Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Jersey Blues – The Story of My SWAP


It’s hard to keep up with Kate… I’m often caught reading one post meanwhile she has written another 3 or 4! She posts every single day, works full-time, goes to the gym, tidies up and organises, attends craft classes, looks after family and, of course, makes her own (and others’) clothes which are fabulous. She wrote a lovely piece the other day about her SWAP ’15 and so with full acknowledgement to Kate I’m taking her title, her idea but making it my own story about my SWAP ’15. Thanks Kate.


Just a little reminder that SWAP is Sewing With A Plan and is organised by Stitchers’ Guild at Artisan Square; an annual event where people voluntarily plan 11 items and sew them from January to April. This year the challenge was 5 tops, 3 bottoms, 3 wildcards and one of the garments had to be recycled/convertible/reversible. There’s no prize or medal, just the joining in with a lot of encouragement and support from the Stitchers’ Guild members.

I’ve joined in for the last two years: (2014, 2013) I never stick to the plan, I change my mind half-way through but always end up with a neat little collection of coordinating clothes. I’ve also learned that most of the clothes will be worn in the spring/summer and while we start sewing in the depths of winter it is best to think ahead.

DSCN4917 DSCN4916

I’m often waylaid along the way by Jungle January, impetuous makes and other glittery things that attract my eye and therefore take time away from concerted effort to complete the challenge.

dscn4481This year, or rather last year 2014, I said I wouldn’t participate in SWAP ’15. I have plenty of clothes and I started a quilting class which, to my utter amazement, is enthralling and possibly addictive. I had enough to sew. However, I caught the hand sewing virus last summer making some Alabama Chanin garments and stocked up on jersey cottons ready for slow sewing on those long winter nights.






Late in the autumn, I cut out about 8 items and packed them into freezer bags ready to be sewn as per my inclination. Then I realised that 8 is almost 11 and set about planning another 3 garments – I mean, I practically had a SWAP sitting ready and waiting. So I threw my hat into the ring and threaded up a thousand needles because all the items are hand sewn.


I’m now out the other side as SWAP, finished on the 30th April and all 11 items were sewn and many have already been worn, are stained and need washing and a good ironing!

Cheating or Finding Loopholes

I feel that I cheated a little this year: each top had to coordinate with each bottom but by using only solid shades of blue that was pretty easy so I didn’t have to think about colours, tones or patterns. Most of my SWAP is not hemmed and because it’s cotton jersey, there are not too many fitting issues either as it stretches to fit. Hand sewing takes time, obviously, but the items are casual, not tailored and if a hemline is slightly wonky that only adds to the imperfect perfection that is often strived for in hand made items.

The item that is convertible in my SWAP is also a dress that morphs into tops and skirts. I only sewed 4 actual tops, not 5 and added the dress as my 5th top to just about meet the rules.

Collection ’15

Make hay while the sun shines – last weekend the sun shone and I made hay. This weekend, it is raining, cold and windy so it’s just as well I took the time last weekend and took the photos because they certainly wouldn’t be taken outside today. Maybe this is how Kate maintains such a productive life…..

Here’s the final set.

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Let’s compare the original plan drawings with the actual garments made and submitted to the photo gallery.

Slide3 Slide4 Slide2 Slide1

Slide5 Not too far out but not exactly following the plan either!


My continued gratitude extends to all the members of Stitchers’ Guild – who encourage, motivate, prod and push when you think “I’ve had enough.”, and also to all those who comment here to offer advice and compliments – it certainly makes a difference.

To Dragon Lady and all the admins at Stitchers’ Guild who volunteer their time and skills to keep the forum running.

To all the other sewers of SWAP: to those who planned and didn’t make a stitch, to those who planned and made a start, to those who planned and finished. Sure, it’s all good fun!

