Saturday, 15 July 2017

Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

I haven't had all that much time for sewing in the last few months and once things slowed down I felt so bewildered by all the things I wanted to make and the growing size of my fabric stash that I wasn't sewing either. To get back into the groove of things I decided to literally go back to the drawing board, get organised and plan out my next few projects. With limited sewing time part of me has always scorned wasting any of those precious hours or planning or sketching out ideas, until last year. I put a lot of consideration into the handmade additions I made to my wardrobe last summer and found that really successful. I got so much wear out of those pieces and have been excited to get them back out again now the weather has heated up in London.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

I really don't need to be buying anymore fabric so the first step was taking stock of my stash. I'm sure most of what is in there I bought with a specific plan in mind so I wanted to revaluate and see if I still wanted to make those things or put those fabrics to better use elsewhere. I keep my stash in a big basket so it's quite hard to see what I've got and a real pain to dig something out from the bottom to check how much of it. I've tried various methods for keeping tabs over the years but never been able to keep on top of any of them. Enter the 110 Creations Sewist's Swatch Book which Beth kindly sent me a copy to try out months back.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

The notebook is organised with a page for each fabric in your stash and provides a template for noting down everything you might need to know in future, complete with space for a fabric swatch. The layout is well thought out and the fabric swatch square is always on the outer edge so you can reach it with a stapler. Whenever I've tried to catalogue things before I've never though about including fabric care instructions or the stretch percentage; both of which would be really useful to have to hand when contemplating a future project! There's a care symbol key and stretch percentage guide to measure against included at the front of the book to make this straightforward.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

Most sections on the template include options to circle rather than being left blank to fill in. Whilst for many things I find this really useful and quick on some I find it perhaps a little too restrictive. But there is always an 'other' space for writing in your own option. The 'Content' section includes a multitude of fabric types to circle yet the types of fabric on the market nowadays are endless so that won't cover all bases. I do love that one of the options is 'Mystery' though! There are numerous pieces of fabric in my stash that I have no clue to the content of! I like that the 'Length' section doesn't state whether in yards or metres as different people have their own preference but a large proportion of the pieces in my stash are leftovers from previous projects so aren't a nice round 1 2 or 3 metre piece.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

Once I got into the swing of entering things I found my own method of using the book though and it has definitely changed the accessibility of my stash, encouraging me to use it more. It is pretty time consuming to put together at first but is very quick to add individual fabrics each time you buy a new piece. Plus it's really satisfying to see all those neat and tidy pages an swatches! I can't think of a single extra thing I'd add to the template and feel like I'll never need to go rummaging through the depths of my big fabric basket again. If you feel like your stash could benefit from a good sort out and catalogue you're in luck as Beth is actually offering a 30% discount on the swatch book until Monday 17th July. Use the code SAVENOW30 at the checkout.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

Now I had a rough idea of which fabrics I'd like to use for which garments the next step was making some more detailed project plans. I used the Sew Crafty Journal for this to much success last year and have got back into the groove of that. It's great for allocating patterns to fabrics, listing what notions you might need and sketching out changes you might make to the pattern. The project pages alternate with ideas and notes pages throughout the book which is a nice mixture that doesn't restrict you. I think these areas are good for loosely jotting down and roughly sketching ideas for future projects that may not be so set in stone that they need a full project page.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

I haven't used the what went right/wrong and what I would do differently sections all that much as I found the categories quite broad for quite a limited space and often spilled over into the full page notes section overleaf to write freestyle instead. I have found it more useful for planning out ideas in advance rather than recording changes and decisions you made throughout the construction process. I think I'd prefer specific slots for jotting down the size I cut and any changes I made to the flat pattern plus how much fabric I used as I quite often get to writing a blog post and realise in all the excitement of starting to sew I didn't write these down which are kind of essential points I try to include in every review.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

But in saying that I like that it's not too specific and gives you that freedom for creativity that you need in the planning stages. I used to just make lists of my sewing plans but I'm actually quite a visual person so being able to collect fabric scraps and sketches along with written ideas I find really motivating. I particularly like that the areas for sketching are blank so that you can draw details or just elements of a project if you wish rather than full garments on human figures all the time. I'd also like to experiment with using it as a scrapbook and sticking in some inspiration images. I was unsure about what to use the small box on the right hand project page for but now I'm looking at it again it might be nice to include a photo of the finished garment to look back on!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books

I think I'm still figuring out how to get the best use of this one as a planner but going through the process of filling it out and taking the time to do the drawings actually really encourages me to devote some proper thought to a project before getting happy with the scissors. I've definitely come up with some more creative ideas as a result and made little changes to a pattern to better suit me which I've only thought about as I was sketching that part of the drawing. It encourages me to see what I probably wouldn't have seen until I'd sewn that part up if you get what I mean.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books
Last summer's sewing plans

