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 Sewing Room: A Tour

Unless this is your first time reading Sew for Victory (in which case, hello and a massive welcome to you!), you’ll know that I only recently moved to the US and in to a new apartment. After many months of the nomadic lifestyle, I’m finally settled in one place and have actually managed to set up a permanent home for my sewing projects. It’s amazing how much it has transformed my motivation to sew. Big tip – if you feel yourself losing that precious sewjo, it is always a great idea to revamp your sewing space. However big or small the changes (and however big or small the space) some adjustments can make it a far more attractive place to be. Paint your table a new colour, add some inspirational pictures to the wall, find a new storage system – there are so many quick and inexpensive things that you can do. If you have any particular tips, feel free to share in the comments!

Now that everything’s finally in its place, I thought I would share some pics and details with you all. I hope that you enjoy!

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The table (a LINNMON/FINNVARD combination) and chair (a VAGSBERG/SPORREN combination) are from IKEA, of course! A wedding present from my lovely brother and his girlfriend. The table I picked was their longest variation – I had some concerns that it would look far too long but it actually allows plenty of space for my sewing machine and serger, as well as lots of room either side for my cutting mat and other bits. It also makes for a great cutting table, given the length. I’m honestly so happy with it. And the chair’s surprisingly comfy, too!

There is also just so much natural light that I barely have to use my overhead light (unless it’s dark, of course). Such an advantage of the apartment’s massive windows.

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Since we rent, I can’t actually paint any of the walls. So I’ve compromised by decorating with my favourite inspirational pieces and some pretty stickers. The noticeboard has also come in super handy as somewhere to hang postcards and my favourite packs of buttons. I’ve been using some heart pins that I got from Joann’s to stick things on the board and they’re working super well. Plus they’re incredibly cute!

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The parts of my sewing library that I use pretty regularly are on my windowsill. I also have some bits and pieces (mostly older books and magazines that I want to protect from sunlight) in my massive cupboard.

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Side note: a regular book holder (I got mine for about £2 on Amazon in the UK) is AMAZING for patterns. I love being able to have my pattern propped up and so accessible. It’s far easier to use than having it lying flat on the table, since you can actually read it and sew at the same time. If your pattern instructions are in a book, it works even better! Honestly one of the best investments I’ve made.

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I bought a cheap stand-alone clothing rail for hanging my me-made clothes. I found the lack of a designated rail such a problem in my previous sewing spaces. I would hang everything in the wardrobe and, since I’m constantly making alterations and changes on things, I found that I was constantly having to go back and forth to the bedroom to pull garments. With the clothing rail, I have all of my clothes and ongoing projects in one place. I also have a built-in rail inside my sewing room cupboard, which I use for hanging non-me-made clothes that are in my alteration or fixing pile.

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One of the biggest selling points of this apartment for me was just how incredibly this room was suited to sewing. The cupboard, especially, was ideal storage. It came with a cork board already installed on the back of the door which I’ve been using to hang my threads and bobbins (the hooks are long enough that I can fit both the thread and its matching bobbin on there, which is a great way of keeping them together). Obviously my thread collection is being rebuilt since all of my notions had to stay in the UK, so there’s not much going on right now!

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I love love love this cupboard! The apartment itself is from the early 1900s and this cupboard totally speaks to that. It has steps built in and many shelves far above where I’m currently storing. There is just SO MUCH SPACE. At the moment, I’m working on rebuilding my fabric/notions collections so there’s still plenty of room. But I love that there is so much potential and it makes everything so easily accessible!

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So that’s about it! It’s been a journey to get to this place and my husband has been so incredibly understanding of my need to have a designated space for my sewing – in fact, he never questioned what this extra room would be used for! I’ve worked on my sewing in such an array of places – a dining room table, a narrow hallway, an annex. It is just such a luxury to have somewhere to go and sew without interruption.

I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to share my space with you. If you have links to any blog posts or photos of your own sewing area, definitely drop them in the comments. I always love to have a nose at other people’s spaces!

Project Updates!

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts – mostly because the mayhem of everyday life had basically eliminated my sewing time. Since being in my new place, however, I’ve been totally reinvigorated with the urge to plan projects and actually make progress on my ongoing makes. This is largely thanks to having my own designated sewing space, which is no longer just a sea of boxes and bags of material. I’ll be writing a more detailed post all about my sewing space – and tips on making your designated sewing area work for you – very soon. In the meantime, a sneak peak. From this…

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To this…

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It’s truly a perfect little space. After 8 months of moving from place to place, it’s wonderful to finally be somewhere permanent where I can invest in my sewing set-up! This room was the site of my recent triumph with the Tyyni trousers – one of my favourite patterns to-date and certainly one of the most wearable.

Since my foray into trouser-making, I’ve actually been reflecting hard on the direction of my sewing. Sew for Victory and my decision to take up sewing in the first place were very much a product of my love for vintage fashion. I wanted to have the skills to make vintage clothes with complete freedom – and without the associated price-tag of reproduction or genuine vintage clothes. Vintage fashion is what I love to sew. However, I have been finding problems with wearability. There are many people who feel comfortable – and look amazing – decked out in 1950s clothes, hair, and make-up on an everyday basis. I’m not one of those people. My style has split personalities. Special occasions definitely call for me to root through my vintage makes for something appropriate. But, otherwise, I typically go for optimal comfort or what I would identify as a more European style of dress. To stop it getting a bit dispiriting looking at a rack of me-made clothes that I don’t get as much use out of, I’ve decided to alternate my makes – one everyday item to every one vintage piece. While I’m going to try to keep the everyday makes as vintage as possible – similar to the vintage flair of the Tyyni trousers – I want to strike a better balance with my sewing. I think that this approach will let me continue to make the vintage clothes that I love so much, while also ensuring that I build a wardrobe of more wearable items. If any of you have grappled with similar issues, definitely let me know how you struck a better balance in what you sew!

