The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Taking the No RTW Challenge

This year more and more are taking this challenge  from Sarah’s Blog to my Social Network profiles, I see this more and more.



Of course I’m thrilled.  I’ve been doing this for so many years, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to go shopping.  Anytime I want or need anything, I just pull something out of my stash and trace off a pattern and I’m into the middle of the project before I know what’s happened.

And remember I’m working at 2 jobs here – my design clients and my students.  So I work like a lot of the rest of you, (actually when you have your own company, the joke is you get to choose which 18 hours a day you get to work!!!)  but I also set up blocks of time so that I can sew.  I have certain goals that I schedule and go through  my checklist.

Sometimes some goals take longer than others, sometimes they are shorter.  When they’re shorter, I go onto the next step;  when they are longer, I quit when my block of time is up.  This sounds pretty regulated, but what happens when you do this is that you can tackle those larger tasks.  Currently I’m getting ready to do a cowboy-esque Ultrasuede jacket.  Now there is no way I can finish that today on my day off, but because I’m scheduling this in blocks, I can easily manage the time and finish this jacket by the middle of the month.  I’m making a muslin cause I have to make some extensive changes to the collar of this pattern, and Ultrasuede is not something I want to mess up!!!  The way you sew Ultrasuede is: it’s not easy to take out stitches and redo seams – you can, but it’s hard to keep them from showing where you took out the seam, so this kind of fabric screams: MUSLIN!!!

But here’s the thing.  I’m going to have a great jacket that will last me for 5 or more years (to be honest, and I’m not exaggerating here, most of my clothes go through at least 10 years before I remake them or send them onto their second owner.)  And It will have cost me a pittance in time to what RTW would have costs.  Say I found a great jacket at a super price – how could I loose?….so I purchase it; it lasts 5 months (maybe), and I’m off searching for another jacket….hours through the piles and rows of clothes and the store after store after store, not finding that perfect jacket that I had once.

But if I make it – with some time-investment, BOOM!  It’s done, and something that will last for years. And there is this, which has happened to me more than once, when I do find a particularly great pattern, I can make it up again, I don’t have to go through hours and hours and days and days of shopping to find it!

What do you end up with:  closet


This what my closet looks like (yes, I love green and red), but all my clothes speak to me this way.  I enjoy wearing each of these garments.  Now I don’t wear the unlined linen jacket these days, and I don’t wear the heavy cord jacket during the summer, but I get to choose from all the things I love in  my closet – that’s the way it should be!  There are 3 items in this closet I did not make (but I did remodel them some so they would work in my closet).  And granted this is over a large period of time (I’ve been sewing my own clothes for decades), but this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for you.

It’s not.  But you gotta start.

Here’s a quick glance at part of my stash and yes, it’s green too (with a little red, rust, mellow yellow, cream and all my fav colors)!!!


Starting is the hardest part.  And don’t let it get the best of you.

Pick out a project that is a little easier and doable for you.  This jump starts you and gets you into wanting to do something a little more.  Block out your time so you don’t feel overwhelmed if a project takes more than a day or two.  Be gentle with yourself while you’re learning and don’t over schedule for a block of time – I like to under schedule so that when I meet the schedule, I’m pumped to go on!  This doesn’t mean that I want you to think you can do a project that is less than what you can do – it means that I want you to have realistic and positive expectations.  If you’re doing good to do a top, don’t take on a jacket, do a shirt;  if you’re doing good to finish a gathered skirt, don’t take on a tailored fitted pant; do a knit gathered waist pant, or work out the length for a long skirt (do your croquis – and that’s not an exercise!!!!)

But START.  If you don’t start, you certainly can’t accomplish anything, so start a project, enjoy the process (make realistic expectations), and you will grow project by project.

But you can’t grow if you don’t start!


  1. Love your stash: It says “A Redhead Lives Here!”

    I’m doing the RTW fast too (though I don’t have a blog and thus haven’t formally joined). I’m tired of being subjected to stupid fashion whims (pants that don’t sit at the natural waist, I’m looking at you)….

  2. You are so right, if you don’t start you’ll never get anything done! The only thing I’ve been buying is yoga pants. Why? I haven’t really found the right fabric to make them. But, other than that I make everything except underwear and an occasional cashmere sweater. It’s a nice feeling. I can afford much better quality sewing than I can at RTW and I have high standards!

  3. Another great post Claire.
    I would love to be the person that makes all or most of my clothes.
    I love the idea. An issue for me is finding really good quality fabric that would with stand 5 years of wear.
    I usually buy from my local fabric store but they don’t have the fabric variety that most people have in the bigger cities. I buy the best I can find here and Ordering online is sometimes a gamble and shipping costs are unreal to Canada 🙁
    (I’ve been looking for over a year for quality denim to make jeans) Angela Wolf has great denim but shipping is as much as the fabric.
    All obstacles that can be handled but makes it a little more challenging.
    Love your posts and your motivation 🙂

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