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mannequin and reels of threadHere’s a very personal tip of my own that the other experts didn’t mention. People often ask me how I could possibly have made the leap from mathematics teacher to costume designer and maker. What possible link could there be?


Actually, there are many skills that pass over from one to the other, not least of which is spacial awareness. Don’t panic: there are no numbers involved!

Spacial awareness is simply a skill of seeing things fit together in your mind’s eye. When you unwrap a new pattern and look at the pieces, can you take the front, side front, side back and so on and (roughly) see them turn around and fit together in your head? Can you see how it’s going to work? Can you foresee any pitfalls, any parts that don’t work so well? Can you see where the sticking points might be?

It’s a skill you can build with practice, and a very useful one. After my first few outfits, I developed an ability to picture what I was going to make, turn it around and look at it from all angles and ask myself questions. What’s the worst part? I asked myself. Which part won’t work so well? And with the answers to these supposedly negative questions, I was able to solve problems before they happened – or even improve the design. In what way does this look amateur? What would make it more professional – even if I can’t achieve it now? If I did know how to do it, what would I do?

Practice is the key here. Practice it on the bus, or waiting in line. Take a costume you have in mind but have yet to begin work on. Put it on a model in your mind and ask them to turn around. Look at it from every angle. Does it work? Where does it fasten? Which parts need to be strong? Which parts need extra attention? Needless to say, if you can hone this unseen skill of visualisation, you can potentially save yourself a lot of time and money by seeing the sticking points before they happen!


mistakes (and being human)
My advice with forty years of mistakes under my belt is to pick out the mistake and then walk away from the pieces. Only then could I ruminate about a solution (and sometimes there isn't one - that is an answer too - back to drawing table and reexamining the goal). If I left a mistake I found it was almost impossible to come back with a fresh mind, the situation only dredged up the bad time previous. Think of it this way, you are already annoyed, so pick it apart, then go have a cup of tea and come back mind and body relaxed. Go ahead and try it both ways, and see what fits you. But just don't stop creating.

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