How do you like to make sewing plans?
My own process tends to be simple: I sit down in front of our sewing cupboard, take out my book of patterns and flip through them while looking at our folded stacks of fabric. If I think of a combination that I like, then I sketch it in a small notebook, noting any changes or adjustments that I want to make, and look to see if I have all the notions, thread, and trimmings to complete the project that I envision. Then I cut the fabric out and put it in a basket next to my sewing machine, so I can sew it within the next few weeks or months.
But I do sometimes do a little bit more in the planning process, which I will share here:
- Sometimes I like to poke around Pinterest looking for inspiring clothing. While I rarely fully imitate something that I see, I don't think it is a bad thing to make a copy of a garment that you love, so long as it is for personal wear and not to sell (since I think that would be disrespectful to the original designer). But so often, there is something you want to or have to change---whether it is the fabric, the color choices, the trims, or the hem length. Still, when you are stuck and can't think of what you want to make, looking at photos for inspiration can stimulate new ideas. You can also search on Instagram, Etsy, or the Met website, for instance. Do you have any other favorite places to look for inspiration when you are planning out new projects?
-It's also very helpful to check PatternReview, especially if you are trying out a pattern for the first time. Sometimes someone else has made it, and it can be very useful to see what they thought of the pattern, its instructions, construction, etc.
-The other thing that I find helpful when I'm planning out projects is to spend some time pondering my wardrobe, my needs, and my preferences. The best way that I've found to do this is to go through the questions in Colette's Wardrobe Architect at least once a year. Having a page of notes of personal preferences, colors, shapes, and favorite patterns and details is perfect if you want to challenge yourself to sew a capsule wardrobe, or just focus your regular sewing on the practical things that you need and want to wear. Participating in Me-Made-May has always been helpful as well, since I after I complete my yearly challenge I have a month's worth of photos to look at to see which silhouettes and colors I wear most often, what gaps in my wardrobe I still need to fill, and which patterns I should sew again.
What tools and techniques do you use when you are planning out your sewing projects?
I took advantage of a bit of rare morning sun this morning to take a few photos of our sewing corner to show that there has been some progress made over the past few weeks, albeit rather slow. But as I mentioned in my previous post (and a very heart-felt thank you to everyone who left a kind and encouraging comment!) I've been struggling with my emotions this winter, and the weather has been very dark and stormy recently---not good for my spirit and not good for taking photos for this blog. This week we're only due for one storm, and some sun after that, so I hope I can photograph one of my two completed dresses or my nightgown that I haven't reviewed yet, or maybe even the flannel dress in the photograph above that is waiting for its neck facing, sleeves and hem to get done in the next day or two. The brown dress and cape are both from my winter make-nine list. I think that after I finish these two garments that it might be time to set some of the winter projects aside for later in the year, though, because I'm itching to make some warm-weather clothes to remind myself that within two months there will be warmer weather and more sun again. I do have some thrifted wool cut out for sewing projects that will work well for unpredictable spring weather, though, so I will probably keep slowly working my way through the cold-weather pile, but not feel stuck to finishing it before I start adding light cotton things in, too. Like an Easter dress for next month! I chose a pattern and made a few modifications and cut it out of a recently thrifted sheet----and I'm looking forward to getting started on it. It has flowers on it, and that makes me hopeful. I love flowers, and all the green, growing things. I can't wait to plant a garden, even if it's very small, and mostly in pots. It will be such a pleasure to see the green tips of leaves nudging their way out of the ground again.
Speaking of cotton and sheets, below is a photo of some more sheets that I've thrifted recently and am eager to turn into summer dresses, skirts and blouses. I was pleased and surprised to find two of the same pink floral patterned sheet (one is a little bit more faded than the other) at different thrift stores over the past month. The sheets are on the right hand side, and the left hand side is a different pile of second-hand fabric, which I hope will be destined to become the first quilt that I've made in about a decade---and the first quilt that Mr Rat has ever made. Mr Rat and I have been saving fabric from his Hawaiian shirts for about three years now, with the idea of making a quilt out of them. When they get stained or ripped or don't fit well anymore, then Mr Rat gives them to me and I harvest the buttons and cut the shirt into big pieces of fabric. We intend to make them into a quilt in the "Windmill" pattern for our queen bed. It will likely be a long, slow project, but that's all right. It's nice to have something to pick up and put back down, doing a little bit at a time. The windmills will be half patterned Hawaiian shirt cloth and half cream colored cotton from the big sheet that I found at Goodwill on sale for $1 that is at the bottom of the pile. I think that we finally have enough fabric to get started! Maybe more than enough. . .
And last, there is a photo of Gia, because she is beautiful, and the best of friends. And now, I'd better get ready to take her on a walk while the sun is still shining. And hopefully we will be back again to post soon, and more regularly again.
I've been intrigued by how many #makenine references I've seen around the internet over the past few years. If you're not familiar, it is a challenge set up by Rochelle New of the blog Lucky Lucille and the small business Home Row Fiber Co. The concept is to choose nine sewing (or knitting or crocheting, etc.) projects to be completed throughout the year at any pace. Since my end of the year review shows that I make far more than nine projects a year, and one of my goals is to plan out more of my projects in advance, I thought that I'd try to make two sets of "make nine" plans: one for cold weather, and one for hot weather. Utah doesn't have much in-between weather---it hardly ever hits the 60s or 70s. Mostly it is in the 50s or below or the 80s and up. So while we live here, I think it might help to have two defined wardrobe planning categories, and I thought I'd start by sharing the nine patterns that I have cut out and ready to sew over the next three months of winter.
