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Episode 87

How Can I Get More Wear Out of the Things I Sew?

This episode talks about the four main reasons you might not want to wear something you've made, how to plan to make things you'll get more use out of, and a quick exercise you can do at home to help you brainstorm ideas for future projects.

Sometimes you put a lot of effort into making something and it just sits in your closet. You never put it on. You never really want to put it on. Why does that happen? And how can you prevent your sewing projects from going unworn?

In this episode, Sarai and Haley talk about the four main reasons you might not want to wear something you’ve made, how to plan to make things you’ll get more use out of, and a quick exercise you can do at home to help you brainstorm ideas for future projects.

Podcast Transcript

Sarai
Welcome back to Seamwork Radio. Today we’re talking about how you can get more wear out of the things you sew. We’re going to cover the four main reasons you might not want to wear something you’ve made, how to plan to make things you’ll get more use out of, and a quick exercise you can do at home to help you brainstorm ideas for future projects. Okay, our ice breaker today, this one comes from Deborah D. And she asks, are there fabrics you absolutely love or would burn in massive bonfires if you could, and why? I thought I misread that at first. You love or would burn in massive bonfires. What do you think, Haley?

Haley
Okay, I’ll start with the good fabric. I love wool. I love sewing with it. I love the way it presses. I love wearing it. It’s probably one of my favorite fabrics to work with, and I don’t get to work with it very often. And my loathed fabric is probably acrylic. Anything with, like, a high acrylic fiber content. It’s just like when I touch it, it gives me the yuck.

Sarai
Yeah.

Haley
It’s just like something about it. I instantly feel sweaty. Instantly.

Sarai
Yeah.

Haley
Not good vibes for me.

Sarai
Yeah. I’m not a big fan of acrylic, mostly with yarn for knitting is where I encounter acrylic a lot, and it’s not my favorite. It does have, like, a kind of a plasticky feel to it, although there are some sometimes acrylic blend yarns can be really nice.

Haley
Yeah. I guess what I’m thinking, like, I have wool on the brain very clearly right now, but when you’re going through the coating section and you’re feeling all of the beautiful wools, and then you feel something that’s like 75% acrylic, and you’re like, what is this?

Sarai
Yeah. I think my fabric that I absolutely love. Well, I love silk. I really like silk. It can be difficult to work with, but I love the way it looks, and I love the fact that it takes dye so well, so that colors are really, really vibrant with a lot of silks. So I really love silk. One of the things I’ve been looking for lately is a silk cotton blend, like a silk cotton noil. I think it’s just so beautiful. It has kind of the best of both worlds. It doesn’t look as fancy as silk. It’s more of an everyday fabric, but it also holds die very well. So you get this really luminous color, and it’s just so nice for summer. So that’s one of my favorites.

I used to have this dress. I made this dress from a vintage pattern that was in this buttery yellow cotton silk noil, and it was just so lovely, so beautiful. That’s my favorite, at least right now. And I think a fabric that I would burn. I don’t think this would be very eco-friendly to burn this in massive bonfires. I do not like sewing with polyester at all.

A little polyester is okay if it’s for anti-wrinkle purposes, but like a pure poly, it bugs me so much. The fact that it won’t hold a press very well. It just gets all bubbly and weird. And it’s also kind of hard to work with. And it frays a lot, a lot of the time. And for me, it’s not fun to work with. It’s not really worth the frustration in my book.

Haley
Yeah, well, for me, I love pressing. And pressing is one of the most satisfying parts of the sewing process. And so things that don’t press, well, I hate them.

Sarai
Yeah. Hopefully polyester is not your favorite fabric if you’re listening to this and we’re just like bashing it. But I think most people probably feel that way about it. It’s fine if you like it. And there’s often, like, it comes in some really cool patterns a lot of the times, but I just don’t like working with it. So if you have an icebreaker that you want to share with us, you can do that. If you’re a Seamwork member, you go to Seamwork.com/go/icebreakers, and that’ll take you right to a community post where you can share your icebreaker. And we’ll probably use it on a future episode.

