely as if they were tents.

To the extent that an architect devises a vivid and arresting signature, he is engaged in the business of image-making, which is but one lobe of architecture. The essence of the architectural art is to reconcile plan and construction in a resolved whole, from which both the interior spaces and exterior expression derive with a kind of logical inevitability. But the business of image-making is akin to that of making a theatrical backdrop, which is judged by its graphic qualities, not by the makeshift scaffold of boards that holds it aloft. This is not to say that today’s starchitects are ignorant of technology and its possibilities: Gehry’s brilliant exploitation of computer modeling to create irregular three-dimensional forms is a startling development, creating sculptural possibilities that Borromini would have envied. And a theatrical backdrop, however ingenious the technology that created it, remains a theatrical backdrop.

It is striking how many major American buildings are now being built by Japanese architects, such as Ando, Taniguchi, SANAA, and others, whose work is consistently deft and sober, and often achieve a certain delicate poetry.

Comparing architects to clothing designers is nothing new; many designers themselves draw the same lines, some of them claiming to be “frustrated architects”, whose lives somehow conspired against their achieving their true desire. Reading the essay, it was hard not to see a lot of similarities between modern architects and modern designers.

I was going to try to tie the whole thing together, but I’m a little bit leary of repeating myself. But I have personal pet peeves against people who make a whole new post just to say “look what at what I wrote earlier”, so I shall attempt to make a little new content out of this, even if it is on themes I have discussed before.

To me, this is what I see as being very much a huge problem in the “couture” world—that the creations are not “thoughtful creations of space” working together in a “kind of logical inevitability”, but are rather those ubiquitous signs of notoriety rather than accomplishment. Something becomes valuable not because of any intrinsic use or desireability, but simply because of declarations of imperious authority from those who seem to know about such things because people are too nervous or unsure of themselves.

The design of clothing (as clothing is as an echo of a house; both shelter and cloth the lives of people) has become not so much about skill as about drama. A designer for clothing is not expected to need to know anything about sewing, or the human body or it’s needs. He is merely making clothes out of his head—and it is someone else’s worry how to make the thing exist or work.

The modern architect, of both clothes and houses, can know enough about his materials to torment them in ways in which they were never meant to be—whether it be the clothing that denies it is made of a supple fabric or that it houses a human body within it, or if it be a building that likewise makes humans unwelcomed within it. They seem to be willfully turning their backs on any thought of these structures as being anything more than gratuitous expressions of self.

It may be one thing, I suppose, if they we’re simply designing only the building that they would be living in, and the clothes that only they would be wearing. But it seems rather indecent to sell such things to the general public.

I think it is very sad that it is being reduced to rather garish and over-done backdrops, instead of deft and delicate poetry. The glorification of the few for the unrelenting torment of the many.

Or would you like to buy a pair of Chanel sunglasses, for an absurd price, that are guaranteed to be stylish and fashionable—seeing as they bear the name Chanel?

Posted in Articles, Contemplations | 2 Comments »

In the news. . .

November 17th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

First off, I’d like to draw your attention to an article in Thursday’s (November 15, 2007) WSJ, entitled Inside a Salon That Serves the Logo-Phobic. As usual, it has been written by Christina Binkley, and as you might have guessed I am highly amused by the traditional couture houses putting themselves out of business while small places like this cater to the people who really are interested in couture.

The article opens by profiling Ms. Markbreiter, who says that “To me, logos speak more of mass merchandising.” When she recently bought an Oscar de la Renta handbag, she removed the logo tag! Horrors! It’s a full-fledged back-lash against pushing of “couture” on the mass market. As the article says, These women want exquisitely made but subtle clothing and accessories that don’t shout “fashion.” What?! People who are interested in quality clothes that don’t want to be gaudy trend-followers and name droppers?! Perish the thought!

It seem so amusing to me because the description of this boutique sounds nearly identical to descriptions I have heard of the couture world in its “glory years”. Intent on chasing larger audiences and making statements and being artistic, the couture world largely alienated its original clientel. So those costumers who are actually interested in some of the properties of what I call “the original couture”—namely, things like quality of workmanship and materials, longevity of design and fabric, personalization in fit, and custom design for individuals—are going elsewhere with their business.

Ms. Powell scours Paris, London and New York for designers–mainly independent of the big luxury chains–whose attention to detail, fine fabrics and workmanship set them apart, in her opinion. She then demands that they work with her by altering their designs or supplying extra fabric for alterations.

