Making a Plan: Summer Sewing

Whew! Part 2 was a job, wasn’t it? I had no idea I would take so long with it! But, I did get it done in the end!

Naturally, I have made a summer sewing plan–you know how I am! One of my major goals is to prepare for next fall. A new teaching job demands a new teaching wardrobe, am I right? ūüėČ But, I also need to stay cool and clothed in these sweltering summer months ahead.

Here’s what’s in store:

Maritime

So excited about this pattern! My other Grainline makes, Moss and Archer, get worn all the time. You already know–because people far more important than me have already told you–that the patterns are impeccably drafted and her directions and sew-alongs are super helpful during construction. This pattern also is one of the patterns up for one of the coveted Top 11 TNT spots. (I imagine my patterns all sitting around discussing who will make it through to the finals. Some of them are probably practicing their gracious loser face while secretly rehearsing their acceptance speech.)

I plan to live in these all summer and pair them with my Archers, my cheerful Sorbetto, and the two tees I’ve made so far. I have other tops in mind, but they might not¬†get made this summer. (Look at me practicing restraint!)

I find that I really like stretch wovens for bottoms. They just work well with my shape and are far more comfortable than wovens without stretch. Not to mention being much easier to fit! I went with two very basic neutrals, though in the future, there shall be prints. Just you wait and see!

Foxglove

This was originally supposed to be a slightly modified Lady Skater. However, when the lovely fabric arrived from Girl Charlee, I failed to notice that it had been cut twelve inches too short (I did write to GC two months after receiving the fabric and they very kindly gave me a store credit for a half yard even though it was outside the return window and I had actually washed the fabric–check your fabric upon arrival, my friends!). Also, the fabric was a bit too narrow for me to do the kimono sleeve mod I had in mind. So, when I found out about this brand new tank pattern on¬†Sew Charleston, it seemed like a perfect match.

Sleeveless and loose-fitting, it is the ideal top for southern summers and is going to be smashing with my Maritime shorts.

Skater

(Yes, I know that’s not a Lady Skater line drawing. Such a thing does not exist, sadly.) I will be sewing this mid-weight ponte dress in the sultry Southern summer fully aware that I will not be wearing it until the heat and humidity die off in the early autumn. I have two very slight mods in mind for this dress inspired by the red dress Zoey Deschanel wears in the opening credits of New Girl. You may remember me mentioning it in this post.

I’m not going to pleat the skirt since A-lines and semi-circles work best for my shape, but I do want to play with the sleeve shape a bit and maybe add some other details that are floating around my brain.

Skater Mod

When I saw this sweet aqua and coral plaid knit on Girl Charlee, I was immediately inspired to make a Colette Jasmine/ Lady Skater mash up top based on¬†this top which I pinned many moons ago. I confess it’s not the most practical choice for a separate since what I really need is tops to go with my red Moss, but every now and then you have to let your fancy be your guide. It will work with both of my Maritime shorts and with both of my denim skirts. It may possibly work with a turquoise skirt which I will mention later, but I’m not sure yet.

Shift

Yay! Another shift! When I spotted this fabric in Jo-Ann’s a while back, I just Had to Have. I waited at least a month, though, while trying to decide what I would do with it. At first, I envisioned a fit-and-flare dress. Then I pictured a circle skirt paired with a Swiss dot Jasmine. Then, I settled on the shift. After spending so much time on the pattern, I want to use it as much as possible.

The shift will be sleeveless. I had thought about playing around with the neckline or adding pockets, but I’m going to keep it simple. The fabric really speaks for itself.

A line 2

This skirt (and the next) are both specifically made to go with my red t-shirt. I hardly ever wear that tee and only then with the A-line skirt I made to go with it. So, while in Jo-Ann’s when buying the linen above, I picked out a couple quilting cottons to make more A-lines.

After buying this fabric, however, I experienced some pretty serious buyer’s remorse. I felt the flowers were too cute, too reminiscent of something I may have worn in elementary school. But, I’m just going to embrace the twee and make something adorable. And that’s that.

A line 1

This fabric is so similar to my first A-line that it’s almost ridiculous that I bought it. But, I really liked it! So, I plan to make¬†a flared version to mix things up a bit.

Moss

Very excited about this one. Moss is amazing. Turquoise is amazing. What will I wear with it?? Stop raining on my parade! Turquoise Moss forever!

When I start making these sewing plans of mine, I always feel that I’m keeping it very simple. And then I write everything down and realize that I have twenty makes on my to-do list for two months. So, even though I have other secret items I’ll be working on, these are the 9 that I will commit myself to. My goal is to be done by August.

I know–I laughed at that a little, too.

But, as usual my sewing is far ahead of my posting. So at this point, I’ve finished three¬†five items on this list and have two others all cut out and ready to go. I think I’m actually going to get everything done on schedule–except for the red Lady Skater, probably. That one needs some sleeve work, and we all know how many hours that’s going to take me!

So, what are you sewing this summer? Swimsuits? Sundresses? Southern hemisphere winter-wear?

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Winter/Spring Sewing Plan Recap

Gracious.

I’ve been sewing¬†this plan FOREVAH! Let’s see how it all turned out, shall we?

B5794 Tie

IMG_2377

I do like this dress. I’ve worn it frequently since finishing it. It’s sort of a mess with the gathers and the neckline, but I’m calling it an “Overall Win.”

B5794 Cowl

B5794 Peplum Front

A fabric fail and cowl neck fail led to this scoop neck peplum. I confess, I don’t wear it very often at all. I think the problem is the neckline. It’s really quite a mess. Perhaps I’ll fix it. Actually, I just got a refashioning idea that would be great for the summer. So, we’ll dub this a “Partial Win.”

S1776

IMG_2655

I love this dress quite a lot. It was a struggle, and it’s not perfect, but I love it. “Win” all round.

S1776 knit

 

Red Top 1

This is one of those times when I’m really glad things didn’t go according to plan. I love, love this top. Absolute WIN.

