Casey, she of the most Elegant Musings, doesn't just blog about sewing. She shares recipes and pincurling sets and all manner of tidbits. And, of course, they are all ever so elegant. And even though she moves frequently, nothing about her sewing area looks temporary. Nothing. I think you'll agree. (And isn't her green dress gorgeous? Not to mention Casey herself!)
I currently have a sewing nook along a couple walls of back walls in the extra bedroom in my home — which is a considerable improvement from my previous space! (I had to stuff all my sewing equipment in my little room at my parents' house, and it competed with space for my "office", book collection, bed and closet!) I share it with my husband's office, our exercise equipment, the guest room and storage space.
What do you like best about your sewing area?
Definitely the amount of room I have to spread out a bit more — and I don't have to clean up every evening if I'm in the middle of something before I call it a night. Good natural light is also a huge plus; there is a large window next to my desk, and I can never have enough of natural light. It's pretty perfectly situated. I also like that I have the wall space to spread out all my inspiration bits and pieces; surrounding myself with the things that inspire me creatively is very important.
What would you change about your space?
I'd love more space (what sewist wouldn't?!)! Especially storage space — probably a few more shelves, another window and an extra desk to put my computer at (for random inspiration surfing, blogging, email checking and listening to music/podcasts). I'd also love to have the space to have a rolling rack to hang works-in-progress on. A dedicated cutting surface would be lovely too . . . and save my back! Maybe a few places to put my vintage inspiration pieces (both garments and papers) to make them more accessible. I'm also very attuned to making my space really pleasant visually to work in, and I hate having beige walls (the walls in my previous space were a gorgeous shade of blue) and not being able to go really crazy with things on the walls. I'd also love curtains! I did have those up for awhile, but had to take them down due to a water leak problem (right now, I just have a little banner I made from vintage sewing pictures hanging above the window for decoration).
One side of the room has the table which holds my machines, basic sewing supplies, notions in a small Ikea drawer set, and my bulletin board (used to hold patterns, inspiration and swatches). On the opposite wall are two Ikea shelves that hold the majority of my larger supplies and where my dress form is usually tucked away. I currently have the shelves set up to hold part of my fabric stash, boxes of notions/trims/interfacings, patterns and some of my vintage lace and embroidery supplies. I also have a few boxes in the room's closet with less-used supplies and inspiration materials.
I'm still working on this a bit; it's hard since I only have so much space and need to keep it in check because we move a lot. I also admit I am not the most organized person of the Earth, but am trying to fix that! Currently, I have the larger cuts of fabric (those that are suitable for garments) folded on the shelving units along one wall — I try to keep that to about two shelves. I also have another box of larger cuts, linings and heavier fabrics; as well as a box of random "scraps" or little accent pieces. I find any more fabric, and I tend to forget what I have — and it also keeps me using what I do have since most of it is out in the open.
Since I work with a lot of vintage patterns, I tend to keep those easily available — right now, they're confined to two boxes I bought at Target earlier this year that are about the right proportions for patterns. I also have another (larger) box in the bedroom closet with all my self-drafted patterns, muslins, tracings and random patterns that are too big for the other containers (like Folkwear and such). I am finding this works out pretty well — although I think I need either a third box or bigger ones for the vintage patterns already!
Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?
For the vintage patterns, I keep them separated by time period (one box is pre-1950, the other is pre-1990) and then divided by pattern company. (I just made dividers out of cardboard scraps!) Each is in its own clear, acid-free sleeve, so I can flip through the boxes and see what each looks like front and back without having to pull them out. (I've also scanned and created a catalog of my patterns on my computer, so I don't always have to run in my sewing room to look at something!) For the patterns I've drafted or modern ones, I generally keep those in large zip bags and clearly labeled so I don't get confused as to what is in it!
One day, I'd love one! But for right now I have an adjustable dress form I purchased at JoAnn's years ago. I bought it as a teenager and saved and saved for that — and managed to get it at a good price, because it was the last floor model in the store! Eventually, I'd like to upgrade to a professional form, if nothing else because it would look nice when I photograph pieces I've made for myself.
Do you find your form helpful?
Even though mine is purely "ideal proportions", I do find it immensely helpful since I have to fit all my garments myself.
What do you cut out your patterns on?
I use a large, folding cardboard cutting board on the floor. Not too sophisticated, but it works for the space I have right now. One day, I plan on having a sewing room where I can have a large table on risers dedicated as a cutting surface!
What is your most helpful tool? Why?
Oh goodness . . . it's a toss-up between my serger and pressing tools! The serger has made my sewing so much more efficient and allowed me to create garments that I feel are more professional and finished. But pressing is even more vital to a garment that looks well-made — I am constantly grabbing the various pressing forms and clapper (all have been thrifted/inherited).
What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?
Good dressmaker's scissors (I've had my Gingher shears for years, and they serve me well!), a decent sewing machine, a good iron and at least a pressing ham, seam ripper, pins of various sorts, tracing paper (always a must in my sewing room!) and good thread (as funny as it may sound). I wrote about my favorite tools and "necessary" items in a post a bit ago.
I am currently using both my mother's older Singer (late '80s model) and a Kenmore that my mother-in-law gave me (an early '90s machine). I actually own five machines in total; but two of those are vintage cabinet models, and my parents are currently storing them in their basement until I have the room for them! I am a bit of a compulsive sewing machine collector . . . especially when it comes to pretty vintage machines. It's only my current lack of space that keeps me from acquiring more!
What do you like about your machines?
The Singer is a workhorse — it's one of the older models that is mostly metal workings and the one my mother taught me to sew on; I tend to use it for the "heavy duty" sewing. The Kenmore is a bit fancier with some computerized settings that I have found helpful for the odd project or embellishment. The buttonhole setting works a lot better on that one, too. I haven't fully explored what this one does — I've had it for less than a year — but need to sit down with the manual and try some of the "fancy" settings.
Do you use a serger? If so, why do you like it?
I was able to get a serger after last Christmas — it's been on my wish list for the last four years. It's a basic model and cost less than $200, but I found it has improved my sewing immensely. It certainly cuts down on time spent finishing seams. One thing I haven't done as much with as I had hoped is sewing knits — but maybe I'll investigate that more next year.
My sewing space is constantly evolving; and because we move a lot, I can't really dedicate a ton of effort and money to customizing a space just so. In many ways, mine has to be portable and easy to move! In its current incarnation, it's taken about one-and-a-half years to get it to this point; I just add things as I have the inspiration, funds and find pieces to suit my needs. That being said, my space has always incorporated many of these basic elements —even when it was crammed into my bedroom. I've always had at least a small table for my machine, my dress form, some sort of storage (it used to be a small side table with drawers) and an inspiration board.
Next stop: K-Line. So. Get your ticket. And don't be late. Okeydoke?