Guest Blogger: Our Advice Columnist, Miss GTS

Miss GTS: The official advice columnist for Getting Things Sewn

Miss GTS: The official advice columnist for Getting Things Sewn

If the writer of this blog has been somewhat elusive,

And more than a little aloof and reclusive,

It’s only because she has been on sabbatical

Attempting to superintend projects radical

To transform a house locked in 1958ness

Into an abode that is destined for greatness.

Our fixer-upper.

Our fixer-upper.

 

Warned her sister, “Of tobacco this dwelling does reek,

And I fear that its outlook’s no better than bleak.

I’d love to have you in the neighborhood

But this house’s call for labor would

Give pause to mighty Hercules!

So– I ask you, please,

Consider other properties!”

 

Auditioning condo, flat, and house

Separately and with Jack, her spouse,

Hourly checking Zillow online,

Flying down to Ohio from time to time,

Such possibilities our blogger weighed,

But naught else ever made the grade.

 

Meanwhile, “The Reeker” on the market stayed.

Wallpaper with a cocktail theme on the walls down to the basement rec room.

Wallpaper with a cocktail theme on the walls down to the basement rec room.

 

Her sister said, “I know a builder

Whom this house would not bewilder.

Should he walk through and give opinion

Whether this could be your next dominion?”

 

His verdict? “The Reeker” was ugly, but sound:

Improvements were “doable,” he said, but profound.

The sale was negotiated and house was won,

And that’s when the adventure was really begun.

 

To freshen each surface by cigarettes tainted

With gallons of primer Jack painted–and painted.

If the cigarette smell was bad in the house, it was even worse in the garage.

If the cigarette smell was bad in the house, it was even worse in the garage.

 

Then followed the guy to change locks on the doors

And men armed with sanders to finish the floors.

The chimney was swept and the radon abated,

Termites were found and then exterminated.

The furnace was checked; gas leaks eliminated;

AC was replaced, and walls were insulated.

 

Drained was the yard and then pruned was the tree,

Driveway resurfaced; and from AT&T,

Came service for Internet, phone, and TV.

 

But all this was only the warmup, you see.

 

For after the house was safe and sound

Came the decorating round.

 

Our blogger’s new haunt was the hardware store

Where she gathered and scrutinized paint chips galore.

Hypnotized, online for hours she’d browse

Millions of pictures and stories on Houzz.

 

She tried to continue to blog without failing,

Doing a series on Kenneth King’s Smart Tailoring,

Chronicling her jacket–while just down the hallway

The carpenter’s crowbar made bathroom walls fall away.

The upstairs bathroom, staged for sale.

The upstairs bathroom, staged for sale.

The upstairs bathroom, gutted.

The upstairs bathroom, gutted.

The upstairs bathroom, nearing completion.

The upstairs bathroom, nearing completion.

 

But while plumbers were fighting to vanquish corrosion

She found that her focus was suffering erosion.

 

She had to be ready to issue decisions

And equally ready to offer revisions;

She was on alert for doorbell, phone, and text

And was constantly thinking about what to do next.

She tutored herself how to execute floor plans,

And more plans, and more plans, and more plans–and more plans!

 

The basement remodeled, the first bathroom followed,

And in a new welter of choices she wallowed.

And although home designers are heavily vaunted,

There wasn’t a one who could say what she wanted.

None else could define and refine her dreams

And turn them into living schemes.

The basement rec room when the house was staged for sale.

The basement rec room when the house was staged for sale.

The basement remodel.

The basement remodel.

Basement: Clean and bright.

Basement: Clean and bright.

 

She warmed to her task; she plunged into the deep end

And, bathyscaphe-like, she started to descend

Into memories of objects and places she’d been

That expressed an essential sensation within,

Then translated the feelings to physical objects–

And dozens, and dozens–and dozens of projects!

 

Still a bathroom to go, and the big one–the kitchen–

Were lined up on the runway, and our blogger was itching

To do those jobs justice. But ‘twould court disaster

To think she could serve any more than one master.

 

So she promised her blog she’d be back, with a wink,

And turned her attention to choosing a sink

And countertops and enough appliances

To support all the major domestic sciences.

 

But she also imagined the feeling and mood

She wanted when they were preparing their food,

And the smell of their coffee, in dim morning light,

And the rituals of closing their kitchen each night,

And what colors and patterns ideally expressed

Generosity, civility, and happiness.

Where, and how, might I use these colors, patterns, and combinations in our house?

