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Patterns and Problems

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Abstract

Painted blue in Missy’s favorite shade: not baby blue, not light blue, but cornflower blue. Missy’s room was her sanctuary. She could escape there and be alone or invite friends over to play or spread her things all around to work. Missy’s room was larger than most of her friends’ bedrooms, because for ten years, she had shared it with her sister Molly. Now that Molly lived in an apartment in her college town, Missy had the room to herself. Her sister had taken her own double bed and dresser for her new bedroom, and Missy now had all the space to herself. That space included everything Missy could ever need: books and bookshelves, a desk and laptop computer, a sewing machine and table, her very own dress form, a walk-in closet—big enough even to fit a bean bag chair, which was the envy of all her friends, and a view of her backyard through the matching oval windows above her desk.

Painted blue in Missy’s favorite shade: not baby blue, not light blue, but ­cornflower blue. Missy’s room was her sanctuary. She could escape there and be alone or invite friends over to play or spread her things all around to work. Missy’s room was larger than most of her friends’ bedrooms, because for ten years, she had shared it with her sister Molly. Now that Molly lived in an ­apartment in her college town, Missy had the room to herself. Her sister had taken her own double bed and dresser for her new bedroom, and Missy now had all the space to herself. That space included everything Missy could ever need: books and bookshelves, a desk and laptop computer, a sewing machine and table, her very own dress form, a walk-in closet—big enough even to fit a bean bag chair, which was the envy of all her friends, and a view of her ­backyard through the matching oval windows above her desk.

Missy sat on her bed with her math book opened on her lap. She had her headphones on tuned to Sean Mendes for inspiration. Across the room, she had four old pairs of jeans cut up into a zillion pieces. All the back pockets had been carefully removed. The legless seats were carefully folded, while the remaining denim fabric from the legs stretched out in long strips hanging from her desk, her dresser, and her reading chair in the corner of her room.

figure a

Four pair times two pockets mean eight pockets to adorn the skirt. She might be able to make that work. Missy imagined the circumference of the skirt she was designing and using her mental math skills calculated that she was one pocket short. Her original calculations had suggested she would need nine pockets, but should she change the design or find another pair of old jeans at the thrift store or in her dad’s closet? Missy wondered.

Missy sketched alternate versions of her design in the margins of her math notebook. “I bet I can make it work, even with seam allowances,” Missy said out loud as she worked.

Seam allowances are extra fabric needed for sewing multiple pieces of ­fabric together. If she didn’t add the seam allowances, then her outfit would be smaller than she wanted it to be. Missy had learned that lesson the hard way during her first summer at Camp Winnebago’s Maker Camp. She made a pair of spandex shorts that only fit her because the fabric was so stretchy. Her sewing instructor explained the problem. In order to sew a pattern to size, it had to be cut slightly larger than the size it was made for. Missy’s ­problem was that she had cut her pattern to her exact size without adding the seam ­allowances. So, on her next try Missy cut out a second pair of shorts with an extra quarter inch all around, and those shorts ended up fitting her ­perfectly—and comfortably.

Missy daydreamed of dancing denim skirts prancing down the imaginary ­runway in her mind moving in time to the music on her headphones. Bringing her back to math, Pi leapt onto Missy’s bed and snuggled his way under Missy’s math notebook looking to wriggle his way into Missy’s lap. Pi settled there for a moment while Missy stroked his soft, patterned fur, only to be disturbed by the sudden vibrations of Missy’s smartphone. Startled, Pi and Missy both jumped, sending pencils, books, sketches, homework, and denim remnants ­flying in every direction.

“Epic math test tomorrow,” Missy read the first part of AJ’s group text out loud.

  • Brain on fire from studying. :S.

Missy laughed and held her phone an arm’s length away trying to take a selfie that included the mess of papers on her bed and floor—keeping herself and Pi in the center. She replied with a photo and comment.

  • Totally. ;) Can’t wait 'til it’s over! So psyched for Figures and Icons meeting.

  • I think I’ve got some super ideas!

In response, the selfie storm started.

Morgan sent a photo of herself sitting at her desk peeking over a stack of books.

