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.

Project: Advance 5455 (1950), blouse

Readers,

The sewing space is 90 percent done,

The sewing space is 90 percent done.

It sure feels good to be back in my freshly painted and much better organized sewing space with the pegboard back up on the wall, where I can see my tools. I missed this place!

When I uploaded the top photo to the media library of this blog, my caption was shortened from “sewing space” to “sewing spa.” How apt!

This is a stretch woven, which stands away from the body a little.

This is a stretch woven, which stands away from the body a little.

Yesterday I pulled the Advance blouse project that I’d started some weeks back and soon was engrossed in finishing it.

It was gratifying to move from step to step with success. I made facings to finish the armholes, sewed buttonholes and attached the buttons, and hemmed. No complications for once.

I like the idea of wearing the collar up, but some well-meaning person would probably turn it down for me.

I like the idea of wearing the collar up, but some well-meaning person would probably turn it down for me.  More shaping at the waist would improve the fit.

Readers, you might think that after sewing a coat, a jacket and an anorak, I would not be fazed by a little old blouse. But I’m always surprised when things go without a hitch. I make no assumptions. Mishaps lurk around every corner.

I swear these buttons were just waiting to be paired with this fabric.

I swear these buttons were just waiting to be paired with this fabric.

Just before lunch I finished the blouse. Then the question arose: how would I get pictures of me modeling it?

Jack’s gone, visiting family for several days. My photographer-sister, Cynthia, is 764 miles away in Columbus, Ohio. I could ask a neighbor to take a couple of shots …nah, I didn’t want to impose.

I like the way the collar brings the eye up. (Oh look--a squirrel!)

I like the way the collar brings the eye up. (Oh look–a squirrel!)

It was time to learn how to take pictures of myself using my tripod (a gift from Cynthia–thanks!) and the timer on my camera.

Again luck was with me. The camera manual had simple instructions that worked the first time through. Within minutes I was simpering my way through a photo shoot on our deck.

Facings finish the armholes.

Facings finish the armholes.

The fit of this blouse isn’t perfect. The bust dart should move up, and there should be some more shaping at the waist. The armhole should be a little smaller. But that’s the point of a wearable test: to fine-tune the fit. I plan to go to the next sewing salon at Treadle Yard Goods to get help perfecting this pattern.

Here's the blouse with with a full skirt and a bolero jacket. The button-embellished pocket would be fun.

Here’s the blouse with with a full skirt and a bolero jacket. It would be fun to choose buttons to embellish those pocket flaps.

Although this blouse falls short of perfect, it’s been so much fun to finish a summer garment on a beautiful summer day, and even learn to take pictures of myself into the bargain.

And it’s been especially fun to be back–

–in the sewing spa.

Before, During, After, and Next: The Planning Corner

Readers,

Before: My sewing library was in this corner, which was darker than it appears here. I made it hard for myself to use these resources.

Before: My sewing library was in this corner, which was darker than it appears here. I made it hard for myself to use these resources.

Tuesday Jack finished painting the east end of the sewing space. He so wanted me to have my space back that after dinner he rolled on the second coat. It dried overnight, and Wednesday morning we moved as much back into the space as we could.

During: The wallpaper has been scraped off.

During: The wallpaper has been scraped off.

It’s probably fair to say that organizing and beautifying the sewing domain is 80 percent done. What’s left to do is mainly for our builder to finish:

During: The walls have been skim-coated and painted. Wiring from a previous owner has been covered.

During: The walls have been skim-coated and painted. Wiring from a previous owner has been covered.

  • Sand and restain the stairs
  • Install a carpet runner
  • Install a new handrail
  • Build shelves in the alcove
  • Hang my pegboard, which holds a lot of my equipment
  • Hang my vintage French dry goods store sign

    The planning corner I created in the spring is back!

    After: The planning corner I created in the spring is back! Just add one laptop and I’m in business.

Oh, and, very last thing, have the carpet cleaned. It’s taken a beating.

Next: This alcove awaits shelves to hold my sewing library. Bankers' boxes hold my patterns, waiting for editing.

Next: This alcove awaits shelves to hold my sewing library. Bankers’ boxes hold my patterns, waiting for editing.

I’m writing this from my planning corner. I missed it the last few weeks when we were pulling down the wallpaper and preparing the walls for paint. Defining functions and then creating zones for them works!

It’s when I look at my “before” pictures that I see how much I was putting up with and how far the sewing domain has come.

And when an improved space works so well for me, I wonder what was so hard about designing it that it took me this long. It’s easy to forget all the function-defining, deciding, and prioritizing that preceded it. I had to get away from runway-level actions and look at what I wanted to accomplish from the 30,000-foot level.

What’s next?

  • Move my sewing library into the alcove after Daniel builds adjustable shelves.
  • Edit my patterns down from those three bankers’ boxes to two, and store them in the cabinet.
  • Rehang the cabinet doors, which I removed to accommodate my boxes of patterns.
  • Edit a shoebox of clippings from sewing and fashion magazines.

    Posted in my planning corner: questions David Allen asks in his book Getting Things Done

    Posted in my planning corner: questions David Allen asks in his book Getting Things Done

Tomorrow In a few minutes Daniel is coming to rehang my pegboard. Yay!