Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My wardrobe and sewing

Pajntsl asked:
If you had to give a %, how much of your closet consist of things you made, opposed to RTW? And whats TNT?

Let's start with TNT - means Tried and True Pattern. You know a pattern that you've made over and over and you've worked out all of the fitting issues, so you can just lay it down on the fabric, cut it out and sew it up.

Now to the main question - I would say that I make 90% of what I wear. Yeah, I know that's scary right! *LOL* For me to purchase RTW it has to meet several criteria - one, it has to be under $20 for the garment ~ anything over that I can reproduce at home! Or it has to be something that is a waste of my time to reproduce, i.e., the cotton tank tops that I own in every color! I also tend to purchase sweaters because even though I can make fantastic twinsets sometimes it is just easier to buy them. And I still haven't perfected a turtleneck pattern yet...when I do...watch out! So all of my turtlenecks are RTW!

I see y'all shaking your heads in disbelief, but think about it. If I produce approximately 50 pieces a year, it wouldn't take long before most of my wardrobe is made by me. Since I've gotten a pants pattern to fit, I haven't bought a pair of RTW pants. I can't remember the last dress, skirt or suit jacket that I've purchased. I broke down recently and bought a jean jacket only because spring goes by so quickly that I never get one made in time...not that I don't own several jean jacket patterns and quite a bit of denim! *LOL*

Probably the follow-up question is how and why?
Sewing is my passion. I would much rather spend time doing this than a lot of other things. Also, I have raised my children. I no longer have to cart kiddies here and there, go to PTA meetings, birthday parties, afterschool activities, etc. that use to consume so much of my days. I am also not as involved in church as I was when my daughters' were younger. This leaves alot of time on the weekend for sewing.

But mostly, I guess the answer is that I can...so I do! So what about you? Do you sew most of your wardrobe or do you have a combination of RTW and Couture Sewn...I refuse to call it home made! And what is the percentage if you do? Now for the $100,000 question, if most of your clothing is RTW, yet you love to sew, why isn't more of your wardrobe sewn by you? What prevents you from sewing more? Is it fitting the pattern? Your skill level? What? I really want to know so talk back to me!


  1. I've been a lurker. Found your blog not too long ago and I enjoy what you write. Mostly I find I enjoy the blogs by women who are my age - 50-ish.
    I. love. sewing. I've sewn all of my life. There was a time when I could pick any pattern, lay it down, sew it up and it seemed to fit with no problem. Like you, over 90% of what I owned I had made. Before kids, my husband fished the weekends, so the week was spent purchasing patterns, fabric, etc and cutting it all out. The weekends were spent sewing. I could make 5 to 10 items or more. At one time I counted over 30 white blouse/tops that I had made in my closet. Even with kids I managed to sew quite a bit.
    A couple of years ago I needed a challenge and got into decor sewing, slipcovering and upholstery. Then about a year ago I decided it was time to start sewing for myself again. Picked a pattern, zipped it up and guess what -- it didn't fit. What they hay! My body shifted on me during that time. Since then I have had a hard time figuring out fit. I also beleive that my skill level had dropped. (At least to me its dropped.) Now the majority of my closet is RTW. Quality RTW, but RTW nonetheless.
    Funny thing is, I can sew up a dress for DD and it fits her perfectly. I also sew for the public on occasion and receive compliments. Right now I have several UFOs sitting around and am working on McCall's 5635 - determined to finish it. (And, there is really no fit to this!)

  2. Probably no surprise, but my closet is probably about 90% custom made, too. (I've got a TNT turtleneck pattern! LOL...but I still have some aging Lands' End turtlenecks hanging around) I don't make sweaters; can't find sweater knit yardage consistently enough, and I don't (yet) make jeans; I've got about 3 patterns but haven't even unfolded them. So long as I can get jeans that fit reasonably well at Goody's or the Lee/Vanity Fair outlet for $25 or less, it's almost not worth it. But someday...

    I will occasionally purchase something for myself if it's cheaper than I can make it, or made from a difficult-to-find fabric. But mostly, the clothes in my closet are made by moi. And you know...I like it that way!

