Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Almost at the end of my one year challenge + honesty time

I am almost to the end of one year of sewing my own clothes!

I'm sure you're curious whether I really didn't buy any new clothes: truly, I was pretty good! I previously 'fessed up to buying a coat at the A.P.C. outlet in Paris in November.  Also, I did break down and buy 3 merino cardigans from Nordstroms in March.



I was desperate for spring-color sweater cardis, which I can't sew... I bought 3 colors of the same style, so can we pretend that it was one transgression? And really, that was it!  I'm proud of myself for sticking (for the most part) to my goal.

I was hoping that I'd begin wearing many of my own pieces as the year went on, but, to be honest, not all of the pieces I've made this year have went into regular wardrobe rotation. There are a few reasons for this: (1) some pieces were a flop, and (2) I wasn't sewing for my life or wardrobe.

Reason #1 is pretty obvious. Not only were some projects a failure, but my early garments weren't of the best construction. I'm not beating myself up - I was a complete novice at apparel sewing! There is a learning curve, and I think I'm now on the upward swing of it (despite recent poor fabric/pattern choosing - while I admit the skirt does look rather cute in the photos, I just can't bring myself to wear it!). 



For example, I could not figure out what underlining (EDIT: understitching!) was when I first started sewing. But now I think it is the most important construction step (after pressing, of course). I've learned to sew French seams, and have begun doing them on the interiors of dresses and linings.


I also think it looks more professional to match the invisible zipper to a project's colors, even though just the pull is seen. These techniques make a piece look and seem more RTW, and make me want to grab them out of my closet.

Reason #2 needs explaining: I bought patterns or material because I loved the style or fabric, for that reason alone, without much thought to what I really wear. For example, I purchased a gorgeous, soft, high-quality thick satin from WinMil which I turned into this Cynthia Rowley shift:


But I haven't had the occasion to wear it. I'm a suburbanite, and very rarely go to cocktail parties or clubbing (instead, I like to sit at home and sew on a Friday night, heh heh). Or this sheath dress in the awesome jungle-esque material: the material is a bit much for work, but the shape is too stuffy for going out/casual wear.  Not a good fabric/pattern match.


I will get so much more mileage out of my hard-sewn pieces if I carefully consider whether I'd really wear the piece (Where? With what shoes? What pants? Etc.). While I might want a jungle print dress, if I'm never going to wear it, it's a waste of my money and time.

I don't think one should sew only black pencil skirts and button-ups, ignoring that special occassion dress pattern, or passing on a lovely faux fur for a shrug that will only be worn a few times. But if you're aiming to build a better wardrobe via sewing, "I will sew for my real life!" has to be your mantra.

I've been thinking a lot about what my future approach to sewing will be… thoughts on that soon!

29 comments:

K.Line said...

I can't believe you don't find lots of occasions to wear those things! I think they are elegant but not fussy. And they fit really nicely.

Maybe, as time goes on, you'll incorporate them into regular wearing.

You know, my life isn't very glamorous, but I wear animal patterns all the time!

Good job on your experiment. I think you've done fantastically and I can't wait to see what year 2 of sewing brings.

Anonymous said...

I think the jungle print would be great for work. Top it with a plain taupe colored sweater or jacket to coordinate with the dress and it would look quite professional.

Mary said...

You inspire me!! Thanks for articulating what has been bothering me about my own sewing-I need to sew for my life, and throw in a fun pattern once in awhile. I agree with Anonymous up there...the green dress would be fine for work, especially with a taupe cardi.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Honestly this is why my sewing can seem so boring at times...because I sew for what I need most...work clothes! I would love to sew bright colors & prints in awesome fabrics but then I would stand out like a sore thumb at work.

Personally, I've seen so much growth in you this year...and you have a talent for this so I hope you're not retiring from sewing. I think with a little wardrobe focus, you will end up with way more successes than failures!

Faye Lewis said...

Congratulations on being close to reach your goal. I find that I'm adding fewer ad fewer RTW items to my wardrobe. I do a little snoop shopping at the beginning of each new season just to steal ideas, and I will buy a few things that I know I can't sew. Analyzing a year of sewing will set the stage for the next year of sewing I am sure, making it better and better.

Julie said...

Great pieces. Honestly, the Cynthia Rowley shift is a great example of day-to-night outfit with a quick change in shoes and jewelry. The jungle print dress is lovely. If you want to make it more work-appropriate, make a jacket to go with it. Lovely work all-around.

