28 May 2011

Guest Post by Casey: Planning Your Sewing


Hello! Casey of Elegant Musings here. I am so delighted that Tilly asked me to guest post for her. I have long been a fan of her blog and jumped at the chance to help out and say “thank you” for all her inspiration and sewing know-how she shares with us. Today I wanted to discuss the idea of planning your sewing: how do you prepare each project? What method do you use to keep track of things? How do you stay organized with your sewing?

I think I, like many who love to sew, tend to sew based on whims. For a long time I didn’t have a set idea of what I really needed to sew and just let whatever caught my fancy dictate what I occupied me next. Which is fine—I think sewing should be fun and enjoyable! But in many ways this approach left me feeling a bit dissatisfied that there were things I did need to sew that weren’t getting addressed. So I started to keep track of things and plan them out a bit.



Last spring I started making spreadsheets of my projected sewing plan for the season. Sometimes the majority of projects were completed, other times they were not. For me it’s a good way to list everything out at once, prioritize projects, keep track of supplies I need, and also log adjustments I’ve made. Above you can see what my late spring/early summer plan looks like. I unfortunately didn’t have a plan for early this year—and I feel like it showed a bit with my sewing productivity. This summer I plan on spending some time working on a few garments that have been on my to-do list for a bit, and I have a visual way to keep track of things and see my progress (or lack thereof!).

To create this document, I just use a spreadsheet program; in this case Open Office. There is no fancy coding or formatting—just simple rows of information in each cell. Pretty bare bones! I have the following columns:
  • Project number (I rank them by priority or urgency)
  • Project Title/Description
  • Pattern Number: to easily reference my stash.
  • Fabric: what I plan on using from my stash or envision and need to acquire. I also usually add yardage if I have to buy fabric. I will usually bold-face or highlight the specific materials I still need to purchase.
  • Notions: I use the same method as fabric for tracking what I still need to buy.
  • Fitting notes: I like to keep track of any changes I’ve made to a pattern by jotting down the basics here. I’ll usually write whatever else I’ve done on a piece of paper that goes in the pattern, but the synopsis goes here.
  • Construction notes: any changes I want to make to the pattern, ideas, etc.

Once a project is completed, I’ll highlight the entire row for that project. It’s really satisfying to see a solid block of highlighted cells towards the end of a season! Or motivating to get done what is still undone…

I also keep my seasonal sewing plan ideas in my sketchbook or have a folder of images easily accessible on my computer’s desktop for reference. Another method I have tried is keeping loose-leaf pages with sections to write in the particulars for each project, and swatches and sketches stapled on. I love this method too, but often forget to pull my binder out to double check! This method, for me at least, is easier to pull up when I check my email and manipulate the data and see at a glance what is done and what isn’t! Case in point: a skirt I was able to cross off my list recently:


Because I’m always the nosey type… what is your favorite method for planning sewing projects and keeping track of things? Or do you prefer to let the spirit move you when it comes to your next project?

36 comments:

  1. I do have a list of things to sew but nothing as impressive as this - why didn't I think of that?! I usually grab any excuse for a spreadsheet!

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  2. Fabulous guest post Casey!! Your idea is such a good one! I keep a paper version of a spreadsheet both for the Sewing through the Decades challenge (one blouse from each of the years 1931 to 1949) and for the Sew Weekly challenge themes! I must say, plotting and planning is one of my favourite parts :)

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  3. A spreadsheet sounds like a great idea! Easy to keep track of and easy to change.

    I use a combination of three things to get me going.

    A sketch book, where I just get creative, the blog - where I will post my plans for others to take part of it, it´s a big motivation for me, and last but by no means least, Things.

    Things is a little checklist software program for my computer and my iPhone, where I write down everything I need to remember. It´s a digital checklist and it works wonders! :-)

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  4. I copied an idea from another Blogger and post a list with pictures on my blog.

    http://finallywakingup.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/whats-coming-up/

    I have a link to the post at the top of the blog and I go back and make notes on the post as I finish things or change my mind!

    Mind you, I'm about halfway through the first list and I've already made the second one so I'm not sure if it's motivating or not, but it has kept me more organised!

    I my sewing room I have the patterns, fabric and notions stacked up waiting to go. I will cut out/trace patterns, pick buttons, find zips etc whenever I need a break from what I'm doing so that when I get to the project usually everything is there and I'm ready to go!

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  5. Great post, Casey, and I'm impressed with your planning skills. I am not really a planner, I admit. I just sew what I want to sew the most, or what's needed the most. Does the girl need leggings? I sew leggings. Do the boys need trousers? I sew trousers. And my closet, well, it's kind of full enough (my husband would look really amused if he read this), so I just sew what I want. Every addition is welcome, but not needed.