Where, and how, might I use these colors, patterns, and combinations in our house?

 

Meanwhile, her blog waited and silently beckoned,

For her to pick up where she’d stopped, and she reckoned

She’d start again “soon,” but–not just this second.

 

I watched all this, Readers, with unblinking gaze–

The heartening progress and dreaded delays.

The kitchen got done; second bathroom did, too.

Before: the kitchen

The kitchen, when the house was staged for sale.

The kitchen, nearing completion.

The kitchen, nearing completion, before the linoleum floor was installed.

Downstairs bathroom, staged for sale.

Downstairs bathroom, staged for sale.

Downstairs bathroom, nearing completion.

Downstairs bathroom, nearing completion.

The dust having settled, now I sought a clue:

I wondered if she would return to her pace

Or suffer from more than a little malaise.

 

So I thought I’d inquire and make my view plain,

And I walked to the door of her sewing domain.

In that doorway I stood with my arms akimbo

And simply asked, “When are you leaving this limbo?

Your mannequin, Ginger, is de-energized,

And if she had a head she’d be rolling her eyes.

Ginger the mannequin has been wearing the same outfit for months!

Ginger the mannequin has been wearing the same outfit for months!

And readers are asking about your demise–

(I suspect that they’re angling to buy your supplies…)

And my job is saying a word to the wise,

But these last twelve long months I’ve had none to advise!”

 

“We’re all in the doldrums, we all seek employment–

And doing our work would restore our enjoyment.”

 

Emboldened, I said, “Please forgive me for prodding,”

(And I’d swear in the corner that Ginger was nodding),

“I refrain from advising without invitation,

But I’d like to help you defeat hesitation.

You’ve been in the thrall of this house long enough:

It’s time that you wrote about sewing your stuff.”

 

“You’re becalmed at the moment; it’s hard to get traction

When you are inactive instead of in action.

The bulk of your work on the house is now finished;

Its gravitational pull is diminished.

The blog’s pull is weak now–but starting to strengthen;

Your concentration’s beginning to lengthen.

I sense your momentum may be in the wings

If you just give your flywheel a few good, strong spins.”

 

At this point, dear Readers, did I descry

A glimmer return to our blogger’s eye?

 

“Your blog’s a UFO, that’s all,

And I should hope that you would recall

My prudent counsel to get things sewn

Is to do it yourself–but not do it alone.”

 

“Engage the right expert to see your way through,

And as I’ve said before, the right expert is you.

This blog’s entirely your invention–

You know your goal and your intention.”

 

“For months I’ve seen you lay the groundwork

For lovelier and even more profound work.

You sewed living room drapes, for heaven’s sake,

And shirts for Jack that take the cake!

Curtain rings, brackets, and finials being painted for the living room drapery project.

Curtain rings, brackets, and finials being painted for the living room drapery project.

Testing out spacing pleats for the living room draperies.

Testing out spacing pleats for the living room draperies.

You finally came round to fitting and altering

Without histrionics, or fainting, or faltering.

What’s more, you’ve been sewing many a muslin–

The number must be approaching a dozlen!”

 

“Well, that all is quite true,” said our writer, blinking,

And I believe I divined that the old girl was thinking.

 

“So you are getting things sewn, but not all the way,

What I tell you’s the truth, or I’ll eat my beret:

You’re a writer who sews, and you don’t fully digest

Until you’ve attempted a jokey or wry jest

And through your efforts to others explain

To inform or at least to entertain.”

 

“Writing’s your real game, so spring off that bench

And stitch up that lounge robe or jacket or trench,

Then proceed to report upon how it all ended,

Reaping double rewards from your efforts expended.”

 

I rested my case with a voice magisterial:

“Sewing bloggers,” said I, “never lack for material;

I know you’ve the house–and Italian, now, too–

But you’re never alone–we are here to help you.”

This past January Jack and I started studying Italian together at Ohio State University.

This past January Jack and I started studying Italian together at Ohio State University.

 

Our writer looked hopeful; I gave her a fist bump.

 

And if Ginger had arms she’d have given a fist pump.

She told me her old clothes were itchy and riling,

That she was impatient for new clothes and styling–

 

And if she had a head, I believe she’d be smiling.

The muslin of this McCall's "Misses' Lounging Robe" from 1951

The muslin of this McCall’s “Misses’ Lounging Robe” from 1951

And here is the illustration.

And here is the illustration.

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.

