Sewing Plans 2012: The Tim Gunn 10 Essential Items Challenge!

One thing I have noticed about my sewing – I seem to make a lot of things I would NEVER buy from a store.  I don’t think I would ever spend money on things like a green wool coat (too expensive), a snake print trench (too frivolous), or a very fitted party dress (because I would never find one that fit in RTW).  And yet, when I make them I really like them and look for excuses to wear them.  I wonder if it is just me, but do other home sewers tend to make things they could never justify purchasing if they were buying ready-made clothes?  Or do they simply make things they would buy, only better fitted and with fancier construction techniques?

On the one hand, I end up with some pretty great unique clothes that I love.  On the other hand, sometimes I am left pondering what I should wear because I am lacking some pretty basic wardrobe items.  I mean, yes, I have a fabulous green wool coat.  But sometimes I need something in basic black and the option just isn’t there.

Thinking about this, I started to ponder what my sewing goals for the next year would be.  I mean, there aren’t a lot of construction techniques I am dying to try (I have done welt pockets, fly front zippers, pad stitched hair canvas, and threaded a serger.  While I do need to work on making my results neater, there isn’t really any one technique that freaks me out or that I have been afraid to try.  I suppose there are some serger techniques I want to experiment with, my bound buttonholes need a lot of work, and I do want to play with dying fabric, but I figure I will use these techniques when I find a need for them).

And there isn’t really any particular type of garment I haven’t made (well, maybe not jeans or a gown with boning, but I don’t really want to make one just for the sake of making it), so I can’t really think of anything there either.  So I suppose my overall goals have more to do with filling holes in my wardrobe than with adding techniques to my repertoire.  Not that I don’t want to learn new techniques, but more that I don’t want that to be the focus of my sewing next year.

Instead, I think my goal is to test out patterns that can be used for wardrobe staples and search for some great TNT patterns.  I have already started my quest for the perfect pant, but I am thinking it might be good to look for other TNT type patterns as well.  I know a lot of people make all sorts of sewing challenges for themselves (like the jacket-a-month or SWAP or participating in PattenReview contests, etc.), and I thought this might be a great year for me to try my own personal sewing challenge.

I have decided to give myself the Tim Gunn’s 10 Essential Items Sewing Challenge!

A while ago Tim Gunn had his own TV show – Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style – wherein he helped women put together a wardrobe that was flattering, stylish, and versatile.  Looking through references, I have decided I will use Tim’s guidelines to help me set my own sewing goals this year, although I will make some changes to my own list.  So, on my list of things to make are:

(1) Basic black dress.  I have been long in need of a LBD, and I already know I want to use a pattern from last July’s Burda:


I plan to use a stretch cotton sateen fabric purchased from Mood online for this dress.

(2) Trench coat in a classic neutral color.  Well, I already made a snake print trench, but I can see the appeal of having a more versatile one in my closet.  Not to mention that I already have some fabric and another pattern all picked out:

BWOF-09-2006-103 – The ultimate classic trench

(3) Classic trousers.  I have already made a few pants patterns, so if this doesn’t happen this year I will give myself a pass since I already love Vogue 1051.  However, since I like to wear pants I expect I will be testing out a few new patterns anyway.  Also, although the recommendation from Tim is for basic black, I will settle for any color as long as the fit is good.  I do have some nice grey fabrics in the stash that are just waiting to be made into pants.  Some styles I want to try:

Burda 7284
BS-04-2011-104 – The Pants that launched my Burda obsession
BS-10-2011-127 – The pants that launched my Burda subscription

(4) Classic white shirt.  I am going to change this one a bit and go with “classic button down shirt” instead.  Though more versatile, white isn’t my favorite color, and since I want to use up some of the stash I am going to aim for finding a great fit rather than making a white shirt.  I plan to use some of my $1.99 stretch cotton poplin, as well as some of my Joann red tag fabric to test out these patterns.  Some patterns I am considering are:


(5) Jeans.  I own a lot of RTW jeans, so I won’t consider it a failure if I don’t manage to hit this one on the list either.  Especially since I recently found jeans in a dark wash with wide-flare legs that are as close to perfection as one can expect from RTW.  I am positive that Mr. Gunn would heartily approve.  However, I have resigned myself to the fact that RTW jeans will ALWAYS gap at the waist, so learning to make my own would be a good plan.  I would be willing to give a go with one of my jeans patterns:


