What are your sewing plans for 2018? Have you made any yet?
All this talk of New Year’s resolutions and fresh starts can be exhausting, but there’s a lot to be said for organizing the closets, sorting through the masses of things we’ve accumulated, and taking stock of what we really want and need around us. And the beginning of a new year is just as good a time to do it as any, isn’t it? Plus, I’m a firm believer that it’s good to work toward goals, and it’s always helpful to reflect a bit before jumping into the next project.
Over the holidays did you catch this wonderful opinion piece, My Year of No Shopping, by Ann Patchett? We have way too much stuff in our lives. And we tend to view so much of it as disposable. This feeling of having too much, of wanting to simplify and reduce, has become quite common among all this abundance. We’re feeling overwhelmed by it all! I certainly felt this way last summer when we emptied out our apartment of 25 years and chose what to ship to Spain and what to give away. Even in our tiny one-bedroom apartment we had accumulated so much. It felt good to get rid of things, but it was also really difficult. And when we finally unpack it all next August in another, hopefully long-term apartment, I want to pare down even more.
What’s your feeling about not buying any clothing for one year the way Ann Patchett did? Goodbye Valentino is hosting a one-year challenge in which the participants vow to not buy any ready-to-wear clothing for twelve months. The group has already closed (sorry–I just learned about it or I would have told you sooner), so it’s too late the join. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do a challenge like this on your own or with friends. Here are a few thoughts about setting yourself a 2018 sewing challenge, in no particular order:
- Make your own rules, and make them realistic. Set your goals to be achievable, something that you can commit to, something that stretches you a little bit but without adding enormous stress to your life. For most of us, especially if we have children, it’s simply unrealistic to commit to not buying anything for an entire year. (If that were the case I would have spent the weekend madly sewing a ski set and thermal underwear for a certain 12-year-old.) Most of us already have plenty of stress in our lives, so decide what you can realistically manage. Maybe you’ll commit to not buying anything for yourself this year, but the challenge won’t apply to the kids and husband. Maybe you’ll decide you have more than enough tops and shoes but you could really use another skirt or trousers to complete your core wardrobe.
- Set your goals according to your sewing skill level. If you just started sewing last year and you wear a suit to the office every day, challenge yourself to sew a few blouses or shirts and skirts this year. Save that notched-collar besom-pocket fitted blazer for another time. Or make the commitment to slowly develop your skills until you’re ready to tackle that blazer with confidence and a relaxed attitude, if that’s what you really want to sew. Don’t set your sights so high that you feel discouraged after a month or two.
- Don’t just apply this challenge to ready-to-wear. How many new clothes do you really need? If you choose not to purchase ready-to-wear, take a long, hard look at your sewing habit too. Do you really need to sew three garments a week? Does anyone need that much clothing, whether it’s purchased or sewn? How about slowing down and enjoying the process of sewing, taking more time to appreciate each step rather than rushing to wear another new sewing product? Having too much stuff applies to sewn garments, too. I feel like we don’t talk about this issue enough; sewing counts as consuming too!
- As you slow down your sewing you’ll be able to really focus on improving your sewing skills and creating clothing that fits perfectly, that is well constructed, and that you can be proud to have made and to wear. Hopefully, for many years. Good quality clothing can last decades; I’ll walk you through my closet sometime and tell you how long I’ve owned some of my favorite pieces. You might be surprised!
- Make a commitment to use what you already have. This applies to what’s hanging in your closet as well as the fabric in your sewing room stash. If possible, instead of throwing something out re-fashion clothing you already own: tailor your clothing to fit you well, or change the silhouette if it’s not flattering anymore. Maybe that will involve tailoring some outdated flared or baggy trousers to a slimmer silhouette, or shortening a blouse that hits you at the wrong spot. If you own fabric you know you’ll never use, trade it with a friend or sell it to free up that space. Then when you find fabric you really love, you can buy it without any guilt and know that you’re going to use it, too. Like the Ann Patchett piece suggests, applies this rule to cosmetics and other things around the house, too. I’m in the process of using a ridiculous number of hair products and body washes I’ve accumulated over the years. They all work just fine, and I probably have enough to last for another three years without buying more.
