Happy 2008!

Happy New Year everybody!

It is said you’re more likely to commit to resolutions if you make them known publicly. Ouch, who wants commitment? Don’t we all secretly prefer the option of backpeddling the following year once you review the previous year’s commitments and find you’ve made zero progress -or is it just me? Maybe so but I think I’m ready for some changes, enough to admit it although not happily. My redux of changes for 2008 are technology and re-entrenchment.

There’s been some dramatic changes in the industry over the past ten years since I wrote my book. While consumption of goods has boomed, at what price? Sustainability aside, it seems design has become closer to styling than innovation. Skill levels have dropped, producing a line of tee shirts is what passes for fashion design these days. I used to decry cake-mix pattern making but design hasn’t done any better. So, what’s to become of old fogies like me? I’ve decided to re-entrench, via technology. I will be moving back towards my roots to what makes me happiest, namely pattern making. Truth is, I only started writing as an adjunct to pattern making to educate my customers and ten years later, it’s taken over my life. Writing is never what I intended or wanted to do. Writing was an end towards better educated customers.

So, 2008 will be the year in which I finally learn CAD. In preparation, I’ve already bought a CAD system, a digitizer and a 72″ plotter (the official announcement -and the hardware- comes later). I will learn to use Adobe Illustrator (but still plan to use Danielle for pretty stuff). Heck, I might even learn how to use my digital camera and cell phone. For now, I have to caution people not to leave a message because I have no idea how to retrieve them and nine year olds are in short supply around here.

I’m on fire with techo-goals! While I’m at it, I may go whole hog and finally learn how to turn on the TV. Every year I resolve to watch more TV so I can figure out who all these people are that everyone keeps talking about, or the shows people talk about, so I suppose the first step is to learn how to turn it on. Not so easily done these days, power button has to be hit on no less than four different contraptions plus a menu selection on one that still has me stymied. This last resolution is probably a waste of bytes; I’ve been resolving to watch more TV since 2004, and once for a spate of years in the early 90’s. To whit, I’d resolved to learn how to use the VCR (1995-1998) but technology progressed to such extent I’ve been relieved of this option. Perhaps I’ll learn how to open the DVD player instead. Not operate mind you, open (and pray from there). Operating is a whole other skill set. Don’t get the idea I’m a total luddite. I have no problem cracking a computer case and replacing doo-dahs or installing software on my server but turning on the TV has me stumped. Where’s a fourth grader when you need one?

Before I digressed, in 2008, I plan to move backwards by moving forward (technology). Writing has been good to me but it’s not my passion. All the indicators say I’m making the wrong move; there’s less and less demand for what I do. That’s the truth. But still, part of me thinks that my generation may be the last of those with solid skill sets, those who learned before there were cut and paste CAD systems with their simplistic instructions and tutorials, orienting and instructing an entire generation of pattern makers who’ve never worked with hard copy -or even know how to sew. I can only imagine my market, those who’d buy my patterns will similarly shrink but still, that’s better than nothing. With writing, I have nearly no pattern customers. Focusing on pattern making, I’m bound to gain some. In fact, an unnamed retail pattern company has tendered a generous proposal that I am considering. Funny what can happen if you focus energy towards new goals.

I want to make difficult patterns -tools people can learn from- to help others develop aspirational skills. If you’ve never worked in a factory environment or had pre-existing patterns to work from and learn from, you’ve never had a mentor in absentia. Any kind of mentor, even in absentia, is better than none. I want to make tool sets that people can learn from, that I’lllearn from. You only grow through stretching and I’ve been lax for too long. I also want to do experimental silly things. Maybe things no one could ever wear. Exercises really, possibilities, the ouroburus patterns come to mind. Hopefully between what may amount to art projects, I can churn out something that’ll pay the bills.

To start, I have to learn that CAD system I bought. I’ve been kicking the tires on it for the past week (weekends and holidays too!) and it will continue to eat into my blogging time but I’ve come far enough to think I won’t be drafting on it much, not at the outset. All of the CAD companies say that CAD will neatly integrate into a pattern maker’s preferred method of work, well, we’ll see. I’m going to hold them to that. I start the whole process by generating a cutter’s must, an inventory of pattern pieces that need to be made. The software I bought is up to version 10 and still doesn’t have a cutter’s must add on. Hmmm.

