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.

Lessons in Pleatership

Readers,

Jack prepares to take down the pegboard and pull off the grasscloth wallpaper.

Jack prepares to take down the pegboard and pull off the grass cloth wallpaper.

I miss my sewing domain.

A week ago Jack and I folded up my worktables and took my pegboard, which stored a lot of sewing tools, down from the walls. Jack pulled off most of the grasscloth wallpaper that a previous owner had put up.  Sunday I started scraping off any remaining paper backing and dried adhesive still on the walls. I was pleasantly surprised that in an hour I’d cleaned up about 50 square feet.

My turn! Ready to sponge the walls with warm water and scrape paper scraps and adhesive off.

My turn! Ready to sponge the walls with warm water and scrape off paper scraps and adhesive.

I have to be careful not to overdo pressure on my elbows and wrists, so I’m breaking up the scraping job into more hour-long segments over the next several days.

I have a bunch of sewing projects started. They are either on the runway waiting for takeoff or flying in circles overhead waiting for the signal to land. They’ll have to wait a while longer.  I could set up a temporary sewing space, but it might not be worth the trouble.

Our builder expects to come next week. The plan is to make a finished storage space behind the mystery door, refinish the staircase, install recessed lights in the ceiling and put some shelves in an alcove.  Jack and I will prime and paint the walls.

Once the work starts it may go quickly. But not quickly enough for me.

I miss my sewing domain.

Catalog# 1983.050.001: Circular red and green wool plaid cape, 1890-1899.

Catalog# 1983.050.001: Circular red and green wool plaid cape, 1890-1899. (Photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

In the meantime, I’m continuing my one volunteer morning a week at the Goldstein Museum of Design, sifting through the donor files. I always like to see whether  the donated clothing, shoes, hats, or other accessories have been photographed yet for the image database.

This week I handled the file of Mary Sue Reed, who donated this magnificent cape made in the 1890s. And, happily, it had been photographed. Isn’t this detail amazing?

When I got a closer look at the trim, I said to myself,

“That’s box pleating!”

Box pleating finishes the hood and collar. (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

Box pleating finishes the hood and collar. (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

 

Good old box pleating. I had made yards and yards of it for the draperies, valances and pillows that now grace our living room and dining room.

And now I was seeing it on a garment, used to great effect.

As I looked more closely I realized that I had relegated box pleating to the realm of soft furnishings. But now I saw how versatile this technique could be.

Shelly Isaacson could have told me that.

Box pleating run riot. (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

Box pleating run riot. (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

She’s the one who designed all the draperies, valances, upholstery, seat cushions and pillows in the living room and dining room, and who taught me how to sew most of them. (The upholstery I farmed out to a pro.)

Shelly doesn’t create artificial boundaries between dressmaking and soft furnishings. Things must be designed for their purpose, of course, understanding the requirements of the wearer–be it a person, a sofa, or a window.

But a technique like box pleating can work within those requirements just fine. Here are examples.

Small box pleating finishes the edge of the valance, while the leading edge of the drapery has a large version.

Small box pleating finishes the edge of the valance, while the leading edge of the drapery has a large version.

 

Closeup: small and large box pleats

Closeup: small and large box pleats

 

Box pleats similar in size, but different in bulk, complementing the neighboring fabric.

Box pleats similar in size, but different in bulk, complementing the neighboring fabric.

Box pleats serve as a transition between the two main fabrics in these draperies.

Box pleats serve as a transition between the two main fabrics in these draperies.

A reward for getting up close.

A reward for getting up close.

Box pleating finishes the edge of a pillow.

Box pleating finishes the edge of a pillow.

A closer look.

A closer look.

So, what is my lesson in pleatership?

Don’t box yourself in.

Start here.

Start here.