Archive for the ‘speedy sewing’ category

Fast Jackets

January 8, 2011

Has the Stitchers’ Guild jackets sew along made it onto your list of Resolutions ?

Most people who hear the word ‘jacket’ immediately assume lengthy hours of advanced sewing skills are essential. Well, there are sewers who can make a tailored/ structured jacket in a month. And good for them.

But many jacket patterns don’t involve tailoring. They’re ‘dressmaker’ styles with no lining which need little more skill than making a top – often much less skill than making a shirt with band collar and proper sleeve placket. As my fabric stash consists mainly of miles of quilting cottons, I need to make casual jackets and shirt-jackets to use some of it up !

So, what about making some jackets really quickly ?
How about a jacket a day 😀

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There are some jacket patterns which can be made in a few hours. Just the thing if you get to the end of a month and find you haven’t made anything at all 😀

I’ve already listed the Big 4 speedy jacket patterns which claim to take only a couple of hours sewing time. Three patterns for knits. For wovens, there are jackets all the way from casual cascade to formal notched collar. Even two quick outerwear jackets.

Since that post, McCall’s have added another 1-hour knit jackets pattern – McCall’s 6208.


There are also a few jackets among the speedy wardrobe patterns..

Make all those, to get you well on the way to a dozen jackets.

What about patterns from independent designers ? They rarely claim how long their patterns take to sew, but there are a few.

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Textile Studio often do give sewing times for their simple stylish patterns. There are a couple of jackets (originally designed by Loes Hinse).

Capri jacket : 2-1/2 hours sewing time.


Shawl Collar jacket – also 2-1/2 hours.

I have the Florence jacket, said to take 2 hours to sew. Discontinued but still available from The Sewing Place.


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CNT patterns also have a couple of timed jacket patterns.

One, no. 2401, is even called ‘Start after breakfast finish before lunch’ (though personally if I was matching stripes at the raglan seams I think I would take a bit longer than that. . .)


And they say their ‘A Little Somethin’ jacket’ no. 2501 is a 3-hour project. Slightly dropped shoulders, shawl collar.


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Silhouette patterns don’t give specific sewing times on their site, but the instructions often suggest how many sessions you need. I have one quick one – no. 85 Sweater Wrap says it can be made in one session.


It isn’t obvious from the photo or line diagram, but this is a fun circular shape with added sleeves. Could be made without the sleeves, as a wrap vest. (Styling assumes it’s made with a serger, the seams show so need a good finish.)

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Yvonne Porcella’s Cardigan Jacket from Project Sewing Workshop. Claims to be the ‘easiest jacket ever made’. Not so much so I suspect if you’re tempted to embellish 😀


(P.S. I now have this pattern. Yes, very easy if you know what you’re doing. But it would be polite to say the instructions are confused. No line diagrams to clarify the style options, nor suggested fabric layouts etc. Definitely not for beginners or for people who like clear instructions. If you only have 3 hours for a project, you’ll use them all on trying to understand this pattern.)

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There are some minimal DIY patterns available online. I’ve decided in general not to review online patterns. But I can’t resist mentioning this one.

Watch Shirley Adams show how to make a jacket without using a pattern at all, and only 2 seams – in her Bog coat video. Make a fleece jacket in 10 minutes.

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MacPhee Workshop patterns don’t give specific sewing times, but her patterns focus on quick techniques.

In particular, there are several jackets in the ‘It’s Magic’ section which have only one pattern piece. Her ‘Magic Coat’ no. 150 is a tidied-up version of the bog-coat. As is no. 154, ‘Night and Day’.

There’s also the ‘World’s Easiest Parka’ with 2 pattern pieces, in the Coats and Jackets section.

I would refer to these patterns more often, but the diagrams are so tiny they aren’t worth reproducing.

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There are other Big 4 patterns which aren’t quite so quick, but don’t require complex skills. Though beware that most Very Easy Vogue patterns would be ranked Intermediate in difficulty by other people !

Look at the Butterick jackets section. There are about a dozen jackets labelled ‘Fast & Easy’

Or the Vogue jackets section. There are more than a dozen labelled ‘Very Easy Vogue’.