I am increasingly alarmed by skill losses…I almost feel like the window, the very entry point to the skill world is getting smaller. My market is getting smaller, fewer of the newest DEs think they need to read a book. They all seem to think information should be free and their sense of entitlement rankles. Why are they entitled to derive profit from their efforts but I am not? Maybe they are right? Besides, who needs to read a book if you’re all about branding tee shirts? Perhaps it’s time for me to move on. Refocusing on this new direction is bound to be of value to even an increasingly smaller market but I almost feel an imperative. I mean, who else is doing it? No one. I may as well try. I can always regroup next year and chalk up 2008 as an abysmal failure. I just don’t know many other people, younger than me, who have these skills. Making aspirational patterns available in a digital format to transmit skills, may be a way of lasting longer and holding on.

Believe me, I thought of expanding to meet new market demands (how to produce a tee shirt line) but I think I’ll do the opposite and put a fine point to what I’m already about. Luxury is dying, it’s ubiquitous. Through ubiquity of brands, trademarks and logos, it has become homogenized. Designers are merely stylists, fewer and fewer people actually know how to do things anymore. Some day we’ll come full circle and people will need to know again, want to know again. I may not be alive then but some of what I do has to survive and maybe people will pick it up then.

In sum, for 2008, I’m looking for challenges. Something that will excite and inspire me. I will spent a lot more time learning, leaving me less time for writing. Maybe I’ll only post three times a week here, two somewhere else, on a subscription only skills site. Maybe. I think I’ll travel less this coming year too. I wouldn’t mind having more company tho. I’m thinking of conversing more, but with fewer people. 2008 will be a year of investment. Time to catch up, learn and apply, be a student again. Of course I’ll pass along what I’m learning as I go along (I do plan on writing more about patterns and sewing but restricting the information to the forum) but I’m hoping that the year will set me on a new path for the next ten years.

What about you? Can you inspire yourself to reach and take some new risks this year? What do you plan to do differently? How will you move forward?

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  1. Donna Carty says:

    Sounds like you and I are headed in both similar and opposite directions at the same time. I’m presently working on learning Illustrator myself. I’ve found some fun tutorials on the web. I’m using one of the best, http://graphicssoft.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ/Ya&sdn=graphicssoft&cdn=compute&tm=57&f=21&su=p284.8.150.ip_&tt=14&bt=1&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.geocities.com/superflycat/emma/, and a mirror, to creat an avatar that I hope will really look like me.

    On the other hand, I’m headed towards writing rather than away from it. I participated in the NaNoWriMo write-a-novel-in-a-month program in November and rediscovered my love of writing.

    I also worry about the old skills being lost, only mine, weaving and hand embroidery and such, are even older. I console myself thinking of glass bead making, which has undergone a rediscovery of old techniques and much further development during the last 20 years. With the popularity of customization, I think these other skills may be rediscovered eventually as well.

  2. Thomas Cunningham says:

    Kathleen – it’s a bold resolution. Congrats.

    I’m sorry you will do less writing. Your book, literally, changed the direction of my life. After purchasing it I decided to stop being a fashion writer and go into the business. I started my own suit line, got killed, but learned a lot and now I work for another suit designer and love what I do.

    For my part, I have to say that the more I use technology, the less I like it. Certainly skills of all sorts are dissapearing at an alarming rate. Are there any real ‘couture’ ateliers left anywhere? Certainly you can count on two hands all the high-end men’s tailoring shops left in the US.

  3. red_swirl says:

    I hope you enjoy & learn a lot in your new direction. As someone living far away from the US/Europe, I can really see the potential of digital pattern delivery, if that’s part of what you’re thinking.

