How to make your handmade wardrobe more wearable? (Part 2): 10 questions to ask when choosing a sewing project

In the previous post on this series, I compared some of my successful makes to ones that were doomed to stay at the bottom of my wardrobe. Mostly I could summarize the fails by saying that I did not put enough thought into the process while making them. I was in a rush, wanted to make something quickly and used a material that I happened to have whether or not is suited to the project. I do buy a lot of factory remnants and cheap fabrics and I should be more careful when selecting the fabrics – cheap-looking materials do not improve when sewn up into a garment.

So, to avoid these mistakes I made a list of questions to think about when choosing a sewing project:

1. Is it your style?


Image: Empire-waisted cotton nightgown, front view.

The picture in the garment envelope or on the website looks nice. You are instantly transferred into day-dreams about Regency-era and imagine swishing around gardens in you empire waist ballgown surrounded by handsome gentlemen in their frock coats…

Wait! Is this style something that you will actually venture out in? If not, perhaps you should consider turning your ballgown dreams towards something more practical – like a romantic nightie!

2. Does the garment fit your lifestyle?

Yeah, many of the style-advice online tells you to buy (or make) a black blazer and a white button-up shirt but if you are a kindergarten teacher, you need something more comfortable and practical to wear at work. It is lovely to make ball-gowns but if you never attend any balls, you don’t need one.

And consider how many dresses, pants, skirts and blouses you need to have. A couple of going-out dresses is nice to have, but is the 15th one really something you want to have?

3. Is the material of good quality?

I have made a pair of trousers that started pilling at the hip at the spot where my purse rubs against me before the first wash. A neckline on one t-shirt seems to grow bigger every time I put it on.

Check the fabric whether it wrinkles by squeezing it with your hands already before buying it. Check out reviews and recommendations. Does the fabric have fuzz that might lead into pilling? Does the fabric maintain its shape or does it stretch all over the place? Can it handle frequent washing and wearing? Is it prone to snagging?

4. Do you have time and perseverance to make quality sewing?

This is my particular weakness. I rush and then I do not appreciate the sloppy outcome. Concentrate on making beautiful details that lift your garment up. Do your hand sewing carefully. Add little personal touches such as embroidery or piping. Finish the seams with care and cut all the threads properly. Finally, do remember to press all the seams after sewing them! You like sewing, right? So, take your time and enjoy the process!

5. Can you maintain the garment?

Choosing a sewing project: Can you maintain your garment?

Check how the fabric can be cleaned before buying it. Can you afford regular dry-cleaning? Are you ready to hand wash your favourite top? Do you want to spend a lot of time ironing? If your answer is no to these questions, consider buying machine-washable fabrics that do not need to be ironed, such as cotton jersey.

6. How many ways can you combine the garment with other items in your closet

This May I noticed how difficult it was to combine patterned tops with patterned bottoms when I took part in the Me Made May ’18 challenge. Solid colours are much easier to combine but admittedly less fun to sew with. Could you choose a colour palette with a few neutral colours plus perhaps two accent colours? Choosing your fabrics based on your colour palette makes combining tops with bottoms much easier.

7. Do the colouring and the pattern suit you

Do check the fabric against your face in front of a mirror and see whether it drains all the colour from your face. Does the pattern emphasize the parts of the body you’d rather hide? Does the screaming red-orange print suit your personality? Does all-black outfit make you look chic or more rather like a funeral director?

8. Does making of the garment fill a hole in your closet

What do you actually need? Do you have enough blouses? What about trousers? Do you need a garment for an occasion or do you need some stable basics for everyday use? I myself am still in a need of good and comfortable trousers. I’d also need basic tees and sleeveless tops for the summer and to wear underneath blazers and cardigans. So those are the garments I should concentrate on.

9. Are you ready to fit it properly

Choosing a sewing project: Are you ready to fit it properly?

Do you have time to make a muslin? Or can you fit the garment without? Can you compare the pattern pieces with an existing garment you already own to check the size? I can assure you that you will not be wearing that jacket with gaping buttonbands or that skirt that tends to drift upwards with every step since it is too small at the hips. Nor will you want to look like you have been stuck inside a tent that you are trying to wear as a dress. Even the simplest dress looks amazing when it has been made out of a good material and fitted carefully.

10. How much will it cost

Calculate not only the price of the fabric but also the cost of all the little gimmicks you need such as zippers, buttons, lining and buckles. Ok, you can afford it. How angry will you be if your child pours tomato soup over your white liberty silk blouse and ruins it?



In the next post in this series, I am trying to put this list to practice and plan my next sewing projects. Wish me luck! Will you join me and do the same? Comment below!

In the meantime, Happy Sewing!






I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • PsychicSewerKathleen

    I’ve been really enjoying this series of blog posts Katja! I couldn’t agree with you more! The more time you spend really planning your project – a good fit, nice finishes, quality fabrics, the more you will enjoy and WEAR the garments you make. I do typically makes a muslin (99% of the time) and it’s always worth that time to make sure the fit is right and that I will wear that style or if there are changes I need to make to make it work better for me. In making a muslin I’m planning my seam finishes, closures, interfacings, machine stitches and feet and it gives me a chance to practice with the pattern so I know what bumps I’m likely to face.

    • kk

      You sound really professional in your approach! I will try to follow your example but often end up hurrying too much. Maybe the realisation that I do not have room for all those clothes that I don’t wear will make me calm down a bit to concentrate more on enjoying the process.

  • Cherry

    Oh yes, I have been there, done that, with most of your examples!
    Here are a couple more questions:
    – Would the garment you are thinking of actually be better ready-made? Plain-color knits, for example, are usually better-finished on factory equipment than we can manage at home. And they have the exact matching thread, cooler zippers, and so on.
    – Are you in a a focused garment-sewing mode, or do you just have itchy fingers and need to sew SOMETHING? Perhaps you could sew for someone else, or do something crafty with your sewing machine.
    Many of my wardrobe mistakes have come from that thinking “I need to sew. What could I make? Well, I have this fabric, enough for that pattern…….

    • kk

      I can agree on you on this! Luckily I have kids, so I must remember to sew some basics for them to calm down those itchy fingers!

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