Sew, Wear Are They Now: Where Do I Sew From Here?

As seems to happen in my nearing-the-end-of-summer-but-not-quite-fall-yet posts, this is going to be a bit of a long ramble. If you actually want to read through all of this, you may require tea and cookies. You have been warned.

***

Going through my Sew, Wear Are They Now series has helped me realize a few things about what I do and don’t actually like to wear, and also hone in a bit more on what my “style” is. (And by “style” I mean I like nerdy, teal/grey/purple, shiny, or cozy things and I’m too old to put up with any sort of fussy or uncomfortable nonsense at this point in my life). However, the pandemic (and life in general) has really put me at a weird crossroads of what I actually want to do with my limited sewing hours.

The reality is, with work, side hustle, volunteer obligations, and just trying to be a person living life, sewing doesn’t have as much time in my schedule as it used to, which for me is really sad. I keep saying that I want to come back to it more, but the reality is I need to accept I have limited hours in a day, and that I can’t just crank out 1-2 garments per week like I did when I was just out of grad school with far different obligations, running on adrenaline, and not sleeping at all, ever. And while I still have a lot of sewing “plans” in the works, the honest truth is that my excitement levels for everything (not just sewing) all feel somewhat dulled at this point. I don’t know if this means I’m just getting old, or if it’s pandemic burnout, or just general life burnout from doing too many things too intensely for too long. But all told I’m sort of at this weird point of thinking I want to do things but not having enough energy or excitement to actually get them accomplished. So it sort of leaves me with a weird conundrum – do I sew practical things that I actually want to wear and will actually be useful, or do I sew fantastical crazy things to try and ignite the joy of creating again?

Part of this conundrum has to do with me coming to terms with my pandemic weight. The reality is that many (ok, most) of my pre-pandemic clothes just don’t fit comfortably anymore. I tend to be the sort of person that will wear clothes until they no longer fit or are rotting apart at the seams. But, since I’ve been living in PJs for 18 months, it feels like all of my clothes are now in one of these two categories. During the lock down I have been wearing a lot of self-sewn PJs, which are all disintegrating from constant wash and wear, but I haven’t had much need to wear a lot else. I really haven’t been wearing a lot of my other clothes, many of which I bought or made circa 2012, when I was at one of my lowest personal weights. I’d done something of a Konmari-style clean out a few years ago, but I’ve only done a minor closet clear outs since then. Ironically (or logically?), the me-made garments have the best fit of those that I can still wear, but they were also sewn for a very casual lifestyle. Which isn’t super helpful with a one-month deadline for return to office work looming in front of me. So now I find myself in this weird place where I’m getting rid of a lot of my clothes that don’t fit and likely won’t ever fit again unless I return to a multi-hour-per-day type workout schedule (which isn’t happening any time soon), storing a few things that probably will fit again if I get back to my pre-pandemic normal workout schedule, and pondering what I can do with the small amount of wardrobe items I have left. Honestly, if we were staying in pandemic work-from-home mode, I’d be fine with what I have. I can live with 2 or 3 Zoom-appropriate tops, a few snazzy pajama bottoms, and a few t-shirts and jeans that serve well enough for the few times I leave the house. I could sew at my current slow rate and build things out a few items at a time. But with actually needing to look “office appropriate” in the near-ish future, well, this just isn’t going to cut it. So I find myself pondering what, exactly, I can manage to “whip up” in the next few weeks just to get me through a hybrid work situation this fall, and then plan to sew like a fiend through the holidays to deal with whatever the winter and spring bring. This isn’t exactly joyful sewing though – it’s definitely a utilitarian “easier to make it than to buy it” approach, and isn’t exactly inspiring me to get back into the sewing room after recently blitzing through a bunch of yet-to-be-blogged white tops.

