I’m a very process-oriented person.
Yes, it would be nice to be brilliant, creative, responsible, detail-oriented, alert, articulate… and to be that way all the time. But in the real world, we are all human. We all make mistakes, forget to pay attention, or have trouble digging up new ideas.
That’s when I find it helpful to have a method to your madness, whether it be a fun endeavor like sewing or something more complex, like developing a product. What do you think? Are you all about having a solid process?
Today, I wanted to share a condensed version of our design process here at Colette Patterns. If you’ve ever wondered how a sewing pattern is developed (not necessarily drafted, which is a whole other topic), I’m here to share our method, using Hawthorn as an example. I’m sure there are many ways to go about this. Our process was cobbled together from both the world of apparel design and my own background in User Experience.
Step 1: Inspiration
The very first thing we do is figure out what type of garment we’re going to design.
There are a lot of factors there. We think about the types of things you guys have requested, what we need more of in the collection as a whole, the season, variations we can provide, fabric choices, and the difficulty level. A lot of this is intuitive, just a lot of throwing ideas out there.
From there, we might collect some images to get a sense of the overall mood or lines. These are a few images that got us inspired, with a vintage gamine feel to them.
Step 2: Sketching
We might do some sketching at first to work out ideas, but at this point we’ll move into more of the details. Lots of sketches, lots of iteration and talking.
Step 3: Final sketches
At this point, we’ll finalize the sketches and variations.
Step 4: Spec
Next, it’s time to create some flats and a spec. The flats are the technical illustrations you see on the pattern, and they show the style lines of the final garment, including the placement of details, closures, seams, and darts.
The spec is a document that specifies the measurements of the garment, along with the materials required and other important notes. This is our base document that we can refer back to as we create, fit, and modify the pattern.
Step 5: Drafting and Fitting
This is one of the more time consuming parts of the process.
Kristen drafts the pattern and begins making some fit samples. We’ll sew up all of the variations in our base size, and finally bring in our fit model.
Although we might do an initial fitting using just a dress form, it’s very important to get a real live human in to try on the samples for fitting. This way, we can see how it looks on a real live squishy woman, and we can check to see how it feels on her and how well she can move around in it. We’ll have her do a few different movements, like extending and raising her arms or sitting down.
We take photos from different angles for reference, and might bring her back in for another round after we adjust the pattern. Some patterns definitely require more fitting than others.
Step 6: Testing
Once the pattern is ready to go, Kristen works on the technical illustrations and writing. As you can tell, Kristen does a huge amount of work on the patterns, while I take more of an editorial role. Having a good process in place is what let me place a lot of the technical work into her capable hands, while still maintaining a consistent style.
Ok. Now the pattern is close to being done, or so it seems.
Our next step is to have some regular sewists test it out. We give them both the pattern and the instructions and collect structured feedback on every single page.
When they’re done, we ask them to stop by our studio to show us what they made and discuss any issues or problems they had. The photo above shows Kristen examining a version of Hawthorn made by one of our testers.
Step 7: Editing
Now we get into the final editing stage. We run through a whole editing process, sometimes multiple times. We check and recheck numbers, formatting, and look for typos. Once it’s pretty well done, we send it over to an experienced, professional editor for proofreading and copyediting.
Once we implement her changes, we are ready for print!
We keep all of our notes and documentation in these handy labeled binders for each design. The whole process takes 3-4 months, since we work on different stages of different patterns simultaneously.