Lady Skater Dress (Red)

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Too tight, but still comfy. This is a “Win, with Reservations.”

M6754

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Love this dress, but the blue bled into the white stripes after wearing (and continues to bleed each time I wear it–even after multiple washes.) I have a Hail Mary play in my pocket. We’ll see. . . ¬†This is a “Dress, Win; Fabric, Fail.”

S2451

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Even though the skirt tends to float upwards while I wear it, this is still an “Epic Win.”

Archer Navy Archer 1

 

FINALLY DONE!! Yay! Come on–it’s Archer. Of course, it’s a win. I need to do some adjusting of the arm holes so I can go sleeveless and fix some chestal gappage issues, but seriously–this pattern is so full of win.

Lady Skater Peplum

LS Peplum Side

I feel like I never wear this top, but it’s not a top for warm weather. I did wear it several times while it was still cold. It’s too tight, and that makes it not super comfortable. Redoing the sleeves would go a long way to making it more wearable. So, this is another “Win, with Reservations.”

Overall, I have a very negative impression of this lineup, simply because it took soooooo long to finish! But, there are some very wearable pieces in the mish-mash plus a couple of rousing successes. And even the fails are potentially fixable.

Final Thoughts: Sewing according to a plan with a color palette in mind really does work for me. Though my tendency is to over-plan, I do have enough tenacity to see it through. . . eventually. My¬†fabric and pattern purchases are smarter; my stashes are smaller; my wardrobe is growing and getting regularly worn. I feel like I’m finally reaching a point where I know what looks good on me, I know what I like, and I know what I’m comfortable wearing. I’m learning to identify the¬†patterns and fabrics that live where those three qualities¬†intersect.

I’ll be back soon¬†with a summer sewing plan!

Wardrobe sewers, how’s it going? Have you made any life-changing wardrobe discoveries lately?

A Tiny Tip for Successful Sewing

Note: I actually wrote this post ages ago when it was still cold in the South. That explains any odd references to¬†tights–which no self-respecting southern gal would be wearing in May!

How do you decide what to sew?

I know a lot of sewists out there like to sew whatever they feel. And I know there are many who have been caught up in this wave of wardrobe sewing. Those of you who are attempting to sew according to a plan, do you ever find it difficult to plan wisely?

I still struggle sometimes trying to determine the difference between a garment I know I’m going to wear and a garment that I¬†ought¬†to want to wear because it’s something that everyone else is wearing. I was thinking about this the other day. How can I make consistently great wardrobe-sewing choices?

And then I realized–the best time to decide what I need to sew is when I’m getting dressed in the morning and I don’t know what to wear. I’m more likely to be inspired by what everyone else is wearing when I’m sitting down with pen and paper and a hundred blogs to read. I’m inspired by what I actually want to wear when I really want to wear something that doesn’t exist in my closet.

Hmmm. . . time to spruce things up in there. Winter things need to be put away. Hangers need to be sorted. And, yes, that IS a small bear sitting atop a container of catnip. Is this not something everyone keeps in her closet?

Hmmm. . . time to spruce things up in there. Winter things need to be put away. Hangers need to be sorted. And, yes, that IS a small bear sitting atop a container of catnip. Is this not something everyone keeps in her closet?

I imagine it’s something like the difference between basic training and the battlefield (super dramatic metaphor, yes, but just go with it). Spending hours falling into the deep, dark abyss of Pinterest or trolling countless sewing/fashion blogs is like your basic training. You learn what’s out there. You get an idea of what you can make. You discover what you like to look at. But, when it comes time to actually put on some clothes and rush out the door–that’s the battlefield. That’s when things get real. That’s when things don’t always go according to plan. Sure, maybe I pinned and made a yellow pencil skirt that I thought I absolutely couldn’t live without, but if I never want to actually put it on in the morning, what’s the point?

Sometimes, I’m standing, staring into my open closet trying to figure out what clothes best reflect the girl I am that day. It’s too cold for my Moss; I just wore my Lady Skater yesterday; and all my Archers need to be washed (true story). First of all, that tells me that the Lady Skaters and the Archers are really excellent wardrobe choices. Also, I need tights to wear with my Moss (get some gray tights, Jen! Honestly. . . ). When this happens, I always have a thought along the lines of, “If I just had a ________ then I could wear ________” or “I’d really like to wear _______ but I haven’t made one yet.”

These are the makes that need to happen. These are the garments that if I made them, I would actually wear them. How do I know that I’m not a vintage-lovin’ gal? I have never, not once when I’m getting ready thought, “I’d really like to wear a 60s style wiggle dress today.” How do I know that I love a knit skater dress? Because I wear mine every chance I get! Because there are some days when I think, “I really want to wear my navy Lady Skater, but people will think I’m weird if I wear it three days in a row.”

Here’s the catch: thoughts occurred and thoughts remembered are two different things. Thinking, “I need more knit dresses,” at 6:30 in the morning may not mean that I remember that I need those knit dresses a month later when it’s time to make another plan. (Oh, who am I kidding?? My love of knit dresses is well-documented. But you get my point!)

The solution? So simple, I probably don’t even need to mention it.

But, I totally will.

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Post-it Notes! All I do is take a moment to ask myself, “If I could wear anything today, what would it be?” When the answer comes to me, I either find its equivalent in my closet, or I jot the idea on a note and stick it to the inside of my closet door. When planning time comes round again, all I have to do is match my wardrobe wish list with existing patterns. To help me in my wardrobing endeavors, I’ve been curating a Pinterest board of potential patterns. Like virtual sticky notes!

Thanks to a simple office supply, some day I will stand in front of my open closet doors and rather than feeling like my closet is full of nothing, I’ll be greeted with more options than I can choose between.

Idealistic? Unrealistic? Maybe. But I believe!

Do you have any great tips for sewing what you’ll love to wear?

