My Body Model

A few years ago I excitedly stumbled upon the Kickstarter campaign for MyBodyModel. Erica Schmitz, the project founder, had come up with the brilliant idea to develop software which would turn *actual body measurements* into proportionate fashion drawings, with which to better visualise outfits or prospective sewing/knitting/crochet projects.

my body model: a lineup of different shapes and sizes of fashion croquis, all based on different, individual, diverse body shapes and heights

I have always struggled to accurately perceive my own dimensions and while I can easily outline a person on a page and identify it as myself, the chances of the size and proportions of that drawing being representative are very slim. This isn’t a problem unless I’m trying to put together an outfit or a design, based on my own body, and then I frequently end up with things that don’t look like I thought they would; are ridiculously too big or too small; or just don’t work because I haven’t thought through how various parts of the garment are going to intersect with the real lines, folds, curves and dimensions of my body.

I was thinking about this the other day when I dug out some bespoke stationery I made in 2011 with the ambitious aim to create a sound-themed collection of hand-knitted designs.

little drawing of a person, created as a kind of "neutral" croquis with which to visualise the development of the KNITSONIK handknits collection... this figure is wearing a close-fitting yoke sweater with a delightful array of useful-looking hip pockets

little drawing of a person, created as a kind of "neutral" croquis with which to visualise the development of the KNITSONIK handknits collection... this figure is surrounded by drawings of microphone cables

There are lots of reasons why the collection never reached completion. Commercial viability vs. woman hours involved was definitely a key factor. But, also, with slow and evolving creative ideas, and a body going up and down in size, the stationery – and especially the lithe little Felix drawing on which I intended to model my designs – began to feel remote and irrelevant. If you’ve never experienced dysmorphia or struggled with self-acceptance and your physical dimensions, that will probably sound silly… but perhaps the simplest way to put it is just to say that the stack of fancy KNITSONIK stationery, bearing its impression of my 2011 self-image began to feel like someone else’s project, and so took a back seat for a while. (The same cannot be said for the the pleasing functional stamps I also created for this project; these have seen an awful lot of use over the intervening years.)

rubber stamps - a gauge stamp with space to write sts and rows per in; a stamp saying KNITSONIK and featuring the image of a small mylar cone speaker; and a yarn-balls stamp with 3 balls and some criminally stretched typeface saying KNITSONIK 2011

Anyway… back to MyBodyModel. As soon as I saw the video for Erica Schmitz’s idea, I knew this was a tool that would be enabling, empowering and supportive to me, and which would assist any design process involving my own body. Whether styling a cowl I’ve designed for a photo shoot, or plotting the features of a sweater, I felt this tool would both enable me to better understand the relationship between body size and garment shape AND neutrally give me an accurate impression of my size.


MyBodyModel Felix outlined in black ink, with a small box beside me to the right, bearing spaces for key outfit/garment information

If you’ve taken my KNITSONIK Bullet Journaling Course, you’ll know that in the Creativity Section of the course – in 03.5: Fashion Drawings that Look Like You (optional course task) – I discuss the value of having my measurements all on one page in my journal, along with a reassuring and representative drawing. This helps not only with knitwear designs on which I’m working, but also with making the most out of the clothes I already own, those I’ve made, and those I plan to make.

The little drawings of me from the MyBodyModel app and also made from a tracing of a photo, mounted on card

I talk in that course task about different ways to easily create a stencil or make a tracing of a proportionate drawing of YOU to keep in your journal as an aid to project-planning. However, when one of my dear brothers took up an interest in designing and ordering bespoke laser-cut wooden items, I got the idea to have little wooden mini-mes as a further empowering KNITSONIK design aid. I spent a happy morning playing with Mark, my Measuring Tape, and the My Body Model app. Several Adobe Illustrator files later, I had an order placed with Then, in the post, BOOM.

