Dressmaking as a ‘meaningless splatter of colours

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can never be possible without fabrics. A fabric is a material dressmakers use
when designing and making dresses. There are many types of fabrics with
different compositions available, however, certain pertinent factors have to be
considered before choosing a specific fabric. Such factors include where the
outfit will be worn, what occasion, and the figure type, among others.

 Traditionally, many Ghanaians use African
prints to sew dresses and these are mostly cotton based, conveying messages
motifs arranged in different forms. Textile
design is essentially the
process of creating designs for woven, knitted or printed fabrics or surface
ornamented fabrics. It also refers to the various processes by which fabrics
are printed in coloured design (decoration.html, 12th August 2011). According
to Digolo and Mazrui (2006), textile designing is the patterning of an
essentially plain fabric to render it more appealing or to serve a particular
purpose.  Textile designers are involved with
the production of these designs, which are used, sometimes repetitively, in
clothing and interior decor items. Textile designing is a creative field that
includes fashion design, carpet manufacturing and any other cloth-related field.
The creative process often begins with different art mediums to map concepts
for the finished product (Collier et. al, 2009).

Abraham (2013) stated that, every design is
created keeping in mind certain basic elements and principles of design. A
design may not have a function, but may simply appeal to the senses (Lalwani,
2010a). Even for such purposes, it is essential to use the various principles
of design. For instance, textile art or textile design is sometimes
incomprehensible, yet it follows the principles of design so that what you
would perceive as a ‘meaningless splatter of colours and shapes’ is still
visually appealing (Lalwani, 2010b).

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Collier (2009) observes that, traditionally,
drawings of woven textile patterns were translated into special forms of graph paper called point papers, which were used by the weavers in
setting up their looms. Some of the latest advances in textile printing have
been in the area of digital printing. The process is similar to the computer
controlled paper printers used for office applications. In addition,
heat-transfer printing is another popular printing method which is used in the
textile design. Patterns are often designed in repeat to maintain a balanced
design even when the fabric is made into yardage. Repeat size is the distance
directly across or down from any motif in a design to the next place that same
motif occurs. The size of the repeat is determined by the production method.
For example, printed repeat patterns must fit within a particular screen sizes,
while weaving repeat patterns must fit within certain loom sizes. There are
several different types of layouts for repeated patterns. Some of the most
common repeats are straight and half drop. Often, the same design is produced
in many different coloured versions, which are called colorways. Once a pattern
is complete, the design process shifts to choosing the proper fabrics to get
the design printed on or woven into the fabric. Textile designers use specific
principles to organize the structural elements of a given design. The
principles include unity, balance, emphasis, proportion, and rhythm. The way
these principles are applied affects the outcomes of the design. 

Designers might want to use the method of dyeing or printing to create their design. There are many printing methods.

(Blotch) Printing
Block Printing

Collier (2009) further explains that, in art
and iconography, a motif is an
element of an image. A motif may
be repeated in a pattern or design,
often many times, or may just occur once in a work. A repeat is the point where
an identical design begins again on a textile. It is also the distance between
identical figures in a repeat pattern, the number of inches before the whole
pattern starts over. Textile designers use repeats because they can enable
large pieces of fabrics to be printed without breaks or awkward gaps in a
pattern. The goal is to make a textile design look like it never ends. It can
be an effective decorative strategy and can be done on almost any type of
fabric. Today, with digital technology, the variety and complexity of repeats
can be almost endless.

of Fabric Patterns

Repeat patterns may run horizontal or
vertical. Designers have many ways of taking a single figure and covering a
textile with it (Boyd, 2015).


block repeat is the simplest style of repeat. It is simply formed by stacking
the original repeat in a basic grid. The figure, always pointing in the same
direction, appears over and over again in rows that line up vertically and

block repeat can have an amateur look if used in the wrong situation, but it
can look great with simpler, more geometric motifs.


half-brick repeat takes each horizontal row and staggers it so that it does not
line up with the rows above and below it. This repeat pattern gets its name
from the resemblance to how bricks are laid to form a brick wall. The figure is
placed over and over again along a horizontal row. Then, when the next row is
placed, instead of forming a simple grid, the pattern is offset so the figures
do not line up vertically. Half-drop is in the vertical direction.


drop or half-drop repeat is very similar to the brick/half-brick, but the
motifs are offset vertically instead of horizontally.

repeats are another very common type of repeat of fabric and surface design.


