An illustration program?

Last night I attended our semi-annual advisory committee for the fashion department at El Paso Community College. After the meeting one of the girls (sorry, ladies, they all look so young to me!) was mentioning her preferred illustration program and I just couldn’t believe it so she sent me a sample drawing today.

Can you guess what readily available program this pattern maker used to make this drawing? Of all things, it was…


Have you ever heard of such a thing? I know, I know, now some of you are going to chime in saying you use Microsoft Excel for technical sketches too. I’ve never heard of this. Well, I certainly plan to follow up on this and see about getting a lesson from the woman who did this sketch.

Speaking of the woman, her name is Edith. I want to tell you something about what happened last night but I’m worried it’ll come out wrong. I had one of the most wonderful experiences of my life last night but I’m afraid it’ll come out wrong, that it will sound like I’m patting myself on the back or something but it’s not how I take it and I hope you see that.

Before the meeting ended, Edith made a statement to the effect that I had profoundly changed her life. I was surprised and laughed, people say flattering things all the time. As far as I knew, I didn’t know her and beyond a phone call, had never had any contact with her. Edith said that she met me about seven years ago at a presentation I had done for the local chapter of The American Sewing Guild -which I’m known to do. I like the guild and try to do outreach in whatever community I happen to find myself. She said that she’d never known there was such a thing as being a pattern maker. Long story short, she went to the college to get her degree which wasn’t easy to do because she had family -and as it ended up, an autistic son to support (she says I also told her about autism; the doctors were baffled; not many knew about asperger’s seven years ago). The funny thing is, well before she ever said that, based on how she presented herself in the meeting, I had already decided she was a woman in love with her job -in the best way. I thought she was a credit to all of us in the profession, someone you’d be proud to describe as a colleague. You know what I mean.

In some weird way what Edith said was painful to me because I have always wanted to thank the woman who changed my life and told me about pattern making school. I went down and signed up the next day and moved to Dallas inside a week and never saw her again. Once I started school, I fell utterly and profoundly in love and not knowing at the time where it would all lead me, I never went back to thank her. She moved soon after and I lost track of her. I regret that, not thanking her. Where would my life be? I can’t imagine otherwise. Still, some days I just feel like I failed so hard and failed so often that I wonder whether my life is just this big cosmic joke of making do over a lot of nothing.

Sorry this isn’t much of a post today. It’s been a very very stressful day. By the way, I have shipped all back orders for the book but I haven’t sent email notifications to everyone yet. I’ll email all shipping confirmations tomorrow.

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  1. J C Sprowls says:

    Nuh-uh… really?! I can’t believe she uses Excel – that’s a very good drawing. I’d love to learn this, too.

  2. Karen C. says:

    Are you kidding me? Excel? The spreadsheet program? We’ve got to know more, please.

    How wonderful that you now know that you made a positive difference in a person’s life. That means more than money to me and is what I strive for everyday. Good for you.

  3. Oxanna says:

    Wow! I think I shall be testing and Googling. That’s something I need to know!

    Your story was very touching. It’s wonderful to be thanked by others, and to realize that you did make a difference in someone’s life. It inspires me to thank others more for what they’ve done. So often we receive and forget the person who gave to us in the first place. Rather like the solitary (ex) leper that was the only one to return and say “Thank You”!

  4. Mia A. says:

    Unbelievable! I just bought Adobe Illustrator two months ago to teach myself to do flats on the computer (illustrations, line sheets, presentation boards too) and all along I had Excel. I was in a fashion design program back in when they barely taught AutoCAD. How in the world do you get that from Excel?

  5. Carissa says:

    That’s neat, your comment about failing. It’s hard to imagine you failing at anything because you’re so smart.
    I failed miserably at my career two years ago. I had always been very sucessful at what I was doing and one day something happened. My boss called me in and said he wasn’t renewing my contract and asked me before he dismissed me if I had any questions. I said, “Yeah. Why?” He said he just had a “gut feeling” about me. He wished he could tell me why, but he didn’t know. That was that. My career was ruined. I couldn’t work in the county in my area of expertise, so I got pregnant right away and stayed home with the kids.

