Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Planning Sewing: My Most Successful Method To Date

I have a love/hate relationship with planning my sewing. On one hand, I am a major planner when it comes to buying fabric. I at least have a general idea of what I want to make with each piece of fabric I purchase from a store ( I stipulate at a store because I am much less discerning at places like thrift stores, lol, just to be clear). The truly crazy thing is that no matter how bad my memory gets with age, I am still able to remember where I purchased each piece of fabric, a general idea of what I paid (if not the exact amount), as well as what I intended to make with it. My style may change over time, and therefor plans get shifted, but that plan was always there in the background. So clearly I love a plan and tend to stick with it if it's possible and realistic. On the other hand, I am absolutely not one to dictate what I will make when. Usually if I have any type of thing I feel I have to make, I shut down and avoid making it completely. Schedules just suck the joy out of sewing for me and make it feel like work. It's silly, I know, but there it is. 

With all the sewing blogs I read, I know I am not alone in this mindset. Some people can make lists and capsule wardrobes, others just can't stand any type of planning and just make exactly what they want in the moment. I consider myself somewhere between these two extremes. Anyway, earlier this year I noticed that I wasn't making much progress with my year end goals, and thereby I wasn't making much on my #2018makenine list either. I love the idea of the make nine, but each year I am lucky if I even made one item on the list (as shown here). In some ways I think it's my aversion to lists in general, but I also think it's partly that I just didn't have the list in the forefront of my mind when deciding what to sew at any given time. So I decided to try out an experiment to maybe get some of these things made up. I mean - I do want all of these items. I planned them and bought the fabric and all that myself because I wanted to sew them up! So I thought maybe a pretty visual aid would help but not stifle my creative flow - and it did!  
Now I'll tell you up front - I'm fairly well versed with using Photoshop, and while I'm sure there are other programs out there that would accomplish a similar product, I do not know what they are. So use this more as inspiration than actual advice if you're not a Photoshop user. I started out by making a square document and adding a grid of guidelines to separate the page into smaller squares. I then made a list of items I wanted to make up in the near future, pulling heavily from my sad and neglected Make Nine lists from the past few years. I themed one with Tops and one with Bottoms and Dresses. In each little section, I added a picture of the fabric I wanted to use along with a line drawing (if at all possible) of the pattern I wanted to make it in as well as a little title for the pattern name. At the end of the day, this was nothing difficult or fancy. The most time consuming thing is acquiring the fabric pictures (I have all my fabric up on Trello, so that part was done) as well as getting a line drawing and eliminating the background so it would tile nicely in my little plan.
With this method, I have already made 4 tops, 2 skirts, and a dress off my lists! Years of procrastination were wiped away with just this one pretty visual in my sewing room :) So far I've made:
On my list I still have:
  • Christine Haynes Marianne Top in a teal geometric rayon jersey remnant piece with white contrast
  • Fancy Tiger Crafts Sailor Top in a Joel Dewberry print cotton
  • Butterick 6217 in a Gertie rose print dotted Swiss
  • Sewaholic Alma Top in a cute daisy print cotton with a cream collar
  • Sassy Librarian Blouse in fruit print cotton
Some of these plans and fabrics are over 6 years old. Craziness! 
And in the skirts and dresses category, I recently won at Tic Tac Toe, lol. On this list I have made:
  • Self pleated skirt in a feather print poly chiffon with yellow lining
  • Anna Maria Horner Study Hall Skirt in scroll print cotton duck
  • Simplicity 8220 (fabric tbd)
  • Simplicity 8050 (fabric tbd)
  • Butterick 5982 in Litte Kookla cotton to replicate the dress from Modcloth shown in the picture
  • McCall's 6696 in a navy and white apple print cotton
This list has much more complicated items on it to be sure, which is the main reason I haven't finished more items off here. I'm also thinking of changing some things and combining the fabric I had planned for the Study Hall Skirt with Simplicity 8220 - part of this is laziness since I would have to grade the Study Hall Skirt up quite a bit to fit me, but part is that I really want to make that other pattern and I'm just not as inspired by the other contrasting fabric combos in my stash at the moment. And that's ok! These lists aren't meant to be the end all decision of my sewing - it's just a nice reminder to keep me motivated in a certain direction. 
Before I moved, I just had the lists sitting on the chair rail in my sewing room - always visible but never in the way. As I finish each item, I just put a big check mark (which just feels great to do, lol). I haven't found the perfect place for my lists in my new sewing room, but I'm working on it and hope to get them situated soon. 

It's really amazing what a simple visual like this can help accomplish, and I'm so thrilled with my progress. It feels like even though I haven't had a ton of sewing time, my time is always in the direction that I want. I've made other things that weren't on these lists over the past 6 months as well, which helps keep things feeling less structured and fun. And I will be making a new list soon that carries some of these over and adds some of my plans for newly purchased fabric (I have an outfit I am dying to make soon that definitely will be on the new list!). If you're at all like me, I definitely recommend giving this method a try. 

Do you have any other "soft planning" methods that work for you? I'd love to hear other suggestions as well!


  1. I was thinking just this morning about how I disperse my focus with all the inspiration/distraction that surrounds me and how that ultimately frustrates me. I don't want sewing to be a scheduled chore, but I fritter away a lot of my creative energy and do less sewing than I want. I like your idea, although even it might be too open for me. I think I need to focus on one thing at a time, then break out the short list of desirable projects.

    1. I feel you there! Even in my little boards I have a hierarchy, lol. I always know which things I want to make first and which will go together, etc, so it helps me to break it all down. It's a constant struggle though! Good luck :)


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