There’s nothing more rewarding in sewing then when a plan comes together, when weeks of thinking and organizing and fitting and cutting and sewing finally come together. In February, I posted my thoughts about a few new pieces I wanted to have for a trip to Florida. The trip has since come and gone (and it was fantastic!), and now it’s time to see, of the things on the list, what came together and what didn’t.
You know I love to sew in groups or collections of garments, and sewing for a specific event or trip is my ultimate project. It is so much fun! I always appreciate a collection with a clear and cohesive color story with coordinating prints, and this particular group is lacking in that respect. The blue top sticks out like a sore thumb and I’ve got three very different prints going on, but this project was more about specific garments for specific events, so from that perspective I’m very pleased.
In the planning post, I mentioned that I needed the following: a couple comfy tops to travel in, a swimsuit cover up, a cocktail dress, a couple of sundresses, and an outfit for exploring Miami.
Garments successfully made: tops, cocktail dress, sundresses, Miami outfit
Garments not made: swimsuit cover up
I had big plans for a wrap skirt swimsuit cover up in this yummy rayon challis, but time ran out before I could get to that project. (I ordered a navy sarong from Amazon and called it good.) As we got closer to the departure date I had to prioritize my unfinished projects, and this one got left behind. I’m okay with that though, because I think this fabric will be great for another project in a summer/4th of July collection I’m planning. Maybe a maxi dress?
I finished this dress first, and I wore it to dinner one night. I am completely and totally in love with this little gingham number, and it was perfect for this trip. It’s linen so it wrinkled quite a bit and required some ironing after we got there, but that’s okay with me. It was so comfortable, and I got loads of nice compliments on it. For more about this dress, see this post.
Full disclosure: I made this dress last summer. I knew it would be a great dress for this trip, and it was. I wore this to the welcome reception on the beach. Loved it. For more about this dress as well as a tip for a better fitting bust, see this post from last week.
I made three tops for this trip, all using the same pattern. This one is my favorite of the bunch. The floral trim is just so pretty! It wasn’t ridiculously hot in Florida yet, so I could still wear jeans and not be uncomfortably hot. My travel outfits and the exploring Miami outfit were the same: one of these tops, skinny jeans, a hat, and sandals. It was great. For more about these tops and a tutorial for the ruffle, see this post.
The cocktail dress: easily one of my favorite projects. I got more compliments on this dress than I’ve ever gotten on any other project, ever. So not only was I glad other people liked it as much as I did, I was proud to tell them that I made it. (You should have seen some of the reactions that got!) Read about the cocktail dress here.
This is by no means a sundress, but it came in handy for another dinner event. This is one of my all time favorite patterns, and this is fourth time I’ve made this dress. Read about the others here and here. This is Vogue 8825 in a coral rayon ponte knit from Mood.
I also planned to make a pair of white linen pants, and while I did make them, I didn’t take them to Florida. They didn’t really work with the tops I made, so you’ll see those soon with a top that makes a little more sense.
I was so excited to get pretty blog pictures on the beach (what a great opportunity, right?), but a funny thing happens when I get to a beach: I don’t care about pretty pictures. I’m much more concerned with how quickly I can throw on a swimsuit, get to the beach, and swim my little heart out. There were also a lot of people there, and taking selfies and blog pictures in front of a bunch of strangers isn’t my idea of a good time. At any rate, the trip was a wonderful, and I couldn’t be happier with the collection I made for it.
Now, on to more projects!
I usually decide what projects to make next with a few unsurprising factors in mind. Things like the weather and what fits into my lifestyle and what fabric I have in my stash often steer my sewing in one direction or the other. The mild Texas winters have kept me from making a tailored coat for years now, yet I’ve gone out of my way to make a couple tulle skirts and one of the most sparkly sequin skirts ever simply because I wanted them. Both are equally as practical as a wool coat in Texas but here we are.
Sometimes, an event or trip comes up that requires a little more thought and planning. Next month, Ty and I are going for Florida for a long weekend at the beach. It’s a company sponsored event for select employees based on performance in 2016, and I’m so very, very proud of Ty and his hard work. We are really excited for this little vacation.
