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Not So Basic

Tap into the creative potential of basics.

Posted in: Creativity & Mindset • December 31, 2016


A pencil skirt, jeans, a trench coat, a T-shirt, a button-up. What do all these things have in common? They are what fashion magazines and other media outlets have told us are "essential basics" for our entire adult lives.

Though some might offer that basics are boring, I am here to argue the opposite. What provides more options than a blank canvas? When you start with a clean slate, especially with sewing, the opportunity to create special details grows.

But I didn't always feel that way. I used to belong to the "more is more" school of thought. Ten years ago, if you asked me to draw a picture of a T-shirt you would have gotten a pretty standard image of a T-shirt, mostly because I had no interest in them. In those days, I thought basics were the death of good fashion and I gave them little thought. I mean, why would I want to wear a white T-shirt when I could wear a neon-colored shift dress I thrifted for just under a dollar?

While working on this issue of Seamwork, I realized something—my perception of wardrobe basics has completely morphed over the last decade. This change can be largely attributed to sewing and the creative fuel it provides me.

Today, if you asked me to draw that very same picture of a T-shirt, I would set to work drawing dozens of "dream T-shirts." At their core these garments would have some similarities, but you would see variation in the details—different necklines to suit different silhouettes, contrast bands for a pop of color, playful cutouts for a unique look, I could go on.

When I think about it, this is the exact same way I look at every sewing pattern. I never just see a sheath dress, I see the endless possibilities that the sheath dress offers. With just a few little tweaks and well-chosen fabric I could make a dress that no one else has. Every sewing project gets me wondering, "What if I...?"

In this issue of Seamwork we explore the creative potential behind basics. Learn to draft in-seam pockets for any garment, find out how a bike-messenger-turned-sewing-teacher is empowering people to sew, and learn techniques to help upgrade a favorite basic, the T-shirt.

This month's patterns will inspire you to update your closet with some fresh basics. Jane is a classic T-shirt that features a crew neck and short sleeves. Check out this month's edition of Upgrade Your Sewing to learn how to add rolled-cuff tabs to the sleeves. Block Paper Scissors walks you through drafting a tie hem extension for Jane.



Margo is a midi-length pencil skirt that vintage lovers and trend followers will both love. The curve-hugging shape of Margo is flattering and sexy, but boasts the comfort of knitwear. Be sure to check out Fabric Expert for fabric suggestions ranging from classic to bold.

As always, I can't wait to see what amazingly creative garments you sew up with this month's patterns.


Haley Glenn
Editor and Sewing Maven

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