what to make?

Having recently finished one significant project and one major alteration that had been a to-do for ages, I now don’t have an obvious next project to work on. So, what to make? Seems like a simple question, and every other time I asked it of myself, it was.

However, I’ve been in the process of shifting sewing gears lately. As a result, the projects I’d usually turn to in this situation have been demoted so far down the list that it’s not worthwhile to think about it right now. The top of the priority pile is empty. How odd.

OK, so if habit won’t answer the question, I should give it some rational thought. What do I need? What do I want?

What a can of worms there! In order to answer those questions – and before I run through the usual script of “what gaps are in my wardrobe? what looks good on me? what do I have the fabric for?” etc etc – I think I need to give some thought to why I sew and what I’m trying to accomplish. I need to figure out what the goals are before I can determine whether a particular project will meet any of them.

Why do I sew? Well, I definitely get a kick out of being able to make something for myself. I like the idea of being self-sufficient; sewing my own stuff helps me get off-grid, which appeals to me in and of itself but also means I can be sure that the item isn’t sweatshop produced. I like having stuff that’s a little different from what’s available. I can have what I want with the workmanship I want, not what some buyer thinks most people will want or will put up with. (And trust me, if most people want it, that’s a good enough reason for me not to. The contrariness isn’t deliberate, but it has become very practised.) I want to be a creator, not a curator. I want to have skills, not buy products that act as a substitute for skills. Teach a man to fish, and all that. (I think this probably qualifies as Slow Sewing, if I could find a definition of that online.)

And yet I don’t usually get all excited about actually sewing; it’s more often something I do when (or if) the mood strikes and I have the time. I’ve noticed that I most often want to sew when I’m working, i.e. it’s attractive only in comparison to something I don’t want to do. I find I more often want to have the thing rather than make it. I know I tend to be motivated more by product than process, and that’s something I’m trying to work on.

I’m hoping that the process will become more enjoyable with practice, and I think I’ve actually seen some movement on that point.

gathered skirt 2 (red w/ print), pleated 1 (black), pleated 3 (red), jaipur (tho my pleats don't appear in the pic); missing: gathered 1 (black, at the bottom of a tote bin), pleated 2 (black, gift to a friend)

Take the tiered skirts as an example. I’ve made 5 over the last few years (plus the jaipur skirt – a very recent significant alteration/refashion). The first two skirts I made were gathered, and after the second, I remade the first to correct a problem with the vertical ratios. I decided to do pleats after discovering that, with the process I was using, pleats would actually be easier. After the second pleated skirt, I concluded that I might have the mental energy to tackle one of these per year. Two years later, the red one (#3) went really smoothly and I think I may have enjoyed putting it together, start to finish. It certainly felt less onerous, even though I think it still took as long (about 15h).

OK, so I guess the only way to enjoy it more is to get better, and the only way to do that is to just try it more. That’s all part of the plan, though I still don’t know what to work on next šŸ˜‰

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About Zena

I sew sometimes.
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5 Responses to what to make?

  1. Big in Japan says:

    Is there a particular sewing skill that you’d like to improve or learn?

    Over the summer I really committed myself to figuring out how to do a FBA and whatever other alterations I need to get a decent fit. There were many documented trips to the boneyard. I’d hardly say that I’ve got alterations down, but at least I’ve got them to a somewhat workable level and I understand much more about the process and my own shape. At first I found the endless muslining a major drag, now it’s more like research. In the midst of endless research, there is almost always a “I must make this other thing that just popped into my head” moment. A quick fix side trip is certainly part of the program.

    In the end, for me, it’s become more about creating a few pieces that I really like and that fit well.

    • Zena says:

      I want to be able to make trousers/pants that fit. However, learning how to do this is hard! šŸ˜‰ I think I’m subconsciously looking for something easier and/or trying to justify it before I tackle the fitting issue again šŸ™‚

      • Big in Japan says:

        Trousers scare the crap out of me. There’s a Vogue pattern for a pair of “easy” jeans traced and hanging for so long, it’s just become apartment decor.

  2. Tanit-Isis says:

    I went through a lot of this last year. I really hadn’t sewn much since I moved, and what I had made, more costume stuff, was getting very little (aka no) use. So when I started sewing this time round (basically last winter) my clear goal was to learn how to make things that I would wear in everyday life. This led to thinking about the kinds of things I like to wear, what about them appeals to me, and why I wear them. Some things I wear more because they’re easy to find. Other things I have a hard time finding ‘just right’, so I either don’t wear them (blouses, long-sleeved shirts) or I spend a lot of money (jeans). It’s always hard to find stylish winter gear, so making a winter coat has been a long, long-term goal. (Close… so close!) One of the eye-opening things about sewing this time round has been allowing myself to look at styles and garments that I wrote off long ago as “not looking good on me” when really, at least sometimes, it was an issue of “RTW not fitting right”. Likewise, I see a lot of items where I think “that’s great except for X”, and sewing, at least in theory, lets me get rid of the “except for”.

    I enjoy taking something from concept to creation, although like you, I probably enjoy the end product more than the process.

    Great post… lots of food for thought šŸ™‚

    • Zena says:

      Yes! To pretty much everything you said šŸ™‚

      I think I’m going to have to seriously (re)consider the sorts of items I usually wear: it’s a habit developed and honed over years in the context of what I can buy. Going from “what can I find/afford?” to “what can I make?” is a total game changer, and I think I’m just starting to realise the extent of the possibilities.

      Fer chrissakes, I’m even starting to think about making my own underwear! Boy, I’ll be ready when the revolution comes! (Just as long as cotton-lycra blend is available after the revolution ;-))

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