I am really digging that Vogue pattern.  Although, of course, I could always go with the infamous (and recently acquired) Jalie jeans pattern…

The ultimate jeans pattern – Jalie 2908

(6) Any occasion top.  Hmmmm.  I have lots of knits in the stash and lots of patterns too.  However, I am thinking of making a previously-tested pattern in black for this one.  Although this won’t help my goal of testing new patterns, it will help me fill my need for classy tops that go with everything.  At the moment I really want to make another version of M6078 in black:

I would love another of view A and view B, though B is probably more verstile

Although having a black/silver top from S3536 could be great too:

I want another View D – with the neck jewels.

And I could see trying out Simplicity 1945 as well:

Green shirt could be quite classy.

(7) Skirt.  This is another item sorely lacking in my wardrobe, so although I don’t wear them often, it would probably be good to think about making one.  So many great options from Burda, but I am most heavily considering:

BS-07-2011-112 – love the pockets, but need to un-petit-ify
BS-08-2011-122 – very slim but still has pockets
S2451 – I would make the grey version
V8749 – I would make the short or mid-length version.

(8) Day dress.  I am thinking about going a little more classy with this and maybe using one of my cottons from Yoder’s in Shipshewana?  I have a few other fabrics that could make a cute day dress as well.  For patterns I am considering:

Burda 7388
Burda 7475 – I would make the short version
Burda 7696 – I would make the dress version, clearly

(9) Jacket.  I already have a decently fitting navy RTW blazer I needed to get for an event last year, so with this item I want to make something a little more special and a little less classic.  Although I have a LOT of great jacket patterns, I want to use something where I can utilize fabric from my stash.  My top contenders:

BS-07-2011-119 – I have the perfect teal poplin for this jacket.
BWOF-05-2006-107.  Possibly in my fancy textured Shipshewana wool?
BWOF-08-2006-101B.  A more casual option
Patrones Extra Fiesta No. 9 – Style #20, perhaps in my metallic cotton?
Patrones Extra Fiesta No. 9 – Styles #9 and #10
Patrones Extra Joven No. 10 – Style #32

(10) Sweatsuit Alternative. For this I am considering some more of my great BS-06-2011-114 pants and a simple knit top.  I will consider this a success if I try out a new shirt pattern, but I can re-use the pants I made before, but in a more appropriate material:

My alternative pants.
Maybe the top from this Simplicity pattern?
The pants look similar to the Burdas…

(BONUS) An indulgent trendy item.  Since this is my self-imposed challenge, I am going to change this a bit and give myself a few extra items in here:

(1) A Raincoat.  I really really need one, and I have the perfect fabric and pattern all picked out.  Although this could go in the trench category, bright blue isn’t the most classic color, so I will consider this a separate trendy item.  I also plan on using a second Burda pattern to add a removable hood!  Very excited about this project, though a bit nervous to work with the water-resistant material.

(2) Another wool coat.  I have a growing stash of wools, and a lot of coat patterns, so I have included this on the list more for de-stashing purposes than because I really need another wool coat.  But since this is a sewing challenge as much as a wardrobe challenge, I think it is justified.  I can’t decide if I want to go lightweight or super thick and warm, but I do want to use a pattern from Knipmode, Patrones, or My Image for some of their great coat patterns.  Or I could make one of the more lightweight Shetland wool jackets from Butterick or McCall’s patterns.  And, of course, I have a ton of Burdas I want to make up as well…

(3) One super fabulous high end RTW knockoff.  I don’t usually copy specific RTW much, but I have been looking at a few websites and found some great inspirations.  Although I haven’t settled on which way I will be going with this yet, I have two main inspirations that I really really want to copy, though perhaps with some color and slight design changes.  Although I already have some stash fabric in mind, this will be the one item from my Bonus List that I will be allowing myself to make major non-stash purchases to complete, since I will be looking for very specific additional components.

(4) A great party dress.  I know the LBD is great for multitasking, but sometimes you just want to have a wow moment.  And I have a lot of pretty fabric I could use for this item.  Not to mention all the fabulous party dress patterns Burda came out with the past few months.  I know I made my lace dress this past year, but for this party dress I want to go for a more sparkly evening look.  It can be either short or long, but it MUST use some fabric from my stash.

