Thursday 17 August 2017

What Makes a Sewing Project Successful?

What is it that makes a sewing project successful? 

An item that looks like the original pattern or tutorial, is technically correct and looks good. One that receives lots of compliments. Perhaps a new technique tackled and another skill added to the repertoire. A new design where everything falls into place. A difficult project that comes together after much hard work. Or simply the fact that it's finished, mistakes and all.

Yes to every one of the above. However, there's one thing that gives me more satisfaction than anything else - to see my sewing being worn, or in use, by others.

In my eyes, the more an item is used, the greater the success. No matter what I think about the way the project came together, how well it is sewn or my achievements in sewing, if it gets used I'm a happy little bunny.

With many of the items I sew, I never know if they are ever used or not - donations for charity, presents for family far afield and friends I rarely see. Thank you notes and messages are great, but good manners doesn't mean the item will actually be used.

With close family members, there's the chance I'll see my sewing when visiting, on family outings, or even catch a glimpse of articles of clothing while looking at photos - always makes me feel good.

Today I thought I'd show you some of the things I've sewn that I have actually seen being used...

The Twist and Shout Twirl Skirt was made in 2011, not long after I began blogging, and it's still going strong. Little Miss wore it for many years - falling to about mid-calf length to begin with, and getting shorter and shorter. 

She didn't want to give it up, but was persuaded to eventually pass it on to a family friend. One day I spotted a photo of the friend wearing the skirt - totally made my day!

Little Miss is wearing the skirt in the beach photo, and the new owner can be seen wearing the skirt in the strawberry patch. 

I think this skirt would have to be the most used garment I've sewn since I started blogging. Why was it chosen above others in the wardrobe? I'm guessing, but I think it's the colourful fabric, the style which can be worn with and without leggings, and it must be comfortable and easy to wear, too.

The two little Easter baskets (tutorial here) made in 2012 have collected eggs every year since. I don't have any photos of the Easter egg hunts, but I've seen them out ready. 

I've been thrilled to hear they've been in use every year, along with the Santa sacks.

Sewn before my blogging days, the Santa Sacks are also brought out each year. Ha, ha... the parents commented how BIG the sacks were, when they were made.

If I were designing the sacks now, I'd do them differently - but that's from a sewists perspective, and in this instance, what I think just doesn't count.

They've done the job - the kids and parents are more than happy with them, and each year, Santa magically fills them with presents. All too quickly the kids will grow up and that will be the end of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. I'm sure it won't be long.

I'm honoured that something I sewed has contributed to the magic and joy the Easter Bunny and Santa bring.

Sewn not long after I began blogging, the Cupcake Dress was a huge hit. Perhaps it's success had something to do with the matching outfit for the Cabbage Patch doll.

Made three years apart, these two appliqu├ęd seagull cushions live at my sister's house. Living on the other side of the country, I don't get to visit often. When I last travelled over, I took the second cushion. 

Being thoughtful, my sister could have put the first cushion out for my benefit. The telltale fading said otherwise. The cushion has been out on the lounge all along.

My sister is VERY creative, so this was a huge compliment for me!

My first ever quilt was made for my youngest son. I know he loves and uses it. During Winter months, I would see it wrapped around him as we would Skype. When visiting it's always lying around, either on the bed or the lounge - not neatly laid out, but obviously left where he's snuggled under it.

Being my first quilt, it's far from perfect, but I know my son neither sees any imperfections, nor cares. I must take a photo of the quilt in its home.

A super quick refashion proved to be popular with Little Miss. It's not one I'm particularly fond of, but for a while there, it was worn a lot. As it's made with stretch fabric, I imagine it was chosen at least partially, for comfort.

I certainly wouldn't class this as an example of a well constructed garment, but still, a great success.

During the warmer months Mr TMW wears a large straw hat, complete with sweatband and hat reducer (tutorial here). When he's clearing lantana and other prickly vegetation, he adds arm protectors (tutorial here) to the mix. I'm usually out there with him, so I obviously I get to see them.

