Friday 15 November 2013

The wearability learning curve

So I have been doing a lot of successful baking recently, and of this I am bl**dy glad because the sewing has turned out a whole string of FAILS.

Now, I'm not here to moan. It is frustrating to have made a garment that I'm not actually going to wear, but it occurred to me this morning that I don't actually mind that much. I've been here before and I know what it is. It's a Wearability Learning Curve.


I think most of us who sew recognise the stages of this chart - well, probably everyone does, but as far as I'm concerned sewing is the area of my life where this plays out most obviously and concretely. And I sorta feel like I've been through it all once, and now I'm doing it again.

I went through a massive learning curve with fitting and sewing wovens, making skirts, dresses and woven blouses or tees, and finally I think I've pretty much conquered it. I know fairly instinctively what style of pattern will (or won't) suit me, which patterns to take a risk on, which fabrics to pair with them, how to execute the vague design idea in my head, which inspirational urges to follow and which ones to judiciously ignore. As a result, I have a good lot of homemade smart-casual clothes that I wear to work almost every day. Clothes that I feel flatter me, and that express who I am in a way I feel good about. Clothes that fit and are comfortable. To me, this is the very definition of wearability.

But, since somewhere this spring, it's become not quite enough. I want to make my off duty clothes too. And there, I'm a lot less successful. I hardly wear my Briar dress. Attempts to add to my sweatshirt and slouchy dress collection fell flat. Recent makes include a Red Velvet dress and another Renfrew that just don't quite work for me, even though there's nothing really wrong with them. It's because wearability for what I like to wear on a weekend involves a whole lot of sewing things I haven't mastered yet.

My false sense of security came and went earlier this year when, thanks to having acquired a serger, I finally felt able to sew with knits. They no longer scare me, and I thought - hey! Now I can make whatever I want!!! But, um, choosing a pattern? Matching that with the right fabric, in terms of both drape and print? Fitting stretch stuff? Hahahaaaa!! I have a LOT to learn. Oh man, a lot.

I'll be showing you my recent 'failed' makes; they're not that bad. With each one I get closer to the elusive day when my instincts get it right, not wrong. I can live with the frustration of not having that self-stitched comfy knit dress immediately. But still.

Phew, that curve is looking steep from here!

What about you? Where are you on your sewing learning curve at the moment?

Are there kinds of sewing you feel you've mastered, while still being scared of others?

And finally, how do your home-made clothes fare on the wearability test? Are you confident in your wearable sewing skills, or not?

Please tell!


  1. What do you wear day-to-day? I notice all the things you made in knits are quite loose - maybe something more fitted like a Lady Skater would be worth trying? Or how about some loose draped cardigans?

  2. OMG! I can so relate... My last 2 (maybe 3?) projects were failures.
    It's frustrating. I wish I had photographed them, so at least I could
    have posted about them. Oh well, we have to keep plugging away, right?

  3. I'm not trying to sell you anything, but i had great success with the grainline Scout Tee (a downloadable PDF pattern) - it cost $10 US and I didn't buy it for a long time, thinking how can something that simple be worth that money. Well, it turned out to be one of my best purchases. I've made it several times - it fits and it can be made in wovens or knits - I've made both. It's become my TNT.

    A well-drafted pattern is a thing of beauty. I'm not so sure all the Indie patterns out there are so well drafted, but what do I know...

  4. Thanks for looking through them! You're totally right, while writing this post that's something I noticed too. I've in fact got the lady skater downloaded and ready to goThe Red Velvet dress is an attempt to balance that as well - with a bit of fit fine tuning and a better fabric choice, I'm hoping I've got it sorted! I think it's in part due to years of RTW conditioning that close fitted knit clothes don't flatter, whereas in fact it's just that they weren't made for me...

  5. yep, I guess it's the only way! I'm doing my best to put a brave face on it :-) Good luck!

  6. For sure Grainline patterns are some of the best drafted around. I have the Scout tee and am totally with you, it's a keeper!

  7. This is such a great post. I very firmly know that I will always wear shirts and high waisted trousers in woven. However, much of the shop bought clothing I wear is stretchy, and I harbour a fear of knit, mostly as I don't own the right tools to make it work. I am so happy in leggings and a t-shirt, yet I still turn to high street shops for these. This must change! The other piece of bought clothing that features heavily in my wardrobe is the jumper. Making a jumper would obviously involve learning to knit and damn, my 'to sew' list already takes me to 2016 by my calculations, so that's something for the distant future!

    I'm sure as you have clearly identified your stumbling points you will move forward into a stage of sewing clarity and success again. Good luck!
    Rosie x x

  8. thanks Rosie! I feel exactly the same as you, I just got so frustrated I just kind of jumped in. So frustrating to feel like you're going back to the beginning though, when in other areas I can pretty much make what I want successfully.Good luck to you too!

  9. Sometimes it can take awhile for garments to grow on you, so they might be wearable just yet! I've been sewing for nearly 2 years now so I'm not as experienced as others, but whenever I make things from knits I don't use bought patterns. I draft my own, or copy off items I already have. For example, I've copied the sleeves from a t shirt and mixed them with a singlet I copied and it came out great. So far everything turns out fine and I've had no issues with knits. I would suggest something like that, or as Gillian suggested, something more fitted!

  10. Sometimes it seems the more I learn, the less I know. But, I'm sure to an outsider, it would definitely look like I am becoming better with my skills.

  11. Most of my misses have been with knits too, and I do think unfortunately it's a combination of fabric choice ( knits seem to behave a little less unpredictably) and perfecting technique. I've bought a lot of crappy knit fabric (usually inexpensive as I was learning) and now I'm only buying cotton with a little Lycra, and pure wool. I also try to only make knits that I have tried similar styles on in shops so I know they will suit me!

  12. Ah. Yes. I very much feel this way. I think there are various curves that all overlap in some different ways- construction technique, pairing fabrics and patterns, picking out patterns that work for you, fitting, and so on. (Relatedly, I also felt that way about bread baking for a looooong time. Thankfully my husband was perfectly willing to eat the epic sourdough fails until I got the hang of it. ;) )

  13. Sorry, what's the font used on the picture? :)


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