March 3, 2015

My Creative Process; From Sketch to Dress

I have been sewing for a rather long time now, since I was around twelve years old. I took a few short lessons back then, had my mom show me a few things, and then I was off! I started sewing in order to make costumes, back then I never thought I would be making clothes. In high school I started actually making things to wear, hats mostly, and eventually clothing. Then I went off to college to get a fashion design degree, where I learned more sewing techniques and how to make my own patterns. I thought today I would outline my sewing creative process, from initial ideas and sketches to final garment. Since most of my outfits here on the blog (and in my closet) are made by me these days, it might be fun to see how they come to be.

First I get the spark of inspiration, thank goodness for Pinterest! Actually, anything can set me off. I get a lot of inspiration from movies and TV as well, like my fascination last fall with the costumes on The Borgias. Sometimes I come across a really pretty fabric too and let the fabric inspire a design. I would say its about 60% ideas I find fabric for and 40% fabrics I later find ideas for.

I really like sketching out my designs on paper first. I took fashion illustration classes in college, but I don't really use the skills they taught in those. In fashion illustration class it is all about movement and silhouette and the "feel" of a design, which I just don't find practical. My sketches are somewhere in between fashion illustrations and technical sketches (flats, drawings created to show seams, sewing details, etc.). I like pinning my sketches of projects I have planned up onto a large cork board on my sewing room wall so I can reference them easily, and also so I can see everything together and plan a "collection", in a way, for my wardrobe.

The ext step for me is to create the pattern for the project in question. I have a few basic patterns that I drafted years ago that I keep on hand and simply modify these to suit each design. I have a pencil skirt and dress pattern that I use for pretty much every design I make, I just copy them and change the hem/neckline/sleeve or whatever needs fixing to fit the new design. I know these patterns fit and therefore can skip making muslin's of each design. I am also really impatient, which is why I rarely ever make a muslin in general! (so bad!)

Next comes the sewing, and again being impatient, this is actually my least favorite part of the process. I rush through sewing quite often, I never actually take the time to do things perfectly or to a "couture" standard. This is really something I want to work on. Once I design something I want it finished now, but that means I sometimes cut corners and end up with an inferior finished product. I'm working on it!

This is actually my mom's sewing machine, because mine broke and I haven't gotten around to replacing it yet! 

 So as an example of how I go from inspiration to a finished garment, I give you a compilation of my Borgia's inspiration images. I was (am) obsessed with Italian Renaissance sleeves after watching this show! I knew I wanted to create some dresses that fused the Borgia's costumes with a standard 50's dress shape. I started by going though my fabric stash to see what I had "in stock" as it were, and choose some fabrics that I thought would make good Renaissance-ish dresses. Next I sketched up my designs, then drafted the crazy sleeve patterns and figured out how it would all go together by making a semi practice dress. The black and gold dress I showed you all last fall was the first "practice" version of this new Renaissance inspired style. I didn't make too many changes between that dress and the others I ended up making. I had to lengthen the waist of the bodice a bit, and I actually went back to my basic dress bodice pattern instead of using a princess seamed bodice that you see in my sketch below.

So that's my creative process! I think I covered everything, except the part where sometimes I screw up so royally when cutting something out or sewing that I have to scrap a project entirely, which does happen and makes me real sad in that moment. I really like the control over my wardrobe that sewing gives me. If I can make it, I can have it! I really want to take my sewing to the next level this year with better sewing technique and more complex pattern drafting. I have a ton of projects lined up for spring and summer already, and a few left to finish for the ongoing winter. I'm sure you will see them all appear on the blog soon.

I hope you guys are having a good week so far!


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I love seeing the creative processes of such skilled people as yourself.

    I am getting a bit inspired about sewing my own clothes. I started for costumes too, then got sidetracked into hats and stopped bothering with other items! I didn't really know enough about fitting, fabrics, or the sewing itself to get good enough results for "real" clothes. So now I'm trying to learn a bit more thoroughly.

    1. Whereas I have been sidetracked by clothes for a long while now and want to make some new hats! I am still learning about sewing and fabrics all the time, even though I have a degree in fashion. I still struggle with zippers, mine never look very nice close up. I would really love to learn more about tailoring and fit too, as those are classes I never had.

  2. This was so immensely fascinating, especially to a non-sewer like myself (who happens to love sewing all the same and be perpetually fascinated by the design and construction process). Thank you for giving us this inside look at your process. I'm completely in awe of your ability to design your own patterns.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you Jessica, I'm glad you found it interesting! Pattern drafting isn't so hard once you get the hang of it, I'll try and do a post about it and my related book recommendations sometime.

  3. I found it fascinating to read all about your creative process and enjoyed looking at your sketches. I can sew but don't have much confidence in my skills which is something I want to improve on this year. I have just started making a dress with the help of a friend which I am very excited about!

    1. Thank you Kate, I'm glad you enjoyed it! Congrats on the dress making adventure!


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