- If it doesn’t fit or you won’t wear it, get rid of it. Marie Kondo is so helpful here.
- If you must buy it, buy smartly and move on. We can’t sew everything; witness that ski suit I mentioned above…. Once you’re done using it, find someone else who might like it. (This is especially important with kids’ clothes, since they grow so quickly!)
- If you need to replace something that’s genuinely worn out and you can’t live without it, buy quality. Cheap acrylic sweaters pill and look worn after just a few wearings, while a good quality wool sweater (or cashmere if you can afford it) sweater can last decades. The less we add to landfills and thrift shops, the better. And you can still buy or make quality on a budget. Just buy carefully and thoughtfully. Work to develop a sustainable wardrobe, as it were.
- Wait before you buy. That necklace/dress/chair you saw in the store/online and just had to have? Give it a few days and it might feel a lot less urgent. (S and I often take a photo of something we like instead of buying it. We really don’t need to own it, but that way we can appreciate it all the same.)
- Regarding sales, ask yourself: would I have purchased this item at full price? How about at two times the original price? Will I wear and use this item for years, or will I be tired of it in a few months?
- Shop less. The less you see, the less tempted you’ll be to buy it. And you’ll save time, too! (More time for sewing?)
- Take a good look at what you already own, and wear it in different ways. If you always wear the same top with the same skirt, try mixing them with other items you own. And if you don’t have anything to wear them with, that’s a great opportunity to either sew something or decide you don’t really need it after all.
- Take a close look at the pieces you wear most often and ask yourself why. What is it about them that you like better than the other things you own? This can help you define your preferences so you can make better purchasing and sewing decisions in the future. This summer I took a long, hard look at my own clothing (of which I still have far too much) and determined that I prefer tailored menswear pieces paired with feminine pieces. I also love to pair dressy with casual: buttondown shirts and blazers with ripped jeans and heels, for example. This helped me to get rid of lots of bohemian tops and skirts really don’t fit my true style. (There are lots of good books on this topic if you want to read them. I’ll be happy to make a few suggestions.)
- Respect your money. I heard an economist on the radio the other day explaining that most Americans don’t have enough saved for emergencies. If the furnace breaks or the car needs to be repaired, can you pay for it right away? If not, can you save up and keep at least $2000 in the bank for emergencies? When Todd and I first got married our finances were really tight, and we saved for weeks just to go out for cheap burgers on an occasional Friday night. But first we paid our bank account, making sure we had a cushion in case of emergencies. This can be a real challenge depending on your income, but no piece of clothing or sewing is worth putting your security at risk. Eat beans and rice if you must (I’ve done it plenty of times!), but be sure you’re prepared for the unexpected. Careful money habits can become good long-term habits, too. I couldn’t have started Oliver + S if we hadn’t saved carefully for many years.
I just found out about another 2018 challenge for those of you who want to take your sewing a little slower this year, making it really thoughtful and deliberate. 2018 Make Nine encourages you to choose nine items you’d like to make this year. They can be big or small projects. If you already own a lot, maybe nine things are all you need or want to sew this year. (I’m going to leave my nine things open so I can decide as I go, but I have a few ideas right now as well.) #2018makenine
Deliberate, thoughtful choices would be a great theme for 2018. What do you think? Do you have sewing and purchasing goals for 2018? Do we need another hashtag for this idea, or are we covered?
Thank you for this great and timely post. I often excuse my sewing purchases and don’t count them towards overall spending. My stash of fabric has gotten out of control but I have spent the past few snowed in days sewing from it and refusing to buy more fabric until I’ve gotten through half. I especially like the idea of thinking twice about sales. They are my downfall!
Another great example of being thoughtful and deliberate with your sewing is doing a SWAP (sewing with a purpose) project. Lyndsey shared a great post about it here: https://oliverands.com/community/blog/2017/12/sewing-with-a-plan-a-swap-project.html that (in case you missed it) I highly recommend reading.
Exactly, Rachel! I don’t call it a SWAP, but it would indeed be sewing with a plan. For the entire year, or for a season, however it works best for you.
