Colette Patterns Blog Tour: Book Excerpt!

I was thrilled to be asked by Sarai of Colette Patterns to be part of the blog tour for the Colette Sewing Handbook. Have you seen the book yet? It’s beautiful! It’s the sort of book you buy for the information and the fact that it looks pretty on your shelf.

Another great thing about this book is the writing style. I love when books (and blogs!) speak to you like a friend, not like a bossy instructor. It’s like someone is there with you, sharing their sewing knowledge and stories over a cup of tea. Does that sound too flowery? Well, it’s true. As someone who appreciates a personal touch, the friendly writing style stands out and makes it even better than just a book of technique.

I thought I’d share an excerpt from my favourite section: A Thoughtful Plan. Because when deciding on your next sewing project, it’s a good idea to approach it with a thoughtful plan. Sure, I get distracted by the bright and shiny all the time – but in the past, that’s how I’ve ended up with clothing that doesn’t suit my my lifestyle or doesn’t match the rest of my wardrobe. I’ll be honest, I don’t plan every project thoughtfully! There’s plenty of ‘oooh, shiny’ and ‘must buy this bright bold print, even if I don’t know what to sew with it!’ So it’s nice to be reminded to press pause before jumping into each new sewing project, and make sure we’re making choices that will make us happy in the end!

Enough from me. Let’s read a little bit of the Colette Sewing Handbook, from the chapter A Thoughtful Plan!

Note: This excerpt begins after talking about finding and keeping inspiration, which is why it starts with ‘once you have plenty of inspiration!’ But I bet you already have tons of ideas – this helps you figure out what to do next with all of them!

Editing For Your Style

Once you have plenty of inspiration, the second step is to make some editing decisions based on what you will actually wear, and what fits your life. For me, this is usually a mental process of asking myself a few questions as I go through my inspiration sources. You might also choose to jot down notes or even start sketching more concrete ideas.
It’s important to think critically about your own style and tastes before you start sewing. Sewing gives you an opportunity to express who you are in your daily life like almost nothing else can. Rather than assembling a wardrobe from the clothing you find, you can design your own style based only on the things you love, that say something about who you are. I find this to be one of the greatest gifts sewing has to offer: the chance to bring artistry into your everyday life and to express yourself creatively with the things you make. Not only can you make something beautiful, but you can make something beautiful that says something about who you are, and you can use it in your real life. In that sense, sewing is truly a practical art.

Dressing For Yourself

Some styles of clothing just feel right when you put them on. They’re comfortable, they fit your personality, and they match your taste in just the right way. They work with who you are and reflect your favorite qualities out into the world. At the same time, there are other styles that you might like, but never feel quite right when you put them on. Distinguishing between the things that feel like you and the things that don’t is the only real secret to developing a strong sense of style, one that means something to you.

Consider the people you believe to have the best personal style, whether they’re famous style icons or people from your own life. You’ve probably noticed that they have pretty specific tastes. They know what they like, and they’re true to themselves as individuals. They cherrypick the colors, textures and shapes that speak to them and work with who they are.

I believe in a personal approach to style. To me, that means wearing the things that make you happy. This takes a bit of reflection and a dash of restraint. It means recognizing the things you like on others, but that may not work for you. It means probing yourself a little, asking yourself why certain kinds of clothes make you feel good.

Try going into your closet and picking out five things that you love to wear. It might include a ring given to you by your grandmother, your coziest sweater, your simplest black dress or bright turquoise shoes. Why do you feel so strongly about these things? What is it that makes them special to you? What feelings do they provoke? By understanding what you value in the things you love, you can begin to imagine a whole wardrobe of personal clothing, built around the qualities that are important to you.

It may help to describe the qualities that appeal to you the most. Make a list of words that describe the aesthetics of your favorite things. You might also include the fabrics you love, the colors that work for you or the kinds of shapes you like to wear. You don’t need to put yourself in a box, but can still be helpful to recognize that you are drawn to things that are “dark, mysterious, romantic, feminine” or “minimalist, practical, androgynous, sleek.” You might even take a photo of the things you have that best express your own style. Remembering that you love neutrals may make it easier to put down that enticing tropical print at the fabric store.

