Sewing Spreadsheet Nerds Unite!

By | November 4, 2016

Sooo… my sister, award-winning author and occasional blog commenter, expressed an interest at one point in seeing (and perhaps mocking?) my sewing spreadsheet.

I’m pretty sure there is a significant subset of the sewing community that appreciates tracking their projects, whether the cost or the usefulness or some other metric that satisfies the itch to quantify and classify. It’s oddly satisfying, like a way to commemorate or somehow make official a completed garment. (FYI, spellcheck assures me that “officialize” is not a word.)

I am part of that subset of sewers. I love data, and cling to the belief that if you have the right data and a meaningful way to analyze it, you can answer any question. While that often holds true at my job, this is more self-indulgent. I just can’t not classify and measure my hobby.

My spreadsheet, just a super basic Google doc, tracks a few different data points. Most helpful to me are the total cost of each garment, the total number of wears, and the resulting Cost Per Wear. (Stacy London Alert!) Every time I finish a garment, I add it to the list, and I update it every couple of days to note items I’ve worn. It does require upkeep, but let’s be real, that’s the fun part. Getting to re-sort the sheet is the best!

An excerpt, sorted by Cost Per Wear

An excerpt, sorted by Cost Per Wear

Note: if you’re looking at my Cost Per Wear, the math doesn’t work out. I subtract $8 from the materials cost of any garment as the cost of my entertainment in making the item. I figure it’s the cost of a movie ticket, or a used book, or a coffee and pastry. That’s why sewing is awesome: your entertainment costs and wardrobe costs get rolled up together! If the item cost less than $8, the formula starts at $0 and subtracts $1 for each wear.

I also track the date of completion, and color-code each item by the year and quarter in which it was completed. (A different color for each year, with a different gradient for each quarter.) Β It’s an easy, visual way to see how many garments I’ve stitched in any period, and is a good reference for what items have had the most or least time in the closet.

Other fields include mostly keywords (type of fabric, seasonality, etc). I haven’t yet found a way to use these, but I add them to the sheet in case I find it meaningful later. Like, maybe I’ll find out that I get a lot more wear out of winter items with a high per-project cost, or that sleeveless items don’t get much wear at all.

Also, for curiousity’s sake, I track which garments were made from stash fabric, and which I purchased new fabric for.

I have a separate tab for sewing expenses. Anytime I buy something, from fabric to thread, it goes on the sheet. This is what I use to calculate my total garment costs. I also figure it will serve as viable proof, if ever I require it, that my hobby spending is totally *not* out of control. Turns out I average less than $10 per week on sewing expenses. #Receipts, people.

I have about 2 years’ worth of data at this point, so trends are just now beginning to emerge. (My data scientist spouse might have a laugh at the idea of my spreadsheet being viable data at any point…) Turns out, outerwear is pretty the much best investment I can make, and party dresses have a terrible long-term return. (Still worth it.) In all honesty, even if I determined that one type of fabric/garment/etc netted the absolute best value, I would probably still sew whatever the hell I felt like in the moment. It’s still on par with and usually less than RTW costs.

The whole pretty much an exercise in frivolity, but I get a weird sort of pleasure out of my spreadsheeting. Plus, tracking my garments really encourages me to wear them more. It’s a bit of a gamification of sewing, in which wearing an item feels like points gained. (Yes, I’m trying to gamify my own hobby. You mean that’s not cool?)

Sooooo… now that I’ve publicly discussed my secret spreadsheet, anyone else on the tracking train? How do you track your sewing projects? What metrics do you find interesting? Any data discoveries you’ve made?

8 thoughts on “Sewing Spreadsheet Nerds Unite!

