Sewing spaces: And on to the next stop — Couturesmith! October 08, 2010 10:41

Couturesmith If you haven't already met Connie of Couturesmith then it is high time you do. She sews: dresses, wedding gowns, diapers. She farms. She blogs. And she has an elegant sign on her door. Which she has kindly  opened to us. Are you ready to enter? I am. So. Let's go! 

Do you have a dedicated sewing space?

I do. It is a converted bedroom, but now that the five blondes (our five daughters) have mostly moved out, I claimed the medium-sized room for myself. Lovely man that my husband is, he thinks that I should have taken over the large bedroom, but I pointed out that nothing would ever be big enough for me! Little does he know I am holding out for a real studio! I have also been known to migrate to the kitchen table, the family room and the office (which actually houses two of my dressforms, more fabric collections and my Cricut!) Couturesmith_wall

What do you like best about your sewing area?

I like that it is upstairs in our house, and I am not disturbed by the various comings and goings of our family. I can be a messy, six projects-scattered-about-at-once creator, and the mess is easily hidden if we have company.  The view out the window, especially in the spring and fall, is pretty lovely, too! Oh, and my cutting table – but more about that later!

What would you change about your space?

The size and the lack of “closed-door” storage space. It is carpeted right now, but I have plans this fall to rip it all out and put wood laminate down.

Couturesmith_machinesHow is your space organized?

I have all of my machines along one wall, with the majority of my commonly used supplies around them. My ironing board is placed on top of two plastic organizer cabinets. That really saves space for me! Most of the fabric collection is in a closet and ongoing projects are in boxes on one wall.

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

Order? Fabric is supposed to have order?! I contemplated for a long time the idea of spreadsheets for my fabric. My stash is not unmanageable though (my family is not reading this — correct?!!) I have plastic bins that house categories of fabric – basic black/blue, suiting, children’s fabric, plain knits and different classes of wovens.  I have swatch sheets for each bin by the machines.  I’m pretty good at remembering what I have! My friend Kathi has a dream of having fabric hanging neatly in a closet – I aspire to that as well!

Couturesmith_shelvesHow are your patterns organized?

Numerically in a pattern cabinet that I picked up for five bucks at an auction! It was a steal. And it is fulllll! Oversized patterns (Jalie, Hot Patterns, etc.) are in some great fabricy containers that I picked up at Ikea. My vintage patterns are all in the bottom drawer willy-nilly. I keep my child patterns in one area as well.

Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?

This is an ongoing project. I have photos of all the patterns and will enter them, either on Bento or File Manager, with keywords to be able to search in an organized manner. The program I decide on will be dependant on the new laptop I get – Bento is for Macs and FileMaker is Windows-based. I guess you could say that I have delusions of order!

Couturesmith_dress_formsDo you have a mannequin made to measure?

I have (ahem) four mannequins. I have the usual dial-a-size mannequin that is good when I sew for the daughters. I have a duct-tape dummy, a Unique dress form that is a little bigger in the shoulders than me, and a pants form. The last two were picked up at the same auction sale as the pattern drawer. Each were five dollars!

If so, do you find it helpful?

Yes, they are helpful. Not necessarily for final fitting, but for draping and, on complicated patterns, to figure out what goes where and how things are supposed to twist!

What do you cut out your patterns on?

I have a pretty simple drop-down table that my husband made for me. It is waist high and is covered with vinyl fabric. I have tape measures secured on three sides, and a one-foot-grid drawn on it as well as 45-degree angles. I love everything about it except for the fact that if I don’t clean it up immediately after using it, it becomes a depository for everything. While I can’t rotary cut on it, I have two large mats that I can put on it if I need to.

What is your most helpful tool? Why?

For some reason, this is the most difficult question of the bunch! I would have to say my iron. It’s not a real fancy one, but it gets used for everything I do.

What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?

A good reference book, a good pair of scissors and a mechanical sewing machine. I don’t think that one needs to spend a lot of money on a machine, and a good, well-maintained and serviced sewing machine causes the fewest headaches. Cutting out fabric is the first step to sewing, and if you are frustrated by an el cheapo pair of hackers, chances are you are going to throw away the entire project before you give it a try.

What kind of machine do you use?

I have a Janome 7200. I also have an old Elna Supermatic (circa late 1960’s) that is a dream machine, and an industrial Singer that is a workhorse.

What do you like about them?

The Janome? It does a lot of stuff, um, I mean it’s versatile. Yeah, that’s it. It has a knee control, auto thread-cutter, needle up or down, good buttonholes. ; All that stuff. For my money, though, the Elna – straight stitch and zigzag – is the real gem. I actually sewed all the girls wedding dresses on it. Oh, and I also have a very old “grasshopper” and two vintage machines – one a toy Singer.

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

Oh, yes, I have those, too! I have a Janome MyLock that I got for Christmas at least 12 years ago. Like a Timex, it keeps on running! I also have a Pfaff Coverstitch 4852 that I haven’t really been able to befriend totally!

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

I moved into it three years ago, moving from a corner of the office downstairs. It is pretty well set the way it needs to be – so I guess it took a year or two of tweaking.

Be sure to stop by Monday, when we'll ogle the sewing room of Peter of Male Pattern Boldness. And also — blowing of trombones, please — find out who will take home Vogue Sewing and the lovely pin cushion made by the talented hands of The Cupcake Goddess. If you haven't entered, then do so. Right away.