What do you think? You want to keep reading, right?

I found this particular part of the book really spoke to me. I often get distracted by all the things I could possibly make and forget to think about where I would wear them, or what I would wear them with. Often, I’m attracted to styles that look amazing in photographs but don’t fit into my lifestyle. I like to sew and plan sewing projects for my fantasy life, but then I end up with little clothing for my actual life. When the possibilities are endless, sometimes it’s easy to lose focus.

I also like how Sarai talks about a personal approach to style, rather than style rules. And encourages us to wear what makes us happy, rather than saying ‘You are preppy, therefore you belong in stripes, and you over there are glamorous, so you need to stock up on little black dresses.’ There’s no ‘must-haves’ – it’s about you. And there’s no wrong answer, either!

I want to try her advice and go into my closet to pick out five things I love to wear – and then look at them, see if I can put together a description of my style. I have a feeling that the five things I love most and the five things I wear most are different too.

The book goes on to discuss Dressing for your Life and Dressing for your Shape, and then how to apply these ideas to your sewing projects.

I liked this little sidebar checklist on planning your projects (in the blue image above.) Number one: will you feel good in it? If you feel self-conscious in every pencil skirt you’ve ever tried on, maybe that’s not the best use of your fabric. Do you feel fabulous in sunshine yellow? That’s a good sign you’ll smile every time you put on that yellow dress! Are you making something way outside your comfort zone, say, a jumpsuit? Leggings? Short shorts? Will you feel good in it? Excellent question.

Check out the other blogs participating in the tour and a full tour schedule below!

Nov. 1: The ColetterieIntro and giveaway
Nov 2: Craft Buds – Interview and giveaway
Nov. 3: Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing – Lace insertion tutorial for the Licorice dress
Nov. 4: Sewaholic – Book excerpt
Nov. 7: COLOURlovers – Sarai’s favorite prints and patterns
Nov. 8: Flossie Teacakes – Interview with Sarai and book review
Nov. 8: A Fashionable Stitch – Book excerpt and review
Nov. 9: Pink Chalk Studio – Book review
Nov. 10: Craft Gossip – Interview with Sarai and giveaway
Nov. 11: Bolt Fabric – Book review
Nov. 14: True Up – Fabric Fives with Sarai
Nov. 15: Frolic! – On styling the book’s photos
Nov. 16: Whipstitch – Book review
Nov. 16: Honeykennedy – Styling ideas
Nov. 17: A Dress a Day – Interview with Sarai
Nov. 18: Not Martha – Book review
(break for Thanksgiving week)
Nov. 28: Casey’s Elegant Musings – Project Planning, book excerpt and Casey’s thoughts
Nov. 29: MADE – Giveaway
Nov. 30: Sew Weekly – Book review
Nov. 30: Oh! Fransson – Elizabeth’s version of the Taffy pattern
Dec. 1: Sew Mama Sew – Guest post from Sarai on grainlines

Plus don’t forget to visit the first post on the list and enter to win an amazing giveaway from Colette Patterns – a signed copy of the book plus FIVE patterns! Go, read, enter!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


16 Responses to Colette Patterns Blog Tour: Book Excerpt!

  1. Vicki Kate November 4, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    I have loved the little excerpt from the book. Makes me even keener to get my mitts on a copy! I can see the planning questions being stuck to my sewing room wall… I might have half a hope of keeping focused that way!

  2. Beth November 4, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    I also really want to try out the advice to find a style and keep better track of my inspiration. I think this book just rose to the top of my Christmas wish list.

  3. Kat November 4, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    I wasn’t sure at first if I needed yet another sewing book in my life but after reading this post I am convinced that I do…I love the advice on how to approach new projects as I am also guilty of going for pretty over practical/necessary!! I am a fan of Colette patterns having made a whole load of Sorbettos this summer and have recently purchased two dress patterns…I start my first Crepe dress this weekend, so exciting :) This book is going straight on my Christmas list!