As something of a counter point to this, my sewing space semi-revamp from the start of the pandemic has also made me realize just how much stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. In some ways I’m coming to realize that I have “moved on” from a lot of my earlier sewing goals, plans, and ambitions, and that I can pretty easily talk myself out of the need for a metallic snake print trench coat right at this particular moment (or at all, really). But in other ways I’m realizing that I’m also sort of back to a point where I was when I first started. Originally I’d wanted to sew skating costumes (which I did for quite a while!) and costumes for cosplay. I’m past the point of needing skating costumes, but during the quarantine period I was finding something of a renewed interest in historical costuming and cosplay designs. It seems like there may be a lot of… issues in the historical costuming community though, and I honestly am not too enthused about being part of that. Of course, this sort of problematic behavior doesn’t apply to everyone, but it is sort of off-putting as an interested outsider/social-media observer who now really doesn’t want to have anything to do with the sort of events that hobby seems to promote. But I will say that I do have an interest in learning some historical garment construction techniques, improving my hand sewing, and maybe applying these skills to cosplay or even non-costume projects in the future. I’ve certainly watched a lot of “CosTube” videos since the start of the pandemic, and I have been really inspired by the different techniques and approaches that are utilized by the historical costuming and cosplay community; many of which I don’t really see being utilized by those of us who tend to follow more modern garment construction.

So, I find myself at a weird cross-roads of pondering where I sew from here. On the one hand, my current closet purge does give me a very blank slate from which to build out a “dream wardrobe,” and the Sew, Wear are they Now series gives me a good guide for where to go with it. Though with the current weird in-between state of the pandemic, I don’t really know what that wardrobe would even be for. On the other hand, I could just wait for Amazon Prime’s Wheel of Time series to come out and dedicate the rest of my sewing life to re-creating costumes and coming up with real-world casual cosplays or one of a kind couture creations inspired by the book series and the show. I mean, honestly, I’m not going to pretend like that might not just happen anyway, but since it doesn’t arrive until November it seems a tad premature to commit to a costume sewing obsession based off of a few behind-the-scenes shots and one promo poster. So, for the moment, I’m at a bit of a loss. Maybe I should just appreciate that this could be a good time to rest, and let the sewjo be low, and just get the bare minimum done to function as a clothed person who needs to re-enter a society that feels like it’s almost ready to lock itself up again. Maybe it’s also ok to wait for inspiration to strike. Either way it feels like I’m heading towards a very different phase of my sewing journey. There’s much less chaotic excited energy for sure. But after reviewing all of my sewn garments from the past decade, I’m realizing that so much of what I’ve done thus far really is a result of chaotic excited energy. I just haven’t really figured out if I need to try and find a way to being that chaotic excitement back, or if I should try to figure out where I can go without the driving force of the chaos fueling my sewing adventures. As of now, it’s definitely something that remains to be seen.


35 thoughts on “Sew, Wear Are They Now: Where Do I Sew From Here?

  1. thank you for your honesty, its refreshing. ive read your blogs for several years now and think youhave made a significant contribution to the home sewing community- i bet you have a LOT of company in the coming up deadline to get back in the office . i really like what you said. Do you care to disclose what your hesitation is with the reenactment historical costume thing? ive wondered about the culture. if it is the way i wonder it is, i would steer clear of it also.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to say this as someone who is not an active part of the historical costuming community but rather as someone who was an interested outsider watching things play out on social media, so all of this deserves a grain of salt and a big asterisk of “it’s a generalization” and not meant to point out specific individuals. I do feel that there is a large mix of people in historical costuming. My impression of the community is that some people are historians first and costumers second, and they generally seem to be very informed and thoughtful people. I really enjoy their work and following their adventures. Other people straddle there Cosplay/historical costuming line and seem to be very aware of social issues in the community and speaking up about them. Then there are some people who seem to be historical costumers first and historians second and it seems that a lot of their choices (that have been disclosed in social media lately) are at worst actively harmful or are at the very least dismissive of many of the traumatic histories of the eras/people they are portraying. I see a lot of reports about historical costuming events not being safe spaces. There is also a lot of visible racism in comments towards a lot of costumers in the community, and I’m just not sure I have the time, energy, and desire to be a part of that sort of atmosphere. I mean, there are certainly people speaking out against this problem or trying to change it, and I do want to follow and support the work of those people. I also hear lots of stories of gatekeeping and other issues that happen with modern sewing as well, but not to the same extent. So there is good and bad, but the overall sense I get from the community as a whole doesn’t really make me want to dedicate time and resources to be a part of it, even though I am enjoying some aspects of it and really appreciating the creativity and craftsmanship of many people who do it as a hobby or as a profession.

