Not Martha

Project Runway, HP computers and me and Scott.

Project Runway screencapture

To celebrate their collaboration with Project Runway for season 9 HP invited me to take on a few of the episode challenges, at least in digital sketch form. I’m a huge fan of the show and have watched every single season so I was super happy to be part of this partnership. The lovely people at HP sent me a TouchSmart computer to use for the virtual creations. Project Runway very well might be my version of watching professional sports so this whole thing is sort of overwhelming.

Quick background: I entered college to study costume design where I learned that I really wasn’t that good at it. After college I stumbled into building websites and discovered that being able to pay rent is awfully nice. Somewhere in there I started this site and these days pretty much only use Photoshop to resize the pictures of stuff I’ve made out of meat. Scott, on the other hand, studied actual graphic design before being hired away to work on the web. He continues to design album covers and band posters for his various awesome music projects. He knows how to use Illustrator and send things to fancy print shops.

Which is why when Scott declared he would like to also play along with the Project Runway challenges that I began to feel a bit intimidated. He is so much better at this stuff than I am.

The set up: In the first episode of this season the Project Runway contestants were woken up early, told to grab a sheet off their bed and hustled out of their apartments still in their pajamas. They headed (actually, walked through the streets of New York!) to the workroom where they discovered that their first challenge was to create an outfit from the pajamas they were wearing and the sheet they were carrying. (Is this your new worst nightmare? Because it’s way up there among mine.) Happily for everybody involved they were given scrubs to change in to. They were also given the option of using fabric dyes. Also, scrubs look really comfy.

At this point I paused Tivo and Scott and I agreed we’d have to incorporate what we were wearing at that very moment in to our designs. We were wearing very boring stuff. I had on a white jersey tank top and loose fitting black jersey workout pants from Old Navy (meaning, really, pajama pants). Scott was wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. I wish I’d been wearing something lacy or at least patterned. (Did you see what the winner did using his boxer shorts?)

I also gave myself the rule that once I got started sketching something I wouldn’t be able to back down. It only seemed fair. This might have been folly on my part.

Here is my design:

my first design

Here is how I fantasize, in the style of the Project Project Runway girls, that this would have gone down: I took apart my white tank top at the seams and dyed half fuchsia and the other half a bright green. Both turned out more neon than I intended but I forged ahead. I turned them into a tight fitting top using the black jersey from my pants to create a collar, center stripe and hem. At this point Tim Gunn came around and showed a lot of concern when I admitted I hadn’t thought about what I was going to do for the bottom piece. I freaked out. Since everybody else appeared to be making smaller garments I decided to make a long flowy skirt and dyed bits of my sheet black, pink and green. Tragically the sheet color didn’t match jersey very well so I decided to keep the sheet fabric as far away from the top as possible. I constructed a skirt with vertical black stripes and blocks of color at the bottom.

In the middle of sewing long seams I was called in to give a workroom interview where I shakily admitted to the cameras that I was worried about my idea but it was too late to start over. I was only half finished sewing the skirt just as the end of the night was called. On the way out I contemplated scrapping the skirt altogether and making a mini out of my remaining fabric instead. (Seriously, in real life I went to bed that night giving some real thought to just drawing a different skirt and wondering how much fabric I might have left over if this were, you know, reality.)

It would have looked something like this:

my look with a mini skirt

But the next morning I decided I just didn’t have time and that the mini skirt would be, how to say this? Too Pretty Woman? I had to go with what I had. I spent some precious last minutes uselessly fretting towards the cameras and nearly forgot about accessories. I dramatically grabbed a pair of strappy heels for my model as she was leaving the room.

Here is Scott’s design:

the design from Scott

Scott created a fitted shell from part of the sheet he had dyed gray and appliqued strips of the black t-shirt to create asymmetrical stripes. He dyed the rest of the sheet a melon color, it turned out a bit more muted than he intended but decided to work with it. Lastly he deconstructed his jeans to turn into a cropped jacket with short sleeves. Scott remained fairly calm in the work room and when Tim Gunn came around he had everything ready to show, the jacket wasn’t finished but it was pinned to the form so Tim could see the outfit emerging. Scott worked quietly and the cameramen were unable to even get a shot of him that could later be edited into something that could be interpreted as “looking disdainfully at other people’s work”. During his workroom interview the producers weren’t able to get him to criticize anybody else so none of the footage was used. He worked carefully and had enough time to fit the pants well and finish the seams in the denim nicely. He decided to only accessorize with shoes.

