This month the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network is doing a sewing room tour after Gemma from Sixty Six Stitches brilliantly suggested it as a good way to kick off our southern hemisphere spring. I wonder whether she was secretly trying to get us doing a bit of spring cleaning in our sewing rooms?
Check out the other great creative spaces starting with Gemma’s, followed by Laura, Sophie-Lee, Nikki, Juliet, Sandra J, Kat, Holly, MaryLouise, Nina, Sandra M and yesterday was Melissa’s turn but today I’m hogging the limelight, yeah!!
Unlike most of the other WSBN bloggers I don’t have an actual sewing room. My daughter, Monica, and I live in a two bedroom townhouse with an open plan lounge/kitchen/dining area and my sewing space is along one wall. It is supposed to be contained there but frequently expands into the rest of the room, partly out of necessity – I have to use the dining table for cutting out and overlocking – but I’m also quite messy and have far too much fabric and other stuff. Poor Mon puts up with a lot and she’s a very tidy person so she regularly cracks the whip to get me to tidy up a bit, otherwise there’s no telling what the place would look like, we’d probably end up on one of those ‘world’s worst hoarders’ TV shows if I hadn’t already suffocated under a fabric avalanche.
I’ve had dedicated sewing rooms in other houses but I actually really love living in a little house, it only takes minutes to vacuum the whole place and it’s really easy to keep warm, and not having a dedicated sewing space might keep me a bit tidier than I would otherwise be, however Mon might disagree with that.
Here’s what my sewing space looked like this morning before I started getting it ‘sewing ready’. I have a big screen which is supposed to hide everything, in theory I can put it in front of my sewing area and it just blends in and looks like a wall. Mon hates it and thinks it’s ugly but I think it’s a vast improvement on looking at what’s hiding behind it. I can turn it around so that the cross braces don’t show which looks more wall-esque.
The green ivy print object in the bottom right corner is the back of my couch so you can see how small the space is. The couch is covered in a hideous fabric which looks like Popeye had a huge feed, then threw up all over it, but it has really good bones. I purchased it on Trademe for $100, it’s over 60 years old and came from Maple & Co in London and from there travelled to the Middle East and San Francisco before settling in New Zealand. One day I’m going to have it recovered and it will be fabulous.
But back to sewing….
I bought a vintage blonde oak veneer wardrobe and installed shelves so I could store just about everything in it. It’s on the right behind the screen.
- From the top: baskets and bags contain wool, knitwit patterns and other bulky things. Bluey the cat by textile artist Pru Durrant keeps an eye on the action.
- On the top shelf I keep boxes, baskets and tins of notions – buttons, zips, laces, bindings, embroidery threads etc.
- The second shelf holds stationery, drawers of pens, art materials and equipment.
- The third shelf is the home of my cameras and accessories, paints, our wireless printer and paper supplies.
- The sets of drawers store sewing and craft equipment and art supplies. Knitting needles are stored in canisters in the gap beside the drawers
- Monica’s sewing machine and my two overlockers live on the bottom shelf. There’s space for another sewing machine in there but that’s currently living at my lovely man’s house because I need to sew sometimes when I’m there.
- I’ve got PDF and traced patterns for projects I want to make soon hanging on the door
I collect interesting tins for storing different types of buttons and other small items
Larger stuff like lace, trims, zips and elastic live in baskets and boxes in the top of the cupboard.
Out of everything in my sewing area these two get the most use, my Bernina Favorit 740 sewing machine purchased for $40 on Trademe, which must be the bargain of the century. It was made in 1964 so it’s a bit older than I am, but she’s ageing very gracefully. I love this machine, it purrs like a kitten and sews everything beautifully; and my Phillips iron which I chose because it was the steamiest one I could find at the time. I like to have plenty of steam to shape and manipulate wools and get a good sharp crease in natural fibres.
I like to keep some things close to hand so my thread snips, pins, bobbins, machine feet, needles, seam gauges, tailors chalk and stuff like that live in the drawers in and on my sewing machine table.
On the right of my sewing table I’ve got an untidy bunch of rolls of fabric, horsehair interfacing and tracing vilene. I’m part way through reupholstering the lid of the basket on the left which will then get some kind of as-yet-undecided-on paint job. Once it’s finished I’ll use it as a place to hide WIPs and not so much a surface to dump things on.
And speaking of projects for my sewing room I have a small shelf and a set of drawers from a treadle sewing machine waiting for a paint finish to match the basket. Eventually I’d like to paint my sewing machine table and apply a paint effect to my big storage cupboard. Someday my sewing area will look coordinated and stylish like other people’s.
The stacks of boxes on the left contain interfacing, linings, my top priority patterns and WIPs.
Here are the ‘girls’. The svelte white one adjusted down to it’s smallest size is Mon and the Singer one wearing my latest WIP – the Style Arc Zara dress – is me. Occassionally when Mon’s boyfriend, Wiremu, visits strange things happen to Mon’s double, I sometimes find that the hips and chest have been dialled up as large as possible, it’s quite unsettling.
