Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Making Samples

One of the requirements of the City and Guilds Fashion course is making samples. Samples of techniques, trialing design ideas, and notation about the things you learn. It helps you to build a resource and provides evidence for those who assess and mark your work.

So, for my students, we are starting with seams and seam finishes. Because they are supposed to have an intermediate knowledge of sewing, this means they are starting with something they are familiar with. From there, the samples go on to other techniques which are needed for making garments. It helps to fill in gaps in their knowledge. For instance, if they are confident about buttonholes but have never done an invisible zip, they refresh their knowledge on the one area and learn something more in the other area. The samples need to be in different weights of fabric relative to the type of project they are working on. then when they get to the point that they are actually sewing on their garments, they already know what tension works best and so forth.
Seam Samples

Although the college has handouts prepared with instructions for the techniques needed for the sample folders, good instructions can be found in basic books about sewing. One of the best books for techniques and other dressmaking knowledge can be found in the Reader's Digest Complete Book of Sewing. It has excellent instructions and illustrations which clearly show what is meant in the instructions. Newer editions combine the Complete Book of Sewing with the Complete Book of Needlework and can be purchased from places like Amazon. If it is at all possible to find one of the of the older editions though, the dressmaking is covered more thoroughly.

If you are not in a place where you can take City and Guilds Fashion courses, you can still benefit from doing samples. In fact, you can get a book like the one mentioned above and work your way through it. You may wish to start with seams and other things you already know, and perhaps do them on different types of fabrics than you normally work with. You can find out what you need to do to use the technique with fine fabrics or bulky fabrics and so on, and then be prepared if you should decide to make a particular project in the future. It also frees you to do something different than suggested by the pattern instructions because you already know you like the result. If you build up a portfolio of samples, it is easy to get them out to look at again. (I always get the invisable zip sample out when I need to do one.) You can build on your existing knowledge, fill in gaps in your learning, and gain confidence with tricky techniques.

If you find there are techniques you can not get the hang of through books, then you can look for someone you know who sews well or ask advice in an online sewing group. Perhaps someone will just take an hour or so to help you learn that technique or you may be pointed to a video online that shows it being done.

Believe me, it is a worthwhile thing to do. It really saves a lot of grief when it comes to making your projects. They go together more smoothly, and you can get the sample out an look at it again for a reminder if it is something you don't do regularly.

I'd love to hear your comments about this!


Marianne said...

I find that these days a great addition to the books or boxes of samples is a photographic recording of all the steps. It's good to write down but photos adds an extra reminder. I would rather do without the writing than without the photos.
May moons ago I did part of a City and Guild course (not fashion) but every time I have been back to my boxes to look for something despite keeping a diary and having all the teachers instructions along side the samples, trying to figure out how it was actually done is a headache. With time a lot of samples deteriorate considerably (I started C&G 17 years ago) especially if dyes are involved so I have thrown a no of samples out. Digital photos are a great way of recording your work.

Sandy said...

Marianne, you make a good point. And I appreciate the testimony of what can happen to some samples over a period of time. It is good to keep in mind.

One of the things colleges have started doing is callled RARPA - Recognising and Rewarding Progress and Achievement. Taking photos of various stages of someone's work...and sometimes video evidence if necessary. This goes into the file of evidence for people like Ofsted inspectors. Perhaps photographic evidence of portfolio work, especially the type which may be less permenant, might something that can be passed back to the student as well.

and for photographing construction sequences, I know that for myself, when I am writing up instructions, I like to have step by step photos to illustrate the instruction.With digital cameras this is easier.
So, I think your ideas are good to put forward to students as we are begining. When we get to more complicated techniques, they can be encouraged to document the steps with a camera for future reference.
I am so glad you took time to comment. I think the thoughts behind it are very valuable.
Thanks! Sandy