Setting Up My New Sewing Room

Readers,

My sewing room, occupying the largest bedroom in Jack’s and my new home in Columbus, Ohio, is about 90 percent set up now.  It was fairly easy to plan the layout, and fun, as well.

With my mannequin, Ginger, in our new home.

With my mannequin, Ginger, in our new home.

From my little desk I merely have to turn around to bask in the morning light streaming in from two directions. This morning I’m enjoying a clear blue sky and the last bright leaves of fall.

From my second-floor perch I have been enjoying a spectacular fall in our neighborhood.

From my second-floor perch I have been enjoying a spectacular fall in our neighborhood.

Then, without leaving my chair, I can roll a short distance to my sewing library and survey titles without bending or squinting.

To retrieve a book or magazine I can just roll to my right.

To retrieve a book or magazine I can just roll to my right.

Pulling my pattern catalog from the shelf, I can swivel half a turn to a work table to page through it.

From pattern illustration...

From pattern illustration…

If I think, “Hmm–what fabrics would look great with that pattern?” in no more than an instant I’m unfurling yardage and scattering buttons over it.

...to fabric and buttons pulled from the shelves in the blink of an eye.

…to fabric and buttons pulled from the shelves in the blink of an eye.

From my other chair I can stitch and then swivel to the ironing board to press open a seam–or stand and use my new steamer.

I can lower the ironing board to press while sitting. More often, I press standing.

I can lower the ironing board to press while sitting. More often, I press standing.

As you can tell, I’m thoroughly enjoying the new headquarters of Getting Things Sewn. I am really glad we made a sizeable sewing space a high priority in our house hunt.

However, it took imagination, a leap of faith, and lots of work to transform this into a room I love being in.

Like the rest of the house, my future sewing room was dingy, drab, and smelled like an ashtray.

Like the rest of the house, my future sewing room was dingy, drab, and smelled like an ashtray.

At first, the entire house smelled like a giant ashtray. Everything was in desperate need of freshening up.

The imitation wood-grain Contact paper dated from the 1960s or '70s, probably. Out!

The imitation wood-grain Contact paper in the closet dated from the 1960s or ’70s, probably. Out!

Much of the oak flooring was covered with decades-old carpet underlaid with disintegrating padding.

Pulling up carpet released fibers into the air.

Pulling up carpet released fibers into the air.

Rolling up the last of the carpet, which was at least 30 years old, I think.

Rolling up the last of the carpet, which was at least 30 years old, I think.

Goodbye carpet, and good riddance!

Goodbye carpet, and good riddance!

Removing the crumbling padding revealed oak flooring in decent shape.

Removing the crumbling padding revealed oak flooring in decent shape.

The windows were covered with cheap, unattractive blinds and valances. All the walls were dingy.

These valances and blinds must go!

These valances and blinds must go!

A month and a half before the moving van came, Cynthia (my sister, photographer and now neighbor) and I pulled out the ratty old carpet and padding and pried out hundreds of carpet staples . Jack flew down from Minnesota for a long weekend to paint the whole upstairs, plus the living room, with a potent primer called Kilz.

In one long weekend Jack primed the whole upstairs plus living room. Then he flew back to Minnesota to finish teaching and sell our house.

In one long weekend Jack primed the whole upstairs plus living room. Then he flew back to Minnesota to finish teaching and sell our house.

We had the floors refinished, and they turned out gorgeous!

We had the floors professionally refinished.

We had the floors professionally refinished.

The final coat: wet...

The final coat: wet…

...and then dry and lustrous. The room was beginning to be beautiful.

…and then dry and lustrous. The room was beginning to be beautiful.

July 10, Jack and the moving van both arrived from Minneapolis. Reunited at last!

July 10: the moving van arrived.

July 10: the moving van arrived.

And then we opened lots and lots of boxes.

All our possessions arrived safe and sound, including my fabrics, which had been in the garage for 3 months.

All our possessions arrived safe and sound, including my fabrics, which had been in the garage for 3 months.

Messy!

Messy!

And before we got settled in, we had the exterior walls insulated to save on energy costs in the years to come. There was never going to be a better time to have this done, but waiting for the insulation guys to finish the job required a boatload of patience.

Holes were cut into the exterior walls and insulation blown in.

Holes were cut into the exterior walls and insulation blown in. Then the holes were filled.

All the filled holes had to be sanded and primed. Lots of fun!

All the filled holes had to be sanded and primed. Lots of fun!

