Seamwork’s Design your Wardrobe: the experience

Hi there! No clothes project today, but I wanted to post about something I’ve been taking part in this last month, along with over 3,000 other Seamwork sewists. Yes, you read that number right. How do I know there’s that many? Well, as of the time of publishing this post, that’s how many people are members of the Facebook group expressly set up for this project!

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So what is it then? Well, I think everyone must be aware of Seamwork by now, but if you’re not, it’s the online, beginner-focused magazine/portal run by Colette Patterns. They issue an online magazine every month with articles, tips and two new patterns, aimed particularly at the novice sewist (although plenty of more experienced sewists use them too). It’s a subscription-based service and if you happen to be a member, you would have been invited to join the inaugural run of “Design your Wardrobe” back in January for free.

The initial descriptions of the project were along these lines:

Are you ready to have some fun designing a seasonal wardrobe with other Seamworkers?

Today, we opened sign-ups for Design Your Wardrobe—a free 4-week series delivered by email starting February 19th.

You’ll get more than our free sewing planner. We’ll walk you through each step in the creative process with daily dispatches, worksheets, and a private community to share your ideas and progress.

I’m always up for a bit of planning and this sounded fun (and free) and so I thought – why not? It started in mid-Feb and finished up mid-March and I have to tell you – those Seamwork gals did a sterling job. I think the Colette/Seamwork people are pretty good at these kinds of things – styling, tips, etc. so I did expect it to be decent, but I wasn’t expecting the fully-formed, in-depth and practical exercises, prompts and discussions that ensued. Setting up a private Facebook group was a key move for the company as thousands of sewists proceeded to chat, discuss and compare with aplomb. I thought Seamwork did a good job monitoring it:  providing prompts and kind reminders about good behavior, but I didn’t see anything untoward and it was all rather inspiring.

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There was lots of well-designed material to lead you on through your project

As far as the content goes, the course was set up so that you receive material and exercises on each working day of the week for four weeks. This gave you the weekend to catch up and was just about right. I’ll tell you that I (and many others) didn’t keep up with the schedule, but I never felt pressured or “behind”. It was clear this was a do-it-at-your-own-pace kind of deal, so I ended up finishing this week, just a few days after the series concluded.

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I ended up with a reference folder chock full of goodness that I can use again and again…

Seamwork plans to do this twice a year, with slight revisions and improvements each time (free for Seamwork members), so I’m not going to go through each day’s exercise, but I want to sum up the four weeks and show you what I produced as a result of it, with some thoughts.

Week One

Straight in with a week aimed at creating a mood board. First we thought about what we needed in our lives as well as what we were hoping to achieve with our collection. It was a good process and I ended up with a theme of “Praclectical Mum”. I know, I know, it’s a terrible name, but what it means is that I wanted to produce a little collection that was practical in my life as mum-with-a-toddler, but which was still stylish and eclectic.

This is the moodboard I ended up with at the end of Week One:

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Thoughts: I was pretty happy to have worked out some sort of moodboard, but, in my opinion, it’s less of a moodboard than a plan. It’s pretty literal and not so much a wide inspirational source. (Maybe I’ve been watching too much Project Runway). But seriously, my plans are for a practical, very me-specific collection with certain restrictions, such as using existing fabric. It’s going to be a great reference point and I’m sure the more often you do this kind of thing, the more you get used to collating inspiring images and items when you see them. I rethought the labels on this board, or at least, saw them in a new light after Week 2, which was interesting for me.

Week Two

Week Two was all about fabric. Again, it was a process of starting off looking at your stash, picking out fabric that “called to you” (relating to your moodboard/theme), before looking at shopping for fabric and composing a palette.

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This is probably the week I didn’t do so much on but that I found really tricky, and simply because one of my main aims this year is to use my stash, so the fabric shopping wasn’t strictly relevant. Above is my moodboard with some swatches pulled from my stash over the relevant garments/areas of inspiration.

