‘Planning’ my sewing ?

I haven’t written anything here about planning for some time, but I’ve just been taking a ‘sew your own wardrobe’ class which ended with advice and examples on making written notebooks with specific plans for your wardrobe and future sewing.

And there are all those stylists and indie pattern companies which sell printed or free-gift pdf books for writing out your sewing project plans, with one page per project. They’re often not loose-leaf so you can’t even mildly change your mind. And they never have space to record what I think is important.

Oh dear, I can’t work that way at all.

One of my difficulties with sewing plans is I’m a ‘100 ideas before breakfast’ person about what I would like to make.
Also I’ve found in real life if I start on a plan, I wake up a week later to find myself doing the complete opposite (I gave up on making New Year resolutions for this reason some time ago – according to my notes here it was in 2013).

(And I was amused to hear a talk which said recent research shows if you tell people about your goals you’re less likely to reach them ! Though I don’t think that applies to written goals. It’s thought the reason is when you tell people your goals you get the same sort of enthusiastic feedback as you were looking forward to getting when you’ve achieved the goal, so that uses up some of the incentive – you can celebrate without actually doing anything 😀 )

I have managed to train myself to write my ideas down, instead of actually starting projects and then changing my mind, which began to be ridiculous –  a home full of boxes each containing a pattern and notions, and a huge fabric stash.

The point at which I realised I had to stop starting projects was when I organised all my ‘to make’ pile into project boxes, and so was face to face with the fact it was beyond helpful. . .


Each of those 12 drawers is a separate project. There are also several project start-ups which are bulkier so have an individual tub.

I now have a computer full of ‘make next’ lists instead.  Each time I take a sewing or wardrobing class I end up with extensive ’make next’ lists.  My ‘make next’ list from the most recent class contains about 70 items. . .  (Meg McElwee’s Mindful Wardrobe class, thought provoking.)
And my lists change so often, I find it much easier to use word-processing rather than a paper notebook/journal to record them.  These days I find myself coming up with a new ‘make next’ list every morning  😀

I’ve also found it a great help to be secure about ‘my personal style’, so I’m not rushing after other people’s wardrobing lists and ‘develop your sewing skills’ pattern lists too !

By comparison, my actual sewing is very slow. So my focus needs to be on enjoying making, rather than on getting an ideal ‘me made’ wardrobe.

I’ve found it helps to have a good RTW wardrobe, so I’m not under pressure to make anything specific.  So I can just settle down to very slowly making items I’m fairly confident I will enjoy making and then using 😀 My making is best done in a ‘follow what I feel like doing now’ way, pre-planning and prioritising do not work for me here.

And I’m also a quilter, and enjoy using my embroidery machine. Have just fallen for yet another Block of the Month quilt, but have managed not to purchase. Unmade BoMs made another big pile in my previous home ! Long list of embroidery machine quilts I’d like to make too. . . My embroidery designs folder is also huge. There too I’m now managing to buy designs for a specific project rather than scooping up every design I like the look of. Like patterns, they’re a good low-cost option for a little treat 😀 I’ve never been a compulsive shopper for clothes, but patterns, fabric, embroidery designs all need restraint I’ve had to learn ! Now I’m making lists on my computer of what catches my eye in those categories too, instead of buying.

Well, that’s my approach to recording sewing ideas and choosing between possible projects.

But, although this sounds like the opposite of what I’ve said so far, once I start working on a specific project I do find it essential to make a detailed list of each step involved in making it, especially any step that involves changes in tools or processes.  Those lists are on my computer too.

’Sew the shoulder seams.’ Looks like a simple small step but – hmm, how many different sub-steps does that involve – pin, baste, test fit, alter, repeat, stitch, finish seams, press – and there are changes of tools used and/or position in sewing space between each step.

Also I note my progress in detailed ‘e-diaries’ rather than on paper.
So my sewing records are all on computer.

The organisers of the wardrobing course I’ve just taken are staunchly hand-written-paper-journal users. Ah well – that course has made me think I’m unconventional in an unconventional way. . .

Also ’sewing’ as the focus of my hobbies doesn’t just involve ‘making’.
What about all those very enjoyable ’sewing related’ activities which don’t get any making done : watching sewing videos, surfing pattern sites, reading sewing books, reading pattern instructions, changing patterns, blogging about sewing technique and about how to use my embroidery machine. Wandering between all those certainly is not planned. . .

