Sewing Room

I’m going to tell you about my sewing room because I can and you cannot stop me.  

I’m an organised person.  And what’s more, I *like* organising, and I *like* cleaning, and before you ask, sure! I’ll come round and clean and organise for you.  No worries.  Just feed me and let me do what I will in your space, yes?

I continually refine my organising, however, and it’s taken me a while to get a grasp of what I need in an organised sewing workspace.  I like to be able to see what I have.  This is because I’m a verbal person and not a visual, spatial or tactile person, so it’s gotta all be OUT THERE for me to know what it is. I could rattle off a list for you of what I have, but I cannot get a grasp of how it can be something else without looking at it, and touching it, and unraveling it to see how big (or small) it is.

When you step into my sewing room, you will see that it is rather full of furniture.  My sewing room is also our guest room, so there is a sofa bed in there.  It hulks along one wall, and is very useful for depositing works in progress or for throwing myself upon when I am in the doldrums because I cannot for the life of me work out how best to proceed with whatever step has now flummoxed me.

To your right is a built in wardrobe.  It houses my WIPs, sewing bits and bobs, and ironing waiting to be done.  

My piece de resistance in my wardrobe is how I house my bias bindings, ribbons, zips and other itty bitty trims.  I present to you: The Hanger of Trims.  It is a trouser hanger that I got from Kmart or Big W or one of those kinds of department stores, with swivelling arms.  The zips I’ve attached by little metal loop clips, which can be obtained from most stationery stores, or in my case, Daiso. They’re much nicer like this, and at a glance I know exactly what I need to go and buy. Ha.

I have two tables in my sewing room.  One is for cutting and dumping things upon.  The other bears the weight of my sewing machine and overlocker, and is also another space for dumping things upon.  

My fabric collection is not too over the top, but there is more there than I can use in the near future, and it still seems that I don’t have any of the *right* fabric.  Do you experience that too?  Partially, this is because I have bought lots of fabric remnants, and much more woven fabric than knits, even though I sew and wear more knits than woven,  I’m still up in the air about whether I should try to change that and sew more wovens.  

My fabric used to live inside my wardrobe, on one of those hanging shelves you can get from Ikea.  However, as I pull my fabric out quite often, the stacks kept getting messy and I did not like it.  So I hunted around the internet for other ideas about how to stash it and found that many people like to use comic book protector things to wrap their fabric around and then store like books. That way, if you’re taking out one piece, all the rest do not collapse into a mess, resulting in no more sewing and you on the floor re-folding all your fabric.  

Now, I don’t hold truck with buying things if I can find a workaround using things I have.  My woven fabric is mostly cotton, linen and linen-cotton blends, and will likely stay that way (I doubt a foray into silk or chiffon sewing anytime soon…) I can see the value in using the special comic book protector cards for special fabrics, but I’m not too bothered if the cardboard stains my fabric.  It will mostly come out in the wash.  Also, my shelves were novel-spaced apart, not comic book spaced apart, so I needed things I could cut down to the right size.  I cut cardboard until I realised that greeting cards are about the right size, so I used some old greeting cards to wrap the fabric around.

I did this until I got the hang of how to fold the fabric so that it would just end up the size I needed.  I’m a dab hand at folding (I bet that I could fold origami and fitted sheets competitively), so it didn’t take me long to get the knack of it.  Not all my fabrics have card inside to keep.

I repurposed the Ikea hanging shelves as dividers for my knit fabric, which don’t really work wrapping around card.

My patterns and sewing books live on the same bookshelf, together with my threads, which form a sort of decoration, and I like to stand there and rearrange them periodically.

Other sewing paraphernalia live on the bookshelf too: all the additional sewing machine hardware (feet, mostly) and other paraphernalia (needles, pins, extra rotary cutter blades, lots of washable crayola pens).   

There are also things that don’t quite have a place: a box of reasonably sized scraps; boxes of elastic and other bits and bobs, and my neglected other crafts stuff (origami paper, calligraphy pens, glass cutters).  I keep musing about how to deal with all this stuff, but they have not yet quite got out of my head and into my reality.  I’m not happy about them, but Ive hidden most of them away in the wardrobe.  I also want a pegboard for the wall above my desks, and then I can leave my scissors and rulers hanging in a decoratively tidy yet accessible way.  Soon, soon.  

I guess I would be obnoxiously smug if my sewing room was perfect.  Right now, I’m just averagely(*) smug.  

(* it’s a word now.  What of it?)

