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Conversational Threads

Where do you go for sewing inspiration?

Deana | Posted in Talk With Us on

Where do you go for sewing inspiration? Fashion magazines? The internet? Television? The sidewalk? Tell us what moves you and provokes you in terms of design.

Deana Tierney, Assistant Editor, Threads


  1. loomchick | | #1

    In no particular order, I get inspiration from the following:

    • Historical garments - back when there was shape and line to the

      silhouette and detail to the garment . . . a great source is http://www.vintagetextile.com . . . We have too many shapeless unadorned outfits that are unattractive and unflattering

    • Images of new designs from Fashion Week runway shows, celebrities, magazines, etc.  This includes the few (very few) that are beautiful . . . but, more than anything, I get inspiration of what not to make.
    • Fashion icons from over the decades (e.g., Jacqueline Kennedy, Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, etc.) and how classic and timeless their styles were.  If I'm going to spend a lot of time to design and create a garment from quality materials, I want it to withstand the test of time.
    • As a weaver, I'm also inspired by the fabrics I create . . . Sometimes the fabric comes first and then I decide how to transform it in to a garment to best showcase it . . . sometimes it's the other way around.
    1. WandaJ | | #14

      I too get inspiration from the American Icons that you named. Their clothes were timeless, and I think I will never recover from my strong affinity for Chanel's (the originals) clothes.

    2. maggir | | #24

      With all of the intense fashion news, entertainment, and media out there, I am so bothered by the lack available good fabrics for my own collection.

      But a friend from NYC recently told me about a new website run by a great store she visits there, called Paron Fabrics.  The site is called http://www.manhattanfabrics.com 

      It is a wondeful site, with beautiful fabrics.  I like to browse randomly, so I can be surprised, but it is also so easy to search for specifics.

      1. Cherrypops | | #25

        The Frock website. http://www.thefrock.com

        Victorian-Edwardian, Flapper-WWII, Mid Century, Designer and Couture, Bridal and Celebrity Wardrobe.

        I can't afford to purchase the real items, but I love looking.

        1. Ralphetta | | #26

          That is a beautiful site, doesn't it remind you of the back of old Threads?  Those always inspired me.

        2. WandaJ | | #27

          Many, Many, Many...of these garments were just breathtaking. Thank you so much for sharing an overwhelmingly inspirational site. Yes, some of the designs, with the exquisite work are reminiscent of past Threads magazine back covers. Oh, would it not be wonderful if those back covers did reappear with a feature article on how to not only make them but complete the embellishment and couture techniques? Now, that would be the 'real' sewists magazine!

          Edited 2/18/2007 8:59 pm ET by WandaJ

          1. Cherrypops | | #28

            They are divine creations that's for sure!

            I had my hubby working next to me last night. Turned his head when he heard all my ooohs and aaahhhs, and sighs of "if only I could afford these". He said Copy them! He has his own favourites.

            I am lucky i have a 27" inch waist and a very complementary husband, who says I would look beautiful in all of them.

            I plan to save a few of these pics to my pc for my 'special garment' scrapbook.

            Now I understand what you ladies mean when you refer to the Back Page on Threads.

            My guess is with the new Sew Stylish magazine it is a possiblity that Threads may return to its much loved (from what i've read about here) articles. Again this is just my guess. Yes, it would be lovely to see articles and how to's for these exquisite and special garments.

            Cheers Anna-maree



            Edited 2/18/2007 8:26 pm by Cherrypops

            Edited 2/18/2007 8:27 pm by Cherrypops

        3. fabricholic | | #30

          Just spotted this website you posted. Thanks for taking the time to let us know about it. Marcy

  2. fabricholic | | #2

    I like fashion magazines and from the new line of patterns every season. I will also see RTW that inspires me.


  3. NovaSkills | | #3

    I agree with Loomchick on her first three points. Fashion magazines are a complete waste of time to me. I don't have a horrible body, but it's never been a match for teen-driven styles, which is all I see in the fashion mags, even Vogue.

    Ready-to-wear doesn't inspire me except at the high price end--sometimes. Much of it, again, isn't aimed at wearability, or is comparatively shapeless in its attempt to "fit" more people with less sizes.