Ms. Powell is no stranger to the couture world.

Ms. Powell, a Sweedish woman who speaks seven languages, is a veteran of the Paris-London-New York fashion scene. As a student in Paris, she was hand-plucked by Hubert de Givenchy to work in his atelier, and she later ran the Givenchy franchise on Madison Avenue for 13 years, until Mr. Givenchy retired.

Not only do Ms. Powell and her assistant fit everything to the individual costumer, they are not at all adverse to not sticking with the original designers sacred inspiration—two examples given were taking apart a dress and turning it into a camisole and skirt, and turning a coat into a dress. In some ways, it almost sounds like a second-hand atelier—not that the clothes have been previously worn, but that instead of starting with yardage, they start with garments.

This type of costumer shuns brand names and superfluous amounts of clothing (which is usually a result of trend-following), but instead seeks quality and, perhaps even more rare in today’s clothing world, dignity.


In other news, I recently read the latest HotPatterns newsletter. Although this company produces patterns of which I am most definitely not the target audience (can anyone say “trendy”?), I was interested in seeing how this small, independent pattern company would grow. Or not, depending on the way things went. People did seem to be quite taken by the designs, which were originally quite different than what was offered elsewhere. And they were certainly taken in with the advertising, the whole attitude that the pattern company was selling.

Personally, however, I have been less and less impressed, as each new collection only seems like a tiny variation on the one before it, and often times what designs are not stylistic repeats are very, very simple and basic pieces. If you’re going to buy from HotPatterns, you had better like straight skirts, neck-ties and gathers. And the words “super-stylish,” “totally gorgeous,” “funky,” “fabulous,” and the like, because you will be getting a lot of them.

However, I continue to keep half an eye on HotPatterns, and now I am also (thanks to the newsletter brining it to my attention) keeping half an eye on a new eMagazine, SEWN. Freshly, newly, just barely launched, there isn’t really much on the site yet (which is why one needs to watch to see what this will develop into). This is from their about page:

Why should knitters and quilters have all the fun? Garment sewists demand a magazine of our own. We want something less crunchy than the DIY stuff on the Web, but we don’t want Art to Wear either. We want designer inspiration, designer resources, and ideas for using patterns that are available commercially. We want great fabric even if we live in the middle of nowhere. We love vintage but still need to get dressed to go to work in the real world, not some costume drama. We want to learn great techniques without the schoolmarm tone. If we can get some style and makeup stuff too, that’s fabulous.

This is SEWN Magazine!

This is the fashion magazine for people who make their own fashion. We are big fans of what works. Because of that, you may see things done a little differently here than the way you were taught, if you were ever taught at all. Most of us are trying to squeeze sewing time in between the laundry and a nervous breakdown. So while we can appreciate the artistry of a Gallianno gown, we are not sewing one and don’t get us started on trying to drive to dinner in one. Fashion as an industry is a little catty and very opinionated. And so are we. We’re blunt but we’re more like the battle-axe with a heart of gold than truly mean. You’re going to get the unvarnished truth.
The writers who have been kind enough to allow us to use their work are given credit, even if at this point they aren’t getting paid. What that means is that we are fiercely protective of their work. Everything here is published under a Creative Commons license that does not allow publishing to commercial sites. If you would like to use something on your blog, contact us and we’ll ask them.

Fasten your seat belts, because we are going to be moving fast. This mini-issue is just the start of something big!

Um, how can I not be interested in keeping an eye on a magazine that describes themselves as “a battle-axe with a heart of gold”? Also, it is always a good sign to see someone using a Creative Commons license.

And also, I wonder if I’m going to get in trouble because I didn’t ask before I cut and pasted from their about page? And also, is it common now for people to actually schedule their nervous breakdowns? I always did them rather spontaneously, myself, but I suppose anything is possible in this day and age. I hear some women schedule c-sections because they’re too busy to risk going into labor at a time that doesn’t fit into their schedule.

Kind of curiously, the part of that whole about section that made me stop and consider was the line “still need to get dressed to go to work in the real world.” In that phrase, I heard lash-back against the super-expensive couture and the super-trendy couture. It was rather akin to saying “Hello?! We live in a real world! We want to make real clothes, not trashy novelties or in-your-dreams designs!”