The “Suck It, Fashionistas!” Peplum Top

We actually had snow here in Atlanta a couple weeks ago–so crazy! (And, as I’m writing this, we may be having some more this week.)

Winter Greens

I am very thankful to have made it home safely–lots of people were stranded. But still, it was refreshing to wake up that Wednesday morning to a free day at home and a fresh blanket of snow. So, I dashed out to take pictures in this rare phenomenon. Unfortunately, they’re all very hard to see.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the peplum. They look nice enough on other people, but I have always felt pretty strongly that a peplum would look ridiculous on me.

And maybe they do. But I really like this top.

LS Peplum Front

Somewhere behind the scarf and the frigidness is a black peplum top.

I used leftovers from my color blocked skirt. Some pieces are cut on the cross grain which is why they fit tighter than they should and why the peplum flares more than it ought to.

Modifying the Lady Skater was very simple. All I had to do was shorten the skirt to peplum length.

LS Peplum Side

Because the peplum isn’t as weighty as a skirt (and because of the grain issues I mentioned before), I should have lengthened the waist just a bit. It’s not terrible, though. It would have been much worse if it had been too long.

LS Peplum Back

This top works with denim, of course. And the surprise is that I also like it with my red Moss. I’ve never really liked black and red together, but this works for me. I did try it with my color blocked skirt, and . . . no. Just no.

LS Peplum Red Skirt

Couldn’t handle the cold in a skirt.

Even though I really love dresses, I always find myself needing more separates, simple separates that aren’t hard to pair but aren’t too “plain Jane.”¬†This one fits the bill exactly.

What’s your favorite separates pattern right now?

Making a Plan: Part Two

Can you believe it? I actually finished a sewing plan! I’ve made plans many a time, and they have never been completed.

Planning is my favorite part, so I started collecting patterns and picking out fabric for a new round long before I finished my first sewing plan. I’m still sticking with my palette (for the most part) and still trying to make items that are mix-and-matchable. However, this round is very dress-heavy. I’ve determined that separates are great, but you simply can’t beat the ease of tossing on a dress. Also, I’m relaxing my rules for dresses. I’m not great at creative layering, so in my world, a dress is a dress. If I can wear more than one pair of shoes and maybe a couple different cardis, I’m calling that a win.

B5794 Tie

I’ve had this pattern for quite a while now. I’m pretty excited to finally use it. But, having been spoiled by the attention to detail and sensible directions of indie designers, I worry a little bit about attempting to do a “Big 4” knit pattern. I’m convinced that the amount of ease is going to be ridiculous. So, my plan is to use my Lady Skater to compare. I had actually thought about just modifying the LS to match the details on the Butterick, but it seemed like so much work to add a yoke and gathers and modify the neckline, and I’m simply feeling too lazy. I may regret it later.

And, in case you’re wondering, teal is not really on my Color Palette. I reserve the right to cheat whenever I want. Plus, a color palette is more of a suggestion or guideline, not a rule.

B5794 Cowl

This time I’m doing view C. I think the fluid nature of a cowl is going to be lovely in the watercolor print. This knit is very lightweight, so it’s probably not the best choice for winter wear, but this is Atlanta. And there are tights. So, I think I’ll be okay. What I can’t figure out, though, is why the back of the skirt needs a seam. I’ll probably just eliminate the SA and cut it on the fold. Because I’m a sensible person.

S1776

What’s this? An actual woven fabric? With¬†sleeves?¬†Yes. It’s time to face my fears. . .

I originally bought this fabric to make my McCall’s 6706 skirt. But when it arrived, it was too lightweight for what I wanted. Also, it feels like¬†magic;¬†using it for a skirt seemed like a waste. I only had 1 1/2 yards, so I started wracking my brain for what else I could use it for. After lots of thoughts that were wrong, I finally noticed the unassuming S1776 waiting patiently for me to do something with it.

At first, I was unsure. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this could be something amazing. My plan is to make the version with the sleeves. Probably not the pockets. As it turns out, I’m not a patch pocket fan.

This pattern will either be glorious. . . or frumptastic.

S1776 knit

Oh. Man. As soon as I saw this print, I was like, “That is happening.” Right now, I’m not 100% sure what I plan to do. It needs to be something versatile enough for all sorts of Atlanta weather. I’m leaning towards some type of shift. I don’t really want it to be fitted. And I think I want 3/4 length sleeves. And a scoop neck. Like a modified Simplicity 1776 maybe? We’ll see.

Lady Skater Dress (Red)First of all, I know that drawing is not a Lady Skater. The problem is that there is no black and white line drawing of a Lady Skater, or even a skater dress in general, anywhere on the interwebs. If you know better, please inform me! I really like putting together these graphics to illustrate my plans, and I know there will be more Lady Skaters happening in my life.

And secondly, I know this is not your typical winter sort of dress. I’m making it anyway. I want more red in my wardrobe, and I think this will be lovely layered under a sweater. Because it’s such a summery print, I’m using the short sleeves.

M6754

I originally bought this knit to make a simple shift or t-shirt dress. However, when I saw this pattern in my stash and noticed the interesting, chevron-y madness of one of the samples, I changed my mind. Again, I think it would be a good idea to compare the sizing with my Lady Skater–tricky because of the princess seams and raglan sleeves, but still doable, I think. It is going to be a challenge trying to match up all the stripes and weird angles, but I am super excited about this dress.

S2451

Based on what I’ve read and researched over the past (almost) two years, this is quite possibly one of the most-beloved skirt patterns out there. Even people who regularly eschew “Big 4” patterns admit that this one is well-worth making. I’ve been curious to try it but haven’t been quite sure what direction to take it in until now.

I already have a denim skirt, but the fit is hardly spot-on. The waist is too big while the hips are too tight (very, very unusual for me), so it really only works with loose, long tops. I like the waist yoke on 2451 and the pockets. I’m not totally sold on the pleats, but I could probably make them work. I plan on making something between versions C and D. And I’m toying with the idea of an exposed zipper in the back.

