Part IIB: FIT Experience Years 3 and 4

Posted on | May 5, 2006 | 6 Comments

Sorry for the delay in posting part B! I’ve been so busy lately, I don’t even know where everything came from! Without further delay……….

Year 3

At the beginning of year 3, we were exposed to a few more areas of the industry before we chose our specialization for the second half of the year. We learned about lingerie and corsets, knitwear, and activewear. The foundations/activewear class was very interesting – but very technical. It’s amazing how many special skills can go into designing such a teeny-tiny garment! We also had our usual drawing classes and a computer class or two thrown in.

Of course my favorite classes were on knitwear! However, at this point in time, I didn’t know this would be the direction I would go in. We had a machine knitting class and a pattern making class dedicated to sweater design.

In the pattern making class, we learned how to draft sweater patterns and sew them together with sometimes very difficult sergers. All of our designing was done on a cut and sew basis. In fact, in my year and one half in the knitwear program, we never did any full fashioning! Basically, every sweater design began as a rectangle. From there we modified the neck, length and armholes. Needless to say, the class didn’t really produce too many fabulous garments! Simple raglans – yes, fabulous cable sweaters – no.

In our machine knitting class, we used Brother knitting machines to learned about gauge, different knitted structures, and how to make rectangle “blanks” for our patternmaking class. Our very first project was a scarf and the whole point of the project was to learn about gauge. We had to knit a 60st by 100 row swatch, measure it and find the gauge. We then wrote a very basic knitting plan, or pattern, for our scarf. Basically we all ended up with a nice, curled up rectangle with fringe on the ends! We weren’t allowed to use the ribbing part of the machines yet and they failed to tell us that jersey curled! We all found it out the hard way.

We spent the rest of the class learning about some simpler stitches that we could achieve with punchcards. For those of you who have never used a knitting machine, this is the part that allows you to do patterns. A series of holes are punched on a plastic card and it allows you to do lace, tuck stitch, and fairisles. Again, we didn’t get too deep into things – we learned tuck stitches and birds eye jacquard.

Towards the end of the semester, we the patternmaking class and machine class worked together to help us put together our final project. We drafted the pattern in one class and knit our rectangle blanks in the other. Once the blanks were complete, we took them back to the pattern class and everything was cut and sewn together.

In the second half of the year, we chose our specializations and as you know, I chose knitwear. I just fell in love with sweaters and knitting. I had learned how to knit when I was eight, but it just never quite stuck. However, at this point, I still had not revisited handknitting. Machine knitting was all we were taught and that’s what I stuck with. We furthered our skills with the machine and learned how to knit lace and use the ribbing attachment.

We also had courses in line planning, fashion drawing, U4ia, and fashion merchandising.

Year 4

Year 4 was the final hurrah before we were expected to go out into the real world – and they threw us right in off the bat. We opened up semester 7 with our design internship. Some people chose to work for the Calvins and Anna Sui’s of the world – others chose mass market companies.

I chose a missy sweater company that sold to places like Cato, Macy’s, and Avenue. Well, actually I cheated because I had been working at this company part time since semester 6. If we already had a job that would fulfill the internship requirements, we were more than welcome to stay. Plus, most internships didn’t pay – mine did and I was lucky.

I learned so much! I learned how to do layouts (full size artwork: for example stripes or intarsia), how to spec a sweater, how to fit, and how to fill out a spec worksheet. I did a lot of colored flats and boards for presentations. And there were so many things that they didn’t tell you in school – like THE FASHION INDUSTRY IS NOT REALLY CREATIVE!! Most things were knock-offs. If it wasn’t a knock-off, the sweater was “inspired” by a knock-off. It was a bit depressing, but at least I was learning things that would come in handy later on down the road instead of running to get coffee for the Calvins of the world!

To round out the semester, we had a class in Plus size/Petite design, advanced sketching, introduction to knitting principles, and faces and places in fashion. Faces and Places was a really great class or rather lecture series. Every week, we would have a different speaker from the industry come talk to us. We heard lectures from Cynthia Rowley, Renzo Rossi from Diesel (his nephew was in my class!) and David Wolfe (fashion trend forcaster), just to name a few. Introduction to Knitting Principles was a tough course. We learned about how sweaters are produced on industrial machinery. This involved dissecting swatches and drawing needles plans. Our final exam basically consisted of one question – we needed to plan out a pleated fabric – THAT CONSISTED OF OVER 250 NEEDLES! If you think math for drafting patterns is hard, this class would have made your brain explode! It didn’t help that the professor wrote the only textbook available for the course either. Oh, and I finally started to handknit my final year of college. My final year! Don’t even ask me why I waited so long – I was crazy I guess.

Final semester meant thesis time! What does one do for a fashion design thesis? A mini collection of course! It sure beats writing some 1000 page term paper! I designed 3 outfits and one was used for our senior collection exhibit. We also had a portfolio, manufacturing management and screen printing class. I have some pictures around somewhere of my final garment, if I can find them I’ll post it. My theme was earth so I put little sheep on my cardigan!

Whew! That’s a lot of words there. I know I kinda skimped on some areas to make it a bit shorter, so if you are interested in more information or have questions – feel free to email me!

Next up will my first job and what to expect when you are fresh out of the box!

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  • Stacy

    I’m really enjoying your stories of your experiences! I’ve never had any interest in designing myself due to a total lack of creativity but I’ve always been fascinated by the process. I love your designs and can’t wait to do your green mohair cardi next fall.

  • caroline

    thanks for sharing your story. I’ve always wondered about knitwear design as a career and you’re answering a LOT of questions. If you have time, could you talk a little bit about the color stories for Fall 06 and Spring 07? I’m thinking of making up a small line to pitch to a few local boutiques and color will be key. but anyway, can’t wait to catch your next ‘installment’!
    all the best,

  • Mayarn

    Just wanted to say I’ve really enjoyed reading about what fashion school’s like. I feel like I had some preconceived notions that weren’t really accurate, and it’s fun to hear about real fashion school. :-)

  • Dani D.

    I just stumbled upon your site as I was searching for blogs about FIT, and I have to say, your experiences have got me even MORE excited for going there next year! I’m venturing out to the Big Apple from Vancouver, BC for the fall semester, and I was looking for info on residence. You don’t happen to know much about the residences do you?

  • andrea

    It’s great to hear about your experience in fashion school. It’s interesting to hear how things are run, it’s a bit different from most schools. Ys, absolutely, school does not prepare you for the fact that most fashion jobs are NOT creative!

  • Gina

    Late comment post just to tell you that I stumbled upon your blog through your cardigan pattern, and I think this information about FIT is very interesting. Thank you for sharing.