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Sewing Blog

How and why you should create a fabric swatch book

fabric swatch book free pdf template charlottekan

I've recently organized a large part of my fabric stash because I couldn't remember what fabric was pre-washed and what fabric wasn't. I've probably pre-washed some fabrics more than once and that's when I decided I needed a way to track some information, so I created a swatch library!

It took me a weekend of pre-washing all the unwashed fabrics + the ones I was unsure about and created a template to keep everything organized. I thought I'd share a bit about the process and notes on how and why you should create a swatch library. But let's start at the very beginning...

What is a swatch of fabric?

It's a small piece of fabric. That you get from:

  • Fabrics you already have in your stash.
  • (Online) fabric shops.
  • Wholesalers.

Why do you need fabric swatches?

If you haven't started a project yet, it's a great way to check if the fabric is a match for your project before you commit to buying several meters of the fabric. Especially if you are shopping online!

You never know how the fabric feels, what the color actually looks like, how the fabric drapes, washes or handles until you get your hands on it. For some projects, it's OK to take a gamble, but when you are working with expensive fabrics, that's not a risk I'm willing to take.

If you already own  a piece of fabric, or you've already used it up for a project, it's still smart to save a swatch of your fabric. You can use it as a reference for future projects or when you're looking for similar qualities online.

How do you obtain fabric swatches from (online)stores?

You can ask for fabric swatches in a fabric store and you can buy them from most online stores. You often have to pay a small fee and/or pay for shipping.

In my local fabric shop, I would be able to pick up a small strip of fabric for free and in other shops they made me buy 10 cm / 4 inches of the fabric. So just ask about your shop's policy on fabric swatches and visit at a quit time, not at peak shopping hours.

But once you have all these fabric swatches, how do you store and organize them? In a fabric swatch library or a fabric swatch book!

fabric swatch book free pdf template charlottekan

These pretty swatches all came from different (wholesale)suppliers, the swatches were simply stapled to a sheet of card stock.

What is a fabric swatch library or a fabric swatch book?

A swatch library or a fabric swatch book is where you catalogue your fabric swatches and write down the details of a certain fabric for future reference.

Why create a swatch book?

  • Easily see what you already have without rummaging through your neatly folded fabric stash.
  • Keep it near when you are shopping for fabrics online.
  • You can use it to log how many meters/yards you have left of a certain fabric.
  • Log if you've pre-washed fabric.
  • If you have multiple locations/boxes/drawers where you store fabric, you can track where it's stored.

fabric swatch book free pdf template charlottekan

How do you make a fabric swatch book?

It can be very basic. Use double-sided tape, pins, paperclips or staples to attach the swatches to a piece of paper and write down the specifics next to the fabric. Or you can make a nice page layout and work on that for hours whilst procrastinating and putting off ironing the pre-washed fabric, like me! ;)

To download the template I made, subscribe to the newsletter or log into your customer account, you'll find the template in the resource library as a free download.

You can use staples, double sided tape, pins or paperclip to attach the swatches to a piece of paper.

fabric swatch book free pdf template charlottekan

fabric swatch book free pdf template charlottekan

A handy tip to help against fraying and curling edges, add a strip of tape before you cut out your swatch.This is particularly helpful if you are working with knits.

Once you've attached the swatches to a piece of paper, you can store them in a binder. You can either punch holes directly into the paper or you can use clear plastic sleeves to hold the pages and store everything in a binder.

I prefer to use clear plastic sleeves. I can flip through the pages easily without ripping the paper and I have tons of them lying around from when I used them in college, so it's nice to re-purpose them.

Another option would be to use an accordion file folder / expanding file organizer to hold the paper with swatches.

Some shops will send you little swatch books with all your swatches combined and stapled to some cardboard. I tend to keep them that way and just stick the little booklet into a plastic sleeve or the accordion file folder.

fabric swatch book free pdf template charlottekan

What information can you include in your fabric swatch library:

The possibilities are off course endless, but it highly depends on your needs. here are a few ideas to inspire your own system.

  • Type of fabric (batiste, poplin, denim, gingham, tweed, jacquard, boucle, voile, double gauze, taffeta, etc.)
  • Name of the design ( prints often have a name )
  • Name of the designer ( prints can have the name of the designer in the description )
  • Where you bought it.
  • Fabric content ( 100% cotton, 97% cotton + 3% elastane, 100% linen, 100% tencel, etc. )
  • Care instructions.
  • Where you've stored it.
  • If you've pre-washed it.
  • How much you have or have left.
  • The price.
  • The weight of the fabric.

fabric swatch book free pdf template charlottekan

How do you organize your fabric swatches?

I just randomly stick my swatches in my library, but you can do whatever works for you. You could group them by:

  • color
  • fiber content
  • shop
  • type (stretch, non-stretch, knits, etc. )

What size is a swatch of fabric

It depends on the shop. Most fabrics watches I've bought online were around 5 x 5 cm / 2" x 2", But when I bought wholesale would often receive larger fabric swatches up to a4 / letter size. However, if I'm cutting into a new piece of fabric I mostly cut off a small sliver of fabric to avoid cutting into the fabric too much.


fabric swatch book free pdf template charlottekan

Sign up and download the free sewing planner page template

Sign to the newsletter here to access the free printable swatch library template or log into your customer account, you'll find the PDF template in the sewing resource library as a free download.