    I’m so thankful for what that man did to me.
    It was a very hard thing to cope with at the time. I had dreams of him murdering me! I struggled for understanding. But, now I know. If I had never failed, I would have never tried anything risky. I always stuck to the safe side for fear of failure. Cheers to all who inspire and help along the way- and cheers also to those who knock you down!
    Kathleen, it may not only be the woman who told you about pattern school that changed your life, but all those failures have no doubt made you into the “brave” woman we know. (I know, you’re brushing off the ‘brave’ description as you read.)
    Thanks for putting so much energy into us. Your painfully true and open stories are never off-topic. They are a big part of what makes us all go on and keep trying at this.

  6. nadine says:

    Hi –


    Yes, excel can be used! I teach in the accessories department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and one of my colleagues, a couple of years ago (an older lady) was taking classes and told me she draws all her technical drawings in Excel. I was amazed and looked at her screen and saw some excellent results. I haven’t given it a try myself having only used it for spreadsheets but apparently it works. So I was LOL when you wrote about it after having forgotten about that incident.

    About changing young people’s lives –
    You go GIRL! I’m a fashion teacher and the only reason I am living in Manhattan and working in fashion accessories today is because a women I met twelve years ago asked me what was stopping me – money or my relationship? When it broke down to those two questions, I realized it was not impossible to try and so I left for the east coast and lived my dream. I don’t feel you are bragging in your article – I really stand up and applaud you! Actually, my own experience of being inspired to dare to change my career at age 33 has made that my number one mission as a teacher. To give all my students the ispiration to dare to take on challenges that they dream about instead of just doing the easy thing they already feel comfortable. I also teach highschool kids and I think they get the message more. My best experience was a girl who made every mistake on her handbag project. I had told the class to forget what they know about mistakes being wrong that when you are a designer a “mistake” must be made when you are starting out so you can learn and go forward and avoid bigger ones later. Solving problems = wisdom is what I tried to impress on them. After class she came to me, her face bright red. I was worried and asked if she was ok. She told me with a lot of pride that she had made every mistake possible but realized that she learned so many things in the process and thanked me. I had to hide my tears. She was 14 years old and I think I learned that at 40.

    I do thinks without any need for return but it is nice when you get a note or some appreciation that what you taught or said inspired another.

    Congrats! Its the BEST feeling to give something meaningful to someone else. If we all made that our mission our world would indeed be a better place.

  7. Kim says:

    Oh no, I couldn’t see the photo and it sounds so interesting. All I see is a little square with a red X in it in the top left hand corner of the image box. I have tried refreshing the page and also right clicking and selecting “Show Photo” but nothing is changing. Any suggestions on what I am doing wrong?

  8. massa says:

    Hello, Kathleen
    This is my 1st comment here.
    I always thank you for giving lots of insight of Fashion Industry on this blog.

    Well, sometimes, in Japan, I also use excel to draw a flat directly on the “spec sheets” for contractors when the design is SIMPLE. Otherwise, I use Adobe Photosop or Illustrator after a hand-written flat is scanned. In this way, it’s easy for me to draw a flat of a complicated design.

    (I use Excel for Mac) To draw a Flat,
    go to VIEW > Toolbars > Drawing
    Then, Drawing toolbar appears on the left.
    For free-hand drawing, click on “Lines” icon, then choose a line style.
    To draw some shapes, click on “shapes” icon, then choose a shape.
    To add stich line, click on “draw” icon, then choose a style from “dash style” in .

    Microsoft Word also has the same function.

  9. dk says:

    Cool site. I never knew pattern making is a profession, but thats what is cool about the net, you learn stuff. And even if I probably won’t change career and will remain sewing clothes as a hobby, I think it is really interesting.

    For all newbies with a shoestring budget.
    You can use OpenOffice, there is a draw part which is really, really good.
    One can do all the things mentioned above and more. It starts at the same funcionality as Excel (and Word) and goes some steps towards Visio.
    And because its freeware, you can just try it out.
    There is also Inkscape, but I like the Draw of OpenOffice better.

