Sewing has been a wonderful, ongoing lesson in the age-old art of garment-making, my personal style, color and detail, body types, vintage clothing and clothing trends in general, and the ethics and psychology surrounding every step in the garment-process from maker to consumer. Challenges and pledges including Me-Made-May, the Summer Essentials Sew-Along, Self-Stitched September, the Ethical Clothing Pledge and the Uniform Project LBD Pledge have inspired me to continue sewing, to keep exploring my relationship to the items that equip me. It’s about function, aesthetic, and social and personal value.
Like others, I have more sewing patterns than I could possibly sew in the foreseeable future. Some I’ve bought for 25 cents, others for $10. And I still want more. The web is chock full of patterns—vintage and contemporary—that make me feel like just one (or two or three) more pattern(s) may revolutionize my wardrobe and my sewing. When I often find myself clicking to buy, say, yet another A-line dress from the 60s like the one above, I have to remind myself that all this new pattern offers from one in my stash is a new neckline (or sleeve detail, etc) that I can either draft (if I was so inclined) or Frankenstein from another pattern.
Enter the Pattern Project. I’ve developed this personal challenge based on the following ideas/beliefs:
- Most patterns are variations on basic shapes. Basic shapes + a little creativity = Limitless possibilities. Thus, learning more about how pattern blocks are altered to create a slew of different styles, not to mention understanding how a two-dimensional pattern flatters our 3-D bodies (or how our 3-D bodies are translated into 2-D patterns), can only benefit my sewing
- I am already inclined toward altering and drafting, as I am often incapable of slavishly following pattern instructions and frequently change details and maniacally fret over fit.
- I am more likely to achieve a good fit and a much better quality garment using a pattern I’ve previously made. Frustrations are already dealt with and time to completion is massively quicker.
- Buying more patterns that largely duplicate what I already own does not necessarily help my sewing, no matter how much I'd love to have a collection of beautiful, vintage patterns
- Utilizing what I already own will help keep costs and clutter down, in addition to forcing me to be creative
- My existing pattern stash (I’d guess I have about 30-40 patterns, half of which are vintage)
- Sew U: The Built by Wendy Guide to Making Your Own Wardrobe. Includes basic patterns for a skirt (with four variations), shirt, and pants (with three variations each). Three basic patterns=13 possibilities
- Sew U Homestretch: The Built By Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit Fabrics. Includes patterns for a crewneck, a raglan, and dress, all with 6 variations. Three basic patterns=21 possibilities
- Built By Wendy Dresses: The Sew U Guide to Making a Girl’s Best Frock. Includes three basic dress patterns—the sheath, the shift, and the drindl—for a total of 25 possible dresses.
- Cal Patch’s Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified. I am so, so excited about this book and drafting patterns based on my own measurements. Includes instructions on drafting an A-Line Skirt, a t-shirt, a button-down shirt, a basic dress and basic pant, plus three variations for each. So four basic patterns=16 possibilities.
- The BurdaStyle book when it comes out next year, featuring some of the web's finest sewers and their designs.
Many, I imagine, would find such a project unsatisfactory, especially those who collect patterns. Vintage patterns, specifically, have a great deal to teach me in terms of details and fit (darts and such) but I find I lack some of the expected sewing know-how of patterns from previous eras, not to mention I’m unwilling to wear vintage-esque foundation garments that make my waist spindly or my breasts pointy. The ones I already own, I think, are a wonderful start.
And I should mention that the goal is not to stop buying patterns, but to become a better sewer. There will be the occasional indulgence, of course, but when I do buy patterns, I’d like it to teach me something new. And I’d like to make a more concerted effort to support independent companies like Colette Patterns and I’ve already snatched up the Uniform Project LBD (pattern pieces pictured above), whose mission I believe in. [Note: Len would like to do a UP LBD sew-along in late August for Self-Stitched September. Talk about a wardrobe essential! I'll join in the fun if I can :)]
Though this project is personal—bespeaking of the skill and restraint I seek—I invite you to join me, even if you'd simply like an excuse to start sewing through your impressive pattern stash or are itching to get through some sewing/drafting books on your shelf. :) I’ll be measuring, tracing, drawing, slashing and spreading and detailing my journey here. I’ll also be posting to two wonderful Flickr groups of like-minded folk, Built by Us, for the Sew U/Built by Wendy patterns, and Design-It-Yourself Clothes for Cal Patch’s book (she even answers questions in the discussion board!).
So here’s to the endless possibilities of simple, well-fitting garments for daily wear! Let the games begin. ☺