Are people over exposed zippers yet? I hope not, since I haven’t had the chance to try one yet. Eh–whatever. I do what I want!

Archer

I know, I know, I know. How am I not sick of sewing Archers? At this point, I’ve made four. But, the three challis versions I’ve made are so fantastic, so exactly what I’ve hoped and dreamed of, that I simply need another one. Plus, I have a crazy-pants idea to thrift myself some white jeans which I shall skinny-ify to wear with my loverly navy Archer and probably some gold jewelry and the whole thing will be amazing. So there.

Lady Skater Peplum

Hey, look–it’s not navy! Did anyone else notice how navy-heavy my plans are? What can I say–I love navy. It’s my favorite neutral.

I’m using fabric left over from my color blocked skirt¬†to whip up a peplum top based on the ever-fabulous Lady Skater pattern. I plan to make the peplum a wee bit longer in the back. Or if I’m feeling frisky, I’ll try something resembling the picture.

And, if you’ve been following along, you know that I plan for two months at a time, about one project per week. So, I really should only have eight projects planned. But, I’m cheating a bit because 1. some of these are super easy to whip up and 2. some of these are already made.

I think after this round of sewing, I will lay low for a while and make an army of t-shirts and lounge pants and camis. And I probably won’t be done with all this sewing until at least March. If I get done before that, I’m going to be remarkably impressed with myself.

So, what are your plans for February? Anything you’re really excited about?

More Rules = More Fun!

I’ve been burned by sewing plans in the past. And I can tell you three reasons why:

  1. Bad Choices. ¬†Creating sewing plans based on the patterns and fabric that¬†you’ve already bought sounds good, but when you buy fabric and patterns willy-nilly, you may not be purchasing quality items that you’ll actually want to use. I used to have a tendency to make things that I think I ought to want to wear rather than things I know I’ll love. And that’s what got me into the “I have nothing to wear” mess that I was in.
  2. Ambitious Plans. When you plan out thirty different makes that you’d like to accomplish in three weeks, you may find yourself becoming a bit overwhelmed. Especially if you decide not to sew anything that’s not on the plan until you’ve accomplished all your goals.
  3. Crazy Life. Guys, it happens. Life gets in the way of all the things you want to do. There’s no getting around it. You just have to be flexible.

So, in order to make plans that are actually useful, that I will actually stick to, I had to rethink my planning process. I’ve already written about the steps in depth in all my Sewing a Wardrobe series (I’m so sorry–I feel like I link to this ALL THE TIME. It comes up a lot when that’s all I talk about, I guess. . . ) but in short, I had to figure out what things I actually like to wear, plan to make things that fall in line with my style that work with other items in my closet, and keep it simple (for Pete’s sake).

My first round of wardrobe sewing, though I was able to make it through the whole list,¬†may¬†have been¬†a bit too ambitious. It took me a little longer than I’d like. But, the good news is that a lot of it gets worn pretty regularly. So, I know that I’m learning to make wise choices when deciding what to sew.

For subsequent plans, I intend to keep things even more simple and balanced. My thinking is that I should plan for about two months at a time. I am a very moody person. Sometimes I’m all about dresses, and at other times I just want separates. Not planning for longer than two months ensures that I can more easily¬†cater to my changing whims–and, for that matter, changing weather.

If I figure about a week per project, that equals eight simple projects per plan. So, if I decide on something more ambitious that will require muslins and extra-finicky fitting (like a jacket or a first attempt at pants), I figure out how many weeks it should take.¬†A jacket would take maybe three or four slots while a t-shirt would only take one. See my logic? This is all just estimation, but it really does help me stay sane. And choosing makes that I’m really excited to wear helps me stay focused.

However, sometimes it’s hard to decide, even when working with a plan, what I should be working on next. Or, maybe I get tired of a particular project, and I really just want something fresh to work on for a while. I know lots of people have multiple UFO’s lurking around their sewing rooms. Others will only work on one project at a time. Me? I like to have options. Sometimes I’m in the mood to sew, but I am¬†not in the mood to cut anything out (I’m¬†never in the mood to cut. I always have to force myself).¬†Or, perhaps, I’d like to sew a little something brainless, but on my current project, I’m getting ready to attach a collar or sew on patch pockets that need to be flawless. It helps to have another type of project ready to go where I can just go to town on some side seams or pleats.

So, I had to come up with a system that would allow me to stay focused on my plan, be able to have multiple projects in the works at once, and also provide me somewhere to keep track of everything.

IMG_2358

My system is nothing new. I simply bought some file boxes from an office supply store. Inside each box there is room for the pattern, fabric, notions and anything else I need for each project.¬†I’ve had them for months, but it wasn’t until recently that I really found the best way to use them.

These are the Rules of the Boxes:

  1. I may only work on a project that I pull from one of the boxes. (There are five. There used to be six, but a cat threw up on one. I don’t use that one anymore. For obvious reasons.)
  2. Two or more projects based on the same pattern may be stored in the same box. For instance, I put all of my Archer fabrics and supplies together in one box. For my sanity. This way, I could cut them all out at the same time (which I mostly sort of did) but not spend my whole life sewing Archers.
  3. Before a project has been started, I can switch it out for a different one. Once the fabric has been cut, there’s no turning back until the project is completed. For instance, I had a Simplicity 2451 in a box, but since I hadn’t started it yet, I switched it with a McCall’s 6706 because the M was from a phase one plan while the S was from phase 2. However, I have a little purple knit nightgown in a box that has been in there for ages because it’s already been cut, but it needs significant work to be completed (because the pattern designers had a series of idiotic moments when designing it. But, we’ll get to that someday. . . ).
  4. The one exception to the rule: If I can start and finish a project in one day, I can throw it in whenever I please. Just this afternoon, I whipped up a knit top that didn’t come from a box.
  5. Chill out. It’s just sewing. I can follow or break any rules I please.

