Friday, 29 October 2010

The Importance of Being Fitted!

People have lost the art of having things made for them!

I'm frequently baffled by the number of people who seem to think that having fittings is optional.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the long-distance thing here.  I have customers all over the world, from the Americas to Australia - I can do long-distance.  For the majority of the garments and other things I make, I can post slopers and toiles to be fitted at a client's end.  It works very well, and is the ideal way to deal with international clients who can't visit me, and whom I can't visit.

No, I mean things where it's arranged that fitting should be done in person.

I sometimes get the feeling that (some) people think I'm just being extremely difficult if I say that something will need to be fitted two or three times as a minimum.  I'm really not.

Obviously, due to the sheer range of things I make, there are things that I can do without fitting.  But some things simply have to be fitted.  It's not that hard a concept really, is it?  Clothes that fit tightly (eg arming doublets, hosen, dresses, corsets, etc), or that need to hang correctly to look good (eg gowns, other dresses, jackets, uniforms, etc), really do have to be fitted, one way or another.

I can cut things carefully and accurately, yes.  I can hang things from dummies to check the lines, yes. 
But here's a startling piece of information: cutting accurately cannot possibly hope to allow for all the vagaries of the human figure, even with all the measurements and notes on posture that I take.  And another stunning fact: no dummy, even one padded to match a client's size and posture, will ever replace the fitting of a garment to a real human being. 
For a start, dummies don't move.  They don't have to sit down when their feet are tired, or to bend over and pick up the thing they just dropped, or to stretch to reach a high shelf.  And they can't tell you if a tightly cut armhole pinches.  you get the gist, I trust...

When you order something from me (or any clothes maker, be they on a street market in Thailand, or a designer dressmaker, or a tailor on Saville Row), what you're asking me to do is to translate your 3D form into flat shapes on a flat piece of cloth.  And then back into 3D.  It isn't remotely easy, it takes years to learn, and it can't be done instantly.

Without fitting, there will be errors.  It's unavoidable.

If a garment needs two or three fittings, and somebody doesn't show up for one, or more, then only one of two things can result: 1 the order will take longer, because the appointment will have to be rescheduled; 2 the garment (or garments) simply won't fit.

I'm good at what I do, but I'm not a miracle worker!  neither is anybody else who cuts or sews.

So the whole point of this post - if you order clothing or costume from anybody, and they tell you it needs to be fitted, show up. 
On time. 
And if they say you need a particular pair of shoes, or particular underwear, do as asked.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Hand Embroidery

Embroidery, (by hand, that is), is one of my favourite types of stitching.

All hand sewing is far more attractive to me than machine sewing, because there's so much more variety, and so much more to learn, but hand embroidery is the thing I like the best.

It could be because I started to embroider when I was very young.  I was around two years old.  I was apparently an annoying, curious child, so my Nana sat me down with a needle and thread to keep me from sticking my fingers into sockets, or the fire, etc, etc.

Or it could be because there's just so much to learn - there are so many different types of embroidery, and so many individual stitches, that it would take a lifetime or longer to master them all.

Or it could be that embroidery doesn't serve any real purpose.  Embroidery isn't really functional, or utilitarian.  It's a frippery - it's entirely decorative.  A beautiful thing that serves no other real purpose other than to be beautiful!

I like that. 

Anyway, all of that said, my latest piece of embroidery does serve a purpose.  It's a medieval (Wars of the Roses) livery badge.

This one is stitched in silk embroidery floss, on a linen ground (the backing fabric).  The body of the badge is done entirely in split stitch, and the outline and detail in back stitch.

This is currently on display alongside an original metal badge of the time, at Wakefield Museum, in their exhibition 'The Battle of Wakefield', which is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10.30am - 4.30pm.  It's on till the 29th January 2011.