2017: Hits, Misses and Lessons Learned!

I’ve always enjoyed reading as other bloggers reflect on their “hits and misses” – in fact, its one of my favorite times of the year to read blogs, because it encourages me to reflect on my own sewing projects, and it always inspires me to add a few of their “hits” to my sewing list.

After thinking about doing it for what seemed like ages, I finally launched my blog in February of 2017, so I’m excited to contribute my own post, as I reflect back on the year, and all it has brought.

2017- What Changed?

This year was monumental for me in terms of changing how I view sewing, and incorporate sewing into my life. While I’ve been sewing for 5 years now, its only been in the past twelve months that I’ve discovered the online sewing community via Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Previously I had been a member of sites like Pattern Review, and had even attended a PR convention and a couple local workshops, but largely felt isolated in my sewing hobby, unsure how to reach out to connect with other sewists, and generally just lurking around (wow, that sounds really creepy!), admiring everyone’s makes, but never sharing my own. I was also a bit inconsistent with my sewing- I would give it up for months at a time, and had more unfinished projects than I’d like to admit.

When I happened upon a few pattern groups on Facebook about a year or so ago, a whole new world felt like it was opening up- as a (mostly) stay at home mom of three kids, I had finally found a way to connect with other sewists, motivate myself to sew more often, and tackle new challenges. (I also discovered all the fabric available via such groups, but you won’t find me adding that up!)

I started sharing a few of my projects in these groups, and my confidence soared at the positive feedback and support I received. I noticed that some people were “testing”, which sounded really cool. I resolved to figure out what that meant, and try it out for myself.

My first test was for the Greenstyle Scarlet Swing Dress- and I quickly discovered that by becoming involved in the development of a pattern, I could achieve two of my biggest goals for the year: to sew more consistently (I’m a deadline oriented gal), and to learn new techniques directly from the designers themselves. I also discovered a love for sharing new ideas/hacks with others- the TAMI nursing hoodie hack was my first published tutorial, and still a popular one nearly a year later!

Partway through the year, Angelyn, of Greenstyle Creations, invited me to be a part of her team, which was a huge compliment, and a wonderful opportunity. Since then, I’ve worked closely  the Greenstyle team to help test new patterns, write blog posts and tutorials, conduct Sew Alongs, and serve as a resource in the group. This has been incredibly rewarding- the Sew Alongs in particular are mountains of work, but they always challenge me to develop new hacks and ideas, and to connect on a more personal level with other sewists. Greenstyle patterns are a staple of my wardrobe, and you’ll see several in my “top 10” list, but I still sew and appreciate a variety of patterns, and I love how supportive the indie community designers are of one another!

2017: What did I learn?

While the year had its ups and downs, I kept on sewing, and managed to learn/reinforce the following skills:

My husband has also been incredibly supportive of my sewing journey this year- and much of that support has been manifested in his amazing photography. We started out with an older loaner camera, and then upgraded twice, settling on the Sony A7r ii that we have now.

Although modeling and photography has its stressful moments, its been an amazing bonding experience for us as a husband and wife team, and as a family, and its taken us to some really fun locations (like this one on Lake Tahoe!). He’s even branched out and started his own photography business- you should really check him out at Stephen Connell Photography! I’m really enjoying decorating our home with his photos, and we never have to hire a photographer to take family photos again (this one was on our Christmas cards this year!).

My total number of blog posts for the year was 173, I participated in 15 blog tours, and though I’ve lost count of the number of items I’ve made, it was well over 100, and probably closer to 200. My closet is now teeming with me-made items, and its time to take a look, and see which ones get worn all the time (the “hits”), and which ones languish in obscurity (the “misses”)

The Hits!

(Note: to view the blog post about the patterns, click on the title link. To view the pattern, click on the link in my review.)

1) Hey June Halifax, numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4

I’ve made four so far, have a fifth cut out and ready to go, and recently bought fabric for several more. What makes this pattern such a hit? It fits me just right, has several very wearable but interesting options (cowl, zip up hoodie, angled seam top), and has top notch instructions. This is one of those patterns I’ll make over and over and over until you want to scream at me for blogging yet another Halifax. #sorrynotsorry

2) Tropical Midway bomber

The Midway Bomber makes me feel cool every time I wear it- and I’ve got 5 of them in my closet, so that’s quite a bit. I love that I can make it unlined, for a quick project, or lined, for a warmer jacket. I even made a reversible version, but this floral liverpool is by far my favorite. It goes on perfectly over jeans, which is what I wear when I’m not wearing #leggingsaspants.

3) Metallic Waterfall Raglan

When I made this, I wasn’t sure how much I would wear it- it was pretty fancy, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about all the design ease. But its quickly become a favorite for parties and dinners out- which is a category of clothing I don’t own much of, so I’m really glad to have it! I think I might like to try a more casual version with a lower neckline next year.

