It’s no secret that I really love working on things that are practical and can be worn. The Directional Hearing Aid is an indicator of that (No, I haven’t forgotten, but projects and the world got in the way. There have been new jobs in the family, long-distance moves, and other insanities). One of the big things I’ve considered is making tech that can be worn in the form of fun clothes; there has only ever been one big factor preventing me from breaking into this world: I had absolutely NO idea how to make real clothes, other than a couple costumes in my past, I’d never really worked from solid patterns. I had definitely never drafted a pattern before.

I decided it was time to get started on this endeavor, and make some clothes. This brought forth another challenge: speed.

Recently, I had made some costume pieces for a LARP (don’t start) that I play in. These were hand stitched and took a fair bit of time to make. If I wanted to make anything practical I was going to need a sewing machine. I started asking around to family members for machines I could use, or machines I could take. I used my Grandmother’s for a piece, and that helped me get my bearings with machines again (I used one in the past to make the aforementioned costumes). It worked out, but driving to her house every time I had a small piece to stitch would be cumbersome by way of time. Luckily, my dad had an old (late 1950s, early 1960s) Kenmore 158 in the basement. It was as good as mine!

To say it needed work isn’t necessarily an understatement, but I don’t think it really captures the essence of the tedium required. This machine hadn’t run in at least 20 years. The motor needed to be cleaned out, all of the pieces needed oiling, some parts needed replacing, a couple of the pieces needed rust removed, and the timing got all sorts of messed up in the number of moves the machine had seen. Ultimately though, after about 2-3 hours of work, I had the machine purring like a very loud, industrial kitten.

I finally got to my first project: A child’s bathrobe. I went out and got a pattern, bought some plush fleece fabric, and learned that a bathrobe may not have been the best place to start. I got both bathrobes made, mind you (for my, currently, 2 kids),  but the first one took much longer than it should have. Cutting out the pattern was clumsy (I probably should have thought to pin the pattern down early on instead of halfway through), and I had to stick to the stitching instructions to the T. Putting flat pieces of fabric together to make a garment was much more complicated than I thought it would be. Woodworking, sculpture; both of those activities have some sort of rhyme and reason to how the flat pieces make a 3-dimensional object. I’m still not entirely sure I didn’t sell my soul to get these bathrobes made. Ultimately, the first bathrobe took about 3-3.5 hours. The second one, took 45-65 minutes. I had to get used to the machine, get used to the mindset of putting pattern pieces together, get comfortable with my abilities enough to move at a reasonable speed, and I had to realize that it was OK to make mistakes (If only woodworkers or metalworkers had something as simple as the seam ripper to undo and re-do mistakes).

Once I got that down, I took on a bigger project: a pair of pajama pants for my wife. This was the project where I learned that you should never trust the sizing diagrams on patterns. These pants are HUGE, they were supposed to be a large. Although they turned out well, and required only minor alteration to fit together well, I should have thought to measure and alter before making the pants. This is when I thought that if I was going to be making clothes and costumes, with or without tech embedded, I was going to need to learn how to take all of these measurements and make patterns.

Enter Valentina. I found a FLOSS pattern drafting application that I used to make a flat-front pants pattern with exterior pocket for my sons. The application makes everything super easy. Lines are made with equations based on measurements, so the same pattern can be applied to anyone you have the measurements for. It was a godsend. Trying to draft graded patterns by hand did not look, nor was it, particularly fun to do. Using Valentina, everything made sense (with a CAD background), and everything worked perfectly.

Today I’m making the pants. I’ll post an update with how things go once I get that done. When it all works out, I’ll share the pattern and measurements file too.

Anyway, expect more from me in the coming year. I’ve got light up models, I’ve got costumes, I’ve got wearables, and I’ve got a hearing aid completion planned for 2017. Hopefully, I can actually remember to get it all blogged out.