Eric Banisadr my blog

What's Math Got to Do With It

This week, a surprisingly strong connection between math and tailoring became apparent to me. Maybe Stat is just getting harder, and I found myself thinking about it a lot, but I’m pretty sure I’m onto something. Anyway, here are a few parallels I’ve seen so far.

Fractions and Base 12

That’s pretty much a fancy way of saying that we measure everything in feet and inches. Larger distances are measured in a mix of both, and small ones are fractions of an inch. When working with something like a zipper, one side has to have five-eighths of an inch work of space, and the other one-half, for example. We have a bunch of different ways to make sure everything is aligned right, but measurement still can get confusing.

Carlos is impressively fast at working with distances. He’ll ask me to do some really basic math for him, but before I can wrap my head around the fractions involved, he’s already blurted out the answer and moved on. I guess that speaks to his experience in the field; measurement is a complicated skill.

We have a full complement of different tools, and different ways to measure. We have different rulers for different purposes too. Some are 1” 1/4 wide and some are 1” 1/2. The width of the ruler can be used to measure, say the width of a cuff, while its markings are used to measure the length. Additionally, we have a curved “straitedge” to mark out lines for parts like shoulders, but it’s not uniformly curved. Knowing how to properly place it also seems like it would take time.

Ms. Le’s “Advice”

Working with Carlos reminds me of Statistics, because he shares Ms. Le’s no-nonsense attitude. This week, he told me to stop coming to him for affirmation, to check if my work is “good enough.” He’s of the opinion that I’ll know if something looks wrong. Of course, the next time I was working on an actual project, I messed it up. He was right; I did know.

When I got out my razor blade and started over, tearing out the stitches I’d just put in, I was reminded of a poster on Ms. Le’s wall. It claims: If you don’t have time to do it right, you’d better have time to do it over.

My task was pretty simple–I was making a pillow. All I had to do was sew the two halves together, (inside out) then flip it back the right way out. Of course, there was a minor wrench in my plan, which was that everything had to match up. One end shouldn’t be longer than another, and all the pleats had to be in the same place. I’d messed up the pleats by aligning the wrong side. When flipped right-side-out, they were all slightly off.

Doing it the second time, I did get it right, and I just told Carlos I’d finished. I’m sure he noticed me re-doing my work, but he didn’t ask what went wrong. That felt pretty good, because I now know that he trusts me to solve problems on my own, and to do actual work.

Taking Measurements

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to measure a customer, but I’d still like to measure my progress towards my goals so far.

Getting Organized

In terms of organization, I’d give myself maybe a five out of ten. I’ve been doing a great job keeping track of my calendar and planning my time. Between OPI, and the fact that I actually managed to qualify for NCS in wrestling, I’ve had to rearrange my schedule a bit, but I’ve been able to keep on top of it. Having a calendar makes it obvious when I have conflicts coming up, and that has been incredibly helpful for me.

On the flip side, I haven’t done a good job keeping on top of my journals.

As a note to future WISE students, (who I’m sure will be compelled to read this journal) keeping on top of your journaling is decently easy, and you should definitely make an effort to do so. Mr. Poling will also keep you in for sixth period if you get too far behind, something I just learned the hard way….

I tend to write myself notes or outlines, throughout the week, then turn them into entries on the weekends. Unfortunately, again due to weekend commitments like wrestling, the notes to journal process hasn’t been happening. I should probably come up with a new plan in the future.

Learning Tailoring

I’d rate my skills a nine out of ten at this point. That’s not to say I’m a great tailor, but that I think I’m learning pretty fast. Carlos has added “undercover tailor” to the list of things he likes to call me when talking about my progress. So far, I’ve worked with all the sewing machines, and just started stitching by hand this week. Also, I started working on simple projects this week, which I think is pretty cool, since I feel like I’ve become capable fairly quickly.

Being Useful

I still think I’m taking more of Carlos’s time than I am relieving him of work, but I started to actually be productive this week. Thus, I think I’m at somewhere around a seven out of ten for my third goal.

Additionally, Carlos said he’s pretty much done having me futz around with basics, like following the lines on a scrap piece of fabric, and from the end of this week forward I’ll mostly be working with real projects.

To Sum Up

There’s a bit of math in tailoring, but there are a lot more numbers. Overall, I’m quite happy with how my WISE project is going so far. I’ve improved a lot since my first day, where I knew literally nothing. Yesterday, I had to take some tags off a new pair of hiking pants for OPI, and I pulled out a razor blade and surprised my mom. Already, working with certain tools comes naturally to me. I’m really glad that I chose to work at a tailor.