Are You A Plotter Or A Pantser?

planning mila dungarees tilly and the buttons

Knickers. Shorts. Kidney warmers. Bikinis, brazilians, midis or thongs… Call them what you will. Sometimes, we fly by the seat of them.

There’s a shared joke in the author community that a writer is either a plotter or a pantser:

Plotter – you plan out your entire book carefully before committing a single word to paper.

Pantser – you plan out your entire book carefully before … NO, YOU DON’T! You get bored after filling in the first index card and start scribbling furiously, making it all up as you go along. You fly by the seat of your pants.

planning sewing ii

I have a theory that Sewists are the same. Me? I’m a pantser. I have tried to plan my sewing. But honestly, my creativity hates it. I prefer to wander from project to project, waiting to spot a bolt of fabric or sewing pattern that inspires me.

I’ve learnt a few tricks along the way to ensure I have a wardrobe that actually works – select use of prints, careful choice of fabrics, eyeing up the more eccentric details of a pattern – but other than that, I dream, I hope, I play. Planning doesn’t happen much at all.

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Of course, just to make matters even more complicated (and why the heck not?) you can also be a plantster – a combination of the two! So, which are you? If you tell me about your indexed 5-year-plan I’ll gasp in awe. Or fear. No, definitely awe… 😉

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33 Responses to Are You A Plotter Or A Pantser?

  1. spikeabell says:

    Definitely a Pantser with plantster ascendent (to mix the metaphor even further). I once attended a book festival where the authors hotly contested these ideas. It was hilarious.

  2. Eliza-sew-little says:

    Pantser all the way. Planning is for work. End of! 😜

  3. Caroline Joynson says:

    Definitely a Pantser too. Looks like I’m in good company!
    I couldn’t commit to the sewing challenge #makenine because I would change my mind by make two.

  4. Chris Griffin says:

    Planster! Half-planned, like my last Matilda dress, and half, “omg, this is a great idea!” like the coat currently on the sewing table. If I draw out a garment, I know I have a concept. Then when the mood to make it strikes, I’m ready!!

  5. Pantster for sure. In all aspects of my life. Always have been, always will be. And wouldn’t change if I could.

  6. Panster here too. I’ve been thinking i’d like to work out a wardrobe plan, but not being a speedy sewer, making complicated projects, having plenty of clothes and plenty of things I’d like to make, I don’t know when that will happen.

  7. Beth Duffus says:

    What, you mean there is an alternative to being a frustrated, exhausted, failed planner? I can just go ahead and do the stuff I’m most interested in first? After reading your post, I shall surrender to my pantser inclinations instead of fighting them.
    That said, I have just completed a clear-out and reorganisation of my entire home (entire!) after reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. I’ve always considered myself quite tidy but 20+ bin bags say differently. It’s an huge breath of fresh air and inspiring to rediscover fabric in the stash I’d forgotten about so there’s some impulse sewing coming on.

  8. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Another panster, with a definite lean toward weather. Thought I was alone in my failing–never taking part in so many things everyone else loves. I never do ’cause if something else looms up as being more necessary I’m on it. No matter if I’m in the middle of something else.
    Thanks, Karen, and to all fellow pansters. Guilt-free at last!

  9. Mery says:

    Planner by training and necessity but Pantser by nature. I start each day very early, and, if I don’t want to start by staring stupidly into my closet and thinking/planning, then I need a planned wardrobe so I can grab any of several pieces that all go with a very limited selection of shoes. I’m a very little bit lame and that limits my shoe selection. Within that framework there were many opportunities for pantsing, more so when fabric stores were plentiful. Best was when one was near my work so I could peruse & dream often until a plan started taking shape. Then I bought a likely amount of coordinating and accent pieces, plus a little extra and took it home to pants what was the best I could do with them.

  10. I’m growing my Plotter more or at least trying to! In my first couple of years returning to sewing after an almost 40 yr hiatus, I was definitely a rather wild and wooly Plantser but I’m learning to watch that more carefully especially since joining the #2018 RTW Fast this year. I need to keep thinking about what I’m going to need and it’s still fun and creative because its pushing me to think about making things I never would have.

  11. Cathy B says:

    Very happy Plotter here. I love to stare at my Trello board and rearrange my projects ad infinitum, linking patterns with fabric and seasons. I fear that I might like the planning more than the actual sewing.

  12. Definitely a plotter by inclination here, but spending all day at work plotting (I mean planning), the last thing I want to do is live by lists. So I turn pantser and just sew whatever I fancy. In fact, I would say I’m so disorganised with my sewing I often start a sewing project and then think about trying to find buttons, zips and thread later.

  13. Lisa G :-) says:

    Like Cathy B, I love to plan! I also deviate from my plans when other priorities pop up…usually in the form of something I “must” make for someone else. Hence the fact that I learned to sew 5 years ago in order to make my own clothes, but have only finished 2 dresses for myself in all that time!! Many other makes, especially for my grandkids, but no other wearables for me…yet!

  14. Sheree says:

    Pantser. Inspiration strikes and I just dive in. Would absolutely hate to tie myself to any challenges like SWAP or make nine. I don’t know what I will be sewing next week and that is how I like it to be.

