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PatternReview Blog > Chat with Sandra Ericson - Wednesday, July 13th 1 PM Eastern
Chat with Sandra Ericson - Wednesday, July 13th 1 PM Eastern By Deepika on 7/11/11 11:31 AM

We're Chatting with Sandra Ericson of the Center for Pattern Design, on "The Relationship Between the Cut of the Cloth and the Design of the Garment", on Wednesday, July 13, at 1 PM Eastern Standard Time (10 AM Pacific, 11 AM Mountain, Noon Central). GMT: 17:00:00. Sydney, Australia: Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 3 AM!*

Sandra Ericson is a leading educator in the clothing and textile field and has taught fashion design, pattern making, draping, textile and construction courses at City College of San Francisco for more than 30 years.

In addition, she founded Antiquity Press, a small publishing company for out-of-print fashion books.

Her personal research has led her to become expert on the work of Madeleine Vionnet, who she calls "the most innovative pattern maker of the 20th Century", and she has conducted workshops on Vionnet's techniques.

Sandra is also the founder and director of the Center for Pattern Design, a ‘think tank’ for pattern design which publishes unusual patterns and sells reprinted books, patterns, tools and visual media. Some of the hot topics for the Center include zero-waste cutting, patterns developed from molded forms and animated draping (new CAD and 3-D programs).

The chat is open to all Friends of PR members. Chat instructions will be posted on the PR home page on the morning of the chat.

*Please double-check time conversions for your area. Eastern Standard Time is accurate.

We interviewed Sandra last week. We hope you'll enjoy getting to know her and will attend the chat to interact with her.

Deepika: How did you get started in sewing?

Sandra: At age 10 my grandmother taught me to sew and I immediately understood that if I wanted clothes, I had to make them and then when I realized that I could make any clothes I wanted, I was hooked.

Deepika: What made you decide to focus on a career in fashion and design education?

Sandra: Two things came together -- one, I was good at clothing design and construction and, two, there were very few careers open to women that offered money and status equally to men and women -- college level teaching and nursing. I picked teaching.

Deepika: When did you first learn about Madeleine Vionnet? What was it about her work that interested you so much? How does her work influence the way that you personally approach pattern and fabric?

Sandra: Madeleine Vionnet understood that designing a covering for a moving object that needed to be functionally comfortable, imbue the wearer with an attractive persona and be well crafted, required the thinking of an architect. She called herself a geometrician (architect) and engineered all her designs, always seeing the design problem as being a cutting problem, even the decorative details had an engineered purpose. For instance, she did not band the hem of a dress only for appearances but also because the weight of a wide band would improve the drape of the skirt and/or the skimming fit of a bias bodice. From her I learned that setting the bar high meant that a single cut would have to create a well-balanced design, provide structural fit, use the fabric to it most potential and provide decorative interest. None of these goals is completed independently, each is related to the other and are possible at once with a perfect cut.

Deepika: Besides Vionnet, what designer, teacher or author has made an impression on you?

Sandra: I seek out designers who focus almost entirely on being a good cutter -- a pattern designer first and then a clothing designer. A pattern designer is a person who believes that the all the elements of design can and must be achieved primarily through the cut of the cloth -- the transformation from 2-D to 3-D. People like Isabel Toledo, Donna Karan, Rick Owens, Shingo Sato, Azzedine Alaia, Julian Roberts, and many more, all have become known for their very unusual cuts.

Deepika: Why did you decide to start the Center for Pattern Design?

Sandra: I taught pattern design, draping and all aspects of fashion design for 31 years -- commuting like crazy. Finally, the length of the trip became 2 hours one way and I had to think f a way to “stay in the game”, contribute to the field and have a good time. I realized that over time, schools had dumbed down much of the technical aspects of good apparel design in order to maintain enrollment and retention during harder economic times. It became a way to stay in business for many programs. Pattern design is technical and mathematic, especially now with CAD programs, so, even though it is the back bone of garment construction, it was getting little attention. I believe that by emphasizing the importance of pattern design skills and returning interest to the structural cut of the garment rather than the surface design, clothing will be more beautiful, consumers will respect fashion more and it will also lead to a renaissance of small American garment manufacturing. The CFPD seeks to spread the pattern design word in several mediums, connect people who feel likewise and support people in the field with educational opportunities.