  10. Trish says:

    Kathleen, thanks so much for this fabulous site. I want you to know that whenever I read the comments to your entries, I can feel the strength and community you are giving to your readers.

    When F.G., who hired Edith while she was a student in the El Paso Community College fashion program, told me that he drew in Excel, I knew I had met someone whom I respected and admired.

    How many people explore their tool bars? To me, a person who is that full of initiative and “get the job done” attitude is my kind of apparel industry person. BTW, do explore that tool bar once it pops up — you will see it is a pretty full “paint” type package inside Excel.. and Kim at 7:17 AM gives the quick “how to” below.

    I was also touched that F.G. shared his info with me when he knew that my job is to pass that information along to others. This kind of sharing is not how most people see our industry… you might recall hearing the words cut-throat when people refer to apparel design and production, so it is nice to be able to share a different side of this incredible industry.

    May I also add something about Edith. I also met Edith through The American Sewing Guild. I had joined the Guild to meet people who might be looking for a career in the industry but who may not be aware that EPCC had a program to help to educate them in the field.

    I liked Edith from the first moment I met her because she was so full of energy (and those of you who have been around THIS industry know that the word “industry” was created to describe the hard work–and loving every minute of it–outlook one must have to be successful here.)

    Edith was sewing up everything… each month that I was actually able to make the meetings…Edith was full of new dresses and other fun items she was creating.

    Another aspect that I just loved about Edith was that she was doing all this creating as she appeared to be learning on her own.

    A student who is self taught often has the best teacher on the planet!! Having said that, I still obviously believe in going to experienced “others” to learn even faster — and to me, this is still a form of self learning — I mean aren’t YOU reading this blog right now?

    Edith came to the fashion labs at the college for the meeting that Kathleen presented to the ASG and then again one evening when I offered a “draft your own skirt pattern” workshop for ASG. You can imagine how pleased I was when Edith told me that she was planning to attend our program and take the one year certificate in Industrial Patternmaking!

    Not only was Edith the most fun student, she was also creative and consistently hard working. I really want to emphasize the hard working theme!! Trust me, it is completely responsible for Edith’s incredible — and yet, only just beginning — success.

    Edith went on to win the Paris American Academy scholarship last year. I was especially impressed because Peter Carman himself chose Edith as his winner. It was the first year the Paris American Academy gave a scholarship at the FGI (Fashion Group International) Career Day in Dallas, Texas. To me, it was such an honor to have Edith chosen as the first winner of that award. It meant so much to me to see Peter Carman talking with Edith and having such a “happy to have found such a star and hard worker all in one” look in his eyes!!

    Kathleen, thank you for being on the committee again. You are the best!!

  11. Kelly says:

    I’ve not used Excel for illustration before, but can see how it could work. In addition to Massa’s tip to use lines, etc. on the drawing toolbar, try this:

    To help make the drawing to scale, use Excel’s gridlines to make a square grid background. To do this, resize the column widths & row heights so that they are equal (go to Format => Column => Standard Width, and/or go to Format => Row => Height). Column widths are measured in pixels, and row heights are measured in points, so you won’t actually enter the same number for row height and column width. Here’s the approximate conversion that Excel gives: 25″ = 18 points = 24 pixels.

    If you’re making a symmetric illustration, it may be easier and more precise to:
    –make one half of the sketch,
    –select all of the lines and other drawing objects that will be identical on the other half (to select multiple objects, hold down the control key and click on all of the objects that you want to include),
    –group the selected objects (from the drawing toolbar, go to Draw => Group),
    –copy and paste the group
    –flip the group (from the drawing toolbar, go to Draw => Rotate or Flip => Flip Horizontally or Flip Vertically, as needed),
    –using the up/down/left/right keys, move the group so that it’s aligned with the original group.

    Kathleen, I’ve been using your book for a couple of years, and recently discovered your site. It’s absolutely invaluable. Thank you. You’ve contributed so much to others. Please don’t sell yourself short!!

