Archive for December 2010

Do you find it helpful to make detailed plans ?

December 31, 2010

What sewing are you doing over the holidays ? Following holiday freedoms, I ‘went as the spirit moved’ and surprised myself by trying free motion sewing for the first time. Not what I was expecting to do. So that opens up all sorts of possibilities. . .

Meanwhile. . . back to thinking about New Year’s Resolutions.

– – –

Resolutions about what to make

Plans have the opposite effect on me than what life coaches insist they will. I make plans for fun, it’s something I’m good at. Making them does clarify my ideas and what’s important to me. But if I try actually to follow detailed plans they usually bring me to a halt instead of motivating me.

I’m best working in a general direction rather than with a specific plan.

Even so, I keep changing my general resolutions for the year.
Learn to sew knits – oh that’s so last week.
Join in the jackets sew along. Hmm, what about all that fitting.
Do some Sewing With A Plan. Wardrobe planning is an excellent idea, but I am not at my best under time pressure. And I am better when following a general inspiration (colours, fabrics, learning ever more about what suits my shape and style), rather than setting a specific number of garments before ever starting anything.

Though I am very happy that other people do make storyboards and follow detailed SWAP plans. And take the time and trouble to tell us what they’re doing. It’s fascinating and inspiring and thought provoking, and gives a great deal of pleasure.

At the moment I think it’s best for me to sew individual items. Just check they will make at least one whole outfit with clothes I already have.

After a couple of years of reading and thinking about discussions at Stitchers Guild, I think I’ve got a sufficiently good idea of what are the right colours, fabrics, shapes and styles for me, not to go too wildly astray.

Well, perhaps I need to allow for two clothes personalities ! One day I’m going for the minimalism of Loes Hinse Textile Studio, the next I’m loving the cheery wild patchwork of Pavelka. . . At least it’s only two – er, I think. . . If you really do like wearing a different style every day, then you might enjoy the book ‘I love your style’ by Amanda Brooks.

So one of my resolutions for this year is just to put the pedal to the metal at least once a day. Or find a notion. One little sewing thing. Nothing more specific. I’ll probably follow a general idea of what to do next, but that Big Plan sometimes changes several times a day. . . (Hmm – this morning Nancy Erickson’s sweater set pattern arrived, with her booklet on knits – make one of everything in the booklet. And the latest issue of La Mia Boutique pattern magazine – a padded vest, a drapey vest, a bolero vest. . . So that’s at least two more Grand Plans for today 😀 Perhaps I need to cut down on my sources of inspiration.)

It definitely wouldn’t be a good idea for me to make a resolution which says I’ll stick to one plan of what I’m going to make 😀

– – –

Resolutions about tools and techniques

If you’re inspired by other people’s Resolutions, there’s a good discussion thread at Stitchers Guild. Including resolutions not to do something !

Some people resolve to make certain sorts of clothes, perhaps following a wardrobe plan or SWAP or sew along. Or some home dec.

As I’ve said, that’s not right for me at the moment.

Some people resolve to sew from what they’ve already got, fabric stash or pattern stash.

I do try to do that anyway, but don’t limit myself, as fabrics that are ‘right’ for me don’t come up all that often. And I’m a pattern geek. Collecting them is one of my treats. And it isn’t at the level of a dangerous or harmful addiction 😀

Some people resolve about techniques or tools, such as learning to use a serger or embroidery machine, or make welt pockets.

The main resolution I’m going for is one of these. I’ve realised a mighty thing that stops me sewing is I have to make so many fit adjustments to a commercial pattern. And that’s something I don’t enjoy doing at all. For some reason it’s taken on the overwhelming character of something impossible to deal with.

I’m currently aiming to make a sleeveless knit shell. And I’ve listed half a dozen changes that need to be made to any commercial pattern (forward neck, sloping narrow shoulders, deep armhole, wide back, small bust, short waist, high hip). Why on earth, you might say, is anyone taking that much trouble over a sleeveless knit shell. . . Well, if I don’t, I may as well go on ‘making do’ with all the peculiar strains and sags of RTW.

So I resolve to put more effort into getting Bernina My Label to fit. If that does work then, even if it doesn’t give perfect results, it should be easier to get a usable starting point.

