Reflections on SWAP 2014

posted in: SWAP 2014 | 5
Coat finished, pink suit ready to cut out
Coat finished, pink suit ready to cut out

Between Christmas and the end of April at least 30 women from all over the world worked on the same sewing project. Their mission? To create between nine and 11 garments which to some extent “worked together”.  If we were famous designers this might be known as a collection, albeit a small one. Maybe a “capsule collection”? But as we were mainly, although not exclusively, working from existing patterns I suppose it was more the production of a “capsule wardrobe” – the creation of a number of outfits (top and bottoms, or top, bottom and outer wear) that could be mixed and matched to form the core of a workable wardrobe. This approach appealled to me as it is tempting to sew whatever takes your fancy, rather than thinking about what you might actually wear, day to day. This thought has occured to many seamstresses,  so the idea of sewing with a plan was born. It’s the sewists version of buying sensibly rather than impulsively!

The rules differ a little from year to year, and in 2011 they were perhaps somewhat off putting (there were only two entries in 2011). This years rules allowed plenty of choice. Here are the SWAP 2014 rules.

The Stitcher’s Guild “Sewing With A Plan” contest .

“Algebra SWAP” 

Three “3 packs” + two “wild cards” = eleven garments. 

Each three pack will be:

2 tops + 1 bottom 
1 top + 1 bottom + 1 outer layer 
1 dress + 1 top + 1 bottom

+2 other garments


Not everyone finishes in time, and not everyone who finishes decides to go public with their results. Real life intervenes for many of the participants and they gracefully drop out of the contest. Many go on to the site of the Stitchers’ Guild (Artisan Square) to record, and alter, and explain their plans. They use IT software, their sketch books, or even their children’s crayons to outline what designs they will make up. They photograph their fabric choices and some carefully cost out the ingredients. Other members give feedback, advice and support. Some use the contest as an excuse to use up fabric they have already bought. Some, like me, are shy of sharing  their plans in case they don’t come off. And there may be dozens more who make plans, and sew, but never come out into the open. Some may feel intimidated by the contest and some of us just don’t need it. But the concept of planning your clothes seems to be to a worthwhile and quite exciting prospect. For me it meant making some tops!

I would urge everyone to take a look at the work displayed.

There are a wide range of skills from the almost novice to almost professional. But the delight of the contest is that you see a group of women (no men yet) who have worked out, to the best of their ability, what clothes and shapes suit them. They have made clothes taking a close interest in the fit – fit you just can’t buy. And everyone has thought about the colour of her collection – ensuring it co-ordinates, and hopefully in colours that enhance her complexion, hair and eyes. I don’t know if there is any official judging criteria; in one sense it is impossible to “judge” any women who has (like me) worked hard, for so many hours, with concentration, attention to detail, thought and love. However I invented some criteria for myself when I voted.  I looked at a) Style, b) Fit and c) Colour, not in terms of my own preferences, but in relation to the model (who was usually also the seamstress).

Miranda, for example, has used some quite unusual colour combinations in an amazingly proficient set – blue and brown, green and brown, gold and kingfisher – which enhance her beautiful muted colouring. Miss Carrion has a lovely clear, bright complexion and has used her blues, teals and mauves to great effect to complement her fresh look. The pink cardi really sets it all off with a neat contrast. Cherylanne looks fantastic in strong, bright colours that complement her cool, bright colouring. Her set works really well together and is the sort of wardrobe, if money were no object, one might buy for a holiday trip. I would be pleased to have a selection like this in my suitcase. Carolyn has warm colouring and her colour palette includes warm greens, browns and yellow – all of which work really well with her wonderful red hair. She is an exceptional sewstress, a competent knitter, very creative and constantly excites with her blog. Ruth from Corecouture really went to town with her colours setting herself the objective of sewing (and knitting) a rainbow.  Her bright blue eyes and clear colouring mean that bright colours are most flattering – in real life I expect these items may get mixed with a few neutrals. Or maybe not! Her blog is entertaining as well as illuminating and I loved her 2013 SWAP too, based on the clothes of Audrey and Katherine Hepburn. She is tall and poised and her trousers, in particular, fit perfectly.

Wendy has made clothes that fit well – she is very slim and slight and has chosen designs that flatter her figure. BeeBee is experimenting to some extent, as well as really improving her technique. I think the outfits which work the best for her are the wrap dress, and the Coco – both of which flare out a little at the hem, and the blue bombshell dress which elongates her figure beautifully. Ruthiesews is a great seamstress, her outfits fit really well, and I think she knows what suits her. Last years SWAP from Ruthie was one of my favourites as it featured some glorious greens and blues that were so flattering to her cool colouring – I really loved that set – wear more emerald green Ruthie! Its hard to comment on Yorkshire lass as she has shown the clothes on a stand or in headless shots, and I wish I could see Luz Clara’s eyes! Her outfits are exuberant and fun. And perhaps the sweetest entry are the clothes created for Deb’s eight year old son – in many ways a perfect set of clothes that are appropriate, well made and colour coordinated.

It takes guts to put your wardrobe on the internet, and I hope that no-one will be offended by my remarks. I am grateful for feedback given to me as I always seek to improve.






5 Responses

  1. ejvc

    Check your SG because — you WON this year. A well-deserved win, many many congratulations to you, and lovely to read your reflections.

  2. W

    Kate, beautiful collection! And thank you for your kind comments on my SWAP, I was terribly nervous to fully participate, but I am so glad that I did!

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