Dressmaking as a ‘meaningless splatter of colours

Dressmakingcan never be possible without fabrics.

A fabric is a material dressmakers usewhen designing and making dresses. There are many types of fabrics withdifferent compositions available, however, certain pertinent factors have to beconsidered before choosing a specific fabric. Such factors include where theoutfit will be worn, what occasion, and the figure type, among others. Traditionally, many Ghanaians use Africanprints to sew dresses and these are mostly cotton based, conveying messagesmotifs arranged in different forms.

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Textiledesign is essentially theprocess of creating designs for woven, knitted or printed fabrics or surfaceornamented fabrics. It also refers to the various processes by which fabricsare printed in coloured design (decoration.html, 12th August 2011).

Accordingto Digolo and Mazrui (2006), textile designing is the patterning of anessentially plain fabric to render it more appealing or to serve a particularpurpose.  Textile designers are involved withthe production of these designs, which are used, sometimes repetitively, inclothing and interior decor items. Textile designing is a creative field thatincludes fashion design, carpet manufacturing and any other cloth-related field.The creative process often begins with different art mediums to map conceptsfor the finished product (Collier et. al, 2009). Abraham (2013) stated that, every design iscreated keeping in mind certain basic elements and principles of design.

Adesign may not have a function, but may simply appeal to the senses (Lalwani,2010a). Even for such purposes, it is essential to use the various principlesof design. For instance, textile art or textile design is sometimesincomprehensible, yet it follows the principles of design so that what youwould perceive as a ‘meaningless splatter of colours and shapes’ is stillvisually appealing (Lalwani, 2010b).Collier (2009) observes that, traditionally,drawings of woven textile patterns were translated into special forms of graph paper called point papers, which were used by the weavers insetting up their looms. Some of the latest advances in textile printing havebeen in the area of digital printing. The process is similar to the computercontrolled paper printers used for office applications.

In addition,heat-transfer printing is another popular printing method which is used in thetextile design. Patterns are often designed in repeat to maintain a balanceddesign even when the fabric is made into yardage. Repeat size is the distancedirectly across or down from any motif in a design to the next place that samemotif occurs. The size of the repeat is determined by the production method.For example, printed repeat patterns must fit within a particular screen sizes,while weaving repeat patterns must fit within certain loom sizes. There areseveral different types of layouts for repeated patterns. Some of the mostcommon repeats are straight and half drop. Often, the same design is producedin many different coloured versions, which are called colorways.

Once a patternis complete, the design process shifts to choosing the proper fabrics to getthe design printed on or woven into the fabric. Textile designers use specificprinciples to organize the structural elements of a given design. Theprinciples include unity, balance, emphasis, proportion, and rhythm. The waythese principles are applied affects the outcomes of the design. Designers might want to use the method of dyeing or printing to create their design. There are many printing methods.

Direct (Blotch) Printing Overprinting Discharge Printing Resist Printing Block Printing Roller Printing Screen PrintingCollier (2009) further explains that, in artand iconography, a motif is anelement of an image. A motif maybe repeated in a pattern or design,often many times, or may just occur once in a work. A repeat is the point wherean identical design begins again on a textile.

It is also the distance betweenidentical figures in a repeat pattern, the number of inches before the wholepattern starts over. Textile designers use repeats because they can enablelarge pieces of fabrics to be printed without breaks or awkward gaps in apattern. The goal is to make a textile design look like it never ends.

It canbe an effective decorative strategy and can be done on almost any type offabric. Today, with digital technology, the variety and complexity of repeatscan be almost endless.2.5.1Typesof Fabric PatternsRepeat patterns may run horizontal orvertical.

Designers have many ways of taking a single figure and covering atextile with it (Boyd, 2015).BlockRepeatTheblock repeat is the simplest style of repeat. It is simply formed by stackingthe original repeat in a basic grid. The figure, always pointing in the samedirection, appears over and over again in rows that line up vertically andhorizontally.Theblock repeat can have an amateur look if used in the wrong situation, but itcan look great with simpler, more geometric motifs.Brick/Half-BrickRepeat Ahalf-brick repeat takes each horizontal row and staggers it so that it does notline up with the rows above and below it.

This repeat pattern gets its namefrom the resemblance to how bricks are laid to form a brick wall. The figure isplaced over and over again along a horizontal row. Then, when the next row isplaced, instead of forming a simple grid, the pattern is offset so the figuresdo not line up vertically.

Half-drop is in the vertical direction.Drop/Half-DropRepeatThedrop or half-drop repeat is very similar to the brick/half-brick, but themotifs are offset vertically instead of horizontally.Drop/half-droprepeats are another very common type of repeat of fabric and surface design.

