Do your research: Some could argue that the best part of sewing is buying the patterns, and it's easy to go crazy. Many of us sewers have many, many more patterns than we will ever sew. But if you are serious about creating some worthwhile additions to your spring wardrobe, it pays to check out the spring trends. Sewing takes time and advance planning for real wearing success. Before you even think about heading to the fabric store, check the new looks on your favorite Web sites and in magazines. Tear or print out pages of details, embellishments and looks that appeal to you and carry them along on your pattern-shopping trip.
Translate the trends: To reach the broadest audience, pattern companies often follow the trends more conservatively, so you may have to use your imagination and skills to translate your favorite runway looks to the pattern books. For instance, if a jacket is too short or long, you can adjust it with basic pattern alterations. Or it can be as simple as adding punk embellishment à la Balmain with some artfully placed safety pins, or getting Louis Vuitton's Asian influence by looking to pattern resellers. (Even a quick DIY obi belt can add a trendy twist to your spring style.) For the full-skirt look, you'll want to check out retro patterns. (Just be ready to do some serious hemming, as skirts on vintage patterns run long and should be shortened to avoid looking costumey.)
Home shopping network: You don't always have to leave home to choose your patterns. Some pattern companies offer home delivery of their catalogs, so you can preview the Spring 2011 fashions from your sewing room. You can also look to online resources, such as independent pattern companies or indie pattern designers. These smaller organizations and individuals produce patterns in smaller batches and can be more responsive to trends.
Finding fabric: One of the bigger challenges of trying to sew on trend is finding fabric that is high quality and fashion-forward. Natural fibers, like silk, cotton and lightweight woolens, in solid hues make classic choices, and with the focus on light neutrals this spring, these are relatively easy to find from quality sources. You can also find some designer fabric resources online (designers may not use all of their fabrics and these end rolls are sold to the home-sewing audience). You'll find fabric from designers like Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Zac Posen and the like. Just call up to request swatches and you'll have a plethora of textiles to choose.
For more "DIY Design" columns, click here. Next week, sew the perfect beach coverup for your winter getaway.