And there are about a dozen more jackets in the Very Easy Vogue Separates section.

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What about going the other way and advancing your skills, but still on relatively quick projects. Perhaps working toward ultimate jacket making skills by doing some tailoring.

For quick tailoring, there’s the McCall’s 6172 Palmer-Pletsch blazer pattern, supported by the Palmer-Alto book ‘Jackets for Real People’. (P.S. There’s now also a DVD, Jackets for Real People.) This jacket is interfaced with fusibles. They claim it takes 8 hours sewing time (after practice !). Three lengths so you can get it right for your own proportions.


Tailored styles are not right for me. I’d be more likely to advance my skills by making a trench coat. Such as Silhouette patterns no. 1925 Barbara’s Trench. The instructions say that can be made in 3 sessions. Hah ! For me that would be more like 3 months 😀


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These are just a few examples of what you could do if you want to go a more complex, though still quite quick, jacket making route. But there are so many quick and easy patterns, there’s no need to despair that you need to improve your sewing skills and take lots of time if you want to make several jackets in one year. And you have only got to make one jacket in the year to join the sew-along !

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Patterns and links available January 2011

Sew a Wardrobe in a Weekend : layers and capsules

June 19, 2010

At last, the super quick layers needed to complete a speedy wardrobe.

I’ve already posted about time-limited patterns for wardrobes, dresses, tops, and bottoms. Here’s the next step, some time-limited patterns for vests, jackets, and coats. A good range of styles from casual to classic. There are also some jackets in the speedy wardrobe patterns posted earlier.

Interesting, these jackets suit a wide range of body shapes. Not just for rectangles, there are shaped waists for people who have them, and flared styles for the pear shaped.

Pick a jacket, top, and bottom from these super quick patterns to make a ‘capsule’. For most of us that would be a considerable achievement in one weekend. Can we leave aside for the moment the aim of making a whole wardrobe in a weekend 😀

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McCall’s 2260 has several unlined classic vests which take 1 hour of sewing time.


Butterick 5888 is for similar vests in 2 hours. In the extra hour you can make a faced notched collar or an edge-to-edge lining.


What about my favourite layer – tunics ? I haven’t found any timed patterns specifically for tunics. But several of the super quick dress patterns include a tunic length version, or could easily be cut to that length. Check if you need to make a larger size so it will layer comfortably over tops (see ease post).

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Soft Jackets

Butterick 5394 is for 2 hour knit cardigans.


Butterick 5224 has more 2 hour knit styles.


McCall’s 5241 1 hour knit cascade style jacket has 3 front lengths all with the same back (the only 1-hour jacket pattern I found).


Butterick 4989 has an interesting choice of 2 hour cascade/ waterfall jackets – this time for wovens.


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The pattern companies also think it’s possible for us to make more formal styles in a short time.

Butterick 4138 even has a classic unlined blazer pattern they say can be made in 2 hours ! There’s a choice of pocket styles and long or short sleeves.


You could also round the corners of collar and hem. Or leave off the collar and use your favourite neckline (see neckline post).

At the ultimate, on their website Palmer-Pletsch claim their tailored lined blazer McCall’s 4598 takes only 8 hours to make. (This will be replaced by McCall’s 6172, available July 1.)


These two patterns show you can add some shaping even if you’re sewing quickly.

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oop Butterick 5089 is a 2 hour pattern for an unlined cropped jacket with cut-on sleeves. Lengthen it for a bit more warmth, and to be more flattering for some of us. Waist length jackets (or just above it) are ‘in’ for the coming winter season.


McCall’s 9576 is a ‘relaxed classic’ 2 hour reversible shawl collar jacket.


McCall’s 5988 is a 2 hour reversible coat in 2 lengths.


McCall’s 3448, the easiest, is for 1 hour ponchos.


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Some Speedy Capsules

Evidently you can include making your winter coat in your speed sewing weekend 😀

And you could make a blazer along with your winter coat, right. . .

