Thursday, January 26, 2023

Ready For a Little Nostalgia?

 I am in a Discord sewing chat group and the discussion has turned to SWAP...I mean, this is the time of year when SWAP discussions would be going.  Had there been a SWAP this year, it would have been the 20th.    But Stitcher's Guild has disappeared into the internet void and, barring its resurrection on some other site, the book has closed on SWAP as well.

That made me rather nostalgic, so I decided to go trawling through the photo archives and see if I can do a little reminiscing about Wardrobes of Years Gone By.  

Warning...this is likely going to be a LONG post.  Grab a cuppa if you want to join me on my stroll

SWAP is the acronym for Sew With A Plan.  It was based on an article in Australian Stiches, and the original concept was to plan out 11 projects...patterns, fabric, etc, and assemble all the needed notions; I think the garments were all to be cut out and the whole lot in two weekends.  It was to create a new capsule wardrobe in a short time.  The basic plan was to select a print and make a skirt and top out of the print, then select colors from the print for the rest of the wardrobe. Two pairs of pants, two skirts, six tops and a jacket...from the print and two (or maybe three) solid colors that were in the print.  The skirt and top together would work as a dress, and all the other pieces could be mixed and matched.

In 2003, this concept was much discussed on the also defunct Sewing World discussion board, and then-fabric-retailer Julie Timmel came up with the idea for the SWAP competition.  We had from Dec. 26,  2003 to March 31, 2004 (I think...that sounds right) to sew up an 11 piece SWAP wardrobe.

I tried that first year, but we had an Easter production at church that year that put the crunch on my time.  Plus, I had problems finding a print for the required skirt/top combo.  I ended up using a poly crepe...that was printed crooked...on a Dos de Tejas pattern that I'd never used before.  Anyway, I wrestled with that thing and recut it and...I *think* I finished all the pieces, but well after the deadline, and I don't have a batch of pics for that year.   I can't even tell, looking at my folder of sewing photos from 2004, which of the red/ white or blue garments I meant for the SWAP...but here's the much-hacked two piece dress...which, having no pockets in the skirt, only got worn a couple of times.

In 2005 I decided I needed to pick the print FIRST, instead of deciding on the colors and then picking the print.  I found a wild lime green/ royal blue/ brown/black challis print at the now-defunct Hancock's (there is definitely a theme here) and for whatever reason decided THAT would be the basis for my Wardrobe.  And, believe it or not, I actually finished on time and took pics.

That was before I started blogging, so no real discussions about it.  I wore several pieces till they were not wearable, had a couple that I, um, outgrew, but the brown/black pieces are still in the wardrobe and still get worn when I feel kinda arsty fartsy funky.  My Sweet Babboo was terribly unhappy with me for hanging the garments on the venetian blinds...  That, to me, only sort of met the brief because I coudn't wear the funky black/brown top under the jacket.  But I did have lots of options, especially with the twinset, which counted as one top (there is a top under the cardigan in the picture).

2006 the rules changed and we no longer had to use a single print for a skirt and top...we just had to have garment that had a pattern to it of some sort, but we still had to have 6 tops, 4 bottoms and a jacket. I picked a tweedy blue/gray boucle for my print element and used it as the jacket.

I'm looking at that now and thinking...I made ANOTHER blue twinset?  I'll be honest, I am totally blanking because I don't remember two, lol.  Maybe the rules allowed a previously made garment that year? The tops and the gray pants are all too small now; the jacket BARELY fits but the black skirt and the black pants are still in the closet.  As I recall, we had to use one pattern twice... once as it came, and once with an alteration.  I added a godet to to the back of the black skirt, which is the same pattern as the blue one.  That collection actually was tied for 3rd that year.

I didn't even try to do swap again until 2012; partly because I didn't need another wardrobe, partly because I started back to work and lost most of my sewing time, but also because some of the rules just didn't work for me.  I didn't see the point of doing something just to be doing it, if it wasn't something I wanted in my closet.  But 2012 was a bust...I don't think I got out of the planning stage before I realized that it just wasn't going to happen that year.

Tried again in 2014.  I had a great plan, based on the Vivienne File's Common Wardrobe.  But that plan included a trench coat and I spent the entire time frame working on the trench.  Which is still a workhorse for me in our mostly mild winter climate. I have a long stripy scarf and a fedora hat and I totally bound as the 4th Doctor when I go out.

2016 rolled around and I needed some clothes, so I jumped in to the swap with a plan around a black denim jacket.  Never settled on a pattern, and at the almost last minute switched my plan up completely and made 10 of the 11 garments in about two weeks....which made me feel like I was channeling the original concept, lol.

