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Exploring style: Texture and Embellishments

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/15/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt, Designing

We’ve spent the last couple of days practicing drawing on our fashion croquis and also practicing drawing different silhouettes. While drawing is the best way to get an idea out of your head, there’s other aspects of clothing that you can experiement with. For example, colors are something that we usually have a core set of colors that we automatically reach for. Instead of sticking with your tried-and-true, you could branch out into different colors and color combinations.

Try creating a color mood board. You could make this in person with pictures and things you find or cut out, or you could do a board on Pinterest, or some other digital way. Whatever way is easy and allows you to see all the pictures at once will work. Find color combinations that make you feel excited, or calm, or confident. What part of your wardrobe could you bring these colors into?

Another way to bring variety into your style is through texture. Many fabrics are smooth, but not all. Try some cabled sweater knit, or some jacquard wovens. There’s seersucker or swiss dot. All of these fabrics have different textures and will have a very different look when you wear them. Often, a more textured a fabric pairs beautifully with a very simple silhouette. The fabric can really shine (literally, if there’s sequins!) with simple design lines.

Embellishments is a way to bring a lot of unique design to a piece of clothing. Each person loves different embellishments, so there’s never a wrong answer, just the one that’s right for you! Some people love embroidery and make their items a work of stitched art. Others prefer buttons or piping or pin tucks. Maybe, you want a combination of several different things. Whatever your preference, a common item can become unique and express your personal style by adding a touch of your favorite embellishments. Go wild!

Explore your personal style and see what texture and embellishments make your heart sing! #sewdoit!


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Exploring style: Silhouette and Shape

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/14/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt, Designing

Today we’re going to explore the ideas behind the silhouette or shape of a garment. Our body has it’s own silhouette and the garment either goes along with that or it create a new shape. A sheath dress follows the lines of your body, but might have it’s own shape for the skirt. How full the skirt can determine whether it’s a simple a-line or if it’s more like a 1950’s inspired dress.

If you’re trying your hand at sketching ideas on a croquis, use this idea of fullness to explore shapes on your figure. Start with a simple garment, like a shirt or a dress with a simple straight skirt. Then, draw it, but only change one thing, maybe add a ruffle or change the neckline. Like it? Keep it, and then do it again changing only one more thing. Don’t like it? Go back to the previous version and try changing something else. You can work your way through many variations this way and find new a fun looks.

Another way to do it is to shop for clothes you like the look of online, and try to draw them on your croquis. As you practice with different styles, ask yourself what you like about the shape? What do you not like? What would you change or do differently?

One way to make a simple change that impacts a look is by changing length. Midi style is one length that looks terrible on me! I find that just by shortening/lengthening a skirt or dress to be above the knee or ankle length makes a look wearable for me that otherwise wouldn’t be.

You can also try adding elements like statement sleeves or adding design elements like ruching (gathering with elastic) or ties, decorative or functional. You could change necklines or add button plackets. The sky’s the limit when it comes to drawing ideas! Search online for fashion images and then see how you would make it wearable for you. Take a shirt that you almost love, and see if you can draw it in a way that would be more awesome for your style. Explore to your heart’s content!

You can #sewdoit!


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Exploring style: Breaking Out

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/13/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt

It’s easy to get in a fashion rut. Taking risks or wearing something different can be an uncomfortable experience and who wants to feel that way all day? Or, if you’re not uncomfortable, maybe it’s just that you don’t have the time or resources to experiment with what you wear.

Whatever the reason, this difficulty is even higher when we’re talking about making our own clothes. It’s easy to see a pattern and a fabric and think it will be great, only to be less than impressed with the result. Then, you can feel frustrated about the whole process.

Instead of starting the process with fabric and sewing, we’re going to check out styles without committing to making a garment. This will help us to make decisions early in the process so we don’t have to get all the way to end before deciding if it’s going to work for us.

Exploring a new style with fabric and patterns begins knowing how the fabric hangs on your shape (drape) and how the pattern wears on your body. If the fabric has a lot of drape, it will hang down from your body and not create a silhouette different than your own shape. If a fabric has little to no drape, then it will more easily make a shape or silhouette that’s different than yours.

You can hold fabric up against your body to see how it will move when you move. Does it go easily with you and then it just hangs down from your arm? Does it move sort of in it’s own way and doesn’t hang easily? Does it make a rustling sound as it moves, or is it silent? Does it flow or does it stay firm? Do you like the feel of it? If you are fortunate enough to have a dress form, you can play with the fabric on that even more to see how it hangs or drapes around the human form. If you don’t have a dress form, don’t worry, you can still learn about your fabric just as well by hanging it on your self.

