Friday, August 8, 2014

HOW TO: Sewing for Competition

I thought it a good time to follow up my sewing for competition series with a final post about how to prepare for, and plan a project that will be judged. I began my career in design by sewing for competition, and having also helped judge, I can speak from experience on both sides of the table.

It can be really fun and rewarding to sew for completion, and there bounteous prizes out there ready for the taking, but you should plan your project thoughtfully in order to bring home the booty. Here some of the things to consider:

Meet and Exceed the Requirements

When learning about a competition, the first thing we do is assess the rules, requirements and deadlines. Very quickly we must decide if we can meet the deadline, have the tools or materials, the means, and ability to meet the minimum requirements. The competition rules will ask us to DO something such as use a certain fabric, theme, or pattern, but this is only the minimum requirement.  Meeting the rule minimums will very often get you in the door, but if winning is the goal, then you must employ every way you can think of to go beyond this mark. Don't just meet the requirements- exceed them. 
I was not particularly competitive when I began sewing for competition, as I was just excited to be accepted and to see my designs on professional models and on the runway. I learned a lot by watching others, reviewing what they were doing, seeing the winning designs and trying to better myself. It wasn't too long before I decided I was in it to win it!

Originality Counts 

You are in this to impress someone! I believe we call it the WOW factor. Get ideas from where ever you can, but in this realm, originality counts. If we've seen it too many times, or it looks like something everyone else is doing then you might want to experiment a bit more. Everyone loves a new idea, new technique, or an unfamiliar silhouette. Take the time to come up with an unusual twist like using an old idea in a new way.  Sewing for competition is a license to be clever!
This bias dress was designed specifically for an ITAA competition, draping to fit the body in geometric shapes I used insets and godets throughout, and large swaths of cloth, piecing where ever necessary. The beaded accents have a purpose, as the sleeves are filled with layers of net, all held in place with beads to help keep its shape.

Keep the Judges, Competition, and Audience in Mind

In choosing your project, think about who the people or group or audience is that will be judging your garment. What might be the goal of the competition, or the sponsors? What can you make that will best represent this sponsor in meeting their purpose? Are they selling a product? Are they interested in unique or technical design? Are they looking to encourage the young, mature, or art and design oriented? Will your garment be judged by many or a few people? Take all of these things into consideration and try to get inside the mind of your audience.

One competition required that I submit photos of three different designs to show my capability. Once accepted, I could model only ONE of the submitted designs. I sent a survey to all my friends and family, then made arrangements with a model to wear the gown with the most votes. I had this feeling that my judges/audience would be a sophisticated group, and that this dress my friends had picked would be the wrong one to show. At the last minute I changed my plan and showed a cocktail style instead. Taking home the title that day helped me know that being mindful of the audience is key.

Provide a Top Notch Presentation

Most rules will ask for a minimum of one or two photos as an initial round of judging. Provide your judges with the best possible photos to avoid being eliminated in this earliest phase!  If not specifically prohibited, ALWAYS provide a minimum of three photos- front, back, and a detail. Provide others only if it's relevant and necessary to show the fabric, design, or quality of workmanship. Don't overwhelm judges either. Some competitions will require professional photography, and serious competitors will definitely be paying for photos. If this is your first time, be aware that not all photographers know how to shoot clothing appropriately. Ask around for referrals, and ask the photographer for a quick practice run. If photographing DIY, always shoot in natural, but not direct light, high resolution without a flash. Give your garment a back drop using a bed sheet in gray if you have it- cream (white is usually too harsh- avoid it if you can) or some other complimentary (to the garment) pale color can work also. Thumb tack it to the side of your house to block out distracting lines and scenery. One back drop color from top to bottom, and under the garment is great. A hanger is not the best presentation. Put your garment on a dress form or on a body to show the shape. Cropping outlying areas and heads are just fine.  If your photos are in focus and high quality, three will be enough to convince the judges that your garment is worthy of a second look!
Showing your workmanship with a plain background in a beautiful and artful way will definitely catch the eye of your judges.

Give it your Best Workmanship

Now that you've planned your project in a purposeful way; it's designed to meet the needs of your competition sponsors, and you've reeled them in with the best photos possible, this is where the rubber hits the pavement. IF this is a photos only competition, then workmanship isn't going to be the biggest factor because no one can see your workmanship. If this is a garment-in-hand competition, your workmanship should be as flawless as you can get it. No raw edges. No sloppy hand stitching. No shortcuts. Add in linings, structure, seam finishes, and high quality garment details to give your garment that something special. Keep in mind your skill level when choosing an embellishment. Hand painting with dye is going to win over stencil and paint, and embroidery is generally the better option compared to fabric markers, but I can make no rules here. I have seen some marvelous things happen with nothing but a sharpie!  Suffice it to say that if your workmanship is beyond average, it will set your garment at least equal to, if not above, anyone else in the competition. It's the workmanship that will ultimately get you across the finish line.

Does this mean that you must sew couture or give up? No. BUT if your competitors are sewing couture, and you did not....well, I think you get the picture.

What are you making for competition? Send us links!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sewing for Competiton: Kathy Knapp

Today will be my last post about the IPCA PLARS competitors,  the "People's Choice" winner by Facebook "likes" Kathy Knapp. Kathy's entry went on to compete against other IPCA member companies, coming in second. Kathy received $100 in product from my company, and as 2nd place grand prize winner, she took home a brand new fabulous iron from the Reliable company too.

