Susan sent us this text this morning and it got us thinking about scheduling for specific projects and seasons. She had been working like crazy to get this project finished and because we laid out the process – really planned and scheduled it – we were able to get it done at a good pace and still have some fun with the process.
We go on a lot about scheduling and what you will want to plan as a home sewer, seamstress, designer, or tailor. We thought we’d write for a bit about that this morning. There are three basic divisions when we talk about scheduling and how it relates to sewing projects:
1. Those projects that have to be worn or used for a specific event or as client projects due by a specific date.
2. Those projects that are big “core” projects that your sewing world will focus on for a while.
3. Quick wins like basic 3-4 season garments (knit or woven) or small projects from your pile of unfinished stuff.
We like to try to help you guys make sewing and design a little, if not easier, at least a little less stressful – so let’s go through the three and talk about them. Keep in mind these are the kinds of guidelines we like to use around here to keep things flowing smoothly – nothing we are about to tell you is written in stone:
Project Category #1
Let’s start with projects that have a specific due date. If you or the person you are sewing for has a specific date in mind, i.e. “This dress is for my wedding on 2 September 2018”, then you have some things to get in order. We like to tell people that their stuff needs to be finished, cleaned, and wearable two weeks before the event. Not two days, not hemming it the morning of the event at 2 a.m., but a full two weeks before the event. If you automatically block the two weeks out before the date, then you can really plan what you need to plan to avoid surprises.
And this, we’d add, is the one point where people get the most upset – everyone: client, sewers designers – everyone. Lack of planning and overestimation of your own abilities and timelines are the THE biggest issues when it comes to garments with a due date whether you are sewing them for your son’s wedding or the woman who just hired you to make some confection for her Fall wing-ding.
So, if we are using the “due 2 weeks before” model, and the 2 September date we mentioned above, we’d plan it out working backwards like this:
Due to be worn: 2 September
Fully finished, cleaned, and ready by: 19 August
Final two-weeks finishing: 30 July – 12 August
Main construction: 16 July – 29 July
Corrected garment entirely cut and ready to sew: 2 July – 15 July
Final Fabric decision & Acquisition: End of June – beginning of July
Initial muslin stages & fitting: 4 June – 1 July
Pattern decisions & selection: Throughout May
Initial design and construction thoughts begin: April – May
Once you’ve worked it out roughly in 2-4 week blocks, then fine-tune the schedule like this:
• For a 2 September event, we’d start in April or May, perhaps a little earlier, researching what the wearer would like and how they want to look. You can use Google images, Pinterest, Instagram, or any pattern book. Print things out or pin them, but start to brainstorm. Sketch if you can and list things you don’t want as well as those you do.
• Once you have narrowed down the process, getting into April and May you want to be thinking about patterns and shapes. If you have found a pattern to use or adapt: Great! If not: Decide. Ask people. Think about shapes you already own and like to wear. But the time is coming to get into it.
• For a 2 September event and a 19 August due date you should already have the idea and should ideally be working on something by the end of May.
• From early June through early July you should be working on the fittings and shaping of the muslin and developing a pattern that you use on the fashion fabric. You want this right, so give yourself time.
• From July on you will be working on the real fabric and the real dress. If you have prepared and prepped, it should be fine. Give yourself a minimum of four weeks. If you are a professional, especially if you have to travel a lot or have a family, take all of that into account. Maybe plan an extra two weeks instead of four and start earlier.
• The first couple of weeks in July should be the main cutting and construction of the garment – linings, zippers, sleeves, shells, whatever. This is usually the fastest part of the process. We like to say that a good 75% of your sewing time should be on details. Realize this now. You don’t slow down when you see the finish line 100 yards in the distance.
• The second couple of weeks in July are more construction, but fine tuning the details of it.