  3. I sew most of my clothing. I haven't purchased anything RTW since May of last year. And even then it was only a knit dress to wear to my daughters 5th grade graduation because I didn't have time to make one. I have a TON of clothes and suits from when I worked, but still sew something almost everyday lol. I guess to answer the question lol, My wardrobe has to be about 60% RTW and 40% sewn by me.

  4. I have only recently got back into sewing all my clothes. I went through a phase of buying most (all) of my clothes as they fit pretty well and I could afford it. Instant gratification! Now I am wanting to make up some of those dreams in my "stash" but the actual doing does not always come easy - especially with 2 teenage daughters tempting me with TV and the shops! And the fitting issues....At least with RTW you can pretty easily check fit!

    As to the percentage couture (lol) and RTW? Well probably 50/50. But moving towards a higher percentage to couture!

  5. My sewing has mostly been for my daughter so my closet is mostly RTW. I have just recently started sewing clothes for myself. I am slowly making more for myself. I am hoping to eventually have a closet full of my own creations. It will take me some time though.

  6. I can't remember the last time I bought something RTW, but still I'd say my wardrobe is about 50/50. I am not the speediest of sewers and I don't have very many TNT patterns, mainly because I love trying new ones. That % will definitely continue increasing towards couture though!

  7. most of my clothes is rtw.I still shop like crazy. Sometimes I will look at something and say, that will take way to long for me to sew it so I just get it, especially if its something on the trendy side, that I will have no plans of keeping for a long time.

  8. My wardrobe is about 50/50. I am working on having a higher percentage of custom vs. RTW but it's slow going for several reasons.
    1) I enjoy the process so no rush;
    2) I have a tiny (German) closet so the number of pieces I can add is limited and I'm not ready to throw things away yet;
    3) I have major perfectionist tendencies which can sometimes hamper progress on a project until I figure out "the perfect way";
    4) grad school demands a lot more time than it should (my opinion), leaving less time for sewing.

  9. My wardrobe is exactly like yours! About 85-90% sewn couture. I do exactly what you do, too. If it's under a certain dollar mark or it would cost more to make (like the knit camisoles), then I buy. I've just found a good source for pants patterns for me, so I won't be buying jeans anymore, either. In fact, I was looking for a RTW dress in my closet the other to compare zipper finishes and I couldn't find one! I think the last RTW dress I bought was about 15 years ago. (Incidentally, it was that bright blue color that very popular this spring/summer!) Once I get into sewing lingerie and get that fit perfect, you can bet I won't be buying much RTW of that, either. Maybe I'll get to that in the fall.

  10. I'm still at 90% or so RTW. If I'd been less of a perfectionist and kept some of my earlier projects, I'd have more. But I knew they weren't right and I wouldn't wear them much.

    Mainly it's because I don't have the skill level, speed, or equipment yet to make complicated things. I'm getting to the point with knits that I'm starting to feel like I can plan and execute a good looking project that'll turn out well and that I'll actually wear. I've got some knit TNTs, but not any for wovens yet.

    I have noticed that I shop a lot less more - or rather I go to stores less, I still snoop shop online and in catalogs, but I guess I've redirected some of my 'browsing' habits into looking for patterns and fabric rather than RTW.

    It inspires me to read about people like you and Summerset and Shannon who do make most of their clothes, as it makes it seem more possible and not a dream to dismiss out of hand. I don't know if my goal is to quit buying RTW entirely, but if I can have only pieces that I love and that fit perfectly, whether they're sewn or RTW, that would be the perfect situation.

  11. I'd say my wardrobe is 98% sewn by me. There are some bras I haven't made, and shoes. And coats. But I rarely wear a coat so the ones I do wear are very old. LOL! My closet, OTOH, has a number of RTW items that I haven't parted with yet. But I don't really wear them anymore because I like the fit of what I've made better.

