Upcoming plans, and thoughts on capsules

Long time no sew. I’m having a bit of a dry, introspective patch with my sewing lately. It got kicked off by getting a new wardrobe recently, which necessitated getting all my clothes out and dumping them in my sewing room for a week while the new one was installed.

I didn’t have physical space to sew for one thing, plus being surrounded by my clothes forced me to confront the amount I own and consider how I can balance my desire to keep sewing with the fact that I really only want to make garments that my wardrobe needs and I know I’ll love and wear often.

Yeah, that old chestnut again, eh?!

Admittedly I don’t actually have tons of clothes perhaps compared to others – I have one half of a smallish wardrobe which holds everything – but still feel increasingly uncomfortable with owning more than I need.

As I carefully sorted and hung things back in the new wardrobe (with colour-coded hangers, thanks for noticing) it made me realise I really like the idea of having a much smaller choice. It makes getting dressed much easier: when I was in the midst of everything-everywhere chaos I found I would automatically reach for my top ten garments almost unthinkingly. The old 80-20 rule in full effect.

There’s a million and one thinkpieces about how to create a capsule wardrobe (and I have a Pinterest board dedicated to the concept), but I found the steps and advice in this article pretty useful to think about.

It begs questions like: What are those pieces I reach for all the time? What’s common about them? Can I combine them to make easy outfits? How can I make more things like these, without making the exact same thing again for the sake of it? How do I keep up sewing while not needlessly making clothing I don’t want or need?

The above is a collage of the garments which I do love and end up grabbing day after day, and it’s not hard to see a pattern, right?

Dark colours (with the odd pop of pale or pastel), tied or high waists, sparse, sketchy prints and drapey fabrics are clearly my jam. Clothes that are comfortable and well-made in lovely fabrics always float to the top.

[All sources on Pinterest]

Of course, sewing still needs to be fun too! I’ve really missed being at my machine the last month or so, and with spring not too far away I’ve been starting to squirrel away ideas for the new season. The solution I’m going to test out is being even more considered in the garments I pick to sew, and aiming for longer projects where I perhaps try new skills or really labour over the little details I am often too lazy to invest in. That way I get to enjoy precious sewing time while still building well-made and needed items into my closet.

That’s the plan anyway, and these are some ideas on the next few garments I think would be great additions to my carefully-edited wardrobe.

1. Another Helmi dress, maybe one plain and one print.
2. Casual mini tee-dress, maybe another Inari.
3. Pull-on big pocket trousers, probably self-drafted
4. Windowpane check peg trousers – I have the fabric and pattern earmarked for this.
5. A spring-weight coat. I have the Orageuse Londres in mind, in a tencel or cupro. Not sure if I’ll go for pink or a maybe more classic navy.
6. Midi length knit sheath dress, might hack the Trend knot-front dress.
7. Button-up blouse/tee (maybe with sleeves) in a silk noil or linen; New Look 6250
8. Nice plain jumpsuit, Butterick 6312
9. More wide-leg pants, either Landers or high-waist Ginger flares.

[All sources on Pinterest]

Finally, here’s a little moodboard to help out with my idea on cohesion, colours and silhouettes. I think I already do pretty well on picking out naturally cohesive projects, but it’s always useful to have a little reference board.

Is anyone else thinking about this stuff? Am I overthinking things?! I just finished a lovely spring-facing project which really got me back in love with sewing, so I promise it won’t be a month between posts again!

40 thoughts on “Upcoming plans, and thoughts on capsules

  1. Diane

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately too Katie. I recently did a big wardrobe clear-out, and actually ironed and hung up the small amount of clothes I like to wear. It’s made getting ready in the morning so much easier! Now I want to focus on taking time to sew the things I could really use, which are those bigger projects like jeans and coats. Love your planning ideas, and the coloured hangers!

    1. Katie Post author

      I hang all my clothes – saves on ironing most of the time and means I can see everything at a glance. Good call on the big projects, I find those pretty fun too.

  2. Chloe

    You’re not alone at all! I’m hoping to try a slightly different capsule wardrobe-isa idea for spring, and putting all the other clothes out of sight for the season. Living in a truly 4 season environment has dissuaded me from capsuling in the past, but I think I’m ready! As for loving to sew, but not wanting to make stuff for the sake of making, I’m really focussing on the wardrobe holes, which I thought I was doing, until I realized that when the favourites were in the laundry, I keenly felt their absence. So sewing doubles it is – or something similar. Fortunately, some of my faves are actually wearing out, so I can replace them guilt free! And maybe eliminate some of the unloved things. Gorgeous closet, btw. love the trouser hanging contraption!

