Curves of Fibers ~ Half Scale Pre Pilot at Cornell University

Over the past few weeks I’ve participated in the Half Scale Pre-Pilot project that aims to stimulate design creativity through experimentation on a half-scale dress form. Working on a half-scale, rather than a full scale dress form reduces fabric usage in the mock-up stage, and speeds up production time with shorter seams. The Halfscale Forum for Creative Patternmaking is led by Professor Susan Ashdown from Cornell University, and will reach an international design audience including professional designers, educators, graduate students, and advanced undergraduate students. With its launch, it aims to stimulate creative design experimentation and a platform for ongoing peer-to-peer virtual discussions. Please see video here for more information.

This is documentation of my design ideation and process of working with a half scale form for the first time. The design prompt led me think about how structure can induce volume. I thought about volume from fabric and fiber perspectives.

Construction

I began by draping and drawing lines on the fabric. This led me to develop the curvy bodice design, which I initially did not know how to sew together based on the extreme shape differences between the top and bottom half of the cut pieces. To solve this initial problem of construction, I created bias tape to provide a clean finish for the extreme curves. For the skirt, I initially draped on the bias, but determined it would be better to cut on the grain line for greater fabric stability since I anticipated additional fiber attachments would add weight to the skirt. The crochet pieces are attached to an under skirt and peek through slits of the outer skirt. The weight of the crochet pieces was a challenge because it created stress on the underskirt, and stress lines were subtly visible when viewing the outer skirt. This led me to scale down the amount of crochet pieces in each slit from 2 to 1. After several hand-sewing tacking tests of the crochet pieces on the under skirt, I determined that each crochet piece should have one tack at the top and bottom of the slit.

Design Ideation

Sensuous curves insinuate volume in both structural fabric and textile fiber design. The symmetrical inundating curves of the bodice represent ‘order,’ while the asymmetry of the crochet wool and alpaca fibers in the skirt suggests organic ‘chaos.’ The crochet pieces are made of Cotswold wool from the Nistock Fiber Farm, and Huacaya alpaca fibers from the Autumn Mist Alpaca Farm and Mill, both in Prattsburg New York. The crochet pieces are all the same length, but vary in the amount of crochet stitches that make them 3-dimensional. The crochet pieces were twisted ‘chaotically’ to create unique voluminous shapes.

Detachability and Convertibility are inherent design features as different crochet structures can also be inserted into the slits to present varying ‘chaotic’ experiments of fiber volume and shape. The crochet fibers are on display to stimulate appreciation of their unique structural integrity. The white wool yarn had more body and stability, while the brown alpaca yarn had a softness and drape, which speaks to alpaca fiber’s lightweight and hollow qualities.

Curves of Fibers, Helen Trejo Half Scale Pre-Pilot, 2015
Curves of Fibers, Helen Trejo Half Scale Pre-Pilot, Photo Courtesy David Arellanes, 2015

I received feedback from my peers after creating a rotating file of the final garment. Their feedback led me to think about possibly integrating princess lines, and asymmetry in the upper body.

Overall, participating in this project led me to think about the relationships between structural fabric and fiber design. How can structural design lend itself to display fibers that are used to make a fabric? What forms of fibers can be presented? In this mock up, I used hand-spun and mill-spun yarns; however, raw fibers, roving, and needle felted shapes can also be integrated to expand the presentation of varying fiber shapes and forms.

In the future, I hope to create a full scale version of this garment. The ideal fabric base fabric would be a woven Cormo or Merino black-brown wool fabric. I will create highly voluminous white and gray crochet pieces to peek out of the slits. Ideally, the final version would be a play on naturally colored fiber gradients, and textural design, which both stimulate varying visual senses of volume.

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