    I guess I am a little too chaotic to plan it all out. On the other hand, I do sew one project at a time and don't start another one before that first one is finished. THat helps me to stay motivated to finish things (sometimes I get bored with something, but I have to finish it before I can start something fresh) and helps to keep my studio a bit organized :)

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  6. Great post, Casey, and I'm impressed with your planning skills. I am not really a planner, I admit. I just sew what I want to sew the most, or what's needed the most. Does the girl need leggings? I sew leggings. Do the boys need trousers? I sew trousers. And my closet, well, it's kind of full enough (my husband would look really amused if he read this), so I just sew what I want. Every addition is welcome, but not needed.

    I guess I am a little too chaotic to plan it all out. On the other hand, I do sew one project at a time and don't start another one before that first one is finished. THat helps me to stay motivated to finish things (sometimes I get bored with something, but I have to finish it before I can start something fresh) and helps to keep my studio a bit organized :)

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  7. Fab post Casey! There is absolutely no method to my madness at the moment, but I'm feeling inspired to become a little more organised. I think it will actually help increase my productivity!

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  8. Well, I must say that is organised. I love your idea and think maybe that's the way to go however, I feel that I would not be disciplined enough to keep it up to date. I usually keep these lists in my head so as you can imagine I do miss things or I make the less important things first. I will, at least, have to try a spreadsheet to see if it works for me.

    Great post!

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  9. This is what I need to do, I'm very haphazard about my sewing, generally I see a fabric I like and make a skirt! But I've realised now I need some basics, especially tops. I would like to participate in Me-Made-June but I would end up wearing the same clothes everyday! A methodical approach is what I need, some analysis of what I have and what I require, I've already identified a couple of basic top patterns, I just need to find some fabric. I sense a spreadsheet forming....

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  10. I just recently had this discussion with my sewing mentor (well really just an Aunt who helps me out when I have questions) and she helped me rank some project I had been wanting to do. For me it was like I had so much I want to do and so little time to dedicate to it that I would do very little. So right now she has me finishing a UFO then I will be moving on to some pants projects but it definitely helped me as a less experienced sewist to find a more experienced person to help me see a logical order.

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  11. Oh and I did make a list when I talked with my aunt I had nothing to write it on though besides some scraps of muslin I was using to get button holes right.

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  12. I used to keep a handwritten list on yellow legal pad that I would frequently change or update, but now I keep a list in the Notes app on my iPhone.

    I use Pinterest to catalog web images, and a folder to store magazine sheets. Pinterest is great, especially now that a Pinterest has an app and the images are so easily viewable on the iPhone.

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  13. I love the idea of putting construction notes in there! I'm bad about not writing that kind of stuff down.

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  14. I'm impressed! I often have a plan, but it usually exists only in my mind. Sometimes I jot down lists of things I hope to make in a season, but things NEVER go as I had hoped or planned.

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  15. I thought about planning my sewing a lot in the past few weeks. I used lists, but tend to loose track of them. Put one on my desktop is a good idea I will copy. Thank you Casey.

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  16. I've painted one wall in my sewing nook with both magnetic paint as well as chalk board paint. I use chalk to make a list of things I want to do an use magnets to tack up pictures and fabric scraps for those projects.

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  17. Great post Casey! Thanks for sharing your spreadsheet. I tend to sew in capsules which relate either to the seasons/weather or to an activity. Right now I am sewing warm weather tops and pants even though we are still freezing at night here.

    I use Pinterest and PatternReview to gather images of commercial photos, or personal ones if permitted...then I use these to make up a capsule design board on PSP or Word. I add notes on fabrics and notions with links if needed. Seeing my plans visually helps me stay in touch with my creativity.

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  18. This is pretty close to what I do. When I first started learning how to sew (technically, I'm still learning) I read the Sew U book by Wendy, and she talks about planning out projects. I use something similar to her worksheet where I'll chart out the fabric, notions, pattern, changes to the pattern, etc.

    I love keeping it in a journal format just because it feels more personal and creative. I haven't moved it to a spreadsheet yet. Although, that's pretty nifty and a good way to keep track of unfinished and finished projects for the season.

    It's funny, but as a beginner I did sort of start out by going on a 'whim,' but for the most part have started to move into how to rotate between the 'needed' garments to make and the 'fun' garments to make. I don't have as many issues with making the basics, but I think it also stems from how excited I get about the fabric I'm using. I try to use the best I can afford...so maybe that's why. I also try to do pretty little details even on the basics so that even those are unique and to my taste.

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  19. i craft every monday (because it's my day off) so i start thinking of projects that i might want to try a few days before. i list about 2 or 3 projects so i can pick one out on my craft day.

    i wrote a post about how i try to increase my productivity on crafting days. it really helps me focus!

    http://elephantislove.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-to-be-more-productive-stitcher.html

    xx

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  20. I've been meaning to do something like this for a while Casey. I thought maybe I was being a little obsessive,but I can see from your post and the comments section that "obsessive" is a natural state of being for us sewists,lol I feel better now! I'm opening up a blank sheet as we speak...
    Px

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  21. brilliant post!! I'm all over the place when it comes to planning, I usually have a to-do list which manifests it's self several time as i change the priority, I've got a big sketch book for designs, ideas, samples and evaluations and a note book and smaller sketch book to stash in my bag.
    your spread sheet sounds good so I think I'll give that a go too lol!

