Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

The making of The Dress

The Dress

Using vinyl I created templates for screen printing the pocket.

I used tissue paper to alter the pattern while preserving the original pattern in case I ruined everything.

The almost finished dress still needs a zipper, hem, & for the pockets to be to lined & sewn on.

But look at those sleeves! They’re crisp, beautiful, the right size & on in the right direction!

My proudest moment was the first seam around the neck. You can’t even see it anymore. But the stitches were even. I don’t mean straight. I mean even. You see, my machine was originally sewing weird, loose stitches, & it took between 20 min to an hour of carefully & methodically turning knobs & dials & threading & re-threading to create strong, even stitches.

Other than a finicky machine, I dealt with several other issues, a few of which were triggers for changing my design. Bicycle spokes were going to be too tedious & messy to screen print so I changed to birds. Then I discovered that my pattern was the wrong size & had to switch patterns, which meant redesigning my color blocking. But I persevered.

Over & over, I was grateful for my learning goals, which were:

1) I would like to learn how to do multi-layer screen printing through asking questions of staff and experimenting independently. 
 
2) I struggle with understanding patterns, so I would like to use this project as an opportunity to practice/learn how to use them.
 
3) I would like to afford myself the flexibility to simplify in order to preserve my mental and emotional health, and work on being willing to make adjustments to my project as I go along. 
 
These goals provided a framework for my learning and continually called my attention back to what I cared about most.
 
The first outcome was fairly straightforward and was accomplished in a fairly straightforward way. I asked questions of Emile, Amanda, and every other employee standing close by at the time I thought of a question. In this way I learned of the basic process of multi- layer screen printing including creating a vinyl template for each layer, sticking the vinyl on the screen, applying paint, setting the paint with heat, and cleaning the screens. I mostly experimented with my vinyl pattern, but I also experimented with color mixing and by creating my print. In this way I learned that skinny pieces don’t work well and that you should clean the screen between layers. My pocket was messier than I wanted it to be, but I had enough good patches to jimmyrig it. Honestly, I like the jimmyrigged pattern better than the original one.
 
The second outcome was far less straightforward to learn. Patterns are difficult and they seem to be written in another language. But I followed each step, asked my mother and Grandma questions, and made and fixed silly mistakes, such as sewing the sleeves on upside down. By the end, I got plenty of practice and can understand patterns a little better, but could by no means call myself an expert. Though I am very proud of those sleeves.
 
The third outcome was my favorite. This was the one meant to preserve my well-being. There were still some tears, anger, and frustration. But each time something went wrong, such as discovering my pattern was twice my size, I was able to say to myself “Thank goodness I built that into my plan.” Counting on adjustments took the pressure off and allowed me to continually simplify, or build on, my original plan. I learned not only to simplify, but also to trust myself. I seem to have proven myself trustworthy.
 
Throughout the course, I have persevered, except when I haven’t. I have triumphed, except when I haven’t. I have changed, except when I haven’t. I am still me. Sure, I can win against Inkscape in a fight more often than before and I have tinkered with a few more techniques and technologies than before. But by the end of a semester of struggling with things I’m not good at, I chose a project that played to my strengths. I don’t always do that. I often do what’s needed instead of what I want. So I guess I became more comfortable being and doing what I want. Am I a maker because sometimes I want to make stuff? I don’t know. I’m just me. Can that be enough? I think it can.

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