  4. Kathleen, I agree with Lisa, as I read your posting, I got excited, thought you were going to tell us you were going to write another book; but as I read along, my selfishness grew into understanding. I am a true believer you must do what makes you really happy; I wouldn’t be in the business if I didn’t. I think its great you are going after what fulfills you.
    I do have to say, please don’t stop writing, your posts are great, and there are a lot of questions I have had in the past about this crazy industry, that have been answered by you or where I have looked for you for an idea or explanation. I first read your book right out of college, and truly believed I got more truth out of it than I did my years in college.
    I agree, there are less and less people in the industry that do what you do. Because I don’t make t-shirts, we need real pattern makers making our samples, and it has been VERY hard to find real pattern makers who know what they are doing and are professional people. It is almost a lost art form, but there are several of us in the industry who need people like you to keep our brands going, so for that, I applaud your desire to keep doing it and learning.
    Happy New Year!

  5. Emily says:

    Kathleen, I have to say, I am VERY excited for you to complete your goals! I would definately pay for any patterns you produced and I can’t wait to see them! My biggest goal for the year is to become…a pattern maker! I’ve enrolled in Moore (College of art in philadelphia). They have a Fashion Technology certificate program that is heavy on the technical design and pattern making side. I also am looking for a job or internship that will allow me to learn the practical skills of the industry. In DC that is kind of hard but I have a whole year to find something!

    By the way, I found a great little book called illustrator for fashion design on amazon. I can’t remember the author but if you type that in, you’ll find it. Its simple tutorials but very clear and good.

  6. Adriane says:

    As someone who is not in the industry, I wish I was in a position to learn what you know. I read your blog religiously and think it’s wonderful; even when some topics go way over my head. If was at all possible for me, my 2008 resolution would have me registering for classes at El Paso Community College. As a long ago former fashion student I wanted to be a pattern maker. I wanted to learn all the skills and knowledge that you posess. I was always a hard worker and thirsty to learn everything. My first foray into a factory, via a school trip, I thought I would burst from the excitement; which sounds so geeky. I wanted to learn how to use every machine in the building. I think it is such a shame that more people, younger or otherwise, don’t want to learn skills and information that I find not only fascinating, but invaluable. I could never understand how or why so many of my fellow students would spend all that money on an education and not even want to learn even the basic of sewing skills. It’s like you said, most just wanted to be stylists.
    I wish you all the best in your endeavors for 2008. And trust me, if I can figure out how to work my tv, digital cable, and dvd, anybody can.

  7. Kathleen says:

    A few comments.
    I *do* want to write more books, no doubt, but I’m hedging my bets by not specifically stating so right now. Actually, I plan on using the CAD program itself to generate the artwork (!) but I have to learn how to use if first. Also, I feel it is disingenuous of me to write a technical book without a passing familiarity with CAD. With all the talk of CAD and even tho *only* 15-20% of manufacturers use it, use of it will explode as prices come down. Assuming product development doesn’t totally move off shore.

    Over the holidays, I figured out how to cut/paste drafts from the CAD program to do tutorials. Thus far, it’s a laborious process, I’m looking for shortcuts. Also, I am looking into a new program (pricey, $300!) that will let me make videos of screenshots as I process drafts. I plan on posting a simple one on walking a pattern this week.

    My sister in law bought me that illustrator book for Christmas and I’ve already been using it. In addition, a colleague has generously offered to add me to his training license for illustrator but I’m so dense (I wish you all had the slimmest idea of how learning disabled I am) that I feel I need to go through some trials first, just to gain some familiarity with it so my training hours aren’t wasted. Ditto for CAD. I signed up for training (not free!) but I’m going through the wiki in advance of that. My problem is that I have to be immersed in something, to the exclusion of all else, to learn anything.

    The only thing that was ever easy for me to learn was pattern making. It was like I already knew it and just had to be reminded of what I knew. Heck, I constantly forget what I know and have to reinvent it repeatedly. With all my learning problems, it is just so ironic that I am a “teacher”. I probably wouldn’t remember half of what I do if people didn’t ask me questions, forcing me to review over and over.

  8. Good for you, Kathleen!
    You have a lot of courage to try new things (especially CAD)! I will look forward to anything you write, blogs or books. I enjoy reading your work, even though I’m not involved with the industry now. As for me, I am going to try to become more adept at using my embroidery digitizing software. And making things!