While I very much understand this sentiment, it does lead to the question of what counts as living a real life, and what are real clothes?

I recently had a very similar discussion while knitting with Bub, as we discussed knitting patterns. Although the meaning was mostly the same, the thought in question was “What is Classical?” Because she says she likes clothes with a “classic” style, and I say I like clothes of a “classic” style, and yet I know perfectly well that we are drawn to totally different styles. “Classic” all by itself, does not really communicate much. For instance, you can say you like Classical Music. Naturally, most people would take this to rather evident what it means, but at the same time, people are not at all adverse to using terms like “Classical Rock” or “Classical Country” or any other type of music.

While I was willing to grant that there were several elements that tied us together—for example, simple lines, being understated and subtle, not gaudy or trendy but maybe with a bit of a sense of humor—but fundamentally, our ideas of what constituted “classic” had different roots. Although we both claimed classic taste, we disagreed on everything from shape, neck-lines, texture and formality. Our basic disagreements came from our attitudes toward clothing.

Her idea of “classical” is based on her early life, a life that involved cocktail parties. She would be what I would describe as “Chanel Classic”, of which, as I have mentioned before, has very little appeal to me at all. I, far more comfortable being sweaty and dirty and working hard than I am in any sort of semi-formal or formal atmosphere, much prefer what I would refer to as “rustic” or “country” classic—clothes that would be utterly out of place in cocktail party, even though they would maintain the same “classic-ness” of simple lines, understatement, etc. I would call something like this classic, while her mind is still stuck on a little black dress and a strand of pearls.

So in other words, while everyone might be cheering to hear of something based toward real people with real lives, it is at the same time utterly undescriptive.

Still, we might guess.

But we might be quite wrong.

So we will just have to wait and watch.

Posted in Articles, Contemplations, Couture, Fashion, Magazines, Websites | No Comments »

Copy Wrongs

September 30th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

I just got my first issue of Vogue Knitting. It’s hard to know what kind of a magazine it really is, because this is their 25th Anniversary issue, and all magazines are a “different” for their anniversary issues. Although in some ways it felt more like a really big source book (it’s the only magazine I’ve ever seen that has several state by state directories for various specific yarns), I actually had to read it. I mean, read it not give a brief skim, look over the pictures and be done with it in about 15 to 20 minutes. In some places, this magzine had text, and text that was on the small side at that. There was actually substance. I call that good place to start. I’m interested in seeing what the next issue looks like.

The most interesting thing (text-wise, to me) in this issue was the interviews with the “old gaurd knitters” and the “new gaurd knitters”. They covered a lot of ground, and there are many different things I could pick up on, but I guess what I feel like talking about today has to do with that hot-topic of copy rights and money and the internet (all three. In the same conversation). The hard part is knowing where to start and how to arrange my thoughts.

Trisha [Malcolm: Editorial Director, Vogue Knitting]: You know, I’ve witnessed a distinct disrespect for copy right in a lot of cases. . .I have a bit of a personal vendetta on the copyright issue. . .I always use Debbie Bliss as an example. They all know her, and I say, “You know, she has two children to support. If you give away her patterns or don’t buy her books, she can’t eat.

Ok, can somebody out there quickly and succintly describe copyright law? Your average lay person tends to understand copyright law as thus—“If I’m not taking credit for myself that someone else deserves, and if I’m not making money at it, I’m respecting copyright law.” But everything I’ve ever read basically boils down to “It isn’t as simple as you think, if you’re doing anything with anything that someone else has designed you can get your butt sued off; always consult your lawyer.” When it gets to the point where the average person doesn’t understand what counts as legal and what doesn’t, you know there is something wrong with the laws. Naturally, we can all understand the more extreme examples, like the one Meg Swansen offered.

Someone, qoute, “redesigned” the Baby Surprise Jacket in seed stitch and called it their own.

Everyone can easily see the offense in that. But did you know that, for instance, if you buy a sewing pattern from one of the major pattern companies, it’s against the law to sew that pattern for more than one person? If you’re a seamstress, and you are sewing bridesmaids dress for a client, and all of the bridesmaids can fit in the same size range of that pattern, you are still obligated by law to buy a seperate pattern for every dress you sew. Otherwise, you’re not respecting copyright, you’re not giving the pattern company the money they are due, and you’re using a pattern in a manner it was not meant to be used.

