Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Plan your sewing and sew what you planned

Finished; 18th century stays, started in early 2010.
As I said yesterday I was a bit amazed when I counted this years finished sewing projects and found that they number sixteen. That’s probably more finished projects in one year than I have ever managed before and there are still 1 ½ month left of 2013. However, these projects are both UFO’s and brand new projects. I have finished eleven UFOs and still have thirteen to go before that pile is done, so I’m not halfway through. However, some of these may be stuff that I will need to let go of and decide not to finish. I have also started nine new projects this year, though most of these had been planned for a long time and five of these are finished.

I know that the UFO pile I had at the beginning of the year was rather extreme, and probably still is. As one of my workmates put it when I told her; “How on earth do one get to have so many unfinished things going at the same time?” Indeed, how? Well, not quickly, that’s for sure. The oldest UFO I had was the Edwardian blouse that I finished early this year, which I started at least fifteen years ago. I have learned a lot this year and I would like to share with you what I have learned.

Finished, tartan skirt started in September
2013 and a brown silk noil blouse, one
of this year's new, but planned, projects.
First; Analyze your sewing. As I sew multiple periods, I started with an analysis of what I actually sew and grouped my projects into four lists; 18th century, anything else pre-1930, the 1940’s wardrobe project and anything else post-1930. I used a free app for that, which also allowed me to give every entry priority A, B, C. I gave A to the projects I wanted to finish next and B to everything in the UFO pile, reserving C for purely planned projects. I know not everyone needs to do this, but for me it was vital. For the first time I realised how many UFOs I really had and also were most of them were- in the 18th century, in my case.

Then, think a bit of why projects don’t get finished. A rather difficult process. I isn’t like someone forbids me to finish what I do, but I have only myself to blame. I found four major obstacles to why my UFO pile has been growing for years.

1. Making clothes for a special occasion. At first this looks like a good example of getting things done, but in fact it usually means starting something new and with a time restraint which means I push everything else on hold. By the time it is finished I’m usually in a very bad need of a sewing break and by the end of it I have lost momentum and inspiration on whatever I was doing before and as often as not, I start something completely new.

My solution: No more short term deadlines and definitely not with a fixed date. I know that a lot of people feel that they need a deadline to get things done, but I just get stressed and stop enjoying what I do. After all, I sew because I like to do it, so why should I push myself into disliking it?

2. Not having an overview I have touched on that already, not really knowing what I had started on made it easy to forget them altogether.

My solution:  Making lists. I have several, actually. The ones I mentioned already, which looks like this:

My 18th century list. Next is the embroidered polonaise, started 10 years ago, then a pair of brown stays, started one year ago, followed by a banyan for J, which I think has been an UFO for 2 years.
I like to use the app because it is easy to move projects around and when I am finished I tick them off and those get stored at the bottom of the list, making it easy to keep track on. It is very encouraging to easily see how much I have accomplished! Then I have a few paper lists. A sheet of paper and a pencil is all you need, but I really like the free downloadable templates The Project Girl offers. I use these two for listing every started project with notes on what I need to do and what I need to get and for one big list with every project I have, sorted after priority, with the most pressing project at the top.

I need to allow myself to work on more than one project on any give time, because otherwise I get bored, so I proclaim the four top projects on the list those I’m allowed to work on. And I can't work on anything else until I have finished something. Then I just take the next one. This has worked amazingly well for me! Because of the 40’s sewing project I have a lot of projects planned that I want to work with as well as my UFOs, my list have two 40’s style UFOs, one period UFO and then a new 40’s project, and then back to two 40’s UFOs. Right now I’m hemming a black dress and re-fitting a toile for a brown jacket (40’s UFOs), the 1640’s gown (period UFO) and the faux fur (new 40’s project. When one of these is finished, I’m going to make a 40’s grey wool gown, another UFO, and so on. At the moment all my new projects are long-time planned 40’s clothes. Any period projects that are on the planned stage will have wait until next year. I revise this list regulary, as things change and a static list wouldn't serve my purposes. If changes are needed, changes are made!

3. Perfectionism. The main reason to why so many of my projects get stalled when they are nearly completed is a fear that I won’t like the clothes when I’m done with them.

My solution. Allowing myself to accept that not everything you do will be top notch. And that’s OK, because I can sew, so I can change things. Or make something else. Very simple in theory, not so simple to apply, but I work hard on it!

4. Clutter. That is actually something that stops me sewing anything, just not UFOs and is something I have been working on for years. I don’t think chaos breeds creativity. Of course, while you are working on something, things can be pretty chaotic around you, and that’s fine, but for me to be able to work, I need to have an underlying order. I need to know where my things can be found. This is an ongoing process and it is slowly getting better and the better it gets, the more productive my sewing time becomes.

My solutions, so far:. Having all my fabrics in a card catalogue. I have to store my fabrics in the attic, so having a card for every piece with a fabric sample, a note on how much there is and perhaps what I plan to do with is, as well as in which box it is, helps enormously. It took a long time to make and it needs to be maintained, but I love it. I always know exactly where my fabrics are and never have to go throuigh box after box to find it.

I store sewing notions in stackable boxes from IKEA, all labeled.. I don’t have a whole sewing room, but rather one half of a room, so there isn’t that much spade. Still, I can have my sewing machine permanently up.

 Working hard on keeping it uncovered too…
I also have several shelves, as well as various cupboards for storing books, fabric and this and that, which is very much a work in progress, but there is a much better order in my workspace now than it was a year ago. I also took the time to sort through my gigantic box with ribbons, mostly untouched since I inherited from my grandmother almost 10 years ago.

Now all ribbons have been wound on cardboard if the didn’t have their own spools and is generally much easier to find!

I must say that my working on solving my “sewing problems” have worked wonders for my productivity. I get things done on a whole new scale and I no longer feel bad when I start something new, because they are part of the plan. I won’t be finishing all my UFOs this year, but I think I will in 2014!

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