Terrific post Liesl! I have noticed for a while that there seems to be a definite lane of hobby sewers who operate in the same vein as Fast Fashion, buying piles of poor quality fabric and rushing to churn out poorly fitting, poorly finished garments one after the next. I think this also needs to be applied to sewing patterns as well, I often hear of home sewers buying armloads of “big four” patterns on a whim because “they were only $2”, I think this mentality creates a very skewed viewpoint on what it really takes to create a high-quality pattern and get it to market and also causes a loss of focus on creating quality, well fitting garments. I don’t pretend to be perfect but have found that for me limiting myself to one “banker’s box” worth of “stash” fabric and an equal quantity of patterns (for my daughter, my husband, and myself combined) which I strive to perfect in fit and then tweak and change to create new looks, keeps my sewing fun, stress-free, creative and moving forward with no “ghosts of ideas or purchases past” to weigh me down on my sewing journey. That’s my two cents anyway. I look forward to seeing what you have coming up for spring!
Thanks for mentioning the 2018 Ready T0 Wear FASTERS! This is my third RTW Fast since 2011. The first one I did by myself. The second one in 2014 I invited readers to join me, and 200 signed up. This year the group is over 1,000. Readers can absolutely follow along! The Ready to Wear Fast is an excellent way to improve your sewing skills, find your style, and of course save a little $$$
I’m glad it’s still open, Sarah! And congratulations on such a huge number of participants! That’s wonderful.
An excellent and thoughtful post. Thank you
Your post completely resonated with me and I really appreciate all the great reasons, guidance and support you’ve offered in this post (in fact I’ve bookmarked it for inspiration going forward!) I did join the RTW Fast 2018 (and the #Smyly event as well). Additionally my fast will include fabric, patterns and SHOES 🙂 It’s so funny because already I’ve noticed a difference – I ALMOST bought some navy jersey on sale (online) until I remembered, “NO fabric!” and quickly Xed it out of my basket. Today I was at the mall with my husband (we did actually need a couple of things like toothpaste 🙂 ) and I wandered into an eco shop that was having a big sale and I ALMOST bought a nice pair of pants until I stopped myself realizing, OMG how did I forget no RTW!! You are so right that shopping is a HABIT we can break. With my sewing I’m committed to slowing it down just as you say – most of us (and me for sure!) sew for fun not because we NEED more clothes so make it fun! Practice makes, practice all sorts of things like different seaming (Hong Kong seams for example), embellishments, hemming – make it a much more involved project rather than pumping out a bunch of tops I don’t need. I have some gorgeous fabric just waiting to be made into clothes! Silks, wools, cottons and linens. So yes I’m totally on board with this. If I’m successful in meeting this commitment throughout 2018, I’m continuing on ’til my 65 birthday which is Nov 2019 🙂
Thanks for such a timely and detailed post. It has taken me many years of sewing to learn to slow down and enjoy the process. It’s not that I ever purposefully rushed through the steps: but more that I was excited to wear the finished garment and that I didn’t have the resources I needed to learn how to fit clothing properly. I thought it was just luck as to whether a piece came out fitting well. Thank goodness for the growth of the home sewing industry and the much greater variety of resources available in the last 5-8 years! I am also working my way through “The Curated Closet” book by Anuschka Rees, trying to refine and define my style. My sewing strategy has already been affected for the better. I am trying a #2018makenine this year, using all new-but-never-sewn patterns and stash fabrics. I have completed one already. My goal is not to buy anything new until at least all of those nine are done. I find that not shopping, especially during sales, is very helpful. I also like pinning things because I feel like I am saving them to consider for later and don’t feel as pressured to buy.
Yes to decluttering and being mindful of our spending and consumption. I’ll buy fabric without a project in mind and this has led to a large stash of odd pieces… perhaps we could organize a trading group? In other cases i buy fabric for things i would like to sew my kids, only for them to not like the color, texture or shape of what i planned. As we speak i am staring at 2 yd of lilac stretch denim that would be perfect jeans for a girl who doesn’t think she looks terrible in the purple color family…
Thanks , all the frenze for 2018 project posts has been crazy. Just to sell pattern or fabric. Your article was thoughtful and insightful.