The more people try to find out about copyright law so they can be good law abiding citizens, the more resentful they get. The list of things you “cannot” do grows longer and longer and longer and longer. Nearly anything you want to do, which does not give you credit you don’t deserve and doesn’t make you any money, is still illegal. You find out you are not buying a product at all; you are merely buying very limited temporary rights that the company can revoke any old time it it wants to.

It’s a bit like gun control. If people want guns, and you want them controlled, you can out-law all semi-automatic guns. People might grumble and whine and complain, but generally speaking, it means that semi-automatic weapons are harder to get a hold of, and people give the law a bit grudging observance. But if you out-law all guns, then it doesn’t matter if they get a hold of semi-automatic or guns or not, they’re still breaking the law. Instead of enacting more restraint, it gives way to less. If they’re going to get in trouble regardless of what kind of gun they have, they’ll go for whatever one they want.

Or you can think of the time of the Prohibition. All alcohol was utterly banned; it was all agasint the law. The result wasn’t that everyone quit drinking; it was just that everyone became lawbreakers. Perhaps they might have had more success if they had tried to only limit alcohol and only banned the hardest, strongest stuff. But once you tell people that no matter what you do, you’re a lawbreaker, they feel no restraint to even follow even the least strict guidelines. If it’s all illegal anyway, they might as well do what they want. What’s the difference?

I feel that the same is happening toward copyright issues and intellectual property and the like. People are feeling increasingly more that “everything” is being outlawed—and if they’re going to have to be an outlaw anyway, they might as well do what they really want to do. People seem to think that if they just make copyright laws stricter and more serious, they’ll be able to crush this problem for once and for all. I think the opposite is true. Oh, you’ll always have those who are out to truly take what isn’t theirs, but for your average Joe Blow who isn’t trying to do any harm, I think it would be more profitable to simplify the copyright laws. It would do away with a lot of the grudges and bitter tastes in the mouths of the consumers which make them so loath to follow the fullness of the copyright laws to begin with.

I am reminded of an article I saw once, written for entreprenuers. It was something like “The Five Hard Truths Of Entreprenuership”, or something like that. I unfortunatley didn’t save the aritcle and can’t find it, and I can’t even remember what all of them were. But if I remember right, the first one was something like:

Don’t try to sell your orginality. You don’t have any; there is no such thing as original. And even if, by some wild freak of nature, you do happen to have something orginal, everyone else can do the same thing and do it better to boot.

How hard! But how true. Everything can be and will be knocked-off. You can cry, kick, scream, bewail the unfairnes of the universe—or you accept it as fact, and sell something other than “orginiality”—like quality, promptness, courtesy. If you think you can have one brilliant idea, and be the sole porpritor for that brilliant idea, and live off that single idea—you are destinied for dissappointment. Generally speaking, if you have to resort to the line “But I have a family to support!” you are fighting a loosing battle, and you are out of touch with reality. It may not be nice, but capitalism is survival of the fittest. If you are running a business in such a way that you can’t live off it—that’s your problem.

I am not, by any means, encouraging copyright infringement; I am merely stating the situation as I see it. When people build skyscrapers, they don’t build them to resist and stand strong and rigid in the face of every breeze. Instead, they design them to move in the wind—to not fight so powerful a force, but rather to realize it is not a force to be fought with. They must learn to live with the ever-present reality of wind, however unpleasant they might find that fact.

You may very well find it very unfair that seamstresses accross the world are taking the one pattern they bought and using it to make clothes for more than one person—pants for their husband and their father, shirts for all three of their boys—but no matter how unfair or illegal you might find it, I can assure you it is being done. If you ask my opinion (and you shall get it wether you want it or not), it would be far more constructive, conductive to good customer relationships, and much more profitiable to stop fighting it and find profitable ways to co-exist with it—even gain from it.

A profitable business is one who realizes that thier customers are more valuable than their products. People can always find the same thing, or something similar, from someone else. And what makes a valuable customer is not making sure the costumer pays every last red cent that you so richly deserve, but a loyal customer—a customer who comes back time and time again for the pleasure of doing business with you, a customer who tells everyone about you. It does not take a business degree to figure this out—you need only be a consumer yourself. Where would you like to shop? How would you like to be treated? Why do you keep going back to the same place?

The indignant response is that it looks totally different from the other side of the fence, that of course the customer thinks it’s all about him, but really it’s not.