It was cluster swap...small units that combined into the whole.  All of these clothes are still in the active closet...except the white cowl neck top, which stretched completely out of shape, and the gray knit cardi that I left in a hotel room in 2020.

2019 was the first time I tried sewing along with the Six Scarves series on the Vivienne files, and the SWAP  rules that year required an inspiration, you know, a scarf. I decided...what the heck, I'm making clothes based on a scarf anyway, let's just turn it into a SWAP.  And I got to use the trench coat as the one 'previously made' item

Then, of course, there was 2022.  Again, I was sewing based on a scarf, and again, I decided to just push a little extra on it in the first few months and turn it into a SWAP wardrobe.

  And I was the only one who did. That was probably the biggest indicator to me that the community we'd had and loved around SWAP and sewing had fractured.   I still haven't used my gift certificate yet; I want to use it on something...special.

Thassa lotta clothes, y'all.  But the challenge of the SWAP pushed me more than once to do something I've been meaning to do (hello, trench coat).    I wouldn't do it again this year...for one thing, I'm still finishing up last year's scarf wardrobe, and I have some things I want to do to expand on that.  So I wouldn't fit a SWAP this year.  But I really like the whole capsule wardrobe thing, and I've learned a lot over the years by doing it.  

And... who knows...maybe the next time I need a wardrobe update I'll make a plan and block out a weekend for cutting and two weekends for sewing and see if I can do it.


  1. Love your trip down memory lane. I am up for SWAP! Just looking for a group to play along with me. Started my new blog at Sewing In Circles over at Wordpress Juliane/RetroGrace and joined up with Pattern Review. Hoping for a group because it would be so much more enjoyable! If it gets going I hope you will join us.

    1. I looked for Sewing in Circles at Wordpress but that came up with a quilting blog that that hadn't been updated since 2013. I'd like to find you...:-D


      she was talking about doing another SWAP about a month ago, she always sews in capsules so perhaps you could connect with her.

    3. Ruthie is in the discord group; that was the discussion that prompted the post. There is a possibility the SWAP will show up elsewhere but it will be in a different time frame, not the top-of-the-year event it has been in the past.

  2. Hi Lisa, loving the trip down memory lane. It does make me wonder if you are right that SWAP has had it's day, or whether it could see a new incarnation at 'The Sewing Place' forum.

  3. I remember reading about SWAP on SG. I never joined in though - some of the rules didn't work for me. Like must have a skirt or dress when I don't do skirts or dresses. But I did enjoy seeing what others did with it.
    Bummer that SG has gone away, though I suspected it might after most of it went behind a paywall. And then a couple of times, the site crashed for a week or two and had to be restored. And a few fights where some long time members left. I can't blame Dragon Lady for shutting it down, dealing with all that on top of financial things to keep it running must have been exhausting.

    1. In scrolling through old blog posts looking for stuff about the SWAPs, I found a post that referenced the beginnings of Sticher's Guild, when the old Sewing World finally died. It was back in 2006, if I remember right. DL was definitely caught in a bad spot. Pattern Review had a similar ruckus when the subscription model was implemented there, but the platform was able to offer more benefits than just access to the discussion boards, so folks don't seem to mind the subscription as much. A pittance donation from all active members would have been enough to keep the paywall down at SG, I think, but only a few people actually contributed. I can't blame DL for shutting it down, but a farewell notice might have been nice. At least on the Discord server she set up so folks could see it. But that's not been updated either. My take...She. Is. Done. Likely I would be, too. There were about three folks over the years who were, prickly and easily offended...who caused most of the drama. They were very knowledgeable and did wonderful work, but lawd have mercy, they had no grace. I think one of them eventually was banned; one was sternly warned more than once and finally got offended enough that she went away on her own. I do miss so many folks who were active. Most folks have even given up blogging, so I've lost track of them completely...

  4. I remember some of the items from your posts over the years. If you are familiar with Pattern Review, they do have some swap style sew alongs or contests through the year. There’s currently a Suduko sew along where you decide what you want as rules…and the items you put into your grid need to mix and match…so you get a little bit of the feel of the swap. Looking forward to your further adventures with your scarf wardrobe…Chris in FL

    1. (points slightly at review list in right side bar) It's not really that there are no's the specific thing that SWAP was, with a community with that. It was part of the calendar, lol. If I feel like jumping into a contest...I might sign up for one at PR. I don't think I've done one there since I rejoined the workforce in 2009.

  5. Thanks, Lisa. Try I have had a heck of a time trying to get Wordpress going for me. Two different URLs for some reason. My old blog used to be on blogspot but it was eaten by the internet at some point.
    I want to do SWAP for the support and input of fellow enthusiasts, not for the contest. I get so many ideas from others! And I am of an age where RTW just doesn’t appeal anymore. Juliane aka RetroGrace


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