My Sewing Space Tour!

Now that the final boxes have been unpacked (somewhat reluctantly) and my new apartment is looking presentable, I thought that it was about time to give you all a tour of my new sewing room! This move was an exciting one for me, largely because I’ve been living without a creative space for the first half of 2019. While searching for a new place, the need to have a designated work area (however big or small) was at the front of my mind and I really lucked out in finding an apartment that met every single one of my needs. Those of you who’ve been following Sew for Victory for some time may recall the cute and cosy sewing room that I was lucky enough to have in my first American abode. Although on the smaller size, the room was abundant with storage and natural light and ended up being the part of the house in which I felt most completely at home (largely because it was filled with the stuff that I’d paid many hundreds of dollars to ship over with me). Now in my new flat, my sewing room is far more spacious and I’m in love with the amount of room that I have!

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Important to me (although not an essential part of what I was looking for), the wooden flooring combined with the spaciousness of the room gives plenty of space for pattern cutting. This was a real problem in my last place. My sewing room was carpeted and the rest of the apartment, although floored with wood, was bedecked with the kind of original wooden flooring that is both incredibly splintered and not particularly smooth. Anything that can help to reduce my tally of workplace injuries is always good by me and this room’s smooth laminate is just about as perfect as it gets for avoiding splinters whilst still able to lay out large amounts of fabric. You’ll also notice that this apartment is pretty incredible when it comes to natural light. I was slightly concerned about lighting levels pre-move. The apartment is basement-level and its window sills are pretty much inline with the ground outside. Paired with the fact that the building itself is relatively tall, I figured that light was going to be somewhat hard to come by. Fortunately, the angle of the sun works perfectly for giving me plenty of light, whilst avoiding the blinding midday period that made sewing almost impossible in my old space. I’m also lucky enough to have a fountain right outside of the window above my sewing table, making this probably the most scenic place that I’ve had to sew in.

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Happily, there’s also plenty of room right next to my sewing table for my clothes rail and mannequin. This fact is truly testament to the space’s comfortable size. My previous sewing room necessitated a game of real-life tetris as I attempted to fit my (very) large work table in the space, alongside my ironing board, mannequin, and clothing rail. Needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for manoeuvre. But everything now has a place for itself and I can actually step back to appreciate all of the bits and pieces that I’ve sewn over the past couple of years!

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One of the big downsides of the new sewing room (compared with the one in my old apartment) is the lack of storage. Since this is meant to be a second bedroom, it’s unsurprising that the space comes with a simple, single-sized wardrobe. The problem is that I was totally spoiled in my previous sewing room, which came equipped with the biggest cupboard I’ve ever seen – complete with a small staircase so that you could climb into it. The cupboard was so large that I filled it with my entire fabric stash, all of my other bits and bobs, my entire sewing library, and still barely took up half of the space. To compensate for the lack of storage here, I decided to buy my own. Always enjoying an opportunity to nosy in on other people’s sewing set-ups, I’d noticed that cube storage is super popular as a way to organise everything. So I got myself down to Target (truly my favourite thing about America and the greatest shop in the world) and bought a white cube storage system, to match my IKEA work table.

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I’m absolutely in love with this thing. It has so much space and, although I managed to fill it up pretty quickly, accommodates most of my sewing supply (as well as my continually growing library). Since I’m not allowed to stick anything on the walls here, I’ve also used the top to support my notice board and various trinkets. For now, my fabric stash is confined to the shelves at the top of the wardrobe – until I can search out a better storage solution (probably something that I can fit into the bottom of the wardrobe). Suggestions welcome!

