Sewing Spaces: She wrote the book on sewing rooms.
She did. Really. I am not pulling your legs (or your skirts!), boys and girls. You will find the name of today's Sewing Spaces star on the spine of Setting Up Your Sewing Space. It's out of print. It is. But dry your tears, because you can find Myrna Giesbrecht's book at Amazon. If, that is, you hurry. But first, read this interview. And after you've done so, and nabbed her book, check out her blog.
Do you have a dedicated sewing space?
Yes. Having a space of my own is really important to me. I've had one in every home I've lived in since I was eighteen. I refer to my sewing room as a studio, which more accurately describes how I feel about the space from a creative perspective.
What do you like best about your sewing area?
Besides being bright and big with lots of storage, what I like best about my studio is that it's fully mine and filled with creative potential. It's a place where I can escape, dream, create and connect. I can be alone there, or I can share it if I want to.
What would you change about your space?
This is my eleventh studio so I knew what I wanted when I designed it. That said, there were the usual limitations of any room. More space and more storage are always wonderful but not necessary. I've learned to maximize what I have.
My studio is just under 300 square feet. What I would change might seem rather silly. It's the shape of the room. The L shape makes it impossible to move the furniture around, which is something I like to do to create a new perspective, flow and change.
My studio is organized in stations including the computer desk, the construction desk, the work island and the design wall. Storage is designed in wherever possible. For example, both construction desks have storage shelves built underneath with baskets to hold supplies. The computer desk has shelves above for the same reason. Relevant supplies are kept near the station where they'll be used.
If you have a fabric stash, how do you impose order?
I designate a specific amount of space to each item in my studio, and when that space is full, I either sew up or sort out supplies before buying more. I only returned to fashion sewing a year ago. There's so much to explore. I see creative potential on the sales racks all the time which means I've been stashing up a LOT, and the fashion fabrics have been pushing for more space.
Fashion fabrics are stored in the closet away from light. Recently, I cleaned off a shelf of stuff that wasn't being used so there would be more room for fashion fabrics. I keep them in banker's boxes on the shelves. These can be bought in bulk at a stationary store. The yardage is folded to fit into the box on point with the edge visible so I can see what I have at all times.
How are your patterns organized?
A few months ago, I bought a dresser from Ikea that is perfect. It has deep drawers and fits four rows of patterns side by side. Within the drawers, the patterns are sorted into categories, such as tops, pants, jackets, dresses and wardrobe. I have about 400 patterns.
Patterns are handled in the same way as the fabric. If I want more and there's no room left, I have to get rid of some. Lately, I've been paying more attention to the patterns that I already have and especially to the line drawings. Because of uninspiring cover photos, I've forgotten why I bought that pattern and have been passing over several that would be interesting to sew.
Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?
At one time, I had an extensive pattern tracking system. Actually, I had a lot of labor-intensive tracking systems. Now, neat and accessible is more important. I'd rather spend my time creating than organizing.
I trace the pattern before sewing it and make any alterations to the traced pattern instead of the original. The tracings are stored in the same envelope as the original along with any notes for future projects. That's about as complicated as it gets. If I have a muslin, I'll put it in a plastic bag with the pattern and keep them together until I sew the garment. That way, if it takes a while to get to that pattern, I can try the muslin on again and keep going.
Do you have a mannequin made to measure? If so, do you find it helpful?
I don't have one made to measure, but I do have an adjustable mannequin that works wonderfully. She has a padded bra to bring her up to my size and position, and a slippery little black dress that makes putting garments on and off easier. Both make a huge difference. Straight out of the box wouldn't have worked as well.
I sewed for a long time without a mannequin, and now that I have one, I wonder how I did that. It's helpful for draping, analyzing and designing. Years ago, I sewed everything from lingerie to outerwear. Then I spent twenty years as a textile artist using the large flannel wall you see in the images to design the art pieces. My mannequin, Millicent, is the fashion sewing equivalent.
What do you cut out your patterns on?
The work island is 40" x 60" and made from cabinetry like the island in a kitchen. The surface is covered with a countertop and then a pressing board. This allows me to both cut out patterns and work on construction on this surface.
Under one end, there are shelves for yarn. Facing toward my sewing machine are shelves for thread and at the back is a drawer for cutting equipment and a cupboard with shelves for more storage. One side is up against a wall due to space limitations. It would be even better if I could walk all the way around.
What is your most helpful tool? Why?
I tend toward a few quality tools and not a lot of gadgets. Pressing is a critical component to creating a well-finished garment, so I'm quite fussy about my iron and pressing surface. A relatively recent acquisition that has turned out to be quite useful is a sleeve board. I press most seams over it now as the firm reflective surface makes for a good press.
There are a lot of glass jars in my studio. I use recycled jam jars for buttons and canning jars for thread as well as vases and other containers. What I like about these is that they're similar-sized which makes storage easy, clear so that I can see what I have, and inexpensive so it doesn't cost me a fortune.
What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?
Quality tools make the difference between enjoying sewing and drudgery. Scissors that actually cut. A machine the stitches evenly. Pins and needles that glide like butter. Solid marking tools. You don't need a lot, but what you buy should do the trick exceptionally well. Price isn't always the measure, nor is complexity. Simple tools often produce the best results. Clover has an excellent name in both sewing and knitting. I have a lot of their products.
Do you keep a sewing library? If so, what book would you recommend to beginners?
Two books I find invaluable are Fit For Real People and Pants for Real People by Palmer/Pletsch. Both contain great advice and excellent illustrations. I also like Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina. These are technical books that help achieve good fit. My books are either technical or inspirational. Books like The Art of Manipulating Fabric help me create unique looks.
What kind of machine do you use? What do you like about it?
My machine is an older Bernina 1020 that I bought years ago when I was only creating textile art pieces. Now that I'm sewing fashions again, I've discovered that it works equally wonderful for these. I prefer a "clean" sewing machine without a lot of features. This one is solid, functions smoothly and creates an even straight stitch, a smooth satin stitch, and a well-worked buttonhole, as well as balanced free-motion threadwork. That's enough for me.
Do you use a serger? If so, why do you like it?
I bought my first serger twenty-five years ago and wore it out. Last year, I bought a Janome 1110 DX. It produces a clean, even seam finish which is the main reason I own a serger. Although it does much more, I don't do a lot of fancy work.
How long did it take you to develop your sewing space?
As I mentioned, this is my eleventh studio since turning eighteen so that's thirty years. Organization of space is something I'm really drawn to. I trained as an interior designer and wrote Setting Up Your Sewing Space years ago and used to teach an online class called Studio Makeover.
At first, my studio was all about organization in a practical way. My book is very much about the practical. However, as time went on, my studio became more about having a space that met my creative AND my emotional needs, one that was womblike.
One of the favorite features of my studio is the curl-up chair. It's a large chair and a half and sits right in front of the window with a view of the valley. I spend a lot of time in that chair reading, doing hand-work, knitting and dreaming while staring off into space. My studio is my go-to place. It's the room I spend the most time in. It nurtures me.
Warning: I will be inspecting all of your sewing rooms bright and early Monday to see if they are this organized. I shall be the drill sergeant of sewing rooms. Absolutely. And don't laugh at me or roll your eyes like my dustbunnies do. Do not. That's an order. I mean it.
Be sure to read Sewing Spaces Monday, when we visit Sigrid of Sigrid - sewing projects. Also, if you sew for a PVYT, don't forget to enter the drawing for an Oliver + S dress pattern and the fabric to make it. The deadline draws near. It does.