If you prefer more formal styles, make the Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 4598 8-hour blazer, one of their 3-hour shirts (McCall’s 4079), and a pair of their oop McCall’s 4459 3-hour pants. All in one weekend of course 😀


I think Sue Neall, the expert whose wardrobe-in-a-weekend inspired these posts, could manage to sew those in a weekend, if it was her style. She chose a softer pattern which would not be quick and easy for many of us (Adri oop Vogue 2910). She was making a wardrobe for a week when she needed to look competent but friendly rather than authoritative and powerful.

We slower sewers might pick three 1-hour patterns so we could cut and sew a capsule in a day. . . er. . .

A ‘classic’ capsule from the super quick patterns could include the Butterick 4138 2 hour blazer, one of the Butterick 5948 2 hour tops, and a pair of Butterick 5044 1 hour straight legged pants. Oh dear, that gets it up to 5 hours of sewing time 😀


There’s a good choice of jackets for a softer look. Perhaps a Butterick 4989 2 hour jacket, a camisole from the same pattern, and a pair of McCall’s 5889 1 hour pants.


Or the timed wardrobe patterns are supposed to take less than 6 hours to sew a basic capsule.

It would certainly be pressurised to sew one of these capsules in a day. Me, I prefer to stay calm. . . but it’s interesting and fun to think about the possibilities !

You could use 2 days of a holiday weekend to make two capsules. And spend the third day making a coat, dress, and skirt. In 3 speedy days, you’d have a proper ‘wardrobe’ of 9 items to cover most eventualities 😀

Kate Mathews in ‘Sewing a Travel Wardrobe’ suggests you make jacket, pants, dress and skirt from the same fabric, for easy co-ordination. She calls this a ‘Six yard wardrobe”. That would speed up cutting and sewing a bit more.

Goodness, you might even have enough time to make one of the oop Butterick 5055 2 hour bags. . .

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Patterns and links available June 2010

Sew a wardrobe in a weekend : skirts and pants

June 6, 2010

Sewing a wardrobe in a weekend ? Here are some skirts (a surprising number of skirts) and pants which the pattern companies think we can sew in 1 or 2 hours.

From plain to frivolous. Even the fanciest of these skirts will go with most of the tops in my previous post. Though it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste to wear them with all the speedy jackets in my planned post on layering pieces.

There are also several super quick skirt and pants patterns in the wardrobe patterns I listed earlier.

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A Skirt in One hour

Many people start their dressmaking career with a dirndl skirt – cut a strip across the width of fabric, sew it into a tube, and turn over top and bottom for elastic waist casing and hem. If I was really under pressure I think even I could do that in less than an hour. If you’d like some helpful guidance with this, there’s Kwik Sew Kwik Start 3765.

Simplicity 2368 is a 1 hour of sewing time skirt pattern including dirndl and 4 gore styles.


There are some interesting possibilities that take 1 hour of sewing time, though they do need more sewing skills.

McCall’s 5430 is a 1 hour wrap skirt with ties.


oop McCall’s 3145 is a 1 hour sarong style wrap skirt.


Silhouette 2050 is a wrap skirt with darts and button closure but no vertical seams, which they say takes 1 hour.


Simplicity 2611 is a 1 hour pattern for skirts and pants.


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A Skirt in Two hours

There are several oop skirt patterns which show what the pattern companies think you can achieve if you can spend twice the time on your sewing.

There’s even a classic skirt with a fitted waist. oop McCall’s 2029 thinks we can sew darts, zip and waistband in 2 hours.


There’s also a skirt with a side opening : oop McCall’s 4875 flared skirt.


The other 2 hour skirts all have elastic waists. They use the extra sewing time on more complex pattern pieces.

oop Butterick 5043 is for 2 hour tiered skirts.


oop McCall’s 5140 has lots of 2 hour flared skirts.


oop Butterick 4993 has 2 hour skirts with added frills and flounces.


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The super quick and easy pants all have elastic waists.

McCall’s 5889 pattern for 1 hour tapered leg pants includes several lengths. Leave off the lower casing if that doesn’t suit you. If you’re not using a soft drapey fabric, you may find you need to cut a smaller size at the side seam, as there is a lot of fabric over the hips.