I really like this system. It works for me better than sewing one thing at a time (which is too constricting) and far better than having bits and pieces of different projects floating around. It allows me to work on multiple makes but keeps me from the chaos of too many UFOs. And it helps me stay motivated.

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This also really helps with my goal to sew 20 minutes a day. What I typically do is place pattern and fabric and any notions I already have for a particular project¬†in a box once it’s emptied. I set aside a weekend afternoon (or now that I’m working a rather sporadic schedule substitute teaching, I can do it any day I’m at home) to cut out several patterns at once. Then, the pattern pieces get stored back in their boxes until I’m ready to work on them. I also use Post-It notes to keep track of box contents and any notes about what I may need to purchase. See? Simple. Organized. Efficient.

I feel the need to pause here and make it clear that this is a system that works¬†for me. And that I make all these crazy rules for myself because I enjoy following (and breaking, of course!) my own rules. Weird, right? I read this post from Couture Academic about making sewing more enjoyable. I absolutely agree with her suggestions #2-5, and I agree with the spirit of #1–you should sew whatever you want. But the idea of sewing something impractical¬†stresses me out, seriously! I think this goes to show that we all have our own version of “fun,” and when you find what makes you happy, go with it! For me, happy is sewing things that I really want to wear every day. But please don’t assume that I think everyone needs to do the same. You want to sew an enormous ante-bellum ball gown that you may never get to wear in public? By all means, do it–I shall live vicariously through you as you sew ūüôā

(If you’ve been at all interested in my Sewing a Wardrobe stuff, you¬†need¬†to go read up on Kat’s Wardrobe Basics. I especially loved how she did her planning with Polyvore–so cool!

So, friends, how do you like to organize your sewing? Are you a conscientious planner? Or more of the sew-on-a-whim type?

The Eleven to Rule Them All

Remember how I told you that I was going to work on fitting a few basic patterns and just use those over and over again? I wasn’t really aiming for any number in particular. I was more concerned with covering all my basics. That’s why I’ve ended up with such a random number.

It turned out to be an involved process of figuring out what clothes I normally wear most and what the most basic patterns for those clothes would be. Which patterns did I already have? Which patterns had I already made? Which patterns did I need to find? I did a lot of switching out and rethinking. And a¬†ton¬†of chiding myself to “Be honest–are you¬†really¬†going to make multiple versions of that dress??” Some choices were obvious; others took some deliberation. And I’m not even certain that the choices I’ve made will make the final cut.

There were two questions to answer about each pattern choice: 1. Will this fit into my wardrobe?¬†Do I already have or can I make something to go with it? Is it the type of garment that I will wear regularly? And 2.¬†Can I customize the pattern?¬†Does the pattern come with options? Can I make simple modifications to create something completely new? I think that when you’re choosing a handful of patterns to rely on, you need something that not only fits your style as is but also can be changed to create variety in your wardrobe.

Let’s start with the patterns I already know I love, the patterns that have passed the wardrobe test.

1. The Lady Skater

Navy Lady Skater 3

You knew that was coming, right? This is THE knit dress pattern. I could make a dozen more of these (and I probably will eventually) and not grow tired of it.

Customization options: the pattern comes with three different sleeve lengths. You can also make a peplum top. You can modify the bodice into a t-shirt (very, very good to know!). I suppose if you so desire, you could also use the skirt pattern to make yourself a skater skirt (which is apparently a thing).¬†You can shorten the waist to an empire. I have a few other ideas for modifying the bodice and neckline. Oooh, a hoodie! A Lady Skater hoodie dress for lazy days–what?!? You can also modify the neckline into a cowl. So many options for such a simple pattern.

2. The Grainline Archer

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Oh, man–I love the Archer so much! Now that I have found it, I cannot live without it.

Customization options: Okay–so, how much can you really customize the Archer? Well, for starters, the pattern comes with two versions–one has a butt ruffle (which, I’m not super interested in, but you never know). Jen has done a pullover version as well. And I’m also thinking that you might be able to do an Archer shirt dress with the right fabric (we all know I’m thinking challis) and probably a belt. You could also simply eliminate or change the pockets. You could do welt pockets or shaped patch pockets. I suppose you could also play with sleeve lengths as well–or do away with sleeves altogether and bind the armholes with bias tape.

3. The Grainline Moss

Moss1

Another favorite pattern from what is fast becoming my favorite pattern line.

Customization options: You can change the length or add the hem band. You could nix the pockets (if you’re a crazy person). You could use the hem band to play with color blocking. You could fit the skirt at your waist or below (as it is intended to be).

4. The Colette Sorbetto

Sorbetto Collar 1

You know, I had forgotten about this pattern until I started compiling this list. Probably because it’s winter, and I don’t typically sport sleeveless tops in freezing temperatures. However, when thinking about what I like to wear in the summer, I remembered this top. I’ve made it three times now. The first two were disasters, yes, but the third is one of my favorite tops ever. I probably could have listed it in my 2013 roundup, but I forgot. Because it’s winter. Here’s the thing about the Sorbetto–fabric is key. My favorite fabric to use is challis. It’s just the best. But anything with enough drape (nothing even remotely stiff) will do.

Customization options: I think the most obvious mod is to add a collar (like with my super cheerful Sorbetto from last spring). You can remove the center pleat or embellish it with buttons, lace, or other trims. It’s possible to add sleeves. I think it might also be cute with a small patch pocket.

5. Self-drafted A-line skirt

Birdie 1

I am very proud to be able to put this pattern on my list. It may be silly since drafting an A-line skirt is quite possibly the¬†easiest pattern to draft. Anyone can do it! But still–I’ve used this pattern once very successfully and once as an exercise in determination–and it came from my own brain! So great!

Customization Options: You can change the length and fullness of the skirt. You can use a yoke or a waistband. You can add in-seam pockets or patch pockets–maybe even inset pockets. Plus, this is one of the few projects where I will use adorable quilting cottons without hesitation!

