2020 Year in Review: Sewing

When I first started sewing in January, my initial goal was to take 1 or 2 classes and make maybe 1 piece of clothing per quarter. Little did I know – I ultimately made a total of 23 items of clothing, 3 quilts and knitted 3 pairs of socks! In addition to the 150+ fabric masks for donation early on in the pandemic.

It was hard to choose only a few hits – out of 23 items, I have kept & worn all except for 2. One was my first first top that I made in class. I made too small of a size, so ultimately donated it. The other I mention below in the Misses section. I narrowed it down as best as I could – but there are many others not on here that I have enjoyed a lot this year.

Hits

Carolyn PJs with Ruby Star Border Fabric (similar). I fell in love with this fabric the first time I saw it. I knew immediately that it would be perfect for a set of PJs, if I could execute correctly. While one of my most tedious at 10+ hours of sewing, it was also very rewarding. I learned a lot of new skills with this pattern and really enjoyed the process. This is easily my top make of the year!

Dot & Dash Quilt (Halloween & Christmas). Once we moved into the colder months, I slowed down on garment sewing as I have plenty of fall/winter wear. Quilting was a great way to switch things up – from curved seams to straight lines and geometry. I was inspired by a lot of modern quilts, and have been drawn to those types of patterns. 

The Dot & Dash Quilt fits that bill, and I love both versions: a Halloween one for myself with Art Gallery Fabrics Spooky n Sweet and a Christmas one for my parents with Ruby Star Society Candlelight and AGF gingerbread fabric. AGF’s Spookyn Sweet has a nice gradient that’s a softer play on traditional Halloween colors. Also, the patterns are beautiful!

For the Christmas quilt, I decided to send it out for longarm quilting for a cool computerized digital quilting pattern. Per Reddit recommendation, I sent it to Quilting by David who did an amazing job choosing a complementary thread color and accommodated my ask for a newly released snowflake pattern. It was absolutely worth the ~$90 (incl. shipping costs + batting) to send it out – once I got it back, I finished off the binding.

Vanilla is the New Black Knit Socks. Including one knit item on the list! I prefer the heel design on this pattern, as it doesn’t require picking up stitches and it looks very cool. I made two pairs, and I prefer the shorter version with the contrast cuff and toe. Ninette’s Roasted Marshmallow sock set was a perfect color combo for fall & winter.

Scout Tee. I had this pattern sitting around for the longest time, but didn’t get around to it until late summer. As much as I like dolman tops with no shoulder seams (and they’re much more forgiving as a beginner pattern), I also enjoy a simple t-shirt that can fit easily under cardigans and jackets!

Nikko Mockneck Top. Similar to the above, this top also has regular set-in sleeves. This was my first knit fabric sew – and while not perfect (more here), I’ve reached for it several times in the past month. It feels most like a ‘ready-to-wear’ garment, if that makes sense. I can see myself making more of these in the future as the need arises.

Modified Axis Skirt w/ Elastic Back Waistband. As much as I like my Axis Dresses, I also really enjoy this skirt modification. I go into more details in this post – the elastic waistband makes it very comfortable to wear, and the rayon is perfect for a drapey look.

Ogden Cami. I used this pattern four times this year. For three tanks (more here), of which the super soft sandwashed rayon version was my favorite and most worn. I also made a dress hack version with a crazy yellow and pink tiger rayon from Ruby Star. I’m generally a neutrals person, but I love this slip dress – it’s so fun, and easy to wear.

Ogden Cami Slip Dress - Rayon Ruby Star Tiger Fly
Above: My Ogden Cami dress hack – so much color! So unlike me!

Runner-Up: My Pietra Pants in View B (tapered). It’s not officially on the list as I only sewed it last week. I’ll write a more detailed review shortly, as I’ve made two versions from this pattern, and will likely make the shorts in a few months.

Misses

“Misses” is a bit of a misnomer here. I wouldn’t technically call these misses, rather learning experiences when Things Did Not Go Quite Right. Many of these are due to fabric choices, as you’ll see, and not necessarily because of a pattern itself. 