  12. 90% is very impressive. My closet is about 50%, but I am sewing more in the last year. Finding clothes for a mid-40 woman in a huge college town is a challenge. I think there are 2 stores I shop for myself. I sew because I love to do it and the creative process is so relaxing and fufilling. My girls are teenagers so we are still busy going to many events but I have so much more time than when they were little. One more reason I sew more, the internet - fabric shops, inspiration and the sewing community helps to fuel my sewing passion.

  13. Didn't go and count, but I think it's 85-90% too. On many days I don't wear RTW at all as I also sew my lin gerie as you know.

  14. Oh Ms. Caroline, I wasn't off at all with TNT. It just seemed TOO easy. lol Thanksfor answering my questions. :) right now my closet is 95% RTW. I've just gotten serious about sewing, and as the finish on my pieces become more Clean. The more I want to make! :) Hopefully I can go without buying clothes this summer.

  15. My current wardrobe is 98% RTW. My job changed it's dress code and I had to comply quickly, so I went out and bought it all. Also, like Laura, my body has changed faster than my sewing skills and I have no clue (or patience at the time) how to address fitting issues. I am in the process of losing weight and am having trouble creating a garment that I may not be able to wear in a few months. (Still haven't grasped the concept of 'dress the body you have'!)

  16. My issues are a lot like Laura's. I am still finding my mid-life weight/body shape, and my home-made clothes look terrible. Then I just don't feel like taking them apart and re-doing them. Then, I feel awful about having spent the money, time, etc on yet another faux pas. I would pay quite through the nose for someone to teach me to fit my patterns. Maybe a dress form would help, too. So my wardrobe is about 95% RTW, with one dress and one skirt made by me.

  17. I love to sew, but I sew mostly for my children. My 2 daughters have a 90% made by mum wardrobe (no jeans yet, compulsory purchased school uniforms, mostly purchased under things). I only make shirts, costumes, rashie vests and pyjamas for my son. I find boy's clothes a bit boring to sew. I am trying to sew more for myself lately, and find that working on fitting is making me much happier with garments for myself. I sew all my trousers and skirts, most of my dresses and blouses, but I have a pretty small wardrobe. I have joined this year's SWAP competition with the aim of making myself some more things to wear.

  18. I made about 80% of my work wardrobe, but only about 40% of my "play clothes" -- the jeans & tops I change into when I get home from work. For some reason, it's easier to buy jeans than to make them. The fit isn't perfect, but it works. As to what prevents me from sewing more -- the answer is easy -- housework!!! When I can't see the top of my dining room table because of the mail that has accumulated there, I have to stop sewing and do some housework.

  19. Now why did Elaray have to say that about the dining room table? I don't want to do housework!
    Anyway, I have a great turtleneck pattern for you - it's CJ Patterns Base 2. It has Ts, turtles, and skirts. I love this pattern and plan to make more for the fall. I think the secret is finding a good soft knit. I used a rayon jersey and love it!

  20. Eh, I have to admit it... I have very little sewn by me in my closet. I'm probably about 25 me/75 RTW.
    One thing is that I don't like a lot of the current fashions. So I'm not very inspired by what I see in the magazines and pattern booklets.
    Another is the same problem that Laura and others have mentioned. Dressing the body I have now instead of the one I used to. It just takes so much more time and work, and in the end it doesn't feel or look as good as I think it should.
    And finally, the big reason... I sew for a living. Sometimes I'm sewing over 40 hours a week and looking at the machine in my off hours... just doesn't appeal! I'm dressing a lot of other folks, but not myself!

  21. In my head it would be 80% sewn couture, but in reality I have a pretty sparse wardrobe with the majority RTW. I tend to do RTW for my upper half (because I don't have a TNT for jackets and shirts) and I'm a fit challenge. My bottom half is sewn couture -- mainly skirts. Jeans I buy when I can find them, and I only wear them in winter. I like skirts in spring & summer. I make all of my dressy wear.

    Biggest reasons I don't sew more - work full time, commute an hour each way and have a 5 and 6 year old. Also, I sew more for my kids and the house (haven't brought a drape or shade made out of fabric ever).

