project: Marah

project management for the things that really matter

sewing like a software developer

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There’s been so much rain in my area, some of my handier friends are threatening to build arks. I live in an apartment building, so the water would have to raise quite a bit for me to consider using my balcony as a boat launch.

And besides, I am handier with needle and thread than my circular saw.

To that end, i decided to make a mod-raincoat for summer weather. You may be asking what this has to do with project management, and the answer is quite a bit!

Be it an ark, a car, a piece of software or a rain coat, there’s an object in need of designing, and then the design must be broken down into segments. This is the art of transforming an amorphous idea, concept into a beautiful reality.

With the raincoat, I knew that I had wanted to make a rain slicker for quite some time. I had the general idea that it was red vinyl with black and red cherry cotton lining.

To accomplish my goal, I combined two common software techniques : Waterfall and Agile. To oversimplify things greatly, in Waterfall, everything is designed from the get go… from the top down. It’s a method that takes an autocratic approach, and there’s no room for inspiration or innovation from those actually implementing the design. In Agile, the design of the project/product organically arrives through a more collaborative approach, and the object is designed and implemented in short bursts.

I started with a familiar pattern — Simplicity 4403 — and laid out the pattern pieces.

After much cutting, pining, basting, and some trying things on, I realized exactly how humid our weather had been. There was no way that I could stand to wear a vinyl raincoat when it was so hot and sticky out. My Waterfall product requirements and instructions were not matching my understanding of the current reality.

I took an ice tea break, and thought about how I could make this pattern work. The things it had going for it included:

– fashionable collar, double breasted design

The things it had against

– there was way too much coat for the summer.

Sitting on my balcony, I experienced a pleasant afternoon breeze, and realized that the best way to save this coat was to cut off the arms. I thought I was crazy. A raincoat without arms? but really, what has been happening here is hot/humid/rain/humid/rain/hot/hot/humid.

In this case less was more.raincoat

Taking that as my mantra for the next phase of Agile-style, I removed the arms, and re-sewed the lining. That was better… more comfortable, but still not quite it. It needed more, “je ne sais quoi”. And then I realized that a curved hemline would provide a bit of French 60s modern that could just save this garment.

Well, I was right. The hem provided enough of an interesting line that combined with the sleeve-less-ness the overall look was more like a cape. It’s a bit like Little-Red-Riding Hood meets Paddington Bear, and I love it. It’s a one of a kind rain slicker that works exactly as I need it to given current weather conditions.


Written by marahrosenberg

31 July 2009 at 8:03 pm

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