Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Day by Day


Many of you comment how productive I am on the sewing front. I really appreciate each and every comment but I’ve never seen myself as being a quick sewer or producing a lot. If I don’t reply to individual comments please don’t take it personally – it means I’m busy, that’s all. Wendy from Boulder, Colorado sews for a living as does Mrs Mole; they have to calculate how long a job is going to take and charge accordingly. If you’d asked me how long a dress or pair of trousers takes me to sew, I wouldn’t have a clue.

I do sew, or do sewing related activities, nearly every day: sometimes I can relish in a dedicated couple of hours but often there’s only 15 -30 minutes available. Sometimes my sewing time is split over the day with a little bit here and little bit there. So this week I documented the making of a shirt, as much for your insight into my sewing week but also for me……….

Before Starting

dscn6610Fabric is draped on Doris for a day or two to help determine how it handles and what it should be transformed into. This helps me to visualise a finished garment and how much fabric I have to play with. When not staring at Doris, as I drive to work or go to sleep I’m thinking about patterns and design options. Once a decision has been reached – I stick to it and believe me, not all decisions are good ones!

Today we are focusing on the patterned piece under the mustard wool. A viscose jersey from Fabworks in mustard and pale lilac that I’m hoping will look like grey when worn with the right clothing. A retro 1950s design and would be probably be best used in a 2-way stretch pattern but I decided on a button down shirt.

Monday – 1hr, 45mins

Before going to work, I cut out the pattern pieces from the envelope and folded the fabric selvage to selvage. 15 mins.

Home from work and dinner in the oven, pinned the pattern to the fabric. 30 minsdscn6650

After dinner and a nap, back to sewing room to cut out the pieces.  Big scissors were then put away and small ones out, needles threaded with contrasting colour and settled down to tailor tack with radio on. Pattern pieces removed, darts pinned and a general tidy up.

Pieces pinned onto Doris. Nothing sewn. 60 mins.


Tuesday – 20mins

Really heavy day at work – knackered. Cut out interfacing and just about managed to iron it onto the relevant pieces.  dscn6659Scanned the instructions in case there are any surprises. Threaded the machine and a bobbin. 20 mins.

Wednesday – 1 hr

At long last, sewing actually begins in the evening. Machined all the seams I could. This is where my sewing technique might slightly differ from others’. I don’t always follow the prescribed sewing order: after sewing all the darts for example, I then completed the sleeve seams and made the upper collar. I can go no further until the pieces are pressed. 60 mins


Thursday – 1hrs, 50 mins

Before dinner (leftovers, so I have more sewing time) I began with pressing all yesterday’s sewing. 20 mins

After dinner, back to the machine to complete any other sewing that needs to be done; button bands, shoulder seams and collar attached. Then the machine is pushed aside and everything that needs hand slip stitching is done – inside collar, sleeve vents. Bit more pressing and everything pinned back onto Doris. 1hr, 30 mins


Friday – 2hrs

Before dinner, sewed side seams and pinned in sleeves. 20 mins

After dinner, sewed in sleeves (one ripped out and sewed again, so that makes three!). Attached cuffs. Pressed. 1 hr.

Personal fitting: sleeves are too long so have created a design feature of folded back cuffs. I had already added 2″ to the length at cutting out stage and am happy with this. 10 mins.

dscn6670Searched in notions box for suitable buttons and found some forgotten items and interesting things, procrastination activity. 30 mins


Saturday 1hr, 45 mins

Morning time in my jammies slipped stitched cuffs; made button holes, sewed on buttons. 1 hr

Before lunch sewed hem and pressed finished shirt. 45mins. And it took 3/4 of an hour to run a straight seam around the bottom of this shirt because….


I swear the two fronts were the same length before I sewed the buttons on…..


Wearing and photos


Total time = 7hrs

Fabric =£14.00 – 2 metres @£7.00 (Fabworks – superfine gauge single jersey in a lustrous and slinky, fluid viscose and elastane blend, printed with a Bloomsbury/modernistic style)

Time = £70 (@ £10p/hr)

Pattern = McCalls M6649 free with an Craftsy class that cost $19.99 (about £100 at today’s exchange rate!) or $12.50 for the pattern alone.

Total materials and making = £94.00

Sunday night – Write and publish. Go to sleep planning next project.


Monday – Cut out something else……….




45 thoughts on “Day by Day

  1. I’ve never done this, and I really should. It would be good to have an idea of how long things took me. Great shirt BTW looks fantastic on you. Great boots too.

