Perhaps you’ve been wondering just exactly what goes into pattern production here at Reconstructing History. Pattern production is a process that starts with inspiration, moves through investigation and research, involves drafting, grading, testing, and writing and ends with printing. The process can take a few months or a few years, but the end result is always greeted with excitement.
Phase One — Inspiration
Sometimes I get the idea for a pattern from a picture in a book. Sometimes I get it from something I see someone wearing at an historical event. Sometimes I am urged to produce a pattern by our customers. But even when I develop a pattern because of customer demand, I have to be inspired by it. I just can’t produce a pattern if I am not inspired by something about the resulting outfit.
Phase Two — The “Lit Search”
Even when I am inspired by an outfit I see someone wearing at an event, I cannot produce a pattern without checking its historicity. Reconstructing History doesn’t make costume patterns, so everything we produce has to stand up on its own historically.
The first step in researching a new pattern is doing what is known in academic circles as a “lit search”. This means searching for all the available published information on the item in question. In addition to articles and book references, we also search for pictorial and textual references to the garment in question. We read every website we can find that mentioned the garment, even the bad ones. In some cases, like that of the Irish léine, there are few credible references and illustrations, and our lit search is quite short. In other cases, we are digging up articles and pictures and text references for years. And in the case of extant garments like the Shinrone Gown, our “lit search” requires three trips to Ireland.
Regardless of how long it takes, once we feel we have all the available information in front of us, we begin to sift through it and decide what it credible and what is not. Clearly extant garments are the best sources of all. Articles that describe extant garments are next (because authors can make mistakes). Pictures drawn after life are next. Other pictures and textual references come after those.
Phase Three – Formulating the Hypothesis
Phase Four — Testing the Hypothesis
Phase Five – Stating the Theory — Writing the Historical Notes
Phase Six – Drafting the Pattern
Phase Seven — Testing the Pattern
Phase Eight — Grading the Pattern and Adding “The Bits”
Phase Nine — Writing the Instructions
Phase Ten — Printing the Pattern
Phase Eleven — Flogging it to the Public
After a pattern is produced, if new information on the garment comes to light, we will go back and update the pattern to include the new information. In the past, we have removed items from some patterns and added other period options to others. This is the great advantage of printing all our patterns in-house — we can change them as soon as new information comes to light.
© 2009 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice, the author’s name and website, and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.