How to take great notes while sewing



I know I am not the only one with a pile of neglected and unfinished projects stuffed somewhere around my sewing area. Well, it’s more like a big Rubbermaid bin that I don’t have space for in my one bedroom apartment, and that’s just my box of unfinished projects.

Sometimes, when I find a fit issue as I’m sewing my garment, I will decide to make a design change. It hasn’t always worked in my favor. The unfinished mangle of pieces goes into the bin of shame and I eventually forget about it. This happens because of my tendency to not make a mock-up before I cut into my nice fabrics. I get an initial surge of motivation when I’m at the fabric store, and the excitement will carry me through until I hit my first fitting issue. Big or small, sometimes I will call it quits and not finish my garment.


I haven’t invested enough time planning and thinking through projects before I start, so sometimes I don’t have enough gusto to keep me moving forward. This is because I don’t plan my projects in general, but because I don’t always take the time to step back and analyze them first.

I found that my planner is a useful tool in making me analyze the steps necessary to achieve my desired fit before I cut into any fabric. Having my measurements easily accessible while I’m altering my pattern allows me to document changes for the next time I sew up the pattern.


Since my background and training is in historical costuming, I seem to insist on customizing and changing every garment I make for myself. These changes, as mentioned above, seem to come about while I’m sewing or cutting my fabric, which leads to an unfinished garment.


The planner saved me from one such instance with my new favorite sweater, the Seamwork Oslo. I have made the pattern a few times for photo samples, but never one for me! An Oslo that’s all mine, finally!

It all started at a party where a fellow partygoer happened to have 5 Rubbermaid bins of fabric that she didn’t want. So my stash grew by exactly 1 bin. In my loot, I got 1 3/8 yards of a gray wool sweater knit, and 1/3 yard of a Pendleton wool knit. I didn’t have enough to cut the Oslo as the pattern suggests, so I began planning how I would make it work.

I was able to draw out the pattern pieces and alterations needed, as well as include custom fitting notes. After planning the steps to create my garment, I fearlessly cut into the actual fabric. I had it sewn up the next day and I have worn it every day since; not kidding, every day.


My planner lives in my backpack, and whenever I get inspiration, I can design my garment right then and there. I have since finished 2 garments that were planned out, and I have in this very moment decided that I will finish any project I put into my planner.

I previously gave myself the rather daunting goal of sewing my way through my stash for 2017, crazy right? I thought so too, but I’ve now told too many people, and I have to be held accountable for my poorly planned ambitions. I’ve got this, I think. This planner has helped me finish what I start, and my overall sense of accomplishment has increased as a result!

My top 5 tips for taking fitting notes

  1. Make a “watch out” list of your known fitting issues. If you usually have to make a certain adjustment to a pattern, write it down. Bring out this list whenever you start a new project so you can look at the pattern pieces with any fit changes in mind.
  2. Find inspiration that is similar to the pattern you’re making. Compare your inspiration to the pattern and make note of any details or embellishments so you can plan them out first.
  3. Read the instructions in their entirety before sewing. If you prefer to install a zip differently or need a different seam allowance for a neckline, write that down in your instructions so you don’t forget.
  4. Constantly fit! Run over to the mirror as often as you need to so you can evaluate how the garment is coming together. Take notes directly on to your muslin, or into your planner.
  5. After finishing, make a “next time” list. Write it like a book review or a diary entry. What did you like about the garment? What would you change? How did it make you feel?

Take a peek into my Colette Sewing Planner below:

Watch on Vimeo
Want to grab your own planner?


Delaney Matson   —  

Comments 6


Some great ideas here!


If you’re getting bins of fabric from party-goers that include Pendelton wool, I need to find out what parties you’re going to!

SJ Kurtz

I usually start with the inspiration and look for images that reflect that, and THEN pattern shop (this is where Pinterest is the greatest invention of this decade). Usually it turns out I already have the pieces (in different patterns) and it goes from there.
In any event, writing it down and sketching/doodling around that is always a good idea. Stopped many a half baked idea in its ill-considered tracks.


I’ve done this for a few years now – I have a sheet for my planning – I keep the name of the pattern, size and a picture of the view I’m making, a swatch of the material as well as what kind of material it is and care instructions; Then I have a section for my planning notes; at the bottom I have a section for notes for next time. I keep them in a binder and it’s a great way to be able to refer to the patterns – successes and failures – ideas for another make etc.


Losing all your momentum when you encounter familiar fitting issues? A secret stash of abandoned projects? That’s eerily familiar. I don’t want to go back to this cycle of “new pattern, fit problems, give up, new pattern, etc.”

That’s where my new planner comes in! The beginning asks you to really consider what you’re going for. I’m using mine to work through patterns, just one at a time, as many muslin as it takes, till I’ve got a pattern I can reuse. At this stage, I’m building a collection of trusted patterns, rather than fixating on a finished product.


Great post. But where can we see this modified Oslo? I’d be very interested to see the end result. :-)

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