Drafting Draping Life Sewing

Journey to my Degree in Fashion Design

This post will be much more different than I usually write. It won’t be a tutorial, a pattern hack, or promoting anything. I’m gonna share a little about what I’ve been up to the past year and a half as I am studying Fashion Design at Cañada College!

I will preface this by saying that Cañada is no Parsons or FIT and my experiences and coursework is certainly not comparable (in scale or level of intensity) to what students in those programs complete! That being said, it’s still a great school and not “lesser” because of this. It’s a community college and a very low-key & approachable, less cutthroat way of gaining some of the skills I’d been wanting to pick up, since I was self-taught on my sewing journey and recently decided to head down the path of pattern design. Back when I first met my sewing friend, Jue, she has mentioned Cañada, and that she knew several people who’d taken classes there and had positive experiences to report. I did a little research, figured it was a good fit to try out, and I enrolled, beginning my first semester in January 2022. Needless to say, they aren’t getting rid of me quite yet. My program of study is Technical (Apparel Industry Oriented) Associate in Science, which the website states “Students are prepared to find employment in an apparel design firm or to start their own business. They will develop essential skills and techniques in sketching, fabric selection, sewing, draping, and pattern making. The fashion industry is vast and diverse with many creative, rewarding opportunities in ready-to-wear or high fashion design.” Here’s what my journey looks like so far…

Spring 2022

  • Entrepreneurial Studies-Small Business Management: This is a required class for the program I started out in ( Custom Dressmaking, Small Business Oriented). I didn’t retain very much of this course. It was the online class format, where you just submit assignments weekly and post to a discussion board. I don’t learn well that way (I find that I do well enough to pass the classes). I did, however, narrow down business ideas, get a preliminary business plan together, and developed a clear vision of what I want to do in the next 5 years, so that’s something 😉
  • Fashion Draping: This is the class that made me feel like a “true designer.” It was first time working with a professional dress form, as I learned the basic principles of draping and how to transfer a drape to paper and use as a pattern. We draped different skirts, different bodices, as well as a bustier. For my final, I had to drape and sew a garment, which was a denim/ankara dress with flounces. In hindsight, I would have relied more on draping skills than something I coulda flat patterned, but it is what it is. Here are a few pics I snapped along the way.
  • Intro to Italian Fashion: I had never really considered myself a true fashion person. I don’t follow or keep up with designers, runways, what “fashion” says is in at any given moment. This class was truly helpful in that, and I was introduced to Italy’s bright culture, sophisticated fashion, as well as tons of designers (Gucci, Prada, Valentino to name a couple). I completed my final project on Stella Jean, and was reminded that even in cultures outside of America, racism and the fight to be visible and representation is still an issue.
  • Flat Pattern Design: This class was the beginning of it all for me where pattern making began to really make sense. Though I had been slashing and spreading patterns from watching YouTube videos for a while, I didn’t fully understand the why this way, what amount to spread, how or why I should do something differently. This was the first time I started work with quarter and half scale patterns to work through design problems, and also the beginning of getting more comfortable with woven sewing. I made tons of mini scale patterns and designed and sewed one full scale garment. These are just a snippet of assignments I completed.

Fall 2022

  • Intermediate Clothing Construction: This was the class I unlearned so many things I’d done incorrectly since I started sewing. I learned the proper way to position buttonholes and buttons on garments, better techniques for sewing zippers, and how to make an inseam pocket actually not show on the outside! Most of the class was a refresher in general sewing techniques but I truly appreciate taking it. I made a flannel cardigan from the shirt pattern we were supplied in class, a jacket for my husband, and an Ankara dress based on my Bridgerton dress pattern I made over the summer. Enjoy a couple of samples and the full scale projects I sewed up!
  • Techniques of Fit: Understanding fit is one of the most difficult parts of sewing for many people. This class began to help me grasp it a little better, and I can now identify some fit issues on sight and provide recommendations on alterations or pattern manipulations to help correct them. The goal of the class was to develop a sloper based on our own bodies by the end of the semester. I am still not 100% happy with mine, but I finished that class in December then started a new semester in January. I plan to use some of my time this upcoming summer tweaking it a bit more to get it to something I am happy to draft from.
  • Tailoring: I am by no means a tailored clothing wearing kinda person, but I did believe there was tremendous value in taking this class and all of the techniques I’d pick up along the way. We did tooooons of samples throughout the semester (my most memorable and favorite being a bound buttonhole). We also worked on a coat, from beginning the semester with a tissue fit of the paper patterns, making personal adjustments for a better fit, to a muslin (or two or three for some classmates) to our final coat. I thoroughly enjoyed this class and the coat I made (though the boiled wool I chose is a bit too warm for California weather and my overly warm temperament). Here are a couple of my favorite samples and my finished coat 🙂
  • Textiles: It was nice to have a break from sewing this semester, between my other three classes, work, and leisure! This class should be more aptly named Textiles Analysis, as we spent the semester learning everything we could about textiles. We studied fabrics beginning from a solution, plant, or animal product, the way they were created, spun into fibers, woven or knit, dyed or printed…so much info! I ended the semester on a paper about the future of textiles. In this research, I learned about the challenges to be faced as science develops more fibers at the expense of job loss to migrant workers on cotton farms.

Spring 2023

This semester is currently ongoing, so my thoughts aren’t fully figured out yet, regarding my classes, but we have done tons of work so far! Check back in on the blog in May or June and I’ll have a new post with some highlights 🙂

  • Advanced Flat Pattern
  • Principles of Design
  • Interpersonal Communications (part of college interest area studies for degree)
  • Understanding Nutrition (part of college interest area studies for degree)

Real Life

It’s been so neat learning so many things and getting more of a foundation for pattern design, which was my ultimate goal when starting. I didn’t come into it expecting to compete on Making the Cut or to compare with anyone else. I wanted to get better at what I enjoy doing–designing and making everyday clothes that my family and I want to wear all the time. Many of the skills I have picked up have translated to better tutorials for work and my blog. They’ve helped me adapt other designers’ patterns to sew together better, look, and fit better. I’ve been able to successfully create a couple of my own patterns from a combo of draping and flat pattern (still haven’t learned to digitize or grade yet). I’m getting a better vision for how to effectively apply design principles to my work, as opposed to just throwing things together because I like them. This journey is seemingly simple, but eyeopening, it’s one I’ve enjoyed thus far. I’ve met so many other amazing folx along the way who have brilliant design minds and inspire me to want to keep at it with them. I look forward to what else comes my way in the next year or so! Enjoy a couple more pics, including my sewmate, Jue and me, wearing our dresses at the Bridgerton Experience last summer. I look forward to sharing more info in the future. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask! I’m always open for a chat ❤️

P.S. If you’re in the California Bay Area, interested or know someone interested in a fashion design program, consider looking into Cañada or some of the other San Mateo Community Colleges. Lots of classes are still online. 🙂

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  • Reply
    Heather Waldron
    June 3, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    Wow, that’s amazing. I love the sound of your course. Keep up the good work.

    • Reply
      June 3, 2023 at 4:17 pm

      Thank you, Heather. It’s fun, but sometimes stressful haha. I’m hanging in there! Thanks for the read 🙂

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