I’m stating here and now that I will NOT participate next year. You heard it hear first but then again, I said that this year  too – LOL


Links to specific SWAP makes:

Convertible dressLayered skirt & ponchoPencil skirt and corset top, coatMaxi skirt and long sleeved T-shirtTrousers , The beginning



28 thoughts on “Jersey Blues – The Story of My SWAP

  1. You amaze me! Each item fabulous and so YOU! I wish I had your sewing energy!! Well done!!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your story too Ruth – thank you for writing it up. I was surprised how easily I departed from the plan. Not one of my original drawings looks remotely like what I made. So the fact that you stuck fairly closely to your plan is admirable and shows your vision was deliverable and you went off piste with a few (sensational) projects rather than messing with you Plan. I also envy the fact that all the items are very wearable – comfortable but also elegant and sophisticated.

    All in all a very successful outcome. It is a bit mean to have favourites but I especially love the coat , the full length skirt with the long sleeved top and the pencil skirt and matching top that look like a dress. I like the under/over technique you have used on the long sleeved top. I also think the colours look super hanging up together (although I ache to buy you some nicer hangers!). You have probably become a world authority on AC by now – fully deserved – so I hope that this collection will inspire others to try embellishment, reverse applique, applique, hand sewing, and other novel techniques. Bravo, I salute you!

    • Kate, the hangers are the ones kept in the utility room for drying clothes! My own are shaped wooden ones but thanks for the offer-LOL.
      I like the coat the best too but the double layer skirt is a very close second. Thanks for all your support over the last few months.

  3. Amazing garments, and a great post. You can be pretty sure that you aren’t going to be staring into the wardrobe in the morning thinking you have nothing to wear this spring/summer 😃

  4. Hang on, aren’t we missing a certain Cosmic/Galaxy number in the collection?

    Seriously, top marks for perseverance and a job really well done. The long sleeve top is my favourite (I love the cascade of leaves on one side) but all look most wearable.

  5. wow! So much hand sewing. I’m ver impressed. Hope they last forever 🙂 Good luck with the swap.

    • Well, I can’t comment on the quality Vicki – I sew all my AC stuff with embroidery thread so it’s unlikely to last for years but if I get a few summers out of it that’s enough for me. I can always repair as I wear! Thank you

  6. Great post. So impressive to see all of them. And that quilt as a backdrop- is that your work too?

  7. This is an impressive collection and inspirational for someone new to sewing like me! I especially like the “three skirts, three tops” panel and the maxi-skirt with the long-sleeved top. So pretty.

  8. Heavens, how do you do it? I want to visit your closet. LOvely blues Lynn.

  9. Ruth, color me impressed! your SWAP looks great, and since I’ve done some Alabama Chanin style sewing myself, I know how much effort goes into even one garment, let alone eleven!! (plus blue is one of my favorite colors) You are a winner!

    • Hi Indiotiger. I would have loved to try some indigo dying on these but it appears to be so complicated that I didn’t even attempt it. Thank you very much

  10. This is a stunning collection – and kudos to you for all the hand sewing. I can only imagine how comfy these garments must be having been made in jersey. I think that our collections are polar opposites of each other – yours is planned, handsewn and jersey. Mine was organic (no real plan other than a ‘look’), machined and serged to within an inch of it’s life, and all woven fabrics! Don’t you just love how other people interpret the rules – I would never have dreamt up some of the collections that people have made, beautiful.

    I’m off to dig out my AC book and start planning – incidentally, I just lurve the coat!

  11. It has been such fun watching your SWAP and AC work! My favorites (I’m predictable) are your maxi skirt with long sleeved top, and your beautiful coat. All pieces are interesting and inspiring.

  12. Ruth – this is an amazing set of garments. I don’t think you cheated at all since there was so much handwork in your garments. I’m glad that you’ve worn and enjoyed these pieces. It’s a lovely wardrobe!!!

  13. Couldn’t believe that you were taking on such a task. All that dyeing, hand sewing and embellishment. You are absolutely amazing. Great collection.

    • Thanks Cheryl but really there’s not that much embellishment and fitting etc is minimal. Because it is hand sewing, it’s portable and I’ve sewn in the kitchen, on the bus, watching TV, even waiting for the iron to reach temperature. I always intended to sew this blue collection but SWAP gave me the impetus.

  14. So what is next on the horizon, Miss Ruth after sewing every possible type pf garment in blues? My mind was spinning thinking of all the handwork and cutting and planning…great job! Best of luck in the competition!

  15. Pingback: The Day Donna Came to our House | corecouture

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