4) Navy and leather Oakley (Love Notions)  and Plaid Trailblazer Vest (Twig and Tale)

Ok, technically that’s two patterns, but they’re both vests, so I’ll put them together and hope they get along. I love the Trailblazer because its super duper warm and cozy, and because I’ve never had a pattern go together so smoothly. I also love the baby wearing insert for winter weather hikes, and the fact that the whole family has a trailblazer now (except the baby! I’m getting to her!). I love the Oakley because its unlined, and the faux leather bias just makes me feel like a cool cat every time I wear it.

5) Pumpkin Lulu Dolman (Petite Stitchery)

I thought I was done with dolmans- I had tried the Pumpkin Spice Dolman and the Sweet Tee, with less than stellar results (not a fault of the patterns, more to do with my style and how I like tops to fit), so I wasn’t keen to try another when the lulu came around. But, I gave it a shot anyway, as part of a blog tour, and was floored. I’ve made two so far, and don’t plan to stop. I don’t know if I’ll like a short sleeve dolman on me- but the long sleeve view is certainly a hit.

6) Hey June Lane Raglan

Another pattern I’ve made more times than I can count. I love the wide, rounded neck, which is nursing friendly (baby girl doesn’t have time for pulling up the shirt anymore!) and flattering- I’ve always liked showing my neck and collarbones, as they’re one of the few parts of my body I’ve never felt insecure about. I love the rounded hem, too, so much that I’ve started applying it to my other tops as well!

7) Jalie Gigi bottoms and 5 out of 4 Escapade Top

I lived in this combination this summer. We took a trip to San Diego, a Trip to Hawaii, and a trip to Santa Cruz, and spent countless hours at the pool at home. My favorite version is this one, made from custom Sly Fox Fabrics swim knit. The bottoms stay put, and the top is flattering and a little fancy and sporty at the same time- just my style. I even did a little tutorial for adding the applique here. Making a bathing suit was a real confidence builder for me- it was one of those projects that always felt out of reach and was finally demystified- I see many more handmade suits in my future. Why likes shopping for swimwear anyway?

8) DIBY Duchess Skirt

The Duchess is my go-to for maxi skirts. It’s a single (albeit HUGE) pattern piece, and goes together lickety split. I’ve found I don’t really like short skirts, but for the warmer months, this hi-low maxi keeps me cool. I hacked it to add pockets, because, pockets. Did I mention this one’s free? Total winner.

9) Greenstyle Inspire Tights

I love to workout- it keeps me sane. So any real DIY type closet has to include workout pants, which is good, because Lululemon gets expensive! Everyone always goes gaga for the Stride tights, but I’m an Inspire girl- I love the mesh insert option, and the hidden waistband pocket. I mash them with the waistband from the Strides to get a higher rise, and sometimes eliminate the side seam for a simpler pair of leggings.

10) Itch to Stitch Brasov

Another nursing-friendly favorite (are we sensing a theme here?), the Brasov is office appropriate (hey, I do go in once a week), but also quite comfortable (another running theme?). The pattern was intimidating at first- all those markings! But once I got started, it came together really quickly.

It was REALLY hard to narrow this down to just 10, so here are some honorable mentions: Centerfield Swing Dresses, Jalie Rova, Portlander Pants PJs, Green Tee (I hacked this one every way to Tuesday!), Uvita Top, Capsule Cardigan, Leather accent Tami Hoodie, Skinny Chelsea Pants, and my Chi Town Chinos. 

The Misses!

1) Leopard Mama Catherine top

This one is mainly the fabric- it didn’t have quite enough stretch, so the yoke feels too tight, and the sleeves a bit too short. Which is really too bad, because I was excited about this fabric, and I like the silhouette in general. I’m not sure if I’ll try this one again (so many patterns, so  little time!), but if I do I’ll pay more attention to fabric stretch, and also probably eliminate the interfacing/lining in the neckline, and replace it with a facing, like I did with my Uvita top.

2) Buffalo Plaid Julianne Top

I was dying to make a buffalo plaid button up- so much so, that when I couldn’t find an appropriate flannel, I decided to make it work with a high quality quilting cotton. I plaid matched this like a boss, but the shirt is just too stiff for me to love- and the 3/4 length sleeves are too cold in the winter, and too long in the summer. I do, however, love the flannel version that I hacked to have knit sleeves and a knit hood- so again, this one is down to (bad)  fabric choices.

3) Paisley Hepburn Turtleneck

This one is just way too fitted for my liking- the pattern cover looked much looser, and I have to assume the model sized up, because mine fits like a glove. Or pantyhose. Which is not  a good feeling, as far as I’m concerned. I like things to be fitted in the bust and arms- but until I make more time for ab workouts, I don’t want a top clinging to my tummy. This one goes in the donate bin, which is sad, because it was really pretty! If I make it again, which I probably won’t until Princess weans, I would size up 1 or sizes.

