Why Sewing is like Architecture

I’ve been practicing architecture now for over 30 years which is quite a long time. I hadn’t realized I had hit that mark until I started writing this post! Periodically I think about how my profession is similar to sewing. They both have a combination of design, craft, construction, and accountability.

1. We start with a client with a need. For sewing the client is mostly me and I have a list of needed garments, but it could be my LH needing new PJ’s, or my son needing a sheep costume or cape.

2. We then figure out the program such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, or number of stories or apartments. For sewing we figure out what kind of functional requirements there are such as “mustn’t be itchy” or wash’n wear, or “must have iPhone sized pocket”.

3. Then the fun part, the design. We design within the clients’ parameters given above, but then we get to decide whether the jacket has a peplum or if the pants have cuffs. We can go wild or be conservative.

4. What materials will be used? Wood flooring and ceramic tile, or wool and silk? What will support that fancy cantilevered top? Is it a steel beam or steel boning? What is stiffening the skirt?

5. How sustainable will the project be? Will we be using reclaimed timbers, or Goodwill finds? Will we be using natural fibers or plastics that don’t biodegrade?

5. We build small scale models of our buildings to make sure everyone likes what we’ve designed before the real one gets built. This is similar to the muslin test phase where we might remove and replace different components to get the fit or proportions we are looking for.

6. We draw up the final plans and elevations, and draft up the different pieces so we know what size to build.

7. We finalize the design details such as the selection of door hardware or closures like zippers or buttons.

8. We spend an enormous time creating construction details.  These explain exacty how the parts and pieces get put together.  When constructing a garment I actually draw little sections and details to confirm the final number of layers of fabric in a seam or to determine the order of construction.

  Section at pockets of Jalie Denim Jacket

 So here’s the thing: These days I spend most of my work life with email, accounting, and meetings.  I don’t get to design and draw anymore so sewing brings me back to my creative roots whether it’s with a pen and paper or a needle and thread. 

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