• The first two weeks in August are going to be finishing details and rounding up all the nubbins that get left behind in a rush. Are your basting stitches removed? Are your slipstitches firm and correctly placed, rather than lazy and long? Are you keeping the right balance in your thread as you hem it so that it doesn’t buckle or sag? Having two weeks for all the finishing helps get you in the right place – both in terms of the garment itself and your own mindset.
The only caveat we would add is that if you have a garment like this pink one that has a LOT of hand-worked beading or embroidery, you may want to account for it in the planning stages. Maybe add a week or two to give yourself a break and not lose it over a seed bead or sequin not laying right.
• The final week is just to tidy everything up and take it to the cleaners. You want to approach this with what the Stoics would call “Negative Visualization”. This is to say that you have to assume that anything that could go wrong, will. This isn’t being a Debbie Downer, but is preparing you for the final pressing at the cleaners and the myriad things that could go wrong. Hey, it happens, and because you’ve planned the project so well, you now have a couple of weeks to either fix it or shop for something else. But regardless of how it turns out, good, bad, or indifferent, you will have had a relaxing fun time working it all out. And that, our little sewing buddies, is where you want to be at the end of the project like this.
Project Category #2
So the first category is the biggie – you can make or break client relationships or people’s expectations if you don’t plan. The second category is a little more flexible.
When you are choosing a project to sew for yourself or someone else, think about the time you have to sew it, finish it, and plan accordingly. Essentially, you should think of it like a fashion designer or merchandiser: You sew and design for the next or some future season. It may not seem like the most fun starting a heavy wool coat project or a New Year’s Eve outfit in May or June, but the nice thing is that you can wear it as soon as you are finished.
Kanya is a good example of this. She started this heavy wool coat in June, even though fitting an underlined wool coat when it is 90 degrees outside seems absurd. But by the beginning of the Chicago Fall she was out and about in it.
What happens sometimes is that folks get seduced by Spring and Summer, start sewing something nice, only to finish it right as the leaves start to look a little sallow and the evenings get crisp. You may get one wearing out of that semi-sheer peasant blouse, but ten-to-one it is going in the closet until next Spring. We don’t press the issue up here with this second category – we’re more invested in getting people sewing generally and expressing themselves. But once you’ve made that first skirt, top, pants, wrap dress, or some ambitious lace confection – when you have basked in the admiration and delight of your friends, family, and coworkers – you should then start thinking about when the next garment will be finished. You will end up consistently happier if you take this into account.
Project Category #3
So category #3 is the loosest. It is when you will feel the freest to make and express, but there won’t always be tons of substance behind it like the other two. There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though:
• If you know that you are going to be working on a big project that will take some time, you may want to plan for a pallet cleanser or two to throw in and keep you going. Maybe a basic straight skirt, maybe an easy knit wrap dress, maybe a headband, for that matter. Make it part of the planning process and get those patterns ready and fitted/altered so that when you are exhausted by what seems like an unending 5 gallon bucket of seed beads you can take a break – a little breather – and work something cute up. Maybe even put that on when you start back into that bottomless bucket of beads. Maybe do it a couple of times. It helps divide the tedium of projects that may be rewarding but seem to have no end. It helps you remember that this really should be fun, after all.
• We talk about this second point in class a lot, and it relates not just to the Winters in Chicago, but to darkness in the soul generally – if you are someone who has a little trouble getting through the darker colder seasons – of the the soul or of the situation – then project category #3 is for you. Seasonal depression can’t be entirely knocked out by a cute pattern (trust us on this one), but it can give you a sense of accomplishment and remind you that things get better and you are a competent person capable of creation. And sometimes, our friends, that is exactly what you need on a dark and cold February evening.
So all of this is to say: If you think about the kind of projects you want to do and where they fit into your life, you can end up with better projects made with, if not outright joy, a kind of non-rushed pleasant pace. Think about the pace of your own sewing style, your actual time available, and what you want when you have finished it. These kinds of things are ultimately going to make you both a happier and more productive sewer. And please, be kind to yourselves about the process.