Sewing Space Shuffle Part 3: The Fabric Scraps Dilemma

Fabric scraps. The bane of any sewing person’s existence? Or are you good at either throwing your scraps away or actually using them to make something?

I vacillate from throwing out my scraps, to using them for something.

I’ve pinned many a tutorial that converts fabric scraps into useful and pretty doodads. But pinning, though a sewing term, is not actually sewing.  And I can rarely envisage a personal need for said doodad, so it never gets made.

Except, one day, I will suddenly want to make a doodad, but I recently threw or gave away (to a childcare centre) my scraps, and so have to use (or go buy) a fat quarter to make a doodad, thereby creating more weirdly sized and shaped scraps. Argh!

However, I have developed a system. It’s new, and I’ve not quite yet put it into place … The system is that I keep scraps divided into knits and wovens. One 10L plastic box, and no more, of each.

The Before

The Before (actually, The Sometime After Starting & Then Realising A Picture Might Be Helpful)

For knits, I will keep larger than fat quarter size only of fabric that I will use again. If it’s smaller, but awesome, I’ll keep it. If it’s smaller and one of the colours of the rainbow, I’m cutting it into 16″ squares, and putting it into a little bag, which will one day become a rainbow jersey duvet cover, yes it will. I do keep and use long bits of knit fabric cut into strips for tying up tomatoes, and other gardening miscellany. The balance of knit scraps go into a scrap rubbish bag, which either becomes filling for something that needs stuffing (like my Scraptember pouf) or gets thrown away when the bag gets too full, and I start again.

For wovens, I’ll keep fabrics thus:

  • larger than fat quarter but less than a yard
  • fat quarter size
  • smaller sizes cut into
  • 5 inch squares
  • 2 inch strips

And I will not budge from this system. Nosirree. If I cannot manage a square or a strip from the fabric, it will go into the knit fabric stuffing bag.

I also keep pretty selvedges, because they’re pretty. But they’re kept with ribbons and binding and a miscellany of ‘trim’.

What will be chucked. Well done, me.

What will be chucked. Well done, me.

Sewing Space Shuffle Part 2: Taming the Fabric Stash

The majority of any sewing space organisation is always: what on earth do I do with all that fabric! I sew with much more knit fabric, than with woven, but in the early days, I acquired quite a lot of woven fabric, including much that is completely unsuited to what I will sew (er, silks, I’m wondering why I bought you…)

I haven’t decided if I’ll swap/ give it away, because I do love it and maybe one day I’ll sew it up? Maybe? Also, I bought some silks in outrageous yellow and orange hues, which may not suit very many people at all.

Also, the awesomeness of prints in wovens is greater by a factor of 23.75 bajillion than in knits (in Australia, anyway). Given that most of my sewing is for my everyday wear, I found it a wee bit difficult to work out how to incorporate hedgehog & fox fabric into a work appropriate outfit… and though I love florals because I love flowers, I don’t often wear them.

However, I have got better over time.  I’ve slowly learned to not buy fabric that I cannot work out what to make with it when I’m at the fabric shop. I’m slowly learning to avoid stripes in knits, because though I adore stripes and would wear them, I hate having to stripe match and I’m not good at it.

My stash is not an outrageous size, but there’s plenty there, and more than I’ll get through in a few years of sewing. I am a bit of a sucker for remnants, and a sucker for bulk buys, but the first part to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem, yes?

I want all of my sizeable fabric to be stored in the cubic shelves inside the wardrobe. Sizeable to me means more than a metre in length, as I’m likely to be able to get at least a top from that amount.

Previously, I had my fabric folded to novel sized and shelved vertically. While I loved this, it would not work in the cubes, because that’s simply too large for the fabric to stand up, so they are back to being horizontal.

This is how I folded my fabric to fit the size of the cubes.

How to fold fabric 1

  1. I cut some cardboard to the width of the shelves, as my folding template.
  2. I then folded each piece of fabric selvedge to selvedge and laid it out across the floor. I used our camping Thermarests to spare my poor pregnant lady knees, as well as to stop the fabric picking up gunk from the carpet (vacuuming beforehand was not an option, nope).
  3. Using the template, I then folded the halved fabric into thirds (usually for 150cm wide fabric), or into the middle (usually for 110 wide fabric).
  4. I then turned the template, and began wrapping the fabric template, smoothing fabric out as I went.
  5. At the end of the fabric, I folded the cut edge in, so it was all nice and tidy.
  6. To finish, I secured with paper clips, the more clashing the colour of paper clip to fabric, the better.
Ta da!