Judging was swift. (We’re still in fantasy mode here, just in case you started reading somewhere in the middle.) I was in the bottom three, Scott was in the top three. My vision and taste level were questioned, I tried to explain that I had run out of time but was reminded that being decisive is part of the competition.

Heidi didn’t absolutely hate the top, Nina had that expression she gets, Michael Kors generously pointed out that I had at least attempted something sweeping, Nina Ricci said something vaguely complementary but ultimately unswaying. I barely managed to stay on until next week and groveled to the judges. I later showed an insincere amount of concern for the loser before Tim Gunn had to come and tell them it was time to leave. Whew. Scott didn’t win but showed pleasant surprise that his first outfit for Project Runway was so well received and heartily congratulated the winner.

The end.

Scott also sent me this, his first idea that he feared might be taking the challenge a bit too literally:

Scott gave me a funny look

I used ArtRage to create my outfit, it’s a painting program that allows one to use the touch screen on the HP TouchSmart and tablet computers. I fiddled with the settings as I was using it, thus the pencil strokes in one of my drawings is very different from the other (which is to say, entirely my own doing). I started off making my own fashion croquis, a figure drawing template that is based on nine heads of height. (Or rather for models, real humans are usually drawn seven heads tall. For me? Six.)

sketch nine heads tall

I got as far as you see above before outright cheating and finding a few croquis templates here which I could trace. I shared the templates with Scott too, so I guess it wasn’t really cheating. Right? Right. Anyhow, this time around I used the pencil setting in ArtRage because it reminded me of all the Prismacolor pencils of my past. Next time I think I’m going to try to work with the art marker option. It was different to draw right on a screen, and fun, but I could definitely use more practice.

Some thoughts about the HP TouchSmart:

  • It’s really fun to have a huge, bright screen in my office. I bought my last laptop based on it’s portability and weight (under 3 pounds) so the screen on it is pretty darn small. In comparison the TouchSmart screen feels like a huge upgrade.
  • One of the most fun discoveries was that I could play Crayon Physics Deluxe using the touch screen. You can play Crayon Physics without a touch screen, in fact I bought it before the TouchSmart made it’s way into this house, but the game is extra fun to play by drawing things on a huge screen with your finger. It’s currently my very favorite thing. For serious like. (FYI: I originally bought the game as part of the Humble Indie Bundle 3 which is five DRM-free PC/Mac/Linux indie games at a choose-your-own price, limited time, go for it now if you’d like any or all of them. This thing? It is good.)
  • Please excuse the ick factor here: The TouchSmart screen doesn’t smudge the way you might expect it to from being touched so much. I’m not quite sure how it all works but I take the same amount of care when touching the TouchSmart as I do when using my iPhone and the TouchSmart screen has remained nice and clean.
  • The built-in webcam appears to be the most flattering I have encountered so far. I’d share screen caps but apparently I’m unable to smile and/or not roll my eyes on camera. It’s something I’ll work on.
  • The touchscreen desktop comes already set up with buttons for Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, RSS feeds, weather, a calendar you can sync with your own and a few other common things. Once you sign in to various services you’re set. HP also offers a movie store that lets you flick through movies, watch previews and decide to rent or purchase right there. Now, I can watch trailers from my laptop as well but somehow the ease of the slide-y interface makes it extra appealing. I’m finding movies that I’d like to watch that I passed over when I saw them inside Netflix. There are a few other instances where a touch interface on a large screen is pretty darn cool (solitiare! photographs!) but the movie trailers are catching my attention, somebody behind the scenes is doing something right.

A note: I was not financially compensated for this post.

· comments [18] · 08-3-2011 · categories:technology ·

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kim // Aug 3, 2011 at 4:00 am

    looks like great fun! i have never seen project runway, but it sure sounds interesting!

