Lovely Mena of The Sew Weekly can sew at any time — even at 3 a.m. Marvelous, isn't it? And though she insists she's a total slob, I don't believe her. Look at her space. Then tell me: Do you?
Do you have a dedicated sewing space?
Yes. Before I started my personal sewing challenge to myself (sewing a garment a week), I had half of a wall in the room we watch television. That didn't last long since I'm a complete slob, and my mess was spilling over into a common area of the house. I then took over the guest bedroom we have in our house. In fact, I sold the queen bed we had and downsized to a futon from Ikea. My mom is our main guest, and I did ask if she minded before I did that. She said she didn't as long as she didn't have to step on pins on the floor. I can't guarantee that so she slept on the couch in our living room during her last visit!
What do you like best about your sewing area?
As I mentioned, I'm a complete and total mess. Therefore, I love that I can close the door and, for the most part, not have my mess spill into the rest of the house. The guest bedroom is on the basement level of our house, so I can sew at 3:00 in the morning and not disturb my husband or my daughter. It's pretty great to be able to have a space all to myself. As far as the room itself, there's a lot of storage thanks to the Ikea Expedit bookcases that I keep buying.
What would you change about your space?
Not so much my space, but myself. I just can't stay tidy, so most of the time the room is a complete mess. I just happened to clean it before this interview, so I was able to take photographs of it looking somewhat tidy. But even then, I didn't want to clean it up to a level that's not maintainable because that's not what I'm about. Having a perfectly tidy sewing room is not possible for me, and instead of trying to be something I'm not, I just need to embrace a space that I actually enjoy sewing in. Of course, I'd love to have another wall of storage. I bought the perfect cabinet from Ikea for all my patterns, but its drawers collapsed under the weight of my patterns. So now, all my patterns are in random boxes throughout the room.
Despite the aforementioned slob in me, I actually keep my fabric fairly organized. My fabric is organized by color, mostly. I have one shelf unit that houses all the fabric that's really dear to me – my vintage pieces mostly. There's another unit that's the fabric that I've either bought new or that I'm just sort of moderately interested in sewing with. Finally, I have an area for my crafting fabric. Just this weekend, I took photos of all my apparel fabric, so that I could easily reference the pieces and have an archive of what I bought. Like most sewers, I'm a major stasher.
Just this week, I forced myself to finally purchase plastic bags to store and protect all my patterns. In all, I have about 700 vintage patterns that I used to store in an Ikea dresser. As I mentioned, when that fell apart, they were moved to storage boxes – about five in all. My first step was to put them all in bags. My next step will be to purchase more long-term containers and put them in numerical order. Putting them in numerical order only works because I use a photographic archive to browse my patterns. The biggest problem with that is when the archive isn't up-to-date, a pattern is pretty much out of sight, out of mind. I wrote about this more here.
Do you have a mannequin made to measure?
I have a dress form that's just a generic measurement model.
If so, do you find it helpful?
When I first started sewing, yes. It helped me get a better idea on how pieces fit together. Now, I pretty much just use my dress form to take photographs of the finished garments.
What do you cut out your patterns on?
I have a collapsible dining table that I also bought from Ikea. I actually love this piece of furniture quite a bit!
The seam ripper. Because I make mistakes constantly.
What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?
Marking tools, seam ripper. A good light. A rotary cutter with a self-healing mat.
What are your most invaluable sewing books?
I tend to utilize vintage sewing books because many times the terms that are being used in my patterns are slightly archaic. The Better Homes & Gardens Sewing Book is one of my favorites. However, I really don't read them that often. When I am stumped or have a question, I usually search online for the answer. I think every question I've ever had has been already answered on someone else's blog.
My favorite sewing books are actually source books (like the Sears catalog collections) and vintage magazines. I love looking at them for inspiration –especially for fabric inspiration.
I have a Brother SE-350.
What do you like about it?
My Brother replaced a Singer machine I received from my parents when I was seventeen. Unlike a lot of folks, I like the bells and whistles of a computerized machine. I specifically searched out a machine that also did embroidery, because I knew I wanted to incorporate machine embroidery into my clothing. I have no complaints about my machine other than the auto-threader fell off, and I don't know how to fix it!
Do you use a serger? If so, why do you like it?
Yes, I recently bought a serger – another Brother machine. I really wanted the finished look of a serged edge and was tired of the old pinking shears and zig-zag stitch method. But when people tell you that sergers are temperamental mistresses, they aren't kidding! The threading takes forever, and the results are so dependent on doing it right. That all said, I love how much time it saves me. I couldn't live without it now!
I'm kind of insane in getting things done quickly, so I would say a week to get it to where it is today. That said, it takes a week to clean it once it gets really messy. But I guess that's part of the fun.
So. What's your answer? Mena looks rather neat to me. Absolutely.