  2. You are so funny, Ruth…”procrastination activity. 30 mins”! I think working for yourself, you can take more time and think about each step but sewing for others, especially doing the same jobs/hems/bustles over and over one can really pick up speed and know the prices ahead of time. Now as for your labor cost per hour…10 pounds or $12 at today’s’ rate is too low. Crank that up to $30 or 36 pounds at least and if it is bridal it can hover around $48-60 per hour or 60-82 pounds per hour. Now that new blouse is a priceless work of art! Looking forward to see what becomes of the mustard wool!!!! You are amazing! Thank you for the mention and link!

  3. I’ve been calculating ‘making’ times and costs recently – bit of an eye opener isn’t it! Like you, I wondered how truly slow I am, I do seem to be one of the slower sewists in my college class and not all of it is because of perfectionism, sometimes I’m just stupid! What it does do is make the time spent patternmaking really jump out. So using a perfected pattern more than once becomes important I think – but then there are distractions…
    Great shirt Ruth, love me some mustard, but it doesn’t love me back!
    So is it blogging that keeps you making or would you be this productive without your blog?

    • On the surface I could say it took a week to make this shirt but it really only took one working day. I could crank out 5 a week and at Mrs Mole’s prices I could retire in a few months! LOL I make most of my clothes but Mmmmmm, the blog does keep me better focused.
      Thank you – I truly appreciate the pattern makers

  4. I love the fabrics and colors you put together, they are so different from what I would choose and I love how they look on you. I also love how you are able to tailor your clothes to your figure. It encourages me to be more daring. Thank You from across the ocean.

  5. That color looks fantastic on you! Very high end looking garment.

  6. Great shirt! The colour suits you extremely well.

  7. That fabric sings on you, what a great choice of colors and pattern! Fascinating exercise, valuing time as well as materials. A blouse like that would definitely be priced at retail at the level you calculated. Hmm. Except that it assumes you can a) find it at a store, and b) it fits, and c) you disliked the sewing steps. However, if none of those conditions apply, you’re way ahead of the game.

    But yes. It’s wise to consider whether the all-in cost, including the hours of tedious (vs. enjoyable) sewing time add up to a tolerable cost. When the cost-to-benefit proposition is poor, look for RTW or do without. Sew only when the process and/or personalization are fun.

    Another project well done. Can’t fathom the hem lengths but it’s impossible to see on a galloping zebra. As my mother and grandma used to say.

    • Managed to tame that wayward hem Sankati. Interesting cost process though isn’t it?
      What I also have to consider are all the things I didn’t do last week – gym, ironing, cleaning etc etc etc

  8. Really interesting post. It’s inspired me to try a do something even if it’s just for half an hour on week nights. The other thing it’s reminded me is that my time is precious, so try and be discerning about the fabric I buy and the projects I aim to do. Love the shirt!

    • All those little chunks of time soon add up Ruth. Set small goals and you don’t need big ones.
      I’d love to sew with silks and wool and linen all the time but finances just don’t permit it and there’s always a bit of fun doing a cheap and cheerful project too. Thank you.

  9. You really are my hero. I need to fit in sewing in short bursts like this too.

  10. Thanks for such an interesting post, it’s intriguing to see how others allot the time and when and why. I shudder to think of the cost of the things I make if I factored in labour costs, it truly highlights how time efficient one would need to be to make a genuine living from it! But of course, that’s not why one sews. My slowness at least helps keep my wardrobe volume in check though 🙂

    • Believe CeJay sometimes I just sit in my sewing room pretending to sew when I’m really Internet shopping or reading blogs….I am aiming to be more discerning in my sewing though – filling in gaps and making outfits not orphans Thank you.

  11. Lovely shirt- I particularly like the ‘odd’ button at the top …when I saw the pic of your procrastination activity I wondered if that was where you’d go! How often do you wear shirts buttoned right up? [They make me feel strangled, even if loose.]
    Looking glam missus!

  12. I like this post. This is the way i sew …. whenever i have time to spare.

  13. Thanks for letting us take a peak into your sewing week. I’m impressed with the way you use every available moment to do something productive. You have inspired me to make better use of my time. Oh and your blouse is lovely too.

    • I have times during the day that I call dead time – not long enough to do something major and too long to waste – that’s when I do most of my sewing, the 20-30 mins in between other things.
      Thanks Jean

  14. This was such a fun read. I seem to have trouble sewing in short spurts–maybe it’s the attention span or something……..or my young pup has other ideas when I have any free moments. The blouse is so pretty.