      Like

      1. wonderful answer and im very honored that you chose to answer my question in such depth and thoughtfulness. i totally agree. im 70 and really kind of repulsed by some of the aspects of the current culture. I didnt think i would have to debate these questions ever again. voting Rights ? A womans right to choose? its unbelievable to me.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I hear you. I have almost no skirts that fit, and I keep thinking maybe I’ll make some and get briefly enthused and bring out patterns, and then–why bother? I still have no return-to-office date. We were told to expect maybe-September, but with Delta numbers going up I think it’s quite possible we’ll be working from home for a while yet. And I have all the clothes I need and then some for a WFH lifestyle. Who knows what season or size I would be sewing these for?

    (Also I’ve been using the 30 Wears app, which lets you log the clothes you wear every day with the goal of wearing each item at least 30 times as a sustainability goal, and I’ve been shocked to learn how many of the favourites I could have sworn I wore “all the time” I have actually, in the last year, worn maybe 5-15 times. And that’s not including the office wear I obviously haven’t worn at all.)

    So I’ve been doing as many other slow crafts as I can. I learned how to knit and have been making a few tops for skills building, in the hopes of making an actual sweater, which would be a legitimate wardrobe hole. Embroidery, cross stitch, crochet, by the bucket-load, and mostly for giving away. I need something to keep my hands busy, but can’t justify making much in the way of clothes right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m in a similar boat, except it’s unlikely we’ll go back to the office more than once a month. I’ve taken up quilting to scratch that creative itch – some machine sewn and some hand sewing. The ‘pick up – put down’ nature of it works well with my life right now too.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I count how many times I wear my clothes so when I hear people say a garment is in constant rotation I wonder what that actually means. I enjoy counting wears and it means I wear all of my wardrobe but each item typically gets only 10 or 20 years per year.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s been sort of a weird year to consider wardrobe usage for sure. I’ve been wearing PJ pants basically since work from home started. Partly because lazy, partly because comfy, but mostly because my ridiculous Doctor Who PJs make me happy. As such I’m not really “changing” between day clothes and night clothes, so it’s a bit weird to consider or count “wears” because it might be multiple days of wear going by a calendar, but really only one “wear” in terms of changing clothes. But when I say constant rotation with these things, I have about 4 pairs of PJ pants that I have been using every day since WFH started. That’s a lot of wear time, so I’m not surprised by how much abuse the fabric has had and that it’s falling apart. Even my work at the office pants before the pandemic were getting worn 2-3 times per week, and I’d had them (but worn them with much less frequency) since about 2012. So I think when I have something I really like to wear, it definitely gets plenty of use, but the problem is that the cycle of *what* is being used got a bit broken, so now I need to change what I’m using and the things I had before either barely fit or don’t fit at all. I do have other wardrobe items that are barely worn (for special occasions) or because I never really liked them. Definitely need to re-assess which of these items still need to stay and which can go and make room for something I’ll like and use a lot more.