After you’ve got a good feel for how the fabric is going to hang, you can start exploring some fashion lines on you. This is mostly commonly done by drawing fashion sketches on a croquis. Now, if the thought of drawing makes you nervous or if you’re convinced you can’t draw, don’t worry! This isn’t drawing in the traditional free-form artist way. It’s more about seeing a few basic lines that will help you understand your style better. You don’t have to show anyone, and they don’t have to be detailed or super accurate.

As an example, I’m going to use a croquis that I found by searching Google for a “fashion croquis”. I found a plus size one that’s pretty realistic and helps give me the feel of what something will look like. I got it from this website, Designers Nexus, and they have many other croquis to choose from. (Under Sketches & Templates, choose Fashion Croquis - Figure Template.) Another way to get a croquis would be to trace an image of yourself, or use a service like My Body Model as well. I don’t advise spending too much time on the croquis, however. Just find something that works for now. You’ll learn how much you like to use it and whether it’s worth getting a solid drawing of your own body or just need it for an occasional sketch to get ideas out of your head.

Now that you have a croquis, you can sketch a piece of clothing. You can start with something in your head, or start with an inspiration piece. Either way, start by asking yourself, does the fabric follow my shape, or stand away from it?

A garment will follow in some places and stand away in others. Where and how it does that is what makes a style. So, for instance, a t-shirt will follow your shape for the most part, but if it’s loose over the stomach and hips, it can have different look than if it’s form-fitting all over. If it’s a loose style shirt, is it loose all over, or does the looseness start at the waist and go over the hips?

Play around with different lines across the body and see if you can find some that look interesting to you. Try connecting different lines across the body and see what starts looking like garments.

Tomorrow we’ll start talking about silhouettes and how styles are shaped.

Dream your fashion dreams, so you can #sewdoit with confidence!


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Week in Review: 04-12-2020

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/12/2020 Categories: Personal Note, Project Update, Week in Review

I didn’t do much sewing this week. I’ve been trying to find my sewjo, but it’s lost pretty badly right now. I though making masks would help as it would be productive and try to deal with some of the insanity. I found, instead, it just reminded me of the weirdness and stress and I didn’t find joy in it. I made some as way to give back to though who need it, though, I just couldn’t find it as a way to soothe my own thoughts.

However, I was still decently productive in that I cleaned my sewing room/basement! It’s been such a mess with moving sewing rooms, the basement flooding, the HVAC system going out, having a baby, having a surgery, a death in the family, finding a job, losing a job, and finding another job, all in the last year or so. Whew, writing all that out still stresses me! Anyway, I start my (newest) new job on Wednesday, and I hope to find some stability and normalcy. It’s going to be such a relief to have a clear open sewing area to go to de-stress (or just to avoid the kids… let’s be honest). Maybe I’ll even get some of the stalled UFO’s out of there.

I did some coding on the pattern generator engine, but I think I tore out as much code as I added. I’m excited about the rewrite, but it’s a little slow going right now as I try to find a smoother way to get the sloper to pattern processes coded. I’m so close to having something I can taste it, but it’s still not ready yet. I’m not ready to put a time line on it either, as some core pieces still need to be fleshed out.

As a part of the wardrobe series, I got out some designs I’d been sketching (a couple posts on that coming up!) which was a fun thing to dig out. I’m not a great sketcher, but I do find that drawing out a design helps to clarify which pieces of it I really like. I’m looking forward to this week’s topics as this part might just be my favorite part of the design process.

Plans for next week for the blog and the coding are minimal due to starting a new job. I’ll be a nervous wreck, so alot of my time and energy will be going toward that, as it should. Hopefully, I’ll have more of an update next week. See you then!

Happy Easter!


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What's Missing from Your Wardrobe?

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/08/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt, Designing

We’ve been doing a lot of reviewing in this process so far. First, we looked at what we currently have, both to decide what to keep as well as what to give away. Then, we looked at what projects we’d already started and what we wanted to try to finish. Next, we thought about our core style and what we felt comfortable in wearing. Finally, we reviewed our stash of fabric as well as our stash of patterns.

After all that, we’re ready to start laying out a plan for what we want to make with all the pieces we have now. Today’s question is this: What’s missing from our wardrobe? However we answer that question, the answers will be in one of two categories: what we know we’re missing and what we don’t know we’re missing. That might sound odd, but one thing that is fun about clothes is that sometime something totally unexpected can become a favorite piece to wear. Trying things on in a fitting room is a quick way to find that out, but what’s the equivalent when we’re sewing? The answer: croquis and experimentation!