Little wooden laser-cut mini-mes in various poses, from the back and the front, with hand on hip and with hands by my side, laser cut from 3mm thick Alder wood, and with KNITSONIK JAN 2021 burned into the wood, along with details like shoulder blades, knee creases and my waist

A small wooden collection of proportionately accurate mini-Felixes. These are somehow immediately fun and inviting to play with and to draw around and, as Mark remarked, are rather amusing to pose around the house like a miniature KNITSONIK posse. Imagine my glee when I learnt of an online class called “Paper Dolls for Grownups: Beginner Fashion Drawing for Making Clothes You’ll Love”. Guess who would be going to THIS class? That’s right: ME AND MY DOLLZ!

wooden mini-mes on the corkboard in my studio

Because I know you’ll ask, the best way to find out about forthcoming offerings is to sign up to Erica’s newsletter on the MyBodyModel website; that’s where I heard about it. The class was so great! Erica walked us through a range of amazing contemporary sewing patterns from different online designers, which was fascinating for me as I don’t sew very much and have clearly lost touch with the AMAZING world of online sewing patterns and how it’s grown in the last few years. The class introduced me to, for example, THE ULTIMATE JEANS from Muna and Broad, and a fantastic structured top from Seamwork which I immediately yearned to recreate in a thick, tweedy fabric.

What was especially interesting was learning, in a very accessible way, how to work between the schematic on the pattern website; photos of finished projects; and our MyBodyModel croquis, to better understand how different designs would look on our individual bodies. I have studied drawing and painting, but not ever through this technical lens, where the drawings are purely about understanding fit and drape. Drawing like this gave me a deeper appreciation for the value of a clear schematic, showing the points at which a garment should be hitting your body; and the value of good photos which clearly show how different fabric-types hang across/around it. Erica shared a variety of tips for looking at the images and translating them into little tracings and drawings, arranged on our croquis.

If you think this sounds a lot like playing with paper dolls, you would be right. But the play was surprisingly instructive. For example I, who automatically reach for the longest hemline in all tops, realised in my drawings of the Ashton Top from Helen’s Closet that maybe it would be more fun to have the hem hitting my high hip instead of being somewhere between my low hip and my thigh.

the Ashtop Top reaching to my true waist

the Ashton top reacing to my high hip

the Ashton top reaching to my low hip

Similarly, following Erica’s guidance on interpreting the photos and schematic of the Flor cardigan from Seamwork really helped me to understand how it would fit and flow around my body and that this wasn’t a look I’d really enjoy.

Felix wearing the wraparound Flor cardigan

Refreshingly, there was really no focus whatsoever in this class on aiming for a “right” or “wrong” approach to clothes, and nobody used the word “flattering”; this was non-prescriptive and empowering, and just about finding ways to better visualise, understand and play with how different designs would look on different bodies. Tracing shapes loosely around/over the croquis gives a lot of structure to work with, so we were never drawing freehand onto a scary blank page, and Erica’s instructions on how to find the key points on a schematic provided an almost “join-the-dots approach”. This makes it easy to locate key details like pocket placement and hem-length. The class made fashion drawings feel really accessible to me; I really, really loved it.

All the skills I learnt in Erica’s class are transferable to knitting, too, and somehow sitting down and doing these little drawings opened up new levels of thinking about garment design and new ways of playing with/understanding my extant wardrobe. I can see so many fun hours ahead, tracing garment shapes and outfits, celebrating clothes I already own, and inventing new ones with shapes and details discovered through this joyous mode of play.

MyBodyModel Felix and a massive stack of traced garment pieces

Thanks for reading this and I hope you have enjoyed learning about MyBodyModel! I’m sure the influence of these creative activities will ripple into all the things that I have planned for 2021; I have come away feeling inspired and full of new ideas regarding fabric descriptions, sizing notes, and schematics…

I’d love to hear from any of you who also use and appreciate MyBodyModel, and also about any positive online learning experiences YOU have had, through lockdown.

Stay well and speak soon,
Felix x


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