Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sewing Analysis 2014

It certainly is that time of year, to take stock, look back and plan for the future. A little spreadsheet analysis can be fun when put to an entertaining use such as this instead of boring business stuff. So as I did last year, here is a look at what I was up to this year. Surprisingly to me, more items than last year even though that was not my impression before doing the tally.

McCalls tshirt
my favorite photo of the year and the item I wore the most often

Before I get to those numbers, a few thoughts on other sewing related categories. This year has been a great one in and out of the sewing room and here's why.

First and foremost I had the pleasure of meeting so many great women this year who decided to have sewing lessons with me. I can't express how much fun it is to spend time with people who are as passionate as I am about sewing and improving their skills. I have said it before - sometimes I am a little nervous about meeting someone new - but every time it has been fantastic. If my random sampling of sewing students is any indicator, women who sew are smart, interesting and really nice to be with.

In April I started writing blog posts for the Craftsy sewing blog. I am not much of a tutorial writer so that has pushed me to actually think about what I am making and what to say about it. I think Craftsy is such a clever platform for learning, particularly on the niche topics that are where it is hard to find instruction. All my Craftsy posts can be found here.  I think this one on how to make a color-block pattern is particularly useful.

OK, now for some numbers. I sewed 30 items for myself which tops last years number of 25. In the charts that follow I have included a few items I made for friends and one for a sewing client because I wanted to look at pattern  and fabric choice on those items.

First up, what I made. Last year jackets took the top spot, and this year it was just about a tie between knit tops and dresses. Which is great as those are the most useful items for me. The climate here permits me to wear dresses a lot and then knit tops go with my jeans and shorts style. A few jackets including a blazer where I did a series of posts on tailoring.
Garments sewn

Patterns - now things get interesting. The theme of this year was definitely Pattern Repeat. In fact I did a series of posts highlighting pattern repeats. For a while - like 2 to 3 years ago - I was on a pattern buying binge but one day just realized there are no new patterns. I say that all the time and I stick by that. As you can see I did sew the most with Vogue, and then a smattering of other pattern companies including a few independent patterns. I tried a Grainline pattern, mostly to see why they get so much attention and was a bit underwhelmed. I wrote a long piece at the end of post talking about why I rarely buy or sew independent patterns and the response was really thoughtful and interesting. If you have not read that post the comments are really worth a look. As I mentioned in the post - I am really not the target market for a lot of the indy patterns which I think are designed for beginning to intermediate sewers. They are creating a new way to learn to sew, where the instruction comes with the pattern and I applaud the innovation.
As a follow up to the wealth of comments on the pattern post, I asked the question: what do you pay for patterns? That response was an avalanche! and even more interesting. The prices are all over the map and I can really understand the appeal of downloadable patterns when access to the slightly ridiculous discounts we can get here in the US are not available.

Pattern brand graphic

Proof of the Pattern Repeat phenomenon.  Look at that, more repeats than new patterns. For me this is quite a change but there are a few patterns that just work really well. Mostly tops, such as this Simplicity shirt, and the McCalls wrap knit top (worn in the photo at the top of the post).

pattern repeat graphic
I surprised myself by remaking this Vogue pattern which I kind of criticized when I first sewed it up.

V1353 red white dress in cotton voile

I loved this new Vogue pattern but I think it is the color blocking and the fabric that made it really work for me.

Pink and black dress

But my favorite new pattern which will surely get a repeat when spring returns is this Vogue pattern that everyone made and I finally sewed up.

V8904 stripe front

Last bit of analysis is fabric. I made quite a few items with remnants from other projects (the rose and black dress above is one of them). Which means I am careful cutting out to reserve big chunks for another day or just buying too much yardage for any one project.

Fabric source graphic
When it comes to buying new fabric I am all about the $ 1 per yard stuff I buy at various garage sales or charity shops. It is getting to be a bit of a joke but a while ago I came to the realization that it is not so much a miserly tendency (which is not necessarily a bad thing) but more the fun of the challenge, to buy some fabric for under $ 5 and see what magic I can do with it. Actually sometimes I can visualize immediately what it will be, so here are a couple of examples.
This fabric was just right for a classic fit and flare summer dress and gave me the opportunity to try a custom fit pattern.

turquoise dress front
And my last jacket of the year, just finished in time for the holidays. When I saw this wool flannel on the table my thoughts turned to a jacket right away, with the inkling of a contrast collar.

plaid jacket front

Although my favorite fabric of the year is this cotton voile which I purchased from Gorgeous Fabircs (yeah - new and not necessarily a bargain) This is a case of you get what you pay for and here I got a fabulous gossamer lightweight cotton voile in all my colors. A tunic top which is heavenly to wear and a new silhouette for me, in a self-designed pattern.

Tunic top on me2

One more highlight of 2014 has to be the response to my idea of the  Pattern Whisperer.
Something I had wanted to do for a long time - didn't think much of it but decided to give it a try. The response was overwhelming and I felt honored that you wanted me to recommend a pattern. Our first "Whisperee" Rachel sewed up a fantastic and super glam special occasion dress  so I am counting that as a success. I suggested some work and day dresses so if anyone has sewn up one of those please let me know. And a thank you to Carolyn for making me the Pattern Whisperer blog button. Hopefully more of you will have the chance to use it as I am working on some Whisperer posts for tops, jackets, coats and maxi dresses. Plus spring is around the corner for us here in the northern hemisphere - my favorite season and more lovely patterns to pick from.

Wow, this strikes me as a very good year both in and out of the sewing room. While the garments I have made gave me a lot of enjoyment, the interactions with other stitchers locally and around the world have made 2014 memorable.

Here's to an even better 2015!

I wish health, happiness and fantastic fabric finds to everyone.

Happy New Year, Beth


  1. What a great year!! I love seeing all the beautiful garments you made and am looking forward to more pattern whispers :)

  2. You definitely had a busy sewing year! Best wishes for 2015!

  3. I love end of year round up posts in general, but I really love them when spreadsheets and graphs are involved! I love reading about your makes and I also love seeing a glimpse of what gardens are like so close and yet so far from my foggy home. I'm really looking forward to more pattern whispering as well - you are so great at giving sewing advice! I still think of some of the advice you gave me about my first gown project from that meetup way back at Vanessa's house. Happy New Year!

  4. Great year end review! You've made really nice clothing throughout 2014 and it's been a pleasure reading and learning from you too! I so look forward to 2015 and what you'll be up to next!

  5. i hope i will have your life one day - spending a lot of time around sewing and teaching sewing and living in a house with such a beautiful backyard! :) I hope one day we can meet up since we are both in the south bay (I think!)

  6. You've had a wonderful year Beth! and it is interesting to break down our sewing habits for the year. I want to follow your lead now and analyse my pattern companies, garments and fabric types too! I'm pretty sure that like you, Vogue patterns will dominate my line-up! ;)

  7. Happy New Year Beth, it has been a very interesting year and loved seeing the pie charts of all the different sewing combinations.

  8. Those are great garments. Thanks for the stats and updates, Happy New Year!

  9. What a great review and great year. Love to read your blog. I agree that there are no new patterns, especially when you can make a few redrafting changes. I'm also a fabric bargain hunter. Again for the challenge of what you can do with a $1 remnant :) Best wishes for 2015