Making clothes – making a “to do” list

posted in: Organisation | 9


When you are at work, even if you are  quite senior, the tasks that you must carry out are largely predetermined.

The accounts need issuing. You must carry on producing more and more widgets (or homes if you work in housing like me). Your customers need their services delivered reliably day and night all year long. The Board needs papers, the staff need information, the data needs collating. If you work full-time a great deal of your waking day is accounted for, especially when you factor in travel, eating and getting yourself ready for another day at the office – sleeping, dressing, doing the housework. You hopefully can spend an hour or two relaxing or enjoying your family each day and most of the weekend. But hobbies like dress making do not have an agenda, or even a definite rhythm, so we always have a choice about what to sew, and this can be challenging.

Why I sew

Currently I will be stimulated by any one of the following prompts to make an outfit (roughly in order of importance)

  • seeing and buying a nice piece of fabric (eg navy coat fabric)
    Navy mohair wool
    Navy Mohair wool
  • making an outfit for an upcoming event (eg silk dress for my holiday)
    • df9b5e1d-fd9d-4f63-9f72-5d983732bd14_seven_hundred_wide
  • needing something in my wardrobe (eg lightweight, summer jacket)
    • Classic linen jacket
      Classic linen jacket
  • making something from fabric I have made in my printing class (eg knives print and white beetles)


  • members of the family asking for something (Esme needs a new summer coat and Gus would like a linen shirt)
  • seeing something I like in a shop, magazine or on the internet
  • occasionally wanting to try a pattern or technique

What I sew

Two of my favourite bloggers recently wrote about this topic, Sewniptuck and Ada Spragg.

What I think both Lesley and Sophie are saying is that they like sewing adventurous challenging items – often in fizzing prints – but that they prefer to wear relatively boring basic clothes – black skinny jeans, grey jumpers, soft T-shirts. Years ago I showed my tutor drawings I had done of a multi-coloured satin patchwork jacket, designed with a full length bias dress as a bridal  outfit. My tutor suggesting I made it up. When I expressed astonishment as I would never wear such a dressy item she said – “make it and wear it with jeans.” I made it and while I didn’t wear it very often it did look great with denims, which ensured it didn’t look “try too hard” or frumpy. It actually looked quite cool.

I have so many ideas for great outfits I want to make, yet I don’t want to make purposeless, joyless things.

For me it is about a versatile wardrobe of lovely items that both get worn a lot and do indeed “spark joy”. I don’t want to waste time or make things that don’t fit, don’t feel nice or don’t flatter me. For this reason before I start sewing again I want to think very carefully about how to decide what to make, then I can commit to making it.

Bottom line – making 11 items in six months (as I did in the SWAP)  is a good number and is probably enough new clothes for a whole year. If I restricted myself to just, say, six further items between now and Christmas I think that would be more than enough. And if I am rationed to just six – what would they be? Would they be things I really, really want and am prepared to work hard to make? And how about you – do you just go with the flow or do you plan your sewing? If so what restrictions do you impose?


9 Responses

  1. Demented Fairy

    Flow. Definitely, as I’m a creature of impulse. Having said that however, I really enjoyed the focus provided by my Jungle January collection, and collaborating with the wife as she re invents her sad and depressed wardrobe. I would HATE to be restricted to only 6 more garments over a year- they would have to be extremely complex and demanding to keep my attention, wedding dresses perhaps?

  2. Liz Cooney

    I get inspired to sew something new from an already made item (something I see in a magazine or a garment in a boutique). Also, when visiting my favourite fabric store I may see an outstanding piece of fabric and that will set me in a direction.
    I am limited by my desire to look elegant, understated and age appropriate. If something is trendy it doesn’t mean that it will look good on me. If it doesn’t, I will avoid it.

  3. Stephanie

    Demented Fairy makes a really good point. I feel the same impulse to refine my selection and not make too much, to take my time. At the same time, the whole reason I enjoy sewing and knitting is because they provide a vehicle to pursue inspiration, to let it “flow.” As a result, I think it would be difficult to restrict my work to a specific number for the remainder of the year. That said, I want to learn how to make a special jacket and that will definitely take me a long time to master. I love the spring-weight linen jacket above, by the way.

  4. Jay

    I recognise your sewing triggers Kate, but don’t hold out any hope that I’ll be able to create a plan and stick to it, so the answer has to be flow. I always have more ideas to try out than time.

  5. rosemary

    Fabric first, then to fill a hole in my wardrobe and I like to sew for a special event or vacation, but don’t always get done. I don’t give myself enough time or I am not inspired until it is too late to finish on time.

  6. helen

    I plan and then buy the fabric. Sometimes it’s to fill a hole in the wardrobe and others just because I want ‘one of those’. Quite often the plan does get jigged about.
    I’ve also started to think ‘do I really need it?’ I have fabrics I want to use but have decided to keep to one side as I don’t actually need another skirt or tee at this moment – or that one printed dress this summer will be enough as I still have items made last year that I still love – and previous years for that matter.

  7. Amanda

    I definitely have to work at striking a balance between sewing things I need and things I want to sew, and my queue changes pretty much daily as a result LOL. I’m still trying to figure out a reliable method for filling basic wardrobe needs without getting bored as, but so far, as long as I remain flexible to spontaneous inspiration, it works, more or less; I just have to queue less things ahead of time (i.e.: stop overestimating my speed), and then maybe I’ll have room for some impulse makes here and there ^__^ There’s always more ideas than time to make them materialize LOL.

  8. Bunny

    You have read my mind as your sentiments are similar to the way I make my wardrobe and sewing choices. However, your last paragraph is not for me. I’m a bit more serendipitous and while I definitely see the wisdom of it all, sewing with a plan so far is not for me. My closet has the basics I want and as they wear out or age out, I make a new version. A pair of blue linen pants is still a pair of blue linen pants, with few tweaks over the seasons. So I fill my spaces as needed and that determines how I sew my basics. But I personally need the freedom to take creative flights of fancy when they hit. That makes me happy and fulfilled. Just today I went to the thrift shop and the ideas started effervescing and next thing I knew three garments came home with me ready for my flights of creative fancy. It’s how I roll. My sewing universe is a very fluid one.

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