Ta da!

And then I repeated this a zillion and 26 times for each piece of fabric.

I treated my knit fabrics in exactly the same way. I’m considering rolling my knits, because I’m not averse to a bit of pulling fabric out and refolding (fun times!) but I keep worrying about whether rolling will distort knit fabrics? Anyone want to throw in their two cents on this?

The next difficult bit is how to group the fabric. Wovens and knits are kept separate, but how to group them otherwise? I toyed with the idea of making a rainbow, but half my stash is in dark, dull hues (fabric still allocated to trousers…), so I was back to my trusty ‘light and brights’ and ‘dark and dulls’ system. Plus, when you have prints with all colours of the rainbow on them … It’s hard to work out which is the dominant hue to fit into the ROYGBIV spectrum. But you can still sing Rainbow Connection, while stacking.

Sewing Space Shuffle: Part 1 of I Don’t Know How Many

With the advent of a new person in our lives, we have had to do some room reshuffling, and My Sewing Room – being the smallest in the house – will become the new person’s room.  This means the larger spare room – currently the Entertainment Room and His Study – will now become the Guest Room, Entertainment Room, His Study and My Sewing Room. It is about one and a half times as large as my erstwhile sewing room and, in that space, will have to undertake multiple duties!

We’re not too fussed about making sure New Person’s Room is ready prior to her arrival. We don’t intend that she’ll be occupying it for quite a while yet, and l doubt very much that she’ll care what it looks like. And even if she does, it’s going to take her a long while to communicate that to us.

Partner shifted my sewing stuff out, and the room (which I still call My Sewing Room) is a blank canvas for now, with the bones of what we’ll need to accommodate her accumulation of stuff. How does a person who as yet has no independent corporeal existence manage to accumulate so much stuff? It still has the guest sofa bed in it, looking very cosy and minimalist, unlike how it used to look for our guests, when it shared space with my sewing stuff (lots of things got shoved into one side of the wardrobe, with a clear warning to guests to NOT OPEN THAT SIDE!)

Prior to shifting my sewing stuff out, Partner reorganised the garage, to accommodate stuff from His Study (mostly our camping gear, actually), and the study, in order to make room for my sewing stuff. He then shifted my stuff in.

There’s a reason I’m so absent in all this reorganising and shifting around of stuff, which is that I’m under instructions not to do too much, and certainly not to lift things etc. My sewing stuff is presently in no state to be used, as it is mostly piled around the place.  Now that I will be occupying a smaller area, and a shared one, I need a better organisation and storage system, and I’ve spent rather a lot of time thinking about how best to fit everything in, in a compact way, and to have it all easily and quickly put away for guests, without the usual stuffing the random bits and bobs into half the wardrobe…

In effect, I’m going from spreading my stuff all over one room and two tables, to one table and half a wardrobe. While I don’t have a lot of stuff, and my sewing space has always been reasonably well organised; it had not been especially compact, because there was no need for it to be.

Now, there is a need!

My usual reorganisation strategy is to simply dive in, move stuff around and work out what works, setting off to get what I need when I realise I need it. Given my restrictions, and the fact that I want to keep the ‘study’ (we really need to come up with a name for this room!) fairly tidy as I go, that strategy is not going to work.

I had to craft a plan. Preferably a cunning plan.

First, I thought long and hard about what I had. I wandered into the study and stared at my piles of stuff and made lists. I’ve been resisting the lure of fabric for a while now, to try to rationalise my stash somewhat. It helped that pregnancy hormones sucked up my energy and sewing mojo. I do have almost twice as much knit fabric, than woven, and I have lots of reasonably sized scraps that are not quite large enough for even a top, but too large to simply discard. They might be good sizes for this new person entering our lives, who has proven to be so disruptive already!

Not a storage solution.

Not a storage solution.