Over the course of the next few days, I’m going to cover the aspects of a garment we can explore to help find different looks or garments that might be a new favorite. Each day we’ll look at the pieces and play with them on a croquis as well as in a little fabric, if we want to.

Today, we’re going to stay a little easier. The first part of this question is the part about what we know is missing. Sometimes you’ve got a nearly perfect outfit, but it just needs a _____. This blank is what we know will get worn and we know will give us variety in our wardrobe. While list may or may not be exciting, it’s usually stuff that’s going to get a lot of love. It’s a great place to start on this list and get a couple items that might be super helpful to make.

To think of things that would help make your list, you can review the “sometimes wear” items from your closet review. Is there anything you can make that would make any item more wearable? What about more than one item?

Feel free to dream a little and have fun deciding what could really help your closet!

Now go forth and #sewdoit


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Stash Review: Patterns

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/07/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt

Oh, patterns, beautiful patterns! I love having a wide variety of patterns to fuel my inspiration and my creativity. I love seeing the different ways fabric can mold and morph into 3D shapes. Fabric is my favorite part about sewing, but patterns are very close second. It feels like patterns are bit of magic to take something so flat and change it into something that hugs me. :)

We’ve reviewed our core style, so we’re ready to start matching patterns to our vision. To start, it’s important to review your style choices and think about what designers call style lines. Style lines are what give a garment it’s overall look. It might be loose and flow-y, or it might be fitted. It might have color blocking or be all one color. There are so many different elements that make up a look, so start noting what pieces are a theme in your core style, or what your loving in inspiration pictures.

As you look through your patterns, look at the black and white line drawing provided with the pattern. Yes, the cover photo is amazing, but sometimes, we can get distracted with a beautiful fabric or a great photo set up. The lines on the pattern are made to answer the question: what’s the overall look of this pattern?

The next piece is to look at the ease on a pattern. Ease is the sewing term for how much room there is a piece of clothing. One way to think about it is to think about how much extra fabric can you pinch out of the side of the item of clothing your wearing? A lot? That’s an item with a lot of ease. Only a little? There’s not much ease in that piece.

Ease affects the look of a garment as well as how it wears. There’s a little bit of ease in everything, no matter how fitted, or you wouldn’t be able to breathe or sit down! The amount of ease beyond what you need for basic movement is design ease. Deign ease is not only how loose it fits, but whether it’s got gathers, or how full the skirt, or sleeves, or whatever are.

Most pattern companies now give finished measurements either in the instructions or on the pattern piece itself. This can also give you an idea of how loose/tight it will end up being.

Of course, you can always modify tightness/looseness through adjustments to the pattern and through fitting alterations. However, if you start with a boxy shirt, there’s only so much you can do to change the design lines of that. If you’re wanting a fitted blouse, it’s better to start with a blouse that has the design you’re looking for than to try to modify an completely different design.

As an example, I recently saw a pattern for a t-shirt dress that I thought was adorable! I immediate went to look at the information on the pattern and realized it had nearly 7" of ease! That’s a lot! I don’t like over-sized fit so I knew that I would have to modify it quite a bit to like how it wore on me and that would probably change it enough that it wouldn’t look like the model anymore. Of course, I can still make and see if I like it, but it’s no longer on the top of my list. I’ll do it when I’m in a sewing experiment kind of mood, not just wanting to make something that works right off the bat.

Style lines are your best friend in deciding if a completed garment will wear how you think it will when it’s all completed. However, as usual, I’m going to end with the usual reminder of, “If you think it will bring you joy, sew it up!” Don’t worry about getting it “right”, just do what’s right for now. Experience is the best teacher of what items you will end up loving and sometimes results can surprise you in the best way.

#sewdoit, alright??


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Stash Review: Fabric

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/06/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt

While I enjoy all of the aspects of sewing, I admit that there are a few things that are maybe more of a favorite than others. Like many sewists, fabric is my love language! I love to feel it and see it, and, yes, honestly, sometimes pet it. :)

Since fabric is the key to a coordinating wardrobe, it’s time to go through your stash and see what colors are brining you joy right now. While I have a core color group that I tend to lean towards, jewel tones!, I find that I connect with different palettes at different times. Sometimes I’m in a peaceful season and want more of a neutral/blue color way. Sometimes I’m feeling energized with my life and want brighter colors.

Even with all the variety, I still tend to choose colors that are similar in nature because, in the end I’m still just one person with varying moods. For me, I’m almost always in the blue family. If it isn’t, sometimes I struggle to know how to include it. In this case, if there’s some fabric that was exciting but is now just out of place, I’ll consider donating it so it can bring joy to someone else’s stash.

