...how would you like to be directly involved in the decision making process of a real life fashion designer? Well, you can! Each month designer Dawn Pengelly, author of the blog Duelling Designs, offers us the opportunity to assist her in choosing which of two authentic apparel creations she will customize. An original concept if ever I've heard; she designs - we choose! What a genius idea and blog theme! It's all done monthly when we cast our votes via one of her social media platforms. I found this idea very exciting, and that is why I've been participating every month since first discovering Duelling Designs. I'd like you to have the chance to take part in Dawn's decision making process as well, but first, let's take a moment to get to know her a little better.
Can you tell us about your learning process? How did you learn to sew, and how long have you been doing it?
DAWN: I did not start sewing garments for myself until high school. I learned how to make a mini skirt with an elastic waist in my home economics class and that was it for me I was in love. We did not have money for all the latest clothing styles so I would buy things from the opportunity shop and alter the clothes to fit me.
Later I made skirts and sold them at a couple of local shops. I traced my favourite a-line skirt to make the pattern and screen printed line drawings on the front of the skirt. I lacked a lot of the technical skills needed to make a great garment though. My mother put the zippers in each skirt for me because I had no idea how to do it myself.
I went to university to be a school teacher because I thought it was a responsible stable job in which I could be a little bit creative. After working as a teacher for several years I left and started working with graphics hoping to work in a more creative field. We had a huge layoff at work and part of the severance package was money for education. I decided to not play it safe and go back to school for something I always wanted to: Fashion Design. I never thought getting laid off work would be a blessing but it was. I learned so much over those four years and had the time of my life. I discovered that even more than designing and sewing that I loved patternmaking. I think it amazing that all of my experiences and jobs have given me the tools I needed to work on my blog. I could not have planned it better if I had tried.
Where did you train, and can you tell us some of the most important things you gained from it? (Classes, etc.)
DAWN: I am a bit of an education junkie. I have two university degrees (education and arts), a diploma and graduate diploma (Fashion Design) and a college diploma in Graphic Design. I love to learn and am always listening to podcasts, watching blabs, you tube videos and Periscopes, and reading blogs. As I get busier it gets harder to keep up with my digital learning.
I first studied pattern and sewing at New Zealand Fashion Tech. When I was laid off work we moved from Kalamazoo, Michigan back to Wellington, New Zealand. My husband is from New Zealand and I love it and the other two countries I have lived in. At NZFT we learned the basics, how to sew, how to draft patterns, how to manipulate patterns, and how to grade patterns. I feel fortunate that my first year of schooling was such a hands-on class that focused on the fundamentals. Next I studied at Massey University for three years. This was an exciting place to continue my education. We learned more about fibers, fabrics (testing, caring for, labeling, identification), manipulating fabrics, design, history of design, patternmaking digitally, knitting, trend forecasting, draping, and much, much more. In our Fashion Industry class and during the process of producing two collections for the runway I learned more about what it took to produce a collection as well. We touched on many other things like millinery, bra making, working with leather, zero waste, and machine knitting. I would love to study these further as well as continuing to develop my construction, patternmaking and grading skills. I am thrilled that my blog allows me to continue my education.
The most important things I learned in school were to be precise, the realities of the fashion industry, to take risks and try new things, and that when you work hard you can accomplish things you cannot even imagine.
Duelling Designs, it’s all so relevant! Of course we’d like to know just how you came up with this unique concept, and how it evolved into your blog.
DAWN: I worked in the fashion industry after I graduated as the assistant to the designers at Rembrandt Suits in NZ. I had to leave as we needed to move back to Canada for family reasons. In my area there were really no paid opportunities to work in the fashion industry that did not solely entail simple repetitive tasks. I did not want to sew the same style of trousers for the rest of my life. I realized late in life that I need to be creative and decided to investigate starting a blog to help me do just this.
On a trip to New York City I found the garment district, and fell in love. I had no idea there were stores with nothing but buttons. I spent a week in NY and came home with fabulous memories, a lot of trims and an idea. Driving back from NY I sat wondering what I was going to use my new little treasures I bought in the fashion district. I did not want them to be added to my fabric stash because I was waiting for the perfect project for them as I had done in the past. That is where the idea of the blog was formed. Here was a way to be creative and push myself to use some of the things I had been hoarding in my sewing room. It has completely changed my life in that I no longer feel I am living in black and white but in colour. I can sew, patternmaking, learn new technology, do graphic designs, sew and further my education.
How many Duelling Designs have you created thus far? What has been most challenging of all your Duelling Designs?, and why?
DAWN: I am on my seventh challenge. The holiday party dress has been the hardest challenge so far. I used pattern manipulation directions from a book instead of starting the patternmaking process from scratch and things did not work as I had hoped on the bodice. I had to scrap the pattern and start over. It was rough but it is part of the process. I cannot lie I wish I could have asked one of my university teachers or Alethia Hudson for help. I used to think that I had to look like I had it all figured out on Periscope but now I realize that I can ask for help and advice from the wonderful Pericrafter community. I am after all not an expert, just someone who wants to continue to learn more about what I love.
DAWN: I have a pile of commercial patterns that my husband’s aunt gave me and I have made a skirt and a dress pattern. But since I have been to school I have not used a commercial pattern. It is not because I do not like them but rather that I want to not lose the skills that I learned at school. I love the patternmaking process and figuring out the order I need to follow to have my sewing project work. It is like my fabric rubics cube.
In the midst of recently losing my top local fabric resource, can you tell us about the fabric resources that you have in Canada? Do you ever order fabric online - if so where?
I have been trying to exclusively use the fabric I already own in my challenges. If I need lining or notions I go to Fabricland. I have yet to order fabric on-line but I am open to it once I get my stash down.
To date, what are some of the designs that you are most proud of?
DAWN: In university I made a draped dress that I am very proud of. I also made a yellow woolen coat that I love because I learned so much from creating this tailored garment and it looks stunning.
What makes your sewing room/area unique? What is your favorite thing about or in the area?
DAWN: My husband made the table I use to patternmaking and cutting. I love it. I plan to do a post on how it was made (with his help) as it is so handy. It is nice to have a room dedicated to sewing and crafting. I love the bright coloured peg boards I use to hang my tools as well. Bright colours make me happy. I think the bright colour is a way of marking my territory in a male dominated household.
Can you share tips, techniques or advise for those of use to aspire to become designers (if only for our own personal use)?
DAWN: Don’t be afraid. It sounds odd, but I think I was too afraid to try things on my own before school. If I have learned anything from interviewing the fabulously talented people on That Sewing Blab it would be we might all have different journeys but if you have a passion, desire to learn, and are willing to work hard there is nothing you cannot achieve. So hit record, sketch, or manipulate that pattern. You will find when you jump out of your comfort zone you will learn more and grow more than you could imagine. And your goals will be one step closer.
If you could design for one famous person (past or present) who would you design for, what would you design and why?
DAWN: My last Fashion in Film post was about the movie How to Marry a Millionaire. I would love to design a dress that looks like it came from the wardrobe department from the movie. I loved the movie and found myself drawn to Lauren Bacall. In my eyes she completely overshadowed Marilyn Monroe with her brooding looks. Women’s curves used to be celebrated in fashion not disguised.
Please list social media platforms that you use.
Pinterest Duelling Designs
Instagram Duelling Designs
Snap Chat DuellingDesigns