diamond repeat is also used quite frequently in fabric and surface design. It
is exactly as it sounds – a repeat of diamond shapes. The motifs can be as
simple as one diamond put into half-drop or half-brick repeat (with some
overlap), or each diamond can be a combination of smaller motifs.


ogee repeat is similar to the diamond repeat in shape – but the design ogee is
more rounded on two sides with the other two sides coming to points. As with
the diamond repeat, it can be a simple repeat of ogee shapes in a half-drop or
half-brick arrangement, or it can be more complex with overlaps and
combinations of smaller motifs.


toss/random repeat utilizes a random arrangement of various motifs to create a
very organic, non-linear design. It is very popular for the floral patterns.
Elements of the design are “tossed” onto the fabric.


stripe repeat could be simple stripes in a single colour or a palette, but it
can also be single motifs that create stripes for a totally different look.


in its simplicity to the stripe repeat, the ‘dot’, repeat is as it sounds – an
arrangement of dots. But not necessarily only dots. They can be other small
motifs arranged with a bit of space between them to emulate dots, like this:


is a variation of a stripe repeat, plaid/check/gingham repeats can be used to
beef up a collection and provide a variety of designs.


is a repeat of two or more of the types shown above to create single design or
a toss layout over a plaid for a more interesting and complex appearance.

2.5.3 The Wax print

 ‘African print,’ is a general term used to
identify a category of textiles using 100% cotton fabric in vibrant colours,
which are printed by machine using wax, resins and dyes so that they have a
batik-like effect on both sides of the fabric (Akinwumi, 2008). African print
goes by a multitude of names such as Dutch wax print, Real English wax,
Veritable Java print, Guaranteed Dutch Java, Veritable Dutch Hollandais, among
others. The development of the prints has been referred to as the “result of
long historical process of imitation and mimicry”. How exactly Dutch wax prints
became popular in West Africa is of different views. However, what is known for
certain is that, the Dutch wax started as a cheap mass produced imitations of
Indonesian batik locally produced in Java and colonial powers, particularly the
Dutch and the English, played a heavy role in its industrialization and
popularization. They are actually European-made textiles that African countries
have embraced and made their own in sales and marketing vernacular (Akinwumi,

(2013) explains that, wax print is the most worn and the most valued fabrics in
West Africa, but it is also the most imitated. Its principal characteristic is
the unique combination of pattern and colour. The introduction of wax-print in
West African culture consists of the ascription to the fabric, a series of
local names, permitting its integration into various local strategies of

Okougha (2010) asserts that, the story begins in the Dutch East Indies (now
Indonesia), where locals have long used the technique of a wax –resist dying
basically applying wax with a tjanting
with a cloth, and then dying over that wax to create a pattern- to make a
batik. The creation of this spectacular fabric using wax originated in the
1800’s when a merchant travelling to Java, saw the people wearing exotic
clothing and brought a description of the wax process home. This Holland wax
fabric was then introduced to Africa in the 1900’s and it was instantly
accepted and has become the most widely used textile.

(2013) cited in  Kroese  records that, the
cloths were first brought by some Ashanti soldiers who were given to the Dutch
commissioner by the then Asantehene to serve in the Dutch army in some colonies
in Indonesia. The soldiers were attracted by the aesthetic qualities of the
Javanese prints and brought samples of the cloths to the Gold Coast after their
service. The Gold Coast women upon seeing the cloths became very fascinated and
expressed special interest in the prints which led to the establishment of
trade links between Holland and the Gold Coast upon which large quantities were
brought to the Gold Coast.

(2007) attests that wax print originated from Java, from the Javanese batiks
which were produced by hand with local technology. After the European
industrialists industrialized the production of the batik effects, the
industrial reproduction process was poor in quality as it left fine lines on
the fabric that resulted from the cracking of the wax technique. These
imperfections though unappreciated by the Javanese, were highly appreciated in
West Africa, where the prints became popular and gained wider market.

 According to Osei-Bonsu (2001), the only
foreign textiles in the Gold Coast before the Javanese prints, were dyed
fabrics from Manchester. The Manchester dyed fabrics could not compete with the
wax Javanese prints and lost their popularity. When the British realized this
drastic change, they sought for diverse ways to improve upon their dyed fabrics
and this led to the production of imitation wax prints. Unfortunately for them,
they did not succeed the competition for the Gold Coast women were able to
distinguish between the imitation wax prints from the real wax print.
Osei-Bonsu further indicates that, the term “Dumas” which popularly became
known for real wax prints from Holland was coined from the name of a Lebanese
merchandiser who first traded in wax print with the Gold Coast women. The
British eventually took over the trade through one of her leading firms in
Africa known as the United Africa Company (UAC). The introduction of these
prints in Ghana, according to Osei-Bonsu, compelled Ghana to develop its own
textiles adding that Ghanaian textile designers, from the onset, are able to
make designs, give them names and send them to Holland to be printed and
brought back for sale in Ghana.