I think, since this is mostly for personal fun and joy, I’m not too worried about color theory and that sort of thing. However, if you’re feeling stuck and wanting some help and direction and colors, there are a lot of fantastic resources on picking a palette. For a detailed view of the designer process, you can review Smashing Magazine’s article on it. Seamwork magazine has a great article on color palettes

I hope these resources help you. Please don’t feel like you need to find the “right” fabric, just the one that’s for right now. :)

Aside from color, time of year is another factor into what fabrics I consider as well. I’ve got a gorgeous sweater knit that I’m dying to sew up, but it wouldn’t get worn at all. I want to spend my time right now sewing things that I can wear immediately (yes, I’m impatient :)), not 6 months down the road. Heading into summer (hello, fellow Northern Hemisphere folks!), I want lighter weight and cooler options.

Now some of you might be thinking, shouldn’t you know what pattern you want to make so you know what type of fabric you’re needing? Yes. And no. Sometimes, the fabric tells me what it wants to me. Right now, I’ve got a teal and white floral knit that needs to be a maxi dress. :)

However, sometimes, a pattern will speak to you and you want to just pull some fabric for it. We’ll talk about patterns more tomorrow, so for now, just note fabrics that are speaking to you to determine which ones are on your short list to include for now. You can always come back to get something else if you find a pattern that needs some fabric.

Okay, let the fabric fun begin! #sewdoit


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Sewing in April: Capsule Basics

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/04/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt

To capsule, or not to capsule, that is the question. Capsule wardrobes are such a trendy topic because the highlight the versatility of simple wardrobe staples. However, just because it’s effective, doesn’t mean you have to do it. And, just as much, you might want to do a small capsule and then the rest of your wardrobe not at all. Any of these options is right, if it builds a closet of clothes that you pull from and wear.

If you haven’t heard about a capsule wardrobe, it’s a simple selection, usually around 10 items, of quality, basic items that can be mixed and matched with each other and dress up/down with accessories. The idea is to have go-to items that are timeless classics that we can always feel put together in.

Most of us have more than that in our closet and that’s okay. Instead of worrying about putting together a capsule wardrobe as defined, think about it more in terms of a core look. We all get dressed everyday (okay, most of us… ;) ). While some of us wear a variety of types of clothing in a plethora of styles, most of us have our favorite items or styles that we pull from most days.

I tend to go towards jeans or maxi skirt with a comfortable but nice knit top. If you were to pick a random selection of days in the last year or so and look at what I wore, this would be most likely what I was wearing. If I were to design a wardrobe with sheath dresses and high-heeled pumps, I probably would be disappointed by how many times that got worn, even if I loved every item in the collection.

When we’re thinking about an intentional wardrobe, we’re really saying, “Okay, be honest, what are you actually going to wear? What is going to make you feel confident at work and comfortable on the weekends?” Once we look at that list for ourselves, we can then find styles and looks that we can go to everyday.

Of course, variety is the spice of life, as they say. Don’t underestimate the power of a really fun piece in your closet, or an occasional, dressed up look on days when you want to take over the world. There’s no rule that says what you sew has to be practical and simple.

The point of this exercise is to ask yourself, “Will this style get worn in the way I think it will and will it bring me joy?” If the answer is yes to those questions, sew it up!

Next up, we’re going to talk about fabric and patterns to help us find our next projects.

Onward and #sewdoit!


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Sewing in April: WIP's and UFO's

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/03/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt

Filling our wardrobe with new projects is fun, particularly at the beginning when we imagine that everything is going to work perfectly and we’ll bust through the project in no time at all! Then, we start sewing. Sometimes, we do get something cranked out, but sometimes, we don’t. Whether something didn’t work out in the construction, or it just didn’t fit right, sometimes we have half finished projects around.

WIP’s (works in progress) and UFO’s (unfinished objects) are in all our sewing rooms. Some people more than others *cough* me! *cough*, but most of us have at some point set aside a project because of frustration or distraction. Now is the time to do a quick review and see if any of them are still relevant to work on.

When you’re looking through your projects, ask yourself three questions: 1, is it still worth working on? 2, does it still fit in my wardrobe plan? 3, why did I quit working on it? The answers to these three question will determine if you are going to include these in your current sewing plan.

If a project isn’t bringing joy, and sewing is your hobby, sometimes it’s okay to let it go. While it can be disheartening to toss something that you’ve put time and money in, for the sake of the fun of your hobby, it can be freeing to not worry about finishing it. It is hard to give ourselves permission to throw out a project without feeling like we’ve failed somehow. If you’re someone like that (I am!), then I hereby give you permission to sew for joy and for fun! Throw those projects out!