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Organizing sewing projects, sewing patterns and PDF sewing patterns.

How to organize sewing projects and sewing patterns 

How I store my sewing patterns & projects

I store my printed out PDF sewing patterns and pattern pieces in an A4 quick binder and use plastic sleeves. There is a sleeve for the original copy shop pattern, the traced pattern and the project planner / pattern card goes on top.

If I trace the pattern again to make alterations or if I decide to hack the pattern I simply add another plastic sleeve for the latest version.

I've done this for years, but I've recently created a PDF template to track project details and alterations on the cover page of the binder.

Sewing planner page template free pdf download


Sewing planner page template free pdf download

Sewing planner page template free pdf download

I still have lots of these plastic binders from college so I just reuse them over and over again, but if you don't have them lying around and want to avoid plastic,use a paper envelope and keep your pattern and pattern pieces inside. You could even add a piece of paper as a divider if you need to.

How to organize sewing projects and sewing patterns

When a project is still in process I keep the binder, notions and the project in a basket that I can easily put away for a while.

When the project is completed, I move the binder to a magazine holder.

For a project that is in progress I tend to use one of the many baskets I have around the house to keep everything together in one place.

Large zip lock bags have also come in handy, providing a dust free storage solution. It's not that I buy those anymore, but I do reuse the old ones I still have.

How to store sewing patterns and sewing projects

When the project is finished, the quick binder is moved to a magazine holder. I keep them in a series of uniform magazine holders on a metal shelving unit in my living room. I like them because they hold quite a few patterns, they are affordable and have a clean and organized look.

How to store sewing patterns

My magazine holders came from Ikea and are similar to the Fjälla magazine hoders they currently carry. But the binders (or envelopes) could easily be stored in shoe boxes, old cardboard boxes, drawers or whatever you have on hand.

how to organize sewing patterns

How I store my digital sewing patterns

My Digital patterns are stored using Dropbox* Once I purchase or create a new pattern, I save it directly to the Dropbox folder on my computer and the moment the folder is synced with my Dropbox account, the file has a back up in the cloud which gives me great peace of mind. It's one of my favorite sewing tools ;)

If you sign up for a basic account you get to store and access your files from multiple devices, computers, phones, and tablets, for free. You get 2 GB which is more than enough for a whole library of PDF sewing patterns. I've used the free account for years but recently switched to a paid account because I'm using it for everything but the kitchen sink ;)

My folder structure looks something like this:

The main folder

Then each designer gets their own folder

Folders for each pdf sewing pattern containig the actual pattern files and instruction booklets

Sewing Patterns -->  Charlotte Kan -->  Elskan Dress and Top
 Pocket_T
 Designer name -->  Tank Top
 Skinny Jeans

 

 

* Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

 

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How to track your sewing projects and alterations + a bujo layout and pdf template

Sewing planner bullet journal page template

Have you eve made changes to your sewing pattern, but forgot exactly what you did? *Raises hand*...I often put away a project for weeks, sometimes months and forget whether or not I've added those 2 extra centimeters to the sleeve, or I want to remake a wardrobe staple I made a year ago and can't find the edits I've made.

It's annoying because I could get out a measuring tape and figure most things out, but some edits are quite subtle and hard to backtrack from a garment that's been worn and washed.

So I decided to be more diligent and track my pattern edits in a pattern card/project planner / sewing journal mash-up. Something I used to do when I still designed and produced small collections. We would use a system to track pattern alterations, versions, construction order, material cost, production time and all the materials needed for the project.

I currently don't need to track each and every detail, but I do want to keep my sewing projects organized. My main wish was to be able to set a project aside for a while and confidently pick up where I left off.

There are so many details you could track, but in the end, only trial and error will lead you to a system that works for you.

Here are some of the possible sections you could add to your project planner.

  • Body measurements + the date you took those measurements because your sizes probably will fluctuate over time.
  • Hacks and alterations. How much length did you add to the sleeve? or how much you pinched out of the back panel?
  • Finished garment measurements and ease. Figure out how much ease the pattern has and compare it to garments you already own and love.
  • The size or sizes you've traced.
  • How much fabric you need.
  • The color number of the thread you used.
  • Name and designer of the sewing pattern.
  • The pattern #hashtag for sharing on Instagram.
  • The order of construction so you don't have to check the instruction booklet.
  • Future alterations.
  • Notions & sewing machine needles.
  • Material costs.
  • Stitch length or other sewing machine settings.
  • The date you started or when you finished.
  •  A sketch of the garment or details.
  • A link or website name where you found that super helpful tutorial you used.

I decided to create a sewing planner template that includes a few set categories and room for notes and details that fall outside these sections.