Angela said...

Congrats! Hehe... great reflection into your past year of sewing! I should probably do a similar thing and re-evaluate my sewing and projects. I can't wait to see what you have in store this upcoming year!

Carolyn said...

Congratulations on completing your goal!
I have to admit I would be wearing those two dresses you pictured a LOT, you just need to play around with styling them until you find a combination that excites you... not all pieces either work together, or stand alone successfully. And sometimes I pull out something I made way back and haven't worn much, and suddenly it's like, yes! and I know how it's going to work... so don't give up!

AllisonC said...

Especially considering you were a beginner when you started this you have done amazingly well to stick with your project and you have got some gorgeous pieces - hopefully you will find more occasions to wear them.

Trudy Callan said...

You've learned so much about yourself through this process and so many wonderful sewing techniques. You've come so far. I think this next year will be even better.

Trudy
www.sewingwithtrudy.blogspot.com

Lisa said...

Wow you have done so well , I can imagine your next sewing year will be fabulous . I love your Jungle dress and the Snake skin satin one just beautiful . I really need to knuckle down and sew appropriate clothes .

Karin said...

I've loved watching all your sewing triumphs and disappointments. I feel like I have learned along with you! I hope you will keep sewing and keep blogging even after your experiment has ended.

Shannon said...

You've come a long way, baby! Isn't is funny how when you're learning to sew it can be a tricky, often frustrating, journey. But, when you look back on the progress you've made, it's all worth it. I think anything worth learning is worth making the effort for and enduring the mistakes. At the pace you're on, the wadders will be coming far less frequently now. Even seamstresses that have been sewing for decades still screw up. Even now, after almost 25 years of sewing, I still make garments that don't get worn - sometimes it happens. However, both your "mistake" dresses are lovely - I hope you do find an occasion to wear them.

SemiCharmedWife said...

You've done a phenomenal job! I've only been reading your blog for the past month or two, but I'm so impressed with and inspired by what you've accomplished. I'm a beginning sewer too, and it's great to see what you've achieved in such a short time. I hope you continue your blog--I can't wait to see what you do next!

Marie-Christine said...

I find it easier to work up a plan from what I need in my wardrobe, rather than what fabrics I come across. I can leap on a nice print occasionally of course, but if I did only that then I'd have to buy clothes to complete the closet. I get more wear out of boring sewing, alas :-).

But I find it fascinating that you find underlining a major sewing technique. I've only had to underline once in my life, and it was to get maximum warmth into a winter coat. It's much easier to learn to pick the right fabric for a pattern, and conversely to learn what use will bring out the best in a fabric. Then you can skip the couture methods to compensate for your mistakes, and also end up with much nicer clothes.

Kind of reminds me of the time this Spring when I had to calm all the salesladies in a Paris store before I could buy fabric - a US group of patternreview ladies had bought up a lot of very nice linen and left loudly proclaiming their intention to line it, obviously pleased with themselves and expecting admiration for their technical skills. But the saleswomen were -indignant-, and ready to forbid selling good fabric to foreigners entirely, if all they're going to do is ruin it. And reasonably so: lining is fine if you insist on making something too tight in linen, it does help it wrinkle less. But what you should really do is make something more suitable for linen, ie loose and unlined, cool.

Not to mention you can have more and better clothes when you're not wasting time forcing fabric to do what it's not meant to. Anyway, that'd be my main wardrobe advice :-).

lsaspacey said...

I was also surprised to hear that you don't wear those two dresses all the time. They would be in my regular rotation, especially that first shift dress, it's so casual, never mind that it's satin. I don't really see it as "club wear" either. So wear it with simple flats and a necklace and you're done.

The other dress is perfect for work but better with a cardigan or jacket. I think you made these clothes for a reason; perhaps you wanted to see yourself as someone who would wear them. So, just do it, wear them out! I bet that after you receive your second compliment you will feel comfortable and confident.

Do it and let us know how it goes, ok?

Sheila said...

Kudos on nearing your challenge and as a beginning sewist, am impressed with what you have done so far and look forward to more of your creations. I've also challenged myself to avoid purchasing rtw and I am 8 months stronger for it.. now I just shop for accessories.

Seriously the two dresses can be worn to work and like the others mentioned paired with a blazer or cardigan if you feel the need to tone it down.

