Friday, March 18, 2011

Sewing Pattern Development

Along with all the weaving, sewing, and marketing, I've got a big challenge to meet right now: to create a hoodless ruana. Several people have requested it and I've decided it's high time I start to make some of the things that people request.

The difficulty comes in figuring out how to distribute the weight of the garment to keep it durable. My ruana cloth can be quite heavy, and all that weight is pulling on the very weakest part of the garment: where the neck is cut. The wearer needs to be able to carelessly throw the front panel over the other shoulder. If someone is sitting on a part of it when they stand up, they shouldn't have to worry about the effect on the garment.

With a hooded ruana, this is all taken care of. The flat fell seam that attaches the hood triple-reinforces the neck hole. Without a hood, I needed to figure out a way to give that same reinforcement and make it look beautiful and intentional. I decided to use some sort of collar.

The tough thing about all this is that I haven't done much garment design in about 20 years. (Am I really that old?) For the original ruana, I adapted a Burda pattern to work with handwoven cloth. I didn't have to do much but choose from an assortment of neck hole shape options, remove the lining and convert the seams to flat felled.

Today I decided to finally tackle the design and testing of a few collars. Terrycloth is a great simulator of my handwoven cloth. It's got a similar weight, and it distorts similarly if it's stretched during sewing. And we've got lots of worn out towels here on the land.

First, I tried the lazy method just to see if I could get away with it. I made a collar that stood 2" above the 1" felled seam, making for almost a 3" rise altogether. The method is lazy because I finished the collar front by rolling it and topstitching at the same time as the front of the garment.

I was not happy with the results. The collar is WAY too tall. This makes the stiffness of the front seam into a problem. It looks fine on the dress form, but real people have chins and need to look down. The tall and stiff collar front pushes up into the chin and feels awful.

So, back to the drawing board. I need to make the collar first and flip it right side out. The I need to roll the front seam on the ruana in to match it before starting to attach the collar.

This second collar design is a winner. (and I'm now the owner of a strangely formal terrycloth mantle)

There's lots of fiddly sewing to get all the stitches in place on that front seam, but it is much lighter, more comfortable, and professional-looking.

Tomorrow I'll figure out a stitching order that lets me finish the rolled front seams and collar with a single, circuitous topstitch. It's a small detail, but one that might impress the few who notice it.

I may play with shortening the whole thing even more. I really don't want to draw attention to the collar. I want it to do the work it's engineered for without becoming a major design feature. Any comments would be welcome!

I can't wait to see how people respond to this new garment. I should have the first one sewn and photographed tomorrow and up on the store by Saturday.

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