I know I did this to you before- I sat down to write one post, discovered I wrote two and had to divide them. This post is for those who are new to wardrobing and for those who have magpie fabric buying habits and would like to learn another way to shop.
I won’t wait until next week for the follow up post, I’ll publish that next- including the palettes because they go along with the text! This post is a related side note inspired by Scared Stitchless.
This week I focus on practicalities regarding wardrobing and color.
Planning = Efficiency
Learning what colors work best for you is the first step toward building a cohesive wardrobe and making the most of your sewing time. It’s vital because once you understand what colors work for you, you can limit yourself to buying fabrics only from your favored palette. When you do this, it’s easier to sew clothing that looks like it belongs together. It takes less thought to put together an outfit in the morning. You’re also more likely to wear the lovely piece you invested your time, skills and money to create.
This is a good thing. Once, my sewing friend Enid and I were passing a lazy afternoon at home. I felt “odd socks” and cold when I woke up that morning so I put together a bright blue shrug, my Terra Incognita dress, and a pair of cropped jeans with pink toe socks. Enid paid me a great compliment: “I don’t know how, but your clothes always look like they belong together. Even when they don’t.”
I was tickled. My clothes look like they belong together because I tend to fabric shop for myself from a pretty strict palette. It’s deliberate. I have fun with it, I don’t let it be a burden. Color is the absolute foundation of building a wearable wardrobe- people seem to respond to color more strongly than to the cut.
When I go fabric shopping-
If I spot a good deal on nice quality fabric in one of my foundational colors, I don’t hesitate to snap it up even if I don’t have an immediate project in mind. Bottom weight linens, stretch wovens, linen knits, merinos and organic cottons in my colors will always have a place in my home if I can afford them when I see them. On the other hand, if I go out looking for a particular fabric and don’t find it, I come home empty-handed. Period. I come home empty-handed quite often, which is why I so readily buy when I find great basics.
It is not “rude” to go into a fabric store and leave with nothing. I hear that and it drives me nuts. The shop exists to serve you. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, go gently accost one of the sales staff and politely let them know what you’re looking for. You may have overlooked something the sales staff can point out, or you may have just influenced the next round of fabric purchasing for the shop. You never know until you ask.
While we’re on the topic of fabric-buying…
The Downfall of Binging on Prints and how to break the habit
Binging on quilting cotton prints for apparel sewing is a common bad habit. It used to be my worst sewing vice.
I won’t tell you not to buy prints. Do it. Fine with me. Spend heaps of cash on quirky fun quilting cottons and gleefully stitch them into one-off garments that probably won’t match each other very well. All those novel prints are just screaming to be made into tasteful garments that definitely don’t look “home-made.” You’ll wear those quilting cottons all the time and never ever stuff them into a deep dark corner of your closet to hide the guilt. I say this sincerely- It’s your sewing. You should do with it whatever you like. Sew with joy.
When you’re over that and want to make clothes that look like “clothes,” like Scared Stitchless, then we can talk. If you’re feeling cranky about my last paragraph, go read her recent post on sewing with quilting cotton. I like her writing, and we’re in the same time zone! I read her post and felt like I could have written that a few years ago.
I’ve only been sewing my own “daily wear” clothes for the past five years or so. When I first started, I too was attracted to bright and happy quilting cottons. Compound that with the fact I worked in a quilt shop and got a deep discount on delicious, high-quality prints.
My husband had to remind me a few times that I should be paid in money, not fabric.
I found myself at the same point as Scared Stitchless, wondering how to sew clothes that looked like clothes. I was also slightly horrified by the mess of quilting fabric garments in my closet. The stitching was quite good as a rule, but they still didn’t look right. If you are looking for a way to improve the overall tone of your apparel sewing, I have a simple suggestion: buy solids.
All the time.
Choose solids. It’s a very simple but transformative move. If the pile of fabric waiting to be sewn makes you yawn a little bit, then yawn and sew anyway. While breaking my quilting-fabric-as-apparel habit, I made a rule. If I looked at the fabric I chose and wasn’t slightly bored by it, then it wouldn’t work as a finished garment.
Instead, focus on the quality of the fabric, the texture, the fiber content and the quality. Focus on the lightness and durability of the sewing. Focus on fit. Focus on being able to run, sit, squat, and do rad air-kicks in your new make. Find some cool patterns with interesting cuts- a great cut in a solid looks much better than in a print. There’s plenty going on with garment construction to keep you interested without binging on a wardrobe of semi-unwearable prints.*
Try to challenge yourself to sew x number of solid, striped, or checked garments for every 1 with a crazy print. Once you start sewing this way, you’ll see it makes a difference in the overall wearability of your sewing.
You may find the crazy prints disappear altogether from your wardrobe. I like crazy prints, I really do- I use them in quilts, crafts, toddler clothes, linings, pockets, inner collars, potholders, cushion covers and for bags. Sometimes I staple cool prints over stretched canvases and hang them on the wall. Generally speaking, these days crazy prints and quilting cotton have no place in my wardrobe.
That said, I might make one skirt with a crazy print this summer. Maybe. Because skeletons shin-digging across a bright blue pleated A-line skirt is sometimes just what I need to get me through the day.
What do you think? Is it worth developing the habit of buying only well-chosen solid fabrics? Experienced sewists- do you sew this way? How does that work out for you? Do you use stripes/plaid/simple abstracts in your sewing? If you’re an adamant quilting-cotton addict and you like it that way, I’m interested to hear from you!
Oh- and check it out, Annele from MakeBra weighed in on the Bra sizing debate. Go check it out in comments. She also wrote to me personally on the subject and was incredibly kind, accommodating and helpful. This makes me even keener to start my own Make Bra!!
And don’t forget to vote to Name That Lady for the cover of Tiramisu! Vote early and vote often… I’m giving away a 3m length of a very tasteful navy blue polka dot cotton jersey. More on the red soon…
(*Just for clarity- in this post I’m talking about quilting cotton prints, fashion prints on proper apparel fabric are a bit different.)