    I find much inspiration, also, in ethnic clothing, both historical and current, as seen in more serious magazines and sometimes in other media. Small details such as those Threads has highlighted on some back covers excite me to try new things.

    Mostly, I am "inspired" by sheer desperation--I can't find it to buy, and I need it.

  4. kathyann | | #4

    All of the above, but I would like to add: movies. Not necessarily the clothes directly, but the way the look of the set and the costumes are put together, the colors and overall mood. One of my favorites for this is Lord of the Rings.

    A year or so ago Threads did an article on designing a collection for yourself and giving it a name, which I really liked. Mine is "Elven Librarian."


    1. NovaSkills | | #9

      You'd get a kick out of the costumes for the show our theatre is staging, Man of La Mancha. The designers have done some fascinating details and "distressing" to create such rich texture...dying in several stages, lacings, shredded areas backed by gauzy material, painted weathering that softens the colors, different edge finishes for different types of characters, etc. You can see the textural details offstage quite well.

      A hint I've learned is that a bright, clear color can be toned down and weathered/antiqued with Krylon acrylic "Crystal Colors". This spray paint is like laying sheer organza over something, just a hint of color, very controllable. I'm already dreaming up quilts and other ideas for this.

      I guess my collection would be "Galactic Princess" on a good day; Rings and other sci-fi & fantasy movie certainly have fun ideas.

  5. myca99 | | #5

    I like classic lines and fine craftsmanship, and I especially like garments that personify a particular time or place. Old movies from the 50's and the 60's are really good for that. I love Elizabeth Taylor's white dress from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Doris Day's smartly tailored working girl suits, and Grace Kelley's evening gown in Rear View Window.

    I look for vintage patterns on Ebay and occasionally trek intown to walk through Nordstrom's. Sometimes I try some variant of the challenges they give the designers on Project Runway.


    1. thehat | | #19

      I agree that  the lines in the 40 50 60  that was soft and fabric friendly and the body was  covered and people looked like they liked themselves.

  6. User avater
    Thimblefingers | | #6

    I like fashion magazines but with the realization that I would or could never wear most of what is in them.  But sometimes a detail or silhouette or look inspire me and that's what I go with.  I am also inspired by old (ie: 50's) pattern magazines from Europe (Holland and Germany), pattern design texts, historical costumes, nature, the fabric itself, architecture, and art.

  7. solosmocker | | #7

    A few things that inspire me -
    * Any old movies where Edith Head is the designer, particularly the gorgeous tailoring.
    * Magnificent fabric
    * Runway shows also but I love the closeups available on the program Full Frontal Fashion. Lots of inspiration there.
    * Vintage Textiles. I collect laces and have fantasies of what I could make with them.
    * A trip into the highend world on Newbury Street in Boston. Great fun!

    1. Josefly | | #10

      Oh, gosh, yes, Edith Head did some wonderful stuff, especially for Doris Day. I remember reading somewhere that she loved designing for Doris Day, because the star knew how to show off the clothes - removing a jacket in such a way as to reveal the lining, e.g.

      1. loomchick | | #11

        I recently finished reading Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer . . . It was a completely enjoyable read . . . It gives a lot of insight to how she started, the politics of the Hollywood system and how hard she had to work to manuever around them. 

        Best of all are the stories of the people she designed for and dressed . . . from the actress that refused to wear a brassiere even though her breasts hung down to her waist (Bette Davis) . . . to the most physically perfect person she ever dressed (Grace Kelly) . . . to the odd demands and events over a remarkable career.

        1. Josefly | | #12

          Thanks, I'll look for this book.

        2. Cherrypops | | #13

          I too am a fan of the 'true hollywood style' of a bygone era. Thanks for book info.

          I just found a chapter excerpt, book description and critical praise on the HarperCollins Publishers Australia website. It seems to be available here at my local bookstore, which is great, i will drop in on the weekend, otherwise if no luck, I will see if Borders will order one in for me. Borders are great with shipping US books etc over.

          cheers CherryP :)

  8. LindaFaye | | #8

    I love Speigel's and Newport News Catalogs.  I really get excited and inspired by all the fashions in these.

