Sewing with a Plan 2016 0.5 – the Sweet Pea collection

posted in: Designing, Inspiration, SWAP | 19

I just knew it!

It is very, very hard in November – when the trees turn yellow and brown, and the nights are drawing in, when it is dark and cold in London (and snowing in Lancashire)  – to turn your mind to summer dresses. The shops are full of coats; magazines display wool, fur and boots; pattern companies and blogs are full of pea coats and ski wear. Except the Australian’s – bless you!  I am finding it almost impossible to think of summer outfits (another reason I could not be a designer!).

I have joined in the SWAP for two years now, and both times I have sewn wintery, autumny outfits. Mainly because I am planning and sewing during November to April, which, generally, is when it is cold, dark, wet and a little bit depressing. I think I sew much more at this time of year than in the summer, when I want to go out and play. And sewing, especially with bright, colourful fabrics is very cheering in these dark days. And for at least nine, if not ten, months of the year I tend to wear some woolen clothes to keep me warm (I do feel the cold). I don’t have much call for summer dresses and cotton skirts. But of course in June, July and August, and when we go to hotter countries for a holiday, I love wearing breezy, happy clothes that let the sun get to the arms and legs and allow me to undress for the gym in a matter of minutes. (Currently I have to take off a waterproof coat, a down jacket, a work jacket, a jumper and a blouse, a skirt, tights, shoes and underwear. And then, after a work-out and shower, put it all on again).

What I am trying to say is that it is hard to envisage summer in depth of autumn and winter.

Summer's here!
Summer’s here!

So,  at exactly the moment when I was modelling my mainly wool 2015 SWAP on a warm day in early May, very deliberately, I made a pledge.  I said to myself “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a set of summer clothes that you could wear for three months, from now on? In lighter colours that are currently missing from my wardrobe – pinks, mauves, light blue, white? Some drapey silks, some lightweight linens, cotton lawn and something sheer? All these lighter shades work well with my navy and grey neutrals, so some lightweight items might be useful all the year round.”

If you are in London and thinking of a summer SWAP you will have a limited selection of fabrics. Our shops are full of wooly cloth, coatings and evening fabrics for Christmas parties. So, with SWAP 2016 in mind, in July, when the shops here were full of soft summer fabrics, I bought a few pieces . I planned ahead. I really did. I got some nice pieces of silk and linen for my SWAP. This pile includes a few items that have been in my cupboard for longer – especially the green velvet which I bought to make a winter cape but didn’t buy enough.

Fabrics for sweet pea collection
Summer fabrics sweet pea

You may remember my sweet pea inspiration.

Now I am here I don’t really fancy it. There is something bugging me about this idea. Somehow these colours together lack the clarity and purity of the flower inspiration.

Trying on fabric to see if it suits
Draping fabrics in the mirror

I think it seems wishy washy. I thought of some lighter softer shades, but I enjoy brightness. I am not fully signed up to my Summer Wardrobe plan. Should I persevere knowing I will probably feel just fine in May? Or should I go with the Westwood inspired set, which is where my love lies?

Here is my sweet pea plan. I have yet to choose suitable patterns but I may have a couple of draped skirts in there – the green velvet one maybe a pegged skirt, and perhaps a bustle skirt for the aubergine. I am making jeans at the moment so thought of putting them in there, perhaps enhanced with silver (inspired by Bunny!). In fact I think I want silver to play more than just a supporting role in this collection.

Pod 1; Mauve: Linen dress, wool coat, hand painted silk blouse

Pod 2; Pink; bright pink dress, aubergine skirt, light pink jacket

Combo: Blue jeans, White lace blouse

Wildcards;  Green velvet skirt, silver recycled top, hand painted silk skirt

I promise (myself) I will make up my mind by next weekend and then flesh out the plans. Life has been a bit trying (emotionally and professionally) so letting this decision simmer was the best response. Then I might plunge into something I could wear for Christmas – perhaps the bright pink dress – which will encourage me to carry on, knowing I can adjust the plans as I go.


19 Responses

  1. Elle

    The sweet pea inspiration is terrific. The difference is that some of the fabrics–the mauve and blue–are distinctly greyed, rather than clear and pure. I think the greyed fabrics are a no-go for you–both for your coloring and for your spirit. The inspiration is fragrant sweet peas on the vine rather than dead faded ones left too long in the vase.

  2. Elle

    Oof…clumsy fingers, third attempt at a comment.

