Checklist: What’s in Your Design Lab?

Hey there,

As a part two to this series, I’ve decided to keep you (and myself) in check. In this post, we’ll go over tools and items you’ll need in your design lab and then later I’ll show you how to organize them. But first, we’ll break this post up into two segments: garment making and art.

Garment Construction

As a designer and fashion student there is a basic set of tools for everything. For creating an outfit, the three most important things you need is basic sewing skills, willingness to learn, and patience. Everything else really just makes sewing easier.

Some sewing needles, pins, a pin cushion, safety pins, thread, a seam ripper, tailor’s measuring tape, and a needle threader are really easy to come by and are staples that every designer should (and everyone, basically) should own.

Next are some useful items that are staples to those who do a good amount of sewing. These are also items that should be in a designer’s sewing box. These are a sewing machine ( with the basic footer attachments including zipper foot, and needles), bobbins, tailor’s chalk, fabric pencils, tracing wheel and paper, pattern paper, fabric shears, pinking shears, small scissors, a thin blade, an iron, and an ironing board.

The next set of items are necessary hacks for professional sewers and designers alike, meaning you can get by without them, but its a whole lot easier having them on hand. These items are a notebook and pen (for writing down measurements), dress form, biased binding, rotatory cutter and self-healing mat, no-fray spray (and other alternatives), a serger, a walking foot, an invisible zipper foot, hemming tape, fabric glue, different curve rules, a square rule, and a fabric swatchbook.

That was a mouth full. Anyway, there are two essential items that any aspiring (or established) designer must have on their person at all times. Other than basic needle and a small spool of thread, a designer should always have a compact retractable measuring tape, and a handy pocket-sized notebook.

A fabric swatch book comes in handy as a prearranged selection of fabrics that can give you an idea of what works well for a particular project as well as give clients a feel of what kind of fabric they may want a garment in.

Art and Illustration

Croquis Templates
Photo: The Pink Ravyn

The basic tools for a designer should always include regular sketching pencils and a sketch journal, but there are a few items that should always be in a designer’s lab.

First off, the preferred medium is a must.

Whether it is watercolor, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, or colored pens, all designer should have their preferred medium in a wide range of colors. Its best to invest in a quality brand of the product you’ll be using.

Next, quality graphite pencils ranging from 6H to 8B is best to do rough drafts, outlining and some details in finished illustrations. The pencil is a must and a range of them gives you maximum control over the quality of your art. Along with the pencil should be a strong and durable sharpener as well as a rubber, plastic and kneaded eraser.

Fineliners, especially in black provides an extra depth of detail that the pencil won’t always be able to achieve. White gel inks (and other gel colors) give you the ability to create spectacular white detailing on illustrations. Silver and gold inks provide a realistic look to any metals that may be included in your artwork. A black sharpie marker gives you the ability to create solid blacks and neon inks gives that extra bright color to your illustrations.

The next thing you must have is sketching paper in 8.5″ x 11″ paper and 11″ x 14″ paper. Unfortunately I use regular printer paper, but I actually tend to like it. If you use that and you like your artwork then do what is best. If necessary, you may have to get paper that is better suited for your choice of medium.

A croquis or fashion figure templates helps you get your proportions right on the first try so that you can focus more of details and drape of the garment. Its best to have a couple of these on hand in carious poses and views. A light box and tracing paper isn’t a must, but its good to have on you if you trace a lot.

I know that was a long read, but hey, its good to read. And there is a lot more where that came from.


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