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These are my swatches taken off the board, so I could take a good look and start grouping them. Finally, this was the swatch palette I ended the week with:

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Thoughts

One big issue for me is that I’m insanely attracted to prints (I’m not alone, I know), so a good proportion of my fabric collection is print-based. This makes it tricky to produce a cohesive look in terms of matching fabrics and I found it very hard to pull out swatch sets. I’m pretty determined not to buy fabric unless absolutely necessary, so this influenced a decision that popped up during the week – do you design a new capsule collection, or do you design pieces to complement your existing wardrobe? This could be the way to go for me, owing to the above issue. This kind of thing is tackled more in Week 3, so I hang tight with my swatch collection and decide to see what next week resolves…

Week Three

Wowsers – this was a work-laden week! I definitely put more work into Week 3 than any other week. This was because we got down to the nitty-gritty of streamlining ideas for the actual garments and picked out patterns that matched with our moodboard, objectives, colours and swatches, although all are of course adaptable. Basically, by the end of this week, you know what you’re sewing, more or less.

We started off the week with going through our wardrobe, which was a majorly helpful exercise for me. Firstly, because I needed to anyway, but also so that I could figure out the whole question of adding to my wardrobe or creating a new collection. So I also went through and took pics of all the stuff I had that I thought fit into the idea of my moodboard.

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Notice anything? This is a good proportion of my me-made collection and – whaddya know – the colour scheme is pretty similar to my swatch palette! (They are a little muted in the photos though). This is not altogether surprising since I was looking for clothes that matched my theme, but I was surprised just how close most of my makes were to this limited palette. The good part is, of course, that my new clothes should be able to intermingle with my current wardrobe quite nicely, so I’m not as restricted as I  previously thought.

Next up was finding patterns that echoed the feel of your moodboard. Seamwork provided a huge pdf of all their flats you could use (Seamwork members of course have access to these patterns), but I had a pretty good idea of some patterns I already wanted to use. I was  also trying to make this project as integrated as possible with other sewing plans (#2018makenine #sewmystyle etc.) without totally forcing the issue. I have a gazillion patterns, so it took quite a while.

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Then I narrowed the pattern selection down by combining them into outfits and comparing them to my original project criteria. For example, I had two similar slim-line woven dresses, but the one with the elasticated waist won out because two of my key criteria were “comfort” and “range of motion”.

Finally, I drew these “looks” onto paper croquis using Gertie’s New Fashion Sketchbook as a template. I got this as a Christmas present last year and it was really cool to use! I am no artist, as you can see, but the croquis helped immeasurably! I added swatches that I thought I would use or at least consider and any other notes. Here are my final six looks:

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Thoughts: This week hit the core of the project for me (although that might not always be the case) – particularly since my “weaknesses” are for fabric and pattern collecting! I ended up pretty happy with my looks and noticed some interesting things about them. Firstly, they don’t feel all that “spring/summer” in the traditional sense of things, but that’s ok. This is what I need and I know I can whip up the floaty summer dresses later on. Secondly, there were gaps from my moodboard. There were a couple of silhouettes I really liked, but couldn’t find a good pattern for – and I really looked in a lot of places! I’ll keep an eye out…

Week 4

Finally, we came to Week 4. This week was primarily about organising and queueing your projects – i.e. making sure they got done, no procrastination, etc. Many people found this week invaluable from what I’ve seen on Facebook, but, in all honesty, this isn’t the part of sewing that I have issues with. I’m fairly organised, while leaving myself room for creativity and I don’t have any worries about getting stuck in! My only problem in this regard is that I have too many garments I want to make, so I keep a running list and add, subtract, prioritise and move around as necessary. Having a cohesive plan for full outfits should help me out here.

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You also split your “looks” into individual projects and make up sheets for each, working out if you’d like to make more than one version, and which supplies you have/need. As above, you then queue your projects and away you go!

Thoughts: Even if I do already do some of the things covered in this section, there are always ways to improve and I can see this being a really useful set of exercises for me in other circumstances, where, for example, I was looking for new fabric, designing something completely wacky (quite possible) or trying to hack/adapt patterns. There are loads of really helpful tips, and project management is definitely a Colette/Seamwork speciality.