Naturally everyone thinks they are the center of the universe. But it is my desire to start my own independant pattern company someday, and my intention is to use Creative Common Liscences. Because I want people to swap my patterns, and have “pattern libraries” of my patterns. I want people to build on them and share them, and spread them around.

But then how will I make any money?

Because if you get a book out of the library and you like it enough, you buy your own copy so you always have it on hand when you want it.

Because copying patterns is a pain, and it’s easy to click on the “Download now!” button and a pay a little money.

Because it’s even more convinient to get a printed patterns shipped right to your door.

Because I want to do custom drafting, and if the pattern your borrowing fits your friend Mary perfectly, you’ll want a pattern that fits you perfectly, too.

Because sharing, using, changing and enjoying patterns is the best advertising in the world.

Because people are basically lazy, and they’d rather pay a little rather than go through the bother of doing it themselves.

And maybe, say, a major pattern company will knock-off one of my designs. . .but they’ll be following me, and I’ll be first. I’ll make other designs, and they’ll trail me. And my customer service will be better than theirs ever could be, because it’s a rather well known fact that the larger a company is, the worse their customer service is. And if I loose a little market share to them, that’s okay, because I’ll be a small company, and having all the world wanting my glorious product would be more than I could handle. A small bit of the pie is easier to savor. People have some how got it in their heads that the end goal of any business is to conquer the world, but I don’t want to. I want to serve a small niche market that values quality and custom work. Ruling the world is utterly un-appealing to me.

Urk. This has gotten quite far a field from the Vogue Knitting article. One thing I found amusing in the article was when Mari Lynn Patrick said:

. . .And I don’t care how good a knitter you are, you have to have something to work from, technically, to get it right. You can knit off the cuff and do all kinds of things, but there are so many factors that go into putting it out in the right way. And it has to be nurtured through all the stages of getting it out in the right way.

I do find it amusing. It’s rather arrogant, I think. That there is “the right way”, that you must be “nurtured through all of the stages”, that you must get instruction from everyone else. It was even more amusing, because just a few pages before there had been an interview with Barbara Walker, who is apparently quite famous for her innovations and “discoveries” in the field of knitting. I wish I could qoute the entire interview, because I just loved it. Carla and Adina are VK editors.

Carla: How did you figure out a technique you’d never done before? Did other people help you?
Barbara: No, I’m entirely self-taught.
Carla: That’s amazing.
Barbara: I don’t know why that’s amazing. The directions are there to be read. The thing to do there, I found, was to try it a different way and see what it looked like. That way, you learn to do things differently.
Carla: That’s how you stared to invent your own stitch patterns, I assume—by doing somethign in a different way and saying “this looks great.”
Barbara: Sometimes. Or sometimes I just wanted a different-looking technique and I tried it various ways until I got what I was after.

Every little bit needs to be nurtured along to come out the right way, indeed. I also like this bit:

Carla: Tell us about other innovations of yours.
Barbara: I invented the slip-stitch color technique that I named mosaic knitting. Antoher thing was the SSK. Slip 1, knit 1, psso looked so cumbersome. I thought, There’s got to be an easier way to do that, so starting with the first treasury, I changed it to SSK. And then Elizabeth Zimmermann picked up on it and put it in her books, and from there it just spread everywhere. So now it’s the common use, right?
Carla: It is. So many people prefer it over the SKP. I didn’t realize you had introduced so many of these techniques.

Can you imagine what it would have been like if Barbara Walker had made a fuss over Elizabeth Zimmermann using “her” technique, if only certified Barbara Walker patterns could use SSK, if every desginer who wanted to use SSK in their designs had to pay Barbara Walker royalty money, if Barbara Walter spent the remainder of her time chasing down people “unlawfully mis-using” her work instead of spending her time on new knitting methods? Actually, she didn’t even spend “the remainder of her time” on new knitting methods. She moved to a warm place where sweaters were almost useless, and basically quit knitting. Her most recent obsession is mineral collecting, instead.

Adina: You’ve inspired so many designers. Do you follow the work of any in particular?
Barbara: Well, there you’re talking above my head because I have followed absolutely nothing for the past eleven years.
Adina: You’ve followed nothing! You must have been in Wal-Mart maybe? What do you think of all these crazy novelty yarns.
Barbara: I don’t even look at them.
[Everyone laughs]
Carla: You only knit with wool?
Barbara: No, I used all kinds of yarns, but I haven’t been buying yarn, so I haven’t bothered to look. So I’m passe, a dinosaur.
Adina:To us you’ll always be a rock star.

