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I spent all day yesterday out in Richmond at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University, in a master class with designer Julian Roberts. He was doing the class on Subtraction Cutting, something that he invented and has spent his life perfecting. He is very abstract in his thinking and as a result, I think everyone came away feeling inspired.

Subtraction Cutting forces you to look at the garment from a different perspective… the inner, or negative space, as opposed to the front and back view only. You start with the full cloth and take away parts. Instead of deciding what to keep, you decide what to get rid of. It’s quite a leap for someone who has always been dependant on rulers and calculations!

All we used was a sleeveless bodice block and a paper circle…. and two 3 yrd lengths of fabric. The two fabrics are sewn together to resemble an extremely long pillow case… one end open.

Julian demonstrates one idea with paper

Bodice block is positioned where Julian wanted it.

Julian demonstrates, using black fabric on one side and white on the other.  This makes it easy to see what he’s doing.

Negative space is removed

Julian joined the front SS to the back SS with a line that he eyeballed, then cut the negative space away. The piece that is removed is called the “Subtraction Pattern”. Just in case you like the final outcome so much that you would like to duplicate it. Otherwise, these creations are very much “one of a kind”.

Now he just pulls the two shoulder seams together and joins them at the machine. Then, starting at the armhole, he joined each SS. Then he let the rest of the fabric just fall.  Because of the way he laid his bodice on the fabric, the white portion of the “tube” ends up curving around to the front in a natural swirl.

Now the fun begins… Julian starts to decide where to incorporate the negative spaces where the body will pass through. Each space that is created is joined to a second space to form a hole on the inside of the garment, while the outside begins to transform in a truly organic way…. billows, folds, pleats, twists…. each one different and determined by the designers choices of fabrics and placement of the holes.This is the dress that Julian created in about an hour by removing 7 holes in total.These are the two fabrics that I chose… (what I had in my closet that didn’t clash too much)  It’s a cotton spandex, so it’s pretty heavy compared to what some of the others chose to use. I started by putting curved corners on my “pillow case”, and placing my bodice so that it wrapped around to the other side, and so it would have that curve across the front. I think I used  7 holes for mine as well….That’s me lurching forward in the centre of this shot. Probably a good thing, that way you can’t really see that I’m squeezed into a dress that’s 2 sizes too small!

Leslie and Julian

Here I am with Julian, and below is the dress I made on the proper size form.

A Tight Squeeze

Ok… so, you can see me squeezed into it after all….

The possibilities for this technique are virtually endless from what I can see. I’m looking forward to finding new ways to use this new knowledge! Who knows, maybe I’ll come up with some new avant-garde Buggy Bag®!

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