No guesses as to why they're both well worn - they are functional and a practical way of solving a problem. Neither were hard to make, and they're most certainly not examples of stylish design, so why do I count them as a huge success? Because they fulfil a purpose - Mr TMW wouldn't wear them otherwise!

Little Miss painted the design on the t-shirt and I turned it into a dress (tutorial here). This t-shirt dress was worn for years. Maybe it was because Little Miss helped in the making of the dress that led to its popularity. It must still have passed the style and comfort tests, though.

I think the fact that we both contributed to the dress made it extra special for the two of us.

The Pride and Prejudice dress was unlike any garment Little Miss had previously worn, both in style and fabric choice. It was also very different to the current trends at the time. Little Miss wore this dress over and over and over.

For a while there, I would often come across photos of this dress being worn. Although the dress hasn't fitted for a long time, I saw the photo above for the first time last night.

Little Miss declared this the Perfect Princess dress after we had finished putting it together. Most definitely not like conventional store bought princess dresses, this creation was the source of much imaginative play over a couple of years. It lived at our house, so I was lucky enough to see it used in role play many, many times. 

Bits and pieces of pre-loved clothing quickly repurposed into a princess dress - a huge success.

You might think I sew more for Little Miss, and you'd be right. She's older, so she's had a head start, but the main reason is that there's just more variety in girls' clothes.

Having said that, Little Mister has worn and loved many pairs of shorts I've sewn for him, with colour and fabric design being the overriding factors determining whether the garment will be worn or not.

These robot shorts didn't ever make an appearance on the blog, but they are Mud Puddle Splashers - I've used the pattern many times!

I love this photo of Little Mister greeting his great grandmother at a family do. He's wearing board shorts refashioned from a pair of adult board shorts and Mum is carrying a drawstring bag (tutorial here) I made for her.

The shorts were only worn for a short while. Mum's bag on the other hand, is often with her at family get-togethers.

I think Little Miss still wears the Everyday Tank Top pictured here on the same day. I haven't seen it worn much, but I have seen it on the washing line many times.

Another pair of Mud Puddle Splashers, this time in denim, with decorative stitching at the hem and on the pockets. These proved to be very popular for quite a while.

Not so the khaki pair made at the same time. I was thrilled with the stitching details I'd added, but this didn't influence Little Mister. 

The shorts remained unworn, until one day when he was asked to put on some old clothes in order to help with painting a cubby house. His response when questioned...
I don't like them, so it doesn't matter if paint gets on them.
I'm pretty sure it's the colour he doesn't like. When Little Mister was choosing backing fabric for the quilt he sewed, he steered clear of anything brown, saying it wasn't a colour he was keen on.

Now I know, at least for the time being, not to make him anything brown.

The rainbow maxi dress (tutorial here) is now three years old. I've seen it worn several times, and, as it's still hanging in the wardrobe, I assume she still likes it. Made to be worn at a rainbow birthday party, it was designed to fit as she grew.

Barbie and Ken beach towels - what a hoot!!! Little Miss designed them and I sewed the ric rac six years ago, and they are STILL being used, although now they seem to have become bath towels. 

Something as simple as sewing on a bit of ric rac has given the kids hours of fun. That in turn gives me a lot of satisfaction. Nothing complicated, no fancy sewing - just a bit of stitching to achieve the desired results.

For me, the Barbie and Ken towels are just as successful as any other project on this page, or indeed, any I have sewn. And I need to remember that when sewing projects don't go as planned, or the sewing's not perfect.

In the vast majority of cases, the recipients are not going to be looking closely at the stitching or construction. They'll either like it or not, and consequently they'll get use out of it or not.

Sorting through photos and putting this blog post together, has made me realise just how many items I've sewn for friends and family. I know not everything has been worn or used. It would be unrealistic to expect otherwise. 

Looking at so many photos en masse has given me a greater awareness of how my sewing is received by others. So, for me, a feel good post. I've only shown you a small percentage of the photos I could have included.

