When things don’t go according to plan

July 6, 2017 8 Comments

When things don’t go according to plan

July 6, 2017 8 Comments

9 times out of 10 I either buy fabrics with a very vague plan. Or I don’t really have a plan at all, I just fall in love with print or something else that makes the fabric unique. Then I let the fabric speak to me until I find the right project.

I made an Instagram post about this topic a while ago and asked if others also start with the fabric or rather begin with a specific project/pattern in mind and then buy the fabric. I got some really interesting and thoughtful answers to my question – there are many approaches when it comes to planning our sewing.

That made me think about how I often buy fabric with one kind of project in mind, but then end up making something completely different. In fact I often let a fabric whisper to me for years before I find the perfect pattern. So I went through my makes on my blog and picked out a few examples on how this works. So lets take a look how my plans sometimes can change drastically!

Silk/cotton sateen fabric (bought in 2009)


Back in 2009 I blogged about how I ordered a sage silk/cotton sateen from Robert Kaufman that I hoped would be the perfect fabric for a project I had been thinking about since I was a teenager – a copy of this zipped blouse that Hedy Lamarr wore in a photo and that was explained how to draft in the first ever pattern making book I bought.



Almost 8 years later I finally used the fabric – but ended up making a puff sleeve Burdastyle blouse with piping instead. That doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on the Hedy Lamarr top, but I realized that the fabric was wrong for the project – I need something crepe-like with a structure and softer drape, like those rayon fabrics that are found in vintage dresses from the 40’s and 50’s.

Cotton/poly burn-out fabric (bought in 2010)


2010 I bought a cotton/poly burn-out voile and my plan was to use it for insets on a romantic, vintage looking cotton voile blouse. But I never found the right pattern for that.


DIY varsity sweater

Six years later the fabric ended up on a college sweater instead! Quite a departure for sure, though I love the end result.

Sherbet colour embroidered cotton voile (bought in 2012)


Back in 2012 I bought this beautiful embroidered voile at a fabric fair.  The plan was to make a maxi skirt with a lot of gathers, so luckily I bought a lot of fabric.


Soon the idea of a maxi skirt lost its lure on me. So I spent almost four years looking for a pattern that would be the perfect match for such a special fabric.

Then in 2016 I finally found it, a dress pattern from Burdastyle.

Now this is one of the most cherished dresses in my collection.

Grey wool jersey (bought in 2013)


Pure wool knits are hard to come by in Sweden, so when I found this fabric I felt it would be the perfect choice for an updated version of one of my favourite me-made cardigans.


But when I saw this retro looking Burdastyle dress all my cardigan plans went out the window! I suddenly knew that my wool knit was destined for this shift dress.

Only problem was that I didn’t have enough fabric, so I had to employ a lot of little tricks to make the fabric work for this dress. A favourite dress for sure. I still want to make the cardigan though, but I will have to start the fabric search all over.

Cotton seersucker shirting (bought in 2010)



I wanted to make a navy sweater jacket lined this shirting fabric. But I never got around to make the sweater jacket (still love the design though, so maybe some day?)

Instead I realized that I already had the perfect pattern for this fabric – a Burdastyle western inspired shirt with puff sleeves.


So these were just some of the examples on how things often turn out very differently from what I had planned. Now I’m curious how it is for you? Do you start with a plan, buy fabric and then stick to it? Or do you rather begin with the fabric and let that be your guide?

