Monday, October 6, 2014

Sewing with Half a Plan

Last fall, Stitcher's Guild announced the annual SWAP (sewing with a plan) contest for 2014.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to 1. actually sew with a plan and 2. make a sewing commitment and work toward a goal.  It seemed simple enough: 3 3-packs + 2 wild cards for a total of 11 garments.  Honestly, I really needed to do this!  I spend most of my time at home wearing things I wouldn't be caught dead in out in public, my closet is getting pretty bare, and I went to Hawaii for a week this summer which meant I'd be seen by other people for a whole week. Definitely a good excuse for new clothes!

I started with a pretty good plan, I think.  3 pack #1 = two skirts and a top; 3 pack #2 = two knit tops and shorts; 3 pack #3 = 2 button-up shirts and capris; wild card #1 = white denim jacket (for the airplane); wild card #2 = casual dress.  I even had a color scheme in mind: "black, white and brights".  My go-to colors are pretty much black, white and fuchsia, and a nice bright turquoise could work well in the mix also.  So far so good, I was ready to go!

All of this happened last year, in early winter.  The only obstacles left were patterns and fabric.  (Hey, at least I had a sewing machine, right?)  I have some extreme fitting issues so most patterns require HUGE amounts of adjustments to fit me well.  I have one good t-shirt pattern, one adequate button-up shirt pattern, and a great pencil skirt pattern, if only I can remember which one it is.  It's way past time to come up with a good pants/shorts pattern, I had a jacket pattern that could be altered fairly easily, and I figured I could wing the rest.  So I felt pretty confident about the patterns.

The fabric on the other hand...  I'm pretty sure I live in a fabric desert.  It's probably because I'm so close to San Francisco, but I'm nowhere near close enough to just run to the Bay Area for a couple hours of fabric shopping.  No, it requires a whole day, and a willing husband to drive me because I don't do traffic.  Oh, and I've actually never found a Bay Area fabric store that I absolutely love and can count on to have what I want at a price I can afford.  My first breakthrough came in the form of an email from Mood, a half-price sale on a stretch sateen with a black, white and turquoise (sort of) print.  The colors were good, the print reminded me of Hawaii, and I could plan the rest of my wardrobe around it.

Armed with my inspiration fabric, I set out to find some co-ordinates.  I planned a fabric shopping trip in Los Angeles in December.  I don't know why I expected to find summer fabrics in December, but I did my best and here's what I ended up with:

1.  White stretch denim (ordered online from
2.  Pink & black striped shirting from Mood LA
3.  Blue - gray striped shirting from Mood LA
4.  Teal-ish stretch denim from Michael Levine
5.  Teal knit from Mood LA
6.  Sateen print from
7.  Knit stripe from Mood LA
8.  Knit stripe from Michael Levine

As of now (October 2014), only 4 of these fabrics have been made into anything.  Here are my results (the black capris are previously purchased):

And here's why I was sewing with only "half a plan":

1.  Because that sounds better than saying "sewing with a poor plan"
2.  I don't wear big prints.  Never have, never will.  Nothing personal against the prints, it's just not my personality.
3.  Teal is not a bright color and it's not a great color for me, although it definitely looks better in photos than in real life.
4.  The teal top (Vogue 8534) looked like it should fit with no alterations.  It didn't.  And the more I altered, the worse it got.  
5.  The teal skirt (self-drafted) flared from the waist.  It should have flared from the hip.  The knit is a little heavy so the folds stand out away from my abdomen, adding more bulk than I need or want.  It is also, in my daughter's words, a difficult length.  What looks great on a fashion model looks frumpy on a middle aged woman with short legs.  
6.  The pencil skirt hits at the widest part of my calves.  And it's not very pencil-y.  I spend much of my skirt-wearing time sitting at church where I teach teenage girls (among other things) to dress modestly and keep their clothing not too short or too tight.  I figure they'll go shorter and tighter than I do, and of course skirts look shorter and tighter while sitting.  I think in this case I over compensated.  
7.  The white denim I ordered ended up looking like polyester gabardine from the 70's.  I knew it had some polyester in it when I ordered it, but I expected cotton-wrapped polyester, not textured polyester.  I washed it thinking that might help, but it only got spongier.  I haven't ordered any fabric online since.

I didn't complete the SWAP, I have some clothes in my closet I'll never wear and some fabric in my stash I'll never use, but this was a valuable experience and I'm so glad I did it!  The t-shirts turned out great.  The one with shorter sleeves is nearly worn out because I've worn it so much.  The other t-shirt is currently my favorite article of clothing but since it's a medium weight poly/cotton/spandex blend I haven't been able to wear it much in the summer.  Once the weather cools off I'll be wearing it all the time.  I've actually worn the pencil skirt several times.  As long as I don't look in the mirror it's not too bad!  It's lined with stretch satin and it's super comfortable and luxurious feeling.  I guess I'll keep it until I replace it with something better.  The teal skirt might be re-cut into a straight skirt or it might be donated to charity, I haven't decided yet.  The teal top...  well it's a total loss.  I wore it once and felt so self conscious that I'll never wear it again.    

I'm still excited about some of the fabrics, even if they didn't work in my SWAP.  If I ever get a good jeans pattern worked out the teal denim will make some amazing skinny jeans.  The two shirting fabrics have some potential as well.  

My new plan, which will work much better for my situation, is to come up with a few basic patterns that I can use over and over again, and THEN I'll be ready to tackle a whole wardrobe.  First on that agenda: jeans.

1 comment:

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