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?