This is the Stuff that needs re-homing:

  • Patterns
  • Sewing books, manuals and magazines
  • Fabric, which has sub-categories of:
    • Wovens
    • Knits
    • Fabric scraps, of which there are
      • Reasonably sized bits
      • Pretty quilting cotton bits that I must surely be able to find a use for even though I haven’t for 4 years now
  • Bias binding and ribbon, to be boxed (Goodbye Hanger of Trims. We had fun times, no?)
  • Zips, to be boxed
  • Buttons, already boxed but might need a bigger box. Uh oh.
  • Elastics, including Fold Over Elastic, to be boxed, maybe with the bias binding and ribbons?
  • Thread
    • Sewing threads on a rack
    • Overlocking threads, which are presently just all over the place (to be boxed)
    • Woolly nylon, of which I just bought 30 cones (to be boxed)
    • Embroidery thread, which is already neatly in a box
  • Pressing ham, sausage and cloth (which I keep losing!)
  • Sewing machine feet and needles, presently boxed
  • Rulers
  • Scissors & Rotary cutter and cutting mats
  • Tracing paper, interfacing and batting
  • Pens, sticky tape, glue
  • Other craft bits and bobs (origami, calligraphy, glass cutting), some of which are boxed; some of which are just … around the place.

Second, I measured the wardrobe space and spent plenty of minutes just staring at it, trying to work out what would be the best way of using it to store my stuff.

I then drew the wardrobe space. Good thing it is pretty much just a rectangle, because my drawing skills leave much to be desired.

Like almost everyone else in the sewing world, I thought cubic shelves would be the best way to keep everything. I must admit that I’ve coveted cubic shelving for a long time, but it didn’t seem necessary when I had a wardrobe and a bookshelf. I ruled out the IKEA Expedit/Kallax shelves because IKEA is simply too annoying to go to. We only go there for Ivar shelves, because that’s the entirety of our furniture pretty much. Instead, we got some cubic shelving from Bunnings, which is a mere one kilometre from our house and just much less annoying to go to. The cubes are a bit smaller than the Expedit/Kallax cubes, but that works well inside our wardrobe.

We have some of the Bunnings cubic shelving already, so I could go look at it to see what configurations I though would best house all that stuff up there.

This is what I’ve come up with.

The Plan

Now I just actually have to DO IT. (Best laid plans and all that jazz)

I’ve been inspired by The Fabulous Dr E’s recent blogposts to outline my organisation process.  I probably won’t be as thorough, however.

Expandable Belly Sewingx

One of the reasons I’ve been quiet on here is that earlier this year, I discovered I was pregnant. This wasn’t unexpected but for the life of me I could not work out why I was (a) exhausted every evening and (b) getting little niggly colds. I was either too tired or just a wee bit too poorly to sew, let alone blog about it.

Then I peed on a stick (just the first of many indignities pregnancy imposes upon one) and paid a visit to my doctor. At which point, I lost motivation to sew because I had no idea how my body would be during pregnancy or its aftermath. I thought the best approach was wait and see.  In any event, I had lots of knit dresses which saw me through the first trimester quite nicely.

Aside from the all consuming exhaustion of the first trimester, pregnancy has treated me well and I’ve found the changes to my body fascinating and amusing.  I quite enjoy sticking my belly out and saying, “Look at mah belly!” now that I have a bump (I’m presently nearing the end of the second trimester.) I’m finding it hard to imagine how my skin can accommodate any more expansion but it seems to know better than me what it’s supposed to do.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’m pregnant, and you’ll also know that I recently travelled to Japan because I annoyingly filled your feed with bragging photos of fabulous food we ate and gorgeous places we visited. About a month before we left, I had a panic about what I would wear. I googled ‘bump photos’ of women from 20 weeks to 23 weeks to work out the possibilities for my own bump.  My only conclusion was that everyone is really quite different.  I’d already begun ‘to show’ (or I was just using the pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted, and as much of it as I wanted. (Hoo boy, can I eat!))

I ended up making the following items:

  • Megan Nielsen ruched maternity tees;
  • Belly bands sort of (but not really) following a tutorial on Megan Nielsen’s maternity blog; and
  • Clover trousers with yoga waistbands.

I made, and took with me, all 3 ruched maternity tees that I made. I made a practise one out of double knit I picked up from Clear It, with 3/4 length sleeves.  That and leggings was my plane outfit on the way oover but I could not comfortably wear the leggings on the way back! I blame too many onigiri.