I feel like the fact that I am finding myself with a successful handmade wardrobe has a lot to do with the fact that I took a little step back from jumping straight on the sewing machine to actually plan; considering what I wanted to wear and projects that would fill in some gaps. The planning has really fired up my sewjo again and I'm longing for a solid few days of machine time!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Planning a Handmade Wardrobe with Sewing Journals and Swatch Books
A project page from 110 Creations: A Sewist's Notebook

There are a multitude of sewing planners on the market at the moment. By Hand London have just released their PDF version complete with stash log. The fact that it's printable is brilliant as you can print as many or as few of each page type as you need. I also own the 110 Creations Sewist's Notebook (above) which I like for the big A4 pages with lots of room for scribbling lots of notes! Plus the handy needle change record and pattern catalogue sections. This one has sections for noting down alterations made and notes for next time so could be great used in combination with the Sew Crafty Journal. Both Gertie and Jenny have released sketchbooks with croquis suited to their target market. Have you used this kind of journal to plan your sewing before? What do you find useful?

14 comments:

  1. Thank you for such a detailed post, it was lovely to read. It's always interesting to see how other people organise their sewing.

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    1. I'm always really interested in organisational posts too! I've seen some great one's recently about organising your pattern stash so I'll have to get onto that next

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  2. I have the 110 creations journal but I do find the croquis limiting and hard to design around, which has meant I barely use it. I'll definitely be looking into a search notebook or the Sew crafty journal! Would definitely help with writing my blog and remembering small details. Thanks for the review Fiona!

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    1. Yes I can find croquis a bit restricting sometimes as I don't necessarily want to draw a whole outfit and it's hard to include details in that scale which actually might be quite important for you to record. The sew crafty journal has a bit more blank space to freestyle in!

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  3. Thank you Fiona for this inspirational post! I ordered the Swatch book BUT Lulu wouldn't process my payment saying I had a "duplicate" email which didn't make any sense at all. Too bad! Would have loved that book. Anyway it's a great idea and I might just have to create my own!

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    1. Hello Kathleen! Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention, I will get in touch with Lulu about it. They have great customer service and I'm sure they would have been glad to help.

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    2. O sorry to hear you had trouble Kathleen and thanks for responding so quickly Beth! Fingers crossed you can find a way around it as it's a really useful tool. Have you got a second email address you could try?

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    3. Kathleen, I spoke with customer support at Lulu and they would be happy to assist you with ordering, either on the phone or by walking you through the website. I hope you will reconsider your order and I'm sorry for the issue you had!

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  4. Interesting! I keep loads of notes for project planning but I use a mixture of a standard notebook, the notes app on my phone, and hidden boards on Pinterest. The notebook is for planning an individual project: working out what size to cut and what adjustments are needed. The others are more for planning on the go.

    I found it very useful to make a Pinterest board of all my envelope patterns; it's helped me to use what I have and buy fewer new ones.

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    1. O I had never thought to use Pinterest that way but of course that would work out brilliantly as you can access it through the app wherever you are! I've only thought of it as a way of collecting inspiration but it's a great way of cataloguing things as you can break it down into the different boards. Sorting out my pattern stash is next on my list so thanks very much for the idea!

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  5. Your post has inspired me to get organised with my fabric stash, I've just bought the Sewist's Swatch book, looking forward to organising my stash! Thanks for tip re discount code 😁

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    1. O wonderful! I hope you enjoy using it, it's surprisingly quick to put together. Depending on the size of your stash of course haha!

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  6. I have just recently catalogued my stash. I used little tags to put my swatches on with width etc and then numbered my boxes 1 for top weight, 2 for bottom weight and 3 for knit. I then number the tags accordingly. I think I picked this up from Colettes blog. I have put all the swatches on a zip tie for each box. I made up my own planner on word,put the pages in a ringbinder and plan on making my own croquis one day. The shocker was my pattern stash. I felt quite guilty at over 200 printed patterns,have not accessed my PDF yet or the 3 years of Burda magazines... I have been sewing for over a decade but still I was shocked. I used the app Sewing Buddy to take a record of all my printed patterns. Now on to planning.
    Great post Fiona really inspiring. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Minnie, I'm really glad you enjoyed it.
      I tried the Colette tags a couple of years back and while I found it useful at the time I didn't manage to keep it up to date. But I do like that you can keep the tags attached to the box for easy reference and hunting!
      Organising my pattern stash and cataloguing it somehow is next on the list and I am a bit scared to find out just how many I have! I wouldn't be surprised at a number similar to yours but I would too feel guilty! My PDF patterns are multiplying.
      Enjoy your planning and thanks for the great comment!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!