Making clothes

It's been kinda quiet in this space lately, hasn't it? A challenge of the modern small business is which platform(s) to focus your energies on. There are so many places to share your mission; blogs; Facebook; Instagram; Twitter; direct emails, and more. I for one, am still not entirely sure where to put my time. I appreciate the long form potential (as it were) of a blog post, but I seem constitutionally unable to write one quickly. So to populate this forum, I must set aside time. Time is that precious commodity for small biz owners. When I have a spare moment I want to be sewing. Yeah, so what's a sewist to do?  Sew....

Do you make clothing? Are you a garment sewist? If so, are you as overwhelmed by the multitude of patterns, and fabrics, and garments swirling around the interwebs as I am? It is all very inspiring, and stimulating, but also a bit daunting. Where to dive in? Where to spend that precious time? I have been making clothes for myself since my teens. That means that over the years I have made many, many garments, some successfully, and more than a few wadders. Yet, I find myself just now starting to truly focus on my making in terms of a wardrobe, and a consistent and coherent style. Have you been following along with Christine Haynes as she explores the Wardrobe Architect series first brought to us by Sarai Mitnick of Colette Patterns?  When Sarai first started writing about this subject back in '14, I was still dazzled by all the opportunities in the sewisphere that I was grabbing wildly at whatever caught my eye. Now that Christine is addressing the same concepts, I find myself drawn to this train of thought. I encourage you to click through on those links and see what these thoughtful and talented ladies have to say.

This subject rings true for me now because of my need to time manage my making. I run my own business, and while that business revolves around stitching, I do not have endless hours (does anyone?) to waste making an item of clothing that doesn't suit me, or that I will only wear sporadically.  This is the old cake versus icing question. Do you make for special occasions, or for daily wear? Do you purchase fabric in colors you know you will wear, or are you distracted by pretty in the store, and end up with a mis-matched closet of orphans and unicorns? I can confess to being a member of the latter camp for much of my sewing life. I will throw in the added complication of being inevitably drawn to the sale table, a condition that does NOT make for a coherent wardrobe. Or at least not without a lot of will and determination. I am first and foremost a garment maker, but in the last few years the quiltmaking impulse has nestled into my psyche as well, taking up precious making time. So when I do sew I need to be very calculated, and mercenary about my time. Last Fall when Lauren Taylor of LLADYBIRD first came to teach here at AGOS, she explained some of her methods around making in a manner that has rung true for me. She counts her time sewing as both entertainment, and wardrobe building. Lightbulb! It's true that the sessions when I am working through a garment is often when I am most zen, most meditative, often (though not always) calm and happy. The way I see it, making clothing is good for my state of mind, good for my wardrobe, AND good for my economy. With this knowledge in hand I have started looking more critically at my choices of fabric and pattern. So when Christine started talking Wardrobe Architect, I went along for the ride.

A Linden from October, my trusty denim Moss, and my 2nd Greenfield Cardi...

A Linden from October, my trusty denim Moss, and my 2nd Greenfield Cardi...

 

 

This Fall I began taking a little more thought and care in what I make, gearing my choices to holes in my closet, and garments that I pull on over and over again. To that end I made a pile of Grainline Studio Larks and Lindens. Pile? Well, I made three each. But now I have a stylish tee for each day of my working week. I like Tee's, especially when I can make them in slightly more sophisticated fabrics to dress them up a hair. I also finally tackled the Archer, a pattern that I found intimidating for no good reason whatsoever. I have made three, and tweaked the fit each time. I have plans for more. Have visions of a wardrobe of these tops, jeans (yes, Ginger's I am in the midst of muslin'ing) and a mix of jean and A-line skirts. (see right) This approach also coincided with Felicia's (of The Craft Sessions) discussion of Stash Less as a challenge for 2016. Over the past few years much (MUCH) more fabric has come into my stash than has gone out as garments or quilts. I am determined to sew with this beautiful collection I have, as opposed to buying more. Stitch More, Buy Less.  That's on a T shirt somewhere isn't it? I am making a concerted effort to reduce the stress in my life, increase my pleasure, build out my wardrobe, and save some money, all by sewing carefully from my stash.  Sounds lofty, no?  But I'd say it's attainable. Ring true for anyone else?

 

 

Further to that end, and in the same vein as the Wardrobe Architect series, I wanted to talk a bit about the next retreat I have planned here at AGOS next month. Lauren Taylor is coming back for the second time, to lead another garment sewing long weekend. This format fits very well (!) with the themes I am discussing, because the outline of it is inherently customizable for you and your goals. If you are unfamiliar with Lauren, I suggest you check out her blog to get a feeling for what she is all about. In a crowded field of independent sewing pattern designers and teachers, she is unique in her pragmatic and encouraging approach. She is largely self taught, and passes that can-do attitude on to her students. She is refreshingly empowering (I know, that word is overused, and fraught, but here it applies) with her sewing knowledge and how she shares it. This weekend of sewing is a bonanza for those who have been sewing away by themselves with mixed results. Having another set of eyes, and hands, to help with adjustments and alterations is invaluable!  Especially when that help is so practiced.... For three + days you can bring your sewing challenges, your unicorns, your Mount Everest's in, and Lauren will help you climb them!  Want to finally master zipper insertion, swayback adjustments, the FBA or SBA alteration....? Or maybe you want to make a coat, or a pair of trousers, or a blazer, from start to finish, with someone to help all along the way.... This is a great retreat for someone who has some successes under their belt, and now wants to move a step or two (or three) forward with help. Many educational outlets (including AGOS) focus on a particular pattern or technique, and while that is a great learning environment for many, it is just one stop along the way to being an accomplished sewist.  At a certain point you have learned all you are going to from a particular project or technique, and you want to move on to a more personal and custom approach.  To step back and see your sewing practice as a whole, and not a lot of disparate attempts. Let's say you have determined that a fitted skirt is really what suits you, makes you feel beautiful, excites your sewing.  You can bring a pattern, or two, to this weekend and Lauren will help you build the perfect skirt fit just for you.  This weekend is entirely what you make it, and that can be scary for some. But for others, it is an amazing opportunity.  Lauren's fitting knowledge, construction tips and tricks, and general enthusiasm for the craft of making clothing, are a precious resource! Come expand your skills, take that next step, conquer those technical fears, move closer to wearing a wardrobe that fully reflects who you are....!

I love this picture of Lauren, it captures her spirit and her energy!

I love this picture of Lauren, it captures her spirit and her energy!

 

 

We have a few more spots available, we'd love to have you join us. We take over the A Gathering of Stitches studio, all fully equipped 2500sf of it. You can set up a machine (or use one of ours), use the cutting tables, the sergers, the expansive array of tools, and make some real progress.  I will feed you lunch each day, so you don't have to think about that. Lauren will cycle around the room, available for hours on end. The rest of the world can recede for a moment, while you focus on your making. We'll celebrate with a mini fashion show, and a delicious meal at one of my favorite Portland restaurants on the last night. You can read all the details HERE, and there is also another blog post HERE.