4) Ninni Culottes

I loved Named patterns- they bring a fresh perspective to the design world, that I really appreciate. I really wanted to love these culottes, and they are super comfortable, so I still wear them, but I don’t think they’re terribly flattering on me. Having short legs, I think I need to wear shorter shorts, or long pants- capris tend to make me look like I’ve been cut off halfway down. I’ve seen them on other bloggers though, and loved them- so this is just a personal style preference.

5) Linen and Feather Miss Olivia Dress

I made several dresses this year- and the only ones that get worn are super casual. I’m just not a fancy dress type of person, and the heavy linen made this dress unbearably hot during the summer, and the voile bodice too cool during the winter. This one stays in my closet, in case the right occasional comes along, but I’ll try to remind myself to stay away from fancy dresses as a rule. It could be made less fancy depending on your fabric choice- which I might try someday.

6) Tropical romper

You might recognize this fabric from my favorite Midway Bomber! I really like the crossover neckline of this Mama Megan Romper, but the rise was too short for me, and I just felt awkward in a romper. Other women rock them with ease, so I think it’s just not my style. See my comments below on learning that I can’t live the life of a vogue model.

7) Off the Shoulder Daphne Tops

I really love the photos and fabric of both these tops- but I never wore them, because I couldn’t figure out how to wear a bra and not look weird. With the shoulders up, I look like a Mexican waitress (nothing against them, just not the look I’m going for), so that’s not a viable option either. I think I’ll have to donate these one to someone who will appreciate it- or wait until summer and wear them over bathing suit tops. I think this one is a case of seeing something in a magazine, and figuring hey, I can wear that, and then realizing that it’s not altogether practical for me. Ah well.

8) Black Halter Camila Swimsuit

This photoshoot was really fun, and the Princess wore her suit all summer long. I didn’t wear mine as often, because the off the shoulder style wasn’t as practical as a bikini for chasing my kiddos around the beach. I’m glad I made it, because it helped get me comfortable with sewing bathing suits, and provides a nice 1 piece option for when I need it- but I don’t think I”ll make another.

9) Daybreak Rashguard

The fabric on this was amazing, and the photoshoot was really cool. But this top digs in around my armpits and isn’t comfortable to wear. I wish I would have ordered some extra fabric to go with the bottoms, so I could make a matching top for next season, though.

10) Sundown Tank

I love the look of the Sundown tank– it mimics a ready to wear style of athletic wear that I really like- but I didn’t quite nail the neckband application, and the binding treatment for the back was bulky, even in this light weight athletic knit. The high neck is also not very nursing friendly. I might try this one again someday, with a few changes, but this version doesn’t get worn much.

Lessons Learned:

Sewing time is always at a premium, and I want to spend it as much as possible on things that will make practical additions to my closet. I’ll talk about my sewing goals for 2018 in another post, but here are some take-aways that I hope to remember next year!

  • I’m a pretty casual person. I also don’t wear many dresses, unless they are also very casual (my scarlet swing mashups are a notable exception- click on the link to see the video tutorial). They are fun to test, but I really need to think hard before I sew another one. On the other hand, causal basics, like the Midway Bomber and the Halifax, will always be hits because they fits so well into my lifestyle.
  • Everything needs to be nursing friendly. Everything. I’ve made a commitment to extended nursing, and if I can’t nurse easily in it, it won’t get worn. Period.
  • Fabric matters. Unless I’m making children’s clothing, I need to stay away from quilting cottons- they feel too stiff. My favorite fabrics to work with are rayon wovens, bamboo knit blends, tencel and modal.
  • Details matter. I love my Oakley vest and several of my hits because they have a unique detail that I can’t find on ready to wear clothes, and that keeps me interested in an item for a long time.
  • Knowing my body, and how I like things to fit. This is definitely something that I want to explore more in 2018, but essentially, I don’t like things too tight, or too loose. For something to look good on me it needs to be fitted somewhere- preferably in the bust and arms, but with some ease around the waist and hips. Other girls rock the wiggle- but I would be crawling out of my skin in something that tight.
  • I wear a lot of active clothing, and need to make more of it! I always feel good when I wear my hand made workout clothes to the gym- so I need to up my game on that in 2018.
  • Notably absent from this post is all the sewing I did for my kids and husband. I love sewing for them, more than I thought I would at the beginning of the year, so I want to continue to make their favorites as well.

Whew! If you made it to the end of this exhaustive post, THANK YOU! Your readership and encouragement has meant a lot to me this year, and I can’t wait to share my plans for 2018 (and hear yours!). Do you share any of these hits or misses with me?