As soon as the insulation job was done, Jack set immediately to work painting the sewing room so I could execute my grand plan. It was a fun puzzle to solve. I had learned so much from planning the basement sewing domain in our previous home in Minneapolis, creating a zone for each activity.

Before: an unsightly closet.

Before: an unsightly closet.

After: neat and clean!

After: neat and clean!

The room measurements were 17 feet by 13 feet. I measured my bookcases, metal shelving units, work tables, desk and printer stand, rolling chairs, the ironing board, steamer, and even the base of my mannequin, Ginger–anything that would take up space. On a large sheet of graph paper from Cynthia I laid out the locations of doors, electrical outlets, and windows.

The floor plan.

The floor plan.

From a colorful old file folder I cut out scale representations of all these sewing furnishings and started moving them around my graphed-out room. It was immensely satisfying to do this.

I imagined how much more I would enjoy my sewing room if only I positioned my fabrics to be easily seen from the hallway.  So that decided where I would put my metal shelving units for storing fabrics and buttons.

We set up the metal shelves where we could enjoy seeing the fabrics whenever passing through the hallway.

We set up the metal shelves where we could enjoy seeing the fabrics whenever passing through the hallway. The rest of the arrangement fell into place.

I cut heavy adhesive felt to size to protect our new floors from being damaged by the metal shelves.

I cut heavy adhesive felt to size to protect our new floors from being damaged by the metal shelves.

Then I assigned the rest of the zones I needed: places for writing and planning; consulting my sewing library; cutting and stitching, pressing and steaming; photographing garments on the mannequin, and closet storage.

Writing, planning, and sewing reference along this wall.

Writing, planning, and sewing reference along this wall.

When I first saw how close together my work tables, shelves, chairs and pressing equipment were on my graph, my heart sank. I thought I wouldn’t have enough room to do my work. Then I realized that 90 percent of the time I’d be in here by myself and wouldn’t need much clearance. Plus, I could find this smaller space to be  more efficient than my other, larger space.

In my previous sewing space my most frequently used tools were hung on pegboard or stored in a wide, shallow box on a work table. They were easy to see but often just out of reach, on the other side of a table. Over the years the minutes I spent walking around a table to reach for a hemming gauge or pair of shears resulted not only in lost hours but lost concentration.

I repurposed Elfa file carts to hold frequently used sewing tools, my patterns, and pressing equipment. They fit right under the work tables.

I repurposed Elfa file carts to hold frequently used sewing tools, my patterns, and pressing equipment. They fit right under the work tables.

In a moment of inspiration I saw using our Elfa file carts more profitably to store my sewing tools than our papers. I have filled one with pressing tools and the other with sewing gadgets and my patterns. The carts roll to wherever I need them and stow handily under the work tables.

The Ikea file cart has three drawers, space for hanging files, and enough surface to open a book. It’s awaiting its work assignment.

Someday I'll go through the clippings in that box and organize them in this Ikea file cart.

Someday I’ll go through the clippings in that box and organize them in this Ikea file cart.

My baker’s cart, which holds unfinished projects (and anything else, these days), fits perfectly in the closet. That was lucky. I also use the closet for interfacings, wearable-test fabrics, muslins, threads, notions, rolls of paper, and the serger.

The rolling baker's rack, which holds unfinished projects, fits perfectly into the closet.

The rolling baker’s rack, which holds unfinished projects, fits perfectly into the closet.

The baker's rack rolls out for easy access.

The baker’s rack rolls out for easy access.

The closet stores muslins, sewing project problems, interfacings, fabrics for wearable tests...

The closet stores muslins, sewing project problems, interfacings, fabrics for wearable tests…

...notions, rolls of paper, the tripod, the sewing machine cover, a couple of pillows to recover, and the serger.

…notions, rolls of paper, the tripod, the sewing machine cover, a couple of pillows to recover, and the serger.

What’s left to do?

  • Improving the lighting. I’m making do with a couple of clip-on utility lamps and a five-headed goose-neck floor lamp from Home Depot until I make a plan.
  • Decorating! This room is functional, but it needs personality! Fashion clippings! Swatches! I used a neutral paint color for photography, but I want color, pattern, texture on my bulletin boards.
  • After a seven month hiatus, SEWING!

    The stage is set.

    The stage is set.

Getting Things Sewn is Getting a New Home

Readers,

Last week Jack and I bought a house in Columbus, Ohio that will be the new home of Getting Things Sewn!

With Kelly Myers, the world's most wonderful real estate agent.

