Sewing Spaces: Sewing Is Hard? Gabriella's organization helps. September 12, 2010 17:34 1 Comment

Let's travel to Fogville and spend some time with Gabriella of Sewing Is Hard. Even though she moved a mere month ago — yes, one month ago — she already has painted her sewing room a stimulating and lovely blue, and she has already organized it. Can you say wow? Can you stand up and cheer? I can, and I will. This is the kind of organization that simply stuns. Absolutely. I moved more than eleven years ago, and I still have unpacked boxes! Really.

Sewing_room_gabriella Do you have a dedicated sewing space?

Yes! We recently bought a new home, and I was able to turn one of the bedrooms into a sewing room.

What do you like best about your sewing area?

I love that it's my own personal space. My setup is exactly the way I want it, and I never have to make space for someone else's projects. I also love the color. I painted it a bright summer-sky blue.

What would you change about your space?

I wish it felt more finished. We only moved in a month ago, and while it's pretty close to being done, there is very little art on the walls, and there is some furniture (not shown in my snaps) that I need to get rid of/replace.

Sewing_room_gab_Table How is your space organized?

I have a dining room table that holds my sewing machine, small cutting mat, and my box of need-at-hand tools. Next to it are two bookshelves separated by a full-length mirror that used to be a closet door. (I love that mirror. It's huge. I've lugged it around from house to house for about twenty years now.) The bookshelves hold my sewing boxes, fabric, sewing books, craft supplies, notions and my collection of hats.


If you have a fabric stash, how do you impose order?

My stash is pretty disordered.  My fabric lives in four cardboard boxes.  I don't have it filed in any particular way. When I need something, I just have to dig.  At least, with only four boxes, it's pretty easy to sort through.

On the plus side, having such limited space keeps me from buying too much surplus fabric.  As long as the boxes aren't full, I can buy more.

When the boxes are filled up, I need to sew from my stash. It's an almost foolproof solution, but I'm pretty good at buying fabric for a dedicated project and sewing it up right away so that it never ends up in the stash.

How are your patterns organized?

I keep all my patterns stored in standard-issue pattern boxes purchased from Joanne. Dress patterns take up two boxes and are divided by era ('40s, '50s, etc). The rest of the patterns are sorted alphabetically by type: aprons, blouses, skirts, trousers and so on.


Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?

Whenever I get a new pattern I scan the front of the envelope. The original is put into a plastic comic-book sleeve. Then it goes into one of the pattern boxes on the shelf.

Each pattern scan is saved as a .jpg in a file folder on my computer. I use a very simple name/number naming convention. (eg: Advance_3125, Simplicity_1956, etc). I only have about 200 patterns, so I haven't yet had a problem with duplicate pattern numbers.

Macintosh has this neat feature where you can view the front page of each file without having to open it by simply scrolling down your file list. This allows me to do a quick visual search all the patterns on my list. It's a very convenient way to see what I have.

Sewing_room_gabriella_dress Do you have a mannequin made to measure?

I use a foam adjustable dress form. It took me a long time to get her set up properly. Partly because I think I refused to admit to my actual measurements, and also because, unlike me, she's really flat-chested, and I couldn't quite get the bust measurement right. I solved that by adding a vintage bra stuffed with hand-made beanbags in an appropriate size. The bust measurement is perfect now!

Once my new sewing room was organized, I spent an afternoon measuring and remeasuring myself and adjusting the dials over and over again ;until all of the measurements matched exactly. For the first time in a long while, she's my shape, and it's a little weird to see myself in 3D. Not because I think my shape is bad, but because before this, I really had no idea what my shape looked like. Turns out I'm just as curvy as I thought, but also better proportioned than I thought, so that's nice.

Do you find it helpful?

I do. She's been great for helping me figure out projects that have fit issues and ones that need a little draping. She also has a hem-marking attachment that I recently used for the first time, and I love it!!

What do you cut out your patterns on?

I have a big cardboard cutting mat that I lay out on the carpet.

What is your most helpful tool? Why?

The internet is a really valuable tool. I am terrible at figuring out the math for things like grading, complicated written directions baffle me, and for some reason, even patterns with good, simple instructions and clear illustrations sometimes make no sense. Thankfully, there are lots of online tutorials and videos that make it easier for me to understand how tricky sewing techniques are supposed to work.

What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?

I think the two most important things are:

1. A good sewing book. Sewing patterns (especially vintage ones) assume that you already understand how to do a lot. Having a book that explains each technique in great detail can be a big help.

2. A really simple machine. There are lots of fancy machines out there that can do everything for you, but I think it's best to start with something very simple. Choose a machine that is easy to thread and has enough options to let you perform all basic sewing operations, but not so many options that you get frustrated while learning how to use it.

What kind of machine do you use?

I have my mom's old Singer Touch and Sew 628 from the 1960s, but my favorite is a secondhand Viking Husqvarna 5610 from the 1970s that my husband bought for me.

What do you like about it?

I love it! It's lightweight, portable, powerful, easy to use, easy to thread, and the bobbin winder is a breeze. It's got lots of interchangeable feet including the most basic of button attachments, but that's about as complicated as this machine gets. It just sews. I like that.

Do you use a serger? If so, why do you like it?

I'd love to have a serger. I'm kind of afraid of them, because I think I would be confused by having to thread all of the different spools. However, the idea of having perfectly finished seams is enticing.

How long did it take you to develop your sewing space?

No time at all. I have a thing about being organized. Usually I can just look at a space, think about what I have, and decide where everything goes pretty quickly. Most of the time, I don't have to do much rearranging once everything is in place.

So. Guess who's up Friday? Did you guess Gertie of Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing? Then you get a gold star. If you didn't . . . well . . . drop by anyway. Because you will not want to miss her room with a view.