Saturday, November 6, 2010

Subtraction Games

This post is brought to you by a lovely reader named Katharine, who dropped a two-fold bombshell into my inbox yesterday. Indeed, this email completely distracted me the entire morning and early afternoon until I left for work, leaving me with no time to blog or even shower. And, truthfully, the email continued to distract me while I was at work, as I was continuing to mull over in my head what I had just seen.

Bombshell, Part A:
ii) Said shop currently has 10 selected items from the new collection at 20% off, and all pieces of the previous collection at 40% off.
iii) The shop has a number of cardigans, one of which in particular is exactly what I wanted (and is 20% off; second row, right).

Bombshell, Part B:
i) And I quote:
"I also thought of you recently when I ordered a new book. I'm a sewer, and I just got Julian Roberts' Subtraction Cutting. I don't know if you're that interested in the design process, and you may have already heard of this guy (now that I've looked through it, I suspect that I see his influence in a LOT of the designers you feature) but just felt like sharing it. In case."
'In case' indeed. I, in fact, had never heard of either Julian Roberts or his garment pattern 'Subtraction Cutting' method. Now, after hours of looking at photos, reading reviews/blog posts/interviews, watching one of his lectures (as he is now a Professor, teaching his method at universities and workshops all over the world), and ordering his book, I can't get him or his method out of my head. In short, rather than cutting out the exact shape of a paper pattern from the fabric it is pinned onto, he cuts out the negative space created between the paper pattern pieces. Accuracy and mathematics are not required, and the design isn't dictated by the pattern before the fabric is even cut - 'Subtraction Cutting is designing with patterns.' With this method, given loads of fabric and a good pair of scissors, you could create an entire collection in one day.

To further explain: In the video I watched, Julian demonstrates the use of his Subtraction Cutting method to create a dress basically from a 5-metre long pillowcase (doubled, and sewn on one short side and the unfolded long side). First he places a front and a back pattern piece for a simple sheath dress onto the fabric with the shoulder lines of each piece facing each other (i.e. spaced apart, but roughly parallel to each other), and then traces the patterns except for the bottom hem lines (so it seems open from under the arms on). Then, he draws free form lines between the front and back pattern pieces of the top of a dress to connect the side seams. This then creates a Rorschach-type negative space in between the two pattern pieces (see above Subtraction Cutting poster). This shape is what gets cut out (only out of the top layer of fabric), rather than the individual front and back. Once this shape has been subtracted out, all that needs to be done is to grab the shoulders and pull the fabric off of the ground, creating a 3-dimensional dress out of a 2-dimensional piece of fabric (then, of course, sew the shoulder seams together and the side seams). 

You absolutely have to watch the video, particular Part 2, about 2/3 of the way through, when he transforms the tube of fabric with a hole cut into it into a gorgeously draped (almost) runway-ready piece (the photos above from the same lecture don't quite give the same feel). I basically gave him a standing ovation at this part of the video. Julian continues to develop this dress with his 'Tunnel' method, which involves cutting circular holes into the rest of the dress, which is where the wearer will pass her body through, creating even more draping (which is needed with an otherwise 5-metre long dress). I am so incredibly excited about making my own dress using Julian's methods (see below for a finished product), as the finished look is so in tune with my fashion sensibilities that something just clicked the moment I saw his work. My only wish is that I had received this email a few months ago, as Julian had one of his Masterclasses in Vancouver this summer. That would've been amazing.

Katharine, thank you.

P.S. Julian's website is only open on Wednesdays, so if I'm M.I.A. that day, you know where I am...

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