Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Final evaluation

The making of this suit has been a difficult learning curve. I have dedicated a lot of time to this project; however, the jacket is unfinished. After being advised in my tutorials I decided that it was more important to take my time with the making and produce unfinished work of better quality, rather than rush through it all purely to have a finished garment. I am very glad that I have followed this advice, for it has led me to work to the best of my ability at all times. I will complete the jacket after hand-in.

Overall I have enjoyed this project, for discovering all of the different methods and processes used in tailoring has been an incredibly interesting insight. I have challenged myself to work as neatly as possible, taking a more mature approach to making. This will be incredibly valuable in the future, in order to keep on producing higher quality work. Nonetheless, this has been one of the most difficult projects I have undertaken thus far. I particularly struggled with pattern drafting, one of my areas of weakness. I believe that this is down to my relative inexperience in pattern cutting and I plan to keep working on this in the future. The project has helped me in visualising three-dimensional form on a flat pattern, and I hope to keep developing this.

I chose a simpler suit style and cloth for at the outset of the project I was not at all confident in my tailoring abilities. Although I acknowledge that I still have much to learn, making the suit has definitely given me more confidence in my ability, and I hope to try and use a more complex cloth in the future. I also really enjoyed working with the heavier weight materials, and using cloth which was totally suitable for the purpose.

Difficulties were present at the fitting when the actor did not arrive, and I had to fit the suit to someone else. Despite this, doing the fitting has given me good experience in conducting a fitting professionally, and more confidence in doing one by myself. Additionally, talking to the actor at the fitting gave me a better understanding of the context in which the suit would be used, as he was a dancer and mentioned the importance of movement. This allowed me to better consider my patterns and make adjustments accordingly.

The fact that the suit was made for an external client presented me with a little pressure to create something to the best of my ability. This, as well as my own perfectionist nature, has helped me develop my skills throughout the project. However, working with an external client did pose difficulties, most notably relying on someone else for the fabrics. Their delayed arrival did hinder me a little, but I tried to use my time as best I could in order to achieve what was possible, for instance, practising samples. This has given me an idea of what to expect when working in the professional world, and how gauge approaching clients. Now that I am aware of the processes involved with making a suit, I will be able to set a fitting date earlier in advance. I also know to request all materials at the beginning.

Overall, the project has raised my confidence in many ways, notably in taking charge of my own work. It has given me a really good grounding in understanding how materials work and their relation to the body. Making the suit has really enhanced my personal development, particularly in my attitudes towards making. I have learnt the importance of self-motivation, which has not been stressed so much in past units, and the importance of learning from mistakes. I have accepted that this suit is merely the beginning of my tailoring work, and that it has imperfections. Though I have made mistakes, I want to channel this positively in order to better my work in the future. I will do this by making further items over the summer, so as to reinforce the correct working methods.  I am really glad to have undertaken this project at this stage in my learning, for I feel that future projects in Level 6 will definitely reflect the heightened skills that I have been developing. I hope to make another suit in Level 6, as well as experiment in more complicated cut.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Thoughts on the future

I've already mentioned that I want to re-make the trousers. I'll do this over the summer in my own time. i also have several requests for waist coats which I am looking forward to making.

In terms of development at uni itself; I think that it would be a good idea to do another tailoring project in Level 6 in the autumn term, so as to reinforce what we have just learnt. It is probably best to do it with a short a time gap as possible so that I haven't completely forgotten everything that I've learnt!
 In level 6 I also want to try some early 20th Century women's tailoring, possibly tailored suits from the 1940s. The cuts could get quite complicated and I am interested to see how tailoring processes apply to womenswear. Although I have really enjoyed the clean lines and definite precision involved in men's tailoring, my heart does lie in womenswear.

I'm not sure if I still will do the tail coat that I mentioned at the very start of the project. It is just so difficult because there are SO many different things that I want to try out, and at uni itself I don't think that I'll have the time! I can of course try things out in my own time...making for willing men in my family! I feel like this whole project has been just the start of a tailoring adventure. I wonder if I should try and find work, or at least a work placement, in a theatrical tailoring workroom? The future looms ahead!

Thoughts on jacket & completion of suit

Overall I can say that the jacket has been the most challenging and complex piece of work. The jacket is unfinished for hand-in - as we were counselled by Graham not to rush the piece, and produce something which is of poor quality simply to have a finished suit.

So the jacket will be handed in without sleeves or collar. We will continue to work on this up to the end of term. We need to schedule a photoshoot, and work out with Ase when to get buttons, etc, as well as when to deliver the suit.

