Sewing Spreadsheet Nerds Unite!

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.) ┬áIt’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?

Simplicity 1324: Split Decision

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Some projects don’t quite work out. They have all the right ingredients, but the end result is … lacking. Kind of like the deep-fried Twinkies you can buy in the freezer aisle.

Let’s start with the fabric. This a semi-stretch woven with a suede-like texture. In mint green. I can’t remember why I bought it, but I’m pretty sure it was dirt cheap. It’s been on the shelf for a long time, waiting for inspiration. Or desperation. One of the two.

The pattern is Simplicity 1324. While I have a few quibbles with the skirt, and I haven’t yet tried any of the other pieces, I have to say — based solely on the technical drawings — this is a fantastic “wardrobe” pattern.

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The pants have a waistband and a fitted straight leg, the knit tee is classic, and the jacket and skirt feel modern and wearable with simple but attractive seaming. For a new sewer building a pattern collection, there’s a lot of mileage to get out of this pattern.

Okay, onto the skirt, and straight to the point: the split looks great in the cover photography, but is too revealing in the real world.

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While the length is okay for work (ideally, I’d add an inch or two, but really, it’s work-acceptable as drafted), the style is not.

Also, I cut a size 10, per usual, and this skirt is tight on me. Take your measurements, compare the fit across the back, and consider sizing up. I was too lazy to do so, and paid the price. As a result, the skirt is sitting higher on my waistline than the design intended, so now it’s both short and tight. Fantastic.

Crazy facial expressions that have to be edited out of the photo? Never!

Crazy facial expressions that have to be edited out of the photo? Never!

I’m on the fence over whether winter tights make this office-approved.

I made this as an optimistic muslin, so I may try it again in different fabric now that my expectations are adjusted. I have several looks pinned on Pinterest (@sarainstitches — follow me so I can find you — I’m always looking for sewing peeps to follow) that have similar design lines. Some print mixing might be fun, or just some cool trim, or even piping. Lots to play with here, provided I can get the fit nailed down.

As for this minty meltdown, I don’t think I’ll wear it much. Mint is a hard color to play with, especially since I’m not a fan of pastels to match it with. It was still a fun, mostly easy project, and sewing time is rarely wasted in my mind. Regardless of whether the project turned out, I got to be in my meditative sewing zone, listen to Beyonce, and practice my skills. That’s a win, people.

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On an entirely unrelated note, I’ve suddenly decided that I’m kinda over heels. I seriously don’t know what happened. I woke up one day feeling like I didn’t want to compromise my foot health for fashion. I think over half of my shoes are heels, so it’s going to be a long time before they’re out of the rotation, and who knows? I may have a change of heart well before that time. (Let’s face it — I probably *will* have a change of heart. I mean… shoes, right?!) In the meantime, expect to see me focusing on sewing garments that look good with flats.

So, a somewhat skeptical welcome to you, my Minty Split Skirt. Let’s see if you can make it work!

Edit: Yeah, I wore this to work today and it’s not okay. Standing? Sure. Walking? Sort of. Sitting? Big fat nope. I’m just trying to get through the day without having anyone notice my lack of propriety. When the control top on your tights is visible when seated, it’s Officially Not Appropriate. Welcome to the weekend rotation, friend!

Bring on the Dancing Horses: Butterick 5211

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There’s a stampede on my dress. RUN!!!

Dude, this dress makes me so happy. Really, it’s a triumph of modern marketing. I’ve never actually purchased fabric from Mood Fabrics, despite being on their email list for years. But for some reason, when I got the email headlined, “Do You Love Horses?” (I am neutral on horses, for the record), I clicked through and fell in love with this print.

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The power of fabric compelled me.

Seriously, whatever algorithm contributed to that email campaign, it’s basically my internet shopping overlord. I am powerless against it, and I accept that.

So, I had to find the right pattern to do justice to these prancing ponies. The fabric has the look of a soft stripe from a distance, and I wanted to preserve that part of it.

I picked Butterick 5211 with a previous Beaute J’Adore post in the back of my head, where she’d modified a shift dress to have a dropped bell sleeve. Turns out Nikki has made this exact pattern as well, so I took that as a good omen — I love her taste in dresses!

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I cut a straight 10, nervous about sizing down even though the pattern is loose and shapeless. It was a good move, since there’s just the right amount of ease for me in the hips. If you make this dress, measure the bust and hips carefully if you’re considering sizing down.

As far as construction, this dress is a breeze. There are no darts, no zippers, and pretty much no details of any kind to trip you up. It’s marketed as a “1-hour” pattern. (You know where this is going, right?) So naturally, it took me all of a 3-day weekend to finish this project.

This is my "I *will* cut you" face.

This is my “I *will* cut you” face.

Since my beloved equine poly crepe de chine is mostly sheer, I wanted to add a lining. What really took a toll on my time was waffling between a lining and underlining. I ended up going with a weird hybrid of both, noodling through that process slowly.

I interfaced the lining fabric at the neckline, as you would a facing (which is what the pattern calls for), but attached it as a lining. Because I serged all my other seams, I was able to press out any wonkiness at the juncture of the back neck and shoulders. It’s a clean finish, and I like that I was able to avoid top-stitching by doing it this way. That said, I can’t say I would recommend my methods to, well… anybody.

If you want to make this even easier, cut the back on the fold and nix that seam.

If you want to make this even easier, cut the back on the fold and nix that seam.

The puff sleeves are made with a simple elastic casing. If you wanted to make this a smidge more elegant, you could gather the bottom edge of the sleeve to a band of fabric. The way I plan on wearing it, the casing is pushed up under the puff and isn’t visible, so no worries.

Puff sleeves make me smile!

Puff sleeves make me smile!

I had big expectations for this dress. Like, huge. I love the fabric, and I thought I chose the perfect pattern. When it was complete, I was a bit let down. It didn’t look like the effortless chic dress I was going for! It looked (let’s be real) like a muu-muu. Not cool. (For the record, Pretty Tall Style absolutely nails effortless chic with this pattern. Seriously, go check it out.)

So, be ready to finesse the crap out of this dress. Push those sleeves up, or lengthen them a la Beaute J’Adore. In the end, this dress is all about the fabric and accessories and adding your personality to a design that is a blank slate. It’s about sashaying around in what is, essentially, a sack dress, and working the hell out of it.

Did I mention... POCKETS!?

Did I mention… POCKETS!?

Did I possibly sew myself up a metaphor for life? With these pinky ponies on my side, let’s just say that anything is possible.

Welcome to the wardrobe, my Philosophical Foal Frock.

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