Written by JJ Goodrich
Hey everyone, JJ here to represent our fabrication/sewing team at Bowyer & Fletcher. I have been summoned away from my normal routine of prototyping, research papering and staring off into space, in order to write for you all. Currently, I’m a second-year graduate student here in Portland, Oregon majoring in Applied Craft and Design. I’ve dedicated the last twelve years of my life to industrial design and soft goods product development. Sewing has become my livelihood at various points in my life and has yet to let me down in terms of challenges and opportunities. Whenever I sew, it’s my Zen time. It’s rarely feels laborious and I am pleased to be armed with a skill that yields an extremely functional craft that modern civilization has been able to benefit and capitalize on. So much, that I am constantly surprised at those I meet who discount the ability to sew as some pansy pastime reserved for Girl Scout merit badges and old ladies with time to kill. No offense. Sewing doesn’t get a lot of street cred, but it’s a skill that’s nothing to sneeze at. Seamstresses make the entire garment industry possible. Without us, you’d all be stuck wearing ratty looking togas.
Luckily for me, the guys at Bowyer & Fletcher are like-minded and get that sewing is not only a craft, but also an art form. They came to me at the beginning of the summer to help them build their bow tie inventory. It didn’t take long for me to realize these guys were serious about what they were doing and were all individually dedicated to it. It makes all the difference in the world to be surrounded by people that are happy doing what they do. We try to make it as fun as possible while still keeping our eyes on the prize. After working with the team for several months, I feel there is a constructive amalgam of talents we all bring to the table that mean positive things for the future of this company.
My seamstress in crime, Alice, and I have spent a lot of time figuring out how to ensure what we are creating is the highest quality product our hands can possibly make. There is a surprising amount of measures taken to safeguard that each tie is made correctly. A slight deviation in the way each tie is cut out, interfaced and sewn can make a big difference in quality if performed incorrectly. If you think I’m being melodramatic, there’s a bag filled with sad, wonky ties in my studio tagged with a giant ‘oops’ sign that are the result of such deviations. As far as I know my bosses are unaware that ‘oops’ bag exists; they think I’m perfect. Our little secret, okay?
The fabric that’s chosen for our ties must be accompanied by a worthy interfacing. We choose woven interfacing to back our fabric. A good interfacing ensures that the tie won’t flop where it’s not supposed to after it’s tied and untied repeatedly. Next, we cut all our ties on the bias of the fabric (at a 45 degree angle). Why do we do this? Well, because the fabric drapes correctly, aesthetically looks better, but most importantly, a tie that’s cut and sewn on the bias provides a bit of extra stretch so you guys don’t completely choke yourselves out when wearing them. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I hardly want my man’s face to turn blue while we’re out and about…unless we’re at a really bad house party, and then it is actually the perfect exit strategy, “I’m so sorry, I would love to stay and watch home videos of your parakeet, but my date has appeared to have stopped breathing.”
Of course, as you might imagine, sewing a bow tie correctly isn’t something you can half-ass. There are many variables involved; the type and color of thread, needle style and size, stitch length, and tension settings on the machine all have to be adjusted correctly depending on which fabric we are sewing. For example, if there isn’t enough of a seam allowance sewn, it makes the blind hem hand-stitching portion of fabrication just brutal (take my word for it). When we started this endeavor, there was admittedly quite a bit of trouble-shooting, pattern tweaking, and a lot of experimentation and deliberation about what type of interfacing we were pairing with various fabrics. While this process can be long and at times frustrating, for me this is the most exciting stage of production.
It is nice to be involved with a company where I have met everyone I work for and with. This is truly a Portland company. Hiring and sourcing local labor is something that is important to Bowyer & Fletcher, and I couldn’t be more thankful. While I’m busy with my full time grad studies, I’m still more than happy to sew these bow ties with any free time I have. Important to add, I am not merely a sewing robot to these gentlemen. On the contrary, they welcome our opinions in all facets of design and engineering. One cannot create successful designs in a vacuum nor with an inflated ego. Thus we are all very committed to understanding what is out in the world that provides both inspiration and competition.
Alice and I are very critical of our craftsmanship and take pride in our work. We’ve been sewing for a combined total of over 30 years. We come from different creative sewing backgrounds, which is refreshing; we swap knowledge in the name of building a better product. A product we gladly stand behind and give a damn about.
Lastly, on a personal and somewhat non sequitur note, please do not wear a bow tie with a polo shirt. A gentleman I was talking to recently, claimed these two articles of clothing could in fact be worn together. Though it is still undetermined if said gentleman was drunk, I couldn’t disagree more about that wardrobe choice. I’m no fashion expert, but even James Bond couldn’t pull that look off, so don’t even try. Thank you.
Photography by Joel Fischer of Ocious Productions and J. Goodrich