Hey, wait a minute. I’m assessing all these patterns and software outputs by comparing them with a reasonably good personal sloper. One thing that can be said about trying to use pattern making software – I’m learning a lot about the special features of my own body. In fact, I don’t know why I’m hung up on thinking I ‘ought’ to use someone else’s pattern. So I’ll also work more on my personal slopers, which I seem to able to adjust more easily than I can get software to fit me ! If BML doesn’t work out, then I’d be better off learning more about pattern making and adapting my own sloper, rather than changing commercial patterns.

– – –

Sticking to your plans

And, once you’ve decided what to make or do, what is your own preferred way of keeping going and finishing a project ? In SWAP, many people greatly value the companionship and encouragement of belonging to a discussion thread. But there are also excellent sewers who appear at the end of SWAP with a beautiful wardrobe, after saying and showing very little.

Goodness, I hadn’t realised how much there is of ‘know yourself’ in all this ! To get the best out of our sewing we don’t only need to know what to make, what colours, shapes and styles are best for ourselves and our lifestyle. There’s also how we do it :
– what tools and techniques, fabrics and embellishments we enjoy using.
– whether we like to try new techniques or relax in the familiar.
– what gets us started : whether we like a clear prior plan, a defined end point we’re aiming for, or to have a general guide but nothing specific, or to wander where we will, to follow the spirit of the moment.
– whether we like to finish one project before starting the next, or have several in progress at the same time.
– how we keep ourselves motivated, what helps us to finish our projects.

Or perhaps you get the biggest fun out of starting up. Does it matter if you don’t finish ? If you could get rid of any guilt, would you happily just make UFOs ? Call them your samples 😀 How much are you willing to pay per hour of fun time – does that cover the cost of half used fabric and notions ? What might help you to throw unfinished things away with glee ? Each one may have started as a dream and ended as a learning experience. Perhaps do the same as embroiderers and art quilters. They don’t expect everything they try to work out well. Store a piece of as far as you got, with notes, in a swatch book for reference. How about a resolution not to finish anything you start 😀 (I tend to be a bit contrary, perhaps that would get me to finish things. . .)

Remember the best way of training is not to chivvy trainees about mistakes, but to reward them when they do something right. Do you need a reward system for finishing projects. Or a reward for learning from what you didn’t finish, for getting something positive out of not finishing. What would be a reward for you ? Perhaps you would like a resolution about rewards 😀

– – –

Sewing is a hobby – what makes it the best stress-free pleasure time for you 😀

Do you actually enjoy the sewing, or do you really prefer reading and thinking and stroking fabrics 😀

I hope you all have a Happy New Year and an enjoyable 2011, whatever it is that keeps you doing whatever you like best !

Holiday Greetings and Gifts

December 24, 2010

In this season of gift giving, a holiday question :
If you received an unlimited dream wardrobe of any clothes of your choice – bought, made for you, made by yourself – what would you choose ?

what styles ? crisp or soft ? fitted or swirling ? which designers if any ?
what textures ? gabardine, crepe, knit, tweed, leather, lace, silk denim, charmeuse. . . ?
what would be really important for you ?

For me – how about an infinite supply of alpaca fleece made to my own colour palette 😀

And a set of perfectly fitting slopers, made for me without any effort on my part by some magical genius. . .

And easy real reality access to a quality fabric shop with the same taste as me. . . (I’m allowed an infinite budget don’t forget, perhaps I’d better have a larger house too :D)

Sometimes I have so many ideas that I would like someone to make clothes for me. Though I really wouldn’t want to give up that surge of grinning glee when I get to the ‘Hey I made this’ stage of a project 😀

– – –


Best Wishes for your Holiday, and for all your sewing plans for 2011.

And thanks for all your interest, which makes this rewarding to do.
Your gift to me : on Wednesday my blog received its 50,000 th visitor since it started – wow !! 😀

Peek at a Preview

December 18, 2010

The UK Elle January issue has arrived – preview of the preview for next season. . .

Colours – head to toe white or very light colours.
Or colour blocking of bright colours. (They’ve been telling us to do colour blocking for several seasons now, but I haven’t yet seen anyone dressed this way.)