  1. Swedishseams

    Amazingly detailed! πŸ™‚ I don’t think I could track how many times I wear an outfit, but I do use more qualitative metrics in my own spreadsheet πŸ™‚

    I use a “Wardrobe GPA”, which is mostly RTW garments, but I could extend it to sewn garments too (haven’t sewn that much yet), to see patterns about the types of clothes I like to wear. For example, 7/10 means a garment I wear often, usually practical but maybe boring. Extra points if I feel stylish and good in it. Minus points if there’s some reason I don’t feel good in it (tugging at poor fit, fabrics, poor quality, etc), and I write some notes in the spreadsheet about why it was a miss. My aim is to raise the overall GPA of my wardrobe, though partly why I started sewing is because I’m stuck at a GPA of about 7: “I have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear”.

    I like that you’ve deducted a basic entertainment cost for sewing πŸ™‚ that’s accounting that I agree with! My boyfriend also teases me about how much I’m spending on my hobby but I don’t think it’s out of control.

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      I love what you’re doing with the qualitative analysis! Weighting items that make you feel awesome makes a lot of sense to me.

      I’ll be curious as you continue to sew whether you’ll be able to bump up your “7.” I know I’m pretty hit or miss on knowing what projects will turn out to be winners. I’m pretty optimistic that your GPA will benefit from your handmade items.

      Thanks so much for your input!

  2. Jenni Wiltz

    OMG, this is intense! I’m so impressed. I’ve wondered a lot about cost per wear. If I tracked something like that, though, I’d probably just use it as justification to buy something really expensive….since my lowest cost-per-wear items would also be some of my most expensive (boots, fancy purse). I am going to study this image in further detail. πŸ™‚

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      LOL, I actually want this to be way more intense because it’s pretty bush league, tbh. I think there’s a viable argument to spend more on things you know you’ll wear. I’m feeling like if I’m going to make another coat or jacket, I can buy quality materials and then wear the hell out of it. On the other hand, it doesn’t really average out because unless I slow down my sewing, I’m just out a bunch more money. Cheap person problems. Love you.

  3. Claire

    Wow, thanks for sharing this. I’ve been thinking about tracking my sewing in a spreadsheet for a long time but haven’t done it yet. I love that you deducted the $8 for enjoyment. Such a good idea. I also don’t view $ spent on sewing as a quid pro quo replacement for $ spent on RTW since it is primarily a hobby and secondarily a cheaper alternative to RTW. Even if the data doesn’t keep you from sewing those party dresses, it’s fun to see the trends of what is the best $ sewing investment! Just thinking out loud here about data I might want to track in a future spreasheet…do you also track amount of time spent on a project and whether you learned any new sewing skills in completing the project? What about RTW purchases of clothes/accessories/shoes?

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Hi Claire! Oooh, hours spent on a project — that’s intriguing. I would love to know if there’s any correlation between hours spent (meaning ostensibly more detailed and thoughtful projects) and overall wear. Alternately, as a sloooooow sewer, I might be horrified seeing how much time I spent on garments. I mean, I’m sewing a flipping t-shirt right now, and it’s taking FOREVER.

      And yeah, I do track any new sewing skills I’ve learned. I just cropped it out because it was getting way too dorky.

      I hope you start tracking — it’s added another dimension to my sewing, and makes me think about long-term results instead of just whipping through whatever’s on my table and forgetting about it.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  4. Yummy mummy

    Yes, I do a version of this too! Using Xcel and now numbers in Mac, I list by colour, fibre type, metrage, $/m, fabric width, garment made, with pattern number. It works out total cost of garment with the equations.

    You can sort by colour, or metrage or fabric type, when you look for fabric for your next project.

    I use it to track my stash (gulp, over 200 pieces, cos I’ve been sewing for over 30 years!). I use Stylebook to calculate CPW (app was only available for Apple products last time I looked). I’ve taken photos of my garments and added them to the virtual closet on that app. Lots of fun!!

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      A stash spreadsheet — that’s sounds so useful (especially for a collection of your size)!

      You know, I should give Stylebook another try. I bought it for the same reason as you -/ cost per wear. The process of getting good photos of my clothes was a bit onerous, and I gave up on it. Maybe I should just start with new makes and go from there…


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