Assuming quilting cotton will work for all garments. I did this a few times, actually – two Willow Tanks, one Axis Dress and my Carolyn PJs. And it can work in some cases – if the piece itself is fairly structured or requires some structure. My cropped tank and the dress worked out well, but my regular-length tank fit too boxy and stiff. From that point onwards, I mostly focused on other materials and blends, to ensure an appropriate match. I’m not sure what I’ll do with that Willow Tank – I may donate it, or cut it up and make small items (pencil pouches?) with it.

Using delicate fabric for a pattern with high stress areas. On a similar theme, I made my second Axis Dress with the beautiful She rayon fabric from Ruby Star Society. Rayon is heavier than cotton (my cotton dress weighed 6oz, my rayon version 8oz+), and the seams are pulling in certain spots. Notably the pass through side opening, which I pointed out in my pattern write-up. When washing, I put this in a lingerie bag to reduce the chance of a strap snagging and tearing. Additionally, I store it folded (I steam it when ready to wear), as hanging it pulls at the horizontal seams. 

Not paying attention to grain line direction on patterns. I’m normally pretty good about this – I know that the markings are there to orient pieces for optimal drape/stretch/etc. However, I must have messed up one piece on my wide-leg Pietra Pants. One leg falls straight, the other is twisted about 20 degrees or so. It’s hard to tell due to the black fabric, but my hems look a bit mismatched no matter how many times I’ve tried to adjust them. Thank goodness these are not a lighter color – it would be very obvious if so.

Lastly. As the year went on, I quickly realized that there were trade-offs to working on different projects and that I needed to pace myself. While I started out strong with knitting two pairs of socks in two weeks, my next 1.5 took several months each as I started working on other projects.

And with quilting (time consuming, at least 30+ hours per quilt), I found myself exercising less. After work, I found myself having to choose between a Peloton class or spending an hour on my quilt. This is not necessarily bad – but it’s not a trade-off that I want to do frequently! And all in all, it took me about one month to complete each quilt.

Stash Progress

My goal throughout the year was to keep a manageable stash of fabrics and materials. I’ve seen a ton of decked out sewing rooms with closets and closets of fabric — and while beautiful, this is not my approach. Like with ready-to-wear clothing, I want to make sure I don’t have much excess.

I decided to take a look at my spend on materials in three main categories: knitting (yarn, needles), sewing (garments), and sewing (quilting).  What portion did I actually utilize, as a ratio of spend?

I did pretty well in the sewing categories. The quilt one is straightforward, as I made 3 of 4 quilts and have one kit left. For garments, I have ~4 distinct fabrics that need to be used. One is 3.5 yards of a beautiful gold metallic cotton from Ruby Star’s holiday Warp & Weft line. I’m definitely going to use it, but I’m having such a difficult time finalizing the pattern/item.

However, I utterly failed in utilizing my yarn. At the start of the year I was over-ambitious, and enthusiastically signed up for too many monthly yarn clubs. I am still debating whether to do a destash or to slowly work my way through them over a few years. While I went overboard here, I’m glad to have supported a lot of small businesses at the very least.

Note: this is not an exact science! While I marked many as “used”, the reality is that I sometimes utilized 2.5 yards of 3 yards. I’d like to work through these and make small items, or maybe using the scraps for something like stuffing a pouf cushion. I recently made a few festive masks and coasters from my Christmas quilt remnants.

I also didn’t include my recent Elizabeth Suzann Studio purchase, since I knew I wouldn’t get to them in 2020. This is easily my most expensive fabric, as I bought the climate beneficial wool ($58/yard) to hopefully turn into a pair of wide-leg elastic waist pants.

Plans for 2021

Many people have started posting their #makenine2021 goals on Instagram, which is fun to browse and get inspiration. I thought about doing the same, but have decided to hold off. I made a lot of clothes in 2020, partly as a mindful activity but also really due to need. After we moved to an adjacent city with actual temperature fluctuations, I needed warm weather clothes (did not own any in chilly SF).

Currently, I don’t see any huge gaps in my closet and I don’t want to make things just for the sake of making them. So I’ll take my sewing month by month and just try to work through the rest of my stash.

I also obviously have a ton of yarn — so I’ll also be spending the next few months as a sock knitting machine!

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I'm Kristy, a growth marketer based in not-so-sunny San Francisco ⛅ This is my personal blog, where you will find my random musings, in-depth reviews, and latest sewing endeavors.

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