What makes a sewing project successful for you?

... Pam


  1. So true, a successful project is one used and enjoyed. For quilters too, we beg for our quilts to be loved to pieces, not folded in tissue paper and put in a drawers because they are "too nice to be used".

  2. I love this post Pam! I agree with every reason you covered for a successful sew. My heart swells with joy particularly when I see my children wearing what I've made, no matter how simple. In fact, one of my girls told me she no longer wanted handmade. (Sad for me) but since then I've made her a swimsuit, got a request for a long-sleeved black rayon knit shirt, and I just made her pajama pants. Something changed. I think it was a few things I've worn where she asked, "where did you get that?" ha ha So, with my one daughter being a little more challenging to please, seeing her in those pajama pants I just made (so incredibly simple), and her wearing them every night, makes me jump for joy!

  3. I totally agree with you. I made one grown child and his family quilts. When I went to visit, I found many of those quilts neatly folded under the oldest child's bed. At least the girls are using their quilts. You cannot make love the things you make, even if you spend hundreds of hours making them. That's just how it is.

    1. You are so right, Dondi - you can't make anyone love the things you make. Never the less, it must have been disappointing to see the quilts unused.

  4. Hello Pam,
    I love this post, too;-)
    Your works are all quite charming and beautiful ... and you are right. The best thing is to experience how they are used or worn ... and when there are pictures of them.

    Greetings from Germany;-),

  5. What a great post - the photos of your family and the memories you've made just by stitching fabric together is lovely.
    I'm just getting into sewing, so at this point, it's a success if when it is finished it can be used (I get a little off with right sides and seam allowances). I'm also trying to stop myself from pointing out the defects in a finished project to others. Most of them are only visible to me.

  6. It's successful for me if I actually finish it ... and if it looks as good as I wanted it to ... and then it gets out of the house (either gifted, or donated). I have a couple of nieces that are very happy to send me photos of my gifts in use (LOVE THAT) - and now I'm getting pics of a younger sibling using/wearing an item that his older brother used/wore - now THAT puts a huge smile on my face!

  7. You are so right, most used projects are the successful ones...even if they were not sewn perfectly! My kid is polite so she tells me she loves everything I sew for her ;o but I know she really loves it when she wears it over and over!

  8. Lovely post, Pam. I think for a project to be considered successful to me, firstly, I have to like the result. Secondly, it has to fulfill a purpose. (Most of the time, I don't bother making things that I won't have a use for, so that's usually a given.) As for items that aren't for me personally, yes, it is very special when I see recipients — like my hubby and my mother — using and enjoying things that I've made for them.

  9. I totally agree... whenever I give away quilts I tell the recipients - please use them!! I love seeing them being loved! xx

  10. You are so right all of those things make sewing projects successful, we learn from our mistakes, we sometimes create new design details because of our mistakes. Love the roundup of all your well used projects. x

    1. Thank you. Oh, yes... new designs are often the result of mistakes. A great way to look at it.

  11. I completely agree with you! It is the final price when you see something in use that you made. It doesn't matter if they break or fade, that's just a sign of being used really. I recently made a curtain for pram for my friend's baby and she had just been looking at similar curtains but hadn't yet bought one. Then I happened to send one, almost like reading one's mind! She was happy, I was happy.

    Then there are my own kids... I have no idea how, but they are very picky with their clothes. When they say that the boys aren't...they are wrong, utterly wrong! Nothing is more frustrating than using hours for something, you are completely happy about it, then you hand it over to your child and they say that they are never, ever going to use it. Sigh. And about brown, my son doesn't like that either so couple years back my daughter said to him that "if you don't do it right now, I will sew you brown underpants!". What a terrifying threat. :D

  12. What a fun post! I loved seeing all your creations and reading how they have been loved and used. I love the Pride & Prejudice dress. Thanks for sharing with us.....ummm....I tend to lean towards the IT's DONE! satisfaction. :-)


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