Seeds of a Wardrobe: Have it or Make it? Time, That Is


It’s common wisdom to say that everyone has the same twenty-four hours in the day, with the implication that if our cultural, spiritual, and intellectual leaders can accomplish their achievements, we should be able to as well. In reality, the amount of time we have is affected by how many other people demand it, how much we do that (we think) no one else can do, our sleeping and lifestyle habits, and whether or not we plan in advance what we’ll do with our time.

Now, there’s millions of pages in reputable books on how to manage time, so I’m not necessarily going to discuss that. What I want to talk about is how time relates to our wardrobe plan. It’s one thing to think through the garments we need and find patterns for those garments in our style, it’s another thing to actually make those garments. If it turns out you only need a few garments, you’re okay. You can probably absorb those into your normal sewing flow without any adjustments. But, if like me, you need almost an entire new wardrobe, time is key.


The first thing to consider is what’s in your way. Have you promised to make or mend items for other people? Do you have any self-imposed deadlines, like sewing for an event? Maybe your sewing space is a mess. Before you can really tackle your wardrobe plan, take the time to clear your plate. Tidy up, sew on those buttons, slip stitch that hem into place, and gather your tools together. Now you’re ready to rock and roll!

First, (try to) go through your stash and pull out or touch all the fabrics and notions you’ll need for your plan. Make a note of what you don’t have. That way, you can shop efficiently the next time you’re at the fabric store. And who knows – you may even manage to leave with only the things you planned to get!

Next, be honest with yourself – can you sew in 10-30 minute chunks, or do you need a continuous hour or more to get anything done? Many of our favorite bloggers and Instagrammers say they sew in short chunks of time, but for some people *cough*me*cough*, it takes at least that long to get focused. If you can work in small chunks, identify where in your schedule you can grab 15 or 30 minutes for sewing, and get to work! If you need a block of few hours, it’s going to take some tweaking. Can you delegate some of the things you do to someone else? Can you multitask more on one day to free up another? Can you downgrade a time consuming activity to be less so, without sacrificing quality? For example: have your family clean up after themselves (laundry, bedrooms), vacuum during commercial breaks, or bantu knot your hair at night instead of braiding it.

Another way to make time by saving time is to limit the number of patterns or pattern companies you use to build your wardrobe. This reduces the time consuming task of pattern fitting. Using a few patterns, you can hack the heck out of them once they’re fitted and it will be like you have a million patterns. For example – one pant pattern can become shorts, flares, bell bottoms, skinny leg, etc. Find the design details you like, slap them onto your pant pattern, et voila! Ditto for shirts and skirts. Pencil skirts are great because you can literally turn them into every other skirt. Add length and fullness, create yokes, rotate darts, etc! And you can join skirts and tops at the waist to create dresses. If you go the route of lots of patterns but only a few pattern companies, you can figure out the alterations you consistently need to make. Add those at the beginning and you won’t have to muslin or fit anything, just cut, sew, and wear. Boom!

Here are some techniques which are a little more advanced: learning the order of construction, chain stitching, and batch sewing. If you learn the order of construction, you are freed from following pattern instructions! Once I finally got the hang of the order of construction, my sewing production really took off. I do still read through pattern instructions to make sure there are no weird surprises, but after that I rarely refer to them again. It’s all in my head! I can just sew. Chain stitching is a quilting technique, and it means that you sew a seam, and WITHOUT clipping your thread, sew another seam, and another. When all the seams you can sew are done, clip and press the lot, then repeat until the garment is finished. Finally, batch sewing. If you have a bunch of tops, cut them all, then sew all the shoulder seams, then all the neckbands, etc. It’s the same concept used in mass produced clothing to speed things up.


I have so many more ideas for making time by saving it – triaging your wardrobe plan, simplifying finishing details, buying RTW to tide you over, slow sewing, and more – but this post is already long! So guess what, guys? I’m going to make a series of videos about how to be time-conscious while sewing. They’re going to be simple, but if you like them I will redo them with fancy graphics and other visual aids after the semester is over. (School life, whew!)

I’m obsessed with time because the way we manage our time is a creative enterprise in and of itself, and it can fuel our wardrobe success or trap us in unproductiveness. Hammering out how we spend our time gives us the ability to take our plan from conceptual to actual. Given that our wardrobe is custom designed by us for our individual lives, isn’t it worth it to proactively manage our time?


Seeds of a Wardrobe is a six post series covering my journey from needing a wardrobe to having a plan for making a wardrobe. It’s a thought and question based method of wardrobe building, with the goal of helping create a truly personal wardrobe that meets real needs, and provides an alternative to methods that dictate what you should wear based on an impersonal, general framework. The first post is here – Seeds of a Wardrobe (post) – and you can see all the posts in the series here – Seeds of a Wardrobe (category) – in reverse chronological order.

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