If you prefer a straight leg, there are many possibilities. It must be difficult to have a pattern stash without acquiring several elastic waist pants patterns.

Butterick 5044 are one-seam straight legged pants said to be very easy.


I know many people love one-seam pants. I’ve made these and they are very quick. But I have a curved hip silhouette, and one-seam elastic waist pants really are not flattering on me. I need a side-seam to echo my shape. What’s best for me is a properly fitted waist with zip, but I’m yet not up to making them in a couple of hours !

Butterick 5153 has similar 1 hour drawstring pyjama style pants and shorts, sized for all the family. McCall’s 6129 is for 1 hour shorts, again for all the family. McCall’s 6082 is a 1 hour pull-on pant pattern for knits from Palmer-Pletsch.

For ‘proper’ pants, there’s even oop McCall’s 4459, a Palmer-Pletsch pattern for 3 hour classic pants.


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The super quick patterns are not to everyone’s taste. And elastic waists are not the most flattering fit for anyone with an indented waist. All those bumps over your curves (and in my case adding to my high hip lumps. . .) If you have an indented waist and want to make quick bottoms, you pretty well have to wear elastic waists under a loose fitting top. Or use very soft fabric with no body, so the gathers lie flat instead of bubbling up. But these patterns do show the sort of processes you can use if you want to finish speedily.

oop McCall’s 2029 is a pattern for a skirt with darts, zip, and waistband, in 2 hours of sewing. Obviously they think those processes will only take you one extra hour of sewing. Is this actually possible ?

I’ve been timing myself, and think I take at least twice as long to sew than these patterns suggest. Also I’m very slow at cutting out. So I think I would allow myself at least one day to make something the pattern companies say takes one hour. But I’m ultra slow. No doubt many people could do it without difficulty in half a day 😀

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Patterns and links available June 2010

Dress in 5 Minutes coordinates : Tops

May 31, 2010

Sew in a weekend : dress in 5 minutes.

The key to dressing without thinking, yet still looking good, is a co-ordinated wardrobe. Most of us have at least a few days when we don’t want to think about clothes. And for that we need a small group of clothes that all go together. So we can grab anything and it will work.

We also sometimes feel we’d like to be able to choose a co-ordinated wardrobe without thinking. Or wish someone else would do the thinking for us.

The trouble is this doesn’t work, as we’re all different shapes, different colours, different lifestyles, and different personalities. I’ve found I can’t work from a theory. There’s no substitute for trying things out and looking carefully. From past experience, I know the clothes in the ‘system’ below are not right for me. But it has general ideas which are useful.

This example of co-ordination comes from Eileen Fisher. They’re very simple styles so, using super quick patterns, you might be able to make a capsule from her ‘system’ in a weekend 😀 Though simple clothes do look best in quality materials and quality techniques.

The current (May 2010) Eileen Fisher ‘system’ consists of :
– 3 sleeveless tops.
– 3 bottoms.
– 3 layering pieces.
– 3 accessories : 2 scarves and a belt.

Most of these garments are made from knits. But I’ve had my head full of speedy patterns for wovens recently, so that’s what comes to mind.

(SWAP 2010 recently finished at Stitchers Guild. Very inspirational wardrobes. But not usually quick to make !)

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Sleeveless tops

”3tops”Eileen Fisher

All the tops do need to be suitable for wearing alone, as well as co-ordinating with all the layering pieces.

These three tops are sufficiently similar that they’re easy alternatives. All are sleeveless, collarless, unshaped, and long – either low hip or high thigh.

For a bit of variety there’s a camisole, and low and high necklines. One has neckline embellishment (self-coloured sequins).

There are few patterns just for sleeveless tops. But if you ever buy wardrobe patterns, you’re probably already well supplied with sleeveless top patterns.

Jalie knit patterns are popular. Jalie 2806 scoop neck tops include sleeveless styles.


If you need a pattern for wovens, oop Butterick 4987 is for making camisoles (left below) in 2 hours of sewing time.