At first I was quite disappointed that the jacket would not be finished for hand-in but this is mostly because I wasn't aware of quite how much work there would be. I have definitely come to agree that quality of the finished piece is far more important than speed! additionally the context in which the suit will be placed demands it: it will be a stock piece in the wardrobe at Arts Ed so will be used many times in their productions in the future. It is not as if it is being knocked up quickly for a two-performance run. In this case I don't think that the overall quality and strength would be important. So there are double reasons for which the suit should not be rushed, and to give good quality well as for my own learning and development of course!

This whole project has been about learning, learning techniques and processes. The jacket encompasses many of these and the processes used - possibly particular to tailoring? - are ones which I would never have thought of. It has seemed a lengthy piece of work and at times I have felt very daunted by the sheer amount that there was. But overall I think that it has helped improve my confidence. Confidence in my ability to apply my learning and will definitely lead to greater confidence in my making projects in Level 6.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Final thoughts on workplan

Drawing up the work plan was not easy. As I mentioned before, the mountain of a project that seemed to be this 3 piece tailored suit was vast. The idea of it was huge and filled with uncertainty. We had only made a waistcoat before but I knew that there would be so many new processes that I couldn't even conceive. Doing a bit of research into tailoring techniques helped but was no substitute for being taught directly.

As I worked towards the fitting it became obvious that some tasks took much longer than others. I have learnt to allocate a lot of time for pattern drafting and playing around with toiles, less time for the actual cutting out, and tacking up of pieces.

It has been difficult to keep to any kind of time schedule for this unit. I was very much held up at several points whilst waiting firstly for the cloth to arrive, then to be able to arrange a fitting, and then for the lining to arrive. As it is we still have no buttons. Additionally, it hasn't really been possible to plot out a work plan according to any kind of time frame. This is because we have been largely dependant on Graham's availability. It has more been about his finding time to give us, then us working as best we can to complete the tast before the next stage. Having not made a jacket before this was especially daunting and most of the time the process has seemed like an endless task extending into caverns and valleys unknown. It seemed never-ending, mostly because I wouldn't even be able to guess the next step, as well as including many steps that I would never have imagined.

I have done my best to accomplish what has been possible, working as carefully as I can. The jacket won't be finished for hand-in. But throughout, when Graham has given us a few steps and arranged the next lesson, I have done my best to complete everything in advance of that. Some times this has not been possible, due to things taking longer than expected. But I can't say that I could have worked any faster to be honest!

Overall I've done the best I can to my ability and knowlege. More than anything, the time taken to work on things will aid me in planning future tailoring units!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

End of week summary

Firstly it's important to note the extension to the deadline, of two days. I was in two minds about this to be honest: in many ways it doesn't make much difference as we still won't have completed the suit, and will need to do more work on it at a later date, before it can be given to Arts Ed.

HOWEVER it did mean that due to the extra time, I felt that I was able to unpick some of my waistcoat and correct a few mistakes which had been niggling (nagging?) in my mind. I'm glad that I managed to do this - though still not 100% sure of the success of the cut at least some of the other details are a little better.

I also finished my trousers. So the aim of completing waistcoat & trousers for hand-in has been readily achieved!

We continue, and continue, and continue working on the jacket. This is the real challenge, I feel. I was feeling quite put off by the whole thing: we are learning lots of new techniques, such as the pad stitching. Everything to do with maknig up the jacket is new, really: I certainly have never done it before. It's so utterly different to the theatrical costume making I've done in the past: 17th Cent. man's doublet and 18th Cent. woman's jacket. But I am actually enjoying this. I'm trying to understand things as fully as possible. The use of the canvases and breast felt is really clever, in smoothing out the chest and creating a lovely, perfect line across the body. Doing this project is helping me understand tailoring in the broader sense of the world: I find myself analysing techniques used when looking at menswear on the general public, and especially in films. (Watching The King's Speech left my mind buzzing with the possibility of creating those pointed lapels, and obsessing over shoulder padding with ice wool! I'm becoming obsessed!)

