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.
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.
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.
Pulling my pattern catalog from the shelf, I can swivel half a turn to a work table to page through it.
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.
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.
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.
At first, the entire house smelled like a giant ashtray. Everything was in desperate need of freshening up.
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.
Rolling up the last of the carpet, which was at least 30 years old, I think.
Goodbye carpet, and good riddance!
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!
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.
We had the floors refinished, and they turned out gorgeous!
We had the floors professionally refinished.
The final coat: wet…
…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.
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.
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. Then the holes were filled.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 baker’s rack rolls out for easy access.
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.
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.