Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Sewing Roundup

In 2010, I had only just started sewing for real. I started with easy elastic waist skirts and a couple of terrible zipper insertions in skirts with fitted waistbands, a couple of t-shirts, and some zippered pouches. I participated in Self-Stitched September for the first time and was absolutely hooked on wearing my own creations. So in the beginning of 2011, I resolved to learn more, tackle more difficult projects, and most importantly, sew every week. I was inspired by the Sew Weekly project, and even though I didn't get on board with their challenges until the end of the year, I was pushed to explore sewing more and figure out what my style was. If sewing in 2010 was characterized by becoming comfortable with my machine and trying simple projects as guided by other bloggers, sewing in 2011 was characterized by becoming confident enough to try my own project as guided by my own quirky sense of style. And good golly, if you look at the progression of pictures from January to December, things definitely get weirder!

Shayna sagaciously pointed out that as I got better at sewing, my projects became more and more me, that is, no one else is going to be sporting flying cats, superhero, poetry, or hippo dresses! Which is just fine by me; at this stage in my life, I am finally discovering what I wish the teen me knew -- it doesn't really matter what other people think. And now, because I like seeing statistics to help me process:

Summary of Sewing in 2011 in Numbers:
Dresses: 21
Tops: 6
Skirts: 8
Pants: None! Hah! That number needs to be rectified in 2012.
Costumes: 1 intended one, 2 accidental ones (sailor dress, flight attendant dress)
Refashions: 6 (indicated by asterisks, with the addition of the petticoat which is not pictured)
Projects that used thrifted bedsheets: 13
Projects that used stash fabrics: 6 (that's if you don't count bedsheets as stash), two of which were from my mom's stash!
Projects that involved buying new fabric: 6
Projects that my husband was embarrassed by: 3 (Batman, Superman, and hippos)
Sew Weekly challenges completed: 10 more or less on time, and 5 retroactive ones
Projects that used vintage patterns: 5
Patternless projects: 17
Knit to woven ratio: 1:3
Average cost of a project: $6.15 (thrown off by outliers like the Celebrational Osier Dress)
Total cost of all the projects made: About $215 (this is not, however, the total amount I've spent on fabric and patterns and notions this stash is significantly larger than it was last year, although I like to console myself that most of it is bedsheets)
Total hours spent sewing: Let's not think about that, shall we?

I think that's pretty good! From perusing these numbers, I can conclude that dresses are easier for my wardrobe because it's a whole outfit in one, no coordination necessary. Also, I managed to make about half of my projects from reclaimed materials. I'd like to increase that number next year, but that desire to reduce/reuse/recycle is at war with the desire to sew with something that's not a poly-cotton blend. Why don't they make silk or taffeta or chiffon bedsheets?

I can also learn from my least favorite projects, the ones that don't get worn: the Fall Colors "Dress" (too tight), Betsey Johnson Dress (too-large bodice, too long skirt), Chase This Light Skirt (too long, and I realized I don't like the paper-bag look), and Precocious Kid's Art Project Dress (weird wrap-around cut exposes my side, requiring special bra arrangements).

My favorite items are much more fun to think about; these are the ones that make me feel best when I'm wearing them: the Hippocampicorn Skirt (unique print, comfortable), Nothing But Blue Skies Dress (fun print, cool back), Art Nouveau Party Dress (lovely print, twirly), Superman Dress (do I even need to explain?), Hippo Dress (again, unexpected print). So the conclusion there is that I like quirky, unexpected prints on full-skirted items. I really want to love some of my more fitted outfits, but when it comes down to it, I just don't like how restricting they feel.

My most used patterns were New Look 6723 (fitted princess-seam bodice) and McCall's 5845 (fitted darted bodice). Those patterns both fit like a glove and therefore are perfect for modifying. I also love the flowy twirliness of circle skirts, although I hate the hemming they require. On the other hand, gathered rectangles, while easy and most used, still annoy me with the fiddliness of gathering.

The techniques of the year were flipping an inside-out lined bodice through the shoulder strap, hand-picking zippers and baby hems. A close runner-up would be grosgrain waist stays and using bias tape to finish edges.

The sewing-my-own-clothes highlight of the year was managing to travel in cold and rainy Europe while still managing to wear something me-made every day. Although, looking back at those pictures, I don't love everything I wore; some of it was just for the sake of MMJ.

Final thoughts: I'm so, so, so incredibly glad that I've sewn so much this year. I'm also really glad I started documenting it, as otherwise I would have no idea how far I've come (or how much I spent). I've learned a lot, gotten to exercise my creativity, and discovered more of myself in the process. It's kind of an expensive hobby, but certainly not as bad as, say, snowboarding. Also, I am less likely to break my leg while sewing. It's really kind of incredible what can be done with some time and effort and a little $100 machine.

I know some of my friends look at my dresses and think "I could never do that," but I just want to say: at the beginning of 2011 I really only knew how to sew a bunch of rectangles together to make shapeless dresses and skirts; my black belt was my best friend. But armed with a desire to learn (this is key), the internet (thank you, all you inspirational and instructional fellow sewing bloggers!), and time (okay, this is also key), I've more or less taught myself to make dresses. Like learning any other skill, practice and persistence and being willing to make mistakes can go a long way. You, too, can learn to sew your own dresses! Now, pants...that's another matter entirely.


  1. This is an encouraging post! I only came to your blog today and I did not get that far back to when you started sewing but I looked at your projects and thought "That looks too advanced for me," etc. I am so inspired that it took you only a year to advance so far. I can only sew a skirt with confidence at the moment and quilt. My favourite dresses you made are the hippo and the poetry (heart) dress. Happy new year to you and look forward to reading more of your adventures with sewing!

  2. Looks like a good collection of sewing projects! Even if you don't like all of them, it's good to remember the bad along with the good sometimes.

  3. I love all your sewing projects and this recap is a perfect way for me to catch up on some I missed! I LOVE your Bellatrix costume (I had missed that one) and of course, your superman dress and the hippos dress!! Here's to 2012, more sewing AND the release of the Hobbit ;)

  4. Great post! I love love love the hippos dress. Congrats on coming this far in your sewing in just 1 year.

  5. wow... amazing work you did! May 2012 be a year even better. I am hoping so with my knitting projects. Beginner here, but like your post, it will be fun to see the progression.

  6. What a fabulous recap! Your projects are all so lovely, and it's wonderful to see your progression through the year. I'm looking forward to all of your creations in 2012!

  7. Seeing the collection of dresses all in one place is awesome! You've made so many neat things this year! I also love the collection of Walnut pictures in your other New Year's post. :)

  8. i stumbled across your blog during yet another bout of insomnia-driven-pinterest-binging, and I totally had to write to you. I'm a fellow craftaholic, geek, Cali resident (OC, yo!), and blogger. I'm so in love with your dresses! When I first started sewing about 5 years ago, I made clothing, but it was all pretty terrible. Then I started obsessing on accessories like bags, wallets and ipad cases, and never really went back to clothing. Then quilting took over, but I still long to make better garments. You have TOTALLY inspired me to re-tackle dresses, and I can't wait to get started. I think the most intimidating part of garment sewing for me is the measurement thing. SO HARD! I also love your style of writing, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with next!


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