Thank you for such a timely post. Your newsletters seem to always resonate with me and a time in my life. I am a home sewist and full time Mom, who is just now starting to find time to sew for myself again. I would like to hear your book recommendations on defining your personal style & why we choosr our favorite pieces, i.e. as you mentioned for your style, feminine with menswear.
Thanks for providing so much to this community!
Have enjoyed reading this post. The last couple of years I’ve been playing around with these concepts. Not as new year resolutions but just mindful thoughts. I’m not great at not purchasing lovely fabrics, but prefer now to spend money on quality, so sewing from my stash is now mostly making muslins, but wearable ones. I’ve spent time on increasing my skills to make better fitting and quality garments. And time spent not wondering the shops does certainly decrease ability to purchase items, now I tend to browse online for ideas and to keep up with styles etc.
Thanks again for the info, I’ll look into getting into a suport group… One tends to need some….
Well as one who HAS sewn full thermals for the kids days before a snow trip, and all with merino wool jersey from my (too) big fabric stash, I’m laughing along with you. Or maybe just laughing at myself… 😉
My loveliest “shopping” recently has been delving back into my pre-baby clothes I’d stored away. Back when I did shop I bought some really nice things and I’m delighted to be getting reacquainted with these ‘old friends’. My first sewing of 2018 was to put some new elastic on the waistband of a skirt I bought in Paris in 2001, and I’m wearing it right now!
Bring it on!
It’s not the thermals that scare me, although I have no idea where to get the fabric here in Spain… I guess I’ve just decided I don’t need that stress in my life anymore, you know? Shoot me if I ever tell you I’m going to sew a ski jacket. (I’ll probably go down that road sooner or later.)
I remember when you said that about Halloween costumes, and then look what happened….
Hey Todd! Fancy a full puffer suit Michelin Man costume for next Halloween?
(And yeah, we get off lightly with “ski gear” in Aus as it was still a 20°C sunny day at the snow)
Hola Liesl! Un post fantástico! I loved reading this post, made me think of how my sewing have evolved over the las years and I can see myself in many things you just said. I sew less for me but more to my wearable style so I end up using a lot more my handmade garments. I’m still working on my style though so I’d really like you to recommend us a few books as you suggest. Espero que todo siga muy bien por Madrid!
Un abrazo desde Barcelona
Like many others, this post really resonated with me. I have signed up to do the RTW fast, but I think it is more as a way to be more intentional about how much stuff I acquire. My goal is to make some solid pieces that can be worn for years. But not a lot of them. Time is pretty scarce working full time and having three teeenage girls who are in activities all over town, so I really want to make sure that if I am spending time on something that I wear it not let it hang in my closet. I really like the idea of Make Nine and think that sounds like a reasonable goal for me.
I am still in the planning stages, but know that there will be several of your patterns in the mix! I’ve purchased many, if not most, but have only sewn a few of them. I just love how clear the directions are and how I feel like I have a handmade item in the end that fits me really well. Thanks for helping the home sewers of the world like myself have confidence that their pieces will turn out well if we follow your directions.
That sounds like a good plan, Sara! I think the danger of the Make Nine project is that if you plan it too rigidly all now you don’t leave room for more impulsive additions or changes later. And since our style is always changing (to a degree), there will almost inevitably be something that you really, really want to make in a few months. So yes, leave yourself some flexibility. And thanks for the kind words on our patterns!
What a great post! Did you see Felicia’s thoughtful piece last year about the problem of loving to make clothes but already having enough? http://thecraftsessions.com/blog/2017/08/01/slowfashion-enough-is-as-good-as-a-feast I see some sewing bloggers making as much in a year as I own in total! My making is greatly slowed down by chronic illness, so I don’t make too much, but I am still guilty of buying more fabric than I can use. I was challenged by a diagram I saw today humorously titled ‘The Buyerarchy of Needs’, where ‘Make’ is placed very close to ‘Buy’: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bd26uupHCQv/?taken-by=ninaninawhy. I’m really glad that this conversation is being had more in the online sewing community. It’s so important for our personal well-being and the world.
I hadn’t seen that, Nina! Thanks for the link. Making it tricky, because for many of us it’s an innate need to be creating things. Like some people say, it’s cheaper than therapy… But it’s an important conversation, I think. I hope you feel better this year!
I would love to see your book recommendations too!