I also made two short sleeved maternity tees out of wicking fabric (royal blue and silvery grey) that I bought from Stretchtex. I wore these almost every single day, and I could wash and rinse them at night and they’d be dry by the morning.

The ruched maternity tee is a great pattern. The end.

Belly bands wise, I made lots, trying to get it right. In effect, you’re just making a wide rectangular belt thing out of knit fabric. I would modify Megan Nielsen’s tutorial to say that you should use your waist measurement, rather than your hip measurement.  I don’t know that it will work for everyone, but using hip measurement did not work for me to end up with a thing that would hold my unzipped pants up.  Also, you wil need to adjust how much or how little ‘give’ you provide yourself with (the number of inches you subtract from your waist measurement to make the length of the band) based on the give that is in your knit fabric.  I used double knit, which was very stretchy, plus one of the wicking fabrics, which was stretchy but not super stretchy, and some black ponte left over from my preggified clover trousers, which was somewhere between the two.

Also, I did not bother hand sewing the band closed as per instructions. You all know how I feel about hand sewing! Instead, I just overlocked that part, and had an exposed seam. Like I care, I’m pregnant. I am excused everything.

I took with me the wicking belly band because it was grey and therefore almost matched my hiking trousers, and the black belly band because it was black.

The two belly bands saved me! Basically, I could no longer comfortably do up any of the bottoms that I brought along (hiking trousers, wide legged cotton trousers and a hiking skirt) after a mere day in Japan (too much delicious onigiri!) With the aid of the bands, I could keep wearing the bottoms, undone, but with the bands holding everything up.  It kinda tickled me (because I’m very easily amused) that I was walking around with my fly undone.

The clover trousers I actually made for work, and I’ve rabbited on for long enough, so that will be another post.

Social Sewing Update

Well … Hello.

<insert profuse apologies for long absences; miscellaneous excuses boiling down to ‘life’; and a bit of misdirection of blame towards Instagram, on which I am more prolific but also absent for various periods of times for myriad Reasons and Things. Really, you don’t read me for my regularity of posting, do you? If so, how very aggravating for you. You should stop.>

If you’re in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, I have just added 2016 dates for Social Sewing on this Page here.  Please come!

If you’re not in Melbourne but you happen to be dropping into Melbourne on one of the weekends when Social Sewing is on … I would be so excited to meet you (probably in a bit of weird way, it’s true, but you know, harmless weird, honest.)

I have blog posts for you.  They are all inside my head. We need better technology.  Who is getting onto this? I need to speak with them. Now.

Feeling Shirty

I am a lawyer.  It is an occupational hazard that I must wearing boring button-up shirts.  I have them in all shades of boring, including blue and black and boring stripes (but no white because – have you met me? I cannot wear white.  It will, before not too long, be that Pantone shade of coffee with a dash of oil, grass, bike chain grease and tomato seeds.  I expect that shade will be Pantone’s colour of the year in 2032.  I’m just well ahead of the trend).  I have a few less boring ones, too, including teal paisley (yeah!), yellow flowers and red polka-dots.  These are all purchased shirts and none of them fit me properly.  They are invariably too tight across the back, sometimes too loose through the waist and hips, and always gape at either the apex of my boobs or just underneath or, perplexingly and aggravatingly, both.  Always, Also, I find it difficult to raise my arms fully while wearing them.  And yes, of course I need to raise my arms high above my head ALL THE TIME at work.  Don’t you?

A long, long time ago, when I was a brand new lawyer and working in a courtroom, I wore an awesomely boring beige with red and black stripes shirt and probably some kinda black trouser and maybe some kinda black jacket but maybe not – I don’t really remember that part.  One morning, I sat opposite a number of male lawyers in dark, dark suits and pale coloured shirts and stripey ties.  I don’t really remember what they wore, but I do remember that there were no other women, except for the most important person in the room (not me, except for in this story).  There was a young-ish lawyer, maybe he was a brand new lawyer too, I did not know.  He sat there and kept looking at my chest.  His eyes held mine, and then he would slowly drag his eyes down to my chest and make his eyes round and big and raise his eyebrows.  You can imagine how impressed I was by this behaviour.  In the break, he came up to me, and I thought, ‘Here we go -‘ and he said, “Miss.  Sorry, Ms?” and then he blushed.  He said, “Um, your shirt. Um.” So I looked down at my shirt and both the button at the apex and the one directly below it had come undone.  I said, “Ugh. Sorry,” and quickly did them up.  He took his blushing self away and I never wore that shirt ever again.

