The Chart


In my first post and on my About Me page I refer to this very casual-looking chart that’s the basis of Getting Things Sewn.  What in the world is it?  What is it supposed to do?

Let me explain.

Life before the chart was like this:

  • I’d fall in love with fabrics or patterns, and buy them.  But, strangely, I wouldn’t get around to using them.  There was always some missing element.  I’d love the fabric, but the right pattern hadn’t come along to bring out the best in it.  Or I’d snatch up a swoonworthy vintage pattern on eBay, but the right occasion never presented itself.  Or the right occasion would present itself, but I couldn’t hustle fast enough to fit and sew the pattern in time.
  • As a result, I yearned.  I was in this mindset that I couldn’t have what I longed for, because…hmmm…why?  Excellent question, and either I couldn’t tell you or I could recount innumerable reasons.  Whatever the case, I remained frustrated.
  • I had many unfinished sewing projects, and finished sewing projects that were wardrobe orphans.
  • I viewed my unfinished projects with dread, but I didn’t feel right about just dumping them.  All that work down the drain!   I had (still have) a sportcoat I started for Jack, my husband, in 2004, plus dresses, jackets and more in the muslin stage.  When I learned about the economics terms “sunk cost” and “loss aversion” I related them to my sewing stashes and projects.
  • I thought I just needed to be more efficient.  But I was just trying to do the wrong things faster.
  • I was struggling to master skills myself when I should have been cultivating creative partnerships.
  • I used to lament that I just had “too many ideas,” and fellow sewers would chime in that they suffered from the same affliction.  This didn’t get me anywhere.

About a year ago I realized that I had the tail wagging the dog.  Too often I’d buy fabrics, patterns, tools, books–even a serger–without fully considering its role in the larger scheme of producing a wardrobe I loved.  Not just a wardrobe.  A wardrobe I loved.

After all, if I want a closet full of clothes that don’t quite fit or go together, I might as well buy retail, right?

I’m good at blinding glimpses of the obvious.  So, a wardrobe is the objective of my sewing!  Got it.

Okay.  Next, what drives my wardrobe?

I came up with two main drivers.  One I labeled “Individual.”  In this column I put categories that originated with me:

  • Fit
  • Personality
  • Style
  • Silhouette
  • Colors
  • Physical characteristics
  • What I’m growing into, psychologically

The other driver I labeled “Context.”  In this column I put categories outside myself, with which I’d interact:

  • Occasions (wedding, evening out, work, hosting a dinner)
  • Activities (walking all day as a tourist, sleeping on a plane, dancing, sitting at a desk)
  • Roles (public speaker, conference attendee, member of a wedding party, etc.)
  • Physical conditions (air-conditioned offices, rain, sun, salt water, etc.)
  • Mood of the occasion (professional, somber, celebratory)
  • Other wardrobe items (accessories, outerwear, etc.)
  • Other fabrics, buttons, patterns
  • What I’m moving into, like a new role, activity, type of occasion

Using the drivers of Individual and Context I now had a tool for assessing my wardrobe needs and desires.  I could design outfits.  I could be appropriately dressed for the roles I was playing.  This was enlightening!  This was wonderful!

This driver idea had me buzzing with excitement.

So, what does my wardrobe drive?

Well, sewing projects, obviously.  And buying: both ready-to-wear and sewing supplies.

Come to think of it, my wardrobe should drive the way my closet is arranged, too.

And the nature of my sewing projects drives the design of my sewing space.

So that’s The Chart.  It looks simple and obvious.  But does it work?  That’s what I’ll investigate in Getting Things Sewn.

I will  sew individual garments, buy ready-to-wear, and create outfits for myself.  I want to be sure this chart works for others, too.  I’ll run The Chart through its paces for Jack as well.

I’ll cover every category of Individual and Context in detail not only to clarify and define for myself, but, I hope, for you too.

Also on the docket are editing all my stashes.

A couple of weeks ago I examined every fabric in my stash.  The Chart made this task interesting and enjoyable.  I easily determined which fabrics belonged in my collection and which to let go.  I describe this process here and here.

I will also design my basement sewing space.  I realized recently that I’d never designed my workspace, and it shows.  I’ve let supply storage dominate while allocating no space for some other important tasks.  What if I purposefully addressed workflow and assigned zones in my workspace?  How much more effective and enjoyable could my sewing be?  This year I’ll find out.

So readers, is it easy for you to design and execute your sewing projects, or do you have stumbling blocks?  Do you have many unfinished projects?  If yes, do you know why?  I’m very curious to know.

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4 thoughts on “The Chart

  1. Yes, I think all my sewing projects from the last 10 or 15 years are unfinished (with the possible exception of a baby quilt). I start a garment project thinking “How hard could it be? I used to sew!” Then I get into it and remember, it’s not the sewing, it’s the fitting. Nothing fits. Then not only the garment feels like a failure — I feel like a failure. I think, “If only I had a body the size of the pattern, then I would like sewing!” But obviously it’s the rare person who is just the size of the pattern, so how do others do it? I do hope to get back to sewing again someday, but coming to peace with my body shape and a good fit of the pattern is going to have to come first. Thanks for your post!

    • Your frustration sounds so familiar! I have felt that a lot over the years, and still do sometimes. Achieving a good fit is no mean task. I don’t have the structural visualization skills of a pattern maker, so it was a turning point in my sewing history when I found a sewing teacher who could perfect fit for me.

      I started this blog partly to address frustrations like these. Stay tuned. If you want to sew again, I want you to succeed!

  2. Beautifully reasoned and written. I think THE CHART method of organization offers itself to a variety of artist’s and craftsperson’s challenges. I’ve forwarded your blog on to several fellow artists and sewers/knitters. Keep up the great work. Looking forward to your next post.

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