My understanding of how things work in tailoring is slowly building up. This is really helpful in getting a general idea of what I'm doing. But things are far from perfect. Graham made us all feel much better about the story of his first jacket, which apparently was so awful he couldn't bear to wear it out of his bedroom! I'm really hoping that my suit isn't quite as bad as that - and to be honest with Graham's experience as a teacher I don't think it will be. (Hope so at least!) But I really am coming to terms with the fact that far from an exercise in displaying perfection, this suit has been an  introduction to future work. There is going to be a lot of time before I get a perfect suit! I'm coming to accept this, which has been hard, given that I am a perfectionist.
I've come to appreciate tailoring from process-led approach. I need to take time to do things, not rush. Saying that I do feel that I have been working well according to the time available.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Finished trousers

So now I have finished my trousers!
I had a few issues with the trousers, namely on the waistband. As I mentioned before, I made a few mistakes but have managed to rectify my errors as best as I could, and overall am fairly satisfied with the result. Even though there are some things wrong, and I used a wrong process, I am actually happy to have made the mistakes. This is because making them has ground into my head the proper way to do them - and more importantly the reasons why it is the proper way. This has left me with a much deeper understanding. I am planning to make another pair of trousers over the summer very similar to this, but with a separate waistband (and no fishtail back), so that I can reinforce these realisations and knowlege. I am actually really looking forward to this! Of course once I am more confident in this simple style of trouser, I feel that I will be able to approach more complicated cuts (such as with pleats, etc) with more confidence. In many ways I feel that making the mistakes now will prevent me from making them again in the future.

I enjoyed making these trousers - both the pattern cutting (believe it or not) and the making up. They also fit the actor quite nicely at the fitting which says good things about the pattern draft.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Waistcoat finished

Today I finished up the waistcoat. I am in two minds about this to be honest.
Part of the reason is the cut. To be honest I don't think that it looks quite right - I think that perhaps the armholes are too low. But then I compare it to the photograph I took of the actor at the fitting and I think that I'm just being paranoid, that it looked OK at the fitting and that I shouldn't worry so much about it.

After the fitting I made the necessary alterations of letting out the CF a little, as it was a bit tight around the torso, also the shoulders were brought up a little and the top pocket was raised. The neckline was lowered a little bit so that it wouldn't be seen under the jacket...this makes it period correct.

When I was doing the alterations I found that there were going to be problems with raising the pockets as it rose up into the armhole. According to the design I was given, the pockets did go fairly close to the armhole...but not quite that close! This suggested that the armhole itself was incorrect - something that I was only able to correct marginally since we hadn't left much seam allowance here. But when I was initially drafting the pattern it seemed correct, and Graham checked it. I'm honestly wondering if it was just because I had to fit the suit to a completely different person. Anyway there's not really anything I can do about the cut now....except accept my mistake (?) if it was one. Mysteries.

Upon reflection, I think that what this really tells me is the importance of accurate pattern drafting. This is something that I have been realising more and more, and which has developed a lot through this unit.

I am sort of satisfied with the sewing of it. I'm quite pleased with my pockets, which seemed much easier than the first time I made welt pockets. I enjoyed working with the cloths provided by Ase a lot - really nice merino wool and a heavy silk for the lining. The one really annoying thing is that my iron unexpectedly leaked at one point during the pressing and left a few watermarks on the silk. It was a total accident, but wouldn't really be acceptable in a professional situation, especially if I was selling the item. The pressing cloth absorbed some of the water but not all. Luckily I have managed to hide this on the inside of the waistcoat.

End of week summary

So my aim this week was to complete waistcoat and trousers, and do as much of the jacket as was possible

The lining arrived (!!) so I completed the waistcoat, but without buttonholes or buckle; worked on the jacket; but have not completed the trousers as planned. After struggling with the lack of detail in the trouser instructions I carried on following advice in a technique book and did basicaly did some things which weren't really correct. It's not a matter of Graham's methods being definitely and obviously better than the tailor who wrote the book. It's my own judgement and being able to see that a different method (completely unknown to me, and that I wouldn't have imagined!!) definitely works better.

In some ways I am a little annoyed at myself for ploughing forward and not having the patience to wait. I was led by my concern over getting the project further ahead. Since meeting with Graham this week I feel more accepting of the fact that the suit simply will not be finished for hand-in. It is more about the quality of the pieces than the level to which they are finished.

But in other ways I am glad to have made the mistake. The mistake of being hasty, and from that the true realisation of why one method is preferable over another. Because of this, the better method has really been ground into my head (or whatever the expression is) and I know that I certainly won't make this mistake again.

The trousers and waistcoat are expected to be complete (which is achievable) but the jacket will be incomplete. We work on it at points when Graham is available after it is marked. Of course the suits won't be given to Arts Ed until they are fully completed.

I am also quite accepting of the fact that the suits aren't perfect. A hard thing to admit for me since I am a perfectionist, and tend to be really hard on myself. But yes I'm trying to accept this, and that it will be several suits in the future until I get one spot on. Luckily my boy-friend seems more than willing to wear my efforts along the way so at least there is a market for more imperfect suits...!

So much of this project is about setting myself up for the future. Learning all the techniques on this (not very complicated in cut, let's face it) suit so that I can go on to make a) better quality and b) more interesting suits in the future. Unveiling lots of hidden tricks that I would never have thought of. The mistake on this pair of trousers I plan to rectify by making another pair of trousers in the summer which are perfect.