 Due to the acceptability of the African
prints, it has become the most common cloth in every Ghanaian home worn on all
occasions. These fabrics have significant communicative values, indicating
status or wealth and conveying messages as a means of non-verbal expressions in
official occasions, political avenues and for social purposes. Wayne (2009)
asserts that, African prints have remained the most desired fabrics which has
become an integral part of the vibrant culture of West Africans worn as clothes
by men, women and children for ceremonial programs such as naming (outdooring),
marriage and funeral ceremonies.

2.6 Body forms

making is the means of achieving a shape around the body/block so that although the body/block remains constant, the
outline of clothe often changes
dramatically in different period of fashion. This implies that, patterns are a simple outline of the front and the back of a
bodice and skirt, and a sleeve from
which any style pattern can be developed or generated (Aldrich, 1994; Joseph-Armstrong, 2010; Shoben & Ward, 1990)

major role of patterns in garment designing and construction require the
pattern maker to use, accurate body measurement, analyse the figure, and the
design to be created very well, so that’s a good fit can be achieved.

The  techniques involved in making a pattern are a
highly skilled craft which calls for technical ability, and a sensitivity to
interpret a design with a practical understanding of garment construction. For
successful dress designing patternmaking forms the fundamental step. This
function connects design to production by producing paper templates for all
components which have to be cut for completing a specific garment. Patterns can
be formed by either a two dimensional (2D) process or three-dimensional (3D)
process. Often a combination of methods is used to create the pattern (Amoako
Asare, 2015).

and Kundel (1992) stated that, there are three ways of producing patterns for
garments; drafting, draping, and bought or commercial pattern. In a study by
Pritchard (2013), she categorized techniques for making manual pattern into
three: flat pattern making, draping and modifying (also known as reverse

Hollen and Kundel’s categories for pattern making (Drafting, Draping and
Commercial pattern) with Pritchard’s categories (Flat patternmaking, Draping
and Modifying), draping was the only common technique that was found in both
categories. Due to the fact that commercial pattern is an end product of either
one or a combination of drafting, flat pattern making, draping, or modifying it,
should not be included in Hollen and Kundel’s category. On the other hand,
Pritchard did not state drafting as one of the ways of making patterns.

to Joseph-Armstrong (2010), drafting is a system of pattern making that depends
on measurements taken from a form, or model to create basic foundation, or
design patterns. From Armstrong’s definition of drafting, it can conclude that
flat pattern making is dependent on drafting hence, should not be left out when
categorizing techniques for pattern making.

on the literature on techniques or methods of making patterns discussed, it
could be concluded that, there are four major manual techniques for making
patterns from which garments can be constructed (Amoako Asare, 2015). It
includes three two-dimensional techniques; drafting, flat pattern making and
reverse engineer/modifying and one three-dimensional technique; draping.

Workshop as an intervention

of the major concepts influencing the present day teaching and learning of
practical skills is the theory of selective learning proposed by Hull and
Spencer (as cited by Opare, 2011). According to Hull and Spencer, complex
learning can be achieved by building the foundation of simple principles. This
implies that when the person discovers the basic principles in a learning
situation, he or she can translate it into complex situations. Therefore the acquisition
of basic knowledge by the learner through selection of basic learning
principles involving experiments will enable the learner to discover and build
complex principles.

of dressmaking skills involves a learning period where the student (apprentice)
has to undergo training where basic skills are taught. As the years advance,
complex skills are added. It is impossible to attain all the skills within this
defined time period and therefore regular, interventions through workshops to
upgrade skills is pertinent if the graduated apprentice into ‘Madam’  can stay in business, grow and expand both to
meet local and international clothing market. Another theory that provides a theoretical
basis for the study is Maslow’s theory of Career Education (1954) as cited by
Opare, (2011). Maslow maintained that success in working life requires not only
the skills needed to perform a job, but also the attitude, values and general
abilities, which lead one to want to work productively, and which influence
one’s ability to function as a productive member of society over a lifetime. To
Maslow, career education is the education that makes available to all those
pre-requisites, attitudes, knowledge and skills necessary to choose, prepare
for and pursue a successful career throughout life. Career educationists are
mindful of the fact that some learners learn best from “hands-on” experiences
and others from abstract concept.



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