P a t t e r n  d e t a i l s
- this is where I can track the basics

name:
designer:
date:
pattern O printed O taped O traced O cut
fabric O washed O cut

f a b r i c / n o t i o n s / n o t e s
- where I can write down everything I need to actually sew the pattern

b o d y m e a s u r e m e n t s + d a t e
- to keep an eye on if my size changes since I last made the pattern

f i n i s h e d  g a r m e n t  m e a s u r e m e n t s
- to see how much ease the pattern has

s i z e  t r a c e d
- If I fall between sizes I can track which sizes I've traced

 
bullet journal layout for sewing, project planner

Sewing project planner printable vs a notebook or Bullet journal

You can simply write everything on a sheet of paper and add whatever you need, or write everything down in a notebook or bullet journal, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to create a printable for a streamlined look and ease of use.

I've been a bullet journal user for about 4 years now and I found my style to be super basic, I don't use colors or markers, just my trusted Lamy safari fountain pen. The bullet journal layout was a nice experiment for inspiration. I kept the layout very minimalist and I managed to keep it all on one page. the empty page could function as a way to jot down additional notes or a place to add inspiration for the project.

In the end, I will mainly use the printed template and only use the bullet journal for plans that require more planning and research like when I'm starting from scratch and making the actual pattern.

If you want to try the printable for yourself, it's available as a free download to newsletter subscribers and customers in the resource library.

Sewing planner page template free pdf download

How I use my sewing project planner for the Garçonne shirt

I used the sewing project planner template I created when I decided to hack my Garçonne shirt. I've already made two shirts with a regular button band, but I wanted to make another one with a partial placket and sleeve plackets and turn it into a popover shirt.

I created the pattern pieces and wrote down how long I wanted the front placket to be, after holding it in front of my chest and adjusting the length.

Another thing I added, was a sketch to remind me how the sleeve plackets should be attached to the sleeve since I have messed this up in the past. I was glad I had the simple sketch handy when sewing, it definitely sped up my process. 

All in all, it was a success and I will keep using it (and probably fine-tuning) in the future!

Now I would love to hear from you! Do you have a system in place to track your sewing projects and alterations? I would love to hear your tips and ideas.


Sewing planner pdf template, tracking alterations

Sign up and download the free sewing planner page template

Sign to the newsletter here to access the free printable sewing project planner or log into your customer account, you'll find the PDF template in the sewing resource library as a free download.

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Tie Dress: Wrap Dress Hack

Tie dress PDF sewing pattern hack and alterations

When I originally designed the Tie Dress, it was part of my small ready to wear collection and it was made in a small size range in my studio in Rotterdam. I have no idea how many we made and sold, but I still had this indigo/purple/Yves Klein blue version lying around, there is a small fault in the fabric, right on the boob but not that visible at all...maybe that's why it never got sold? Anyway, I love the colour (which is nearly impossible to photograph well) but the size was too big for me. And since it's #AlterItAugust I though I join in and alter this blue beauty from the archive.

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Tsuno Tie Bag - Tester round up

Tsuno tie bag - bento bag - project bag sewing pattern - easye to sew bag - azuma bukuro
Marilyn @create.anew

I'm so thankful of all these fabulous testers! They dedicated their time and fabric to give great feedback so I could finetune the pattern and get it as perfect as possible. They did a great job and it's inspiring to see the bag in so many different fabrics and colours.

 

During the testing I made changes to the instructions and it was clear that a video tutorial would be a great addition to the pattern. I've recently uploaded the video tutorial so you can sew along with your Tsuno Tie Bag.

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5 steps to pick the right sewing pattern size + get a better fit. Even if you are a beginner!

how to pick the right size sewing pattern

Yay! You decided to start sewing. You bought a sewing machine, did a few practice projects and now you are ready to sew your own handmade wardrobe. You want to create your own handmade wardrobe because fast fashion turns you off, you can't find what you are looking for or you simply don't fit the standard RTW (ready-to-wear) sizes.

You pick your first pattern put your blood, sweat, and tears into that first garment, only to find out it's too baggy or too tight and you start second guessing the whole plan of sewing your own wardrobe.

Or

You never start because you lack confidence and question everything...Which pattern size should I choose? What should I do if I don’t fit into any of the listed sizes? What if I fall into different sizes? How do I take my measurements?

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What is ease in sewing. Wearing ease, design ease, negative ease explained

what is ease in sewing, design ease, wearing ease, negative ease explained

Ease / wearing ease / design ease / negative ease

What is ease and why should you care about it? Well...have you ever sewn a (pdf) sewing pattern after following directions, carefully measuring yourself and selecting the size only to have it come out way to large or tighter than you wanted? That's because you haven't factored in ease.

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Sewing Glossary - sewing terms explained for the beginner

beginner sewing glossaryThis glossary of sewing terms for the beginner is an A-Z guide that explains many terms, but also includes some tips and tricks that I think you might find handy. The list is a work in progress and I'll add links to tutorials, images and videos when I create them. Let me know in the comments if I missed a crucial sewing term you would like to know about. Continue reading

Tsuno Tie bag sew along

Sew along as we walk trhough all the steps to construct the Tsuno Tie bag. I'm showing all the steps so even a beginner can follow along. If you are a more experienced sewer, speed up the video by using the gear icon to find the speed options or skip ahead. I'll cover the French seams, mitered corners and the double fold hem.

 

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