I love that being brilliant in knitting hasn’t made Barbara apathetic about trying new things or bitter about not getting the recognition she deserved, or being properly respected. And I think that Barbara pretty well illustrates the fact that the knowledge we have now is because of knowledge being freely taken and freely given. Times of learning and progress come in times of openess and sharing, not times of closely gaurded secrets and well-defended rights.

The “old gaurd” seemed more defensive of “getting what they were owed” than the “new gaurd”. I think the discussion of the “new gaurd” inadvertantly touched on that. In the “old days” you really had a lot of business overhead. It was mail order, you had to print your patterns, it was tough getting the word out about your business. Everyone photo-copying your designs could mean the difference between going out of and staying in business. But as Vickie Howell said, now “you can start a business with 100 bucks and a computer.” Debbie Stroller says “It’s interesting that it took the Internet to bring back the possibility of running a cottage industry again in an industrialized era. You don’t have to run from store to store to see who might be interested in buying your stuff; you can immediately make it availiable.”

The Internet does change a lot. The ones who will be successful will be the ones who understand the best way to use it, instead of fighting it or misusing it. The “new gaurd” got to talking about Local Yarn Stores.

Adina:. . .Yarn shops do have to adapt to the Internet, but the Internet has to respect from whence it came, which is the yarn shop.
Debbie: Adina, I don’t think that can actually happen. I think the LYS needs to think about what it can offer that the Internet can’t, and focus on that, for better or worse.

I think Debbie hit the nail on the head, though the others felt that “it’s our obligation to keep people going to the yarn stores,” and that “that’s an excellent point: keeping in mind that this is a profession for the owners.”

I’m sorry, guys, but capitalism is survival of the fittest. It doesn’t care what would be “nice”. If you’re trying to make money, it’s your responsibility to see to it you offer something people will buy. If no one is buying, that’s not the customers fault, it’s yours. Adapt or die. Nobody “owes” it to you to keep you in business.

Clara [Parkes]:That’s what we’re fighting against—that all-for-one, one-for-all, free-patterns, we-should-be-helping-each-other, it’s-women-after-all. That it’s almost crude to introduce filthy lucre into it.

Kinda sad, I think, to live in a day in age where it’s virtous to fight against that “all-for-one, one-for-all” mentality. I think the yarn shops just have to get with it. They have to decide if they’re a warm and fuzzy community or a business. If they’re trying to be warm and fuzzy, well, I don’t think they do have much place to be charging money for teaching. It’s a called a knitting guild, it’s a community, and people help each other. Maybe they should just turn it into a coffe shop and sell coffee instead.

If they’re a business, then they should charge—it’s called “classes” or “one-on-one tutoring”, and there’s nothing nasty about it, as long as they don’t treat their students in a nasty manner.

I suppose that shall have to be all for today, though there’s lots more I could say, and I’m sure it’s all in desperate need of editing and proof-checking. My mind is frizzled, my eyes are sick of the computer, my back is tired of this lousy computer set-up, and it’s utterly glorious outside. Hopefully it has been good enough to inspire a little thought, regardless.

Posted in Articles, Contemplations, Magazines | 8 Comments »

'Fashion Shows Are No Longer About Clothes'

September 15th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

I am sometimes a little afraid of sounding a bit like a broken record. But it’s been more than a year since I did a post like this, so I think I can comment on Thursdays (Sept. 13, 2007) WSJ article, “Shunning the Runway at Fashion Week”. I have long felt that my interest in design clothes was at complete odds with the fashion industry. This article by Christina Binkley completely reinforces that. In it, she says,

That’s because fashion shows are no longer about buying and selling clothes. Instead they have become major marketing events to generate buzz, establish images, and win good play in the all-important fashion magazines.

The public-savvy Marc Jacobs could be the poster child for this tactic. . .The collection that the exuberant Mr. Jacobs showed was Dali-esque—heels protruding horizontally from the sole at the ball of the foot, strips of fabric draped over satiny lingerie that evoked the 1920s rather than today’s engineered brassieres. It was romantic, artful and thought-provoking—but exactly the sort of thing that would scream “fashion victim” if worn on the street.

