Reflections for 2020: Quality is Queen

One of my New Year rituals is to choose a word I want to focus on for the year to come. I find this exercise helps channel my focus, and provides a helpful framework for planning and thinking about what we want to achieve.

For us this year, that word is Quality. It’s the word that came up again and again when Amy and I were brainstorming the kinds of things we wanted to talk about this year on the blog, it’s the theme that is guiding my own personal goals for the year, and I’m hoping it’s something that resonates with you while you are reflecting on your own personal and sewing plans for 2020.

Quality is about intention. To do or make something to a high quality requires thought, effort and passion. It demands mindfulness and focus. Quality isn’t disposable. Quality has impact. It lasts, it can be passed down, it is felt and seen and observed. In these days of hyper-consumerism and disposable everything, quality stands out. When you spend quality time, it is deep and meaningful and helps strengthen bonds and connections. To create and live with a focus on quality means engaging with your life, your sewing practice and your relationships with intentionality and love.

How to Add Piping to Jacket Lining // Closet Case Patterns

I’m finding this concept particularly helpful right now since I’ve been wrestling with some existential anxiety in these difficult times. Every day seems to bring more bad news, and I’ve been struggling to stay hopeful and engaged. The most helpful idea my therapist shared with me is that we do not serve the world with our despair. The most important question we can ask ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed with fear of war, climate change and the future is: What is mine to do? What impact can I have on a micro level with my actions and intentions? How can I focus my energy and time in a meaningful and positive way, in a manner that hopefully inspires and influences the world around me?

The idea of self-care has been so over-used recently that I am almost reticent to use it in this context, but I think the baseline concept is critical: we are at our best and have the most to offer when we take care of ourselves. This is where your sewing practice is critical. It gives you that time and space to be with yourself, to focus on one task, to let your mind rest or meander, to tap into your creativity, and to dream. Personally, I am a better friend, boss and citizen when I make time for my sewing and creative practices, when I turn off my phone and quiet all the outside noise for a moment with myself. Sewing isn’t selfish, it’s therapy. The calm that comes with making time for your creative practice has a lasting impact on the world around you. At the risk of sounding woo-woo, making time to reduce your stress and anxiety at your sewing machines creates an energy, and that centered, peaceful energy is something the world needs a whole lot of right now.

Heather's Sienna Maker Jacket with embroidered yoke // Handmade by Closet Case Patterns

Quality time. Quality action. It’s not just about making a beautiful garment, but about investing in your mental well being. Here are some ways you can engage with the concept of “quality” this year and the years to come:

  • Sew with intention. Invest time in thinking about the kinds of techniques you’d like to practice, garments you need in your wardrobe or fabrics you’d like to work with. Ask yourself questions about how you want your clothes to make you feel. It doesn’t have to mean lots of planning if that’s not your style, but simply engaging with your sewing practice in a more conscious, thoughtful way.
  • Don’t settle for the fastest way to do something. Whenever possible, do it the best way so your garment lasts for years to come.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity. It’s more satisfying to focus on a few special projects that truly fill you with joy then sew a million things you’ll never have time to wear. If you love to spend your free hours sewing, try to integrate more time-intensive projects into your queue. These are the lovely “Lose yourself” projects you can work on when you really need some space to just be.
  • Practice new-to-you techniques before you sew your final garment. The finished result will look better, and you’ll feel more confident when you get to making the real deal.
  • Work with the best quality fabrics you can. Natural fibers wear better, feel nicer on the skin and have a longer life (and biodegrade at the end of its lifespan). Avoid cheaply made or printed fabrics whenever possible; they won’t last and won’t feel good to work with or wear.
  • Dig into your stash and pull out those “special” fabrics you’ve been scared to use. Life is short. The time is now. Read this post if you need more encouragement.
  • Sew muslins and practice fitting whenever possible. It is never a waste of time to ensure your clothes fit as well as they can, and muslins are a great opportunity to test the proportions and style lines of a pattern, in addition to giving you time to practice new techniques or construction methods.
  • Elevate your sewing projects with refined techniques and thoughtful construction so they are built to last and look as pretty on the inside as on the outside. Here are some suggestions:
    • Focus on seam finishes! Use French seams whenever possible, or bias bound seams for a pop of colour. At the very least, take the time to switch out those serger threads so your seams match the fabric.
    • Spend time with your iron. Properly pressing your seams is meditative and creates the most beautiful results.
    • Experiment with couture techniques. Try swapping in bound buttonholes for machine-sewn ones. Sew your hems and waistbands by hand. Hand baste your armscyes in first, or substitute an invisible zipper for a hand-picked one.
    • Personalize your me-mades with custom labels, whether handmade or purchased. Nothing makes a garment feel more special than proof it was made with love.
    • Add creative details. Experiment with unique pockets, piping, colour-blocking and embellishment. Make the clothes you sew uniquely you.

The goal here is to spend time, thought and energy engaging with sewing in a meaningful way. It’s not about rushing, or impulsiveness, or filling the time just to fill it. It’s an opportunity for you to sit with yourself and tap into all that creative potential we so rarely get to use in our day-to-day lives.

This year, these ideas are going to imbue everything we do at Closet Case Patterns. More than ever, we are focused on creating the highest quality patterns we can, and want to spend the year exploring ways to elevate and honour the clothes you make. This coming month, we are going to be exploring couture sewing, and I’m excited to tell you about what I’ve learned in my time with Susan Khalje (we have an interview with her in the coming weeks!), some of the big couture projects I’ve finished recently, in addition to sharing some helpful info about integrating couture methods into your everyday sewing. My hope is that by honing in on this more thoughtful and intentional approach to sewing, we can all find some peace, creativity and quality time with ourselves in 2020.

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Hi! I'm Heather Lou, a pattern designer and sewing educator for the modern maker. At Closet Case Patterns, we transform your imagination into step-by-step implementation that helps you create a wardrobe you love - not one you're limited to buying off the rack.

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