Now, let’s look at some patterns I own but haven’t made yet. I have chosen these based on their potential. Of course, this means they may not make the final list.

6. Vogue 8766

So many options! It even says it on the envelope.

This is the pattern that comes with Lynda Maynard’s “Sew the Perfect Fit” class on Craftsy. If you look beyond all the lace and ribbon, it’s a very basic bodice style with very basic skirts. So, while the styling is very formal, I think you could easily make this dress in a nice chambray or lawn which would be much more relaxed. Just get the bodice and fitted skirt down and you’re golden!

Customization Options: So many! Sleeves or no sleeves? Straps or no straps? Straight skirt or full skirt? Long skirt, short skirt? Formal, informal? Pretty much whatever you want, you can do with this simple pattern.

7. Simplicity 1776

When I look at this pattern I think “shift dress.” But everyone on Pattern Review was defining it as an “A-line dress.” Can someone explain the difference? Is an A-line dress just a type of shift? I’m going to keep calling it a shift until some intelligent person corrects me.

I have never been one to want a shift dress. I’ve always thought they would make me look thicker than I actually am. But now, I’m not so sure. Every time I see someone in a shift, I think she looks really good. Everyone says it’s a very forgiving, flattering style. So, I am officially willing to give it a try.

Customization Options: The pattern comes with three sleeve lengths and two necklines as well as the option to change the length or add patch pockets. I think you could also play around with the neckline and perhaps add a collar. I imagine this dress would also work in a knit, with a few modifications, of course.

8. Jalie Jeans

Okay. I know that I said several months ago that I don’t like pants. I should explain. I don’t like jeans¬†in the summer, and since I wrote that post in the summer, at the time, I did not like jeans. Now that it’s all nippy outside, I really enjoy wearing jeans. I especially love pairing my skinny jeans with my Archers.

What I do not like is all other pants. Maybe I’ll eventually graduate to colored denim. But right now jeans are my leg-covering of choice. So, of course, I need a good pattern. I have read really great things about Jalie jeans. And what is most inspiring is that if you do a Google image search, you’ll see women of all sizes and body types that really look good in this pattern.

Customization Options: Do you really need options when you have a great pattern for jeans? Well, maybe not. But, I think you could still play around with leg width to make boot cut, straight leg, or skinny jeans. You could even change the length to make capris or shorts.

9. McCall’s 6696

I have been for several months now searching for the perfect shirt dress. I have four or five in my stash that just don’t measure up. And then one day. . . I found it. Almost everything about McCall’s 6696 is exactly what I want. And just–just LOOK AT THOSE POCKETS!! I love the straight skirt version more than I can possibly say. I finally picked it up during Jo-Ann’s most recent McCall’s sale. I made a pre-sale scouting trip to see if they finally had the pattern. They did, but it was in the wrong spot. Making a note of the number, I left it there and there it remained until I came back for it.

Customization Options: The pattern comes with three sleeve options: 3/4 length (with cuffs!), short sleeves, or no sleeves. You can choose straight or full skirt. You can remove the pockets if you wish (So crazy. Why would you do that?). Belt loops–so cute! You can change the skirt length, of course. I want the straight skirt/long, cuffed sleeves option in chambray. I want a sleeveless/ short, full skirt option in a crisp white cotton. I want a short sleeve/ shorter, straight skirt in a red and white oversized gingham. I want a long sleeve/ full skirt version in cozy flannel for next winter. I want them all.

Finally, there are a couple of patterns that I’m very strong considering but haven’t purchased yet.

10. Grainline Maritime Shorts

Yes, I know it’s winter, but it won’t last forever (right, summer? You’re coming back again, right???). And when the temperatures soar as they are wont to do here in the ATL (is it weird that we refer to ourselves by our airport code? Because it seems weird. . . ), I will be ready with my breezy Archers and some adorable shorts. At least, that’s the plan. I have tried two other shorts patterns that did not work for me, but based on my high success rate with Grainline (two for two! Okay, maybe not “high” per say. . . ), I am now coveting the Maritime shorts. I’ve read and seen good things, and when I’m ready to sew, I will feel confident purchasing this pattern.

Customization Options: I feel about these like I felt about the Jalie jeans–do you really need options? For shorts, I don’t feel so much that I do. I never wear shirts tucked in to shorts (learned my lesson), so very little of the shorts gets seen. You can, of course, lengthen the shorts or change up the back pockets. That’s really all you need. I’ve learned that I prefer very simple shorts.

11. Colette Jasmine

I had originally put New Look 6808 in the “blouse” spot, but after a lot of lurking, I really started to lean more toward the Jasmine. The silhouette and sleeves are much nicer, and I like the idea of a bias cut blouse.

Customization Options: I think that the collar can be modified–you could nix the bow and do something more Peter Pan-ish. Sleeves can always be lengthened, shortened, or re-shaped. And I think that it would be possible to make this a button-front–even a faux button-front would be cute.

I am also considering the Renfrew. I know that I could use my Lady Skater to create a t-shirt block, but everyone raves about the Renfrew so much that I feel like I’m missing out. Am I?

Also, do any of you have a favorite cardigan pattern? I’m not talking about crochet or knitting–I want something for knit fabrics. In particular, I’m looking for a cropped cardigan to wear with anything fitted at the waist. I’m tired of tying thick knots in my cardis. Drapy, boyfriend, or cropped–these are the only cardis I shall wear. (I have spoken.)

So, what patterns do you find yourself reaching for over and over again? Any recommendations for my list?

Practicing My Archery

Apparently December was Archer Appreciation Month. How like me to finish mine in January (But can I just say that I started planning and working on them back in October? Because I did).

Unless you’re very new to Sewing Blogland, you know all about the Archer and how fantastic everyone says it is. Well, I’m here to tell you. . . they’re all correct. The Archer is so right in so many ways.