  9. Rachel says:

    I want to say that your post was most inspiring. I applaud you for your decisions to move back (or at least more towards) your passions and the things that excite you the most. There’s always the struggle for artists to balace the creative and the reality of needing to pay the bills. You are an exceptional writer and I absolutely devoured your book–but you need to feed your creativity and yourself by doing what you absolutely love.

    My resolutions for the new year are trying to do just that: love what I create and the process of creating…and remember to take more bubble baths.

  10. dosfashionistas says:

    Kathleen, Do let me encourage you with the CAD system. I learned on the old Mycrodymnamics system. Sunny South was a beta site for them. They sent us to the school one by one, and when we came back from the school, our pattern table had been replaced by a cubicle and computer. It was total immersion, sink or swim, and all but one of 11 patternmakers did well, including one lady who was 60 at the time. The first pattern I made after the school took me a week. Real competence took about 6 months. And I still learn new things, just like on the table.

    That CAD program is a tool, just like scissors, ruler, and paper. Your pattern making knowledge is in your head. You just have to learn how to use this tool. I love making patterns like this! I can work in such accuracy, and I can easily keep a copy of what I have done if I need to go back. I find that I can keep the proportions better in the small scale than I could working full scale on the table.

    All that said, I am going to be relearning some this year. I have done precious little pattern making in the last 8 years. My last paying job was as a grader for a cheerleading company, and I have been retired for almost 3 years now and doing very little pattern work. Talk about forgetting everything you ever knew.

    And I am much less adept with computers in general. I probably should resolve to learn some basics there too. And lose weight. That is my perennial resolution. I have given up on television; if anything I resolve to cease being embarrassed by the fact that I don’t watch it. I’d rather read.

    We will all miss your posts. This blog has been a wonderful thing for me. A replacement for the people I worked with and learned from. I hope you don’t give it up entirely.

  11. Esther says:

    Best wishes for your new goals! I can understand as blogging and reading blogs consumes A LOT of my time. I have been going in the opposite direction of technology by pattern making and grading by hand. I have learned a lot by approaching things from a new perspective. Still, I wish I had CAD for its efficiency. Kudos for trying something new!

  12. kaaren hoback says:

    I am impressed that you set such clear goals and wish you the very best in attaining them! I look forward to whatever posts you do share this year as I learn soemthing every day on my daily visits. There is such a wealth of information in the forums and archive still to explore.

    Now- I would like to know Which CAD program did you settle on, what brand digitizer did you get and which plotter? I am interested in what you finally selected after all your research.

    Happy New Years!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Happy New Year! I wish Kathleen and all the F-I readers a Healthy, Happy, Successful and Fulfilling New Year! Kathleen, as always, you’re an inspiration.
    (I think I know which CAD program you’re referring to, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise :)
    Can’t wait for your technical blog!

  14. KatyRenee says:

    Congrats! Thanks for the head’s up and inspiring me to get back to my roots–creating! I’d love to see a book about pattern making from you, in your own time of course. Hope you find joy and maybe some humor in your learning experiences!



  15. LisaB says:

    I applaud your desire to learn new things, especially given the effort it will take. Too many people are happy with what they already know and don’t care to learn more, if some of my co-workers are representative of people at-large.

    My personal opinion is to (once again) abandon your goal to watch more TV. It’s just not worth it. Life is too short, and there are too many other ways to spend your time that are worth more than knowing what others have spent their time watching. Just a thought….

    Best wishes for 2008!

  16. Christy B. says:

    If you’d like any shortcut tips or anything else about Illustrator, I can help! I’m on it all week long and have learned plenty of quick ways to get around. I too am impressed with the clarity of your goals; I’ve never liked resolutions but it is a good idea to re-think everything once in a while… happy new year!

  17. esteban says:

    this new year i am trying to do what i been mening to do for this pass years. get up the couch, become less of a social butterfly n actually embark in the process of becoming a well rounded individual. my resolutions for this new year include- become more involved in my career, currently im a fashion design student n working at banana republic as a visual merchandiser. for the past 2 years i been doing just what i can to get by with a good grade at school, n party at night. i am starting my change by chanchhng my life style drastlckly starting by reading this helpfull site, recommended by my collection professor. go back to basics the fashion bibles – fashion magazines n many books that i have accomoulated with insightfull info on sowing, pattern making, alterations and etc. also would focuse on my sowing as well my pattern making ones. this year is about changes, progress, any a healthy balance life!

