MANSWAP #10 – Facing reality

I don’t know why I didn’t make a plan (the clue is in the name “sewing with a PLAN”). I planned all the outfits, the colours and the fabrics. I created a wonderful, imaginary wardrobe for my son Gus. I even suggested that when finished he might like to pack the entire collection in a suitcase and see how it works for a weeks holiday. I was dreaming!

It was only when Stephanie admitted that she may have bitten off more than she can chew with her stunning “love affair with Canada” collection that it actually dawned on me, that I have exactly the same problem. I have created a complex and exacting collection with two tailored jackets, a silk bomber jacket, two dress shirts, three pairs of tailored pants and two shirts. And I have just 11 weeks left. That is 8 garments in 11 weeks. What am I like? I have done SWAP before and I know you need to focus on getting the work done, but for some reason I am behaving as if I have all the time in the world.

Of course if I was in a part time job I might be able to do it, but I am more than full time with lots of evening events. And my weekends have changed from being largely at home, in the basement, sewing like a mole, to spending much more time in the country. When I am there I don’t really have the equipment and space sorted yet to do any serious sewing. I have been knitting and reading too – and enjoying that very much.

It’s not just the job. My poor old Mum had a horrible accident a week ago. She is still in hospital, and hopefully on the mend. Of course we had to drop everything and go up there and this has taken time (she lives a long way away). And as well as working evenings I do an evening class (jewellery) and one night staying at my daughters to baby sit most weeks,  so I haven’t got much capacity.

So – will I do the SWAP this year? I have created a plan! If I work hard my SWAP is still achievable. I get two weeks for the jackets but everything else has to be made in a week. I haven’t toiled the shirts yet. And I haven’t toiled the jeans. Toiling is probably out at this stage as I have no leave available and doing a garment in a week requires a tested pattern, or a more simple approach.

Plan for SWAP
Sewing with a Plan – the PLAN

So what are my options?

  1. Try really hard to achieve it all, dedicating most of my time outside work and family to the task
  2. Simplify the plan. I could substitute a fourth pair of trousers for the jeans. This would save testing a new pattern and if I made them in navy they would work with the wardrobe. I don’t suppose Gus would mind at all, although I am interested in the traditional jeans design and was keen to try a button fly. Simplification would almost certainly mean dropping the two shirts and making T shirts or sweat shirts instead. These could be designed and made to work with the outfits. Also there is the option for one shop-bought item.
  3. Forget SWAP and just sew the wardrobe more slowly.

I don’t actually know what I will do at the moment.

I got up early on Tuesday (at 3am – I am an early riser, but this is insomnia!) pressed and evened up my grey herringbone, and laid out the pattern pieces. I was determined at this point to do option 1 – to do my best to complete the SWAP.

It didn’t take long to realise I had a problem. Insufficient fabric for the pattern. I admit I buy what I think I might need (I bought 2m of this fabric to make myself a simple, collarless coat), and I am invariably stingy. When I make for myself I find a way to squeeze most patterns into the cloth. I think I might be able to do something here with the pockets, and there are solutions to too little cloth, but I can’t face it. If I am to proceed I need to buy some new fabric. Sadly, without even looking, I am pretty sure I will have the same issue with the beige linen-silk too.

Not enough fabric for the pattern

I have a supplier (Simply Fabrics, Brixton) that will definitely have some great quality wools that I could substitute. The colours though are what they have in (they buy up lots of ends of rolls from quality companies). I may find light grey and beige, but probably not. I would then be in a situation of having to find fabric from more expensive, traditional retailers which is more time consuming and costly.

I feel thwarted by my own lack of foresight. I could have been toiling during the planning period. I could have checked quantities of cloth at any time. Thinking through the calendar wasn’t that hard – it just needed doing.

I am now two pieces of cloth short of a SWAP without an obvious opportunity to go shopping. I will listen to your advice. I am still pretty keen on Option 1 but I need to be realistic. I like a deadline and find that without one my time drifts and I do other things. I am knitting myself two jumpers, and a pair of trousers. I have some great novels downloaded, thanks to your marvellous suggestions. 

Last week I shortened the green sweater. My sewing brain told me I could cut off the bottom of the jumper and knit a new ribbed section. I wanted to do this anyway as my original rib was too short. I had misunderstood the instructions as being seven rows of rib when it meant 14 rows. So cutting the bottom off and reknitting allowed me to create a nice deep rib that works better with the turtle neck and the ribs on the sleeves. It turned out to be a very straightforward and satisfying project. So that’s gone well.