    1. Katie Post author

      I do a seasonal rotation too, I keep purely warm weather stuff under the bed (which given the british summer is more like ‘holiday’ stuff, ha ha). Eventually I’d like to have less distinction and less need to pack things away, but of course there’s little point in having bulky wool sweaters taking up space in the wardrobe when it’s 20+ outside.

      True about duplicates being good for laundry and the nice problem of needing to sew replacements! I have also found I want to replace things that should be great, but I made them when I knew less about fit or fabric choice, which is a difficult one to navigate.

      The trouser hanger is so good, it pulls out so I can see and access them really easily!

  3. Kaci

    If you’re overthinking it, then so am I, but I love this stuff! Thanks for the peek into your rainbow closet 😁 I’m trying out capsules for the first time this year and my winter one was so successful in helping me edit down to favorites that I’m excited to repeat the process for spring. I haven’t quite finished working through my spring runway inspiration and sewing plans yet, but Landers and a pink dress are on the list so far.

    1. Katie Post author

      I enjoyed reading your blog on your process – your point about statement pieces actually being worn more than basics rings true for me too!

  4. KS Sews

    I love anything planing related soooo :)

    I like having a larger wardrobe — I have very distinct separation between workwear, casual wear, loungewear and sleepwear — so it gives me plenty of room to play. But I do feel like my wardrobe is getting too large but primarily because I’m hanging on to some things that I like in theory but don’t really want to wear.

    So far this year I’ve been able to do a much better job focusing my sewing efforts instead of “SEW ALL THE THINGS!!”

    I like the idea of sewing in small capsules. Or a version of endless combinations where garment 2 matches garment 1, etc. and then you could ensure they fit within the larger capsule or full wardrobe.

    1. Katie Post author

      I like planning too! Luckily for me my work and casual wear are pretty much the same so that saves some re-categorisation pain. I think learning to focus your sewing plans is a skill to learn just as much as the practical skills, it’s really interesting.

  5. Patricia

    Just a quick comment to say that Meg at Sew Liberated patterns is planning the release of a big-pocketed pants pattern soon. I thought of her teaser pics when I saw your inspiration photos. It may save you some drafting, unless of course you are looking forward to that. 😁

  6. Margaret Delong

    Thanks for your update! I feel like as sewing blogs- and self sewn wardrobes- and ost of or lives in general- are becoming more established this is a natural progression, to starting to edit what to make.

    1. Katie Post author

      Great point; being in ‘learning mode’ applies to both skills building and wanting to try a big breadth of projects and in doing so, finding out what we want to hone in on. It’s only really now after 5ish years sewing regularly that I’m starting to get to that point!

  7. Marilla Walker

    Not overthinking it at all! I barely sew for myself at the moment as I have a wardrobe of clothes that is currently ticking all the boxes. Like you I don’t have much space so I need to be mindful of what goes in. I enjoy it though and I enjoy being able to pinpoint what is lacking very easily. Fortunately I do get to sew a lot of samples to keep the hands moving and the brain whirring, but I also find different hobbies help to stop me getting too twitchy! Love all your colours x

    1. Katie Post author

      Good point on switching up the hobby; I really need to try the screenprinting kit I got for Christmas, and I would LOVE to try shoes too like you!

  8. Also Katie

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself lately. Thankfully I need a complete wardrobe overhaul as my clothes are falling apart but I’ve been struggling to replace them in RTW. Why buy things that are either not well made or don’t fit properly when I can do it myself.

    My problem comes in when trying to choose patterns that will make a coherent wardrobe. I found the make nine approach has helped in terms of my choices this year. For my work wardrobe make nine I have actually pulled together a .9 pattern capsule wardrobe. My casual clothes make nine is a bit more all over the place as I try and plug gaps but that has paved the way to thinkin about what pieces I need now to update that into a more cohesive wardrobe in the future.

    And thank you so much for that link to the londres coat, I saw a rtw linen one in the shops recently (its summer here in NZ) that I loved and have been trying to find a pattern since, I can’t wait to see how yours turns out!

    1. Katie Post author

      I do still buy RTW to plug gaps but try to limit to things I need that I can’t/don’t want/don’t have time to make myself, like chunky knit sweaters for winter. Good luck with your process, and yeah I’m really excited to make the Londres.