  12. Jean says:

    We all feel that way sometimes. But seriously, your work is tremendous. If you want to see something cosmic in it, it’s that that woman who inspired you to go to pattern making school with a comment is now, in a way, teaching the rest of us through you. It’s a cosmic thread, not a cosmic joke :)

  13. J says:

    Are you kidding? A friend of mine is breaking into some specialty children’s accessories & getting ready to attend his first show/launch his first line. Not an hour ago I wrote him this in an email:

    “Lastly, I have 2 copies of the BOOK THAT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. I cannot tell you how many times I have referred to it. I learned an incredible amount about sewn-product mfg from the author…You won’t be able to put it down!!! It will really help & give you real-world advice & show examples, etc. I could not put it down & still reference it.
    Well, I hope this helps– hope it isn’t overwhelming. A sketch sheet/spec sheet should follow the format attached…also in the book. I can’t wait to give you the book! Should have a long time ago! Her site is also very helpful– I recommend reading the book first, though. BOTH of you. He needs to read it from the creative end & you from the management end. It is a pretty critical read & I can’t say enough great things about it. The best industry book I have purchased by far. So, I hope this helps…”

    We trust you, admire you, and appreciate all you do!!! I can’t put a price on your book– or FI!

  14. Linda L says:

    I would never think of using Excel for pattern drafting. I use Excel daily for accounting purposes but pattern drafting, wow! I am impressed.

    Interesting also that I just attended a class yesterday on Autism spectrum and Aspergers. I work with the disabled and disadvantaged and find I need more knowledge about autism as I see more and more individuals who have been diagnosed. I bring this up only that you mention in your post about Edith.

  15. Carol in Denver says:

    This tip about using Excel (and Word) drawing functions to make illustrations is really fun.
    HOWEVER if you need to have your on-screen illustration maintain at least the same proportions with printout, do some quick tests before you spend a lot of time making an illustration as complex as the example Kathleen provided. For example, make a test case with one line copied and rotated to vertical, horizontal and (most difficult) diagonal directions and measure the resulting lines with a good ruler on screen and on print-out. Or make an illustration by copying and pasting squares in vertical, horizontal and diagonal directions.
    Now test both on-screen and by print-out with a good ruler, and see whether you come out to a tolerance that is acceptable to you. For further control, send your illustration to another computer (perhaps a friend) & have them print it out on a different manufacturer of printer than your own. You may have some unpleasant surprises! (It’s all related to different screen resolutions, different printer resolutions, etc.)
    There is a good reason why technical illustration programs are complicated — They have tried to take care of these problems ahead of time for you!

  16. Kathryn says:

    I sympathize with wanting to thank someone that inspired me. For years I tried to find Ida Sherman, a Bernina sales rep in my town. She gave sewing lessons in her basement and my mother signed us up when I was 10. While my mom only took occasional classes; Ida and I met every Wednesday for 2 hours until I senior year of high school. I think she retired suddenly after becoming ill and soon after moved out of state to be with family. My prom dress was the first thing I made solo. Believe me, all I wanted was to take the dress to Ida for help, or maybe just encouragement. I tried contacting other Bernina reps to reach Ida to say thanks but never found her again. I remember her as a feisty, fiercely independent woman. After high school I went on to FIT only to drop out after my 3rd semester. Before leaving I came across your “Entrepreneurs Guide” in the library. Since it was cheaper that buying it; I photo-copied the entire book. A few years later I went back and graduated. Then in 2004 I finally started my own business. I still have the highlighted, photo copy of your book on my desk. Thank you for a guide to help make my dreams a reality. And of course a big thanks to my mom for checking out sewing classes in the yellow pages that day so long ago.

  17. Eric H says:

    Y’know, Kathryn, you may have found that cheaper (though I fail to see how, given the cost of copying, your time, and the reasonable cost of the book), but at that time I would bet that Kathleen could have used the money more than you needed the savings. You essentially stole from her. She isn’t a big corporation or a long-dead author, neither of which would miss the revenue from a single copy. Won’t you consider making this up somehow?