It’s no longer the case that I have to be suited up everyday but I still find myself compelled to wear shirts, especially if I’m appearing at some formal thing.  A shirt simultaneously sets the tone and puts me into character.  As I’m now in a more relaxed work environment, I can also wear shirts with jeans and feel dressy enough for work.  Also, I like shirts.  I like their crispness and how finished they seem.  My partner looks smashing in his.  I always feel a bit more put together when I wear mine (although perhaps not when they gape and display my body parts to the world when I do not want them to).

Conquering shirts feel like a final frontier in sewing for me.  Except, when I think about it, everything that I haven’t done yet feels like a final frontier.  I spent some time trying to work out what item, if successfully made by me, would make me sit back and go, ‘That’s it, there’s no turning back. I’m a die-in-the-ditch survival woman making all her own clothes.’  A bra? A coat? Technical hiking gear? Except that, actually, there has been no turning back for a long time.  There’s probably no point even pondering it, but I like to pontificate, so I’ll just keep at it, if you don’t mind.

So, yes. The Shirt.  I will conquer it.  I have a bajillion patterns – Kwik Sew , a vintage one that I snaffled from a Pattern Parcel, Sew Loft’s Caroline shirt (now called something else and they make me mad, so I don’t want to talk about it) and Deer and Doe’s Bruyere.  I’m plunging into the Bruyere first.  

This might be my weekend project. Or I might get distracted, because there are some items I need more.


The Count and Totoro

Many of you have clamoured for the story of The Count and Totoro. (Okay, so maybe just Celia and Maeve.) 

Let me introduce them, and leave it to them to tell you their own story:


This is Totoro.


 Yes, Totoro, but who are you? What’s your history? Why are you here with me? 


 Maybe later? We’re writing a blog post at the moment. 


 Well. Yes. Totoro is a nature spirit. Just watch My Neighbour Totoro. It is a brief documentary of one tiny part of a particular few Totoros’ lives. Totoro came into my life one day when I was wandering around Leeds City in the UK. He called to me from a tiny shop window. 


 I don’t think you said that, Totoro. I think you said — 



Oh. Excuse me.
(Schmaltzy muzak)

Totoro in his happy place.

 So. That is Totoro. Totoro simply is.

Here’s The Count. 

Bonjour, Count!

 Bonjour, Oanh’s friends! I am The Count. 

(executes a flourishing bow) 

Alas, I had wealth but am now an exile and a refugee. You see, I was the blackest sheep in a family of black sheep. We had land, we had chateaux, we had servants. But we were driven from our home in France (I have blocked the memories and do not wish to delve into the whys and wherefores), and I ended in Wales, labouring to survive in a draughty Welsh castle (they’re not as good as French chateaux, believe me), when Oanh stopped to chat. Poor thing, she was so impressed by that ridiculous lump of stone the Welsh called a castle, I could not help but regale her with lavish stories of the chateaux I knew. She rushed off immediately and I thought I had offended this strange Viet-Australian woman. Nevertheless, she came back not long afterwards with Nic – Oanh was bouncing up and down and Nic was looking mildly perplexed -, and they invited me to join them on their travels in the UK and Europe. She neglected to warn me that the travel would be by bicycle! (In my defence, Count, we never asked you to do any pedalling!) She did say we would ultimately end up in Australia and there would be no castles there. Indeed, there are not. 

There were plenty of excellent examples of castles during our travels, though I must say my distant relatives who stayed on through those difficult years for French nobles have not managed the upkeep as well as I’m sure I would have done. My favourite castles were in Albania. The Albanians really can build a castle, and they sure know how to fly a flag. 

 Oanh’s friend came for Christmas one year and gifted me with a darling hat. I was very glad of it when we camped in snow in Montenegro! Oh, there was a castle in Montenegro! It was spectacularly located. Oanh said we could not live there. I don’t understand why. 

 When will we visit more castles, Oanh?