First things first, the Fair Fit Pattern is now a method.
Its been a wowza of a journey this year, building these courses, and I'll explain how we got there. Let me tell you dear readers, it has been one heck of a summer, and even one heck of an early fall! So much has changed since I first introduced the Fair Fit pattern project, and in this post I want to share it all with you, starting with the timeline that I've been working on behind the scenes since January 2017 started.
Because I love hearing the story of how people develop their businesses, projects, and ideas, from an honest and inspiring place, it's one of my favorite activities via email or here on the blog to be absolutely transparent about how stuff gets done around here.
In this post, I will walk you through the year and how I progressed with the project. This post also is a kick off to the series to introduce you to the Fair Fit Method! Yippee!! Yep, I'm back in the swing of things and have much I will be sharing with you on the blog starting now until December.
Last year, I thought I wanted to launch a pattern line. But I was still really stuck in the idea that folks wouldn't want my unusual designs- hey, anyone around here suffer from that? I think we all do at some point in our life think that way about something we are doing, fearing folks won't want it or think its weird. Or worse - not good enough. But as I digitized the patterns, I felt unfulfilled and just never got the go ahead to release them.
However, the pattern that was the most interesting to me, was the Fair Fit Dress. So I decided that I was going to niche down and focus on my speciality- this set of blocks and how they are adaptive to learn fit and design. As soon as I had digitized the dress, behind the scenes while running my local business, I started digitizing all the sets.
I also invited my colleague Dr. Casey Stannard to collaborate with me in the project. She wanted to study it as part of her academic research, and see if it would really help people with fit. To create our first study, I chose students from Fair Fit classes who either were really interested in learning more about fit, or had admired original dresses that I produced as samples.
Our first workshop was at LSU university. We were able to use the Alva forms in the classroom and worked to pad them out to customize the fit. The first workshop was really hard- it was nerve wracking for me to hand off the design for the first time ever, and as soon as you do, you learn how many things you didn't know needed more explanation. That's what product design is like, you must beta test to see what is missing, but it can be nerve wracking because you can't predict the time, or predict where the pattern needs more teaching to solve a problem. In the first workshop, I had to see where folks needed help and more information and how to add that to the class while editing out unnecessary information.
I was grateful for this first class, and to see what people learned. It also helped me make iteration one of the online class, creating the videos and lesson plan with the hopes to make the in person workshop an online course. However, out of 6 students in the workshop, as far as I know 2 students finished the dress completely. This was for a multitude of reasons, some needed their own dress form to finish the work at home, one moved away, others got busy. This taught me that the students needed more support and structure to the course to make sure that they finish and to make having your own dress form a requirement to take the course.
I worked diligently on the Fair Fit Blog and Weekly Email Articles to really spell out how I teach and share lessons on fit, proportion, and garment construction. On the blog, I was writing the history of the pattern and the ideology behind it. In my emails, I was teaching about fit as well as offering online workshops on fit and fashion design.
I had take a hiatus from online teaching in order to focus in on our upcoming workshops and my in person local classes. Being a one person operation really shows me where my limits are, and sometimes I have to make decisions like this because energy is finite and you will suffer exhaustion if you don't allow for breaks.
Our next workshop, Learn and Make the Fair Fit Top was offered to 5 beginner students. They got to experience the same method of online and offline teaching as the first students in January, however, this time I had weekly online tasks that they had to complete before coming to their in person class.
Why beginners? A common occurrence in sewing classes is sometimes a lot of experience coupled with the expectation that you will struggle with fit, and previous sewing fails, can really affect how you approach a project. The beginner students started with my Beginner's Sewing class, and they didn't expect to struggle or fail. They didn't have a place where they say "oh this ALWAYS is where garments don't fit." Instead, they did one step at a time hoping that they were going to have a good result. Also as beginners, you don't put as much pressure on yourself to be perfect.
The amazing thing is all of them finished- in class! And the workshop was shorter than the first one. I learned that its best to separate out the bodice of the dress from the skirt. In a dress, you are dealing with 2 areas of the body and its too much to do all at once. This success was noted and it motivated me to move on to an online test.
My main focus in May was on my local business Fair Fit Studio and our classes and lessons. During this time, I realized that if the Fair Fit Pattern is going to be released, I would need new collateral materials to show what you can make with the pattern blocks. So I started developing new methodologies of design using the pattern, including Heirloom Repurpose, and creating a core collection of dresses in the different sewn finishings and pattern sets to show students the potential of the pattern and get folks inspired.