  18. Angelica says:

    I came across your “Entrepreneurs Guide” in the library. Since it was cheaper that buying it; I photo-copied the entire book. I still have the highlighted, photo copy of your book on my desk. Thank you for a guide to help make my dreams a reality.

    Legally, you stole from Katherine and after all she’s done??? I don’t understand why you’re bragging about ripping her off. I’ll be t you won’t like it if somebody copies you and rips you off but you do it to her. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  19. Beverly says:

    “I came across your “Entrepreneurs Guide” in the library. Since it was cheaper that buying it; I photo-copied the entire book. I still have the highlighted, photo copy of your book on my desk. Thank you for a guide to help make my dreams a reality.”

    Well now, Kathryn, since you obviously believe that the people who do the work should be sharing so freely, perhaps you could send me your entire client list and your pattern blocks, and I’ll photocopy THEM. It would save ME a lot of money if I didn’t have to pay for that sort of thing. Oh yes, if you’ve done any samples, send those along too….you would save me a lot of time sewing.

    Kathleen, maybe you need to do the next book in grey type, so it doesn’t photocopy well!

  20. Gigi says:

    Wow, Kathryn, I really don’t know what to say about your photocopying Kathleen’s book! Really, I’m speechless. I do hope you will consider making it up to her, it’s the only right thing to do.

  21. Carol in Denver says:

    Kathryn … You copied the whole thing and are brazen enough to tell her so to her face…. I surely hope that Kathleen uses “cheaper than buying it” Internet research tools to figure who you are, and then does “cheaper than buying it” word of mouth in the industry to warn your professional contacts about your business methodologies.
    For the record, I’m just a home sewer, but I’ve learned so much from this site that I’ve bought Kathleen’s book in order to support her business. If Beverly is who I think you are, I’ve bought your book too, for the same reasons.
    With jerks like this example around, is it any wonder why people stop sharing so generously? Kathleen, you really ought to revisit the question of making this blog be subscription only. If it’s a relatively low cost (my price point would be about $20/year), I would keep coming back even though I’ve never made a nickle out of clothing (although I have dreams…)
    Carol in Denver

  22. Kathleen says:

    Re: Kathryn copying the book…honestly, I was stunned. All I can think is that she didn’t know any better, why else would she advertise what she’s done and left a link to her website? I’m not defending what she did but there are others who know better -and they’re brazen. Considering the worry of theft of intellectual property, you’d think those people would worry about karma.

    On a personal level, my feelings were hurt, the implication being that I didn’t deserve to be paid. That my efforts aren’t good enough. That I don’t deserve it, that gratitude is sufficient compensation. I don’t mean to seem ungrateful myself but gratitude doesn’t pay my bills; I feel I’ve earned it. As it was, I needed the money desperately as I was living on less than $10,000 a year (with a disabled child and no health insurance or child support). “Well known” or “well respected” doesn’t mean “well off”. DH was telling me last night that he’d heard an interview with Freddy Fender on NPR and supposedly, FF had several albums out but still had to make a living picking onions here in Las Cruces :).

    Kathryn’s comment required approval to be posted (because she included a link) and I tried to contact her by phone and email before approving it because I didn’t think it was in her best interest for her comment to be published but she has thus far declined to respond. I think she made a mistake -as have we all- but it need not be fatal. Hopefully she’ll repair and rejoin us.

  23. Kathryn says:

    I personally apologized to Ms. Fessler today for any offense as none was intended. I mis-spoke when I was moved to say “thank you”. I reviewed my copy from 1995 and see that it’s not the entire publication. In fact, there are several sections that did not get copied. Afterwards I spoke with a librarian at FIT regarding this matter. Students of any school are allowed to make copies of non-circulating “reserve” materials for research. FIT purchased a copy for reserve (thereby paying Ms. Fessler) explicitly for student research. Therefore, my copying of the material for personal study falls under the guidelines of “fair use” according to Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code.

    Ҥ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use38
    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include –

    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.”
    17 U.S.C. Sec.107 (1992).

    Have nice day. I’ll be at the library obeying copyright laws.