    The sweet pea inspiration is terrific. The difference is that some of the fabrics–the mauve and blue–are not the pure, clear colors of the flowers, but are distinctly greyed, which doesn’t seem to suit you, either in coloring or in spirit. Fragrant sweet peas on the vine, not faded flowers left too long in the vase….

  3. Jay

    I like both of the themes just about equally. Going with your enthusiasm is much more instinctive, and jump starts the work. Your fabrics for the sweet pea pile don’t look washed out to me. Fabric which looks uninspiring in the length comes into its own when made up, accessories add a lot. Toss a coin?

  4. mrsmole

    Love the sweet pea photo but the fabrics don’t carry off the freshness and spark and depth of color that you crave and need. All of your choices sound wonderful…they just need brighter fabrics. I know what you mean about not being able to jump start your summer sewing in winter. Every year as snow falls and temps drop, this week it is 20F (-4C) here every night, you forget the delights of summer and the need for lighter clothes with some flare and fun.

  5. Mary Funt

    Your fabrics are soft, muted colors. Maybe adding some bright, clear colors would perk the collection up. The Westwood designs seem to want plaids. Could you add a plaid in your chosen colors? Good luck with all the decisions.

  6. Stephanie

    Oh lovely K…I am sorry to hear about the trying times and hope they pass soon. I’m wondering if Sewing with a Plan ought to become sewing “while making up a plan.” I’m thinking myself that it might be fun just to start with one garment or colour or thought I’m sure about and then see how I feel as I’m making that one and go from there. I yearn for adventure rather than frumpy (the latter of which I always seem to sign up for inadvertently). Maybe the looser approach would help to free you up as you start to go about this? I loved your imaginative “roll with it,” re-made plan last year and it worked very well for you…That pink is gorgeous, by the way. Oh and Jay has an idea…they do say that if you toss a coin you immediately know your true preferences, given your reaction to the outcome of the coin toss. 🙂

  7. Julia

    Hi Kate. I am a garment sewer and a quilter. I was on a quilting website a moment ago, admiring the layer cakes, fat quarter bundles, etc, and thought: wouldn’t it be great if someone had a business where there put together wardrobe fabric/patterns for people? I know this is tricky, so many tastes out there, but maybe a set of basics for a small variety of body types, with color combinations for a small variety of colorings (it could be just neutrals). I think if done right it could be popular. Just a thought. (I received image consulting training a while back but never pursued it as a career, so this idea comes naturally to me). what do you think?

    • fabrickated

      Yes that is a great idea. Maybe just a virtual collection where you could chose to buy the patterns and fabrics that appeal. I was in a fabric shop this weekend where the fabrics were arranged by colour (like you find in a dress shop) – plains and patterns. It made shopping more pleasurable and less like hard work. I would love to talk to you some more.

  8. Julia

    adding to my earlier comment–sewing with a plan assistance…each season there would be a new set of neutrals/patterns, etc, maybe with sew alongs, fitting assistance, etc.

  9. Lynn Mally

    Well, being practical I think you should go with the Westwood collection if you wear wool ten months of the year. Make a pink dress for Christmas and be done with it.

    • fabrickated

      You are reading my mind. I just have this nagging feeling that I should stay with the discomfort of the lighter summer stuff until I find a way through. I do have lots of great winter options in the wardrobe already. Well to be honest I just have enough clothes of all sorts.

  10. Anne

    I like these fabrics but do reckon some of them are too muted for a sweetpea collection. I agree with Lynn – go with the Westwood, which is where your heart lies and use these fabrics for a Christmas dress or later for summer wear.

  11. Amanda

    I think I liked your Westwood inspiration idea better, if I’m honest 😉 I suspect your weather is probably similar to ours here in Vancouver – we joke that you can tell what season it is by the temperature of the rain! LOL – my point is, I’ll still be wearing trousers and jackets in April; even if it’s not as cold, it’ll still be damp and rainy, so a lot of the SWAP items I’m planning will work cross-season 🙂

    I think you could totally do a mid-weight collection, perhaps avoiding the really thick wools and heavy interlining and just do pieces that will serve you through those mid-seasons, especially if you can layer them with heavier pieces in the colder months 🙂

    • fabrickated

      Hilarious about the rain, and wise advice Amanda. Thank you. Most of my clothes are sort of mid-season-mid-weight-layers. I think I am going to stick with summery though. I will make a final decision this weekend.

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