Anyway, enough soul searching and onto my current projects. When I decide to make something, it’s typically the case that I’ve stumbled upon a pattern I love. Turning this on its head, my current make is instead inspired by a fabric that I fell head-over-heels for as soon as I saw it. For any Harry Potter fans out there, you’ll understand why…

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The cutest fabric in the universe. As you can see, I decided to have a go at making the Zadie dress from Tilly and the Buttons. I’ve loved the look of this pattern for ages but have always avoided knit fabric. In fact, until this fabric turned up, I didn’t even realise that it was knit! After my success with trouser-making, however, I’m feeling extra brave and ready to take on the challenge. That said, I came up against a problem almost immediately. I took great pains to research every aspect of working with knit fabric. When it came to cutting, I made sure that I treated the fabric as well as I possibly could. To ensure that I cut perfectly on grain, I even followed and pinned the ribbing up the fold. It took me forever. Then, after cutting out my pieces and getting ready to sew, I realised that I had cut my skirt and bodice pieces upside down.

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Many, many tears ensued. I think mostly because I was so disappointed in myself for making such an elementary mistake. I’ve never worked with one-directional fabric before and it hadn’t even occurred to me that I would need to worry about cutting my pattern pieces appropriately. And my sadness only got worse when I found out that the company I’d ordered the fabric from was out of stock. My husband spent an entire evening trying to source it from elsewhere – making calls and sending emails – but we found nothing. In the end, I figured that the only way forward would be to either scrap the project entirely or to try and make it work on the fabric that I still have. I managed to recut the bodice pieces from some remnants. The skirt was the real issue. In this instance, I had to reshape and resize the pieces to fit on the existing pieces of skirt fabric – basically turning them upside down. I mocked up a version with some cheap knit fabric to see if it would work and it seems like it should – although it’s difficult to gauge on this particular pattern because there are a lot of different parts to the dress. So keep your fingers crossed for me and hopefully I’ll have a dress to show you before long!

To keep me from getting too depressed about my silliness, I’ve also had my eyes on a project to come after this one. For those of you who are on Instagram (there’s a link to my profile in the sidebar for anyone interested), you might have already seen the Sewing the Scene challenge. This challenge is asking participants to sew a garment inspired by a film or a TV show. I’m definitely feeling the potential here and I’ve been searching around trying to settle on something that I could make. There are just so many options! If you’re planning on participating, definitely let me know. I’d love to hear what you’re up to and follow your process.

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That’s all for now. I’ll be back on Friday with a new My Vintage Life post – I’m planning a really great one, so I hope you’ll stop by. In the meantime, happy Wednesday!

Claiming Your Space

Hi chickadees and chickadudes!

I hope that this week has been treating you well. I’ve been poorly – explaining my brief disappearance from the site. It also means that the long awaited Joan dress is a little more delayed. Fortunately, it’s pretty much done and I should have pics for you soon!

A couple of weeks ago I answered some questions for the awesome sewing social site, The Fold Line (if you haven’t checked it out – you must. It is the home for my group of 20-something sewers and lots of other cool ways to connect with fellow sewers). The fabulous Kate and Rachel who run The Fold Line wanted some info on Sew for Victory to preview on the site. One particular thing they asked for was a picture of my sewing space. Well, it suddenly occurred to me that – as the creative centre for sewers of all levels – the sewing space is a hugely under-celebrated component of the whole sewing process.

I live in a tiny terraced house – about as narrow as a house comes. So creating a space specifically for my sewing was a challenge. Fortunately, a little creative furniture movement and a cool IKEA craft table left me with a perfect area for all of my sewing needs!

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Obviously the ability to develop a designated sewing space depends totally on what you’ve got available. But even if you’re making do with a corner of the dining room table, there are a few essential things that you can do to make sure that the space is your own:

  1. Get good storage for sewing supplies – My IKEA table has a couple of compartments in the legs that I use to store my patterns. But I use second-hand plastic boxes for everything else – mostly for my fabric stash. Just make sure that you’ve got easy access to everything you could need. There’s nothing worse than taking time out of sewing to hunt for your carbon paper/tracing wheel/thread etc.
  2. Sewing books/magazines – I’m always referring to my various instructional books when I need a bit of guidance. So having them on hand is a must. I also have a kindle station set up if I need to Youtube anything (or, more likely, watch Midsomer Murders while I sew).
  3. Inspiration – For me, this is probably the most important thing (other than a sewing machine, of course). I keep my vintage magazines nearby, plus a couple of quirky bits-and-pieces that always cheer me up. Whether it’s sewing-specific inspiration, or simply something to make you smile on a rainy day, it will totally amplify your sewing experience. Trust.

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Whatever you decide to do – and whatever you have to work with – your sewing space should be an area that you love to be. And an area where you feel as awesome as you are!

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Love you all x