  22. I probably have 80% rtw, 10% modified rtw, and 10% made-for-me (either by me or my Mom). I accumulated a fair amount of rtw in my college days when I didn't have a machine, and Mom was too far away to cater to my fashion whims (though I did get a few garments squeezed in during spring break and the like).

    The other reason I have so much rtw is that I *love* Goodwill. Love rescuing nicely home-couture garments (found a lovely brown wool jacket with bound buttonholes for $1 the other week), silk blouses, and fun dresses. Some of that stuff requires modification before I'll actually wear it (dying, button replacement, seams repaired, rehemmed) so I called it modified rtw.

  23. I think 10% of my wadrobe is sewn by me. I love to sew but the fitting process takes a lot out of me so by the time I have thought the fitting issues through I don't have the energy to sew anymore. I also have this thing for making really big complicated items like jackets, pants, and fitted dress. I tend bite off more than I can chew since I feel my skill level is still in the beginner/intermediate stages. I just feel like when I've worked hard to produce the piece when it is done and comes out the way I envisioned it gives me a huge feeling of satisfaction knowing I made this.

  24. Now that my kids are out of the house, I'm sewing more, but my big issue(I realize I'm late to this)is fitting: my front is a different size than my back, I can't seem to fit sleeves and bodices so that when I raise my arms, the whole thing will not raise up, etc. It's very discouraging because I want to be able to make nice things that fit well and look good. But, we will persevere.

  25. My closet is 98% RTW. I've changed jobs & dress codes so much in the last few years, that I can't keep up. But I love the process of sewing, figuring out fit, style & color. I sew sporadically -- one year I may get 20 things done (to my perfectionist standards) and the next year nothing. I'm also kind of fearless about sewing, so I always pick projects that are probably beyond my current skill level. I don't like to make things like potholders & pillowcases, so I don't. I like to sew things that I wouldn't usually see in the stores in my size or colors.

  26. I went away from clothing sewing for a while. Most of my wardrobe is RTW - but I've always suffered from the "I like that, but I could make it" syndrome, even when I wasn't sewing.

    Now I didn't give up sewing totally - I did some quilting and crazy quilting. So my fabric stash just kept growing.

    Last fall, I set up a sewing room in what had been a guest room. We gave the furniture to my step son and his girlfriend, so there was an empty room just crying out for use.

    That move has increased my sewing time and interest. I don't have to make a mess in the living room, think about sewing but dread getting everything out and put back again, etc. I can leave a project on the table and go back in 20 minutes later or two days later and it is waiting for me.

    It just makes things easier.

    I am envious of the 90% figure and hope to reach that exalted level myself in the next year or so!

  27. *sigh* I really wish I were at 90% sewn by me, but I think I'm about the opposite -- I'm at about 90% RTW. For me right now, it's a time issue. I've been working 60-hour weeks and traveling on the weekends, so I just don't have the time to sew that I'd like. When I do have the time to sew, I'm devoting myself to my wedding dress, which I've just begun to sew (and bought the fabric for in NYC last weekend!!!).

  28. I'm probably at 98% custom. I don't make much lingerie anymore, but it's rare for me to wear anything that the public can see that wasn't made by me. I have some TNT patterns and that makes a world of difference. Like Carolyn, and a lot of you, sewing is just what I'd rather be doing most of the time, so that's what I do.

  29. My Wardrobe is like your's about 90% made by me. Basically the only things I buy are swaeters.(I don't knit.) And Jeans. Although I am planning to make those myself as well. If You asked the same question about two yers ago, my answer would look a little different. Since I found Pattern Review, the idea of SWAP's and some sewing blog's like yours, I finally don't fell as alone anymore with my obsession of sewing. I live overseas- in Switzerland- and so far couldn't find anyone with the same bug around here.


  30. Everyone with 80+ percent look more put together more often than much of these "styled" celebs! I do wear everything I make at least once, but I still love to shop.

    My ideal closet would consist of classics from quality fabrics and a few uniquely detailed pieces -- ALL made by moi. My skill level and patience are on the short side.