With Kelly Myers, the world’s most wonderful real estate agent.

Built in 1958, with the same owners from 1959 to 2013, the house is structurally sound but needs updating. Carpets need to be ripped out and floors assessed for refinishing, and all the walls need paint, just for starters. Everything needs refreshing.

Assisting me in this first round of improvements will be my sister, photographer–and neighbor–Cynthia DeGrand, who will be just two minutes’ walk away!

Our creative spaces being so close together–my sewing space and Cynthia’s photo studio–means wonderful new opportunities to experiment with the subject matter and images for this blog. I have often had ideas for posts but didn’t have the imagination or technical expertise to create the images. Meanwhile, Cynthia has had ideas for composition or modeling, but I was not in Columbus often enough for her to experiment with and perfect even a tenth of those ideas.

With the 764 miles between us reduced to a tenth of a mile, we can easily experiment with indoor shoots, location shoots, documenting sewing processes, and more.

This 13- by 17-foot bedroom enjoys natural light and more warmth than my basement sewing space. (The carpet and window treatments are going.)

This 13- by 17-foot bedroom enjoys natural light and more warmth than my basement sewing space. (The carpet and window treatments are going.)

I will also experiment with designing my new sewing space–or spaces. In Minneapolis I devised a pretty satisfying basement sewing domain, which I wrote about in 2013. In Columbus I will start over in a 13- by 17-foot bedroom, possibly using part of the sizable basement for cutting tables.

I have new local sewing resources to discover: people, classes, supplies, collections, and events, which is exciting, but I also want to keep in touch with the sewing community I cultivated in Minneapolis.

For the last few weeks I’ve been decluttering, packing, cleaning, and painting (lot of painting) in preparation for selling our Minneapolis house. While Jack manages the selling, I’ll fly ahead to Columbus to get some repairs and improvements underway. They will be so much easier to do before the moving van arrives.

I have been impatiently waiting for the day I could say Getting Things Sewn is getting a new home. At last I can. I will be testing everything I’ve learned so far about creating sewing spaces and cultivating new sewing ties and look forward to recording my new adventures.

Goodbye, old sewing space!

Goodbye, old sewing space!

 

 

 

Planning My Eminent Sewing Domain

Readers,

Today finds me in a winter wanderland. My mind is wandering and just doesn’t want to sit still.

The view from our front door.

The view out our dining room window.

Maybe this mental cabin fever is a natural reaction to being cooped up after the 9.9 inches of snow the latest storm dumped on us, and learning that this is Minnesota’s coldest winter in 35 years.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last month avidly checking online real estate listings in Columbus, Ohio, searching for my next sewing domain.

Last summer, getting ready to strip wallpaper and paint. If necessary, I'll do it again in our new home.

Last summer, getting ready to strip wallpaper and paint. If necessary, I’ll do it again in our new home.

Click, click, click. Househunting has sure changed in the 22 years since Jack and I bought our little 1940 Cape Cod. Now I can race through dozens of property listings, scores of photos, and hundreds of lines of exuberant copy in the time it takes my tea bag to steep.

I’m definitely not in the mood to sew for winter. By the time I’d finish what I really could use–a super-warm, full-length coat–it’d be April.

The brilliant sun warms up our back room. That's a plus.

The brilliant sun warms up our back room. That’s a plus.

And I’m not in the mood to sew for spring, which is no more than an abstract concept at the moment.

No, if there’s anything my mind is dwelling on, it’s real estate in Columbus, Ohio, where I’ll be flying back to on Monday for another week of househunting.

Edith, my sewing teacher, says “Do what the fabric wants to do.” This fabric wants to think about its next sewing domain.

Will my next sewing space look like one of the workrooms at the London bespoke tailor Huntsman?

Will my next sewing space look like one of the workrooms at London bespoke tailors Huntsman?

Will it be a natural light-filled but oddly shaped converted attic? Will it be a roomy but dim knotty pine-paneled basement rec room? Will it be a drafty, unfinished, but potentially wonderful utility space?

You see, even though a large, well-lighted, finished sewing space is high on my wish list, Jack and I will probably choose our next home on the basis of a convenient location, an updated kitchen, or a great floor plan. So it would be well for me to start seeing possibilities in spaces that are different from my current workspace but that could still work well in getting things sewn.

If I don't have one big space for all sewing functions, I could follow the example at London tailors Anderson & Sheppard: use a separate space. It works for them.

If I don’t have one big space for all sewing functions, I could follow the example at London tailors Anderson & Sheppard: use a separate space. It works for them.