    1. MaryinColorado | | #15

      Me too! I also like to go online to their sites, they have suggested styles for a variety of ages, which is interesting to see. 

      1. LindaFaye | | #16

        I know what you mean.  I usually buy the Speigel catalog from the book store.  I really love the styles.  I recently applyed for a Speigel charge card just to get the seasonal catalog free.  I use to have a Speigel card and use to order from them a lot.  Now I just love the ideas that I get thumbing through the catalog.  I also like the way they catagorize some styles by age groups, however I know they are just suggestions.  I'm in my 50's but I look at the 30's and 40's group and say "shoot, I could wear that too"!  Anyways I get some good ideas about how to coordinate what I already have in the closet and ideas on what to add/buy/sew.

  9. wlric | | #17

    I get inspiration from textile exhibits at museums. Frequently I find designs on pottery, baskets, jewelry, and other treasures on display that I can translate into embellishments for garments. Architectural elements in historical buildings are another inspiration area.

    I enjoy the portrait galleries in museums, and do rough sketches of the garments. I recently learned that the term "costing an arm and a leg" comes from the fee charged by an artist when doing a portrait. If the subject wanted arms, hands, or legs included, the fee was higher.

    I like to check out books from the library on all types of historical fashion.

    1. MaryinColorado | | #18

      That is an interesting bit of trivia, there is allways something to learn here.  Thank You!  Mary

  10. LiFu | | #20

    I don't sew much for myself at this time, but in order to sell indigo fabric from South Africa, I've had to create projects using them. I've found Japanese sewing /quilt magazines a treasure trove of ideas, even if I can't read them! They have wonderful ways of combining fabrics which would not have occurred to me. The details are great and are not just in the usual style.  

    1. susanna | | #21


         Other people's sewing and crafts blogs...I have a favorites list of about fifty of them.

         India. I need to go there!

         Art books and magazines, old books on sewing, and old clothing patterns.


         Thrift and vintage clothing stores. 




  11. soandsew | | #22

    I love the current movies in fantasy and sci-fi, the costumes are great.  There are always something new in the way the costumes are constructed and with a bit of change can be applied to clothing in the 'real' world.  Since I am rather a queen-size lady, I also look for things that will help me look my best.

  12. hartzellka | | #23

    As many of the others have stated, my main inspiration comes from vintage lines.  Most of the time I look through catalogs (junk mail) to see what the current style is and go from there.  Even if I purchase a ready made outfit, I have to rebuild it because I don't fit the normal, mass produced, shape.  I have to take up the length and the width of shoulders, so it isn't worth it to me to buy nice clothes and have to take them apart.  My excitement peaked when I found the Marfy patterns, from Italy.  I always try to sew "outside of the box" it keeps it exciting.

  13. MsRita | | #29

    I love InStyle Magazine, Vogue and other fashion mags. I also go to the internet. Patternreview.com has so many great photos of projects. I also am inspired by the fabric stores that I visit.

    I just wish I was a better sewer!

  14. Oraya | | #31

    Very frequently the ideas start with a material.....but occasionally as a result of a picture in a mailorder catalogue (usually with the editorial comment "I could make it better for less!!), and yes even sometimes from things from the past. My Mom had this wonderful bathrobe - with a big shawl collar, it was beautifully fitted into the waist and dated from the 50's....you felt like a movie star the minute you slipped it on with its big swirly skirt.....sadly it has gone on to higher things....but still inspired about how wonderful it felt when you slipped it on I decided to adapt a princess line winter coat pattern with a wonderful shawl collar and swirly skirt - and I just bought the towelling today to make it!

  15. Teaf5 | | #32

    I'm most often inspired by the need for good outfits for work, leisure time, and all the activities I do with my family.  The gap in my wardrobe becomes a puzzle, and for answers, I look at what's displayed in stores, in clothing company catalogs, especially those for travel or professional clothes, in books on wardrobe building, and of course in the pattern company books.

    Often, my inspiration comes from a particularly wonderful item in my current wardrobe that I then reproduce in different fabrics, colors, embellishments I've seen in Threads or fashion magazines or historical costuming books.  This way, I know the garment will work well in my lifestyle, but I can also have fun experimenting with all the nifty ideas I've seen elsewhere.

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