This is when I had to disappear for awhile from the blog and online presence because I am extremely introverted when I'm inventing. I can't divide my mind or I lose hours of focus, so I turn off electronics to ensure I don't take in more information that could potentially distract me. I have a theory that you must hold the image of what you want to make solidly in your mind, but if you distract and pick up the phone, you can easily lose it. I prioritized the inventing and production process over my social media, blog, and newsletter writing for a bit so that I could produce the best product possible at my current capacity.
With the support of my online buddy Helen's encouragement, I decided to jump in and do the first test of the Fair Fit pattern by asking 5 testers to take the course and provide feedback. One of these testers was my good friend Brooke @sewbrooke. She and I worked together on Underground Season 1 and she has 16 years of professional sewing experience and I absolutely trust her guidance.
Brooke being Brooke, jumped right into the course as soon as she had access and watched the entire thing through all the modules. She showed me what's missing, how to reorganize the content, and really refined my pattern. She also made 2 dresses- which will be featured later here on the blog in November.
I had really awesome testers who all helped with a distinct place in the development of the course. I will be sharing more of what they made in lots of future posts. All of them contributed to the course and through the growing pains, Learn and Make the Fair Fit Dress became a full fledged online design course.
At this time something was really bothering me. I realized that if the pattern and class, was perceived as strictly a fit course, then if someone doesn't get the fit right on the first go the assumption would be that they failed the course or the course didn't work for them. The course offered teaching far beyond fit, including creative processes and approaches to design and feared this would be missed.
I think it was because I was exhausted and overworked, but I freaked out. This is where I almost threw the whole course out. Thankfully Brooke talked me off the roof.
This is where the breakthrough happened. Brooke told me "Andrea, I don't need a fit class and did not take the class to just learn fit. I wanted to learn new ways of working- that's what excited me about the course. I don't think you are teaching a pattern, you are teaching a method."
Cue the beams of light and singing angels.
I take full responsibility for not being able to see the course fully and the language I use to support it and create engagement. I also really don't think you can know everything all at once, especially at the beginning of a project. By focusing so much on fit, I was minimizing the potential of what I can share. By following the approach of teaching a method, I am much more free to expand the content of what I teach.
We also did an in person class with 3 students, Learn and Make the Fair Fit Skirt, with the same process and method as Learn and Make the Fair Fit Top. I did the same mixture of online and offline teaching and created timelines. And everyone finished! It was here that I really understood how important it is to break up the course garment by garment, so that the processes and experiences gained in each course could build upon each other without overwhelming students and giving them more time to implement each method.
Finally, with some time away I realized many helpful insights. The online test showed me so many ways to make the course great. However, I had too narrow a timeline of 6 weeks to complete the course.
Because I have used the pattern to make so many different versions and collections, there are many ways that you can see how I have adapted the pattern, sewing, and design. When the testers would see the adapted versions of the dresses, I would be asked how to sew it in different ways, or how to customize the pattern to create another version. This is when I realized that I'm trying to share way too much information in just one course.
After the success of the top and skirt in person classes, I realized that a student can't just start with the dress. You must learn the fit and proportion and draping for the top and bottom half of the body separately, or risk getting overwhelmed. That's when I decided, we should start with the skirt first, and move on to the dress.
We also did a stunning photoshoot of the my latest collection.
Lots and lots of sample sewing. I did another photoshoot of the dress and skirt variations to help show the students how to make different versions of the dress and the many ways the pattern is adapted. At this point, I'm now waiting on the photos to be edited and sent my way so that they can be added to the course and blog content.
And here we are. The final breakthrough came as I realized that with all the content I have planned to teach, I will finally be able to launch a full curriculum and program. The Fair Fit Method : Patterns and a Process for Adaptive Custom Design is a year long curriculum of courses, workshops, and classes to teach you all of the innovative sewing, pattern, fit, draping, and proportion lessons included in each course.
I feel so excited and relieved that I have finally received and figured out the structure. As awkward and difficult as it is to iterate in public, and especially because I realized that I was not just launching a simple pattern and had to delay. I would not be where I am today had I not followed this timeline and worked through each of the steps as they were inspired and presented.
Photography by Carolynn Amy Siebert and Lily Brooks and the other named photographers from the article. All Images ©Andrea Eastin Fair Fit TM and are used exclusively for fairfitstudio.com. Never use or post images without my written permission.