How to shorten a handknitted sweater
Shortening a sweater (note home made ring!)

32 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    Oh no… well I can relate on many levels. I am sorry to read about your mum; I hope she heals quickly and well. As for SWAP…I think I’m going for option 3, although 2 may happen in time for the voting. Still I think 3 makes the most sense: follow through on the plan but don’t kill oneself doing it!

  2. Michele

    I think you have a great plan and that it would be best to take whatever time it takes to do it justice. In real life mums and other family members will need us and that is as it should be. Gus is going to enjoy the wardrobe and you will have increased your knowledge and skills. That seems a win all around. Enjoy the journey!

  3. Hila

    I’d go with simplification. I relate to what you wrote about deadlines – without one I drift. With your sewing skill , a simplified SWAP is still going to amazing.

  4. Ruth

    In terms of personal satisfaction I would go for 3, you’ve planned a fabulous wardrobe. However, if you want to complete in the timescale go for option 2 and simplify. What do you want most? To finish by the end of April or make a complex
    set of clothes for your son?

  5. Jane

    So sorry to hear that your poor mum has been in the wars. I hope she is home soon. I think the planned wardrobe for Gus sounds so good that it seems a shame to alter it to meet the SWAP criteria. I think I’d go with option three and finish it all at a manageable pace.

  6. Linda

    I’d go with option 3. This is supposed to be enjoyable and satisfying. It’s such a great plan and you have high standards. I’m convinced – option 3

  7. Barbarags

    I hope your mother is improving minute by minute. You can plan as much as you like but Life tends to get in the way. I think you have to do whatever would be the best option for you and the people you care about and bring you most satisfaction. How important is it to you to complete the SWAP on time? Will you enjoy sewing under stress? Does it bring out the best in your sewing? – it does for some people and certainly a deadline spurs me on at times but – confession- can also mean that, if I don’t complete it in time, the item gets dumped in a corner and forgotten. Will your family be happy to see less of you because you are hunched over a sewing machine or running around trying to source suitable fabrics? I can tell from previous blogs that you love a challenge but also that you like to get it right, not many people would unpick and redo the hem of a knitted jumper, and, being slaph-dash and lazy myself, I am in awe of this so I think you will be disappointed at not going ahead with your original plan. You alone know all the factors that will go towards making a wise decision between the 3 options, whatever it is we will all be looking forward to reading aabout the results.

  8. Anne

    I’m sorry to hear about your Mum. I hope she is recovering. I had the same issue dashing off to visit mine (illness not accident). I’m afraid plans have to be dropped.
    I would go with option 3. Option 1 sounds far too stressful – and you didn’t say how often you will need to visit your mother in the next few weeks. So may not be achievable despite insomnia and stress! I don’t believe that Option 2 would satisfy you. There is of course an Option 4 (and 5…) which is to make the things you really want to for Gus – jeans with button front (supposed to be easier? ) etc but cut down the numbers and forget the SWAP. Set a deadline – his birthday? some other date of significance? but make it reasonable and achievable given your other commitments and, dare I say it, need for relaxation, down time – reading, walking around the lake, cuddling the grandchildren.
    I have taken my own advice btw and have dropped both SWAP and PR Sudoko Wardrobe from my plans. I feel much happier.

  9. eimear

    o gosh – you have really set yourself a mammoth task. I usually have a hand drawn calendar on my wall along with some drawings of things I will make and realistically know I will achieve half as there will be compromises over time or fabric, and personally while there are times I will curse my sewing time when I am with the seam-ripper, in general its a creative time and I love it – if it becomes a case of having to – then the balance could shift – having said that, I am sure Gus is most grateful for his bespoke wardrobe and sewing for others (I have recently found) has its own reward. Hope your mum gets well soon

  10. Marianne

    Wishing your Mum all the best and I hope she’ll fully recover from her accident. As for the SWAP, I think your plans are much too good to be rushed. Also, you don’t want to miss spring in the countryside because you need to sew! What’s Gus’ opinion on the simplifying option? I can imagine it’s much harder for him to find a well fitted RTW shirt than to buy a reasonably well fitting T shirt or sweat shirt.