  15. “Procrastination” is important as it is time that allows you to think things through and adopt the best (or better) method. We are not machines, or on GB Sewing Bee! I really like your new blouse, but this confirms to me that a blouse takes as long as a dress or jacket. I don’t wear them often as I dislike ironing the darn things. See you soon!

    • But then Kate, 7 hrs is only a normal working day so while it took a week to complete, the shirt only took a day to make. No ironing required with this fabric and I like your approval of procrastination activities – must do more….
      See you soon too. Really looking forward to it.

  16. The blouse looks great: It is very encouraging to read how you continue in bits and pieces on a project. I will try it as it seems to be more enjoyable than sewing between terms only. But I don’t think I could do it with a new pattern and all the adjustments this needs. Your posts are always very inspiring.

  17. Mm, procrastination! Imagine a studio with no distractions, no tea breaks (so no loo breaks), no radio or emails, no cats pressing your fabric.

    Nah, I don’t want one of those either.

    Great post, I’m sure I vowed to do this kind of calculation years ago and didn’t! I love some of the comments above; all true

  18. Looks great 😄

  19. Nice shirt. You are very efficient. I’m sure I spend much more time on procrastination and I definitely spend more time unpicking

  20. Really enjoyed this Ruth. I think I am slower … It seems to take me about an hour to cut out a pattern! Guess you would have 3 hours on the GBSB …. So it gives you an idea of how short that is. Next shirt I make I’m going to do a timing. Anyway love the shirt, great fabric and fit. X

  21. I think 7 hours to make this shirt is quite quick. I could easily spend 7 hours just cutting out, as I spend a lot of time procrastinating ( have I used the right fabric for the pattern,could I cut it out better and save some of the fabric for another project ?etc etc. )
    A very interesting post and great shirt. it’s nice to compare and see how others do it. But don’t think I could spend an hour or so before I head to work in the morning cause once I start I cant stop…
    so I’d never make it to work!

  22. I’m Olympic level at procrastination (reading blog posts instead of working anyone?). It would be scary to work out how long some things really take. I know The Management has timed me and asked how long I thought I had been working – I always underestimate big time.
    Your shirt looks great, and I’m a big fan of the statement button.

  23. Interesting post. It confirms the need to have patterns that already fit and can be used again. Most of my time is spent fitting. I think if I had a pattern that would work without fitting issues, I could probably sew up the garment in a reasonable time.

    I had to cost making my daughter’s wedding dress as that was my garment for the college course I was doing last year. (A fairly pointless business exercise for us all as we were sewing for ourselves not others but we had to do it) That was eye opening even at the superficial level I did it at and even just costing at £10ph (we won’t go to what I earned when I worked; I costed at trainee seamstress level). If I had costed in the price of all the design toiles, fitting toiles, pattern paper etc, it would have been much higher – and out of embarrassment I under-reported the number of hours it took. Then there were train fares, other travel expenses, sundry costs related to travelling including meals etc. The cost of additional support from my dressmaking tutor – quite a few extra hours. Then the cost of the dry cleaning of all my fabric before I started. My fabric was expensive but really was a fraction of the overall ‘true’ costs. I should say that the actual sewing of the final dress was a very small fraction of the overall time I spent sewing, planning etc. No-one could pay for the dress. It was actually priceless!

    What this made me realise is that I want to sew with good quality fabrics. I just don’t want to our a lot of effort into fabrics that don’t justify it. After I get some TNTs sorted out, of course!

    Nice blouse, BTW.

  24. I have been mulling over my sewing time, and realizing that much of my studio time is the creative version of stirring the soup. Slow, stirs, sipping, adding a bit of pepper. It was interesting to read about your schedule, and how much time you had each day after work. Lovely new shirt for 94 (don’t have the key for pounds)

  25. Your gorgeous shirt looks fantastic on you! Thanks so much for sharing your process — it’s inspiring!

  26. Gorgeous shirt and great post. I also do a lot in little bits of time, never kept track of it though. Might copy this idea one day.

  27. An inspiring, motivating peek into your process. I’ve lately got a big push on to add sewing back into my regular activities. Leftovers at dinner and scheming/planning projects while undertaking the regular business of the day really can be goldmines of extra time can’t they?

  28. Pingback: A/W ’16 Mustard | corecouture

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