        Like

  3. As for building a minimal back to office wardrobe, I suggest you check out the Vivienne Files. Loads of examples, some starting with an art piece to choose colors (and you’ve already done that!) and a weekly timeless wardrobe series… start with a few neutrals then add in a few more things…and demonstrates how many real (not just math) outfits you can make. And keep in mind that most other people pay no attention to what you wear, so really a small wardrobe should get you through until you make the next round of decisions. And you can wear something more than PJs while WFH….might also help spark your creativity. I am not creative in PJs…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. and then there is your own exhaustive and rewarding examination of David Kibbe and his analysis of individual style.
        I have had his book since the 80’s.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve also debated the “joy” vs “practical” in what I sew, and I think I’ve come down (Konmari style) on the side of sewing what gives me joy, even if it’s impractical. I recently had a baby and so none of my clothes fit (and who knows if they will fit again), and I think I’ve come to accept that I just don’t have the time/bandwidth/money to sew a complete new wardrobe… so a few RTW essentials it is, and one or two fun outfits I’m excited to make. I always enjoy reading about whatever you choose to sew, or plan to sew, and the cosplay-ish capsule projects you do are fascinating. I would LOVE to see some wheel of time nods, even the ideas you sketch out but don’t have time to make.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I have been re-reading the books and it really is that sort of comforting thing I’ve been taking enjoyment from lately. I have high hopes for the TV series and right now it’s really the one thing I’m semi-excited about right now.

      Like

  5. This is so interesting and honest! I am somewhat in the same position and might be welcome to the office some days a week in October (depending of course). My solution right now is to read Susan Neall and look at Emily Hallman and really try to focus on remakes and simple garments, and not saving the good fabric for my dream projects because I want to wear it! A whole weekend is not available, but I might be able to squeeze in 20 minutes average a day. So my 1930s ladies tailoring book will have to wait while I dig into burda easy and easy to sew patterns.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for your honest post. I understand the changing interest in sewing with all that’s going on – I used to be quite active with making cosplay and my interest in creating new things was ripped out from under me in March 2020: I had really pushed to get a new outfit ready for a con (She-Ra from the Netflix series), so there were lots of late nights to sew and do prop work. I got to the con the night before it started, and the whole thing was cancelled the next morning. All that buildup and no payoff. It really sucked all the joy out of cosplay for me, and having a kid under 12 means I’m not safe to go out to big events still as there’s no vax for kids yet.

    I’m in a job where I’ve been working from home long before COVID, so I have no need for office wear. I’ve made some skirts and dresses because I like them, but they mostly just get worn to church.

    So (sew) what I have been doing instead? Masks, of course – a whole stack for back to school. I’ve made a few clothing items (a skirt for me, a cycling shirt for my husband), picked at a cosplay here and there (a Link tunic), and mostly I’ve been sewing plushies. Not to sell, but for my own enjoyment and giving a few as gifts. I’d done an artist alley table at conventions in the past, but it’s kind of liberating to sew plush because I want to, not because I’m hoping it will sell. I’ve discovered a few amazing plush patternmakers and their designs are inspiring me to create. Especially because there is no worry about a plush “not fitting in 6 months when things reopen”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d take the age thing out of the lack of excitement about sewing. I don’t know of any sewing blogger, no matter what their age, that hasn’t dealt with this at some point, especially since this virus stuff started. And for some, the endless sewing of masks is what finally sucked the last bit of joy from their sewing.

    I used to buy far more patterns than I’d ever sew, and for things I’d never wear. Finally I realized I was buying patterns for a life & style I don’t have, like dresses. Not to mention the time/energy for sewing that existed in my mind only. I tried really hard not to buy fabric with no plan – that was a bit more successful but I still have far too much that doesn’t go with much else. I cut way back when I realized that retirement was looming and I’d have little need for work clothes. Now a pattern has to have a very high “how’d they do that?!” factor before I’ll buy.

    Now instead of clothing, my sewing is more toward the quilting side. And my interest in needlework has reappeared. Now, if I could just make the hideous task of mending DH’s jeans disappear….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The mask sewing has been sort of draining, for sure. Making a single mask is sort of gratifying (it’s quick, I can use fun fabric, and I’m helping society), but when it gets into full production mode and I’m cranking them out for people… it’s a lot. I keep threatening to be done making them, but I also keep going back to it because there is a need.

