Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Topological Dressmaker

Speaking of "sewing gymnastics", I dug out this article about the topology of sewing. This copy of Scientific American from July 1993 is crumbling, so I scanned it in at high-res. Click on the images to read the very amusing article, The Topological Dressmaker by Ian Stewart. Sadly, Martin Gardiner's columns for SciAm were republished, but Ian Stewart's have not (to my knowledge). If you like this article, may I suggest you buy his book, From Here to Infinity? I read it in grad school and remember it fondly.

It seems like there have been a flurry of blog mentions of dressmaking topology. Trena over at Slapdash Sewist explained her method of lining a dress today. She appears to insert the zipper after attaching the lining at the armhole and neck. I do the zipper first, the way Kathleen showed in her centered zipper tutorial.

Unlike the example in Kathleen's tutorial, I sewed the facing and the dress at the neck and armholes only to about 1" below the shoulder seam. Then I sew the shoulder seams on the dress and as much of the facing as I can handle. Next, I sew the last bit of the neck and armhole curves near the shoulder seam. Lastly, I sew the side dress and facing seams in one continuous seam. It does sound like gymnastics, doesn't it. If I don't sew up the center back seam first, I can use Trena's much easier method or another method I learned from Threads. We will save that for another time.

Read the Topological Dressmaker. You don't have to understand it all, but you will have new respect for dressmaking. And, perhaps, it will help you understand why I love Mathematics enough to major in it (even at a famously "user surly" university for undergraduate Math students). I shoulda made and sold "I survived" t-shirts for our Math commencement. I think that all 4 women who graduated would have bought them. ;-)


  1. In the tutorial, I really only intended to illustrate zipper application, not facing sewing method and it wasn't for sleeveless meaning the armhole construction was involved (which is a good idea btw). Fwiw, I sew lined garments (even the bags I'm doing recently) as you said you do except I don't sew the side seam of facing and garment in one pass. I've been meaning to write about why. It's a stupid thing really and I have a reputation for being curmudgeonly as it is so I should just shut up.

    Thanks for the info on topological dress making. I've also written about mobius and klein bottles (even made one) but never knew about this resource.

  2. Kathleen wrote up the reasoning behind her method. It is here:


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