  • #CHAPSciFi, too! :O.

figure b

CHAPSciFi was the hashtag for the middle school’s science and literature fair, and all project proposals were due on Friday. Morgan, AJ and Missy had teamed up last year for the fifth grade science fair. They came in first place for their project, which demonstrated that many brands of so-called flushable wipes were, in fact, not flushable or environmentally friendly at all. In middle school, teams were not allowed, so everyone had to submit proposals for unique science projects or outlines for science fiction stories that imagined how the world might be in a future time.

The selfies continued to arrive on Missy’s phone—each with a distinctive ding, ring, dong or song. Mahdavi shared a close-up of her hands, fingernails bitten to nubs. Missy took one look and turned her phone away. “Ouch,” she said to Pi, “that looks painful.”

Danny jumped in and sent a photo of his wide-opened eye with a raised ­eyebrow. He admonished them.

  • Ya’ll better keep your eye on the ball.

Missy laughed out loud as she leaned over the side of her bed to grab up the fallen papers and books. She was hanging half on and half off her bed when Mr. Maker knocked and then walked into her bedroom.

“Whoa,” he said. “Looks like a tornado came through here!”

“Not quite,” said Missy pushing herself up one-handed, while clutching papers with the other hand. “It was Pi!”

Mr. Maker bent down and picked up a handful of note pages. “Interesting designs, Miss. How’s math adding up?”

Avoiding his gaze, Missy said, “To sum up, I’m dividing my time between math homework and designing so I don’t get bored.”

“Ah. Good one,” Mr. Maker handed the pages back to Missy and surveyed her bedroom.

Missy righted herself on her bed and started organizing her papers and books.

“Maybe you should work at your desk, kiddo,” Mr. Maker suggested, “though that might require more division of labor.”

“I’m fine, Dad,” Missy said. Her desk was covered in denim cut-outs and she didn’t want to go to the trouble of moving and reorganizing all the pieces she had expertly extracted. It had taken more than an hour to lay everything out in the current pattern, which alternated the fronts and backs of the denim strips. It made a really cool effect that she knew the other Figures and Icons members would go crazy for.

“OK,” he said, resigned. “After dinner, you can relocate to the dining room table to get your homework done. I really think you need a few less distractions.”

Missy nodded, agreeing with her father just as another selfie popped up on her smartphone screen. AJ posed pretending to be unconscious, her math book covering her face. The caption she read made Missy raise her eyebrows and look at her dad in appeal while showing him her screen.

  • RIP. Here lies AJ Dupre. Died of a serious math overdose.

“Looks like AJ needs a resuscitation! Two minutes,” he said as Missy started to dial AJ’s number. “Dinner in thirty,” he said leaving the room as he heard AJ answer on her end.

“OMG!” AJ shouted. “I really think my head is going to explode.

“You’ll be fine,” Missy assured her.

“Hey, were those pockets you were drawing on your math notes? They looked so cute!” AJ commented.

Missy turned the page with her sketch around in her hand, looking at it from an odd angle. “I’m just playing with an idea. I like the geometry of the triangles and creating visual contrast using different patterns,” Missy said.

“Well, I can’t wait to see the final design! You’re such an inspiration.”

Missy blushed, thankful she had phoned rather than video chatted. “We’ll see,” she said. “BTW, this is your wake-up call! You simply cannot DIE of math!”

AJ giggled. “Thanks, Missy! I know I can count on you to get me through!”

“That’s what friends are for.” Missy lowered her voice in an imitation of a robot, “Besides, my dad says we need to stay on track with math to be sure we keep all our options open for the best careers when we get older.”

AJ laughed and reminded Missy, “If it wasn’t for your help, I never would have made it into the advanced math class, anyway.”

“It’s your hard work keeping you there,” Missy said. “Now back to it!” Missy ended the call and considered her own options. She could study more or work on her design in the few minutes before dinner. She gathered up her books and stuffed them in her backpack—she’d had enough math for now. She wanted to play around with her design to see how to avoid looking for another denim pocket. Missy pulled out her tape measure, made some ­measurements and jotted them down. Then she started on a calculation using the length of the straight tops on the pockets. When she realized what she was doing, she threw her pencil down. I’m not using math to do this, Missy decided. Who needs math for fashion?

Just as she was settling in at her desk, Missy heard the dong that signaled a video call coming from Molly. She had forgotten about their weekly call. Missy uncovered the mouse to click the Accept Call button as she greeted her sister. “Molly, I almost forgot it was Sunday!” she said.

