Monday, September 28, 2015

Connie Crawford

A Pattern that Fits -  Hip Hip Hoorah!

This past weekend the American Sewing Expo was in town. Sewers and quilters from cities and states in and around Michigan converged to see the latest in the home sewing industry. On most visitors' agendas were oodles of classes and workshops they could participate in taught by the industry's top sewing experts and what I like to call, sewing celebrities. 

This was my second time visiting the show. My mission there was to shop for a new sewing machine and to take a full day workshop. The class I chose was a custom fit and design course taught by Connie Crawford. Since fitting continues to be a challenge for me and is something I am committed to mastering for myself and my students, this seemed like the appropriate workshop to sign up for.

I was familiar with Connie's name from her Butterick patterns and various articles I've read from her, but aside from that I had no real knowledge of who she was or what contribution to the home sewing industry she had to offer. 

Boy, she is impressive. Connie's professional experience is noteworthy and extensive. She was an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and worked as a pattern maker, grader, design consultant and designer for real fashion businesses. All this has contributed to her ability to truly understand how to make patterns that actually fit real women.

As I have aged getting commercial patterns to fit me well has been a struggle. Getting darts or princess seams to target the bustline properly, resolving gaposis issues and trying to get the armhole and sleeves to fit me right has been a challenge. I'm sure there are lots of women who face the same dilemma and understand the struggles we go through. I have to make muslin after muslin which adds cost and unneccessary time to any project I start. Not anymore!

Connie's vast experience has indeed made her an expert in pattern making for real women. Unfortunately, she had very little good to say about the commercial pattern industry. Her contention is that they have failed to adapt to today's trends  -- I totally agree -- and do not make patterns that trully understand the female body, especially the aging female body -- here here. As a result their patterns are not truly designed to fit, something, I'm sad to say, speaks directly to me. 

She spoke directly to the issues that I face everyday with every commercial pattern I use.  She explained how commerical patterns are designed and the where and why they fail to fit properly.  Key among those reasons is that most in that industry have had no real experience making patterns for fashion houses that must design clothes that actually fit or they don't survive as a business for very long.

During the class she fit a few students with sample garments made from her line of  'master' patterns. These students were like you and me, with lumps and bumps everywhere. The samples fit these women like gloves. No gaps, perfect armholes, perfect necklines on not so perfect bodies. I was amazed. 

The following day I visited her booth at the show to be fitted with one of her samples to see if these so called 'master' patterns would work for me. Hip hip hoorah indeed! Like a glove, they fit me better than any pattern I have had to work hours to adjust. 

Connie's master patterns work like slopers or blocks. These are basic silhouettes that can be used as templates for designing new styles, a concept I believe in strongly and recently wrote about for Sew News magazine (Core Wardrobe Patterns). More importantly, they will be used to correct the fit of any commercial pattern I use from now on. 

I purchased three of her 'master' patterns. The basic side bust dart/waist dart bodice, a princess seam bodice and a bodice pattern for knits  -- essentially a T-shirt pattern. From these I can make almost anything.   I also purchased her latest edition book on patternmaking. I've only just begun to read this 500 page bible and so far it is wonderful. Written primarily as a textbook for fashion design students it is comprehensive, very carefully detailed to minimize any misinterpretations, yet easy for any sewer to implement. 

This was the first time meeting Connie and I am so glad I did. She has been in very poor health and is facing a slow and long recovery. As a result, she announced the class I attended was be the last all day workshop she would conduct out of her home state of Washington. She would have to limit her extensive travel demands and stick closer to home so she could restore her health.  My very best wishes to her in her recovery as she has a lot to offer the sewing community. And, my sincere thanks for having been among the last few to benefit from her workshop. 


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