Formerprincess had some questions about the SWAP. I began composing an answer at her site, but it got too long, so I am posting it here instead.
When you plan a SWAP, you are supposed to determine your best colors and pick three: two basics and a contrast. You can have other contrasts, too, but essentially you begin with two main colors. One should be a neutral and the other can be a “fashion color,” but something you consider basic.
Did we buy all our fabrics at once? Well, we tried.
You are supposed to find a print with those two main colors in it. You use that print to make a two-piece dress, buy basic fabrics in solids that match the colors in the print and use them to make suits, and then get the contrast solid or solids for blouses. You can also pick a plaid or check to make a jacket, being sure that the plaid will work with your print.
For preference, you buy all your fabrics at once. We actually did not succeed at finding that pivotal print. Both #2 daughter (at left) and I (at right) found prints with one of the colors and plaids with both, and that was the best we could do.
We visited our local fabric store during a sale, and made two online fabric purchases, plus an online yarn purchase. There have been a few little trips to pick up zippers and such, but otherwise that was all our shopping. Four shoppings over two and a half months, roughly. People with more choices locally, more robust budgets, and/or higher tolerance for shopping might be able to do it all at one go.
We figure we will average less than $20 per garment by the time we finish them all, and we are using wool and silk and microfibers, so we think this is a frugal approach to clothing.
Did we buy all the patterns at once? No.
You are supposed to use “TNT” patterns — tried and true ones that you have made and fitted before. We hadn’t been doing enough sewing to have TNT patterns. We had to learn about that.
So we put some thought into what kinds of things we needed and would like to make, and moved on to the next step: storyboards. These are drawings of the garments with swatches of the fabrics. Some of the sewing bloggers have very snazzy ones. I particularly like the electronic ones where the images are line drawings till they are sewn up, at which point they are colored in with the fabric. This is mine on the left.
Using our storyboards, we made our list of desired patterns and picked them up at 99 cent sales. Specifically, Hancock fabric had 99 cent sales on the different companies’ patterns at one-week intervals this summer, and I ducked in before work and got the ones we had chosen. We each bought about 5 patterns total — that is, $5 on patterns.
There was some trial and error. We are still gathering up the courage to make jackets and pants, but have gotten to the TNT stage with tops and skirts.
Do I just work on it whenever I get a chance? Yes. Since I have a plan, I can easily do that. That is one of the things I like about it. I can load up the machine with gray thread and do all the gray seams when I have an hour or so. Another time, I can do the burgundy seams. We did start out with a sewing marathon weekend, though, and that was great.
Another thing I like about the SWAP is that I wear the things I’ve made often.
I made it as part of the Sew?I Knit sewalong. At the same time, I was reading in the sewing blogs about a contest in which seamstresses made an 11-piece wardrobe in four months. I realized that I was sewing two things a month, and could if I followed the SWAP surely make myself an 11-piece wardrobe in a year, and perhaps one for my daughter as well.
I am finding sewing with a plan equally enjoyable as when I did random forays, but much more sensible, as Formerprincess says, and certainly more useful. Not that I plan to give up sewing things on mad whims. In fact, I have a mad whim that has been nagging me ever since Dweezy brought it up, and I may give in to it any time now…
The SWAP is not without consequences, however. For example, I have been completely happy wearing ill-fitting rags to work for years. But now I notice it and feel like Lord Emsworth. Or perhaps like his sister who tries to make him dress decently. The things I have sewn thus far aren’t really suitable for my job, which involves a certain amount of physical work. I wear them to church and social occasions. But I may have to include some work clothes, if I keep becoming self-conscious about wearing tattered schmattas.