      One thing though is that I am really loving using my stash a lot more than buying new patterns or fabric. I did buy a few patterns that I’d had on a wish list for a long time, but I’m not mass buying at sales like I used to. I definitely have a really great collection and I am more inspired by what I have than what I don’t have. I just keep doing other things rather than sewing because the energy level isn’t there.

      Like

  8. I dunno, I quite enjoy sewing things that are simple and that fill holes in my wardrobe. If you don’t have holes in your wardrobe, don’t beat yourself up about not sewing all the time. There are other ways of filling time. As for office clothes, they can be stylish and comfortable. That can be a goal in its own right, finding something that looks presentable but also pajama-comfy. Great quality fabrics and elastic waists are your friend 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I loooove the historical costumes I see out there but I know for a fact I do not have the patience or perfectionism to make clothes like that look nice, much less historically accurate. But with your costume making background and your interest in learning new techniques I can easily see this becoming your new obsession.

    But losing interest is certainly not surprising right now. There is too little going on in our lives to provide any inspiration, but at the same time we are too busy to be able to focus on a task unless it’s work-related. I think hobbies and interests go in cycles, and creative people don’t always stay focused on one creative outlet. I have gone through three sewing cycles in my life: one as a teenager when I discovered I could make pants long enough for my legs, another in my 30s when I wanted designer suits but couldn’t afford to buy them, and then again in my late 50s when I realized sewing clothes could just be a lot of fun. Between those times, which lasted anywhere from 2 to 10 years, I completely lost interest in sewing. I’m in the middle of a non-sewing cycle right now and I’m just going with the flow. My interest will come back, I’m sure. And so will yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Maybe purchase a few quality if boring basics that can mix/match with other more special items you sew? Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have the perfect wardrobe. Perhaps sew a few simple but elegant knit (forgiving) dresses to accessorize? Anyway, be kind to yourself as you ease back in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like Lily Tomlin in “9 to 5”. she wore a kimono when working but she whipped on a navy blazer, very boring, when she had to go talk to Dabney Coleman

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You have my sympathy! Suzanne is dead right: I’d be inclined to buy a few clothes to tide myself over the return to the office as nothing sucks the joy out of sewing like having to make pieces you’re not enthused about.

    I also struggle with finding time to sew. What works for me right now is having a couple of slots a week which I know I’ll be able to sew in (kid in bed, husband engaged on his own hobbies) and sticking to those. Even if I’m not feeling it when I start sewing that usually wears off after ten minutes and I’m glad I made the effort afterwards. I do the planning side of things while commuting on public transport – thank goodness for smartphones and having made an online list of my pattern stash. I also find the Burdanavigator app is great for inspiration – it’s like having my whole Burda stash in my pocket. And TBH the planning bit is one of the most fun parts of sewing anyway. I’ve also found that more careful advance planning means more productive sewing for me, no more running off after the next cool pattern all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for sharing your sewing/life feelings, it’s refreshing to have a honest article about this. I, too, lack of enthusiasm when i try to start sewing something. zero projects finished since may. As one comment above i had a baby in october 2020, so no projects for me as body was gonna change, no projects for baby as she has 2 older cousins, it was a long break far away from the machines. Work from home has taken a part of my sewing room… 😦 now my silhouette has changed and even if we can go 1 day per week at the office, i feel like i need comfort clothes, even there. I don’t really know what i want to sew, neither what i need, i keep wearing the same things and even if i’m a regular donator of clothes (2 per year) and with lockdown i sort & gave again a lot (3 big trash bags) of clothes, I have this feeling that i should clean up again and start over. The good point of all this is that it’s been 6 month without buying fabric 🙂 I hope the local culture house will open again in September to subscribe to the sewing group, and see again the sewing friends 2h30 on friday night

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am right there with you. I definitely lack my normal sewjo and it is tough! I LOVE sewing and I know that it’ll likely return, I just really dislike when my sewjo takes a dive.

