May 5, 2015

The Story of my SWAP

Once upon a time in December, I decided to sew along with the talented people on Artisan Square who were planning for SWAP. SWAP stands for sewing with a plan, and the guidelines called for sewing a collection of 5 tops, 3 bottoms and 3 wild cards that would all coordinate. The timeline for sewing was the day after Christmas through April 30.

 SWAP might mean sewing with a plan, but my plan definitely evolved along the way. Way back in December when I started dreaming about my collection, I was picturing outfits that would include my hand knitted accessories and one of my wild card items was a cozy sweatshirt fleece jacket. My original plan included a number of different patterns, none of which I had yet tested, and many of which involved techniques I had not used in decades. I did not originally give much thought to what sorts of things I actually wear, and was more into the challenge of sewing different items.
At some point along the way, as I was fighting to get even the simplest patterns to fit me reasonably (wearable, not necessarily impressive!), I had the revelation that 1- this sea of different styles I was intending to sew did not really suit my casual lifestyle and 2- there was no way I would be able to finish if each pattern took me multiple attempts to get a wearable garment. Then I rebooted the plan to include multiples from the same pattern, as well as pulling in tried and true patterns for a few of the bottoms.

 I was still in a bit of a fantasy. I still pictured my finished items how I would wear them with shawls, knit cardigans, etc. I was not thinking about the end date- April 30- and what kind of stuff I would wear in April. I also had originally intended to do some hand embellishment on a few of the items, Alabama Chanin style. I have long admired the work of some others on Artisan Square who sew up beautiful appliqued and beaded creations. I was in denial- I have thumb issues, and while I can do some hand sewing, doing that much on a deadline would leave me with useless hands.

 I was still having fitting issues. For example, I bought a raglan tee pattern from Lekala, which had I sewn it up unaltered would have been a crop top, and skin tight. Definitely not a good look for me! When I asked advice about this pattern, thinking maybe I had entered something wrong in the website, I heard that someone else had the same issue with that pattern. This person recommended Wild Ginger Patternmaster Boutique software to me. In mid March, with only one shirt of the 5 I need for SWAP sewn, I bought Wild Ginger PMB. To say there is a learning curve is an understatement. It will for the most part draft for my body, but every measurement I try to enter evokes a warning message, as if there is no way a human form has these measurements! There are some defaults that I needed to figure out by trial and error (shoulder length I am looking at you). One of my SWAP tops has some decorative seaming, and that is because I had to remake the entire top half to get the shoulders to be as broad as mine.
I managed to find the right defaults in Wild Ginger PMB to make some knit tops that I am thrilled with. I made 2 boat neck tops and 2 scoop neck tees, and these patterns are destined to be TNTs. Then it was April 29, and I had 10 items sewn. The rules allowed for using a previously sewn item. But I had a Butterick pattern for trousers (B5222) that I wanted to attempt, and I went for it. They are wearable in my opinion, and I will be digging deep into my copy of Pants for Real People.

    So here is what I learned from SWAP:
 1- Sew for the life you lead, not the dreamy one you lead in your head.

2- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you are currently sewing knit tees all from the same pattern and 8 gore elastic waist skirts, don’t plan a collection with 8 different patterns and hand beaded details.

 3- Consider the season you will be in when the collection is completed. I should have sewn for Summer. Some of the items can really work for all seasons for me, but I will not be wearing the vest or the jacket until Fall now.

 4- I should have been taking some photos as I went along. This could have allowed me to be blogging stuff all along, but also I nearly had heat stroke doing my photo sessions.

5- I did some new to me stuff in this process:
 Learned to use Wild Ginger PMB software
Rigged my phone as a remote for my camera
First twin needle hems
 First woven fabric pants with a fly since about 1979.
Also, as I was sewing up wearable muslins, I managed to salvage every item instead of chucking them in the wadder pile.

 Stay tuned, I will be talking about some of my SWAP outfits in my next few posts.

 Special thanks to Kate at for the idea to post SWAP stories.

1 comment:

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

Maggie - sewing SWAP is always a challenge with an amazing amount of learning going on! Congratulations on meeting the challenge and for learning some new skills! Also enjoy your new garments!