The Chart

FullChart2Readers,

In my first post and on my About Me page I refer to this very casual-looking chart that’s the basis of Getting Things Sewn.  What in the world is it?  What is it supposed to do?

Let me explain.

Life before the chart was like this:

  • I’d fall in love with fabrics or patterns, and buy them.  But, strangely, I wouldn’t get around to using them.  There was always some missing element.  I’d love the fabric, but the right pattern hadn’t come along to bring out the best in it.  Or I’d snatch up a swoonworthy vintage pattern on eBay, but the right occasion never presented itself.  Or the right occasion would present itself, but I couldn’t hustle fast enough to fit and sew the pattern in time.
  • As a result, I yearned.  I was in this mindset that I couldn’t have what I longed for, because…hmmm…why?  Excellent question, and either I couldn’t tell you or I could recount innumerable reasons.  Whatever the case, I remained frustrated.
  • I had many unfinished sewing projects, and finished sewing projects that were wardrobe orphans.
  • I viewed my unfinished projects with dread, but I didn’t feel right about just dumping them.  All that work down the drain!   I had (still have) a sportcoat I started for Jack, my husband, in 2004, plus dresses, jackets and more in the muslin stage.  When I learned about the economics terms “sunk cost” and “loss aversion” I related them to my sewing stashes and projects.
  • I thought I just needed to be more efficient.  But I was just trying to do the wrong things faster.
  • I was struggling to master skills myself when I should have been cultivating creative partnerships.
  • I used to lament that I just had “too many ideas,” and fellow sewers would chime in that they suffered from the same affliction.  This didn’t get me anywhere.

About a year ago I realized that I had the tail wagging the dog.  Too often I’d buy fabrics, patterns, tools, books–even a serger–without fully considering its role in the larger scheme of producing a wardrobe I loved.  Not just a wardrobe.  A wardrobe I loved.

After all, if I want a closet full of clothes that don’t quite fit or go together, I might as well buy retail, right?

I’m good at blinding glimpses of the obvious.  So, a wardrobe is the objective of my sewing!  Got it.

Okay.  Next, what drives my wardrobe?

I came up with two main drivers.  One I labeled “Individual.”  In this column I put categories that originated with me:

  • Fit
  • Personality
  • Style
  • Silhouette
  • Colors
  • Physical characteristics
  • What I’m growing into, psychologically

The other driver I labeled “Context.”  In this column I put categories outside myself, with which I’d interact:

  • Occasions (wedding, evening out, work, hosting a dinner)
  • Activities (walking all day as a tourist, sleeping on a plane, dancing, sitting at a desk)
  • Roles (public speaker, conference attendee, member of a wedding party, etc.)
  • Physical conditions (air-conditioned offices, rain, sun, salt water, etc.)
  • Mood of the occasion (professional, somber, celebratory)
  • Other wardrobe items (accessories, outerwear, etc.)
  • Other fabrics, buttons, patterns
  • What I’m moving into, like a new role, activity, type of occasion

Using the drivers of Individual and Context I now had a tool for assessing my wardrobe needs and desires.  I could design outfits.  I could be appropriately dressed for the roles I was playing.  This was enlightening!  This was wonderful!

This driver idea had me buzzing with excitement.

So, what does my wardrobe drive?

Well, sewing projects, obviously.  And buying: both ready-to-wear and sewing supplies.

Come to think of it, my wardrobe should drive the way my closet is arranged, too.

And the nature of my sewing projects drives the design of my sewing space.

So that’s The Chart.  It looks simple and obvious.  But does it work?  That’s what I’ll investigate in Getting Things Sewn.

I will  sew individual garments, buy ready-to-wear, and create outfits for myself.  I want to be sure this chart works for others, too.  I’ll run The Chart through its paces for Jack as well.

I’ll cover every category of Individual and Context in detail not only to clarify and define for myself, but, I hope, for you too.

Also on the docket are editing all my stashes.

A couple of weeks ago I examined every fabric in my stash.  The Chart made this task interesting and enjoyable.  I easily determined which fabrics belonged in my collection and which to let go.  I describe this process here and here.

I will also design my basement sewing space.  I realized recently that I’d never designed my workspace, and it shows.  I’ve let supply storage dominate while allocating no space for some other important tasks.  What if I purposefully addressed workflow and assigned zones in my workspace?  How much more effective and enjoyable could my sewing be?  This year I’ll find out.

So readers, is it easy for you to design and execute your sewing projects, or do you have stumbling blocks?  Do you have many unfinished projects?  If yes, do you know why?  I’m very curious to know.