  11. Demented Fairy

    Hope your ma is feeling better soon, poor love. ALl the options are good, I’d be happy with rush and pressure, because that’s what produces my best, but it’s not for everyone! Like the others, in awe of your patience with the knitting and re-knitting, I’d have told him to lump it!
    As for fabric- I again strongly recommend the wonderful ‘Italian Textile Company’ on eBay, they have top quality, excellent prices [by the half metre remember] and I have not once been disappointed by them. Fast delivery too…

  12. Seamsoddlouise

    Your plans are so good it would be a shame to dilute them. You will find a way through this I am sure and a solution that suits you. Sorry to hear about your Mum, hope she is on the mend very soon.

  13. Linda

    Number 3 this is supposed to be enjoyable! You love to learn new techniques and have high standards for yourself so 3 is the obvious choice . Has Gus got any event or holiday booked so you have a deadline?

  14. Jay

    Sorry about your mother, I hope she recovers soon. Crescent Trading off Brick Lane usually has a fair selection of wools suitable for menswear. The last time I shopped there they were about £12 per metre. I’ve always been impressed with the speed of your work, but a tailored jacket, even after the toile is done, will take even a speedy worker quite a few hours. Shirts, if you have a decent buttonhole on your machine, not too bad. I’d bat off an already fitted shirt for all the measurements, and do the same for jeans and trousers. I usually avoid menswear like the plague, but did make DH some trousers when I wanted to see how long it would take. (Curious to see if the sewing bee time allocation was realistic). If you’re doing front and back pockets it’s hard to get it done in less than 4 hours, cutting out included. Where am I going with this ramble …. ? Trying to finish everything for the deadline to a standard you are happy with doesn’t look possible. Is that too pessimistic?

  15. ceci

    So sorry to hear about your mother – with 2 elderly “ticking time bomb” parents myself I know the dread of the sudden misfortune/illness/whatever and the worried rush to be there…..

    As far as the SWAP quandary, I love to read about the drama of creativity, excitement and just plain fun of your (and Stephanie’s) SWAP planning. I love reading about the actual sewing and seeing the end products. What I don’t love is when you feel disappointed in some of the outcomes and there is self-blaming.

    In this instance my ideal solution would be to declare a SWAP deadline of, oh, August 1. Plenty of time to enjoy each phase and idea, searching as needed for new materials, etc, and no pressure when real life intervenes. But then that is just my selfish spectator speaking. And maybe a dollop of caring long distance friend/admirer?


  16. Lynn Mally

    Well, surely the “Sewing with a Plan” idea is mainly for inspiration. I think you should stick to the plan and do it slowly. I’ll bet your blog following is just as big as your Stitcher’s Guild following, especially after the last meltdown. So inspire us here and forget the competition.

  17. LInda Galante

    personally, I sew for fun and pleasure, and sometimes when I over commit to a contest or project the fun of creating something is completely lost and I have to gently step away from the challenge to get back to the joy:) I’d pick option three! You have a lot on your plate with your Mom and your more than full time job so you have lots of good reasons to simplify and just have some fun. I frequently find that I have not purchased quite enough of a special fabric for a project, so frustrating to be just a little bit short!

  18. Jenny Lark

    Along with the majority so far, I would go with Option 3. This is not work, this is fun and relaxation and you want to do a good job. Life gives you enough problems and targets and stress. Take it slowly, look after yourself, your family and your creative juices. Don’t rush it. Love to Mum. She would say the same I know.

  19. Wendy

    Oh Kate, hope your mum is on the mend. My heart goes out to you.
    About SWAP, I would personally try for option 2, as long as the more casual items would fit Gus’s lifestyle. I think 1 would drive you (me) over the edge. You can always complete the more complicated items later in the year if you simplify. So I guess this is combo of 2 and 3!

  20. Carolyn

    I understand with the time left that you want to complete the plan. I liked your suggestion of changing the jeans to trousers since it would be a TNT pattern. Maybe switch one of the shirts to a t-shirt again to give you more a little more space…and then just keep sewing and see what develops. I can understand if you get further along and you start to lose the quality of the collection for speed and to make a deadline so you decide to slow down and miss the deadline. Because isn’t the real point to make an amazing wardrobe for your son?

  21. Thesewingmiserablist

    I get the feeling that your planning may be off because subconsciously the SWAP hasn’t really become a priority for you. I can understand why, and wish your mum all the very best. Gus can have a wonderful wardrobe without SWAP and maybe you can challenge yourself in other ways at the moment, with knitting and the jewellery and make just a few items for Gus that he loves and needs. I’m sure whatever decision you make will be absolutely fine.