Pattern Smooshed Knit Dresses

I’ve made a lot of knit dresses lately, and I don’t think I’ve blogged any of them. It started with Kitschy Coo’s Lady Skater dress pattern. Having conquered almost every other sewing blogger on the internet, the Lady Skater claimed me too. I could not resist the siren call of a nice looking Tshirt dress. (Kitschy Coo might be horrified I’ve described it thus but you know spades etc) I’d been thinking about doing something to the Renfrew tee to get me knit dress but I didn’t quite know how to go about it.

Actually, I did try to just lengthen the Renfrew tee into dress length.  I got a rather unflattering sack.  Its only redeeming feature was that it made my partner laugh.

But that was then. Now? Now I know it’s pretty ridiculously easy to do pattern mash-ups.

I had a sewing date with the lovely Helen of Funkbunny. We are the same size, almost, although with different shapes. That’s kind of a surprise to me because I see Helen as gorgeous and curvy and me as rectangular and shapeless.

(I’m aware my perception may not match up with reality, but it was fashioned by years of good natured teasing by elder, curvier sisters and though my body has changed since those teenage years, my brain fails to realign perception with reality. Sewing and taking photos of myself has made me see myself more clearly, but shaking the inside my head version of me is difficult. It’s not a particularly negative perception, mind. Body image is just one of those fairly insidious, intractable issues where self perception, other’s perception, an imposed ideal and confidence – or its lack – intermingle.)

Helen had made the Lady Skater, and trying on her version allowed me to confidently cut out two, without making a trial one. The first two were cut in almost diametrically opposite fabrics: a ponti like thick stable knit with not a lot of stretch, (orange) and a soft, drapey rayon-y knit with ludicrous amounts of stretch (purple). I kinda knew the soft drapey knit was a bad idea, but I plunged on anyway because I wanted the dress out of that coloured fabric.

Now I love both those first two Lady Skaters and I wear then reasonably frequently; the orange more than the purple. But the skirt lacks pockets and is still too full for my tastes.

Then I made a Belladone and I knew I’d found my skirt. It’s not too dissimilar to the Cambie skirt but I didn’t feel the rightness for me of that skirt as I did with the Belladone’s. I didn’t really know how smooshing a skirt intended for wovens would go with a knit but hey, it’s a knit. What on earth could possibly go disastrously wrong? 

Spoiler alert: nothing does go wrong.  It was really easy to smoosh these patterns together.

Basically, I just cut out a Lady Skater bodice, and a Belladone skirt.  As the Belladone skirt has pleats, I folded these pleats on my pattern pieces, thereby eliminating them.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the pleats and indeed, I rather like them, but I did not want them in my knit skirt.  Once I folded away the pleat, I matched the Belladone skirt waistband to the Skater skirt waist band and realised the curves were roughly similar, so I thought, meh, I’ll just sew it up and see what happens.

Lady Skater skirt on top; Belladone skirt underneath. 

My green ladyskaterbelladone dress is what happened.

That dress is made out of a similarly slinky, thin drapey knit as the purple dress.  Yes, I probably should not have made a dress from it, but well, I wanted that coloured dress.  Actually, I wanted a teal dress and I had a teal knit, but it turned out that the piece of teal knit fabric I had was no more than half a metre wide and even my creative pattern placement would not render a dress feasible from that teeny tiny amount of fabric.

So, chuffed with my green dress, I went onto make another.  However, I wanted a bit more breathing room in the bodice, so I widened the waist of the bodice piece of the Lady Skater bodice by a smidge (about half a cm), thereby giving me an extra two centimetres.  And I made my navy Belldone-skater; Skaterdone, Lady Bella dress (otherwise known as my boring navy dress).  My boring navy dress has to be my favourite.  The fabric is just right – not too thick, not too thin.  There’s plenty of room in the waist without it being a sack.  And it’s NAVY, which means I can wear it with all the crazy-coloured tights my heart desires (to wit: my heart desires purple, yellow and royal blue).

And then I thought I should finally make my second Tiramisu, modified the way I had wanted to modify it.  Mostly, to tighten up the cross-over, mock-wrap bodice bit but also to change the skirt and pockets.  What I wanted was the Belladone skirt and pockets, but keeping the four pieces of the skirt, or rather, the centre seam as that seems to be an important part of the design.   I simply cut the Belladone skirt not on the fold, chanting to myself: “Add seam allowance; add seam allowance” when cutting the centre front.

Last, I decided I needed a fancy knit dress.  If you have managed to read this far: well done.  This is my entry to the Franken-indie The Monthly Stitch competition. (Took me long enough to get to the point, no? If we were in person I’d be talking really really fast and waving my arms lots, so you would not have time to get bored, and you’d be too afraid of being hit by my waving arms to walk away from me.)

As worn during Me Made May.

I had this gorgeous red fabric – I think it is a double knit.  I have no idea where it came from.  It’s possible I stole it from someone at Social Sewing (if so, oops, sorry) as I honestly cannot recall buying it.  

