Wednesday, May 14, 2008

becoming a knitwear designer: the beginning

i thought i would start out telling a little about how i came to be a knitwear designer...

i can't remember not being interested in clothes. i designed and made clothes for all my dolls using my hand crank singer sewing machine. i loved watching sonny and cher and the carol burnett show just to see what bob mackie would come up with next (my personal favorite was the scarlet o'hara curtain rod dress). i begged my mom to teach me how to use the "real" sewing machine so i could make my own clothes. i laugh now when i look at pictures of some of those creations...what was i thinking?

deciding to try to make my love of clothes somehow into a career, i went to the university of cincinnati to study fashion design. now i know what you are probably thinking...cincinnati to study fashion design? isn't that in ohio? while cincinnati is no hot-bed of fashion, it does have some things going for it. there is a wonderful art museum with an excellent costume collection. a really great theatre (playhouse in the park). they try (or at least they did when i was there) to bring in a new york designer to head up the panel for end of the quarter crit (when you showed your project for the quarter and be critiqued on it). uc's fashion program also makes up for its midwest location by requiring you to participate in a professional practice (co-op) program. so, while it takes you 5 years to graduate from the program, you graduate with 6 quarters (roughly 1 1/2 years) of practical work experience in your field. this also allows you to "sample" parts of the fashion industry with no long term commitment to try and find what suits you best. you can do your internships anywhere you can find a job that relates to your major, so you get the opportunity to be exposed to cities that more readily come to mind when you think "fashion". i did most of my co-ops on the costume end of things as i had dreams at the time of moving to los angeles after graduation to become a costume designer for movies or tv.

it was on one of those co-op jobs that i learned to hand-knit. one of the performers in the show taught me the basics in our down time between shows. i still have that first sweater i made. it is a huge purple wool sweater that my daughter would be mortified if i ever wore it in public again. some things you just can't ever part with, though.

for my last co-op, i went to andover, mass to work for mast industries, a division of the limited (they've since moved to columbus, oh). i worked on the only non-limited account that they had at the time. a ladies' sportswear line called cambridge dry goods. i worked mostly with the cut and sew product manager but also was able to help out on a few sweater projects while i was there. fortunately for me, my boss and i got along great and they hired me to be her assistant when i graduated.

in my next post on this topic, i'll talk more about what i learned at uc and how it influences the way i design.

in the meantime, i will be posting the first of my self-published hand knitting patterns. marnie is a tie front cardigan in super-chic crop or more traditional hip length with two sleeve length versions to choose from. it is knit in tilli tomas' fil de la mer (seaweed and silk blend) accented with tilli tomas' rockstar (beaded spun silk). if you aren't familiar with tilli tomas you should check out their website i'll end with a couple of close up photos of marnie. You'll have to check back to see the whole thing!