“Hey, Miss. What’s up? And why is my screen blocked? Is your webcam on?” Molly asked.

“OMG!” Missy said, exasperated. “I’ve got a project laid out and,” she explained as she carefully picked up the denim strips to reveal her webcam, “I guess it’s blocking your view.”

“Nice,” Molly said. “Looks like you’ve been busy.” As Missy straightened and repositioned the webcam, Molly got a quick preview of the fabric laid out on Missy’s desk along with a close-up view of Missy’s left hand. “Okay. That’s ­better,” Molly commented once Missy had secured the webcam at the top of her monitor.

figure c

“I’m working on a design idea for Figures and Icons,” Missy reported. “I am thinking about geometric shapes and creating patterns with contrasting the right side with the wrong side of the fabrics. And, I’m still kind of stuck on the idea of using recycled materials and notions. I really like that I can be ‘green’ and still create something brand new. I even have an idea for some accessories!” Missy reached under her desk and pulled up one of the legless, pocket-less pairs of jeans and wiggled them in front of the camera. Molly’s eyes opened wide as she tried to take in exactly what Missy was showing her. “Hey, not so close! I can’t see—OK—now I get it. So cool. I mean S-E-W cool!”

“Oh. Now you’re channeling Dad, too,” Missy smiled at her sister and ­continued with her explanation. “I’m going to sew the legs closed and add some ­embellishments with the glue gun and a long strap to transform this into a messenger bag. What do you think?” Missy asked Molly.

Molly squinted and pulled her head back, trying to get a better view. “Wow, Miss! I’m really impressed. I may even place an order for one of your custom bags for myself. Have you told Dad about your concepts? I bet he’s thrilled to hear you’ve been listening all these years about being green!” Missy loved her video chats with Molly, but wished she could spend more time with her in person. As Molly talked, Missy examined her sister’s face. She still looked the same—same blond hair as Missy’s, though Molly’s hair was straight and she kept her long hair down which showed off her amazing green eyes. Missy worried when everyone had said that college would change her, so Missy was always relieved to see that Molly still looked the same.

“It isn’t easy being green,” Missy mimicked her dad and they both laughed. “Right now, Dad’s worried that I’m not focusing enough on my school work.”

Onscreen, Molly looked away and yelled over her shoulder, “Yes! I’ll be down in a sec.” Then she turned back and said to Missy, “School is really important too and you’re so smart! I know you can balance your passions and your ­commitments. I love your ideas and Dad will, too. Anyway, I’ve gotta run. We are off to the dining hall for dinner. Love ya!”

“Love ya, too,” Missy answered, and her screen went black.

After hanging up, Missy’s heart ached for just a second. She really missed her big sister, even though she treasured their weekly video chats. Still, she counted the days until Molly would be home for her next break. Missy wished Molly could see her designs up close, feel the weight of the fabric and even try one of them on. She would make her a hobo bag and send it to her.

Missy thought about what Molly had said. She never felt smart, though schoolwork did seem to come easy to her. Lately, though, everything felt like a distraction pulling her away from what she had discovered she truly loved—creating new designs!

“Dinnnnner!” Missy’s dad sang from the kitchen.

“Coming, Dad,” Missy responded as she finished pinning her pockets together, without bothering to measure or to make any calculations as she went.

FormalPara Fashion Hack: Seam Allowance

How do you calculate a seam allowance? The small space of fabric between the raw edge of the material and where the seam is actually sewn is the seam allowance. Common seam allowances range from one-quarter of an inch to as much as several inches. Woven fabrics can easily fray, so the seams on those fabrics need to be sewn far enough away from the raw edge for security and to avoid having gaping holes in your garment.

To be sure your garment will fit to size, add at least one-half inch to all of your measurements before cutting out your pattern pieces. That one-half inch adds one-quarter inch to each end of your fabric, which helps ensure that you can wear your garment after it has been sewn together.

  • Good advice: Cut just once AFTER you’ve measured TWICE.

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© 2017 Melissa A. Borza and CA

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Borza, M.A. (2017). Patterns and Problems. In: Fashion Figures. Apress, Berkeley, CA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4842-2274-4_5

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