Monday, 31 December 2018

sewing resolutions for 2019

We're back from Nice! I'm putting off the post about my velvet Magnolia til next week, as I haven't managed to take proper pictures yet. For some reason Patrick and I both had massive skin problems as soon as we got to France and haven't quite recovered; all pictures of me at the moment look quite a bit like someone smeared melted brie on a Sticklebrick. So for now, resolutions!

In all honesty, I did not do well with my resolutions for this past year. Partly for mental health reasons, partly because I'd not thought through the issues I was trying to solve before writing the post, but mostly it came down to a simple point: I wasn't specific enough. I've been making and writing down non-sewing-based resolutions every year since 2001 and I KNOW I have to be as absolutely specific, concrete and measurable as possible for these things to work, but apparently I thought that sewing-related resolutions might be different? I don't know. Anyway, it's not, and I'm not going to do that again.

Here are my extremely specific plans for next year:

1. I will at least make a toile of the ridiculous 1920s ballgown pattern I bought two years ago. A few weeks after I started sewing I saw a picture of this dress, pined after it for a year, finally decided I was sufficiently committed to sewing to be permitted to purchase it, and it's sat sadly in my stash ever since because I'm worried it'll look terrible. It's a reasonable worry; it's a 1920s dress designed for 1920s bodies, i.e. the exact opposite of my body. But I do need to try it, and this is the year I will do that. I will buy some cheap fabric, treat it as a sewing challenge, and not expect it to look amazing.

2. I will plan and make one fun piece every season. I've been much better this year about not getting bogged down in practicality, and I want to make sure I continue that by actively making space for the fun stuff. I've found an occasion for every ridiculous dress I've made thus far, and I also have a guarantee from Patrick that whatever I make, he will find somewhere I can wear it. I don't intend for it to all be OTT dresses; variety is good. I'd very much like one of them to be a crazy print coat.

3. I will be much stricter about planning and purchasing. Another thing I already KNOW doesn't work is writing in my plans "so I don't know exactly what this will look like yet, but I want this vague kind of thing" and yet I continue to do it. Going forward I am not going to put anything on my list if I don't have either fabric or pattern for it, and for at least three quarters of each list I need to have both. If that means the list has to be smaller, so be it. I'm going to start keeping a separate running "Vague List" of ideas I've had, but I can't put it on a plan until a) I know exactly what it looks like and b) I know the means for making this exact thing exist.

4. I will take some kind of course or class in fitting and/or sloper making. This is something I'd really like to get a handle on - I've got to the point where I can, for example, adjust a bodice so that it's the right size for my shoulders and bust, but not necessarily the right shape for my shoulders and bust, and I think if I could understand what pattern pieces need to look like to fit me properly, it would make a huge difference to the overall appearance and feeling of the things I make. I have three different avenues I might take depending on finances: the London College of Fashion course in making all your own slopers; a couple of smaller-scale fitting/sloper evening classes; or the Suzy Furrer Craftsy classes. I will do one of these three by the end of the year.

5. I will make a pair of black jeans. I haven't worn jeans in years, but I have one specific outfit rattling around in my head that requires black jeans. Also I think it would be good for me to have a go at it and stop thinking of it as a giant scary complicated thing. Where one acquires acceptable quality black denim in this country I have NO idea, though. I'd love some suggestions from UK people.

6. I will learn to make shirts. This is something I never thought I'd do because I do not like buttons and I never have. I don't like the way button-ups look or feel on me, I have never once wished to wear a shirtdress, and I deeply dislike the idea of adding decorative buttons to things. I took off my last school-uniform shirt in 2001 and vowed that I would never wear buttons again, and so far I have not. In the sewing community, Land of Shirtdresses, I'm aware this makes me a tremendous weirdo. I've made all sorts of complicated garments, but I literally made my first and only buttonhole a few weeks ago (and I spent some time thinking about whether I could get out of it first). However, recently Patrick has started making noises about me abandoning my no-shirts rule; he really likes shirts and has very specific taste that literally nowhere is currently catering for. I'm nervous about it - it's a LOT of new skills and he's used to spending fair amounts of money on very high-quality shirts, but he doesn't ask me for much so I'm going to try. Also, there are some times when it would be easier to just sew a button on a pair of trousers instead of going to huge lengths to work around it.