  9. Christina

    In order to keep up with the amount of sewing you like to do, and challenge yourself, you could maybe try making more things for others? Sewing menswear peices have been the biggest challenges for me, and the most satisfying!

    Could you make things for other family members too so that you’re making things that you wouldn’t usually wear. Fabrics you wouldn’t usually use and techniques you are unfamiliar with? The only trouble then is the cost, and that they might not appreciate how much goes into their new item of clothing.

    I think I may have talked myself out of my own suggestion, haha.

    1. Katie Post author

      Absolutely! I really liked making the coat for my other half recently and he actually suggested I make things for some friends to stretch my skills a bit beyond just fitting myself. It’s definitely something I’d like to explore. Cost and time become less important if the process is really enjoyable and the recipient is appreciative.

  10. Seamallowanceincluded

    You are not alone. Just purged my wardrobe. Im going to photograph my outfits fpr tr next few weeks. The struggle i have right now is I don’t fit most thigs as i put on weight during pregnancy, so need to shift 20lbs to allowe to assess properly. However, i have donated lots of stuff i haven’t worn in a few yrs and plan on removing things i tinkni wpnt wear to see if i miss them.

    1. Katie Post author

      Photographing outfits is a great idea. I have a Pinterest board of outfits I’ve seen online and want to use as inspiration, but saving your own combos is even better. I also have a little extra weight right now but luckily I don’t sew many super-fitted things!

  11. Jess

    I’m in a similar place!!! My goal for spring to create 6-7 pieces that can be work together, and that have long term wear in mind. I’m wondering if it is a gradual process when we’ve been sewing (and apartment dwelling!) for a while. Knowing you can sew anything makes you really consider what you actually want!

    1. Katie Post author

      Yes! It’s difficult when the most wearable or needed things aren’t always the most exciting to sew though, ha ha, so I guess there’s a balance!

  12. Ana

    I loved reading this post! I am all into planing and sewing better and slower what I will wear more. I like to imagine what will the new make go with and I do hope that at one point it will ‘click’ and I will feel I have a capsule wardrobe. I feel you are already almost there, but as well as everything, our closets are constant work in progress so we will always be making to fill the gaps. Which is also where the fun is, right?

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks Ana! Yes I agree I’m not far off, and of course changing preferences and fashions (even sewists get led by trends, obviously) means you will always want to be switching things up. That’s good to remember.

  13. kalimak

    Great post! I find your sewing very inspiring, so I was really curious to see the selection of your most-worn garments.
    You’ve inspired me to dive back into “The Curated Closet” and keep working with that book.

    At the same time, though, I do kind of know the answer to the question “what clothes to make”: more shirts, simple tops, and trousers. Alas, dresses are fun to make even if they don’t get worn that often…

    I think it was on your blog that I stumbled upon a reflection that stuck with me: that if the fabric piece would suffice to make a dress out of, it’s difficult to make a top out of it. I’m reminded of that very often when I look at my stash, and it’s helped me make some now much-loved (and worn!) tops that I badly needed.

    1. Katie Post author

      Ha yes, I still feel like that! I’m aware that there’s only one top in my makenine grid too. I’ve been mostly living in RTW jumpers with my handmade trousers all winter, so it will be interesting to see if in spring I stick to separates or swing back to dresses.

  14. PsychicSewerKathleen

    Seamwork is running a great program right now on wardrobe planning that you might like to join. I’ve been busy printing out the worksheets and working with them which has been quite helpful! I think this movement is like a tidal wave created by a return to sewing (which has been building momentum over the past 5 years) in combination with the awareness that “cheap fashion” isn’t really cheap at all. I think as sewists because we do spend so much time and $ making our own garments it is important to consider what we NEED more and not just what we WANT. But I agree wholeheartedly with you that the best first step is cleaning out THE closet :) Sewists can find it especially hard to part with their handmade garments, often keeping them around for decades. But they do go out of style, we change both emotionally and physically and our lifestyles can change dramatically too meaning our clothing needs shift. Anyway you might want to investigate what Seamwork is up to – it seems this might be the just the right fit for you right now. https://www.seamwork.com/wardrobe/design

    1. Katie Post author

      Wise words! I do struggle sometimes with letting go of handmade garments for sure, even if they don’t get worn. I have found I’m able to sell some or give to friends, which is nice as hopefully they’re going to a happy new recipient, which makes it easier. You’re right that sewing ‘frees’ us from cheap fast fashion but we’ll still never be immune to changing fashions or lifestyle, so some in-and-out will always be there. I’d seen the Seamwork initiative start but don’t think I can commit the time, I’ll be interested hear how it pans out though.