Starting in the upper left corner and going roughly clockwise:
McCalls 5994 - I have the jacket and skirt cut out of thrifted navy pin-striped wool.
Simplicity 7752 - I thought this might work to layer under the jacket of McCalls 5994 as another option from the matching skirt. This is cut out of a thrifted navy cotton-polyester sheet.
Simplicity 9842 - This is also cut out of the same thrifted navy cotton-poly blend sheet. I'm going to make the long-sleeved version, which should work well year-round, and I can wear it with the navy wool McCalls suit for a monochromatic look.
McCalls 5766 - I cut this out of some black flannel that I bought from JoAnns on sale. I wear my flannel dresses a lot in the winter, and would like another option. This one will be maxi length, and I'm excited to try out this pattern and to have a cozy long dress.
McCalls 5771 - This one is almost done, actually. It is laying on my sewing table waiting to have the cuffs finished and buttons done. I made it out of a thrifted white sheet with pale grey stripes. I think this will look nice with my grey wool skirt or grey wool jumper.
Simplicity 7880 - I just cut out a new version in black flannel, to add some warmth to my selection of skirt bottoms for the colder months. I wear my other versions a lot, but they are mostly made out of broadcloth, and I need some heavier, warmer ones.
McCalls 5531 - This is going to become my new brown wool winter coat (although lengthened, and with the skirt widened a little). My mom gave me the wool for my birthday, and I have it cut out, as well as brown flannel left over from another dress I cut out for interlining the bodice and sleeves, and lining that I bought using a birthday gift card from JoAnn fabric stores.
New Look 6073 - I started sewing this before I got my coat supplies, and have been taking a long time finishing all the hand top-stitching, which is why I haven't started my coat. But I'm getting close to finishing, and I think I should be able to wear it over my coat for extra warmth on extra cold days. This is made out of thrifted camel colored wool and thrifted rayon lining (a really lucky find, especially considering it is in a matching, slightly darker shade of camel-gold!).
McCalls 6209 - I have this cut out of brown flannel, also bought on sale at JoAnns.
I do have two other projects I'm tempted to add in, even knowing that I might not get all this done during the winter months. The other two are a black and white cotton-poly blend dress that would work for the warm months, too, and a brown twill jumper dress, which could also be worn year round. So if I don't get to them yet, they will probably be on my warm-weather list. And if I don't get to all of the projects I have cut out, I'm not too worried. I will just start up again on them in the fall, as they are all things I want to wear, and I will still need warm clothes next winter, too.
When planning out sewing projects (especially nine at once!), it's hard not to think about the time needed for the projects, the patience, the skill-----the endurance. When I was writing this post, I wondered if "thoughts on patience" might be the right title, but then I felt like endurance is more accurate: sticking with something until it's done, even if it is tiring, or hard. Mr Rat and I were having a conversation about sewing and other people's perceptions of it. When he tells his coworkers that he likes to sew, or when I mention that we sew to people at church, we both experience the same reaction: sewing is generally seen as being too time-consuming, and scary to start doing because it requires the acquisition of so much skill. But like making art, or learning a language or a musical instrument, it is really endurance that is required most of all. There are two important steps in sewing: first---to get started, and second---to stick with it. Mr Rat and I started this blog almost three years ago to record our projects and to make that record public in case our sewing pattern reviews and the other things that we post might be helpful to anyone else. But Mr Rat wondered if our current intermediate to advanced level of sewing might seem daunting to a sewing-newcomer, which made us both reflect on how we got started sewing. It was messy! It was frustrating. I learned the basics as a child, and I can assure you that there were temper-tantrums and crying on the floor, and claims that I'd never get over being scared of the machine. Anything that we do with our hands requires muscle memories built up over a long period of time to really get comfortable and skillful. Mr Rat just decided to recycle two of his oldest self-made shirts into fabric he can use as patches on new shirts. And they look so different from his most recent shirt, finished three years later. I had been sewing my own clothes as an adult for at least three years before we started this blog, so my first wonky projects are not on the internet. But I remember them, and how when I made them I wished to be better, and sew more complex things. And years later, I am a better seamstress (although striving to get better, still) and I can sew my own coats and capes and complicated blouses and dresses (with tucks and handmade buttonholes and darts that are not bubbly), things that I struggled to even attempt when I first started sewing regularly again.
I just wanted to mention this as an encouragement to the beginners, as well as all of you more experienced sewers: it's important to keep on enduring. Practicing is the only way to get better, and even if it is tiring, it is worth while. Because after a year, two years, a decade. . . then you can look back and see that elusive progress that you dreamed of. The process may feel hard, just like looking at a long list of projects can be daunting at the beginning. But I know that over months of an hour spent here or there at the sewing machine and the ironing board, these projects will get made and posted about here, and then I will get to have the pleasure of wearing them, and feeling like myself every day. And getting a little better at sewing along the way. All of our goals have to be reached one step at a time, and just sticking with it----enduring----is how to get there. It doesn't take anything more special than to just keep trying.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.