Like Eve Kovaks, whom I posted about last week, Kathy has sewn for. and won many, many competitions. But unlike Eve, who employs a versatile range in competition styles, Kathy stays with a consistent method that identifies her work where ever she goes. Some of her other garments for competition are below:

 And a close up of that jacket shows how she sculptures and highly embellishes the fabric: 

Here is what Kathy had to say about her PLARS entry:

"As a collector of vintage clothing and accessories, I wanted to enter the challenge to try to put my own spin a vintage dress.  My aesthetic as a wearable art designer is to elevate traditional quilting techniques to a high art form.  As a rule I study historical garments and use them as a starting point to transform these ideas into a more wearable product with a modern edge.  I generally like to create structured pieces as a rule; the challenge pushed me beyond my limits to create a flowing garment. 
My inspiration in this case came from enjoyment of the vintage inspired garments worn by Katy Perry and the attention to detail in her early music videos.   The resulting “Party Dress” would be appropriate for the various music award after parties.
As an artist, I love to create intricate surface designs using unusual and vintage embellishments, if possible.  Beaded yo-yos and jewelry making beads along with accent pieces obtained from recycled costume jewelry; all hand sewn onto a quilted background comprise the surface design.  The bodice of the dress is constructed using free-motion quilting, boning, hand beading and non-traditional quilting of raw edge two inch squares.  The oval accent piece on the back uses hand applique.  Hand beaded and crystalized covered buttons are used as an unique closure.  A rare vintage French trim serves as a border on several pieces.  I used Hoffman fabrics of California for the dress purchased from Hancock’s of  Jewelry end cap beads can be purchased from Fire Mountain as they have a huge selection.  Look in your unused jewelry box or even thrift stores for elements which can add that extra twist to your design.
I encourage others to try and go out of their comfort zones of creativity – you may be amazed at the results!"

Kathy's entry as shown below shows the exquisite interior workmanship too:

Stay tuned! Next week I'm going to talk about how to plan for, sew for, and present your garment when Sewing for Competition.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sewing for Competition, Semi-Finalist: Eve Kovacs

This week's post will continue with the IPCA PLARS contest, and semi-finalist, Eve Kovacs.  First, you should know that Eve is no beginner when it comes to sewing for competition.

 She was a finalist in the 2011 Passion for Fashion design contest hosted by the American Sewing Expo (above).

This design with embroidery was created for the Bernina Fashion Show, one of the world's premiere wearable art shows. Eve titled it “Belladonna.”

 A quick "google" of her name, and you will come up with quite a design variety in competition creations

and incredible works of art.

Of course, many carry ribbons. She calls this one “Thai Tutti Frutti”

Her favorite things to sew are jackets, coats, and ensembles, so it's not a surprise that she did just that with the Sew Chic Beatrice pattern, #1310. As is common with wearable art, Eve added seams and plenty of details, mixing several fabric types for a successful "Rock and Roll" edgy and feminine look.

 Here is the pattern she used:
You can get yours here:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sewing for Competition, Semi-Finalist: Karyn Heidenreich

Continuing with the IPCA PLARS garment entries, this week begins the Semi-Finalist. When sewing for competition, all other things being equal, the one thing that will set your project above all others will be adding in special details and the quality of sewing. With this group, as you will soon see, all were beyond average.  This weeks entry is a skirt made by Karyn Heidenreich using the Sew Chic Spin Skirt pattern, #LN1209. She has sewn for many years, learning the skill first in high school. She enjoys making ladies apparel and sewing for her family. The following is what she wanted to share with you about her entry:

Semi-Finalist: Karyn Heidenreich

I bought the fabric because of the colors and print pattern was something I know my daughter-in-law would like.
 There was just about 5 yds in the clearance area of the store.
The main scroll motif was not centered and side patterns did not match.
I had to do some creative piecing to get the motifs to be situated properly.
I had just enough fabric to center the motifs on each panel the way I wanted.
 I knew I wanted to make a gathered tiered skirt of some kind.
I'm glad I saw an ad for the various pattern companies in a sewing magazine.

Ideally, wanted to make the yoke with a coordinating fabric, but couldn't find any that worked.
I wanted to do the ribbon trim with two cotton twill tapes.
I couldn't find any in the colors I needed, so I had to use synthetic grosgrain and satin ribbon.
I used the satin ribbon shiny side down.
I wasn't happy with the texture of those two ribbons, but did the best I could.
I used the lines on the underskirt pattern as a guide for ribbon lengths.
 Believe it or not, I used 3 needles to make the skirt.  That ribbon was really hard on the needles.
 I made an attached petticoat modified from the underskirt pattern and modified the ruffle pattern for the tulle.

I added purchased gathered trim to one petticoat layer and a purchased flower trim to the other.

I went back and forth about entering the skirt in the contest, because of time issues.
I got the pattern the end of March and only had 2 weekends to work on it to make the deadline.

In general, I'm glad I did.
If I get judging comments back, those will be very useful for future projects.
I am going to make another skirt with the same pattern in an above the knee length for my daughter in an Alexander Henry fabric.  No deadline for it this time! I'm going to take the time to  get just the right yoke fabric and cotton twill for it.

I'm glad she entered too! Here is the pattern she used:
Get your pattern here: