Math Adds Up To Sewing Success

I was never good at art. Throughout school, I was a disaster at drawing and a mess at painting. Art classes did little more than fill me with a sense of incompetence. Always told that I was more of a spatial and abstract thinker, I stuck to what I was good at: math and science.

I was in high school when I began to play around with my mom’s sewing machine just for fun. I made some interesting and awful clothes — I was not good at art, right?

It was a math teacher who changed my mind about my ability to sew. He asked me how geometry helped me figure out how to put pattern pieces together. Sewing, he told me, is nothing more than geometry. It requires measuring, numbers, cutting shapes of fabric, and putting them together like a puzzle. A lightbulb went off in my head: sewing is the math geek’s answer to artistic endeavors and creative outlets. I was hooked.

During the current coronavirus lockdown, I decided to spend some time catching up on patterns and fabrics I had accumulated over the years to make some clothes and share with our Touro community. Here is the dress I will try out:

dress pattern
McCall’s 7627 pattern (Figure 1)

Here it goes!

I started by measuring and calculating my pattern size. After, I cut out pattern shapes from the fabric (Figures 2 and 3).

cutting out the fabric
Figure 2
cutting fabric out
Figure 3

After all the pieces of fabric are cut out, then comes the instructions on how to assemble them (Figure 4).

sewing machine next to cut fabric
Figure 4

The instructions call for constructing the top first by sewing the bodice together with darts, pleats, and facing to add design features (Figure 5).

beginning to sew
Figure 5

The top of the garment is put together, minus the sleeves; they are added later (Figure 6).

after the first sew
Figure 6

Next, I started work on the skirt section. Ironing is unfortunately required to get a perfect seam (Figure 7).

ironing the skirt section
Figure 7

Like putting a puzzle together, the skirt was in four sections that needed to be sewn together (Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8

Adding darts and pleats to skirt section to add figure enhancement (Figure 9).

adding pleats and darts
Figure 9

The bottom and the top are complete. Now to attach them to each other (Figure 10).

sewing the top and the bottom to each other
Figure 10

The top and the bottom are matched up and sewn together. Final finishes are made to the garment by hemming rough edges and cutting loose strings (Figure 11).

the dress after making final touches
Figure 11

The dress is then machine-washed and dried in order to get any chemicals out of the fabric and to pre-shrink the garment if is made of cotton.

Final adjustments are made for fitting (Figure 12), and the dress is done. Geometry — that’s all it is!

modelling the dress after it has been washed
Figure 12

This blog post was contributed by Annette Carr, Librarian at the School of Health Sciences at Bay Shore. All photos courtesy of the author.