Emphasis mine. Reading that big about how it was “romantic, artful and thought-provoking” makes me once again realized what a drooling, uncultured barbarian I am. Not that it makes me even a tiny bit sorry that I am, mind you. Here is the collection in question. If you are a drooling, uncultured barbarian, look through it at your own risk; you will find it painful on many levels. If you are cultured, enlightened and modern, no doubt you will find it romantic, artful and thought-provoking. Being the uncultured fool that I am, I am quite willing to give up romance, art, and anything thought-provoking if it will spare me having to looking through this hideous montage again.

Binkley continues,

Asked backstage if his clothes weren’t inaccessible to most consumers—the ones who have made him rich and famous—Mr. Jacobs said, “They’re supposed to be—nothing is for everyone.” Yet the collection did its job. Its shock value received admiring reviews, and the glam attendees and after-party generated big publicity for the Marc Jacobs label.

To me, asking someone who is interested in sewing if they’re going to be part of fashion shows is like asking a writer if they hope to write trashy tabloids. The goal for each is shock, ‘glamour’, and partying, after all. But quite honestly, I think that everyone agrees that to ask someone who was interested in seriously pursuing the craft of writing if he would be “honored” to write a tabloid would be just plain insulting. Even if that was the way he’d get the most amount of readership. So why is it assumed that it would be an honor for a seamstress to have her work going down a runway?

Oh, and about that glamour.

Increasingly, the New York fashion shows have become events not just for fashion companies but for those hoping to be associated with the glamour of fashion.

The thing is, I can never find any glamour in fashion. Or else, as an uncultured barbarian, I’ve given up on glamour, too. But to me, all the models always look like chemotherapy patients. I find no glamour cancer. I’ve known enough people who’ve had it; some who survived and some who didn’t. But I can tell you that there is no glamour or beauty in cancer, or chemotherapy treatments. I find it greatly disturbing to see so many people being paraded about who look seriously ill and depressed—and that people laud this as “glamour”. The models look ill-treated and abused. If it means I have to be uncultured and give up glamour to feel compassion towards the women and revulsion towards those who tout this as a look of beauty, I am all too glad to give it up—culture, art, romance, glamour, fashion, enlightenment and anything else which glorifies it as any sort of ideal.

There are still, apparently, a very few designers who agree with me. Or at least one, anyway. Elie Tahari has “eschewed fashion’s runway shows for more than 20 years,” though with his goals for expansion he fears he might have to begin. He confesses to preferring women who actually, well, “look like women”. (Which, when you put it that way, makes you wonder exactly what sort of creature the women on the runways look like.)

Should Mr. Tahari begin holding runway shows, he’d need to fundamentally alter his buiness. Since runway models are very, very thin, Mr. Tahari, who designs for real women, would need to cut another set of patterns to fit the six-foot-tall, size-2 women. “If I were to do a show, our entire fit would have to change,” he told me this week. “It would affect the whole psychology of how I do business.”

Here is Mr. Tahari’s Spring 2008 collection, which is much, much less likely you to leave you screaming and tearing at your eyes in an effort to relieve yourself of the horribleness of it all.

I do understand how, in some ways, clothing can be an art and can be used to express things. Isn’t that what costumes are all about? But even costumes have to fit and be worn by real people, in all different shapes and sizes. Fashion is simply absurd. I suppose people would say it is an art, just an art categorized under modern art, which I believe is defined as “that which is harsh on the ears, hard on the eyes, unpleasant to the taste, and widely admired by those who wish to feel superior.” The art of the common man, the un-modern man, the barbarian, is so accessible as to be uncouth. Particularly smirked upon is the work of the folk-artist, the one who actually uses the pieces of art one makes. The intricately pieced quilt, capable of not only being a breath-taking study in color but also of keeping one warm through the winter? How quaint. Baskets hand-woven in pleasing and practical shapes? How droll. These things are not high art.

And so it follows that the “high” art of clothing must also be ugly, uncomfortable, unsuitable, and unpleasant, and those clothes which are both becoming and practical to be scorned as “low” and unworthy work. Yet I still cannot help but think that latter takes more skill and effort than the former—and if I am wrong, it is twice the tragedy, that so much should be spent on so little.

Interested in sewing and in clothes that I am, you won’t be seeing my work on the runways. I am far too uncultured for them, which I do not regret.

Posted in Articles, Couture, Design, WSJ | 2 Comments »

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