I love cowl necks, and Maria Denmark’s Day to Night top is an excellently drafted pattern which goes together very smoothly.  I had made it once before as a top with short sleeves, in the same purple as the purple lady skater. I re-drew the lady skater bodice, blending it with the Day to Night cowl neck but maintaining the lady skater’s grainline rather than the day to night.  I had no logical reason for doing this; the grain lines are different so I had to choose one.  I figured I was making a modified lady skater with a cowl neck, not a day to night cowl neck dress, so I needed to use the lady skater grainline.  Good reasoning, yes?  

The Day to Night’s cowl neck is perfect!

I used Sewaholic’s Renfrew 3/4 length sleeve, as I like it, and added my now perfected knit Belladone skirt.  I did forget to give me a bit more waist room, so the waist fits snugly, rather than roomily.  This isn’t a bad thing for a dress intended as a bit more fancy than my usual.

So I now have a perfected knit dress, and I can switch in and out a few different elements – sleeves, of course, bodice, neckline and skirt (well, it’s almost always going to be the Belladone skirt…) and I can go from casual to work to fancy.  I’m going to try my darnedest not to buy any other knit dress patterns (you have my permission to laugh at my hubris).  I have a wardrobe full of knit dresses, and I have gone from wearing dresses once in a blue moon to 3 – 4 times a week, including weekends.  Who even am I any more?

{for competition purposes! only the Tira-done and RenDay to Skater-Night-done dress were made in May, and I’m only entering the RenDay dress, hence if you want to see pictures of the others, you have to click on through to the Kollabora links.}

Rather grainy photo of the whole dress.  I blame winter.

Stone (Beige?) Jedediah Trousers

I am not slow at sewing, as such.  But it does take me a long time to complete a project.  There are a variety of reasons for this.  One is my attention span, which is kinda like a curious kitten’s.  Off I bounce to the next thing. Another is that I’m a starter of projects, and I have ideas falling out of my ears (usually my mouth, actually), but I just don’t seem to finish things. Yet another is that when I’m doing something new to me, I like to do a lot of reading and researching and pondering and procrastinating before I start.  

I am a multiple projects on the go person.  Some days, I don’t want to sit at my machine, so I’ll tape together those PDF patterns I’ve printed that are just piling themselves away on my shelf.  Some days, I want to just do something easy.  Some days, I want to learn something new.  There have to be multiple projects so I can do whatever it is that I think I want to do that day.  It’s not always the case that I’m right about myself, of course.  I’ll start something and think, ‘bleurgh! I’m going to iron instead.’ (That’s a bad day indeed.)

So, trousers for my Partner.  I echo everyone else’s positive impressions of Thread Theory’s design, instructions and the sewalong.  I’m glad it took me forever to get started on these trousers, because I had the benefit of the sewalong to guide me at all the points I found perplexing (pretty much everything; but that’s my fault and not the fault of the pattern).

I’m especially enamoured of Thread Theory’s designs because Matt’s figure is not unlike my Partner’s: tall and skinny.  I’m hopeful therefore that all the patterns will be easy to fit.

I like sewing for other people (but only if they don’t have an expectation that they’ll get anything from me anytime soon…) because I do a much better job than for myself.  

To wit:

I measured the entire flat pattern, comparing against my partner’s measurements and the measurements for a pair of his trousers.

I basted the trousers together for an initial fit.

I modified the trousers (took in about an inch from the hip area on the back leg pieces) and the trouser pattern (because there will be more)

I unpicked the fly on these trousers four times before I was happy! Four times! Can you fathom it? I did still grumble each time that I was unpicking, and it did mean I did the fly over several evenings because when I stuffed up and realised I had to unpick, I put the trousers down (the alternative was to throw them against a wall or tear them apart with my teeth).  The bonus from all that frustration was I cut out and sewed up another Lady Skater Belladone mashup as my calming “I can too sew” project amidst “the what on earth am I doing trying to sew a pair of trousers for him” project.

Tidy insides and well-done fly! Also, his insides match my Forest Jewels Belladone.  I have to contrive a way for us both to wear these at the same time so I can wander around, all chuffed at us *secretly matching*.

But look! A pair of trousers! That fit! That he says he’ll wear, and he even likes the light beige / stone / hoo boy is it ever going to get dirty coloured trousers.

Next, a shirt.

And then he won’t ever have to go shopping again.  He’ll just have to ask me real nice like if I will please pretty please sew him something to wear because everything else is falling apart, or threaten me with purchasing unethical, fast fashion.  Wait 6 months! I shall shout! Don’t buy anything unethical! Give me 6 months to make you some thoroughly slow fashioned clothes.  Handmade, with love and swear words, by me.