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  1. Sherri on December 30, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I still can’t believe you’ve been blogging for such a short time. I make a conscious effort not to play the comparison game with you!! I will lose that game. This is a great post with some great thoughts for me to take into consideration. As I up my me-made sewing I need to focus on the reasonably items that fit my lifestyle. Congrats on a great year!

    • Sarah on December 30, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      Thank you! I don’t think we need to compare at all- just encourage each other and challenge ourselves! I totally agree- it’s about what fits your lifestyle!

  2. Auschick on December 30, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Great round up! I’ve loved seeing your work this year! I made that duchess skirt too but hate it because no pockets and I don’t like that I can see the white side of the cotton Lycra from the front. Will have to look at your pocket hack!

    • Sarah on December 30, 2017 at 9:31 pm

      Yessss….pockets are key! Thank you!

  3. Emily on December 30, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Fantastic post and pics and makes! I can’t believe you’ve been blogging for less than a year! Sounds/looks like you’ve found your style and I can’t wait to see your 2018!

    • Sarah on December 30, 2017 at 9:30 pm

      Thank you Emily! I can hardly believe it’s been less than a year either – it’s taken over my life (only sort of kidding here!)

  4. Kendra on December 30, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I love the hits and misses posts too! There are so many good ones on this list! It’s always so nice to find other makers with similar measurements and style, so I can low-key lurk their closets and decide what I want to copy, haha! I’m also totally with you on the figuring out your personal style front. I’m actually a little bit the opposite of you in terms of preferred fit, since I absolutely cannot stand clothes that don’t hug my waist and often find myself taking patterns in there for a slimmer fit. (Side bar: if your totally awesome turtleneck needs a new home, you can just send her on over, haha! Maybe we should swap, because I definitely have stuff I don’t wear because it’s too loose in the waist and hips!). What a cool year this has been! Can’t wait to see what you make in 2018! ❤️

    • Sarah on December 30, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      I would SO do a sewing swap with you! That would be fun!

  5. Genevieve Grossmann on December 30, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    I love reading this post Sarah. We discovered PDF patterns and testing at about the same time and I can relate to so many things you said. I really enjoy seeing your pics and what you sew. Thank you for Sharing.

    • Sarah on December 30, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      It’s been a crazy ride hasn’t it! Thank you for reading- what were your favorites from 2017?

  6. Krisha on December 31, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    I feel like you and I have been hanging around the sewing world about the same amount of time and I’m always so impressed with your makes. I’ll tell you on the Paisley Hepburn Turtleneck, I used that fabric for a pattern test and I think it’s just a super tight fabric; I had the same problems on a completely different top. Looking forward to what you have planned in the new year.

    • Sarah on January 2, 2018 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks Krisha! Its good to know maybe it was just the fabric- I might give the pattern another chance then!

  7. Aukje (Sew Cucio) on January 2, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Love the hits and misses post, such a great idea. I love to read what makes a garment work or not, indeed usually it is fabric. Thank you for all your insights and inspiring story!

    • Sarah on January 2, 2018 at 6:04 pm

      So true- fabric is so so so important! Thanks for reading!

  8. Abbey on January 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    You’ve had such an amazing sewing year, Sarah! Loved seeing every make! Of your fails, some of that fabric is too gorgeous to chuck. I wonder if you could save the Daybreak Rashguard by making a sleeveless bikini top, similar to the SUAT Titania, so you could keep the Daybreak crossover but fix the armscye. And I’d definitely save the Mama Megan romper by keeping the shorts and figuring out what else to do with the bodice portion; maybe add it to a black circle skirt?

    • Sarah on January 2, 2018 at 6:03 pm

      These are such wonderful suggestions! I think i almost get mad at the things that didn’t work out- so I want to throw them in a corner and forget about them. But your ideas are awesome and I will totally try to implement them! Thanks!

  9. Jules on January 2, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    Thank you for this! I appreciate that you’re honest about how you feel about the item you made. It’s rare. They look so good on you…not knowing you, I would assume you dress up all the time-just cuz it looks so right on you. lol I don’t always like what I make either. And sometimes my kids don’t like what I’ve made them. It helps to know that I’m not the only one, that sometimes “it just didn’t quite work out”.

    • Sarah on January 2, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      You’re totally not the only one! Sometimes, things don’t work out- just like when I buy from a store! And I’m so glad you appreciate the honesty- I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I always love reading honest reviews- I think people need them to determine whether a pattern is right for them or not! Happy new year!

  10. Michelle on January 9, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    I love your Miss Olivia dress! But I get it, I have a few things that don’t work for either season, like the Anza I just posted. Also 173 posts! I just counted mine: 20 😀

    • Sarah on January 9, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      I know- it was so pretty but just not super practical. And I don’t know what I was thinking- just an over zealous beginner I guess? I’ve definitely slowed down a bit more lately- trying for quality over quantity.

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