Last spring I spent an hour or so listing the main functions I wanted to perform in my sewing space and then designated zones for them. Having lived with these zones now for several months, I’m completely sold on this interesting and fun exercise.

Here are zones I’ve listed for my next sewing domain. Each zone is a place where I perform a function that may require floor space, or wall space, or both.

This list will top the sheaf of papers on the clipboard I bring when I make the rounds with our real estate agent.

Zones

Pattern and fabric layout and cutting

  • Floor space: At least two 72″ x 30″ tables
  • Wall space: Pegboard for rolling cutters, shears, rulers.

Sewing

  • Floor space: Table for sewing machine, table for cut-out fabric pieces, chair
  • Wall space: Pegboard for notions, equipment

Serging

  • Floor space: Table for serger. Chair (probably same chair as for sewing)

Pressing

  • Floor space: Ironing board, maybe a rolling clothes rack, maybe a steamer
  • Wall space: Pegboard with pressing equipment

Writing and planning

  • Floor space: Desk, chair, TV and DVD player
  • Wall space: bulletin boards

A simple photography space

  • Floor space: Mannequin, seamless backdrop, tripod. Lights?
  • Wall space: Seamless backdrop

Storage for fabrics, patterns, notions, tools

  • Floor space: Bookcases or utility shelves
  • Wall space: Bookcases or utility shelves, pegboard for tools, bulletin boards for button storage bags

Storage for sewing library

  • Floor space: Bookcase. Table or counter for opening up books
  • Wall space: Bookcase

As I transcribed this list into this post I could feel my restless mind relaxing into defining functions and allocating spaces.

There, there, mind, calm down. Imagine being in those zones–and being in the zone.

Spring is coming.

And so is spring sewing.

Spring is coming.

Spring is coming.

Button Storage Problems Solved!

Readers,

The bags I’d ordered last week in the hopes that they’d solve my button-storage quandaries arrived yesterday from Paper Mart.

A case of 1000 recloseable bags arrived yesterday.

A case of 1000 recloseable bags arrived yesterday.

As I wrote recently, I had stored my many vintage buttons in Ziploc snack bags. True, the bags were portable and fairly see-through, but they were stored in boxes in a closet. Supplies that are out of sight are easy to forget. After a labor-intensive session of punching holes in those snack bags for hanging from pegboard hooks I conceded defeat and ordered these see-through, recloseable bags with “hang tabs,” as Paper Mart calls them.

It's a little harder to see button details through the snack bags than the new bags.

It’s easier to see button details through the new bag than through the old snack bags.

I practically tore open the box in my excitement to give my beautiful buttons new homes.

My first impressions are all positive.

The new bags are clearer than the Ziploc snack bags, so I can see button details better.

The storage area of the bags is the size of a standard 3″ by 5″ index card, large enough to hold all the multiples I have of one button style.

The storage area is the same dimensions as an index card: 3" by 5".

The storage area is the same dimensions as an index card: 3″ by 5″.

Removing the protective strip, folding over the end and pressing shut were all pretty easy. The opening stayed closed but was easy to open and reclose. Under normal conditions it doesn’t appear that the bags would break open.

Pull off the strip to reveal the sticky strip. Fold and press to close.

Pull off the strip to reveal the sticky strip. Fold and press to close.

I put several bags on a big ring I happened to have. I could see carrying buttons, buckles, and other decorative elements this way to a fabric store.

Carry to the fabric store, or hang on a hook at home.

Carry to the fabric store, or hang on a hook at home.

Wanting to see how strong the hang tab was, I pulled hard on a bag on the ring. The hang tab unit stayed intact, and  while it did tear off, the bag stayed sealed. I wouldn’t recommend subjecting these bags to a lot of strain, but they appear to be strong considering how light they are.

When I pulled hard, the bag tore, but it seems pretty sturdy under normal conditions.

When I pulled hard, the bag tore, but it seems pretty sturdy under normal conditions.

The hole in the hang tab easily fits over a pegboard hook.

I had a few extra pegboard hooks, which I hung in an instant. Moments later they were filled with bags of buttons or buckles.

In a few minutes I had created open storage for big part of my decorative stash.

In a few minutes I had begun creating open storage for big part of my decorative stash.

I also attached a couple of sheets of cork to my pegboard with heavy binder clips for a quick, cheap, and easy idea board. I pulled couple of swatches from my recent visit to New York’s Garment District, buttons, buckles, and some vintage French initial tape for a red, white and blue summer theme.

