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Archive for January, 2011

Experiments

For the past few months, I’ve been heavily interested in knits and their behavior. Woven, skins (leather), and knits behave so differently. We design students are primarily trained on wovens, but Americans mostly wear knits. I don’t knit yet — I crochet. I like its sequential, stitch-by-stitch nature. It reminds me of my old Calculus 3 classes in engineering school… the potential for graceful curves on a computer-generated graph. (Turns out that some mathematicians/crochet enthusiasts think the same way)

Paired with my knit fascination is a recent obsession with wool. Wool is like magic. A 2-D piece of fabric can be coaxed and steamed to perfectly fit a 3-dimensional body. This is why bespoke tailors love wool so much. You can even add heat, water, and friction, and the fibers will inextricably bind themselves together, forming felt.

I’ve been experimenting with math, wool, and crochet lately. I want to create fabrics that don’t lie flat. I want to be capable of machine-knitting exactly the shape I want. Fabrics that literally mold over the body, instead of stretching over it.

In another life, I might have been/become a topologist, but my present brain looks at anything with an integral symbol and shudders. :) I like crochet (and knitting, what little I know about it) because I can readily see it programmed (which many companies do). My experiments have yielded some interesting results:

This is an experiment with ratios in double crochet (American system), in acrylic yarn. The first row has twice as many stitches as the foundation chain. I continued in this way for one more row. For about a third of the next row, I increased x1.5 stitches (up to the orange marker). For another third, I didn’t increase at all (up to the green marker). And for the final third, I decreased x1.5 stitches. (Hopefully that all made sense… )

Not bad for a first try... :)

On my next experiment, I used a gray wool “tweed” yarn, crocheting in the round. I increased each row x phi, or 1.618… or the golden ratio. I sort of expected a sphere, but I got a disk instead. After a few rows, I decreased by phi until I got a small hole. I threw the little thing into the washer and dryer to felt it, and imagine my surprise…!

A wonderful little seed pod shape. Appropriate, considering how often the golden ratio appears in plant life.

or an exotic fruit shape. Or a rare flower. Or a brain. Or...

On the way back to NYC, I attempted to achieve a specific shape. A simple shape nonetheless, but one that is integral to the sculptural, freeform dress designs that I was churning out late December (more on that later).

Pulling a Miyake on this one...

After a couple false starts, I achieved this abstract, bulging triangle by single crocheting the outer thirds, half-double crocheting the middle third, and decreasing by one on each row. “Think of what needs to grow or shrink,” I wrote in my notebook while figuring out the stitch pattern.

You can see what I was going for in the sketch on the left.

I had so much fun playing with this on the airplane after I was finished… my row-mate must have thought me mad. :) It’s interesting how it tends to curl.

The first few rows of single crochet, curling. Maybe I'm doing something weird at the end of each row... :/ I understand this is what blocking is for, but I want to understand this behavior.

It’s a humble little shape, but figuring this out was just what I needed to put my designs to the next level… I think.

With the bottom rows "flipped" downward.

I can’t wait to see how this one felts…

I encourage you, dear reader, to experiment with this as well. If you’re industry and you can give me some insight on how to automate this sort of thing (so far all I can imagine is to link WholeGarment knitting machines with Matlab programs somehow :/ ), I would really appreciate it. Heck, hire me and we can experiment together.

Love and Blessings,

Naomi R.

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Hello again, friends. I’ve spent the last few months sewing, designing, sketching, and experimenting like a mad scientist. xD The first semester in design school ended beautifully – I ended up with quite a few complements from professors…. including a design  my illustration prof encourages me to patent. :)

First, I’ll whet your appetite with my Flat Pattern Design I term project – a dress I designed, drafted, cut, and sewed in the space of 2 weeks.

(Remember to click for larger pictures!!)

This dress is called "Pantoinette" - inspired by paper doll depictions of French Royalty during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The patterns are based on standard size 10 slopers we developed in class over the semester.

The dress is in two parts: "jacket" and "stomacher". The stomacher attaches underneath the jacket with 6 snaps and 6 antique buttons.

The bodice is based on an armhole princess line, and the skirt is an extreme "bubble" style, with added gathers, netting, and padding at the hips and hem to achieve a Rococo-like style. By no means was I going for "period" style - Rococo was simply the "feel" I tried to attain.

Our requirements were simple: using the theme "paper dolls", create an original dress or skirt-blouse outfit. It needed a collar, sleeve, appropriate facings, and working buttonholes, all in a cotton blend fabric. We only needed to create half a garment...

... but I ended up creating a fully-lined, two-piece dress, ready to wear out the door. (with an extra petticoat, if you wish :) )

I worked very hard to make the "japonaise" cotton fabric match at the center back. I originally wanted to include a watteau pleat in addition to the bubbled hem (a-la Christian Dior S2008/Couture), but I didn't want to over-complicate the project.

Somehow, the waist grew while I was drafting. I imagine it had to do with the exaggerated hip line and the front opening. Overall, I like how it turned out... I was even able to wear it to a costume ball last weekend. :)

As much joy this project gave me, I found that I disliked the style after I completed it. I mean, yes it is a costume in every sense of the word. But my sense of style has changed so quickly over the past two months. I rarely wear Lolita anymore. I wear as much Men’s clothing as I do Women’s. My standards of fit, construction, and design have gone beyond what I am currently capable of (though that’s about to change).

I’ve transformed from a lover of frills to an Appreciator of Absence.

While sketching one night, over the course of an hour, both my illustration style and design sense changed radically. I went from realism and forced-looking jackets to abstract lines and proportions, with fabric manipulations I’m really not sure how to do yet, but that I now know are possible (thanks to the Miyakes, Yamamotos, and Kawakubos of the fashion world). When I get back to New York (and a bigger flatbed scanner), I will share this two-month journey with you, highlighting where Everything Changed.

Oh, I’ll be volunteering at some of the F/W 2011 Fashion/Market Week events next month. I’ll bring back tales of The Real World and let you know what goes on behind all the flash and glamour. I promise you, fashion design is not just drawing pretty dresses….

Love and Blessings,

Naomi R.

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