Johanna Lundström

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  • PsychicSewerKathleen July 6, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    This was so interesting to read and see Johanna! When I buy a fabric, it’s true I have some thoughts in my mind about what I’m going to do with it. Then I find myself drawn to a pattern (because I need something in my wardrobe usually) to make up. After making my muslin I realize often the fabric I had in mind for the pattern won’t work (too stiff or thin or even maybe it should be made up in a knit rather than a woven) so I turn to what else I have that would work better and that means whatever I’d had in mind when I bought that fabric in the first place is gone 🙂 Right now I’m pleased to say that I have a remnant of gorgeous rust coloured silk (liquidy, drapey – truly divine fabric!) on my cutting table that I had purchased for a cami and I’m going to make just that out of it ALTHOUGH the pattern I’m using I bought for it’s sleeves (Dove by Megan Nielsen) and it turned out so perfect in sleeveless I’m making another and haven’t even made it up with sleeves yet 🙂

    • Johanna July 7, 2017 at 8:32 am

      That fabric sounds fantastic! Understanding fabric properties is a key component in our sewing skill tool box that perhaps isn’t always given its proper credit? And that comes with experience, just as you described once you start the process you can tell if it will work or not. And being able to make a pivot there is so important and helps avoiding disappointments.

  • Janine July 7, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Thankyou for your interesting blog post. For the majority of the time I buy fabric with no particular project in mind. I do not have much choice for fabric stores nearby so tended to just buy when I saw something I liked. Quite often it stays in my cupboard for several years like many of your fabrics you have described above. In that time the ideas for each piece change many times over. I usually have to think through things thoroughly in all aspects of my life so material seems to be no different. For the most part I am happy with my final choice . Although I can get a bit tired of my fabric from having owned it for so long, once it is made up it gets a whole new lease of life and I am glad I sewed it up and enjoy wearing the item.

    • Johanna July 7, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      I love how you say that fabrics gets a whole new lease of life when being done up! That is very true and I to can relate to a certain fabric fatigue after I’ve had the fabric stored way for several years. But turning the fabric into a garment brings back the excitement for sure.

  • Nancy K July 10, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    LOL, Your process sounds just like mine. I always have ‘something’ in mind when I buy fabric. It doesn’t always work out that way though. Occasionally, especially when coating is on sale, I’ll buy it without having an exact idea of what I want to sew, just that it’s a coat. I made a knock off of a Saint Laurent coat last year with coating that had been half price and marinating in my stash for quite a few years. Lining was a silk charmeuse print from a Fabric Mart sale that was bought for lining, but just what I didn’t know. Just that it was about $5 a yard for a gorgeous silk print. An aquaintance saw the inside of my coat and knew that I had made it because it was a really unique lining for a coat. It’s nice to have interesting fabric in my stash; you never know when you’ll use it.

    • Johanna July 11, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      I can so relate to your story, sometimes fabrics need to brew for a bit before the perfect project materialises. Plus when you encounter a gorgeous fabric, I’m all for buying it since great fabrics (and on sale even) are not always easy to find. $5 dollar for silk sounds like a dream, that would never happen in Sweden and I love how you used it for lining, I’m all for clothes to look fab both on the inside and outside!

  • JustGail July 12, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    I’m primarily a “oooh I like!” fabric purchaser with very vague plans mostly, and I’m working hard to change my ways. I’ve realized a few things wrong with a lack of plan. The only “plan” I’ve had for years is “does that fabric go with jeans?” and a very vague idea of what to make. I sew primarily shirts/tops and jackets/cardigans. The lack of plan means that most of the shirt/top fabrics do not go with most of the jacket/cardigan fabrics. Somehow, I have very few plain fabrics. Also there’s the lifestyle consideration – I hope to be retired in a few years, and have enough fabric for about 20 jackets. No way can I sew that many, and even if I do, I very likely will not have a need for them, since I’m a t-shirt/sweatshirt person at home. Then there are the fabrics I used to love, now that they’ve marinated in the stash (some for a couple of decades), that are now “what was I thinking?!” fabrics. And we’ll not even bring up the space considerations and not being able to get a fabric out that you know you have without unpacking half the stash.

    I love that college sweater you made!

    • Johanna July 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      You raise a very good point that I struggle with too, that the most alluring fabrics doesn’t always work with what we actually will wear on a regular basis. I’ve been forced to take a step back on buying those fabrics now and instead go for nice pretty fabrics that will also work in an everyday wardrobe

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