    In the past, I've spent too much on low quality fabric and I feel like I need to start over. Hopefully once I move I can start fresh since I have a target.

    I really need to make time to focus on building techniques and I will get there.

  31. Anne in DenmarkMarch 26, 2008 3:08 PM

    I love to sew! The nice and loving hobby is challenged by a number of things: 1) two boys aged 2 and 4, 2) bad health - when the kids are asleep, I'm tired and aching and 3) a very challenging body shape. The third obstacle I'm addressing at the moment - I have bought Pattern Master Boutique and plan to learn all there is to know (!) about fitting my small bust, flat bottom and protruding belly. I took pattern construction classes a couple of years ago and it doesn't suit my patience to draw patterns by hand.

    We moved last year and we now have a home office for us both that also contains all my sewing gear. It's too small unfortunately - the plan was to have enough table space for computer, sewing machine and serger but the serger is resting under a table at the moment and the shelves are overloaded. In a few years we hope to expand the office by expanding the house a little. I could move my sewing gear upstairs to the guest room but I want to spend my spare time with my husband. :-)

    I love to read sewing blogs - it's the greatest. I hope to be able to join a SWAP contest within a few years time - that would mean better health and more spare time for ME, and that would be a dream come true. :-)

  32. Everything hanging in my closet is made by me.
    I don't make tee shirts, underwear or night wear.
    I buy cashmere sweaters occasionally but knit the rest.
    I would rather sew than do anything else, so that's what I do!

    As for TNT, forget it - I'm easy to fit so make something different every time using the best fabric I can afford.

    I have more clothes now than anyone could possibly need but I love and wear them all. I'm getting on a bit - 77! - and looking good, as well as feeling good, is an important part of coping with getting old.

  33. Well, my wardrobe is aboyt 70% couture sewn clothes and if it's not 90% or more I blame it on my lack of time and my slow sewing. I am a clothesaholic; if I don't have time to make all the clothes I want, I buy them, providing I find/afford what I like. Lately I tend to buy less and sew more (I buy more shoes and bags, which is great), but I know this tendency is inverted during Spring/Summer because I find Winter clothes much more interesting to make. Maybe this year will be different!

  34. In my dreams my wardrobe would be 90% RTW. In reality it is not even 10% custom made! Having emigrated to NZ 4 years ago, a change of lifestyle, body shape and buying a quilting and knitting shop and working full time outside the home for the first time,the pressures of life have meant my own sewing has got pushed back. Now my TNT patterns no longer fit and I am trying to get back into the swing of things. I don't have a lot of clothes - one of my faults is that I see clothes when I shop and say to myself 'I could make that better and cheaper'! But then I don't get time to make it and don't buy it either! Hence not many clothes - either made by me or RTW!! Lol!

    However, thanks to you and other bloggers I have rediscovered my mojo and have made a couple of summer skirts over the past few weeks and have a wardrobe plan in place for the winter - so watch this space!! Thank you! Your blog is inspiring and I am always eager to read your entries. I have realised that I have to plan my sewing a lot differently than I used to - no more being able to cut make and wear a garment in a few days, now I have to use smaller chunks of time and plan!

  35. My closet is about 70% Danville Girl Designs (Couture Sewn)and the rest is RTW. I buy pants, just is easier for me to buy good fitting pants than it is for me to perfect a fit. I make a lot of jackets, personally made ones fit me the best. I also make dresses and knit tops the most instead of buying them. Though I have some purchased ones as well. At one time,younger and broker, I made about 90% of my clothes. Career has reduced my sewing time and when DH was a fireman and gone for 24 hours I spent those evenings/nights sewing. When he changed careers, my evening sewing changed quite a bit. Fitting patterns take more of my time now so that slows down the process.

  36. Well, Carolyn, I'd say that a scant 10% of my wardrobe is made by me. Mostly because the bulk of my sewing has always gone to the littles. However, I'm making progress on that lace trench dress and challenging my couture skills and I like what I see! Therefore, I think there will be much more that is "made by me" than purchased within several years time.

