Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The TNT Master Plan #1: Cake, frosting and The Master Plan

I've spent ages in the last couple of weeks sorting out my wardrobe, recording everything that I have in a massive spreadsheet, and then going through it all in different ways to figure out how it all fit together as a wardrobe, what I have, what I need, what I want to make, and how I want to move my garment sewing on this year. It's been a lot of navel gazing!

A part of my answer to the question of what I want to do next with my sewing has come from joining a PR Message Board sewalong called TNT Basics Sewalong. The idea of the sewalong is to figure out some good basic patterns that cover a reasonable percentage of your wardrobe, and then make sure you have tweaked them into fitting as well as possible. The idea of having well-fitting patterns that I know I like is now super appealing to me, but at the same time, I really had to think my way through it over the course of this month.

The reason for all the thought is that there's a part of me that rebels against the idea of making a wardrobe full of TNTs. I'm not a wildly novelty-seeking person, but there's a part of me that wants to imagine sewing as a non-stop hobby of trying new things and to imagine my wardrobe as a wondrous place of variety. Except, my wardrobe is REALLY NOT that and never has been, and I'm not sure I really want it to be. I want to explore style a little more, but I'm not going stop being who I am at the very heart of things. In the end, I like to be able to put on things that feel familiar and look good, even if it means there's a lot of fundamental repetition in how I dress and the novelty, such as there is, all comes from colour, fabric and a few little decorative details. All the things in high rotation in my wardrobe are very similar, often even multiples of the same item in a different colour or fabric. I wear those things rather than other things I own because they're more comfortable, more flattering, they fit better and the colours are exactly to my preference. Plus, I just LIKE them better. Moreover, I have VERY OFTEN found myself wishing I had gone back to shop X and bought another of those shirts, or that shop Y had stocked more colours that I liked of that knit top. Basically, I'm MADE for the TNT approach, is what I'm saying.

Now I've thought about it, there's a big part of me really cheering the idea that if I decided I want a new shirt in, let's say, purple, I'd just have to look for nice purple fabric (which I LIKE doing) not trail around the shops looking for the magical combination of the shirt that is the right colour, is a flattering fit, is available in my size, is within my budget, and so on (which I despise as an activity).

A "cake" skirt: I'd be happy with several
On the other hand, I still do like novelty, and I do want sewing to be an adventure. So I also decided there are probably categories where I don't want to spend a lot of time looking for and perfecting a TNT, like dresses, evening wear, jackets, etc, because I would prefer more novelty and one-of-a-kind-ness about those items in my wardrobe. It comes back to the idea that a lot of sewing bloggers talk about: cake vs. frosting. Cake is what you wear everyday, ordinary clothes that are maybe not that exciting to think about or make. However, for me, it's important to remember that those things are frustrating to shop for as well. I'd rather make my own cake than buy it.

A frosting skirt -- I want 1 of view A (in brown) -- I don't want more than 1

Then there's frosting, more unique, one of a kind things that are interesting to make and wear. For a lot of bloggers, frosting seems to mean like, pretty vintage style dresses and evening wear that they don't just get a chance to wear. For me, I think frosting is going to include, yes, evening wear and stuff to wear to events, but also anything where I make a one-of-a-kind item rather than sticking to tried and true. My feeling is that my wardrobe should probably settle, in the long term, to an 80:20 ratio: if I have 10 skirts, let's say, that would mean 8 made to patterns that are easy and familiar, and 2 more trendy, unusual and one-off items that I probably wouldn't want to repeat because they are too distinctive. I guess my goal, when I've been sewing a few years, is to get to the point where in any given month I might be making a tried and true pattern to replace a worn-out or shabby garment, or add to a colour capsule in my wardrobe, and also going through what might be a more complicated process to adjust, muslin and make a brand new pattern for something more trendy and unusual.  Something comforting where I know how the end result will look, and something interesting, where I have to learn new skills, try new things, and work a little harder. Some cake, some frosting, basically.

This probably seems like I'm really thinking too far ahead -- I've hardly made any successful garments and here I am talking as though I have a completely hand-made wardrobe already. However, I learn fast and I learn well. I am confident I can get this figured out. I'm also someone who likes to structure how they learn and does best with specific goals in mind, and I'm not going to apologize for laying out A Master Plan! for getting there.

The TNT Master Plan: Part #1

I've decided to focus for the time being on absolute basic patterns for my upper body, in the hope that getting a really great TNT for a few methods of fitting the upper body that should transfer to all kinds of blouses and tops, and then also to dress bodices, jackets, waistcoats, coats, etc in the future.

I ended up dividing all the simple woven patterns I have into a bunch of categories based on how they are fitted to the body. (There are some more complicated patterns I own, but I'm ignoring them for now -- they're mainly "frosting" types, things I would only want one of)
Scout Grainline Tee -- relaxed, minimal bust shaping

Woven basics
1. Relaxed fit, minimal bust shaping (no darts/seams, may have shaped side seams)
2. Bust dart, relaxed waist/hip/back
3. Bust dart, fitted waist/hip/back
4. Armhole princess
5. Shoulder princess
6. Bust shaping with ruching, gathers, pleats

HotPatterns Sunshine: bust shaping with gathers

Then I looked at knit patterns. There's a bit of overlap. There are darted knit tops in the world, but I don't like darts in knits, so I'm ignoring them.
1. Minimal bust shaping (may have shaped side seams)
2. Surplice bodice
3. Wrap/Faux wrap bodice
4. Armhole princess
5. Shoulder princess
6. Bust shaping w/ gathers
7. Bust shaping w/ ruching

I decided that at a minimum I wanted to try to get a TNT in each of these 13 categories.

There are couple of problems with my plan: 1. I am currently (slowly) losing weight and anticipate that I will continue to do so for about 6 months. As a result, I am fitting a moving target, which is frustrating. On the other hand, I know exactly what my measurements are at lower weights so I know where I do and don't keep the same proportions as I lose weight (my bust, alas, retains the same upper/full/below bust dimensions proportionally, just a smaller version thereof). My feeling is that learning some fitting now won't do any harm when it comes to fitting myself again in however many months time when my weight comes to equilibrium. And I do want to sew now and not just put it off against a day that for all I know will never come when I am back to my "normal" weight. So, I'm just living with this for now and acknowledging that maybe there'll be some work done in the next six months that is not totally useful to me. 2. Fitting is HARD. REALLY HARD. This is a tough challenge I've set myself.

Colette Sorbetto from the Colette site
I'm not going to spell out my whole Master Plan on here, except to say that the very first Master Plan project is underway: developing a simple close-fitted block or sloper with bust and waist darts (using Connie Crawford's F/G sloper, on the basis that it's easier if someone else does some of the hard work on the bust fit). Once I have that, I am planning to use it to make the right adjustments to a Colette Sorbetto -- a simple bust darted, relaxed fit sleeveless shell. I probably don't NEED the block I'll get from the fitting shell to make a Sorbetto, but I think it will be a really useful learning exercise.

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