There are a few events over the course of the weekend with a specific dress code, which means it’s time to make some new clothes. I was just about to dive into spring sewing when we found out about this trip, so I rearranged my production timeline a little, added a couple of items to my project list, and I was ready to hit the ground running. Luckily, we’re going somewhere warm where a lot of what I already had planned will be appropriate.
Besides a couple billowy tops with fun sleeves to travel in (interesting sleeve details are huge this year), I need a beach cover up, a sundress or two, an outfit for an afternoon of exploring Miami, and a cocktail dress. I can hardly believe this myself, but the one item I still haven’t finalized is the cocktail dress. I have the fabric, but I can’t seem to settle on a design. But, look! I already have the shoes and handbag. That’s progress, right?! This is a floral brocade from Promenade Fabrics. And yes, it’s on the pricey side, but what else is a girl to do with her birthday money but spend it on fabric for a pretty dress?
Whenever I sit down to plan a collection, I have a process in place to help me get organized and inspired. Because this is the first group of projects for spring, it was easy to dive in and get excited for bright colors and florals and linen and ruffle tops and sundresses and all the things that make spring the best season of all the seasons. I’m doing a lot of coral and white and the Pantone color of the year, greenery. My interpretation leans a little more Kelley green than the moss green of greenery, but I’m all in for the green this year. What a fun, refreshing color. I got 6 yards of this green gingham linen (yes, it’s linen!), so I can make a dress and a top. This Butterick pattern is new for spring, and I absolutely love it. Fabric can be found at Fashion Fabrics Club.
Whenever I make a list of projects, I always include pattern numbers or other notes about the design in my design journal. Most things are straightforward, like if I’m using a commercial pattern or my own. In some cases, it’s a combination of the two, which I call “hybrid” garments. Again, still a big question mark next to the cocktail dress.
I’ve posted about Vogue 8825 twice before (here and here), and it’s such a fantastic dress that I’m making it again in coral. I have a feeling the coral dress will be my favorite. Fabric is a rayon ponte knit from Mood. (Tip: rayon/nylon ponte knits are better quality than their polyester cousins, and they feel better too.)
One of the things I love most for spring and summer is linen pants. Like many of you, it’s been a challenge to find pants that fit properly. Enter, this Vogue pattern. I’ve had it for ages, and I even cut it out in ivory linen about two years ago. Never did finish those pants (now they’re a size or two too big), but I’ll finish this pair for sure. If making pants is something you’d like to get into, I’d recommend starting with a design with a wider leg. That way, there’s less fitting to worry about. This pattern is out of print, but I found it on eBay a while back. I like it because it sits at the natural waist, which is flattering on my body type. It’s worth finding, for sure. This fabric is 100% white linen from JoAnn. These pants and a pretty top will probably be my Miami outfit.
For one of the blouses and a sundress, I’m using this gorgeous floral sateen from Fashion Fabrics Club last year (sold out). I made a dress last summer and had about two yards left over to make a top. So, I’d say that worked out well. This fabric is magical. The pattern is another oldie but goodie, McCall’s 7163, and I cut view D, because I like my shoulders and upper back covered.
The last item on my list is a swimsuit cover up, and mine will be in the form of a skirt. I have a few scars to cover up (and I absolutely have to protect my skin from the sun) so my swimwear needs are unique. I got this incredible long sleeve one piece from J. Crew (and it’s my favorite color!), so my idea for the cover up is a flowy, swishy skirt. I designed a wrap skirt a few years ago, which I think I’ll use to make the cover up. I might add elastic in the back waistband for a little extra comfort. I found this star print rayon a couple weeks ago that I think, paired with the navy suit and gold sandals, will be the cutest thing ever. I also have a red swimsuit and rash guard, so it will work nicely together. It’s almost like I planned it . . .
That’s it! I’m about halfway finished with construction for these projects, so I’m making great time. Only a few weeks to go and we’ll be beach bound!
As much as I love sewing and cutting fabric and draping and adjusting patterns and actually being knee deep in fabric and projects, I am someone who needs time to prepare. I need time to think. It’s just as fun–and important–to me that I invest the time thinking about my projects as it is bringing them to life. I love the challenge of deciding what projects to tackle next based on my needs and aesthetics, it’s a thrill to rediscover fabric in my stash that I’d long since forgotten, and editing colors and textures to create a group of workable and sensible garments is my idea of a good time. I’m guilty of pouring time and energy into less-than-practical one-off garments all the time, but I’ve found that I enjoy myself to the max when I’m working on a little collection of sorts that I’ve planned out in advance. It makes achieving your sewing goals much easier.