Swatches, buttons, buckles, initial tape for a quick idea board.

Swatches, buttons, buckles, initial tape for a quick idea board.

On second thought, I’ll keep the pegboard for what it does best: hang stuff. I’m going to try making space to hang all my buttons, buckles and trims even if some equipment has to be moved.Next to the pegboard is just enough space for a large bulletin board to try out combinations of swatches, pattern illustrations, buttons, buckles, trims and other inspirations.

Trying out ideas for my wardrobe has just gotten easier.

Trying out ideas for my wardrobe has just gotten easier.

I’d never thought before about making a brainstorming space just above the ironing board, but what a good place for one. Whether I’m ironing clothes or pressing a sewing project, I can let my mind wander from routine work to plan beautiful new possibilities.

Ironing just got more interesting.

Ironing just got more interesting.

Before and After: The Alcove

Readers,

I now present to you my sewing library, properly stored and accessible, befitting the sewing space of a former librarian.

The sewing library finally has a proper home.

The sewing library finally has a proper home.

When Daniel installed the shelves this past week I just couldn’t believe how nice they looked and how practical and roomy they were. Why hadn’t I thought of converting this rec room bar, built by a previous owner, to book and magazine storage when we bought this house twenty-plus years ago? It’s such a no-brainer!

I’ll tell you why. Because I had never listed all the functions I wanted my sewing space to perform and then assigned zones for those functions. Now that I’ve done this homework–which was quite interesting and enjoyable, by the way–the results have been extremely rewarding.

Lesson learned.

I can swivel in my office chair from computer to print sources.

I can swivel in my office chair from computer to print sources.

I’m writing this in my neat and useful little planning corner almost exactly a year after I took the “before” pictures of my sewing space.

My sewing books, notes, DVDs, articles, and fashion clippings are all within easy reach. I can swivel in my office chair and read the spines of my Threads magazines, then pull an issue and spread it open on the counter.

You know what I like the most about my planning corner? Just entering this space puts me in the mood to plan and research–to act.

Crowded, cluttered, and no well-lighted surface nearby to lay a book on.

Before: crowded, cluttered, and no well-lighted surface nearby to lay a book on.

Compare that with a year ago, when this corner was full of–stuff. What I did, mostly, was react to that stuff more than interact with it. I reacted to the disorder, which came from indecision, which came from not being clear enough about what I wanted to accomplish.

The alcove before: Large and medium boxes of patterns. Duct tape double dress form (may she rest in peace). Flotsam. Jetsam.

The alcove before: Large and medium boxes of patterns. Duct tape double dress form (may she rest in peace). Flotsam. Jetsam.

As I have noted in a previous post, I would react to the visible disorder by organizing the stuff, be it sewing books, patterns, or fabrics–and there was some value in that. But all this organizing was built on a premise that my sewing space was a container for stuff. It felt static, and I felt static.

I’ve shifted. Now I see my sewing space as supporting activities. And now when I’m in this space I’m predisposed to taking action.

Paper for tracing off patterns is in the new closet now.

Paper for tracing off patterns is in the new closet now.

Readers, I’m a fan of stuff, but I now see the value of deliberately designing for activity as well as storage in a space.

Daniel, who built the shelves (and also reinstalled the cabinet doors I’d taken off), saw more clearly than I did how this little alcove could support action. “See?” he showed me, “I made the shelves adjustable for the heights of your magazines.”

And here,” he pointed to the counter under the lower shelf, “I left this open so you’ll have more space to use your books.”

I can read the tiny print on the spines of my Threads magazines now.

I can read the tiny print on the spines of my Threads magazines now.

I thanked him for the idea. But the next day, when I shelved my library I put all those issues of Threads on the counter, where I thought I could read the tiny print on the spines most easily. I shelved my shoebox of clippings on the shelf. I stood back and admired my work. Done.

Not so fast!

This morning when I saw that box of clippings I thought, “Every time I’ll want to use that box I’ll have to pull it down from that shelf.” Having to pull and replace that box would discourage use. Guaranteed.

At last, dedicated space for using sewing references.

At last, dedicated space for using sewing references.

In a trice I adjusted the shelf, moved the Threads issues up, and the clippings box to the counter. Now those clippings are super-accessible, and there’s more space to use them right there.

And use them I will. In fact, it’s time I examined the contents of this box. In the age of Google, YouTube and Pinterest, what sewing information is worth the trouble of managing in file folders?  That’s another mystery waiting to be unraveled.