  4. Seraphinalina November 4, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    “Number one: will you feel good in it? If you feel self-conscious in every pencil skirt you‚Äôve ever tried on, maybe that‚Äôs not the best use of your fabric. Do you feel fabulous in sunshine yellow? That‚Äôs a good sign you‚Äôll smile every time you put on that yellow dress!”

    My mother in law often says I should wear green, that it would look good on me. The problem is, I won’t feel happy in green, so no, I won’t look good in it no matter what colour my hair is. Orange is another colour that just doesn’t make me feel good so I don’t want to wear it. Both colours look fabulous on others, but I really think this question of how you feel wearing something is key.

    Thanks for the excerpt, loving the blog tour.

  5. Lizz November 4, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    I love your excerpt choice, Tasia!
    Although I agree with the advice of wearing what you love, there’s also something to be said about pushing your personal style. Taking pictures of my outfits for my blog has really opened my eyes to what looks good on me. There have been plenty of times that a mirror makes me look frumpy but pictures turn out really flattering (and vice versa!).

  6. Anne November 4, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    Fascinating! I’ve always had trouble with style books/magazines that try to categorize you- “Own an LBD? You have classic style! Own flouncy skirts? You have romantic style!”- because I usually own all the items they mention. I really like the idea of picking the items I love/wear the most and going from there (especially when it doesn’t involve slapping a label on my personal style).
    I’d like to see what your 5 items are, Tasia!

  7. Rachel November 4, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    I just got my book in the mail yesterday and read that part last night. Despite the fact that I’ve been sewing for awhile and made lots of things I’ve never thought about how everything would fit into my wardrobe. This is probably why I have so many ‘closet orphans’. I’m also loving her advise on keeping an inspiration notebook with you. I really should start doing that because I often find outfits or patterns that I really love and then forget about amoungst all the other things I have to keep trapped up in my brain.

  8. Jessica November 4, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Excellent excerpt choice, Tasia! These are the battles of thought we all have at some point while standing in front of our closets. I am so inspired to look at my collection in a new way and figure out why I love what I love (and why I pass over the others). I like Lizz’s idea of compiling a photo diary of outfits to help you see yourself from a different perspective. Looking forward to getting my copy of the book!

  9. Saskia November 4, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Another day, another lovely interview!!!
    I love the questions on the list although I must say that ‘how often will I wear it’ is something I don’t consider when starting a dress … if I like a dress and it’s comfortable I will wear it everywhere :o)

  10. Sewist from the South November 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    “It‚Äôs like someone is there with you, sharing their sewing knowledge and stories over a cup of tea. Does that sound too flowery? ”

    I prefer information, actually. For example, Claire Shaeffer’s books aren’t cozy wozy, they’re informative.

    The only point of characterizations like “preppy” is to give the person an idea of the kinds of silhouettes, fabrics and color palettes s/he might like. It helps to narrow the choices. Most people fall into more than one category.

    I’ve seen the book in the bookstore. It’s fine, although it would never be the only book I’d give a beginner. I’d also explain what a “seamstress” is.

  11. Yizz November 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    I’m in the UK and had put a copy on my Amazon wish list for my birthday tomorrow, but Amazon uk dont have it in stock :( Now I have to hope some kind soul gives me cash so I can start looking for another source to get my mitts on a copy.

  12. Stellune November 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    Tasia, I’m so glad you posted this! I just tried the “five things” and it was very helpful to me.
    I know everyone’s style is personal, but I’m curious about the styles of others. Would you do a post about what you find concerning your own style? Your outfits are always so sweet and interesting. Please don’t in you’re not comfortable with it.

  13. Susan November 6, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    This book just sounds wonderful! Such earthy, practical advice. Once I sewed myself a jumpsuit out of this outrageous orange tropical print. What was I thinking? Oh, I know! I wasn’t thinking! The fabric would have been nifty in a curtain, but not at all suited for this short, round body. Those planning questions look so helpful. I’m putting those to work!

  14. simone November 9, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    A real must-have book.
    Already the small part: Planning Questions is a great start! Wow (o:


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