Shapes – trouser suits (jacket and pants in the same fabric).
UK Elle are going for high waisted wide legged pants (definitely not flattering for me).
Cuffed short shorts worn with a tailored jacket.
Low calf or longer skirts. (People round here do wear these, but it’s a university area so they wear them whether it’s fashionable or not 😀 ).
Transparent fabric up to the neck over a very un-sexy looking all-covered-up bra.

Not much different from the preview I posted earlier.
(Baby prams/ strollers are competitive fashion items round here – I have seen a chartreuse one 😀 )

Meanwhile, more urgent than fashion – Happy Holiday preparations to all.

Current vests

December 4, 2010

This really is a season for vests. So grab some if you like them. Worn with a blouse. Or layered over long knit tops or loose tunics, as a way of getting the short-over-long layered/ lagenlook effect.

Three main looks.

– – –

1. Classic vest with a blouse

For a more formal look, there’s a classic menswear vest with a soft blouse. See my classics post. This is the current vest that’s good for a neat waist.

If you’d like a softer version, there are a couple of new wardrobe patterns which add a curved collar. Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 6211


or Butterick 5570.


Another ‘classic’ style is a jewel-neck open front vest with Chanel style elements (braid edge trim, patch pockets, chains, pearls). Perhaps Simplicity 4789 view F without bow as a starting point.


– – –

2. Low hip length knit top and drapey vest

Drapey vests are also ‘current’. They add textural interest to a simple low hip length knit top, not always much warmth.

You could lengthen a favourite tee pattern for the top – you want a slim-line not stretched tight style. A new pattern is McCall’s 6244 (many layering options).


New Simplicity 2283 is another pattern for both soft vest and the knit top it’s layered over.

– – –

Similar vest patterns which don’t include a top

Several new patterns, such as Butterick 5498


and Vogue 8657.


Kwik Sew 3827 is a more formal fitted style. It has multiple seams at the back, so would not be as easy to add a warming inner layer to as it looks.


Then, if you’re happy with instructions in French, there are several ‘gilet sans manches’ patterns from Au Bonheur des Petites Mains.


I’ve seen a lace version of one of these light vests, an attractive look for a party.
And a hoodie version (see new Kwik Sew 3838) would fit in well round here.

Not a vest, but new Butterick 5563 has many ways of adding an interesting drapey layer.

– – –

3. Thigh length loose tunic with less drapey vest

Less drapey vests are often layered over a thigh length loose tunic-dress, perhaps with ‘peasant’ (gathered raglan) neckline. (Paysanne sounds more glamorous, but it’s just French for peasant.) This neckline is a current romantic / boho look.

Most pattern catalogues have something in peasant style. But many patterns are close to ‘off the shoulder’ – not what you want in mid-winter ! unless you’re wearing it over a turtle (UK polo) neck.
If you want the neckline closer to your neck, lengthen the front, back and sleeve sections above the armhole.

Here is an example of what you might look for, Stof & Stil 22021.


Made thigh length and perhaps with gathered sleeve cuffs.

If you use a lightweight fabric that doesn’t bulk up when gathered, you can make a much looser style. Simply add a few inches down the mid-length of front, back and sleeves.

On the other hand, if you don’t like a lot of fullness, a partially gathered neckline such as Vogue 8650 could be a good compromise.


– – –

Vests to wear with the long loose tunics

These thigh length loose tunics are usually combined with less drapey vests, two styles in particular.

A long classic shape, worn 2-4 inches/ 5-10 cm shorter than the top it’s layered over, perhaps slim with a little waist shaping. McCall’s 2260 View B could be a starting point for lengthening.


Or a bolero (a good base for quilting and embellishment). I thought a bolero vest was an obvious style, but can’t find a Big 4 pattern. There are several patterns for bolero jackets. Remember you need a low armhole to be comfortable over a raglan sleeve.

The Laughing Moon Cowgirl pattern no.108 includes a bolero vest.


– – –

And current warm vests

Fur vest, fur outside and V-necked, long with wide shoulders, a big look.

Or an ‘aviator’ style fur, with the fur turned in and an asymmetric exposed front zip.

Or a waist length padded blouson.

I talked about these in my warm vests post.

– – –

Of course you haven’t got to wear a vest layered over a longer top.
Either way, it’s definitely a good time for vest lovers 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available November 2010