I’ve made four versions now: one in chambray and three in rayon challis (best idea I ever had). The Archer has a very loose fit–very broad shoulders and pretty straight through the torso. The chambray version I made mostly gets worn around the house because it fits me like a man shirt, which makes me feel pretty sloppy. But, the challis versions have this lovely drape to them. I wear them often with my skinny jeans; they balance each other very well.

White6

Because challis is a bear to cut–this stuff just moves all the time–I experimented with stabilizing the fabric with a gelatin bath. I used no gelatin with the fuchsia version; I cut the white out and then gelatinized the pieces; the turquoise got the full bath treatment before cutting. I just wanted to see how much of an effect the gelatin really has.

Teal 1

The verdict? Yes. It helps. More with the cutting than with the sewing. I didn’t really have a problem sewing the fuchsia version (well, no problems caused by the fabric itself), but pieces cut without the gelatin were significantly distorted and off-grain. Of course, I didn’t bother to take pictures during the process because there never was good enough light for it. Just take my word for it, won’t you?

Fuchsia3

Let’s take a moment to talk about¬†a revolutionary¬†change I’ve made to my typical sewing procedures. I’ve always been a shears girl. I had a rotary cutter and a medium-sized mat (along with a couple of smaller ones) but when I tried to cut out patterns free hand with the rotary cutter, the results were rather disastrous. A few months ago, about the time that I started all this wardrobe sewing business, I decided to give it another try. I realized two things: 1. The blade I had been using was very small; 2. The handle was difficult for me to use. So, I bought a larger rotary cutter with a simpler, more easy-to-use handle. By grouping my cutting mats together, I was able to cut out full pattern pieces with ease!

Using a rotary cutter was invaluable for the Archer cutting process. In fact, I use it almost exclusively to cut out all my patterns. Cleaner edges make for more accurate stitching lines which make for more accurate fit.

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If you plan to make your own Archer, I very much suggest following Andrea’s tutorial for attaching the collar stand.

Jen’s instructions are very easy to follow–especially if you read up on the sew-along she hosted a while back. So many great tips! In spite of that, however, my versions are all far from perfect. The topstitching is quite wonky on my chambray version (I was still getting used to my new machine at the time).

My pockets never would turn out correctly. The fuchsia version’s are just a mess, the white version’s I like the best because the pockets are smaller (they’re smaller because they were cut ridiculously off grain), the teal version’s look fine on their own, but they’re not quite even–in spite of lots of measuring and double-checking. And all of them are droopy. That, I think, is just what you get with challis. It doesn’t bother me. Not terribly.

Teal 2

Patch pockets, man. They are NOT my favorite. But, I like having them on the shirt, so there you go.

My other problem area was the cuffs. The sleeves are really quite huge on me, so I had to overlap my cuffs quite a bit to make them fit decently. I don’t think I ever got the button/buttonhole placement quite right.

I should have done French seams.¬†I knew I should. I just didn’t.

White3

My button placement on my fuchsia version is a little off, the result being that I occasionally have to deal with unfortunate gappage. I also did the button placket on the wrong side.

Fuchsia1

Another tiny little adjustment I had to make was to cut the front of the shirt a little shorter than the pattern indicated. I didn’t realize that the fabric layer on the bottom was shorter than the layer on top. So, when I discovered that one of the shirt front pieces was significantly shorter than the other, I had to trim both pieces to match each other. I actually like the look, though. Apparently I have thing for mullet hems of all sorts.

Fuchsia2

This really is a fantastic pattern–people haven’t been raving about it for nothing. I think, though, that if I were to make any changes to it, I would make the sleeves and arm holes smaller. In the challis, it doesn’t bother me. But, if I were to try again with chambray, I would definitely want to streamline the upper torso.

Teal 3

I’ve worn this outfit three times already. Not super flattering, but soooo comfy.

Now that I’ve made four Archers, am I ready to retire the pattern from rotation? Heck, no! I already have another challis version planned, and I’ve been dreaming of a plaid flannel tunic to wear with leggings for lounging purposes (I am not a leggings in public sort of girl. You’re welcome, society).

And now, just one project left in Part One–although, to be very honest, I’ve already started Part Two. And to be very, very honest, I’ve actually done a leeeetle bit of Part Three as well. Oh well, it’s all getting done, I promise!

Here’s what I want to know: Have you sewn the Archer? And if so, did you find the arms rather large? I’m wondering if I need to size down.

Also, have you worn your Archer while practicing actual archery??? That would be super impressive!

Sewing a Wardrobe: Part 4 (The Rules)

I know, I know, I know. I’m one of–like–seven people who really appreciates having rules and guidelines. Naturally, when I was dreaming up my brand new wardrobe (that I actually enjoy wearing), I had to give myself some principles to adhere to. It would be very easy for me to give my wardrobe a makeover and then once that was done go right back to my crazy, disconnected methods of clothing acquisition. I need rules to help me keep to the straight and narrow pathway to a functional wardrobe.

As I was thinking about my rules, I did find this series of posts from the blog “Putting Me Together” really inspiring. She talks about building a “remixable” wardrobe which is just exactly what I’m trying to do! The only thing is she shops and I sew. Whatevs! The ideas are still good!

