I was already thinking about what I MOST want to focus on while sewing this year, but reviewing my 2023 makes really got me thinking.
Sewing with a FOCUS rather than a goal has given me a much better selection of finished garments that are my first choice when getting dressed. That satisfaction is motivation to keep doing what I’m doing and sew based on habits that come from what I BELIEVE about sewing, rather than with some arbitrary list in mind.
My Sewing Philosophy
I want my clothes to fit me. I also want them to SUIT me. They should be made for the body I have today, not my “dream” body or imaginary size. And they should reflect the person I am inside, in addition to fitting me well on the outside.
I want to feel good about how my clothes are made. I want to feel good about what they’re made from. My garments should be made in a way that is ethical, sustainable, logical, reasonable. I would prefer fewer garments made with a thought to using less & caring for resources over lots of clothes that are disposable. And I want to use fibers that have a considerate manufacturing history.
I want to feel proud of what I make. I want to feel excited about what I wear. My handmade garments should be the BEST quality garments in my wardrobe, the ones with the most care given to their construction. I want to reach first for the things I’ve made myself because those are the clothes I feel most myself when I wear them, and which best reflect my heart and spirit to the outside world.
My Sewing Habits
From that very philosophy, I’ve developed some sewing habits. I think I considered them “techniques” for a long time, but I see them more currently as habits, something I do over and over because I know that the more I do it, the better my results will be.
I sew by chapter. I divide each sewing project up into various tasks, so that I never feel overwhelmed by the size of the total project. I work on each “chapter,” and when that’s finished, I give myself a little bump on the shoulder, Breakfast Club-style, because each stage can be celebrated. This helps me work in smaller chunks of time without going too hard on myself when my schedule won’t permit me to sew flat-out.
I sew in batches. When I know I have more than one garment that I want to accomplish, I may do ALL the cutting at once, and then ALL the interfacing, then ALL the major seams. This way, I can move projects ahead without having to choose a first or favorite. If I have a stack of garments all different colors, I may arrange the order of sewing so that all the garments with white serger thread go first, then the ones with black serger thread, then the ones with navy serger thread, and so on. This eliminates the “lost” time of changing thread color in between projects that might bog me down with perfectionism or smaller details.
I sew by category. This is another way of saying that rather than making a Master List of projects, I have developed the practice of setting an idea or skill as my goal–something I want to test or accomplish. Then all my projects are grouped around that test or goal, which has a specific end date in mind.
For example, in 2023 I wanted to see if it was possible to sew an ENTIRE handmade wardrobe for travel, pack it all in a carry-on suitcase, and unpack every item still ready-to-wear. I wanted to evaluate just how well handmade clothing can travel, and whether the idea of a “capsule wardrobe” might work for me. I worked to sew all those garments from scratch with a plan in place, and since the flight had a very certain deadline, I did it on time.
My 2024 Sewing Plans
Put all that together, and my hopes and dreams for my 2024 sewing projects fall into place pretty quickly!
ONE: I will sew with a one in/two out closet economy.
Back in 2018, I began experiencing panic attacks. Not at all super fun, and not my recommendation for a diet, but as a direct result, I did in fact lose about 40 pounds. I replaced a HUGE portion of my wardrobe that year, which quite frankly really needed replacing, anyway. It had been years and years since I had taken good care of myself or felt worthy of a closet upgrade, and it was an extraordinary act of self-love to rebuild a closet from the ground up.
I purchased almost all of my clothing second-hand through sites like Poshmark and ThredUp, or at local consignment or thrift stores. I ended up with a great deal of redundancy in my wardrobe from doing a lot of shopping in a very short time frame.
The benefit of that was it gave me GIANT insight into what shapes and colors I like, and what silhouettes I lean toward the most. The downside is now I have real repetition in my closet.
Sewing MORE doesn’t seem like the answer, so in 2024 my focus will be on sewing BETTER. If I make a garment, I want it to be an improvement over something I already own. I want better fit, better color, more wearability, or more interest. And for every ONE garment that comes into my closet, I will remove TWO that will be sold or donated. Ideally, this will help me stay focused on making the best clothes I can, with an eye on thoughtful creation over mindless making.
TWO: I will ruthlessly deplete my stash.
I am a sucker for new fabric. In particular, when I sew a new style of garment (like jeans, or blazers), I tend to BUY ALL THE FABRIC for that specialty garment. I have a MASSIVE fabric stash and it’s overflowing my storage, even after filming an entire Curate Your Sewing Space video series for The League.
In 2024, I will sew from my stash, and build the habit of “shopping” what I have FIRST. I have so much lovely fabric!! Yards and yards of it. I want to use what I have and then sell what I know I will never use. I may need to develop some kind of spreadsheet for my notions so I can track what zippers and buttons and hooks and snaps I already have, to prevent even dipping into my wallet for notions this year. I leave room to purchase an essential supply for a major project, but my ideal is to buy as close to nothing in 2024 as I possibly can.
THREE: I will focus on core layering pieces and investment quality.
Of all the 42+ garments I sewed for myself last year, I get the most excitement out of the pieces that I reach for every time the laundry comes out of the dryer. That includes ALL the knit tees I made, in particular the long sleeve merino wool ones; ALL the leggings I made, which I routinely wear to the gym (although I confess my very favorite pair of leggings is still a store-bought pair); and my Blackwood Cardigan & Veltori Top lightweight sweaters, which are also merino wool and seem to go with everything. So I want to maintain the habit of sewing items that can be worn across my wardrobe, in any manner of circumstances, and that create the chance to layer garments to suit my mood or the weather.
Alongside that aim, I am upping my game to make more investment pieces than I have in the past. I want to eliminate the tendency to sew things just to use a piece of fabric, or only for a single-use occasion (like an evening dress, even though that was a fun skills experiment). Instead, my focus will be on selecting categories for sewing that will encourage me to try the SAME garment over and over, refining my tastes and preferences as I build skills, so that the versions of that category I keep will be the very best I can make. For example, this is my year to re-visit the mens’ sport coat but for women, and make myself a blazer. It’s also the year I plan to finally master the art of making jeans.
How Do I Keep Myself On Track?
Well, these aren’t really “goals,” so it isn’t about accountability for me in the way it might have been in the past. I’m working with the aim of naming and refining habits. So I want to keep a loose grip on this all. I’ll evaluate at the end of the year with another Year In Review, I suppose, and share what I take away.
What about you? What habits do you plan to take with you into your 2024 sewing room? Will you share in the comments so we can learn from you?