Thanks to a bump of organization – or creative micro-management! – I don’t have an uncut fabric stash. I buy yardage for a specific project, enter it in my spreadsheet, and sew that project within a month or two. Scraps are divided into two boxes – one for garments (pockets, facings, etc.) and one for quilting (a.k.a. a box of self-delusions). Until I saw the Lady McElroy Tropical Stems cotton lawn and lost my dang mind.
I went mad with love! And can you blame me? I’ve been the proud owner of 2 meters of this gorgeousness since summer 2017.
And I’ve run screaming in the opposite direction every time I thought about cutting it.
Some background: I started sewing in 2011. I’m a children’s illustrator, and that was definitely reflected in my shopping habits – at least 4 different early purchases featured prints of vegetables. This might be a familiar story to you, with a familiar ending; I didn’t wear those makes. Then after a forced year away from my sewing machine, having devoured sewing blogs the whole time, I returned home and sewed my first navy shirt and olive pants. And I was off to the races!
I’ve been a solids girl ever since, using colorful prints only in pockets. Of course, a slubby, earthy piece of linen will always make me weak at the knees, but it’s time to get back to my first love and let print out to play.
I don’t have any practice buying fabric first and then choosing a project, and I didn’t want to lose my sense of self or make something I’d most likely never wear, so I thought through this system for trying something new. Actually, I chickened out of using my fancy fabric and hid it under a veneer of organization, which is one of my top 5 veneers. But maybe it will be helpful for you!
- One thing at a time. Don’t try to sew a new silhouette in a new color/pattern and a new substrate all at once – choose one element and introduce just that.
- Control the controllables. For me this means using my favorite thread, zippers, interfacing, snap brand, whatever. I won’t be thrown for a loop by a notion in the home stretch!
- Sew a kind of garment with a process you enjoy. For me, that’s collared shirts. For you, it might be a dress or shorts or a bra! If the final piece is a flop for whatever reason, it will still be fun to make.
So yeah, I STILL haven’t used that cotton lawn. I had a length of block-printed cotton en route from India, originally destined to be a lining, which arrived just as I volunteered for Sew Brave. I used that instead. 🙂 Baby steps?
Let’s see how I did with my checklist:
- One new thing – a print. Check!
- Control – yup yup. These didn’t require much but I used stash supplies, reliable and predictable and already on hand.
- A process I enjoy – check and check! I decided on a summer set of coordinated separates – a camp-collared shirt and elastic-waist shorts. I love sewing shirts and sets. Plus, my Lady McElroy fabric has a large print, so I’ll probably want to sew it into a one-piece outfit; a set simulates all-over print but doesn’t commit (see step 1!).
And I’m going to throw in a bonus fourth step –
- Practice gratitude. Maybe this will work, maybe it won’t, but isn’t it fun to try? I remember that one cut of fabric won’t make or break me, and that I have the wherewithal – time, financial flexibility, physical and mental health – for a creative experiment. Which is exciting and wonderful!
And the result? I like it!
It totally gingers up my closet, and I’ve worn the top half with jeans twice already. I haven’t officially debuted the set; that’ll keep until shorts weather. The top is a slightly modified Seamwork Ruth and the shorts are Peppermint Spring Shorts (free, but very limited size range). Technical sewing details are on my blog.
But was I Sew Brave?
Um…not really. I think, with my habits and systems, I’ve gone and listened to my inner Bluebeard (“be bold, be bold, but not too bold”). I couldn’t shake off my caution now that I’ve let my stash fabric achieve such mythic significance – but I want to, both to take more creative swings, and so I can wear that fabric in the world. It’s not going to try and cut me back, for Pete’s sake!
I know that I am ready for more print and pattern! I think my closet is about to become a more exciting place.
Suggestions for using my cotton lawn are very warmly welcomed!
Lia Marcoux is a children’s illustrator and teacher who blogs at Pound Cake, hoping to sew and share pieces of quality and sense. She’s on a constant hunt for comfortable flat boots. Also, she really thinks you should watch Killing Eve, unless of course you don’t want to!
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