Process Diary: Tools That Serve You

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The nature of sewing fabric into garments is a hands-on, tactile process. So it’s interesting that one of the most vital tools for creating clothing patterns is a digital one: CAD software.

I mentioned before that I’ve come to see patternmaking as more akin to sculpture than anything else. Patternmaking is an art that requires human hands at every step. Lean too far toward digital tools, and you miss a lot of this, which means redoing and tweaking things over and over.

But digital tools have many benefits that can’t be ignored.

  • CAD greatly speeds up the drafting process. It’s much faster to work digitally than on paper.
  • The precision can’t be beaten. You can keep track of seam lengths and dart placement and grading with built-in tools, rather than checking and re-checking constantly.
  • You can keep track of revisions. And you can do it without keeping a bunch of physical patterns around.
  • You can even work in 3D. There are now tools that allow a patternmaker to model garments in 3D before they’re sewn.

But tools are just tools. They can increase your efficiency, they can improve your precision. But when it comes to a creative process, they are also there to help shape the way you think, to help you see things in new ways.

Tools vs. Process

Sometimes, I think that as creative people, we can mistake the tool or the technique for the process. The process is something else. It’s the way you interpret information, filter it through your own experience, and use it to make a mark.

It’s easy to see this for pursuits that are considered classically creative, like painting or music. But it’s just as valid for processes that are considered highly technical, like patternmaking or writing code. It’s about how you train yourself to see things and problem solve. The right tools just help you get there.

Tools and process go hand in hand, and together, they lead you to build skills. When I struggle with accomplishing something these days, I ask myself: Do I have the right tools? Do I have the right process? Chances are if one of those things is off, there’s an opportunity for more learning.

In this way, I think it’s just as important to consider how your tools shape you as how they shape the work you’re creating. Do they help you make your vision a reality? Do they help you to see things in a new way, so that you can solve problems and gain new skills? Do they open up possibilities you wouldn’t have without them?

Let me bring this back home, to our own changing processes here.

At Colette, we rely heavily on technology. We use CAD software, we take notes and photos on a tablet, we have lots of digital documentation and design tools. But in the end, the real work is in the hands and minds of the people using these tools.

It’s easy to think about tools and process in terms of efficiency, to ask questions like, what will get me the best result with less wasted effort?.

But I think this disguises another important piece of the puzzle, which is how your tools and process affect you and your own growth. Sometimes you need to ask a different question, which is, what will I learn from this, and how will this help me grow my skills?

My question to you is: Do you approach sewing this way? Do you think about your tools and processes for sewing in terms of what will make you a better sewist?

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