  24. Kathleen says:

    Boy, I can see giving you the benefit of the doubt was misplaced but at least I did, so my conscience is clear. As it turns out, my visitors obviously knew and understood what kind of person you are, better than I did. Regarding your points:

    1. My name isn’t fessler.

    2. Even the first edition (you have the second) didn’t come out until 1997, two years after the 1995 copy you claim you had. If you’re right and everything is on your side, why must you make things up? Do you have some kind of internal statute of limitations to which you feel entitled? Civil statutes are not matters for one to define; thank goodness.

    3. That legal stuff you pasted …wow…I’m really surprised you did that because we’re not stupid around here. Trust me, nobody is going to believe your claim that selling a copy of a book to a library negates an author’s rights to their intellectual property. Were that the case, nobody would sell books to libraries so libraries wouldn’t have any books. boy, is that a no-duh or what?

    An author or publisher has no control where the books are placed. FIT keeps mine in reserve because people kept stealing it. In the exercise of controlling *their* property rights to prevent student theft does not negate *my* property rights. I can’t believe you’re actually even trying to make that argument. Iow, just because FIT took precautions to prevent my book from being stolen from the library doesn’t mean you have the right to print a copy for yourself.

    I was mistaken, you are brazen. You’re not sorry at all -you rescinded your apology of course. Well, I congratulate you. You got the best of me. You got free stuff out of me, got some benefit and even got a lot of traffic to your website [all links deleted, Kathryn purchased a book 10/30/06] so you win. Evidently, you are more clever than me too. I can only hope you will enjoy the karmic fruits of your endeavors, getting all that you deserve.

  25. Mike C says:

    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

    Perhaps you should re-read the fair use doctrine you posted. It makes the opposite of your point.

  26. Kathleen says:

    I’m pleased to report that Kathryn has purchased a copy of the book today. Consequently, I’ve edited her comments to remove the links she’d left to her own website as I feel she has repaired the situation and is entitled to anonymity.

  27. Alison Cummins says:


    While I agree that Kathryn did the right thing by buying the book, and that Eric did the right thing by suggesting this as the honourable way out, I do think many people were excessively hard on her.

    Like it or not, a lot of photocopying of copyrighted material goes on in schools. In Canada, we address this fact by having schools pay royalties on all photocopies to an organisation called Access Copyright, which divides up the royalties among all copyright holders who have registered themselves with Access Copyright as having copyrighted works in schools. This helps, but it also creates a certain amount of confusion among people who are kind of vague about the rules and don’t necessarily sit down to decide whether they’re allowed to copy a whole chapter even if it’s more than 20% of the work (yes).

    I don’t know what the situation is in the US, though I assume there are lots of complicated rules and exceptions posted in libraries and I assume that students see lots of photocopied material floating around and figure it must be okay.

    Yes, even the vaguest student probably knows that they aren’t really supposed to photocopy entire books. But in the context it isn’t worth heaping hot coals of scorn on someone’s head.

    Educating, yes. Suggesting an honourable course of action, yes. But vilifying? … probably a little over the top.

    And now Kathryn has bought the complete book, which is terrific. We can all relax now. Whew!

  28. roninji says:

    Yeah Excel is great.
    I worked for an importing company last year where we trained the specification technitians to alter working drawings in Excel.

    You can import illustrator Vector into excel.
    So I setup the base templates and gave the specification technitians the ability to alter pictures to suit design changes themselves.

    Sort of started because all of our specifications were in excel anyway.


  29. Kathleen O'Grady says:

    Thank you for sharing your story of gratitude of the woman who changed your life and of Edith – whose life you changed.
    I’m reminded of the quote:
    ” Our purpose in life is to find our gift, perfect it and give it back to others”


  30. Irma Salazar says:

    Excel? Unbelievable! Who would have thought? I’m sticking with Illustrator and Photoshop. It was a painful year becoming proficient with the Adobe tools, and now that I’m in, I’m sticking with it.

    Ya.. about thanking those that have quietly passed through our lives. I’ve been realizing for years how one high school teacher influenced me in so many capacities. Fortunately, I do know how to contact her and will send her my long list of thank you’s. And thank you, Kathleen!

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