My Singer is getting quite elderly now, I’ve probably had her 20 years and she’s seen better days. Her velour covering is detaching from the metal plates. When I tried sticking it back down with spray glue it just left a white mess on the fabric so she’s due for a nip and tuck. I was going to try recovering her with a jersey knit with a thin cotton batting underneath which would be a major undertaking because she’ll have to come apart completely, but I saw Sandra J has a black cover on hers in her sewing room tour, so I’m going to keep it simple and just cover up all her flaws.
You may have noticed I quite like old things. I have my mother’s chain stitch sewing machine which she used as a child in the 1930s and 40s. I used to sew with it as a child too but the needle has broken and a standard one is too long. One day I’ll go on a hunt to find the right size so I can get it working again.
I’m unintentionally accumulating a collection of vintage buttons and buckles. Most of these are from vintage fairs and fabric-a-brac. There’s an amazing button lady in Wellington who does the rounds of vintage and sewing markets and most of my favourites have been purchased from her, but the rococo buckle at top left was bought in a Dunbar Sloane antique auction in Wellington and the silver mermaid buckle is a family piece. I made it into a belt with wide black elastic and wore it with a half circle vintage taffeta skirt in the late 80s – early 90s, it looked amazing and I wish I still had a little waist like that. When I see beautiful old things like this I can’t resist them, I have to buy them because I might never see anything like them again.
I have a domestic goddess section in my bookshelf which includes my sewing books and my collection of Mrs Beaton’s books of household management, but considering how messy I am I don’t think anyone would believe I’ve ever read them. I mainly look at them for the entertainment value and interesting recipes like mock turtle soup, pease pudding and syllabub.
Because space is limited in my house, I’ve started buying ebooks rather than physical copies which brings me to my favourite piece of technology, my iPad. I’ve got everything on there – ebooks, PDF patterns, all 170 Threads Magazine issues off my Threads archive DVD, Craftsy videos, blog readers and blog creating apps, and a database I’m building of my fabric and patterns. Luckily I got the 128GB one, I’ve already used half of that, 24GB alone in downloaded Craftsy videos.
I know what you’re thinking, where is all the fabric?! Well we have to go somewhere entirely different to see that – the garage. Some people think that garages are for cars but, as sewers, we know better. Garages are actually for storing fabric, only sad people who don’t own enough fabric to fill a garage have to put cars in them. I do have more boxes of fabric and patterns in my garage but the back corner is the part I’ve tidied up and it’s the only bit suitable for public consumption. Hagrid is standing on my vintage Singer 201K sewing machine. I’ll take you on a stash tour another time, that could be a very big blog post!
You’d think that having my sewing space in my living area would actually allow me to sew a lot because I could do it while spending time with my family or watching TV. I could probably even sew a couple of seams while cooking dinner, and sometimes this does happen, but not as often as I’d like. I don’t have any particularly good excuses, my TV is even on a big, extendible, swivelly arm so I can pull it out from the wall and point it at the sewing area (which does come in handy if I want to stream a Craftsy video from my iPad to my TV via my Apple TV). I think it’s mostly due to overcommitment, disorganisation, lack of prioritising and exhaustion which are actually all things I can change. How does that saying go? If you don’t have a plan you might end up where you’re going, ie nowhere. I just Googled that and couldn’t find anything close so perhaps I just made up a quote!
Here it is relatively respectable and ready to sew. Sewing is my happy place, so this is my happy sewing space. I’m wondering why I don’t spend more time there…
So, what am I going to make next? Well we’re planning a staff ‘garden party’ at Pataka, the gallery where I work, because we’re about to install an exhibition of beautiful Karl Maughan garden paintings and we haven’t had a silly dress up party for a ages. Our children’s activity space has been turned into a ‘garden’ so we’re going to hold it in there – why should the kids have all the fun? I’ve decided everyone needs to wear floral and I’m going to make myself a pasifika theme floral outfit, here’s my fabric and pattern. I’m really looking forward to the party, I think we’re going to need lots of Pimms and cucumber sandwiches.
A tour of my sewing space wouldn’t be complete without my little ‘helpers’. These are our fur-babies, Hagrid up top and Spider, lying on my traced patterns. Hagrid was having some emotional issues recently, he was very grumpy and anti-social and he was getting a bit vicious – not his normal cuddly affectionate self at all. We thought we were going to have to take him to the vet to get some kitty prozac (I kid you not, it’s actually a real thing) but then I left an unattended ball of wool on the table. After he shredded the lovely ball of alpaca boucle we put him on a diet of cheaper odd balls from my stash. Now there’s always a messy tangle of wool somewhere in our house, usually on the kitchen floor because he loves sliding around in it. It’s good to see that my stash makes the cat as happy as it makes me.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of my sewing space. I love seeing other people’s creative spaces and I’ve really been enjoying the WSBN’s sewing room tour. There are still plenty more to go so remember to check in and see The Crafty Mermaid’s tomorrow
Happy creating everyone