7. I will make a list of things that bug me about the quality of my work and actively practice/research and experiment with ways to improve. I haven't got very far with the list yet but two things I definitely want to work on are the quality of my twin needle stitching on thinner jerseys and better finishing on waistbands with a zip. I want to have the list written by the end of January and have solved or noticeably improved at least six of the things by the end of the year.

8. I will only buy fabric if I can visualise what I'm going to do with it. Last year I resolved to use my three most expensive pieces of fabric and I didn't use any of them. I realised this year that the problem wasn't fear (I have cheerfully cut into fabric at least that expensive before), it was that I'd bought them without a plan because they were beautiful and expected the plan to present itself later. It has not. I have neither the stash space nor the bank account to hoard fabric, so if I don't know what I want it to be I can't buy it no matter how pretty it is. I will also actively look for patterns for the three pieces I already have, but I don't want to make using them an actual goal again. If the match isn't there it's not there.

I'm going to leave it at that. Three specific item goals, three planning goals and two technique goals seems like a decent spread and not an overwhelming amount. Some of it feels a bit intimidating right now, but I'm pretty sure that there's nothing here I won't be able to handle when I get into it.

We're off to a New Year party tonight, and the host has requested I turn up in my velvet Magnolia. I'm pretty sure nobody else has been asked to wear an evening gown, so it'll just be me sitting there on the sofa demanding that people in jeans fetch me Negronis. But at least it's getting a second outing. Happy New Year, everyone, and thank you for sticking around. Here's to more pretty things!


  1. I've read and really enjoyed your blog for a long time now but haven't commented (I've wanted to but honestly I didn't because I couldn't figure out my Google password...sad, I know). It's funny that your wanting to sew shirts for Patrick made the list. One of the reasons I started really getting into sewing is to make my husband very specific dress shirts. He has detailed ideas about shirts (no cuffs or fancy things at the wrist beyond a plain hem, for one; no collars besides the stand; really funky facings on the collar and the button plackets; very specific fabric requirements; if it only has a partial button placket that goes about halfway down he's even happier) and literally nowhere sells that type of RTW shirt. The only way he could get his shirts is if I made them. The worst part of making shirts to me is the sewing on of the buttons themselves. I hate doing it by hand (they always fall off) and I've broken a few needles sewing them on by machine. Not sure what Patrick's requirements are but I'm happy to liberally hand out useless pointers if you're interested. Good luck and happy 2019!

    1. Patrick has the complete opposite requirements to your husband, it sounds like! Proper collars, double cuffs for fancy cufflink display, possibly one buttonhole sewn in a different colour thread... I don't think he'd ever have asked me to make them for him if his favourite shirt companies were making prints he liked. I haaaate hand sewing and if I can't get the buttons sewn on by machine then I'll probably insist that he does it himself!

  2. Another long time reader, first time commenter!

    I am currently half way through my first pair of jeans, the Megan Nielsen Ash pattern. They are taking a long time (partly because I have very little sewing time, partly because I did three rounds of fitting alterations before even taking scissors to fabric) but the incentive of not having to look for an RTW pair ever again is huge.

    I bought my stretch denim from a local shop where I could see the colour in person and talk % with the owner, but if these turn out well then I am intrigued by the offerings at . I have also heard good things about Robert Kaufman denim, but the only source that Google seems to offer is Minerva Crafts and after a series of bad experiences I refuse to give them my custom ever again. YMMV.

    1. My experiences with Minerva Crafts have been iffy too, but I see so many people raving about them that I've been wondering if it was just a fluke. I'll keep looking for the denim!

  3. Do the shirts!!! It's so gratifying and while there is a lot of detail and plenty of tips and tricks to improve your results, shirtmaking really gets quite a bit easier with each go.

    #7 is a great idea and I highly recommend Pellon knit-n-stable tape (or something similar). Makes twin needle stitching look FANTASTIC.

    1. Thanks for the tip, I'll have a look to see if I can get it in this country!