Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lessons Learned, Reflections, & Inspiration

When I went to compile my top 5 lessons learned, reflections & goals, and inspiration from the past year, I got a little bit overwhelmed looking back on everything that went on in 2012. I put together a few lists to share what I came up with and accidentally threw the "5" part of "top 5" out the window. (Get ready for a long post!)

 Cool things I did in 2012
  • Started this blog and published 100 blog posts (without even planning to hit that number!)
  • Was a featured seamstress at Colette Patterns' blog for my polka-dotted peony dress
  • Participated in Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Dress Challenge with my Joan dress
  • Went to my very first local sewing blogger meetup
  • Sewed 15 completed garments (and several unfinished ones, too!) including a few sewn from vintage patterns 
  • Took the Seamless pledge for 6 months

    Mad Men Dress Challenge - Joan Dress

Things I learned in 2012
  • I love 1960s fashion. I'd always thought the 1950s were my fashion decade of choice, but have found that when it comes to sewing my own clothes (and buying vintage), for me, fashions from the 1960s are much more wearable and easier to fit into my life. Oh, and they're just adorable.
  • Taking my time to set up projects the right way the first time around is really worth it, even though it often feels boring or too slow in the moment. We've all heard this before, but I've finally had to face facts and admit it's completely true. Do it right the first time and I won't regret it later! This means more carefully matching plaids, understitching where prescribed, finishing seams properly, redoing crappy zippers, and even walking away for a break instead of cutting corners in a rush to finish a project.
  • Vintage patterns are not scary! I was nervous to sew with them because I assumed they were all more complicated, way too different from modern patterns, and just intimidating overall. Now, I've tried out a few and am in love! The style variations and garment details, not to mention the envelope illustrations are usually amazing (duh!). I especially appreciate that they just come in one size per pattern, so you don't have to trace out your particular size or follow too many crazy cutting lines.
  • Wearable muslins are more my style (than the un-wearable variety). Making muslins has always seemed like one of those things that I know is good for me, but that I just do not feel like doing (kind of like flossing my teeth :-/ ). Instead of forcing myself to make the first go at a pattern with plain muslin or other un-garment-worthy fabric, I've found that planning to do a wearable test-drive of the pattern keeps me motivated enough to continue and helps keep me from ruining any particularly special fabrics before I've worked out the potential issues with a new pattern.
  • Having the right tools for you makes a big difference. This year I got a new sewing machine that makes sewing much quicker, simpler, and more enjoyable than what I was experiencing on my great aunt's old 1960s Singer (I love that machine, but it wasn't the easiest for me to use). I also got myself some other tools, most importantly my folding IKEA table and magnetic pin caddy - both of which have been pretty much life-changing. Tools that better suit me mean more sewing, which is always good!
  • Bias tape is your friend. Use it for embellishments, binding armholes or unfinished edges, or use it instead of a facing for a neckline or a hem! I've collected a shoebox full of vintage & new pre-made bias tapes, as well as begun to make my own for certain projects. I love using it!

Bloggers who've Inspired Me

I've found inspiration, great ideas, and general awesomeness on essentially all of the blogs I've come across. This online sewing community is awesome, but you all already know that! Here are a few bloggers who have really stood out as inspiring to me this past year:
  • Tilly and The Buttons - Tilly's style is adorable, she's a smart cookie, and the clothes she makes are beyond cute. I really admire her fun, yet thoughtful, writing style and the impressive sewing knowledge she has gained and shared over the past months (and months). She's also got that awesome "Day in the Life" series that is always interesting. It's really exciting and encouraging to learn about so many creative people out there doing their thing.
  • Cation Designs - You've all seen me gush about Cindy before. Her posts are always interesting and detailed (with plenty of photos of her cat, Walnut, too), she has sewn many, many lovely garments out of bedsheets (amazing! - she's inspired me to try it out, too), and she's the brains behind the Sewing with Cats blog award, among other things.
  • A Fashionable Stitch & Sewaholic - I've grouped Sunni and Tasia as a single entry on the list here because they inspire me in similar ways. They both blog and sew about the lovely clothes they've made and plan to make, host sew-alongs and share tutorials for sewing techniques, and both have made their love of sewing a major part of their lives. Tasia designs and sells her cute, clever patterns and Sunni scours the earth for just the right sewing supplies to sell in her great little online shop. I love both of their shops, and really admire them both for doing what they do and sharing the details of how they've turned their passion for sewing into a career.
  • Dixie DIY - Dixie shares her DIY projects and fashion on her blog and makes her own patterns as well. I love her style and her projects always inspire me (have you seen the swimsuits she's sewn?!). The topics she blogs about are interesting and her posts are often rather thought-provoking (like a recent post on "poly prejudice," something I hadn't really considered before). I'm really looking forward to seeing what she brings to her blog in 2013.
  • Lucky Lucille - Rochelle is always sharing an adorable project or some fun sewing inspiration (or cute photo of her dog, Lucille), and also runs her own online store of handmade items. Her writing style is cheerful and easy to relate to and the aesthetic of her blog is so cute and fun to look at. She always seems to be working with pretty, exciting fabrics (even designing some of her own on Spoonflower), and has even just learned to knit recently (which I've been meaning to do, too, for a year).

