The skill of sewing is underestimated in itself - sewing clothes together requires artisanal tactile skills which take a great many years to develop, operating a piece of heavy industrial machinery, understanding how that machinery works in terms of it’s mechanics, and having an in-depth comprehension of the properties of fabric structures and fibre types in order to handle them appropriately. On top of this, what many don’t understand about the construction of apparel and accessories is that it in fact involves quite a lot of maths and principles similar to those required in engineering but applied to the human body rather than electrics or machinery.
Before cutting out pieces of fabric to sew together, you have to decide what shapes those pieces of fabric would be. The process of doing this is called pattern cutting. Pattern Cutters are like engineers; they must understand proportions of the human form and in order to make a two-dimensional blueprint for a three-dimensional object they must have a keen understanding of maths and the relationships between intersecting components of a multifaceted structure.
Another technically demanding role within the textile industry is that of the Pattern Grader. Grading involves the study of anthropometry (the measurement of the human form and its variations), and applies this knowledge using cartesian principles to increase and decrease the size of clothing patterns. Pattern grading is hugely important within the industry as it is what allows clothing to be made in a wide range of sizes! Pattern Graders must not only have in-dept pattern cutting knowledge but must also be competent in collating data, observing patterns within this data and building a matrix of systems in order to create accurate and methodical work.
I have described the skills above as they are the areas I enjoy personally, but there are a great deal more which I have not listed. Designers are not only creators but must also be proficient in highly specialist software and must understand even the chemical properties of their supplies and materials. Production Managers must be proficient in designing physical processes and calculating efficiency and problem solving. Textile Scientists apply highly specialised knowledge in order to develop materials which meet a wide range of needs - from medical applications to fire resistance and even space travel!
As pointed out in one of our blog posts earlier this week, garment construction has historically been considered women’s work - it could be argued that this has resulted in it being undervalued culturally, being seen as lacking in complexity or intellectual skill. I believe Fashion Revolution Week is an excellent time to celebrate the incredible skills and talent of those working in the textile industry, and to shed light on the vast knowledge and abilities of those within the profession.
Rebekah Chapman, Textile Production Technician at Kalopsia