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Given the size of the room and the fact that I’m balancing time between Sew For Victory and my other online endeavour – The Book Habit – I decided to add a reading corner to my work space. This has a couple of functions. Giving me a designated place for reading and writing, it also has a super comfy chair for my husband (or, let’s face it, mostly my dog) to occupy whenever I’m at the sewing table. This was a problem in my old apartment. The room was so small that there was nowhere for either of my family members to perch themselves while I worked and this, in itself, made it so much harder for me to motivate myself while they were around. Having somewhere for them is just perfect – especially while I work to re-establish a sewing habit. We actually picked the little sofa up at a thrift store for $15 and somehow managed to manhandle it into the back of our car (much to the consternation of the shop’s employees). It was an excellent find! The rug was a $20 Amazon find and the favourite purchase of my tiny dog (Miss Elizabeth Bennet) who loves to rub herself all over it. The bookshelves are the only feature of the room that still requires attention. My plan is to spray-paint them white to match the rest of the decor (or, more likely, wait until I have the money to buy new white shelves, since I know nothing about spray-painting).

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So there we have it! This sewing room definitely makes the wait for a new place totally worth it and has already proved a sufficiently inspiring space in which to work. While two years into my American adventure and still searching for a sense of home, having a space like this is one of the most important elements of grounding myself in a place that remains incredibly foreign. Much of my sewing collection has travelled with me across continents. It’s moved with me from home to home, occupying each of the five places that I’ve lived over the past 2.5 years. Much the same as I feel when it comes to my book collection, my hobbies and their accompanying inventories of stuff have been some of the few things that I’ve been able to carry with me as I’ve uprooted my life and worked to establish a new home for myself. Having this sewing space and being able to share it with you is such a joyous thing. It’s less about the space itself and more about what it represents – a sense of home and belonging that can often be incredibly hard to achieve. Whether your creative space is an entire room or the corner of a dining room table, whether it’s full of fabric or confined to a single box, I hope that it fills you with the same sense of contented joy and grounding that I feel whenever I look at my own.

My Super Summer Sewing Plans (Or ‘How I Will Finally Tackle My Monster Fabric Stash’)

Thank you to everyone for your lovely words and well wishes on last week’s post. As someone who has struggled with mental illness for most of my life and continues to advocate for the incredible benefits of creativity to health and wellbeing, it’s not easy to openly confront/admit to continued challenges. However, it’s also clear to me that nothing in life works with the mythical convenience of a panacea. Creative outlets – much like my experiences with medication and therapy – are vitally important components of my efforts to overcome mental illness. But (at least, in my experience) they work most effectively when used in conjunction with one another. My life with anxiety, depression, self-harm – and the various other manifestations that my struggles take – is one of peaks and troughs. I’ve never wanted to give the impression that I’m ‘recovered’ and now live a life totally untouched by these issues. In fact, too much of the discussion around mental illness is told from the perspective of ‘survivors’ or those who are now considered free-and-clear. It’s an appealing picture but one that doesn’t fully capture the months of peaceful, productive existence followed by months of crippling panic and sadness that represent the experiences of so many. All of this to say that I’m truly grateful for the kindness of everyone who has reached out with understanding and positive wishes for my health, particularly as I’m reintegrating some serious sewing back into my routine!

Enough with the serious stuff! I’m here to talk summer sewing plans and my continued efforts to diminish my fabric stash. Now that I’m back to sewing, it’s inevitable that I will once again start to accrue fabric at a baffling rate. I honestly hadn’t been too concerned with the size of my personal haberdashery until we moved into our new place and I was faced with the incredible challenge of finding adequate storage for everything. The sewing room in our old apartment had the benefit of an incredibly large wardrobe/cupboard (so big that there were steps to climb into it – so something of a Mary Poppins carpet bag set-up). Faced with normal-sized cupboards, I realised quite how dramatic my fabric collection has become. So, in an effort to get my stash down to more manageable proportions, I figured that I should put together some plans for the summer months and start to work through those fabrics that have found themselves languishing in my sewing spaces for too long.

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1. Sew Over It Jessie Coatigan 

Also known as Laura’s own, personal version of ‘A NeverEnding Story’. This is the project that I had left half-completed when I stopped sewing last year. It’s still resting, in its sad, frayed state, on my mannequin and I’m determined to finally get it finished. Let’s ignore the fact that I’m going to be sewing a hefty coat/cardigan whilst suffering through the 37C weather – this project has got to be finished before I can let myself get on with anything new. And there are some truly tempting pattern/fabric combinations that I have lined up for myself. So here’s hoping that this serves as adequate inducement to finally tackle my sad, neglected Sew Over It Coatigan. At least I’ll be well prepared once autumn comes around!

2. Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress

I’ve already had a tremendously successful encounter with this pattern, resulting in one of my very favourite makes. When I picked up some of Rifle Paper Co’s incredible Alice in Wonderland fabric, I was immediately determined to use it in another version of Sew Over It’s amazing shirt dress pattern. Anyone who has found themselves feeling creatively uninspired will probably know the draw that some beautiful fabric can hold. During my time away from the sewing machine, this is the fabric that kept whispering sweet inducements to get me back at the pedal. I’m so excited to see how this one comes out – particularly since it’s a dress that can be easily styled for both summer and autumn!

3. Untitled Thoughts Matilda Wrap Dress

I’ve had the most beautiful stretch fabric waiting its turn in my fabric stash for well-over a year – the victim of some continuous changes to my sewing plans (as well, obviously, as my lack of sewing for all of 2019). One of the motivating thoughts that I’ve had at the back of my mind as I attempt to get back into a sewing routine is my brother’s wedding in October. I haven’t felt particularly pressured to create something, although it would be really nice to be able to wear something that I’ve made specifically for that day. I also desperately want to avoid the hours of shop trawling that would be the inevitable consequence of my decision to not make something myself. My current thought is that this fabric – combined with the Matilda Wrap Dress pattern from Untitled Thoughts – would work as a contender. Even if I decide not to go with it, I think that it will make for a beautiful dress!

My fabric is actually so close to that from Untitled Thoughts’ own version!

So those are my immediate sewing plans – probably sufficient to see me through the summer and definitely enough to have me really excited to be back at the sewing machine. I’m hoping that my summery makes will be done in adequate time to actually enjoy them before the leaves start falling! What are your summer sewing plans? Let me know down in the comments!

 

 

Still Alive And Back To Sewing!

Well it’s been a while, my friends! Over six months since I last posted and about the same length of time since I last touched a sewing machine (I know, it’s almost sacrilegious!). As those of you who have been following me for a while would have likely sensed, life got a little tumultuous toward the end of 2018. I was approaching a year and a half in the US, grappling with the fact that I still hadn’t really established any foundations for myself in this new place, and continuing to struggle in various ways with my mental health. I’ve always been advocate of the ‘take what you need, leave what you don’t’ approach to life and, at the time, sewing became less and less of a priority. This was, in large part, a result of an increasingly difficult living situation (anyone who has experienced the joy of nightmare neighbours will empathise) and a desire to be basically anywhere but my apartment. Enter six months of life changes – we moved out of our place and into my in-laws. I took the time to work through my own challenges and focus on the things that were making me feel good. Absent any available sewing space, however, writing on Sew For Victory felt a little redundant. Fortunately, my husband and I finally found a new apartment that we love, moved in, and I now have a designated sewing space back (which is not only perfectly proportioned but, most importantly, incredibly quiet). I’ve been getting stuck back into the projects that have been on hiatus for months and thought that it was about time to bring my attention back around to Sew For Victory.

I’ve missed you all and am so incredibly grateful to those of you who have remained around and been checking up on me. It’s been a challenging few months and certainly a lesson in the fact that, more than anything, progress is never linear. I know that I’ll be sharing more on this over the coming weeks, particularly as I work to reestablish the habits and routines that have been so important to me over the past few years. But I wanted to take this opportunity to stop in and let you all know that something approaching ‘normal service’ will resume again next week. We have so much to catch up on and I’m truly looking forward to chatting with you all again!

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of my The Little Prince-inspired Rosie skirt (taken from Sew Over It’s Rosie dress pattern) – a make that I finished up a year ago and never got around to posting or reviewing. I’ll be doing a long over-due pattern review in the next couple of weeks so look out for that. This photo is stolen from my other endeavour – The Book Habit – where you can catch more of my writing, as well as find me on Instagram posting about all things book-related. So, if that’s your jam, you can also check me out there!

Le Petit Prince