Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sewing Room Update: Better Organization

Practice muslins and tag board patterns hanging on the back of the door.
I love to sew but like many people, even the most obsessed, finding time in a busy schedule is really challenging.  Last December, I started a sewing Meetup group that has now almost 100 members in my local area.  We've had three sewing events, and a couple of outings. Each event included more new members, and the momentum seems to be there. But every month or so, I get members who leave the group for the same reason: no time.

I sew because it clears my brain. This has been the best benefit for me mentally.  It's like a different exercise for the brain, and affords me to use my creativity. But with a busy schedule, I've had to put a few rules into place.  This is what I've done so far to keep me productive:

Organize! Organize! Organize!
These are my favorite shelves that house all my sewing and some knitting gear.  I use little clear plastic bins to house my notions.  My ironing space is directly underneath.
I put all my machines on the same table so there's easy access to sewing.  All the machines are plugged in and ready to go. Not everything on the desk is mine. Some of my husband's paperwork and files are still there.  It's the least I could do since I took over his space.
Last Summer, I took over my husbands space out in the work room.  He really wasn't using it any way, and I needed it more than he did.  I will admit that most people do not have this kind of spare real estate.  I  didn't for years until we moved here, and if and when we move again, my space availability might change.  But I'm enjoying it while I can.

I can't work in clutter.  I know everyone's different.  Every couple of months or so, I do a more thorough cleaning, and regroup some of my supplies, and put things back where they belong so I can find them again. Doing this regularly has really saved me tons of actual sewing time.  I throw away fabric cuttings, try to organize the tables to create more work space, and return some of the tools back to their dedicated baskets. When my cutting tables are cluttered, I don't want to sew or start on a new project.  It is as simple as that.  I get discouraged just looking at a table piled high with patterns and the like.

Everything Within Arms Reach.

I have a lot of little trays and baskets scattered around my sewing room.  One near my cutting table, a portable basket I can move from table to table with my most frequently used tools, another one right by my sewing machine, and a toolbox that is filled with anything I need for travel or school projects.  It seems excessive, but it's not really.  Instead of storing all my "extra" or duplicate supplies like tailor's chalk, scissors, threads, needles, and other tools, I put them in different baskets so they are always handy.  I hate having to get up and walk across the room to pick up things I need.  Face it, sewists tend to have too many gadgets or multiples of the things we love.  Why keep them all wrapped up in its original packaging?  Break everything out and scatter them around your work space to make everything more efficient.

Basket at the sewing machine table.
Tray for the tall cutting table.

Additional tray for drafting and cutting at the work desk.

I've had this Art Bin for 20 years and it still stores my drafting

Same Art Bin opened with three trays 
 Taming My Stash...

This is challenging.  I avoid frequent visits to the fabric store.  I give myself budgets, and purchase things that I plan on using within the same season, or at least within the same year. If I'm holding something I like, and I say to myself, "This might be great for a top for my daughter," I put the thing down and move on.  Having self control over fabrics, especially when they are on sale is a problem.  Having too much fabric that I'm not using is also a problem.  Fifteen years ago, during one of my big moves, I cleared out several boxes of fabric that I was no longer using. I put aside two boxes of things I really loved and couldn't part with.  The reality of it is, I only really cared about ten percent of my stash.  I like to spend a little more money on better fabric these days so I make sure I use them, and I limit how much I buy.  I can honestly say that I love every piece that I've picked up except for one: a synthetic jersey piece that I got fairly cheap to try my hand at making a bathing suit. Okay...I'm also not going to beat myself up over bad fabric decisions either.

I just cleared out this shelf for fabric.  It's filled with all my current pieces and my patterns in a basket at the bottom.  There's still room for more, but I'm going to try to use up every thing in here this year.
Another shelf filled with extra fabric that I have collected.  This is my main stash.

These are the only "floor" storage bins.  I have a plastic bucket filled with my old stash, but it's only about 1/3 full now, a couple of bolts of fabric, and the white baskets on the right house all my yarn for knitting.  I try to limit my yarn stash too.
I have a couple of wire racks attached to my ironing board, a perfect place to store my rolled paper,  and light fabric rolls.
Storing Patterns

I don't have a great system, but it works.  I have a small chest of drawers that I store already cut up patterns, patterns waiting to be used, or patterns that I want to re-use again soon.  Eventually, I will clean out all the drawers so I can keep other sewing supplies in there.  Right now, the other drawers just house paper, and some fabric.

Keeping My Scraps Almost Tidy.

As I sew and collect scraps for testing, and other little things, I throw them in a designated basket that's easy for me to rummage through, re-organize and re-use.  This was one of those easy "ah-ha" moments in my sewing room.  Very useful. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring Lace Dress

Hooray! I finally finished one of my Spring projects!  It was one of those sewing projects that I thought would only take me a weekend to finish.  A month later...here I am.  There were a lot of "firsts" for this dress.  It was my first attempt at using a Burda Style pattern that I downloaded from the internet.  The initial taping of the pattern together was a pain. But I do like the fact that my paper (standard copy paper) is more durable and easy to re-use.

The dress was made from a cotton lace that ended up having a lot of stretch.  I pre-washed and dried it in the dryer and it still came out soft and held its shape.  I found the lace fabric at the 50% off table at Hart's Fabric in Santa Cruz.  (Score!) The lining is a very unusual bright pink cotton, and had a lovely weight to it (almost like a light linen), but it didn't stretch as much as the lace.  This was going to be a potential fitting problem.  I had never really worked with lace before or stitched a contrasting lining that would be a major part of the dress design.

Because this is a pullover dress, I needed to make sure that the lining was going to fit over my head and my chubby little body.  A couple of ladies from my Google Plus community saved the day by suggesting that I cut the lining on the bias, and then make long slits on the side.  I did exactly these two things, and the lining fit perfectly.

I used Burda Style Wedding Dress #104, and of course made quite a few changes.  The dress had a lot more ease than expected.  It ended up being a couple of sizes too big for me after cutting, and the finished product is still a little loose.  The back is supposed to be two panels sewn up the center back, but I made it into a single panel because I thought it showed off the lace more and designed a key-hole cut out instead of the original seam opening at the neck.  I think mine looks better.  :-)  I also made the sleeve shorter, and I did not put in the pockets because I was afraid the added weight would make the lace stretch.  Happy Spring sewing!

Here's a close-up of the dress so you can see the contrasting pink lining better.