There are other aspects of my life which are better sorted out on paper rather than computer.  When I was working and writing research papers, I had to integrate complex ideas and the first step was to work out how they fitted together.  I used hand drawn diagrams with many arrows to show connections. Using diagram-making software on a computer may be good for showing business plans, but I find it very much constrains creative thinking.

And when I have deadlines I do much pre-planning and prioritising. But for fun hobbies, definitely not.

So what best to do to support my sequence of activities does very much depend on specifics of the task.

Best Wishes for finding your own way through the ever-expanding maze of possibilities for sewing, planning, and making records of both.

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8 Comments on “‘Planning’ my sewing ?”

  1. lirianna Says:

    Hullo to you… I do not know if you remember me, but I have been an on-again-off-again online blogger since 1994-1995. I found your stuff waaay back and have found you in different online venues. I have a myriad of obsessions and focuses, tho, so I have not been online consistently for many years. The funny thing is that I must have signed up to your RSS feed in some capacity because my email address received notification of this post. Yet…. who knows where that originated? LJ, maybe? 10,000 years go? Lifetimes/eons ago?

    Anyway… I am a fellow sewing enthusiast and enjoy seeing your stuff. I have been sewing since I was about 8 years old and I am now a grandmother several times over. I shall leave the reality of the math to your imagination. Ha. 😉

    So… I luvluvluv this post. It touches on the scattered multi-focus struggles of today’s world. I can relate to literally EVERYTHING you said above except for the references to embroidery machines and quilting. (I have never had the $$ or resources to obtain an embroidery machine and I have purposely avoided quilting because of the rampant obsessions people develop to it! I have enough obsessions, tyvm.)

    The one thing that I came here to comment is this: Have you ever gotten so frustrated with the ever-growing pile of “make-next” projects that you decided to give up on all of it and then cannibalized all those project items into your stash to just start over?? It is like the sewing and notions section of your fave store just backed up a dump truck to your house. Woooohooo!!!! More projects to plan!! LOL

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Lirianna – good points. I have to admit [eek] those project drawers and boxes have been sitting around unopened for an embarrassingly long time. They do serve the purpose of stopping me from filling more. But I really ‘ought’ to put all the patterns and notions back in my general rather than specific boxes, so they can be lovingly assigned to new projects 😀

  2. Katrina B Says:

    This is a great description of winding path we each have to take to find our best methods. I love all the wardrobe planning tools and techniques out there, and am easily seduced by the pretty plans other people come up with (and accomplish). I am organized, detail-oriented, and focused in completing tasks… except when it comes to sewing. I too have tried planning complete wardrobes, along with cutting and packaging up dozens of to-sew garments with their thread and notions. I invariably lose interest in the plan halfway through the first garment and move on to something else as soon as it’s done. This leaves me with a lot of stacks like yours. And of course I soon regret having cut the fabric, as I’ve come up with another use for it.
    After years of this I FINALLY realized that planning wasn’t for me, and I now just try to cut and sew one garment at a time. Now if I can just force myself to sew some of the 20 – 30 old projects that are still sitting there, I will feel better about the whole thing.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Hah Katrina – good to know there are many of us 😀 I’m managing to learn that self-acceptance is the best healing tool. No ‘forcing’ – what can we learn from not having yet got around to all those old projects, about what we don’t want to make !

      I usually complain about always having to alter patterns, but your comment makes me realise it means I give up on a project long before the cutting out step, so that’s luckily non-wasteful 😀

  3. Janine Sews Says:

    I have those project boxes sitting in my sewing room, too. Fabric, notions and pattern all neatly stored. And like you, I tend to just sew by whim. I gave up planning wardrobes. My life is so structured that I want the sewing room to be a place where I can do what I want.

  4. Linda W Says:

    I enjoyed reading this very much. I’m retired so I set my own pace and it doesn’t take much to meet my wardrobe needs. lol. I focus on making, or remaking, a few stylish key pieces that aren’t available in my area or at my price point. On paper I might draw a mind map or use a tournament-style elimination to help clarify my thinking. To work out a pattern hack I use a My Body Model croquis for quick thumbnail sketches. As I sew I write notes to my future self on the instruction sheets. I have just one sewing project going at a time and finish it before I start another. Finishing something by deciding not to finish it is ok with me, but no UFOs allowed. 🙂

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