Sewing spaces: The studio of Male Pattern Boldness isn't timid. October 11, 2010 07:34 5 Comments

Welcome the first male to be featured in Sewing Spaces. The very first. You probably already read Peter Lappin's blog Male Pattern Boldness. So witty. So clever. Never fails to entertain this seamstress wannabe. Never. (Peter, love the new boots. So Marlboro Man. So very. I think the jeans could be longer — but no more than an inch. Share your opinion with him, dear readers, but not until you complete this post. That's an order. Yes, I can be bossy. But just a bit. ) Now, without further ado, let's barge right into his sewing spot, packed with many machines and much sunlight.

Peter in cords he just made
Do you have a dedicated sewing space?

Yes and no.

My kitchen is where my true sewing table sits (the one with all the organized drawers full of notions beneath it). Unfortunately, it is currently covered with so many sewing machines that I can no longer really sew at it. There are two machines there I do use, though: my vintage Viking for winding bobbins and the Singer Spartan for buttonholes.

My second dedicated space is my living room: a small table in one corner has my serger on one end and my Singer 15-91 on the other. This is where I do most of my sewing these days. There's lots of natural light and fresh air there as it's next to our balcony door.

My treadle table is diagonally across from my Singer 15-91. It, too, sits in the living room where there's a lot of natural light. I got my treadle in September, and I'm using it more and more. I love sewing on it.

I have my body form in my living room, as well as my ironing board and patterns. I guess that makes my living room my true sewing area, don't you think?

Living room in disarray
What do you like best about your sewing area?

What I most appreciate about my living room sewing area is the natural light and fresh air (well, fresh for NYC). I like my table in the kitchen because it has all my supplies nearby. But in a small apartment, it takes two seconds to walk from the kitchen to the living room if I need to fetch, say, a tailor's ham.

What would you change about your space?

I would love to convert my whole living room into my sewing space. And it slowly seems to be happening! Once I started sewing in the living room with natural light, there was no going back into the kitchen.

How is your space organized?

I keep plastic boxes with notions beneath my sewing table in the kitchen. I keep my patterns in a credenza in the living room. My fabric stash is primarily in plastic boxes in the bedroom.

I keep a clear plastic art supply box atop my kitchen sewing table. That's where I store small items like needles, buttons and thread. It was my first organizational tool, and I once thought it would hold everything I'd be using (can you imagine?)!

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

My fabric stash is relatively small since I live so near the garment district in NYC. In one large plastic store box, I try to keep all my fabric that's leftover from earlier projects. In another box, I keep things like old sheets I'll use for muslins and various other scraps. In another box, I keep fabric I have bought for specific projects I haven't started yet.

I never buy fabric without a specific project in mind.

Credenza full of mens patterns
How are your patterns organized?

I sew men's clothing for myself and women's clothing for my cousin Cathy and a few other women in my life like my partner's mom or my mom. I keep the men's patterns in the left cabinet of my credenza and women's in the right cabinet. I have recently started using a sturdy fabric-covered storage box for extra patterns I've accumulated that are not my size or not my style. I fish through these from time to time, too.

Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?

I keep all my used patterns in large ziplock freezer bags. I never try to refold the pattern pieces back into the pattern envelope: an exercise in frustration. In the cabinets where I store my patterns, I try to keep the used patterns (in their plastic bags) on the upper shelf, and the unused patterns on the lower shelf.

They're not really archived in a formal way.

Do you have a mannequin made to measure?

I do not have a made-to-measure mannequin. I have a body form I bought on eBay — an adjustable women's form that was the only thing I could find for a 36" chest. The adjustable men's forms start at 38" as far as I can tell.

What do you cut out your patterns on?

I cut my patterns on my living room rug. I cut my fabric out on a large self-healing mat and a rotary cutter.

What is your most helpful tool? Why?

My most helpful tool is undoubtedly my iron. I depend on it tremendously and generally press every seam as I sew a project. I use a Black & Decker Digital Advantage D2030, no longer in production, unfortunately.

After that, my seam ripper. Always handy!

What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?

I strongly recommend buying an inexpensive vintage mechanical machine without a lot of bells and whistles for anyone sewing garments. Use it until you get a feel for what your needs are. Save your money. When I say inexpensive, I mean less than $100. There are a ton of mechanical machines from the 50s, 60s and 70s that are wonderful machines with a ton of life left in them: Kenmores, Singers, Vikings, to name a few popular brands. They're easy to maintain and to use. Look online on sites like eBay or Craiglist, or at your local thrift store or garage sales.

Peter's main sewing table in kitchen
What kind of machine do you use?

I have twelve sewing machines, but the ones I use most are my Singer 15-91 from the early 50s and my Singer 66, my treadle machine from 1920. These are both straight-stitch machines that handle everything from organza to multiple layers of leather flawlessly. No temperament whatsoever.

Most frequently used machine
What do you like about them?

These old Singers are mechanically simple. They only need to be oiled and delinted now and then, no tune-ups necessary. They stitch perfectly. No tension issues. Easy to use. Smooth running and easy to sew slowly with (which I prefer). I hate when machines race.

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

I use a Brother 1034D serger. I bought it because it has a great reputation, it's cheap (I bought mine refurbished for $175) and relatively easy to thread.

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

It's an ongoing process. I started in June of 2009, and it continues to this day! 

Don't forget: Later today, I will announce the winner of the handy sewing reference book Vogue Sewing and nifty Cupcake Goddess pin cushion. Do check back.

And Friday, we'll visit textile artist and blogger Myrna Giesbrecht's studio. It's luscious. Absolutely. Why, the woman has even written a book about sewing room organization. I am awed. Totally. Do we have something to learn from her? Can't answer for you, but, me, most definitely. Most. Yes indeed.