So today we are going to talk about how we can get more wear out of the things that you sew. And the reason that we wanted to talk about this is because I think a lot of times it can be just really discouraging when you feel that you’re not using the things that you make. When you put a lot of effort into making something and you just end up not using it, it just sits in your closet. You never put it on. You never really want to put it on. And so we wanted to kind of dive into the reasons behind that and some of the things that you can do to help prevent that situation. So I wanted to ask you, Hailey, to start us off. Do you ever feel guilt for not wearing the things that you’ve made?

Haley
It’s a good question. I do. Sometimes I think that my guilt is higher when I feel like I’m not wearing it for a reason that was preventable. So if it is not a fit that I feel really good about, and I know I should have made a muslin, but I didn’t then I feel guilty. But sometimes in sewing there’s just unforeseen circumstances. You don’t really realize how the print is going to read when it’s like a full length of it up against your body or the seeming interrupts it in a weird way. Sometimes you don’t know until you’re in it. And when that happens, I don’t feel as guilty. I only feel guilty if I only have myself to blame.

Sarai
Yeah. Like if you cut corners and, you know, you cut corners, then I think maybe I would feel a little guilt about that.

Haley
Yeah.

Sarai
I think I feel guilt sometimes about not wearing things that I’ve made either because of that, like if I’ve cut a corner. But it could also be because I didn’t really think that hard about the project beforehand. I didn’t really think about where I would wear it or what I would do with it or how the fabric would look. Some of the things like you said, they’re not preventable, but some of them, if you just stop for a minute and really consider all the variables, you may just prevent yourself from making those kinds of mistakes. And so in those, I don’t know if it’s guilt, but I feel a little bit like a little bit of the shoulds. Yeah.

Haley
Are you shoulding yourself?

Sarai
Yes, one of my bad habits.

Haley
Well, let me ask you this. What is something that you’ve made that you have hardly ever wore?

Sarai
Oh, gosh. In the last couple of years, I really feel like I wear a lot of what I make. I wear what I make all the time. I was looking at my closet before we recorded and trying to take a little bit of an assessment. And the things I make, I definitely get a lot of use out of now. But one of the things that stands out to me is I really love summer dresses. I love them. It’s my favorite thing to wear is just like a maxi dress with little spaghetti straps or something. And so I have a couple of those that I’ve made, and I hardly ever wear them only because the weather doesn’t permit them except for a couple of months out of the year here in Oregon. So that’s one thing that I don’t get a lot of wear out of. I wish I could wear more often. I try to find ways to layer some of them, but not all of them are really amenable to that. What about you? Do you have things that you hardly ever wear that you’ve made?

Haley
Yeah. I mean, I’ve definitely made things and then just never wore them. But one that stands out to me that’s more recent is I made a Campbell jumpsuit, I guess a year and a half or two years ago now. It fits well. I like the feel of the fabric. I like everything about it, but the color is just a color that I like, but I don’t like wearing. I know I can dye it. I use polyester thread, though, and there’s lots of top stitching, and I know it’ll look dyed, so I haven’t really figured out the solution for that yet. But I know it’s dyeing, but I don’t know what color, but yeah, that’s the one that’s bummed me out. More recently, I was kind of trying to take a risk by picking, like, a color I don’t typically wear, but this was a time where that risk did not really pay off. For me.

Sarai
What color is it?

Haley
It is like a I would call it a pink, but it’s somewhere in between pink and lilac lavendery color. It’s kind of dusty and really pale. It’s pretty. I really like it just not for wearing on my body. I feel like a little too much like an Easter egg in it? It’s too much pastel from shoulder to ankle for me.

Sarai
Yeah. It’s a lot of fabric for that jumpsuit. Totally.

Haley
I wish I would have made it in blue because I would have worn it.

Sarai
Yeah. I’ve been looking at I have this fabric that I bought years ago. It’s a vintage fabric, and it’s in one of the clear Tupperware type boxes in my garage where I store some of my fabric I’m not using right now. And so I see it whenever I go in there. And it’s so pretty. It’s pink, and it has black, like a Fern pattern on it, like a botanical sort of pattern on it. It’s really pretty, and I have a lot of it, and it’s so nice, but it’s like the shade of pink is just not something that I really wear. It’s a little bit too pink, and I love pink. I wear a lot of pink, but it’s a little too bright for me. And so I keep thinking, how could I dye it even though it has a pattern on it? It has a print on it. How could I dye it and mute it just slightly or even I was thinking maybe even give it like a light bleach bath or something to make it a little bit more subdued. I don’t know, but color theory.