  • 2 Beth // Aug 3, 2011 at 5:29 am

    I love PR. It will be fun to watch what you come up with. Cool getting the HP touch smart! I don’t even sew and I wish I was doing a doll version after reading your earlier post!

  • 3 kat // Aug 3, 2011 at 6:14 am

    I’m so happy that we aren’t the only ones who imagine our time in the workroom & what all the judges opinions would be! What a laugh.

  • 4 joanne // Aug 3, 2011 at 6:18 am

    I LOVE your design! Your idea is so much more high fashion and “out there”. Scott’s idea is … safe. If I were to judge, you both would have been safe, but Scott would’ve been chastised for playing it safe.

  • 5 Margot // Aug 3, 2011 at 7:26 am

    LOVED your commentary with colors not working out and asides to the camera. My husband and I often discuss what we would do; as well as how we’d “fix” the outfits of others.

    So envious (and thrilled for you) that HP chose you to “compete” as well.

  • 6 kendra // Aug 3, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Haha! You “made it work!” Sounds like what we do here…except my daughter sits with an old -fashioned sketchbook. Hope this will be a weekly feature!

  • 7 Maggie // Aug 3, 2011 at 7:42 am

    This is a great idea – yes. All of it. This whole post.
    I, too, had aspirations of being a costume designer and as of yet have had not a whole lot of success.
    I, too, cheat and use croquis from the internet.

    With Borders closing, I’ve actually bought a couple books on fashion drawing. I feel like if I were any good at it, I’d have a lot more fun with fashion design. I’d have a better portfolio. Using the Project Runway challenges as inspiration is a GREAT idea!

  • 8 Swellanor // Aug 3, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I love the story at least as much as the designs!

    Have you heard of Project Project Runway? The ladies of the Just Crafty Enough blog challenged readers to follow along with this season of PR, doing each design challenge in miniature- to fit a fashion doll!

    I had to get involved, and I’ve had a lot of fun with the first project. Designers are posting photos of their models and materials to the Flickr Group now, but tomorrow is the first “Runway Day” when finished designs will be posted. Check it out!

  • 9 Michelle // Aug 3, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Love this post. I hope you decide to do this for every episode.

  • 10 Stacey // Aug 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Brilliant!! Loved the play by play, as well as y’alls designs!!!

    Love PR!!!

  • 11 susan dennis // Aug 3, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Very fun. What a great idea HP had and you made it even better!

  • 12 megan // Aug 3, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks everybody! We had a lot of fun making up designs and making up how it would have gone.

    Swellanor – Yes, I followed them last year and wrote this post in the style, and made sure to credit them up there under my first illustration. I wish I had time to sew doll clothes as well but I cannot fit it in!

  • 13 Natalie // Aug 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    OMG!!!!!!! That was freaking awesome and hilarious! Loved every minute.

  • 14 Rachel // Aug 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Loved this post!!! Please keep them coming!

  • 15 Swellanor // Aug 3, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Oh, now I see the link! I must have been skimming to get to the fantasy itself :P

    I definitely imagined Tim Gunn’s response to my design while I was working- I’ll have to work on my inner Nina, Michael, and Heidi!

  • 16 Lindsay // Aug 3, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Oh man, this is a hilarious post. I’m exhausted and starving (hello, it’s after 9 and I have yet to think of dinner) and I STILL read every single word. :)

  • 17 Anita // Aug 4, 2011 at 7:03 am

    LOL. This was an awesome post. I can totally see this as a new internet niche…PR fanfic. Love it. I can’t wait to see what you do next w/ this. :-)

  • 18 Margot Perry // Aug 31, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I am actually looking at several HP Touchsmart models right now. I have done extensive research and decided this would be the best pc for my family. Which model did they send you? I had no idea how many different ones there were until I started researching them. Now I am just trying to decide whether or not to splurge on the TV tuner or bluray, which you can customize and add to your touchsmart. Can you email me offline and give me some more feedback about your touchsmart, as far as what you liked and didn’t, so I know what to look for or at? TFS!! misingyu2 at gmail dot com

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