Sunday, August 24, 2008

Learning Strategy

I approach the problem of learning to design fashions and make clothes the way I usually tackle new areas.

First of all, even though I'm a teacher at least some of the time, I don't particularly care for courses. I prefer to learn on my own, doing my own research and learning from my own mistakes.

Secondly, I follow a learning strategy that I have learned over the years is unusual. Most advice on learning will tell you to learn "in small chunks", to "reinforce what you learn" by repeating steps, and to tackle problems that are not too challenging so you don't get disheartened when you make slow progress". I have always been interested in "learning to my maximum potential", however, and I realized as a young man that the best way to maximize my learning potential was to aim well beyond what I think are my limits. If I aim for 400% of my perception of my limits, and only achieve 30% of what I've aimed, I will still be learning at a rate 30% above what I thought was my maximum reach. Years ago, I made the mistake of assuming that other people like to learn this way and taught using this model. I quickly discovered that most people find this strategy to be too stressful - they want a steady stream of reassurance that they are doing "OK". That's what the grading system is all about, in fact. You have to be highly motivated and self-disciplined to follow this other route.

Third, I learn in "grasshopper" fashion. I jump from one topic to another, from one orbit to another, rarely following a set or ordered system. I am a chaotic learner, and I've learned to trust my intuitions about what I need to learn next.

My understanding of the "learning landscape" regarding fashion design and fabrication is that one is presented with a suite of possible paths to follow :

The main route followed is to go to fashion design school. I notice that lots of people interested in fashion do this, but then drift into other activities after finishing. So design school is not only for those who choose this as a career, but also for "interested others", although it represents a significant investment of time, money and energy. The other main route followed by many people is to learn to sew and make clothes from patterns (the yellow road in my diagram). Learning to sew may be achieved by following classes or by independent study and practice.

Another possible learning path is to study how to drape and make clothes from draping. This is covered within fashion design schools. I have not found many sources of information about this approach outside of the formal context of such schools.

Finally, the green road in the diagram is the one I have chosen to follow - learn to manipulate basic pattern slopers, and to develop garments from these. It is an intermediate path between the "sewing from patterns" route and the "design school" route.

My basic idea is to use pattern manipulation (and possible draping, if I ever master it) to develop a technical understanding of clothing fabrication, and to then combine this technical understanding with a design-oriented approach to develop garments that interest me.

I decided to begin this as a summer 2008 project, hence starting in June 2008. Over the course of the summer, I set out to design and make one garment of each basic type (blouse, skirt, dress, men's shirt, pants). Since I knew nothing about garments and clothes, I entered into an intensive learning period. I bought and studied fashion magazines, surfed the web for blog sites and "how to's" on sewing and design, investigated software for design and pattern construction, bought books, bought a sewing machine (and later a serger), taught myself to sew, bought fabric, made a dress form and then bought a commercial one, and became active within the internet sewing community. It is now late summer, and I am moving into the next phase of my learning - a kind of "knowledge consolidation" period and some risk-taking into new, more ambitious projects. More later.

No comments:

Post a Comment