Overall/Summary

I have really just skimmed the surface of the project in this post to give an impression of what Design Your Wardrobe was all about. I went into it expecting it to be okay, but really, as I said at the beginning, the Seamwork ladies have surpassed themselves. There is so much detail, so many tools and so much material, it really is something you can go back to again and again. I made lots of small but important revelations and really enjoyed the process. The icing on the cake was the social aspect. What a joy to see women (I don’t think I saw any men but maybe there were some?) of all ages, from different countries and with diverse backgrounds work on this together in a supportive, inclusive way. I saw so many people helping others, and, apart from anything, it was very inspiring to see how people handled the project in their own unique way. There were so many brilliant ideas and moodboards – I still need to go through them properly. I’ll end by saying (unsurprisingly) that if you have the opportunity to do this for the next seasonal round, I highly recommend it!

PS. I realise this may come across as a bit of a promotional post. Just to confirm: I am an individual Seamwork member who decided to take part in this course all by myself. I was not contacted by Seamwork or offered anything for this article in any way. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Seamwork’s Design your Wardrobe: the experience

  1. Since I don’t use Facebook and didn’t want to create an account just for this, I haven’t been part of the group’s conversations, but I’ve downloaded and printed off each day’s dispatch and worksheet.

    I will say that, as organized and thoughtful in my sewing choices as I thought I was, Design Your Wardrobe has been excellent in helping me focus on which sewing choices are best for me: for my body shape, for my existing wardrobe, and for the wardrobe I want to build.

    So even if other sewists don’t want to–or can’t–join the FB group, it’s worth using DYW anyway, and I’m very much looking forward to the fall edition of DYW!

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    1. That is an excellent point and thanks for making it! Yes, the material itself is more than enough to do the project on your own, as you say. I guess the FB social aspect was quite surprising to me – I didn’t expect there to be so many people for a start – and it was a nice bonus feature of the programme if you’re into the social side of things.

      I’m also really looking forward to the next one – I reckon it will be something I can “improve” upon each time in terms of really getting to know myself, plus it’s fun! 😀 What sort of wardrobe did you end up with at the end of the project?

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  2. I ended up with far more casual pieces than I expected, and a much more color-cohesive wardrobe than I’d sort-of been planning before DYW started.

    For example, I came up with some variations of Liesl + Co’s Chai Tee that I wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone with patterned fabrics…and the fabric that challenged me–a busier, brighter floral than I’d normally go with–literally set the stage for everything else!

    I also wouldn’t have considered sewing capris, but there’s a warm-weather knitted tunic I’m dying to make, and it begs for capris which, of course, will go with the Chai Tees and the collared linen shirts.

    So those are a few things that hadn’t even crossed my mind prior to DYW.

    Oh, and did you see that they sent out a survey today about everyone’s experience with DYW? They specifically asked about the FB format, so I was really glad to be able to give feedback on that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wpw – that sounds great! Very summery! I know exactly what you mean about ending up making things you wouldn’t necessarily have considered otherwise. I wasn’t really thinking about the skirt/knit top outfit at all, but realised there was a definite need when I saw all the other outfits together.

    I have the Chai Tee pattern and definitely want to give it a shot soon. I love the shoulder detail on it – right up my street and I think it will make a really nice complementary top to some of these other garments once I’m a bit further down the line. Any tips?

    I saw the survey and filled it in, yep. I liked that they asked about that too. It’ll be interesting to see how they move forward with the social aspect. FB isn’t always the most user friendly for groups (which was my main feedback), but then most social media is playing the same game these days…

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  4. On the Chai Tee, I’ve found that it works better with jersey knit than it does with interlock, especially given the shape of the sleeves. I sewed one in ponte knit and…no. Don’t. The sleeves stuck out on the sides and the drape was horrible. Also, I don’t remember if the pattern calls for grading seams where the neck binding, body panels, and sleeves meet that saddle shoulder piece, but pin really well with superfine pins and shorten your stitch just a tad when sewing the shoulder pieces to the front and back, then grade or clip at the pleats. Otherwise, it can get bulky. I had to play around a bit with pressing seams and grading a bit to get the interlock to behave.

    That pattern also works really well with rayon challis and double gauze! I’m toying with maybe sewing one in a sheer or semi-sheer as a layering piece over a tank, and I’m hoping that my 3/4-length sleeve experiment (using interlock, because maybe it’ll work) will pay off. (This is where we use the clearance bin fabric as a muslin, lol!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I sized up just a bit, grading between my size and the next up, which I think is probably necessary for any size because obviously wovens don’t have the stretch of knits.

    Liked by 1 person

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