DiamondRepeatThediamond repeat is also used quite frequently in fabric and surface design. Itis exactly as it sounds – a repeat of diamond shapes. The motifs can be assimple as one diamond put into half-drop or half-brick repeat (with someoverlap), or each diamond can be a combination of smaller motifs. OgeeRepeat:Theogee repeat is similar to the diamond repeat in shape – but the design ogee ismore rounded on two sides with the other two sides coming to points.

As withthe diamond repeat, it can be a simple repeat of ogee shapes in a half-drop orhalf-brick arrangement, or it can be more complex with overlaps andcombinations of smaller motifs.Toss/Random,Repeat:Thetoss/random repeat utilizes a random arrangement of various motifs to create avery organic, non-linear design. It is very popular for the floral patterns.

Elements of the design are “tossed” onto the fabric.StripeRepeat:Thestripe repeat could be simple stripes in a single colour or a palette, but itcan also be single motifs that create stripes for a totally different look.DotRepeat:Similarin its simplicity to the stripe repeat, the ‘dot’, repeat is as it sounds – anarrangement of dots. But not necessarily only dots. They can be other smallmotifs arranged with a bit of space between them to emulate dots, like this:Plaid/CheckRepeatThisis a variation of a stripe repeat, plaid/check/gingham repeats can be used tobeef up a collection and provide a variety of designs. CombinationRepeatsThisis a repeat of two or more of the types shown above to create single design ora toss layout over a plaid for a more interesting and complex appearance.2.5.

3 The Wax print ‘African print,’ is a general term used toidentify a category of textiles using 100% cotton fabric in vibrant colours,which are printed by machine using wax, resins and dyes so that they have abatik-like effect on both sides of the fabric (Akinwumi, 2008). African printgoes by a multitude of names such as Dutch wax print, Real English wax,Veritable Java print, Guaranteed Dutch Java, Veritable Dutch Hollandais, amongothers. The development of the prints has been referred to as the “result oflong historical process of imitation and mimicry”. How exactly Dutch wax printsbecame popular in West Africa is of different views. However, what is known forcertain is that, the Dutch wax started as a cheap mass produced imitations ofIndonesian batik locally produced in Java and colonial powers, particularly theDutch and the English, played a heavy role in its industrialization andpopularization. They are actually European-made textiles that African countrieshave embraced and made their own in sales and marketing vernacular (Akinwumi,2009).Abraham(2013) explains that, wax print is the most worn and the most valued fabrics inWest Africa, but it is also the most imitated.

Its principal characteristic isthe unique combination of pattern and colour. The introduction of wax-print inWest African culture consists of the ascription to the fabric, a series oflocal names, permitting its integration into various local strategies ofconsumption.Similarly,Okougha (2010) asserts that, the story begins in the Dutch East Indies (nowIndonesia), where locals have long used the technique of a wax –resist dyingbasically applying wax with a tjantingwith a cloth, and then dying over that wax to create a pattern- to make abatik. The creation of this spectacular fabric using wax originated in the1800’s when a merchant travelling to Java, saw the people wearing exoticclothing and brought a description of the wax process home. This Holland waxfabric was then introduced to Africa in the 1900’s and it was instantlyaccepted and has become the most widely used textile.Howard(2013) cited in  Kroese  records that, thecloths were first brought by some Ashanti soldiers who were given to the Dutchcommissioner by the then Asantehene to serve in the Dutch army in some coloniesin Indonesia. The soldiers were attracted by the aesthetic qualities of theJavanese prints and brought samples of the cloths to the Gold Coast after theirservice. The Gold Coast women upon seeing the cloths became very fascinated andexpressed special interest in the prints which led to the establishment oftrade links between Holland and the Gold Coast upon which large quantities werebrought to the Gold Coast.

Sylvanus(2007) attests that wax print originated from Java, from the Javanese batikswhich were produced by hand with local technology. After the Europeanindustrialists industrialized the production of the batik effects, theindustrial reproduction process was poor in quality as it left fine lines onthe fabric that resulted from the cracking of the wax technique. Theseimperfections though unappreciated by the Javanese, were highly appreciated inWest Africa, where the prints became popular and gained wider market.

 According to Osei-Bonsu (2001), the onlyforeign textiles in the Gold Coast before the Javanese prints, were dyedfabrics from Manchester. The Manchester dyed fabrics could not compete with thewax Javanese prints and lost their popularity. When the British realized thisdrastic change, they sought for diverse ways to improve upon their dyed fabricsand this led to the production of imitation wax prints. Unfortunately for them,they did not succeed the competition for the Gold Coast women were able todistinguish between the imitation wax prints from the real wax print.