(5) One “unexpected” trendy item.  This could be any item with a silhouette, details, or fabric that I wouldn’t normally wear.  In an attempt to expand my fashion sense, this could be something with ruffles, or a lot of volume, a crazy color, a jumpsuit, skinny jeans, or some crazy Burda pants.  At the moment I am leaning more towards interesting shirts or pants, as those have a higher chance of getting worn, even if they are a bit on the crazy side.  One thing about sewing is that while I often use interesting fabric, I tend to stick with patterns that are “safe” and I want to try to push my bounds a little bit.

(6) Any item from my “sewing plans” list that does not fall into any of these other categories.  If it is on my list then I already have a pattern and fabric, so this will help with de-stashifying goals.

Also, since this is a sewing challenge, a few additional goals:

(1) Try to use at least one pattern from each of the major sources in my stash.  This means I should try to use at least one BWOF/BurdaStyle Magazine, one Burda envelope, one Jalie, one Butterick, one McCall’s, one Simplicity, and one Vogue.  I also have KwikSew, but those are mostly for skating, so I won’t consider them as part of this challenge.  Also, since my sister found me some European sewing magazines, I will also try to use at least one pattern from any of those magazines this year.  My inclination has been leaning more towards using Burda of late (since the fit is so great for me), but I want to feel justified in stashing my Big4 patterns as well, hence this rule.  I will consider this goal met if I use one new pattern from each of these companies next year, even if it is not to complete an item for this challenge.

(2) Try to use as much stash fabric as possible.  While purchases of notions (buttons, zippers, thread, interfacing, etc.) will be allowed, as well as purchases of lining fabric if necessary, my goal is to make as many of these items out of my stash fabric as possible.  I am already going to make an allowance for the RTW knockoff bonus item, and maybe also the skirt as well.  However, I have plenty of options for sewing trousers, a jacket, and the trench.  I also have some fabric that could be used for the day dress, and the various shirts on the list.

(3) The ultimate goal is to make 12 out of the 16 items listed (since it is 2012!), but at least 7 of them must be from the main list, and at least 3 from my bonus items list.  This means I will essentially be attempting to make an item a month for this challenge.  Since I know I will be making skating costumes and other things in the coming year as well, I wanted to give myself a little leeway in terms of completed items, especially since so many of them are time consuming things like coats, button down shirts, and lined dresses.  Although using a few pre-tested patterns may help me make up some of that time, along with the use of my serger, which will make sewing knits much quicker.

So those are my plans for 2012!  Should be interesting to see if I meet these goals or abandon them partway through the year so I can do what I want when I want because I want to.  You may have noticed I want to sew these items from my stash – but I made little mention of reducing stash income.  Indeed, I don’t plan on imposing a stash diet as of yet – I have only been sewing for about two and a half years, so my stash hasn’t gone totally insane.  Though we are headed in that direction….

So, what about you, other sewers on the internets?  Are you setting up plans and goals for the coming year, or do you sew on a whim?  Do you feel the need to justify the stash of patterns and fabric, or are you content to let it be what it will be?  Any particular patterns listed above that you are dying to see made up?  What “trendy items” would you put on your sewing list?  Does anyone want to join me on my challenge and attempt to make a Tim Gunn approved wardrobe in the coming year?

4 thoughts on “Sewing Plans 2012: The Tim Gunn 10 Essential Items Challenge!

  1. Oooh, I have been eyeing off that first Burda pattern for your LBD for some time too… I think the lines would be very flattering on just about any body shape. A few others you've got here I just recently acquired too – like the vogue jeans pattern, and I almost went for the Vogue shirt/blouse one, but went with an OOP McCall's once instead. No real reason why.

    I really like the idea of planning out what to make – too often I get distracted by beautiful fabric and singular patterns that I forget about the bigger picture. Looking forward to seeing what you make!


  2. I know you've already seen my plans so I won't repeat them here 🙂 Your plan is a lot better than mine in many ways because I know that my plan means I'm going to end up with quite a few “orphan” garments, unless I add even more sewing this year, which is possible but not very likely. Still, just about everything can be worn with black or white. I like loads of the items you've picked, but BWOF-07-2006-118 (the check, bias cut skirt) is just gorgeous.


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