Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane



The debate is concluded; the discussion is completed; the negotiations and proximity talks are terminated and the rules are posted. It’s all happening at Stitchers’ Guild!

The Algebra SWAP ’14 – (3 X 3) +2 = 11

A sewing plan to make 11 garments in 4 months that creates a coherent and well thought out capsule wardrobe. At least that’s the aim – whether I get there, and arrive with cogent, coordinating clothes is another matter. This year’s rules are really simple and easy to follow –

Three separate outfits comprising one bottom, one or two tops, or a dress, or a jacket. Two wildcards.

Sewing starts in the 26th December. We can also start one item now and/or include something already in existence – RTW or previously made.

Last year I choose the colours navy and natural to make my SWAP ’13 and I must admit these clothes have been worn a lot. But when I changed the wardrobe from summer wear to the autumn/winter I noticed how dark all the clothes appeared – navy, grey, brown, dark green – and decided I needed colour to brighten the short, dark winter days.

Now where else does one get colour from, but from nature!


This was my starting point. The more I read about colour – the light spectrum, Newton’s experiments with a glass prism, the good old colour wheel: complimentary and contrasting colours – the more I was seduced by the idea of creating a wardrobe anchored in the rainbow.


images-1 images-2I don’t want to look like a children’s TV presenter and I don’t want to stray into hippy-land, so my fabric choices will be paramount to creating  clothes that are age appropriate, stylish and wearable, but still honour the concept of a techni-coloured  wardrobe.

As I don’t possess a stash I can purchase the fabrics to suit. I think I’ll go for more muted, sedate versions of the colours but still spanning the spectrum. I also have some small issues with this idea: I associate lilac with traditional mother-of-the bride outfits which is just a wee bit too age-appropriate; and my complexion coupled with yellow makes me look ill. Red is a colour I generally use for accent rather than an whole item so I have a few hurdles to get over.

So far I’ve come up with this plan…..


Collection 1 is based in red/orange/yellow . A skirt, a shirt and an unlined jacket.

Collection 2 lies in the yellow/green/blue range. Jeans, a T-shirt and a lined jacket to match the T.

Collection 3 compromises indigo and violet. A skirt and two tops.

My wildcards are also rainbow based: a multi-coloured knitted jumper and a white blouse (mix all the colours together and you get white light). These two items should go with everything I’m planning and hence extend the mix’n’match aspect.

I’m also hoping that I can cross the colour boundaries and wear the yellow jacket with the purple skirt, the blue jacket with the orange skirt etc, to maximise the outfit choices.

All the patterns and fabrics are yet to be finalised and agreed upon but I’m slowly sorting through the styles (and taking inspiration from all your makes – so keep it up!) and taking lots of time online to check out the fabrics. I think I’ll start on the knitted jumper now because I knit so slowly and might just get it finished in time for the end!


In the meantime before the start sewing date, I have a posh frock to knock up. Our now traditional close friend gathering on New Year’s Eve requires evening wear and glam, even though we only party in each other’s homes on a tri-annual rotational basis. This year we are at K’s house and the black satiny thing I made for last year’s bash has now been cut up and used for lining and other things. It was only cheap poly anyway and not made to any great standards as I knew I’d only wear it once.

This year I’m planning to spend a bit more time and effort on the frock. Pattern Vault showcased the Scarlett dress designed by Juliana Sissons recently with a free pattern download from the V&A museum. This is a 1980s wild child dress: red, tight, backless and quite possibly, a knock ’em dead dress. There are lots of other links on Pattern Vault’s post – so have a read.


I’ve downloaded and tiled the pattern, ordered a red crepe with a bit of stretch  but I really think I should make a muslin as the pattern only comes in 12 and I usually cut a 14, so there might be a bit of grading to be done.


Scarlett Cannon in her namesake red dress in 1980s

The hairstyle I think I’ll leave for another time……

29 thoughts on “SWAP Prep

  1. Oh my, your post is full of so many wonderful bits. Love your color choice for the swap. I saved the rainbow picture. So pretty. And finally, I also downloaded the the Scarlet dress, but I think I am going to make a shorter version. I look forward to seeing your creation. I know you’ll look smashing!

  2. You are going to be busy Ruth! I love the colours you have chosen.
    And thank you for alerting me to the V&A download – I can’t wait to to see your dress 🙂

  3. These are very interesting choices, I love all the colors. You might be able to wear the purple tops with the green jeans, too. As for your posh frock, you could enter it into PatternReview’s cocktail dress contest, which starts Dec. 1 and runs to the end of the month. I look forward to seeing what you make:)

    • Thanks Angela. Purple and green – that’s interesting too. I’m not too keen on competitions but I’ll have a look anyway and maybe. We’ll see when the fabric arrives and if I make any headway on the dress.

  4. Talk about a story board and inspiration….whew…I’m exhausted just thinking about all those wonderful selections and 2 jackets as well!!!! OH MY…your future blogs will be so packed!!!! Guess there will be no time to whip up more jackets for the hubby?

  5. Thanks for the shout-out! Can’t wait to see your version of the Scarlett dress 🙂

  6. Love love love your colour choices. I’m a bit of a parrot myself, and although I know that neutrals are good, I find it hard to stick to them.

  7. Wow, this is such a well thought out and interesting post. I love your colour choices and look forward to seeing all your garments completed and modelled. I need to do more of this sort of planning to create garments that work together. I seem to sew a lot of orphans. Very inspiring and entertaining read.

    • These days it’s not the sewing that’s the problem, it’s the photography. Just getting the time and a photographer with a similar schedule seems to be eluding me at the minute. I only do this SWAP once a year but I honestly found that last year I got a lot of outfits from the 11 garments. Sticking to the plan is hard though especially when Vogue bring out new patterns half way through.

  8. I really love the SWAP plan – looking forward to it coming to fruition.

  9. Thanks for another interesting post Ruth… the link to Pattern Vault was a treasure trove in itself, chasing through the downloads including a wonderful link to Alexander McQueen’s 2003 collection.. what a revelation. I can’t wait to see your version of the Scarlett download…. when you say crepe do you mean wool crepe? That’s a frustratingly rare fabric where I am, despite the fact that most of the source material probably originates here (Aus). I don’t think I’m fast enough to complete a SWAP but the concept intrigues me nonetheless. Plus yours sounds especially interesting due to being in technicolour! Can’t wait to see the results.

    • I could spent hours on Pattern Vault too – it’s an encyclopaedia of fashion and fashion history. I love it!
      Unfortunately my anticipated fabric is not wool but a polyester crepe so I need to see and feel it before I can completely commit to this dress project. I got mine for a measly £5/m, I think wool crepe with lycra would be at least £30+ so it wasn’t such a difficult decision for a dress that might be worn once! It still hasn’t arrived (internet shop).

  10. Sorry don’t know why that last post was anonymous – it’s not taking my name 🙂 Carol.

  11. I remember the wardrobe you created last year and I thought it was a great colour combination as well as a good collection. Good luck with the project this year. I’m a bit overwhelmed just thinking how I could follow in your footsteps.

    • It’s not a competition Marianne – it’s supposed to be fun! And it’s only at the planning stage – no sewing done yet so don’t get your hopes up! I like three eyed cats.

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  13. How exciting to read all these comments – I hope that some will indeed make the Scarlett dress – and PLEASE let me know if you do. I’ll be interested to see outcomes, the short version particularly.
    Email me your Scarlett dress photographs for a follow up blog post in due course.

    Thanks all for downloading our pattern from V&A, happy sewing, and please stay in touch.
    Scarlett Cannon

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