Why do you make what you make?

Over the last week I've been considering the reasons why I end up making the choices to sew and knit what I do. This pondering was sparked off by a fabric shopping trip with my friend Jen last weekend. I was looking for a dark fabric to make a plain top with Simplicity 2599. While browsing the selection (I made a purchase - details to come...) we were talking about how we planned our projects, and that we both tended to make decisions based on wanting to make a particular pattern, then selecting a suitable fabric. Later as we were walking through town we spotted a fantastic gingham dress in the window of Hobbes;

I'm not a particular fan of gingham, it reminds me of school summer dresses and can look a bit twee, but isn't this lovely? Jen felt inspired enough to buy some gingham to make a dress, which at under £10 was considerably cheaper than the Hobbes version. It wasn't what she was originally shopping for (navy swiss dot - does this exist without resorting to dying white swiss dot?) but seeing this lovely dress put an everyday fabric in a new light.

On the whole, I feel that I am driven by finding patterns I like, finding wool/fabric to match and ta dah! Decision made. I don't think there's anything wrong with this way of choosing projects, but I realise that I should challenge myself a little more, though I don't think this is an easy thing to do and really requires me to step out of my comfort zone.

During my recent knitting class, we had to bring in an image that was to be used as inspiration to design a square for a blanket. I really struggled with this. In fact, it made me feel incredibly grumpy. After a long day at work, I felt that being asked to suddenly 'be creative' was too hard, and I just couldn't do it. As a result, I abandoned the project in favour of sock knitting. A partial win, as it resulted in my first pair of socks, but I was aware that I had not taken up the challenge of working in a different way.

Much of the class was based around encouraging you to think about what you wanted to create and then match this with the right yarns, experimenting with different types and textures, or using the choice of yarn to influence the project. Again, this was quite alien to me. I left the class feeling that I actually preferred my previous way of knitting (choose pattern, choose yarn, knit), and I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

Returning to the Hobbes dress, it's a good example of when spotting a pre-existing item can inspire a make. I realised that I don't really spend time properly LOOKING at clothing to assess what I do and do not like, or working out why I like some items but not others. I'm going to try and do this a bit more, and collect examples of clothing I like, or even elements of clothing I like.

One convenient way to do this is through Pinterest. I joined up a few months ago but have rarely used it. It's a handy way to keep a collection of online images for inspiration. There's also Polyvore, which I used to create a 'moodboard' for the Colette Patterns Spring Challenge. This is ideal for creating collages using images from various sources.

I thought I'd share a couple of examples of things I have pinned to my Pinterest Boards:

French Connection Skirt - Cute fabric, pockets and a waist tie

Mac from Edinburgh-based Designer Totty Rocks. I saw this in the window of their Grassmarket shop and loved the use of a patterned contrast fabric on the back of the belt and underneath the collar. (image from Flickr)

Both of these items have elements which could easily be adopted into makes - patch pockets can easily be added to most skirt patterns. I love this skirt made by Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch, in which she has added pockets to the Colette Ginger skirt. This was a pattern I wasn't particularly interested in, but a bit of imagination (pockets & piping - yes please!) creates this fabulous garment:

What inspires you to make what you do? And how do you keep note of your inspiration sources?

K x


  1. I'm the opposite to you, I find fabric I like and buy enough for say a top/skirt or a dress depending on what I think it would look the best as and how much the fabric is and then find a pattern to use the fabric for. The problem with this method is that sometimes I have a lovely fabric hanging around for a while until I find the 'right' pattern to use it for.

    I think you're gong in the right direction with your pinterest board and am liking the French Connection skirt a lot! The fabric print is amazing and it's a cute skirt.

  2. I'm the same as Magpie Mimi, I go for the fabric first (often with a rough idea of the pattern, but not always) then wait until the right pattern comes along. This can change a lot and some fabrics I've had earmarked for specific patterns have completely changed into different projects by me seeing something inspiring - a bit like your friend and the Hobbs dress. It's surprising what the fabric eventually ends up as too! x

  3. This was a really interesting post - I have to say I'm like the ladies above, I tend to 'acquire' fabric randomly from charity shops etc - vintage sheets and so on, and think what sort of garment it would be suited to, then find a pattern to suit - only very occasionally will I find myself looking for fabric suited to a particular project.

    I've just joined Pinterest too and am loving it :)

  4. Thanks for your comments ladies!

    It's interesting to hear how your sewing comes about. I find that when I do see a fabric I like and think it would be nice as eg. a skirt, I never know how much to get for the project. Do you have figures in your head, like 'I'll need about 1.5 metres for a skirt' etc?

    Maybe one day when I have a dedicated sewing space and a bit more room, I will start to buy more fabrics in advance.


Thanks for reading and commenting - I love to hear what you have to say