Planning My Eminent Sewing Domain


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.


Pattern and fabric layout and cutting

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


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


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


  • 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


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.