Haley
You got to add some green to it.

Sarai
Yeah, I got to do something with it. It’s so pretty, but it just shows you, I think, color and your reactions to color. It’s something so personal and can really influence how much you want to wear something, how much you want to put it on your body. It’s interesting. Is there something you made that you wear a lot?

Haley
My most worn me made thing by far is my Quince robe. I’m like a dressing robe person. I wear one every day, and that one is in the heaviest rotation, for sure. And really, anything knitwear that I make gets worn because the facts of my life right now are that it’s pretty casual. I work from home a lot of the time. I have a toddler. I wear a lot of knits, and so those are always even whether they’re exciting sews or not, they’re always worthwhile because they get a lot of use.

Sarai
Yeah.

Haley
What about you?

Sarai
I wear a lot of my knits, too. I’ve been wearing my wretch a lot lately, which is really nice for spring. I made it in, like an off-white bull denim, and it goes with everything I love. It very layerable. It’s really cool. It’s got lots of pockets, so it’s very functional, which I like. And I also really like a short jacket. If I can wear a short jacket and not a long coat, I will, because it’s just so much easier to move around in them. I find so that’s one that I definitely wear a lot. I also wear my Quince a lot. Not so much as a robe, but I do wear it as, like, a layer around the house. When I get a little bit cold, it’s so comfy. And unlike a sweater, you don’t have to worry about itching because mine is in, like a silk. Yeah. Is that how you say Noil noir? I don’t know how you say that. N-O-I-L. Can someone tell us how you say that?

Haley
I don’t know either.

Sarai
Noil doesn’t sound very nice.

Haley
I just like, pick one and go with it and then hope that no one corrects me.

Sarai
I don’t know if anybody knows, and if you know where that word comes from, I’d be interested to know that.

Haley
So what are some of the reasons that you might not wear something that you’ve made?

Sarai
Well, I think we’ve touched on a few of them. We’ve touched on fit. If something doesn’t fit, you quite right, maybe you should have made a muslin and you didn’t. So fit is one we’ve talked about fabric. If it seems like it’s the wrong fabric for you or color print, whatever it is about the fabric, I think another one is if it’s something that you made for a very specific purpose, like if you made something for a wedding or some other special occasion and you’re really not intending to wear it that often, I think that’s another reason you might not get a lot of wear out of it. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s the whole reason behind why you made it. And then I think the last one, which I think we’re going to talk about more today, is the lifestyle and personal style factors of, you know, is it something that fits with your life, and is it something that represents who you are? And I think that’s the one that people struggle with the most. I think the others are a little bit easier to diagnose. And that last one is something that we can often not quite know exactly why it’s not working for us.

And so that’s what we wanted to dig into a little bit more today. So I have some tips to share some thoughts about this that might be helpful to you. If this is something that you found yourself battling with from time to time, like, why am I not wearing these nice things that I’ve made? The first one is to really think about what your style is and to try and pinpoint that as much as you can. If you have a good sense of what your style is and how you like to represent yourself through your clothing, that just really helps you to narrow your options when it comes time to make stuff. And at the end of the day, you do end up wearing what you’ve made more when it is more specific. So if you’re a Seamwork member, we have a PDF called The Style Workshop that can help you with this. It has a lot of really fun exercises that you can go through to help you to pinpoint your style. That’s a really fun option. There are also lots of free things that you can find online that help with us. You can create mood boards.

Sarai
We touch on this a bit in design your wardrobe. It’s not a huge part of designer wardrobe because that’s more about actually doing the design part of it. But it is something we touch on. And I think mood boards are a really great way to begin to kind of narrow down what your style is and maybe even put some words to it. I think it’s just probably, I would say the number one thing most helpful thing when it comes to making things that you actually want to wear is understanding who you are and how you like to represent who you are through your clothing. And it’s fun. I think it’s really fun. That’s like the most fun part of sewing for me is that exploration.

Haley
Yeah. I mean, I think that kind of gets into. Earlier you said that you don’t have a lot of things that you don’t wear, like the things you make. You end up wearing them, and you have a very strong sense of your personal style, and that probably plays into it a lot.