  18. Kathleen, you are so inspiring. Not only with what you wrote, but with being brave enough to put it out there. Then all the posts that followed leave me inspired as well. Thank you everyone.

    I have the usual resolution–exercise and lose 10 lb. that I actually feel inspired to keep this year.

    In addition, I’m moving more agressively into the fashion world (from the art world) and I have to figure out how to grow my business. I’m one of those creative home sewers, so I’m really intimidated by actual pattern making, large-scale cutting, and manufacture. So my goals are to branch out (and maybe even get some help) as my business grows.

    My husband got the 30 day trial of Illustrator and figured out how to do some line drawings for me, but the posts above have me excited to use it for design as well. I don’t draw–I do all my designing in my head and then draw something (very) rough and start sewing. I’d like to have more skills. You have all inspired me to check further into Illustrator.

    One unrelated note: I’ll be showing my line at MODA Manhatten next week. I got the opportunity to “lease” 1/3 of a booth from a rep, so it’s a comparatively inexpensive venture. I will post to Kathleen after the show, but if any of you will be there, please come by Booth #355 and say hello.

    Happy New Year everyone!


  19. ClaireM says:

    Hi kathleen,
    I realise I am coming rather late to this post and I have never posted before although I am an avid reader of the site – but this is the first topic (CAD) I feel I might have something useful to add!
    I am architect rather than a manufacturer or fashion designer, although i do make patterns – probably badly! – and sew. I use CAD programms extensively in my work and have had to learn new programmes in every new job. I agree with the post above regarding CAD should be though of as a tool. I have also found trying to determine how the programme ‘thinks’ is crucial, ie. does it think in lines or shapes? This helps you to understand how to draw and delete parts of your work. You seem to have a vast capacity for understanding processes and CAD work should be thought of in the same way. The programme will approach what you input in the same way every time – you just need to figure out the approach.(!) I think you are suffering from the CAD version of ‘sewing fear’ described in your book!
    You may find a programme called ‘Sketchup’ useful. It is free and has now been bought by Google. It is essentially for 3D architectural work but can be used in 2D and is the most intuitive package I have used. Although it won’t be standard in your industry. Could be worth a look though?
    Best Wishes,

  20. Kathleen says:

    You’ve never posted before Claire? I didn’t realize that, we’ve emailed so I know you. Good that you’ve finally made yourself known to everybody else. I should have a contest to encourage lurkers.

    I think you are suffering from the CAD version of ‘sewing fear’ described in your book!

    I laughed out loud when I read this. Of course it’s true. I mean I knew it but there’s a bit more to it than that. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there’s some resentment over continuing clamors that CAD can replace pattern makers (obviously, people who say/think that are totally missing the point so why do I let them get to me?). I’ll follow up on your suggestions, thanks.

  21. Carol in Denver (the amateur) says:

    How terrifically cool, ClaireM!! Here’s a link to the page that describes SketchUp:

    I’ll be exploring this for 2D applications, & my DH will be using it to place structures into GoogleEarth images — Wow! the first kids on our block with this cool new toy. Thanks for the info!

    I’m also a lurker on this site, and I’ll also try to come out in the open — maybe I can find something similar that is used mostly outside the vein of thought in Kathleen’s blog, but could be very useful to readers here.

    Carol in Denver (the amateur)

  22. Babette says:

    Go for the new system.

    CAD is only as good as the patternmaker but it makes a good patternmaker faster and it allows you to access your customers anywhere. Those little electronic files will be darting about everwhere. Doesn’t matter where your customers are anymore or where they produce. You’ll be linked into a global system.

  23. ioanna says:

    Happy new year! I know it’s late February but I’m re-reading this year’s entries!
    “Watch more TV” He he, good one. I need to watch less!
    I can’t wait to hear more about your Adventures in CAD.

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