Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Clothing Imagined Every Step of the Way (Patternless)

You have read a variety of my blog entries on my philosophy of clothing. What you have not seen until now are my efforts putting that philosophy to the test with actual garments. This entry changes that. I give you explanations to go with the pictures. If you find my explanations hard to understand, just keep in mind my overall plan. I cut the holes for the head, arms and legs and just go from there as my imagination takes me. I have no idea what the garment will look like when I am done when I am at this starting point. There is no plan. This flies in the face of all recommendations about making clothing. Home economics teachers everywhere would consider this nothing short of outright anarchy. But, hey, I'm 65 years old and am just going to stick it on myself so what difference does it make? This is also the method I use when making a quilt, blanket, pillow and so forth. Those are easier, however, because they do not have to go over the three dimensional human body. Anyway, just look at the pictures if you find my explanations incomprehensible.

Note: all fabrics were machine washed and machine dried on normal cycles and heats before I began work. I do not baby clothing. I expect to toss it into the machines with the rest of my wash load without a second thought. Again, heresy.

This started out as a cotton print dress I made a year ago that I cut on the square (on the straight grain of the fabric). It was ok but I was unsatisfied. I ripped it apart to try some of my new ideas with it. When I cut the dress apart, I cut the pieces at an angle instead of on the square. I next decided to use an olive colored silk for half of the new dress. I cut those pieces on an angle too (on the bias). I did this because the human body is not square so square cut fabric will not flatter it. Then I started joining everything together on the sewing machine. I sewed the seams on the outside, making the seams part of the dress. The result is a caftan style dress which is quite comfortable. I am leaving sleeves big and open on everything. This gives me coolness during the summer and the option of putting a top underneath it for winter warmness. Below is the back of the garment.

My first step on this or any other project is to cut the hole for the head.  I then put the fabric on myself and decide what to do next with it. As each idea comes, I go ahead and do it, finish that step, put it back on over my head and again decide what to do next. Often I need to stick it on Jim as I near the end so I can walk around it and adjust it. There are no patterns, no sketches, no kit, no plans. In other words, there is nothing to go on other than the fabrics themselves and holes for head, arms and legs. This is how I imagine people used to make their clothing when they had to make it themselves and had nothing but the cloth, thread and cutting sewing implements.  It is as far from mass produced ready to wear as one can get.

The above is a top made using the same ideas as before. However, I made a much smaller piece of fabric for the head opening, cut a chunk off at an angle, and started adding pieces to that cut off angle. This forced me to add pieces of fabric in non square format. Quilters generally use squares or rectangles in their pieces but I find odd shapes more intriguing to join together.  This meant that I was constantly recutting the entire top to get the pieces to fit.  That is ok as the pieces get more interesting with constant recutting. The blue fabrics are silk and the print fabrics are cotton. The sides ended up way too long when I was done so I had to put it on Jim so I could cut the excess away and then resew the sides together. Everything always ends up uneven as I do not want any garment to square off at its ends.

The above top is not done yet. I will keep working on it but I'm not sure I can pull off the sleeves in this one.  I have been very far off in the sleeves and that is not good. My central idea was to use up these pieces of cotton animal fabric I had in my stash. I like animal fabric but I don't like it in one continuous piece. The other pieces are all silks. This one was a lot more complicated because my animal pieces were already in irregular piece format as were the dark blue and purple fabrics. The only fabrics in continuous yardage were the blue silk and orange silk. Working with small pieces right from the beginning makes it a lot harder. This was the most difficult garment to date and I doubt I would do another.  It is much easier initially having bigger, continuous yardage at the start point. Although I was able to cut the hole for the head out of the orange yardage, I was not able to do that for the sleeves. Thus, the seeds of my destruction! I've had to build up the sleeves instead by adding on fabric. I never want to do this again. Starting out with my holes in place: head, arms, legs, seems to be the only sane way to do this. If I ever pull this together, I will take another picture. The back view of this garment shows my sleeve problem better, below.

The above garment had to be completely recut. It was first a top made with the opening holes made out of just the orange-yellow cotton and purple silk. It did not work in any respect. I kept the hole openings but recut the body of the top so that I added more and more joined pieces to it. It reshaped as a caftan instead of a top.The other problem I had with this was that it was too orange and yellow. Very few of us can wear huge amounts of these colors. So I had to get other colors going in there to make it a better color. Turquoise was a great color saver. Most people can wear turquoise. In fact, most people can wear blue which is why you see so much of it. Below is a back view of this garment. Below is the back of this garment.

In general, if you are having a color problem with your clothing, look at the world around you outdoors. Anything you see as a color in the earth will look good on anyone. This is because we are earth ourselves and earth complements earth. So I know that the blue of water or sky is going to work because it is all around me in the natural world and in harmony. If a color is not working, it is probably a derivative shade of that color in the earth and thus riskier to use.

This has given you a lot to absorb.  I will be revisiting this topic from time to time. Essentially this is my continual quest to avoid the straight-jacket method of clothing construction.

Note: A big thank you to Jim for modeling these clothes for the pictures. I then took him out of the pictures with my Photoshop clone program, GIMP. I used the eraser tool to remove as much of him as I could. If you look closely you will see in some photos I could not get rid of his arms. It should be noted that in many countries of the world, men do wear clothes like this. Africa and Asia have many men in this kind of clothing. So this is a lot more unisex than a ball gown with heels. As a humorous aside, he mentioned that he now thought of himself as the Naomi Campbell of my blog. I thought it was interesting that he picked the most difficult super model in the world as his mentor. She has been sued by countless assistants when she slugged them for not getting her orders right! Once a Felix, always a Felix.

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