Sewing Spaces: See where Robin does a little sewing. Or a lot.
Robin is a business analyst in Maryland who enjoys doing A Little Sewing on the side. (It seems to this procrastinator that she does quite a lot of sewing.) She has put her analytical skills to use in developing her sewing room. And ? I am tempted to reach out through cyberspace and slap her in a fit of envy ? she has a Wolf Dress Form. But. I won't. Because I am so nice. I am. Absolutely. So. Let's tour her space. And ogle the dress form.
Do you have a dedicated sewing space?
Yes, and I just happen to be finishing a huge cleanup. It is squeaky (freaky) clean right now! I can't wait to mess it up again.
What do you like best about your sewing area?
It is always set up and ready for me to settle in for a nice relaxing and creative sewing session. I like having a TV and comfortable seating, so my husband feels free to hang out while I sew. Thanks to him, I have developed an appreciation for motorcycle racing. When I am sewing something difficult, I block out everything around me.
What would you change about your space?
It would have magic powers to give me more hours in a day.
I like to work in a U-shaped layout with sewing machines on one side, sergers on one side, and pressing area on one side. I used to press on an ironing board set to the same height as my sewing tables. A couple years ago, I switched to a larger counter-height pressing center. Although I have to stand up and sit down a lot, I prefer moving around. If I hunch over my work too long, I get stiff neck muscles. Also, I hate to sew facing a wall.
If you have a fabric stash, how do you impose order?
Fabrics are stacked on a shelving unit where I can see them, and I have a closet where I can store some home dec fabrics and other bulky stuff like fleece and batting.
How are your patterns organized?
I don't have many patterns. I sew the same things over and over, with minor changes to design details. If patterns fit me straight out of
the envelope, I am sure I'd have a zillion. Fitting has been my biggest challenge as a seamstress. My small pattern stash fits into a single drawer in the file cabinet. In my cutting area, I have my own fitted blocks (bodices, sleeves, skirts, pants, etc) that hang from the wall using push-pins. When I buy a commercial pattern, I don't reinvent the wheel trying to make it fit me. I take just the design details and morph them onto one of my existing blocks. For example, I'll trace off the lapels from the commercial pattern, trace a copy of my fitted bodice and tape them together. In a nutshell, I do the Franken-pattern thing. It saves me from making a lot of muslins.
Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?
I use Ziplock baggies for my Franken-patterns. I write the pattern name/number and date on the baggie with a Sharpee. I keep pattern magazines on the bookcase along with my Threads magazines and books.
Do you have a mannequin made to measure?
Yes! I have a very recently acquired a dress form custom-made to my measurements. That was an exciting purchase. I visited Wolf Dress Forms in Englewood, NJ, a couple of times over the summer. I just picked up the completed dress form last week. It is quite remarkable how well my sewn garments fit the dress form. My only complaint is that my own figure is not as firm and smooth as the dress form. Boo hoo.
Do you find it helpful?
My expectation is that I will not spend as much time trying on the muslin, looking in the mirror, taking it off, making a change, trying it back on, looking in the mirror, guessing what it needs, taking it off, making a change, trying it back on . . . .
What do you cut out your patterns on?
A hollow-core door laid across a twin-bed frame. Both the headboard and the footboard are 38? high. It doubles as a guest bed. It's fantastic. I love it. I use a large self-healing cutting mat. The brand is Megamat, and I purchased it online from Atlanta Thread and Supply. It is nice to measure, adjust and otherwise perform all pattern surgery at a comfortable table before sitting down to sew.
What is your most helpful tool? Why?
The huge cutting table is pretty great. I am a big fan of using pattern weights and a rotary cutter. I find it speeds up the process.
What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?
A beginner needs a trouble-free sewing machine. In my opinion, it's hard to beat a midrange Sears Kenmore for economical-but-still-good-quality sewing machine. If I were a beginner with a jones for a vintage machine, I would make sure to plunk down the $90 (or whatever) to get it serviced. I have struggled with finicky machines, and it takes the joy out of sewing!
You'll also need sharp scissors, seam ripper, measuring tape, pins, needles, all-purpose polyester thread and an iron. I also recommend something like a fishing tackle box for storing the pins, scissors, threads and stuff. I sewed like that for many years. The sewing machine and the tackle box got tucked away in the closet when not in use.
And if you are reading this, you already know about the internet. My sewing improved a great deal when I started reading sewing blogs. People are so generous with their knowledge.
What kind of machine do you use?
Oh, I feel so spoiled to answer this question because I love both of my machines so much! I sew on a Bernina Aurora 430 and a Pfaff 2042 Quilt Style.
What do you like about them?
The machines have different strengths, so I will compare them and why I like these two machines so much. The Bernina presser foot applies heavy pressure, and, like most machines, the feed dogs move the fabric. There are a variety of specialty feet, which are very precisely engineered. Results are uniform. That means perfect topstitching every time.
The Pfaff, on the other hand, has what is basically a narrow built-in walking foot and fairly light presser foot pressure. The fabric is fed from above and below at the same time. This keeps the fabric lined up nicely with very little effort. Fussy fabrics glide right on through without getting sucked down into the feed dogs. Since the walking foot is so narrow, you can sew narrow seams on knits or silks. Of course, both of these machines do a fine job on any type of fabric.
Every sewist develops little tricks to get nice results and avoid pitfalls. For lingerie, swimwear and knit clothing, I adore the Pfaff. For tailoring, shirtmaking, dressmaking and other woven fabrics, I love the Bernina.
Do you use a serger? If so, why do you like it?
Sergers are great for fast, easy and consistent results to finish seams. I definitely love mine. I think I like it as much for cutting the seam allowance as for finishing the edge. For example, denim will fade over time. As the edges of the seam allowances start showing through on the outer side, I want those wear marks to be perfectly straight. It gives a nice RTW finish. But I would not say a serger is essential ? just nice to have.
How long did it take you to develop your sewing space?
When I first decided to create a dedicated sewing space, I referred to a book called Dream Sewing Spaces by Lynnette Ranney Black. I played around with graph paper to pack the most function into the space I had. That helped me get a good setup right from the start. I am sure it will continue to evolve. I try to clean and re-organize about once a year. Thanks for stopping by!