Sarai
Yeah, I think so. And some of that, I think, comes from both getting older and then also sewing for a while. I think when you do sew for a while, you think a little bit more critically about what you wear than maybe people who don’t sew. That’s not true for everybody, of course. But I think by and large, it helps you to think a little bit more critically about because you’re putting so much work into everything you’re making that it’s worth your time to think about whether it’s something that you will want to wear and why or why not. So I think that exploration of your personal style is a really fun side benefit of sewing. And then the next tip is to determine what your criteria are around comfort. So this is a big one for me. What do you really need out of your clothing in terms of comfort to get you to actually wear them? I used to be really into more vintage styles and things that had very fitted silhouettes and a nip in waste and all of that. And over the years, I’ve just found that as I’ve gotten older and my lifestyle has changed, I don’t want to put on those things anymore.

I don’t want to wear those things unless it’s some kind of special occasion. So I think really getting honest with yourself about what it takes for something to be comfortable enough for you to wear is really important. And you could even break that down further and think about what sorts of fits are important to you. What sort of fits feel good to you when you put them on? What kind of fabrics feel good to you when you put them on? What sort of details make something comfortable enough for you to wear it? For example, maybe you like things that have some elastic in them, or you like stretch fabrics, or you like things that are loose around your waist. Whatever it is for you, I think identifying those things can just help you to make things that are infinitely more wearable. So there’s another big one for me. Is comfort something that you really think about a lot, Haley, when you’re planning your sewing?

Haley
Yes, definitely. I think about it in terms of which I think you’ll touch on, too. Is context. Is that the context that I’m selling for? Is comfort really important? If I’m making something that I know I’m going to wear a lot when I’m working from home, then, yeah, I want to be comfortable. But in a pair of jeans, I don’t care quite as much. I love some, like more rigid denim and some sacrifice. I’ll make comfort sacrifices in places, but it’s definitely important. I mean, I feel like it comes up for me a lot with details. I’ve definitely had pants where I liked them, but the pockets were like really small or nonexistent, and that kept me from wearing them or just like little things that bugged me about it. Maybe it was a closure style that I thought was like really impractical and just made it a pain when I had to go to the restroom. But yeah, I think about that kind of stuff, the practicality part of it all the time.

Sarai
Yeah. And it’s interesting because I think everybody is different in terms of what sacrifices they’re willing to make for comfort or what is comfort. I love jumpsuits, for example. I own quite a few jumpsuits. I love them because you can just throw them on. They look cool. They do make it a little bit challenging to use the restroom sometimes, but that’s something that I’m willing to sacrifice for the other aspects of comfort that they give me. So it’s just about what’s important to you, for sure. And then you mentioned context, and that brings us to our next one, which is what are the activities that you imagine doing in this particular garment? So it can help to list out what your frequent activities are. If this is sort of an everyday piece of clothing for you and maybe even what’s the range in a typical day for you, you might be doing a whole bunch of different activities that might range from something outdoors, like gardening, to taking care of a child. There’s all kinds of stuff that you might do in your typical day, working at a desk and sitting. They might all involve different needs.

So it can be helpful just to think about how you go through your day and what are those activities in your typical day and how can your clothing accommodate those activities and then also think about weekdays versus weekends? Those can be very different for some of us. For some of us, not so much. If there are things that are very different for you, that’s another thing that you can think about. And maybe you have some clothing that you intend to wear mostly on the weekends or mostly during the weekdays. That’s another way you can kind of slice it. But just thinking a little bit critically about that can help you to design some things that you really want to wear. And then there’s an exercise that I find really helpful. I mentioned that I was looking through my closet right before we started recording, and I think just looking at what you have can be so beneficial. So one of the exercises you can do is to go through your closet and pull out your ten most worn clothing items. It doesn’t have to be things that you’ve made. It could be anything. But what are your ten most worn clothing items?

And then there’s a couple of things you can do from there. So once you have your list of those ten things, you could either take pictures of them or you can just make a little list on a piece of paper. The next thing you could do is either to brainstorm some ideas of things that will go well with those pieces. So what are some things you could wear with those? So if one of your most worn items, for example, is a pair of jeans, your favorite pair of jeans, what could you make that you could wear with those pair of jeans and that you probably feel great in because you’re already wearing something that you know you love to wear. And if you have something to go with it, then you’ll have kind of a ready made outfit. So that’s one thing you can do. Another thing you can do is brainstorm what you like about those pieces, and maybe you could emulate what you like about those pieces. So if there’s a particular dress that you’ve made and you wear it all the time, maybe think about why is it that you wear it all the time?

