The process of how people make things is interesting. It’s fascinating to see the spaces people create in and to learn about their processes. And since sewing is my creative practice, I’m interested in how others sew and in thinking through how I sew. After spending a few years sewing regularly, I’ve developed some habits and systems, and I thought I would share them with you in case you are curious about those types of things too. Here is how I take a project from start to finish.
Currently, I batch my projects. The first time I tried to do this, it was completely overwhelming. But the next time I did a single project, I missed it. These days, I tend to group about five sewing projects together and move them from start to finish as a unit. Here’s what that looks like.
1. Choose patterns and fabric. This has to be my favorite part (except for finishing, when I get to wear the final product!). Pairing fabric and patterns is so much fun. Sometimes I have a pattern I want to make and I go looking for the fabric. Sometimes there is a fabric already in my stash that I bought for a certain type of garment, in which case I have to look for just the right pattern.
This is what I’ve got on my sewing list right now (which is a bit larger than usual): Vogue 9055 (a knit top), McCall’s 7476 (a long, knit cardigan), Mini Virginia Leggings from Megan Nielsen Patterns, The Belvedere Waistcoat from Thread Theory Designs Inc., The Fairfield Button-Up, also from Thread Theory, Simplicity 4111 (a woven top), and the Lander Pant and Short from True/Bias. This particular batch is a little out of control, but I’m going with it. Christmas might have a little to do with the size…
2. Choose pattern view and sizes. Once I decide on my patterns, I make sure I know my measurements and, in this case, the measurements of the other people I’m sewing for. I use this information to pick out my size(s) on the back of the envelope and I also choose what view/version of the pattern I’m going to make. Everything gets written down on a sticky note and stuck to the back of the pattern, along with a list of the pattern pieces I’ll need to trace.
It’s also important to note what notions and interfacing I need, so I can look through what I already have and write down what I need to buy. I stock up on what’s missing the next chance I get.
3. Trace patterns. I trace my size(s) in each pattern and, while I usually use paper patterns, if I am using a PDF, I assemble and trace that as well, since I don’t want to print and assemble PDF’s more than once. I often have to grade from one size to another between the bust and waist, and sometimes I have to do a broad-back adjustment as well. All of that happens on my traced pattern pieces. The clean, traced pieces look so nice, and I’ve learned to enjoy the process of tracing. It can get intense, though, when you are tracing through five or more patterns, especially the ones with lots of pieces. TV, an audiobook, or a podcast help.
4. Cut out patterns. Once all my pieces are traced and adjusted, I cut out all of my fabric and interfacing (or my muslin if I’m making one). Whenever possible, I cut on a self-healing mat on a card table that is raised up on bed risers. I use a rotary cutter and large washers as pattern weights.
For longer patterns, I cut on the kitchen table or living room floor with scissors.
Once cut, I pin my pattern pieces to the fabric and stack everything up. Sometimes I transfer markings after cutting, and sometimes I do that right before sewing. Despite how nice and neat the picture below makes things look, my cut patterns usually end up draped over a chair in the living room, taking it out of commission. I should probably use hangers more often!
5. Time to sew! Once I have everything cut out, I can sew, sew, sew! I think that’s what really hooked me on batching projects–the fact that you can sew through project after project. I love that.
I usually pin my instructions up in front of my machine, mark my place with a little Post-It flag, and transfer any pattern markings to my fabric pieces if necessary. Then I sew through each project one by one.
In my current batch, I’ve made Vogue 9055, McCall’s 7476, and three Mini Virginia leggings. All of these are knit projects that were super fast. I felt the need for a few quick projects, so I put those at the front of the queue. Now I’m ready to dig into the Belvedere Waistcoat, a garment type I’ve never made before.
Batching like this produces a nice group of projects I can photograph and bring to you here on the blog. It’s really satisfying. When I’m finished, I clean everything up and plan my next group of projects!
What about you? Do you batch projects? Do you have a system for working or do you change it up? I’m curious! I’m also excited to look back at this post sometime in the future and see how much my work practice changes (or stays the same) over time.