Among current patterns, there’s a camisole in the Butterick 4989 2-hour pattern for cascade jackets.

McCall’s 5298 wardrobe includes a low neck fitted top (centre). This pattern isn’t timed, but is quick and easy.

Butterick 5948 is a pattern for 2 hour tops that are not fitted but include a range of necklines and body and sleeve lengths (right).


Or try the Textile Studio – Loes Hinse Tank Top and Shell.


Lengthen all these patterns to mimic the inspiration.

Personally, this sleeveless top is so simple I think I would start from my fitting sloper. At the beginning of the year I launched into developing TNTs, but got bogged down on finding a comfortable armhole. Now I’ve mercilessly scooped out the lower front armhole, I’m close to one that doesn’t bind.

I usually wear sleeves and a collar. But now I have a comfortable sleeveless top and the weather is unusually hot here – perhaps I will try some sleeveless shells !

(The next TNT problem is I have no idea how to get a sleeve head to match my armhole. . . but that’s another story. . .)

The easiest way to have interchangeable clothes is to make them the same shape and colour. But within that limit, there’s still huge potential for an almost infinite variety of embellishments. It’s even possible to morph these simple shells into vests, blouses and dresses. Shirley Adams’ Alternatives 500 Shell series includes add-on pattern pieces. Fun, but a long way from developing a co-ordinated wardrobe. Which is easiest if the components are fairly similar.

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If sleeveless doesn’t work for you, you’ll be pleased to know there are many basic sleeved tees elsewhere on the May 2010 Eileen Fisher site. (Many of these tops are long too.)

Jalie 2805 pattern for knit tees is a favourite of Pattern Reviewers, one of the Best Patterns of 2009.


Or Simplicity 4076 (oop) is in the Pattern Review Hall of Fame 2009, if you like more varied tops. Though these styles are more difficult to combine successfully with a covering layer (I think it would best be simple and plain).


Some other popular patterns are Pamela’s Perfect Tee and Jennifer Stern’s The Tee.

If like me you don’t look good in knits (anything closely fitted makes it obvious how small my bust is), there are woven short sleeved tops in the Butterick 5948 collection of 2 hour tops.

Or try the Textile Studio – Loes Hinse Basic Top.


I look better in these tops if I add front bust and back shoulder darts.

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Cami dresses

Elsewhere on the May 2010 Eileen Fisher site, most of the dresses are ‘cami dresses’, lengthened versions of the simple tops.

Spaghetti straps slide straight off my sloping shoulders, so I wouldn’t be comfortable in this style. They’re minimal garments, not made with the support you get in a strapless formal dress.

If you do like this idea, New Look 6804 (oop) is a 2-hour dress pattern.


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On Trend

If you’re following the Pattern Review Wardrobe Contest for 2010, you need to include something that’s ‘on trend’ as shown in a fashion source. These items show just how easy that is ! You might make a classic tee and refer to the Eileen Fisher site to show you’re current 😀

There are several trends this summer that are relevant for simple tops.

Colour :
Lighter neutrals, such as nude tones or oyster grey, non-colours of beige, stone, greige, light coral, or pale muted pastels.

Minimalism :
One of this season’s key trends is minimalism, and these tops certainly follow that – the simplest of styles made in high quality drapey fabrics.
See ‘Clean Energy‘ at (US Vogue) (“Click for more fashion” to get a beautiful slide show.)

Lingerie look :
Make your top in charmeuse or sheers, with added lace or flounces. Or white lawn covered in heirloom stitching.
See ‘Pastoral Interlude‘ and ‘The Big Reveal’ at

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Co-ordination and personal style

‘Dress in 5 minutes’ is possible because the clothes are interchangeable. Everything goes with everything else, so you don’t have to think or try things out.

Co-ordinating is helped by shapes and lengths, necklines and armholes, and colours. This ’system’ of clothes do co-ordinate, but is this the co-ordination that’s best for you ? I need to adapt the shapes and lengths, and the colours, to be more flattering for my body.