Or as perfect as I can get them at any rate!!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Thoughts on tailoring

I found the pattern drafting part really stressful and couldn't wait for it to be over! In professional workrooms there is a cutter, and many makers who do the sewing. But for an individual freelance maker, pattern cutting is a required skill. This is why I have always wanted to learn it - but as a totally new skill, I am finding it appropriately difficult. I think it's down to patience: having to check every single bit, remembering to step back and regard lines with a fresh eye. That kind of thing. I thought that I was getting better at it, as the cut of the 18th Century woman's jacket I made for Candide was quite good. But then I did spend absolutely ages on it, at one point having to practically re-start from scratch...What is this all telling me but that pattern drafting takes time and requires patience!

Good pattern cutting is undoubtedly down to experience. Which should come.

Once we started making up the pieces I found myself relaxing and starting to actually enjoy the project. This was unexpected as to be honest I hadn't really been enjoying it up to then. This is because although I wanted to learn the tailoring techniques (one of the mysteries of the universe) - the entire point of doing this project - I wasn't really into Victorian lounge suits themselves. They don't really excite me. Little natty 60s suits in snazzy fabrics: yes; zoot suits: yes; white tie and tails: yes yes yes; any style in exciting colours or cloth, really! I soon realised that to progress on to other, more exciting suits (especially tails, as I soon realised) I would have to start simple. And in so many ways I am grateful - notably financially - that I can work on this project for Arts Ed, especially because as it's for an outside client it drives me to make it as good as I can. Nonetheless I wasn't especially excited about this project. (Unlike how I was for Candide for instance.)

BUT. Now that I have finally come round to the making, and indeed completed one of the pieces (waistcoat) I am really getting into it. I'm fighting against the idea that I should "just" be a maker by personality since I still really want to develop my cutting skills. I think it's just that though I've been making clothes since I was 14, I've only been cutting patterns for a year or so. It will take a while for me to get good enough at it to find it enjoyable!

I'm trying to work as carefully as possible. There are still areas which can be improved and I will look to develop my accuracy and skill in the future. Having proper equipment helps. I think to really ground the techniques I will have to make a suit in 3rd year. (Maybe a snazzy one!) I also want to make a few tailored items over the summer: some slim trousers for my boy-friend, and waistcoats for the other men in my life who appreciate tailoring. (A number which seems to be mounting up.) This will allow me to make the design choices which - let's face it - are so important to me as a creative person as well as correct all the mistakes which I have made in this suit. If I can make them relatively soon, perhaps over June and July, I shouldn't have forgotten too many things!

What have I learnt? So many things to do with the techniques. But also the value of patience, and getting a real understanding of the idea of building something up: being as accurate as possible very early on prevents ghosts coming back to haunt me. Perserverence! It could be easy to turn around and give up but I won't let myself. I want to try and do this well, to the best of my ability. Also I am trying to mentally prepare myself for not getting a good mark because I know that in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter - it's how you progress. So over this unit I am actually developing lots of conceptual things, in myself. I do think that  this has to do with the project being driven by myself. I've made, and am still making, mistakes in a variety of matters. But this is continuing to drive me forwards, and really prepare me for next year. Which is also a really important part of this unit.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Weekly summary

This week we returned for the fitting having no idea how to progress! The lining still hasn't arrived.
Graham gave demos on trouser pockets, patch pockets, and gave us some handouts of how to progress.
My aim for the week was to complete as much of the waistcoat & trousers as was possible. Initially I had thought that without the lining I would be extremely limited but we have managed to find compromises. I.e. the pockets are made with cotton pocketing (generally silesia) as opposed to lining fabric, which has allowed me to finish the waistcoat pockets. It is acceptable for the trouser fly & waistband linings not to match the rest of the suit, so I have used another fabric for this.

Having a 3-day week at uni has been really annoying since it limits the amout of tutor taught time available. However I have completed all that I can this week.

I have been working at home over this 4-day weekend and have found restrictions within Graham's handouts re: trousers. The instructions are quite brief. Mary and I discussed solutions together and I have tried to deduce solutions of my own. We have also tried looking in books such as 'The Art of the Tailor' (Doyle, 2005). I'm trying to use my judgement regarding solutions to certian matters. I want to make progress: I am so conscious of the fact that we have hardly any time of this project left! However we have been limited by a lot of factors including delays in the arrivals of cloth, and limited tutor contact time. Unfortunately with this particular project there is only so much we can do on our own, we definitely need taught time.