I wore a snake print dress to work initially feeling like I should be in the club, but the comfort of the dress and slimming lines of it superceded everything else. To top it off, despite the dress code for that day I wore it anyway and the client that was visiting surprisingly complimented on my dress... the fashion police couldn't stop me if they wanted to after that compliment...lol

Like Carolyn, I mainly sew for work, but now know what garments work well in my work wardrobe and every now and then... throw color to the wind.

Looking forward to seeing what your new sewing agenda will be.

Eugenia said...

Congratulations on an amazing start in sewing. You have made some wonderful clothes. Even though some of them may not get worn very much (or at all!) I don't think you should view them as time wasted. You will have learnt something useful from everything you have made - either from the construction or the fitting, or both. Also you never know when garments might suddenly fit into your lifestyle - a last minute invitation to a fabulous cocktail party might arrive and your gorgeous Cynthia Rowley shift will be there in your wardrobe ready to slip on!

tawnya said...

Hi! I just found your blog. I'm a beginner sewer and just about tipped over in my chair when I found your site. I love your idea to sew your own clothes for a year. I browsed your photos and I'm in awe. Superb work, my friend!

It's funny that you mentioned being more mindful of matching fabric and patterns so that it would be something you'd wear. Just yesterday on my way home from work, I had that thought too. I love cherry fabric, for example, but I haven't seen much that would make for cute tops or shorts. Sigh. It's all a learning experience, isn't it!

So you're almost at your year mark, and I have one question. WILL YOU CONTINUE BLOGGING???? I really hope so! I enjoy reading advanced sewing blogs but sometimes I feel left in the dust. It's nice to relate and be inspired by someone a little further along than I am, opposed to neon light years. lol,

Peter said...

Honey, you'd better not bail now! The 2nd year is when all the good stuff happens....right?

The Slapdash Sewist said...

Forcing myself to sew for my real life is one of the sadnesses of sewing. Luckily, I can wear prints and bright colors and more-casual-than-business at my office, but there is still a limit! Congratulations on making it through your year--I don't buy RTW either and once I broke the habit I was glad to have all that shopping time as free time.

Gigi said...

Years ago, I was just like you. I made lots of things for a lifestyle I didn't have and, consequently, never wore. Part of the fun of sewing is the fantasy! But, if you were to ask yourself honestly, you know you'd never spend your hard-earned money on things you'll never wear so why sew them? I have embraced being able to sew what I *need* - it's a luxury to be able to do so. You are entering Phase II of your sewing - don't quit now!

And, BTW, I'd totally wear that Cynthia Rowley shift with a cool belt and boots to run my errands! Your beautiful sheath dress would probably work for the office with a simple cardigan over it. It fits you so beautifully, I'd hate to see it go to waste!

Karin van D. said...

I love your blog and have been following your progress through the year. Just like the rest of the commenters, I encourage you to really wear those dresses. THey are gorgeous and look so great on you. Maybe if you combine them with other items, accessoires or jackets/cardigans you suddenly will love to wear them all the time? Anyway, thanks for sharing your sewing progress with us. It's very inspiring!

DreinPA said...

As above, with the note that being able to make clothing that you can't afford to buy is the path to a better wardrobe. Raise your standard of what you would wear to work. What's that old axiom? Dress for the job you want to have!!

amber said...

You have made some really beautiful pieces this year and should be so happy with yourself. I agree with the others, I think both "mistake" dresses are lovely and I'd def. work that shift dress into the rotation. Flats for summer or tights and boots during winter and I think you'd have a great run around on the weekend dress.

I can't wait to see what you create for the next year! :)

Susan said...

I think you have come a long way and learned a lot on the way. Slipping up and buying RTW is not a crime after all. Keep pressing forward with the new techniques you've learned and you'll keep making improved items each time you try.

Tasia said...

You've come a long way in a year, congratulations!
You know, I've been sewing for years and I still make fantasy-life pieces, or items that have nothing to go with them just for the fun of it. I still have that disconnect between what I need to wear and what I want to make. Although, yes, we could sew basics and solids and have a easy wearable wardrobe. It's a balance I suppose!

Haylee said...

I love that first skirt! It's ok if you don't want to wear it, just send it to me! ;)
Happy one year anniversary of sewing your own clothes! Awesome accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

you really do inspire me. Ive just bought a machine and hope to be as good as you someday! x thanks so much