It sounds as though all of us are at the pattern-choosing stage. The Sewing With a Plan people have two main suggestions: use simple patterns, and use TNT patterns.
“TNT” stands for “tried and true” among the sewing bloggers. The idea is that you have patterns that you have made before, so you know how they go together, you have resolved any fit issues, and you can just sew them up without a lot of figuring out and folderol.
Serious seamstresses make all their alterations and cut themselves a new, perfect version of the pattern in interfacing for their permanent files. I haven’t reached that point, but I admire it.
Neither have I reached the point at which I can actually make a whole SWAP with TNT patterns. The jackets I made for my first two collections are not in the TNT category, but in the “I struggled and eventually succeeded more or less” category. However, I do have skirts, tops, and pants which fall into that category. I can do half the SWAP with them, thus leaving time for angst-ridden sewing of jackets and blouses.
The new fall patterns are out, at least on websites if not in stores, and there are some differences from the spring and summer silhouettes. They are still using simple shapes with interesting seams and surface detail. Clothes continue to be generally close to the body, but now one half of the outfit may be flowing while the other remains close-fitted. So there are full skirts or wide legged trousers with small jackets and swing jackets with pencil skirts or narrow pants.
If I am going to use new rather than TNT patterns, those are the features that I will probably look for, so I will have some pretense of fashionability. In fact, the jacket at the right is a pattern which I own but have not made, and am planning to use.
As for “simple,” I have just barely reached the point at which any sewing seems simple, but I am trying to persuade myself that my TNT pants pattern, which has two main pieces and a facing, will work just as well as the classic trousers I had so much trouble with. Even though I would like to be able to master the classic trousers.
The next important thing about the patterns is that they should all work together. Wardrobe patterns are great for that. I have found that the wardrobe patterns also tend to have the new fashion features in less extreme forms. So this fall 2007 pattern from Vogue has the wrap-look top and the interesting surface detail on the jacket, but is very wearable and will not make us moms feel like mutton dressed as lamb.
All the pieces will naturally work together, and you could add a full skirt to this and have the beginnings of your SWAP.
The Australian Stitches folks usually use their basic patterns more than once, making a couple of different views if the pattern has them, and using completely different fabrics, and their SWAPs do not end up looking repetitive, so this is probably a good plan. This pattern could have both the top and the pants done in a couple of different fabrics, furnishing half the SWAP right there.
Here is another wardrobe pattern. It is from McCall’s fall 2007 group, though the illustration suggests that it might be a comeback from an earlier day. The wrap jacket is there, and it includes both pants and skirt. You could add a fuller skirt and the tops and have your SWAP all ready.
They’re even showing it as a SWAP, aren’t they?
This pattern is not new for fall, but is from the spring and is still new to me. I like the classic jacket, and am thinking that I could make it in a length of really beautiful check wool I have been saving till I felt capable of matching the seams. As soon as I think of matching the seams, I decide that I cannot possibly make this jacket in that wool, and give up. That’s why I haven’t made it yet. Maybe I will become braver as we go along.
Jumpers and vests are also being shown for fall, though the sewing bloggers are saying no to jumpers unless you are young and/or skinny. I don’t think my daughters, both of whom are young and skinny, would wear jumpers, so it might be that you must be young or skinny and have a cute rather than an elegant or earthy style. I have gone through two rounds of jumpers myself, so I think I will say no to that. I might make a vest, though. I am in the process of knitting a sleeveless cardigan designed to be worn either as a top by itself or as a vest.
The thing about making your own clothes is that it can be hard to decide ahead of time whether a particular style is going to look good or not. Sometimes you can fix it after the fact, but sometimes it just isn’t a good style for you. This site has a formula. You plug in your measurements (a lot of measurements) and it crunches the numbers and categorizes your shape and makes suggestions for the kinds of styles that would be becoming.
They told me that I was top-heavy, which is not how I think of myself, but their suggestions for styles — shaped jackets with shawl collars, V-neck and surplice tops, straight-legged pants — were indeed the things I feel best in, so I guess they know.
The area in which I am still uncertain about my pattern choices is in the tops. Suggestions, fellow seamstresses?
If you’re thinking about including knitting or crochet in your SWAP, check out Drops Designs for a large (and growing) collection of free patterns. There are a few that look very fashion-forward, and some classics if you aren’t going to bother with fashion this year.