These ladies are all so inspiring to me, but it feels a little odd to only mention a few of the numerous blogs I follow, because I'm really inspired by all of them and each one has something special to offer (that's why I read 'em!). If you're all "been there, done that" to these I've touched on, or even if you're not, I'd suggest also taking a peek over on the sidebar at the links in my blogroll. I really do read them like it's my job, and you might like to, too!

Gratuitous kitty photo

Goals for 2013

Now down to my sewing and making plans for the new year. I'm keeping these kind of general (you won't see "sew 3 pieces a month" on here), because I don't want to stress myself out or lose interest as the months go by.
  • Learn to knit. This was a 2012 goal that I did attempt, but coordinating with my friend to have her mom teach me hasn't panned out yet and the local November knitting class I signed up for with my mom was canceled, due to low enrollment. :( Better luck next year!
  • Embroider something. I've got inspiration, supplies, and a little instruction booklet, but have yet to try it out. I like that this and knitting are both more portable than sewing and could add a little more variety to my handmade projects.
  • Focus on quality. I want to really aim for higher quality in the things I make (including finishes/insides of garments) and the supplies I use, as well as the clothing/accessories I purchase, so that they last longer and are nicer to use.
  • Sew with knits (and get a serger). I've been saving up for a serger and am determined to sew knits (with, or without the serger) this year. I've even got a copy of Sew U to help me through the learning process and am ready to sew up all kinds of knit tops, dresses, and anything else I can come up with!
  • Do more refashions - of things I already own  as well as thrifted pieces - and keep up on my mending.
  • Wear more skirts/dresses year-round. I'd like to make this more possible and fill some wardrobe gaps with a few skirts and dresses that can be more casual/everyday & pair well with things I've already got. 
  • Participate in Me-Made-May, on some level. I didn't have enough me-made clothes to play along in 2012, but I'm determined to participate this year, whether I have enough or not!

That's all folks! Thanks for sticking with me for the past year (and through this long post!). I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a great one. :)


  1. Great post !! Really interesting to read your reflections. I'm so with you on 60s fashion, whenever I trawl through eBay and etsy, it's a,ways the 60 s styling that I am drawn to..... Carry on enjoying making them. I have enjoyed seeing what you make and I guess it's this shared love !

    Good goals too, kind if know where you're coming from. Happy new year
    And happy sewing

  2. What a lot has happened in a year! I so agree about wearable muslins, and I'll be copying your idea of collecting bias tape. Look forward to reading about 2013.

  3. I'm amazed at the sheer quantity of what you've made/learned/written this past year! Looking forward to seeing what you'll come up with during 2013!
    Learning to knit is on my to-learn list as well, but it'll have to wait at least a year. 2013 I'll be quite busy filling in wardrobe-blanks... =)

  4. I think we have nearly the exact same goals and reflections!! I definitely learned that vintage patterns are not scary, and I reeeaaalllly want to sew primarily vintage and vintage repro for 2013! It's just so much more fun! Not to mention it's kind of neat to think of how women used to sew for necessity back then and not as a hobby. Also, AMEN to bias tape! haha! Thank you for including me as one of your inspirations. That truly blows me away! Like, I want to tear up a little bit :') I can't wait to see what things you sew (and knit!) in 2013! xoxo

  5. A great list of things learned & new goals. In the things learned category, it took me awhile to gain the patience to do the tedious invisible things like under stitching. My biggest early failing was skipping the "press seams open" steps -- I hated getting up to iron every few minutes, but eventually learned it makes a huge difference.

    But what I really wanted to say is I know someone (me!) who has a Pfaff serger, barely used, circa 1995-ish, and it would love to find a new home. I can send photos & more info if you don't need a brand new one. Mine does not do cover stitch hemming, but it does the standard serged cut edges. So let me know if you're interested. I'm sure I could have it shipped safely but you might need to get it professionally serviced as it hasn't been used for probably 10+ years. Pretty sure I still have everything that came with it. So let me know...

  6. What a great list! And I totally agree with you about the wearable muslins. I generally hate doing muslins but also think that if I can create a wearable one I'll enjoy the process much more. Happy new year :)

  7. Happy 2013! You've had such a great year! I'm a '60's girl, too... the patterns are so youthful and sweet, and like you said, very wearable. I'm so excited to see what you'll get up to this year! Hurry up and join the knitting club-- it's so much fun!

  8. Aww this sounds like my list of things I learned last year...like you, I'm all for 60s fashion, and magnetic pincushions had revolutionalized my sewing, and wearable muslins are the best! I also second your embroidery being portable thing; it's really quite easy to do and not too steep of a learning curve!

    1. And I totally forgot to say thank you for including me in your list of bloggers! That really made my day and it is so sweet of you to include me in a list along with sewlebrities like Tilly, Tasia, and Sunni!

  9. I'm totally with you on several of those learnings - setting up right to start with, and using the right tools (yes, so much easier and QUICKER!) - and more sewing with vintage patterns is on my 2013 to do list. I look forward to reading / seeing your 2013 projects~

  10. wow Sue, thanks for the love! also I think the 60s look is great on you. keep it up ;) that mad men dress is super cute and totally wearable. can't wait to see what you make this year!!


Thanks for leaving a comment!