Is it the fit? Is it the color? Is it the fabric? Is it how comfortable it is? What is it about that it makes you feel great and makes you really want to put it on. That’s another really good thing that you can do with this exercise. So I really love doing this from time to time. It really helps me to kind of Hone my style and also Whittle down the hundreds of projects that I really wish I could make that I wish I had time to make to the things that I’m actually going to get use out of. So that’s something that I highly recommend. If you have a few spare minutes in your week, and then the last thing is thinking about what items you can make that might be simple, they might meet these other criteria and be really wearable. But how can you make them a little bit more special so that you have things that will still get worn but feel special at the same time? So some examples of this might be maybe some outerwear that has some cool features to it, or a really fun fabric or a pretty top or a blouse that you could wear with your favorite pair of jeans.

Or if having things that are very, very comfortable is important to you, maybe you want to make some loose sack dresses, but add some really cool details to them or make them in a beautiful print or a color that you really love. So there are lots of ways that you can take something that’s very simple and very wearable and very accessible and make it fun and make it interesting for yourself. So those are our tips. I think that it really comes down to exploring who you are as a person and how you can mold your clothing to fit your own individuality, which is what sewing is all about.

Haley
Totally. Those are all such good tips. I’m going to do a little recap. So tip number one was to identify your style. We recommend the Style Workshop for that if that’s something that you feel like you need to explore a little bit more. Tip number two is to determine your comfort criteria. Really break it down and figure out kind of what fit is really best for your lifestyle, what fabrics do you love to wear, what details are most important to you, and be realistic about it and what is going to work for your specific comfort needs. Tip three is to list your frequent activities. Think about the context in which you’re going to be wearing these clothes. You can do exercises like listing out the range of activities in a typical day, be that weekdays or weekends, and figure out what clothing is really going to fit the bill for those things. Sarai suggests a really fun exercise of pulling out your ten most worn items, handmade or not, and then either brainstorm what will go well with those pieces, or brainstorm what you like about those pieces and try to kind of emulate that.

Haley
And the last tip is thinking about what items can be made special and still get worn so you can infuse a little bit of frosting in your wardrobe and you don’t get kind of too bogged down by the practicality of everything. If you want to learn more about this, I was reminded of a really great article that was in Seamwork called Pinpoint Your Style. And in this article, the topic is this concept of the rule of three outfits, which is basically an idea of only really making things if you can make three separate outfits from things you already have. And that’s very similar to this exercise that Sarai suggested. We also happen to have a podcast episode about that, if you would rather listen than read. And that episode, I believe, is called how to Use the Rule of Three. We will link both of those in the show notes for you. And also, we have a free class that teaches you how to draft your dream neckline. I think that necklines are one of those details that can really keep you from wearing a garment. Maybe you love everything about it, but the neckline is just totally not you.

We’ll teach you how to make scoop necks, boatnecks vnecks, crew necks, all of that good stuff, plus how to raise and lower your neckline. And it is taught by me. So come take a class with me. I think you’ll like it. I hope you’ll like it.

Sarai
You’ll like it.

Haley
You can find it at Seamwork. You’ll like it, right? You can find it at Seamwork.com/go/necklines. And if you liked this episode, be sure to leave us some stars. Or better yet, leave us a review. We love to read them, and it will help other people who like sewing like us find the podcast. You can also follow us on YouTube at Seamwork Video, you can follow us on Instagram at Steamwork, and if you’d like to join and become part of our private community, plus get access to hundreds of sewing patterns and dozens of so long classes. Podcast listeners get 50% off with a lifetime discount when you join at seamwork.com/go/podcast50, so you will get 50% off for the rest of your life as long as you keep that membership. So definitely check that out if you aren’t already a member.

Sarai
All right, well, this is a good one. I really like talking about this, and it’s inspired me to go through my closet one more time. I think, alright, I hope you all have a great week and we will see you next week. I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley, and this is Seamwork Radio.

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