  37. I would love to be able to make most of my clothing, but children, husband and work take the place of sewing. I am buying patterns, fabrics, sewing machines, and other sewing materials. I have not sewn anything for the past three years because of a lack of energy, and commitment. Please give me some ideas.

  38. I used to make everything I wore except bras, jeans, and sweaters. I made undies, bathing suits, coats, T-shirts, etc. I could lay a size 10 down and sew it up and it would fit every time. Then I began making quilts and 15 years later I dont fit any pattern anymore. I would like to sew my own clothes again, cause I only have one pair of black slacks and two shirts to wear to church,(sad but true). But patterns dont fit.

  39. Hi Carolyn! I enjoy your blog so much. It is always full of great comments and ideas. Currently my closet is about 50/50 only because time prevents me from sewing as much as I would like. The other issue is finding quality fabric locally. My fit challenge is in RTW so I can get a better fit by sewing, especially pants which are always too big in the waist in RTW.
    I have some great things in my closet made when I was sampling some patterns for Park Bench Patterns (sizing them down), but don't know quite what to do with. I can't part with them, but I don't wear them either. Thanks so much for inspiring so many of us sewists!
    Jean in NC

  40. Wow, 90%. Though that makes perfect sense.

    I'm a beginner - so my closet is, at most 10% my sewing, the rest is RTW. There's a combination of reasons for that though. 1. I have way too many clothes that I mostly just can't bear to throw away. 2. My skills just aren't there yet to make a lot of things I'd like to make.

    In the future though, I can really only see myself buy things like sweaters, jeans and really basic t-shirts. As it is, I don't think I've bought any clothes for over 4-5 months. So, on the right track.

    Great post! Thanks for getting me thinking.

  41. BK (before kids) my work wardrobe was about 98% custom. I've been gradually working back up to that and am proud to say that if you look in my closet today it's about 80% custom. Now, for my non-work clothes, forget it! They consist of Jeans, t-shirts, turtlenecks, 100% RTW. I don't have any problem fitting into RTW and have never had an interest in putting all that work into a pair of jeans. Kudos to those of you that tackle that beast!

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. My wardrobe is almost 100% RTW at this point, however about 5% has been tailored or refashioned by me in one way or the other. I am just getting back into making my own clothes after about a 20 year break.

    A comment about averaging about a garment a week:

    YOU GO GIRL!!!!

    Ok, gotta ask, where do you buy your turtlenecks?
    Cos the 2 places I used to get mine have both gone way, way down in quality and are not worth purchasing anymore. I am almost shapeless so sewing them would not be a problem if I could find good 2X rib knit fabric (my fave for turtleneck sweaters).


  44. My Wardrobe is 99% RTW, and looking forward to changing it to 99% Couture Sewn. Now that I've gotten my hands wet.. I am on a roll.

  45. My wardrobe is sadly lacking. In the not too distant past, I could say that 90% of it was custom made but retirement, weight loss and health factors have changed that. I mostly stay in my "gown" all day unless I have an appt outside of the home. I'm reading and collecting more sewing books and blogs than actual sewing. When I do have a project, it takes me several weeks to finish it as the energy is not there. Also, not having space to cut fabric is a big deterrent to getting something made. Hopefully, that will change over the next few years. However, in my mind, I dream of having 100% of my clothing custom made in a fabulous TDF wardrobe. It can be done if I continue to work at it.

  46. Right now, my closet is 50-60% Couture Sewn, but is slowly encroaching on an even greater number. Most of this is due to a work wardrobe I just completed along with a lot of dresses I made in the past two years. Actually, when I think of it, all of my dresses except for two are made. I did just purchase a dress for dancing a little while ago. I hardly ever shop for clothes any more, unless it's for something I need right away.

    When I first started sewing, I had many garments that I didn't wear that much, because I may have been trying something new and didn't like the way it came out. Now that I have a little more experience under my belt, I am more pleased with the look and fit of my clothes, and I wear them more often (than my earlier creations).


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