Deepika: Do you still sew for yourself? Do you ever use commercial patterns or do you always design your own?

Sandra: I sew for myself all the time but it is usually an experiment of some sort -- a new pattern, an idea that came to me in the middle of the night, something I discovered in a book -- it always is an experiment! So, by definition, I usually design my own.

Deepika: Do you have a philosophy of pattern design? Please share it with us.

Sandra: Do not just accept any pattern -- ask what it really going on there and how you can take it to the next step. Think scissors -- to eliminate seams, to work the fabric continuously around the body to provide the focal point and to throw fabric characteristics to the forefront -- a pair of scissors should be able to all those things with very few cuts, very quickly. The philosophy would be to tie many goals to a single cut.

Deepika: Are there any books that you consider indispensible to serious sewers?

Sandra: I don’t worry too much about the stitchers -- the cut of the cloth is more important to me and in greater danger of being a lost art. In that area, the college textbooks -- Crawford and also Armstrong’s -- are very good. But no one book is going to have all you need. One of the reasons I went into my business, is because I knew that such books as Dress Design by Hillhouse & Mansfield and Modern Pattern Design by Pepin, and Virginia West’s books, for instance, were going to be lost to new generations -- the thought depressed me and I began to think about how I could prevent that and now we publish those. I feel a great sense of relief.

Deepika: What part of the design and sewing process do you enjoy the most? Why?

Sandra: For me, the most fun is inventing or discovering a new pattern design and cutting it out. I enjoy putting it together but usually have a hard time finding the patience for hand sewing.

Deepika: What part of the design and sewing process do you like the least and why?

Sandra: I love to do things quickly because I am so impatient to see it done, so the handwork requires that I have something else going on while I do it.

Deepika: What is your favorite fabric to work with?

Sandra: Working with the bias is great fun and so I tend to gravitate toward fabrics that ‘collapse’ well on the bias -- crepes, twill weaves, silk velvets, handwovens -- and an interesting texture is always a weakness for me.

Deepika: Which sewing machine do you use?

Sandra: I have a Bernina 1090 which is older but so far hasn’t caused me to wish for more magic from it. I also have a Bernina industrial machine which speeds thing up a bit and a old Singer hemmer and a chain stitch for doing experiments and half-scales that rip out quickly once I’ve fitted the toile and tweaked the pattern. I like to use the muslin toile as the pattern if I am doing something new.

Deepika: What advice would you give to sewers who want to improve their skills in the craft?

Sandra: The ease and elegance of the process of assembly is directly related to the pattern. Most iconic designs from major names now and in the past have had just a few pattern pieces that are well conceived and easy to put together. There may also be lots of hand sewing, as in couture, but the assembly and construction is usually straightforward. The pieces may not be the conventional bodice or skirt but the sewing will not be difficult. So the advice would be to look at and think about why the pattern is done in a certain way. Study which conventional seams have been removed and the pieces combined and why the grain is where it is. Think about how this aids the fit of the garment. In other words, if you understand the pattern, you will more easily understand how it goes together.

3 Comments      Login to Add a Comment    
craftinginmycave2 said... (7/18/11 12:57 PM) Reply
omg, I can't believe I forgot about this! Looking for transcript.
craftinginmycave2 said... (7/11/11 2:11 PM) Reply
I had the pleasure of meeting Sandy when she brought Shingo Sato to Chicago earlier this year. Sandy is a not only a wealth of information, but also an inspiration to encourage sewists to look to the past, but re-invent what exists, too. I'm hoping to carve out time to listen live. Sandy: will you have any more information re: the Shingo Sato workshop? Also, any chance of bringing Julien Roberts back to the U.S. again. Would also like to know who else you think is in their and Timo's realm.
dfr2010 said... (7/11/11 12:56 PM) Reply
This sounds VERY interesting!

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