  15. Janet

    Urgghh, I need to get on top of this too. I don’t sew quickly so I have tons of ’emergency’ purchases that I don’t like all that much. But if I get rid of them all, there’ll be nothing left… I’m trying to follow the advice from the Curated Closet book about matching the quantities of the things in my wardrobe with the way I spend my time – so if I spend 40% of my time at work, then 40% of my wardrobe should be work clothes. It sounds as though you’re getting your wardrobe (and your sewing plans) into shape, so I’ll be intrigued to see if you decide to pare down or not.

    1. Katie Post author

      I still buy a bit of emergency RTW too – like it’s cold, I need some chunky knit sweaters! My wardrobe is far from 100% handmade and I don’t mind in that way, but I’d like to apply the same principles to decision-making in both I suppose. I’ve always been okay at the lifestyle-matching too, but luckily my work and casual wardrobes are the same which makes it easier!

  16. Show and Tell Meg

    I’m going through the same dilemma with my knitting. I love to knit sweaters more than anything else, but I live in Florida and I have made 17 sweaters at this point, lol. Not super practical. This year I’m focusing on designs that will take me longer to make as well as using thinner yarn to make them more wearable for my climate – very hard considering how I’m always drawn to thicker yarn and cropped cardigans. Anyway, kudos to you trying it out with your sewing.

    1. Katie Post author

      Ha ha, that is quite a disconnect between lifestyle and hobby! Thinner yarn sounds like a good idea, good luck.

  17. Cecilia Child

    I have been in the exact same space. I made over 50 pieces last year which is on par with my fast fashion buying days. Not all of them for me but still. I’m trying to slow down and enjoy the process. Also, I’m cutting into my special fabrics that have been sitting in my stash for fear of ruining them. I figure slow, mindful sewing is the answer. I have a gorgeous heavy weight sandwashed cupro in a grey green that I am dying to make up into a trench coat. I love the Londres but am worried by the sparse instructions. I look forward to reading about yours.

    1. Katie Post author

      Slowing down and using those special fabrics are great ideas; often easier said than done though when you’re driven by the joy of having a new finished garment to enjoy as soon as possible! Good thing to aim for though. That fabric sounds perfect for the Londres. I haven’t looked at the instructions yet (I bought the PDF) but hope it’s manageable!

  18. Sewingbyletters

    You are definitely not alone. I have been using the make nine goal to plan my sewing, and trying to go slower and more carefully. I have also been sewing way more for others – trying to do one or two for me, one for someone else. So far I have sewn a full-on long sleeved dress shirt for my MiL and two shirts for my husband on this plan.

    I also took up knitting while working abroad for six months (away from my machines!) I am debating getting a bit more serious about knitting more than a scarf or hat, like a full sweater maybe? We will see! Good luck with your intentional sewing initiative!

  19. Shauni S

    Really loved reading your thoughts on a capsule wardrobe/conscious sewing. I think we’re bombarded with articles, books and methods on how to achieve the wardrobe holy-grail (I’m currently reading The Curated Closet and finding it totally overwhelming/over the top) but we can only really decide on how to get there by ourselves!
    Your styles and silhouettes definitely speak to me! My measurements have changed so I really need to start addressing the need for a whole load of new spring clothes – think I’ll be taking inspiration from your planning :)

    1. Katie Post author

      Yeah I struggle with all the structured approaches, though I like many of the ideas in theory, you have to make sure that reading/planning doesn’t get in the way of just doing it though ;) Been enjoying your planning pins too, hurry up spring please!

  20. Emma

    Really inspired by this post-Katie! I love all your inspiration images and colour coded hangers. I have recently had multiple clear-outs of clothes that I made when I started sewing again. It has given the clothes that I love to wear space to hang freely in my wardrobe.

  21. Millennium

    Ellen, I have a similar story about sewing learned as a young girl with visions of myself as a style maven, then gave up sewing when it was more expensive than buying off a rack, then relegated my sewing to pillows and curtains. But I never thought of it so elegantly: “What I didn’t know at 10 is that I wasn’t simply making clothes; I was inventing myself. It”s so true!

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