  22. Vancouver Barbara

    If you were doing the SWAP for yourself you probably wouldn’t be under this kind of time pressure because you know how to fit your own body.
    You’ve spent a lot of time learning to fit your son’s body. Very important, very valuable – absolutely necessary. There are no prizes in the SWAP contest (are there?). The real reward is the brilliant wardrobe that fits beautifully, covers all the lifestyle and other parameters you have chosen and the pleasure it has given you in the making of exactly what you have pictured.
    My suggestion is to do the great plan you want to do. Some extra time to finish the SWAP won’t detract from it. Then everyone will be happy and satisfied, especially your Mom who will have had the great benefit of your love and support.
    Your ring looks beautiful. Well done! You are amazing.
    All the best

  23. Annie

    You clearly like to work to deadlines and plan your tasks accordingly, however, circumstances alter cases. I offer a couple of suggestions, one, that you have a straw poll of your lovely followers and let them decide a revised end date, or two, you link the completion to a significant event, perhaps a swap fashion shoot.

    It’s not uncommon for completion dates to be put back, it happens in a lot of professions, think about your new build, if the bathroom fittings were holding things up and you had the choice to wait for the spec bathroom or to go with a substitute to get in quicker which would you choose, when considering options trust your gut instincts they’re reliably right for you.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you Annie. You always write the most perfect sense. I think the thing about SWAP that appeals to many of us is that it is a fairly challenging/advanced project. It stretches and tests, and I have learnt so much through doing three of them. I will carefully consider what everyone has said, and will report back.

      I am pleased to say my Mum was discharged on Friday evening and is settled happily back at home now.

      Thank you, everyone for your encouraging support and suggestions.

  24. Bridget

    I too am sorry to hear about your Mum, it’s what all of with elderly parents dreads happening.

    When I read your options to the time constraints you are facing, I reflected on your idea that Gus might pack up the wardrobe and try it on a holiday. It makes me wonder if that might give you a way of going for option 2 with a simplified wardrobe? How about swapping a couple of items for some simpler holiday style men’s wear? Sort of a city/beach holiday combination? That way you could swap a formal shirt for a Breton or t shirt top and a pair of trousers for some shorts.

    Just a thought!

  25. Naomi

    I’m 100% Option 3 for myself Kate. I have realised there is no way I can complete SWAP with my current activities. However, the exercise has been so useful that I want to take the time to complete it in the best way I can.
    And also, it frees me up to not have to be so rigid with the plans – for instance I may include or look for some other patterns. I think you were the one who commented that obviously I’d had this wardrobe need for a while and SWAP allowed me to see it. And to me that is the most valuable aspect.
    Ordinarily I’m all about deadlines and finishing, so I’m also taking this as a sign of some good personal growth here, that I can allow the journey to dictate the finish-line, not the reverse. That feels valuable too.
    You will know what is best for you. But if you go for Option 3, we can have our own SWAP if you want! Maybe Steph can join us too?!

  26. BMGM

    I’m thinking both 3 and 2. You have a full plate right now. It’s time to focus on family and not artificial deadlines and clothes for a fantasy lifestyle.

  27. Kim

    Life often gets in the way of plans. You shouldn’t feel obligated to finish on the stated date in the circumstances, and definitely shouldn’t feel under pressure. This is your leisure time not a job obligation. It’s wonderful to see what you achieve – but I confess to being in awe of your achievements and wouldn’t be able to match your output if I was given an extra day in the week. Be kind to yourself and things will work out.

  28. Jenny (the lilac cat)

    I can well understand the adrenaline rush of option 1. I’d be tempted to aim for that but on the understanding that it assumes a completely smooth run both on sewing front and everything else in your life. Given the many moving and demanding parts of your life that may not happen and then the idea of a SWAP share with others post the official event sounds a great idea. I hope your mum continues to do well and makes a quick recovery – I see from the comments many of us are in the middle of dealing with elderly parents and the demands of being a parent!

  29. Brenda

    I’m glad to read that your mum is on the mend. That is great news and less stress for you.

    I agree with many others that option 3 sounds like it would preserve your sanity, and I’m all for that! One idea is to change a garment, maybe the silk bomber, to a knitted project since you are knitting at the lake house. You could get some books on tape to listen to while knitting. 🙂

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