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  22. Thanks for the post! I am just starting to get a bit more organized in my plan of what to sew next. I use an IPod/IPhone app "Sewing Kit" to catalog all my patterns, projects, people's measurements, etc. It has helped me become much more organized!

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  23. Wow. That is MUCH better than my method! Once I have decided on a project and gather all of the items for it, I put them in a clear shopper each, and then into a box under my cutting table. So, when I start a new project, I just grab what feels good to me and everything is there that I need to start. But...problem is, out of sight, out of mind. I'll get really excited about something else, start it, and forget about my project box for awhile; sometimes until the projects in it are out of season :(

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  24. Great post Casey. I am so not organized. But I do make notes about things I want to do so maybe I'm semi-organized.

    Enjoyed visiting Tilly's blog.

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  25. Great idea! I tend to buy notions, fabric/yarn and store them all in a plastic bag with the pattern number on it. Patterns would be in a pattern drawer. Having a trunk full of fabric in one place and all the sewing patterns, in another, it is all too easy to get sidetracked. I need a spreadsheet and some better accountablility!
    Thanks Casey :D

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  26. Yes, I need to plan more. The one thing I try to do is write in the pattern number, yardage and notions in the notes section on my iphone. That way if I am in a fabric store and see something perfect or pass the zipper section I can grab things I need. With a 6 month old baby I don't get to duck out as often as I'd like!

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  27. Nice organization.

    I don't have any completed projects yet, but I organize images for inspiration in www.evernote.com (basic subscription is free).

    I have created notebooks for dresses, skirts, jackets, suits, etc. If I see an interesting garment I clip it from the web or scan it. I add tags such as "A-line, linen, office, evening, summer, lace, prints," as the case may be.

    I also have notebooks for suppliers, sewing techniques, and patterns. It's a very handy tool.

    When I finish something, maybe I'll create a production journal with my notes.

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  28. I should add that I already have a notebook called "Sewing Plans." I have a definite idea of how I want to spend my time that involves working with various simple shapes I like in different fabrics, adding embellishments, different finishes, and working up.

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  29. I love the idea of being more organised in my sewing - a spreadsheet is a great idea! I've tended to go with my whims generally, but I have some big gaps in my wardrobe that really need filling so I think I might put some of this into action!
    And I love the dress you're wearing in the top picture! Gorgeous!

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  30. Ah, a spreadsheet, what a simple, brilliant (and of course elegant) idea!

    I currently have a mish-mash of methods to plan my sewing: a sketch book with my drawings developing ideas, a notebook with lists of what I want to make, plus a "to sew" pile with the fabrics and patterns matched up, and the occasional notions too. I used to have project boxes with the upcoming sewing in, but my sewing room still isn't super organised. I'm planning to reinstate these once I've put up some shelves to store them on...

    I'm off now to set up my own spreadsheet - so much easier to keep track of changes of plan than my list in my notebook!

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  31. I use a home database program (Bento, for the Mac), which is really easy to set up. So I can catalog my Fabric and my Notions and Patterns and then when I think of a Project, I can link it to the right fabric or the notions. Projects are marked Completed or In Progress or Ready to Go, etc. And I can tell how long between having the idea and actually finishing the project. It's really handy, and syncs to Bento on my iPhone so I can check fabric needs in the store, etc. It handles images, so I can add inspiration pictures or layout pix, etc.

    (But I am a new sewist, and I set up Bento after making two pillowcases, because I knew if I didn't do it from the start, I never would)

    Then I keep a separate shopping list that syncs to my phone.

    For the actual stuff, I just separate fabric into washed and unwashed, and any notions that already have plans attached go into a separate box.

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  32. When I studied art I was given a visual diary to fill. Rather than doing artistic things in it, I promptly started filling it with sewing stuff. It holds everything, from drawings of garments I want to make to recording techniques found in RTW clothing; I have tables like Casey shows, but drawn by hand; lists of what I want to sew; need for my wardrobe; what worked, what didn't; pattern alterations; technical drawings; wishlists; inspiration. It is also a wonderful record to leaf back through.

    I only recently started my blog and have pages for current projects, projects I want to do, and a record of what I have done. It doesn't (can't) replace my visual diary, but is proving a wonderful adjunct to it.

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  33. Wonderful post! I have been struggling a bit with the planning of my 40's wardrobe project. I never thought of making a spreadsheet. I have just now made one for year one and suddenly I can see very clearly what I need to do. Thank you!

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  34. Oh dear - this post has created a monster ... I've gone all spreadsheet crazy with planning and organising my sewing now, thanks to Casey! Oh dear: http://magpiemakes.blogspot.com/2011/06/getting-organised-for-stitching.html

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  35. What a great post! Thanks for the idea.

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  36. Hey I love this idea. I am so miss procrastinator. I decided this year when I'm done with my thesis I am resuming sewing which I left off 11 years ago. So I will start with this idea. This will kick in from the beginning of September as I must finish the thesis by August 28, 2012. Thanks much!

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