    I have realized that I’m just not interested in anything super complex right now, so that’s helpful. I’m making a shirt dress, which has a lot of steps, but it isn’t a complicated sew. Luckily, I can fit pants from LOFT pretty readily and just ordered 5 pair of pants a size bigger than I previously wore. Hoping at least a few work.

    Maybe there’s a TNT pant pattern in the stash that you just need to tweak the fit on (vs starting over)? I’m also way more on board with elastic waist trouser/pants than I used to be!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I found myself nodding along to an awful lot of your post. For me, somehow clothes don’t seem to fulfil quite the same function as before the pandemic – they’re more practical than enjoyable, and I feel under pressure to only create things that fit my current shape and style, will be worn often, and are (relatively) sustainable. But while that’s exactly what I initially set out to achieve, those resolutions have also sucked some of the fun out of sewing – I feel guilty now buying/trying anything that I’m not 100% certain will be used until it falls apart. Sewing up some of my stash has felt rewarding, though, and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with some smaller crafting projects, altering RTW clothes that didn’t fit, and trying some other, cheaper (!) fibre crafts. I don’t have any answers for you, but I’m hoping the ‘new term’ vibe that September often brings will help me work out what to do next. Here’s hoping you find some inspiration too.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I think we’re pretty much all in the same boat here, having to start from scratch and not knowing what to start for. First, one bit of reassuring thought: many companies were planning to be all flapping open by September, most are now saying January, but it’s silly to make any plans, the delta is going to keep us shut down for a while longer. So don’t panic too much at the thought of full-time office life yet.

    The pandemic pushed me out of work, so I have accepted that my life will actually be spent in pjs for a large part. I am making sure I have enough (6 rather than 3), that they are frenetically cheerful, that I love them all. Another weird thing is that I generally don’t get dressed for a whole day any more, I might go out of the house 3 times a week but for an hour at a time, it seems wasteful to do laundry for so little so I can end up in the same public outfit for a week. So there isn’t as much need for multiples. I like your idea of a good array of zoom tops though, and lately I have been focusing on the ideal bralette, something more comfortable than nothing but never another wire.

    If I were you, I would cheer myself up with a new batch of pjs, the wilder the better. Be prepared for an office appearance by adding a couple pairs of neutral pants to complement the existing zoom tops. Maybe a cardigan to do triple duty at home, zoom and work. Remember your co-workers are in the same boat, few will be equipped as fashion models either. You can do this new life thing gently. .

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’d recommend the Vivienne Files too for office wear. They are so specific and colour coordinated, you’re bound to find one that would do the job. Easy to make up a few quick sets of trousers and shell tops in appropriate colours, and buy in some jerseys or other toppers. This would be enough to get you going, then you could branch out into your more individual style things. Dr Who pjs sound good too 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for your vulnerability & honesty. I, like others who posted, can identify with many of the things you face – low excitement level for most things (I dabble in many hobbies), pre-pandemic clothes that don’t fit, work changes (I’ve stopped work instead of having to go back to the office). I started seeing a counselor when my gut said the lack of energy and motivation wasn’t a good place to be and have been diagnosed with adjustment disorder (depressive). The pandemic and my own life changes have been harder than I had realized. Talking with my counselor has helped tremendously and I hadn’t realized the amount of grief that I had bottled up from the things that we all have lost as a result of COVID. … So I say, go easy on yourself rather than forcing anything (sewing or otherwise). Look into getting help. Buy a small wardrobe of work clothes or if you can summon the energy, sew a small number to round out what you have (hopefully with easy/TNT patterns) … And know that you are not alone. Sending prayers your way! – Claudine … PS: I’ve tremendously enjoyed reading your super detailed & helpful Kibbe posts – I was in a conundrum, Soft Classic or Soft Natural till your posts cleared it up – SN! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to SA Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.