Sew Brave: One Day My Prints Will Come

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.

Light pink fabric with a large-scale red and green floral motifAuthor of post against a brick wall with light pink fabric with a large-scale red and green floral motif draped over her body

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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?

Frontal view of author wearing shirt and shorts made from the same green printed fabricSide view of author wearing shirt and shorts made from the same green printed fabricBack view of author wearing shirt and shorts made from the same green printed fabric

Let’s see how I did with my checklist:

  1. One new thing – a print. Check!
  2. Control – yup yup. These didn’t require much but I used stash supplies, reliable and predictable and already on hand.
  3. 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 –

  1. 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!

Frontal view of author wearing shirt and shorts made from the same green printed fabric

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?

Frontal view of author wearing shirt and shorts made from the same green printed fabric, with questioning hand gesture

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!

Back view of author wearing shirt and shorts made from the same green printed fabric

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!

Author spinning light pink fabric with large-scale red and green floral motif like a cape around the body

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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