If you think it’s still worth your time, the next question is if it’s something that fits with your wardrobe now. Depending on when you started it, it might not be the right season or in the color scheme your feeling right now. That’s okay. It’s waited this long; it can wait till the right time if you want it to.

Finally, you need to be honest about why you quit working on it. Don’t worry about doing anything about it right now, but make a note about where you got stuck. When you do come back to it, you can face the piece of head on and tackle that at the beginning when you have the mental energy. Then, you’ll be able to get past the sticking point and on the fun of getting it done and wearing it.

Now we’ve got a list of projects that will help us complete our wardrobe and, bonus!, are partially done already. Celebrate that little win!


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Current Closet Review: the Keep and the Keep Nots

By: Mary Reed Published: 04/02/2020 Categories: Planning, Wardrobe, SewDoIt

I’m someone who loves the beginning of any new project. I find the excitement in picking fabrics and patterns. I love the feeling of finding inspiration and getting all the elements of a new project piled up in front of me. If it involves shopping for anything new, all the better!

However, always focusing on new things can sometimes lead to overload in the closet! It’s easy to think, if I just had another of that item or another color in my closet I’d never have trouble knowing what to wear.

The truth is more along the lines of having too many things in your closet leads to decision fatigue and you might spend a long time digging through it in the morning only to find what feels good to wear. In the end, you might be surprised how much of your clothes you don’t end up wearing.

As a part of creating a sewing plan, I’m starting by looking through my existing clothes, me-made and RTW, and getting rid of things that don’t work for me anymore. While this is good to do anytime, right now is an extra good time for me because I’m 8 months postpartum. I’ve gained weight since before baby number 2 and I’ve reshaped, again. I’m so tempted to wait until my body is “back”, but I know that’s a delusional place that doesn’t really exist. I will probably continue to lose weight and change shape for a little while, but I’m settled enough that I can wear what I make for at least a little bit. And if I do change shape again, guess what? I sew! I’ll alter it! :)

So, here’s my plan for wardrobe review. First, I’m going to sort things into a few different categories, each of which I’ll go through for keep, give away or throw away. The categories are: (note: categories 1–5 exclude special occasion items, which are in their own category at the end)

  1. What do I wear often and love?
    This category is easy. It’s what I reach for on a normal day and feel great wearing.
  2. What do I wear often/occasionally and not love?
    There are a few things that I wear because I need them in my wardrobe, but either they don’t fit the way I want or I don’t feel great when I wear them. I’m going to take especial note of these and write down what it is about them I don’t love. That way, as I’m planning for what to sew, I know what would be a waste of time to make.
  3. What do I never wear and wish I could?
    I’m stealing this from a story that Sarai Mitnick shared on Seamwork’s Instagram. There’s several things in my closet that I love, but don’t really wear that often. I’m noting those, in particular what I would need to do/wear differently to make it more of a regular feature.
  4. What do I never wear?
    This is everything else in the “never wear” category that can just go. Sometimes it’s just time for a parting of ways. If there’s anything about an item that I really didn’t like, I’ll note that. Otherwise, it’s just out, either in the give-away or throw-away piles.
  5. The Sometimes Wear.
    Theoretically, if there’s anything in your closet that didn’t get sorted yet, it would be in this pile. It’s the things that you wear sometimes, but aren’t your go-to, most favorite things. For these, I suggest keeping these, but making note of what would make it more of a staple. From needing altered to not having enough things to match it, make a note and consider those when you are making plans. If, after planning, you find that it’s still not going to be a loved and used item, consider getting rid of it. You might find more use out of less items that are more loved. However, variety is the spice of life as they say, so having some items to go to when you’re feeling tired of the usuals can be refreshing. As long as these items aren’t overwhelming your wardrobe, don’t worry about having some extras.
  6. Special occasion.
    These items are a unique thing because they, by definition, don’t get worn daily. These require honesty about your lifestyle and why you’re keeping it. If it’s got sentimental value, consider another way to treasure it besides taking up space in the wardrobe. Is it enough to have a picture of yourself at the event? Can you let go of the dress itself if you give a special page to it in a memory book or a digital scrapbook? There are many charity programs around the country that accept gently used formal gowns. Consider the joy that dress might give to another that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

Now that the closet’s sorted, deep breathe and enjoy the moment! This is important in getting me-made items that are pulled in to your daily routine! Way to go! Keep your notes handy. On April 7, we’ll be making a list of what our wardrobe could use and this exercise will be really helpful to keep us focused.

Remember, #sewdoit already! :)


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