  15. artcoopsville says:

    Oh, I plan, I plan, dream and plan some more. Then I see a pattern and fabric and all the careful planning goes out of the window and I make something I’d never even thought of. Hence a stash full of patterns I’ve never made. I’m the same with everything.

  16. I think that “pantser” could be another word for “flexible”. You know, you’re in the middle of making school trousers and suddenly, “What? it’s book week and you didn’t tell me?! You need a shark costume by when????” That sort of thing. I mean, how would you ever cope if you couldn’t tweak your so-called plan just a little bit?

    Pretty fabric is my downfall. Oh, well, maybe after yarn. Or stationery. Or perhaps equally. But I always buy it with some plan in mind. That those plans rarely eventuate is not the point. I eventually get around to doing SOMEthing with what I’ve been hoarding – I mean, curating – for so many years. And as for plans? They too are subject to change (see previous comment about shark costume).

    Yeah, I think this is me confessing to being a pantser, no matter how I try to be organised at work 🙂

  17. KS Sews says:

    Definitely a combination of the two! I like making plans with room for “shiny”.

  18. definitely a Pantser, in all things! I don’t have a fabric stash as I know I will change my mind if it sits too long. Thought I’d try planning and joined in the #2018makenine

  19. I’m probably a mixture too… I love to imagine what to do next while I am in the middle of a project, Nowadays I buy most of my fabric abroad, specailly in London, so there is some planing there… I write a list in my phone of fabrics I want to buy, as I am inspired to make something…and I buy a lot when I travel once a year… so during the rest of the year, I get inspired by my stash, mainly… with unexpected spurrs of inspiration that require buying online whatever fabric I desperately need NOW, hehe…

  20. SewingElle says:

    I’m another pantster. Plans are for work. I am however attempting a SWAP for the very first time. But by that I mean I’ve picked some colours to work with and pulled out fabrics from my stash and I’m making what I like from them. Yeah not really a SWAP is it!?

  21. Gretchen H says:

    Pantser for myself, plotter when I’m sewing for my daughter and husband. 🙂

  22. Complete pantser here. Work involves more plotting than Machiavelli so home time is a time for creativity, mess and a bit of pantsing. Nothing like a bit of randomness. I blame being a Libra. Xx

  23. where2wearit says:

    First a muller – stand under the hot shower for 20 mins dreaming up ideas – then a plotter -plan it in my head with my morning coffee, or glass of wine. Then a panster – plunge my scissors in a make something else entirely different.

  24. Stephanie says:

    Definitely a plotter until I want to try a new pattern. You can’t use a plan fabric for a new pattern what if it doesn’t work out. So you find a different fabric for the new pattern which turns out perfectly so then you make something to go with it and oops you are off down a rabbit hole plan forgotten.

  25. PAntster, absolutely. BUT I can be uber organised when I have a serious deadline, like when I used to do costume for an amateur opera company. MASSES to do, no way to wing it. I did **** my pants a few times though…

  26. Silvia says:

    I like the idea of planning, but really, it just doesn’t happen. For instance I came up with the plan of practicing tailoring on a blazer, then making a coat. The blazer is still a shell of what it should be, the Italian coating is hanging out in the closet waiting and the temperature is an unnaturally high 70+ degrees everyday. Just what I should focus on, coat making. Planning is over rated. Pantsing is where it’s at dude!

  27. LinB says:

    I prefer the comparison between “Teutonic” and “Celtic.” A German-type plans everything to the nth degree, seeks out materials that fit the plan exactly, rejects anything that does not match the plan. An Irish-type looks at what is available, and modifies plans to fit what is there.

    Both are legitimate ways to approach problem-solving. Humanity needs both types.

    That said, I am about as Celtic as they come, when sewing anything is the problem to be solved.

    I would definitely want a German-type to engineer major building projects, though.

  28. LaineeMakes says:

    Such a panther, however as I keep joining in challenges and reviewing I need to develop a plotter mentality. Wish me luck , I’m going to need it!

  29. Plotter that doesn’t always commit. Backlogged in plans I haven’t started yet. Working on catching up this year!

  30. Sewingbyletters says:

    A reformed pantser, now a happy plotter. I am sewing two Make Nines (one for me, one for the husband) and I/we picked the patterns, style inspos, and fabrics for both. I insert other quick sews, often to scrap bust from my planned projects, but mainly stick to my plan. It makes me so happy to feel like things are finally coming together in a coordinated wardrobe, rather than a mixed up mess where nothing matches or coordinates with the other pieces.

  31. Fraggle says:

    I like to plan ahead…a long way ahead 🙂 I tend to buy fabric with a pattern in mind and very rarely change that plan, even though it can frequently take a few years to make that garment. That said I have never planned my wardrobe, but I have always known exactly what I like and don’t like to wear, so I will buy patterns without a plan, but knowing that I would wear the finished product. Fabric gifted to me, and those bought to experiment with stress me sometimes as I just don’t know what to make with them. I always come up with something, but they can look accusingly at me from the cupboard sometimes!

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