When I was in business we had to work so far in advance that it was a constant challenge staying inspired, because you were always trying to anticipate trends and consumer needs. Now that I’m just sewing for myself, I still work ahead because sewing takes time, but I’m also in a position to enjoy working in the moment. It’s much more fun when you can work a month out from something as opposed to 18 months. Even though my lead times are shorter now, the planning I learned in college and practiced in business is something I can apply to my personal sewing endeavors.
So, when it’s time to figure out what to sew next there’s a few things I do to inspire new ideas, keep me engaged in the process, and stay organized the whole way through.
First things first, get a calendar and use it. Are there special events coming up that I need to prepare for? Do I need to include a cocktail dress on my to-do list or can I stick with casual separates this time? (As luck would have it, I need a cocktail dress for an event in March, but more on that later.) I’ve been sewing long enough now that I know about how long it will take me to make something, so it’s helpful to glance at a calendar if only to make a note about a production schedule. For example, if I know I need a pair of linen pants in three weeks, I know I can fit those in along with a dress and maybe a blouse or two, all in three weeks time. I used to cram so many projects into a short time frame that I was always disappointed in the end because I couldn’t get to everything. Now, I’m more realistic about what I can actually finish in a given amount of time.
Take notes like you’re being graded on it. I’ve gone through tons of notebooks over the past few years. Notes, swatches, measurements, ideas–everything gets written down. I find it’s helpful to cut a swatch of a fabric anytime I buy something new, and catalog it in my design journal. I don’t use new fabric right away all the time, so this is easier than constantly digging in drawers. I also keep a sketchbook on my desk where I draw ideas, which is especially helpful for handbags and clutches because I can draw them to scale for a better idea about size and proportions.
Visit your closet, and take inventory. Last summer, I discovered that I need to invest in sewing a handful of skirts and dresses with an elastic or drawstring waist in flowy, breathable fabrics that don’t need to be lined. For instance, loose fitting linen skirts and pull on rayon dresses. I have quite a few fitted, more formal dresses, but those simply will not do in the Texas heat. I also need some easy to wear, pullover blouses to go with these summer skirts. Now that I know what some of my needs are, I can adjust my projects accordingly. It might be a bit tedious to do six blouses all at once, so spread it out and do other fun things at the same time. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be doing two or three blouses, all different in design, along with skirts and dresses. Keeps it interesting. (Side note: please don’t be impressed with those wooden hangers. I got those when I was in business so things would look nice at shows and poo-up shops. Highly unlikely I would invest in them otherwise. In fact, Ty’s side of the closet is where all the plastic and mismatched hangers live!)
Plan your colors. This is something I picked up along the way in business. We produced so much in house that we had to be meticulous in production to make the most of our time and resources. That meant an assembly line based primarily on color. So now, when I think about a group of projects to make, I like to choose fabrics and colors that keep me from changing the serger thread too often. I have two machines, so I keep white thread in one of them at all times, and I use the other one for knits or other colors.
Refer back to line sheets, textbooks, and old notes. Sometimes, if I’m not feeling inspired I will look back at my college projects or handouts. I’m always reminded of a great neckline or silhouette that might become the starting off point for a new design or project. The internet is also a wonderland of information, if you don’t hang on to every little thing like I do.
Pick your patterns. I absolutely love using patterns. We had to draft each and every pattern ourselves in business, so now that I don’t have to work from scratch I am one happy girl. I still adjust things quite often, but having these patterns is such an advantage. Plus, they’re inspiring and more and more on trend lately, so it’s easy to get excited about sewing. I spent a lot of time last week looking through the patterns I had and also taking advantage of the pattern sale at JoAnn. I bought up a number of new patterns for spring and summer, which I cannot wait to use. These are but a few of the patterns I’m using over the next couple of months.
That’s it! Investing the time into planning your projects is so worth it. Don’t worry about the time away from your machine either–this part of the process makes the time you do spend creating your projects even better. And let me know if you have any planning tips that help you in your sewing journey. I’d love to hear all about it!
Have a great week!