So, here are my Rules to Sew By:

  1. Each new separate piece should be able to be worn with at least three other pieces currently in my closet. I’m giving myself a little bit of leeway here at the beginning because I’m essentially starting from scratch. Right now I’m also counting future makes that I’ve already planned on. For example, I plan to make an A-line skirt with some aqua, red, and cream cotton in my stash. I’ve already figured out that I could wear a red tee (which needs to be made), a chambray shirt (also needs to be made), or a red cardi (which I already have).
  2. Each new dress should be able to be worn as part of three different looks. Dresses can be tricky for me–especially all those crazy floral dresses I spent all of last year sewing. Other than choosing different accessories, there wasn’t much else I could do to change the look of the dresses. Even when I have a simple dress, I tend to wear it the same way every time. But, I’m ready to get out of my rut! Let’s say I make a little navy knit dress. I could wear it with a scarf and boots; throw on a statement necklace and some heels; belt it with a cardi and some flats; or pair it with a button-up tied at the waist and some sandals. See what I mean? I bet that if I got a little creative, I could do the same with some of those bold florals as well.
  3. For every six remixable pieces I make, I can choose to make one statement piece. In my opinion, a lot of the dresses I’ve already made are statement pieces, garments that can stand alone, that don’t always play well with others. A good example would be my Whipstitch dress.Simplicity 2180That dress just is what it is. I could throw on a cardi or different shoes, but there’s not really anything I can do to make the dress look like anything other that what it is. It has loads of personality, and that’s why I love it. And really, I don’t want to cover the personality up, if you know what I mean. This dress is a statement piece. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having some statement pieces. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a wardrobe filled with statement pieces! If that’s what you want, awesome! But, not me. I’m a simple gal with simple tastes. However, I think a few well-placed statement pieces will help liven up my wardrobe. Why every “six” pieces? I don’t know–it sounded good.
  4. For each new piece that gets added to the wardrobe, one piece should be removed. This is a fantastic rule, one that I know several of you probably already follow. At this point in my overhaul, I don’t need to get rid of anything else. I’ve already done that. The question is, at what point will my wardrobe be complete? I’m thinking that once I reach a certain point, it will be time to start removing things. I just don’t know what that point is. It would seem a little silly to come up with a number, but maybe that’s what I need to do so that my wardrobe doesn’t grow too large. Remember, the goal is a small, remixable¬†wardrobe.
  5. I will always, always sew what I love. But, I will also keep in mind long-term wearability. I don’t want to wear things I don’t love. I love things that I can wear over and over to multiple occasions. The end.

I’m learning a new way to think about my wardrobe, and I hope that by giving myself some fairly concrete rules, I can avoid falling into the dysfunctional wardrobe pit.

Next time, I’ll finally get to reveal my master plan! You’ve probably noticed that I’ve put a LOT of thought into this. I’m very interested to see what you think! And to see what you’ve all got up your fall sewing sleeves ūüôā

A Striped Tee for the Morally Ambivalent (And a Bonus Hoodie)

I’m not really morally ambivalent. I just really like the word “ambivalent.”

This is another Sewing With Knits project. It turned out both better and worse than my last attempt.

I found this black and white striped cotton jersey at GirlCharlee.com and was so very excited about because it was just exactly what I wanted. I spent ages trying to find and true the grain and eventually gave up. I laid the fabric out in a single layer and cut all my pieces separately. For pieces that needed to be cut on the fold, I just cut half and then flipped the pattern piece. I was especially stressed about the cutting because I really wanted my stripes to line up properly. I ended up drawing a straight line perpendicular to the grain line in the same spot on each pattern piece so I could like that up with the bottom of a black stripe in an attempt to get everything lined up.

The fact that the fabric was super slinky did NOT help.

But, in the end, with some careful pinning and some slight stretching to make things fit, I think it turned out fairly well for a first timer. Well, practically a first timer. I’m not known for my superb pattern-matching skills.

Can you tell that the stripes are just a wee bit off on this side?

There are some spots that are off a bit, definitely including the sleeve caps. I really just didn’t know how to handle them at all. There were many times that I wished I had cut the thing out on the bias. But, I’m glad I persevered. There are places on my sleeves that are perfect! I was like, “BAM!”

Matchy matchy, for the WIN!!

Matchy matchy sleeve caps? Not so much. But it’s no so bad–I think this was the good side.

I did learn that a twin needle + slinky fabric is not the best idea. After finishing all the hemming, I realized that the fabric between the stitches had bunched up (more than normal)–maybe something was wrong with the tension? But it didn’t do this consistently. Maybe the threads got mixed up? But I didn’t have a problem on my knit New Look 6107. No idea, really.

The icky twin needle hem

I was also not in love with the look of the black topstitching on the white.

Anyways, I pulled it all out and did a very small turned under hem with a triple stretch stitch (I was very excited when I discovered my machine had this stitch!) on the black so that you really can’t see it.

And the triple stretch stitch hem that I like ūüôā

I added two inches of length to my sleeves because when I’m wanting to feel cozy, I like to cover my hands with my sleeves. I discovered with my last tee that the sleeves were a bit short for me. My limbs are longer than normal for my height–I think to make up for the smooshed nature of my torso. Normal people would probably find the sleeves to be just right.

The big issue with this shirt is the neckband. I followed the same steps I did last time (I even took about an inch off the seam at the back) but the band still turned out too big so it flops over a bit. I think it’s partly due to the flimsy nature of the fabric. I’m hoping that it will shape up after a wash.

This is post-wash. As you can see, it didn’t help.

The shirt is very, very comfy and I do love the stripes! The only thing is that it scares Eloise–I don’t know why. She always gets startled when I walk into a room wearing it. Cats are so silly ūüôā Speaking of. . .

I did also finish my Sewing With Knits fleece hoodie. Not much to say about it. It’s big. It’s cozy. It’s so easy!

Awkward picture that really doesn’t show you the garment very well: check.

Some hems

It’s also a little too warm for wearing inside. Although, I did toss it on last night at 3:30 when the smoke detectors started beeping because the batteries were low. Question: why do they always start doing this at the most inconvenient times???

I rather like the neckline.

The hoodie has room for all your hairs.

So, four projects down (plus a bonus!)–I feel like I’m gaining some momentum finally! I have made a couple of changes to the list which I’m really happy with–I’ll tell you when I get there. For now, I’m working on Simplicity 2305 (more rayon challis, deary-dear!).

There has been some craziness around here lately. Some good crazy and some crazy crazy. Changes are coming, and my brain is whirring with grandiful ideas ūüôā

Also, I’m really ready to decorate my Christmas tree–who’s with me??