Osei-Bonsu further indicates that, the term “Dumas” which popularly becameknown for real wax prints from Holland was coined from the name of a Lebanesemerchandiser who first traded in wax print with the Gold Coast women. TheBritish eventually took over the trade through one of her leading firms inAfrica known as the United Africa Company (UAC). The introduction of theseprints in Ghana, according to Osei-Bonsu, compelled Ghana to develop its owntextiles adding that Ghanaian textile designers, from the onset, are able tomake designs, give them names and send them to Holland to be printed andbrought back for sale in Ghana.

 Due to the acceptability of the Africanprints, it has become the most common cloth in every Ghanaian home worn on alloccasions. These fabrics have significant communicative values, indicatingstatus or wealth and conveying messages as a means of non-verbal expressions inofficial occasions, political avenues and for social purposes. Wayne (2009)asserts that, African prints have remained the most desired fabrics which hasbecome an integral part of the vibrant culture of West Africans worn as clothesby men, women and children for ceremonial programs such as naming (outdooring),marriage and funeral ceremonies.2.6 Body forms Patternmaking is the means of achieving a shape around the body/block so that although the body/block remains constant, theoutline of clothe often changesdramatically in different period of fashion. This implies that, patterns are a simple outline of the front and the back of abodice and skirt, and a sleeve fromwhich any style pattern can be developed or generated (Aldrich, 1994; Joseph-Armstrong, 2010; Shoben & Ward, 1990)Themajor role of patterns in garment designing and construction require thepattern maker to use, accurate body measurement, analyse the figure, and thedesign to be created very well, so that’s a good fit can be achieved.

The  techniques involved in making a pattern are ahighly skilled craft which calls for technical ability, and a sensitivity tointerpret a design with a practical understanding of garment construction. Forsuccessful dress designing patternmaking forms the fundamental step. Thisfunction connects design to production by producing paper templates for allcomponents which have to be cut for completing a specific garment. Patterns canbe formed by either a two dimensional (2D) process or three-dimensional (3D)process. Often a combination of methods is used to create the pattern (AmoakoAsare, 2015).Hollenand Kundel (1992) stated that, there are three ways of producing patterns forgarments; drafting, draping, and bought or commercial pattern.

In a study byPritchard (2013), she categorized techniques for making manual pattern intothree: flat pattern making, draping and modifying (also known as reverseengineer).ComparingHollen and Kundel’s categories for pattern making (Drafting, Draping andCommercial pattern) with Pritchard’s categories (Flat patternmaking, Drapingand Modifying), draping was the only common technique that was found in bothcategories. Due to the fact that commercial pattern is an end product of eitherone or a combination of drafting, flat pattern making, draping, or modifying it,should not be included in Hollen and Kundel’s category. On the other hand,Pritchard did not state drafting as one of the ways of making patterns. Accordingto Joseph-Armstrong (2010), drafting is a system of pattern making that dependson measurements taken from a form, or model to create basic foundation, ordesign patterns. From Armstrong’s definition of drafting, it can conclude thatflat pattern making is dependent on drafting hence, should not be left out whencategorizing techniques for pattern making.Basedon the literature on techniques or methods of making patterns discussed, itcould be concluded that, there are four major manual techniques for makingpatterns from which garments can be constructed (Amoako Asare, 2015). Itincludes three two-dimensional techniques; drafting, flat pattern making andreverse engineer/modifying and one three-dimensional technique; draping.

2.8Workshop as an interventionOneof the major concepts influencing the present day teaching and learning ofpractical skills is the theory of selective learning proposed by Hull andSpencer (as cited by Opare, 2011). According to Hull and Spencer, complexlearning can be achieved by building the foundation of simple principles. Thisimplies that when the person discovers the basic principles in a learningsituation, he or she can translate it into complex situations. Therefore the acquisitionof basic knowledge by the learner through selection of basic learningprinciples involving experiments will enable the learner to discover and buildcomplex principles.Acquisitionof dressmaking skills involves a learning period where the student (apprentice)has to undergo training where basic skills are taught. As the years advance,complex skills are added.

It is impossible to attain all the skills within thisdefined time period and therefore regular, interventions through workshops toupgrade skills is pertinent if the graduated apprentice into ‘Madam’  can stay in business, grow and expand both tomeet local and international clothing market. Another theory that provides a theoreticalbasis for the study is Maslow’s theory of Career Education (1954) as cited byOpare, (2011). Maslow maintained that success in working life requires not onlythe skills needed to perform a job, but also the attitude, values and generalabilities, which lead one to want to work productively, and which influenceone’s ability to function as a productive member of society over a lifetime. ToMaslow, career education is the education that makes available to all thosepre-requisites, attitudes, knowledge and skills necessary to choose, preparefor and pursue a successful career throughout life.

Career educationists aremindful of the fact that some learners learn best from “hands-on” experiencesand others from abstract concept.   


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