And the clothes also need to work with your personal style and lifestyle. For example, suppose you’re choosing tops for a travel mini-wardrobe. You might need a sunny top and a dressy top, but also a covered up top for visiting places with a dress code.

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Shapes and lengths

This ‘system’ co-ordinates partly because of the similar shapes. All the pieces are simple in outline. They depend on knit fabrics for shaping to your body. If you’re not a straight shape, see my previous post for some thoughts on adapting simple patterns to be more flattering on other body shapes.

Use the high and low necklines that are most flattering for you (see post). Add darts if that works better for you. I need to flare the side seams or add side slits from waist level, so the tops aren’t strained over my hips.

Trinny & Susannah in ‘What not to wear’ have a lot of advice about t-shirt styles for different body shapes.

All the ‘system’ tops are long. That’s because two of the layers are cropped to give the ‘layered’ style. (Two meanings of ‘layer’ :
– a piece that goes over others.
– a look with the ‘layering piece’ shorter that what’s underneath, short over long.)

”layers” Eileen Fisher

Cropped jackets and vests are also a trend for the coming winter.

”me-layered” Me, ah perhaps not. . .

With my short waisted high hipped pear shape, this is not a good look for me. Puts a lot of important design lines across my hips, which is the last place I need to draw attention to. . .

In Trinny & Susannah’s “Body Shape Bible”, they only suggest short-over-long for their Pear shape – long body and short legs. Trinny herself is this shape, and uses the layered look to great effect so she appears to have perfect proportions.

It would be better for me to make these items the other way round, long over short : short tops and longer layering pieces.
But you may be one of the people the short-over-long look works well for.

It’s good to get the lengths right in a wardrobe. It’s also important to co-ordinate necklines, armholes and sleeves. In this ‘system’ the tops are all collarless and sleeveless, so that isn’t a problem. I do prefer to wear a collar. There are 2 easy ways of co-ordinating this :
– tops with collars, layering pieces collarless.
– tops collarless, layers with collars.

If you want sleeved tops that go under nearly all layering pieces, do make the tops with fitted armholes and sleeve heads.

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Co-ordinating is helped by simple use of colour. In this Eileen Fisher ‘system’ all the clothes are neutral colours and accessories are accent colours. There are two main neutrals, a light and a dark. Bottoms are in the dark neutral. Most of the tops and layering pieces are in the light neutral. There is added interest because they have different textures.

What are your best lighter and darker neutrals, and favourite accent colour ?

Personally I don’t look good in strong contrasts, and I wear mainly lighter colours. A light top and dark bottom means there’s a strong line across you somewhere. You need to make sure this is at the right height, and with the right balance of light and dark, to be flattering on you.


I like wearing neutrals, but mainly light ones. The monochromatic look is right for me. And I like textures. But soft florals, and animal or ethnic prints, are ‘in’ this season, if you prefer prints to textures. Or multicoloured abstracts if you like a hard edged look.

Do you know your own ‘colour personality’ ? (see posts on individual colour types in her April 2010 archive). Would you prefer to wear a couple of pastels, or olives and rusts, rather than neutrals ? Nude tones or khakis are very current. So is monochromatic denim blue. Or perhaps you like a variety of strong colours. In that case you may already know that colour-blocking of near-primary colours is ‘in’ this year !

In the Eileen Fisher ‘system’ , the clothes are all in neutral colours. Accessories add life and variety. Scarves and belt are in accent colours and obvious textures – crinkles and weaves. The long scarves (70 – 84 inches/ 1.75 – 2.10 m) have fringed ends. Many are wide enough (20-28 inch/ 50-70 cm) to use as a light wrap. A lot of stylish people round here are wearing these long big scarves to add colour and individuality.

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These are good relaxed styles. Some of the patterns I’ve mentioned are not timed patterns, but are easy.
Make a ‘capsule’ of top, bottom, and layering piece in a weekend. (More posts, on the Bottoms and Layers.)

So you need a month of speedy sewing weekends for clothes and scarves, and a little shopping for belts if you like them, to get the complete wardrobe 😀

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Patterns and links available May 2010