Last week I got a fun invitation from Deepika, fearless leader of PatternReview.com, to attend an event about how technology and fashion are morphing together to create a new world of textiles for us to play with.
It was held at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, so I jumped at the chance to go because it’s a beautiful place, and it sounded like there might be fabric and free food.
“Fashion 4WRD” was billed as “the future of design and technology,” and put together by the brainiacs who are at the forefront of fabric and apparel innovation in New York and MIT, one of the most prestigious science and tech schools in the U.S.
Deepika has written a much more serious and in-depth report of the event for Pattern Review, which you can find in this post. She obviously was paying much more attention than I was, which is why I’ve been assigned to the Entertainment Division of Jet Set Sewing, and not the News Division. If you haven’t visited PatternReview.com online, there are hundreds of thousands of sewing enthusiasts there chatting about sewing, dishing about patterns, drinking coffee, and waiting for you.
Now, as someone who’s generally trying to decipher the retro instructions in 50s patterns and attempting to improve my handstitching, I wasn’t sure I’d be relating to much in the presentations. Honestly, I was picturing Deepika and me taking selfies with Devo-style headgear surrounded by Trekkies.
Within a couple of minutes, though, we were totally engaged, listening to a panel that included a designer from New Balance, a fashion technology researcher, and a creative director from a sustainable company that’s trying to grow leather in a lab (just google “Modern Meadow”).
The ideas were flying, but here are some of the take-aways for those of us who prefer that our garments come from the holy trinity of imagination, fabric stash and sewing machine:
- People who go to design school should also study biology, because a lot of fabric innovations are happening in the lab now. People will be growing clothes and dye from bacteria, for example. (As a matter of fact, I think my fabric stash may be fermenting in the closet right now.)
- Zero-waste designs (that are cut so there aren’t a lot of fabric scraps), are a trend in clothing manufacturing. (But we’ve been on top of that for years in home sewing. It was careful layout, cutting and reuse of scraps that kept our “waste not want not” grandmas in fashion on a budget.)
- The intersection of fashion and technology is getting more girls interested in pursuing science. Score one for fashion technology! (3D printed dress anyone?)
- Manufacturers can come up with cool technical innovations in garments, but selling people on them is another matter. (Which reminded me of how depressing it is to shop nowadays, because you’re being talked into something that’s not quite “you.” So then I started drifting off and thinking about great it is to skip Chanel and make a jacket instead.)
- Fast fashion is horrible for the environment, and the industry needs to focus more on sustainability. (Of course, we peeps have already solved that. We get pleasure from sewing something nice out of an efficient length of fabric, rather than shopping, and then we wear it a lot because it fits and it suits us. So we don’t need to buy a lot of clothes to feel good.)
- Lastly, the “Maker” movement (people who make their own things, like us) is affecting product design now, because people want to “customize” their clothing. (So then I really had to stop myself from getting up during the Q&A and saying, “you know, if people just had sewing machines…”)
But I’m glad these companies are thinking of sustainability, because truth be told, not everyone is going to be able to make their own clothes. And good thing, because it’s already hard enough to win those Pattern Review contests!
Then Deepika and I went to the hall where some of this technology was being put into action, and that was REALLY fun!
There were a lot of young creative people there, who are developing such innovative products! For example:
- A “maker space” where you can design and laser-cut wood, to make it supple enough to use in a clutch, or even a tie;
- Chic, fashionable clothing designs for people with disabilities, like this jacket that Deepika’s modeling. It looks like Armani, and closes with magnets sewn into the front edge;
- 3D printed jewelry that’s light and flexible;
- (Secret note to Deepika’s husband: she really wants one of these.)
- Fabric that opens and closes in response to humidity, to someday make self-venting running jackets. It runs on bacteria! (Yes, I was trying very hard to be mature and not think about fabric, sweat and bacteria in the same Venn diagram…)
- (Sorry I cut off that nice young man’s explanation of how it works.)
- You’ll have to look at Deepika’s post to see a picture of the 3D printed “disco boots”!
- A dress lit up with LEDs and controlled by an app on your phone. Great for dark alleys.
Then Deepika and I, I’ll admit it, totally hogged the industrial fusibles display by Bemis. We were just having too much fun cutting out little gold hearts and circles in their lightweight fusibles and pressing them on fabric swatches with an industrial press.
We made a couple of 10-year-olds wait for about 10 minutes while we fooled around with it, probably putting them off from sewing forever. It was worth it.
The good news is that the apparel industry is at least trying to move in an innovative, sustainable direction, which benefits everyone, even us sewanistas. Just think of all the great new fabrics we’ll have to play with!
Thanks again for the invite, Deepika! It was great to be there with you representing the me-made #makers!
And here’s what Claire McCardell came up with when asked to design the “fashion of the future” in 1945…her “Futuristic Dress”:
Made from triangles of fabric (zero waste), cut full to fit any figure and “customize” with a belt, pockets (so you can carry your stuff without a bag–like wearable tech), and workwear-inspired topstitching–way ahead of the curve. The future is now!
As for what I’ve been sewing… I’m cooking up a fall jacket from this lurvly stable knit I bought from EmmaOneSock.com. Since the jacket is unlined, I’m doing French seams to finish the interior, which are completely doable on thick fabric! Even though people talk about this technique being best on thin fabrics, I find in sewing that sometimes it’s better just to ignore conventional wisdom and fool around.
(For those not familiar with French seams, it’s a seam-finish technique where you enclose the raw edges of a seam allowance with a second seam. You sew the seam allowance first WRONG sides together, close to the cutting edge, then turn it wrong side out and sew the seam again RIGHT sides together on the seamline.)
In the case of this medium-weight wool/viscose blend, the edges don’t unravel, so I was able to sew the first seam very close to the edge (wrong sides together):
Then I gave it a nice flat press. I like working with knits that have some wool in them, because they respond well to steam.
The great thing about this technique is that you can try it on at this point to see if it fits, and tweak it if you need to.
Then I flipped it so the right sides were together, pressed it flat, and sewed the next seam about 3/8″ from the edge, enclosing the raw edges of the first seam.
Easy as pie, and looks great inside the jacket. It also gives the jacket some soft structure. Details to follow!
How’s your fall (or spring, if you’re down under) sewing going?