Designer Duds for the Garden and a Tip

Who says gardening can’t be fashionable? I recently finished a second pair of overalls for myself and my husband, and I used designer fabric to boot. It’s a Ralph Lauren denim (sold out?) from our local fabric maven Roz at Sew Much Fabric.

They’re a bit big to photograph together; I tried to lay them out on the sofa.

Here are mine again pinned to my dress form.

It’s the same pattern I used last time, Kwik Sew 3897. It says misses but when I compared it to a men’s pattern, it was pretty much the same, so I used it for both of us.

I embroidered my pockets with a cute little gingko design from Urban Threads,

and did traditional topstitching on my husband’s pockets.

,A quick tip: turning denim as for the straps here, can be a bit difficult, most “tube turning tools” aren’t designed for heavier fabrics. So, I created my own: I used a rod from a HangIt DangIt© quilt hanger. It’s very sturdy and has a much larger diameter than most turning tools.

After you sew, press and trim your tube, get it started at one end by pushing in your thumb a bit, then push it down onto the device of your choice, then keep pulling until your tube is turned. It’s kinda like those water toys we used to have, they continually turn themselves inside out – do they still make those?

Then once it’s right-side-out, you can straighten it, poke your corners out and press before topstitching. Try it next time you have a heavy fabric to turn!

Some of you may have noticed a small hole on either side of the bib in the second pair of overalls; this is because I mis-placed the buttons; they actually needed to be a little closer in. Unfortunately bachelor buttons leave holes in the fabric, so after removing them I used a little fray block to keep the fabric from unraveling.

I’ll have to make a note on the pattern so I don’t do it again!

The New Sewing Studio – a Tour

Organizing in progress; that’s Rosie in the middle. He’s OK with the vacuuming but doesn’t do baseboards or the mopping…

It’s hard to believe we moved in seven months ago – time is really flying for us this year. All the remodeling is done, I’ve moved back in to my new studio, and everything is fairly well in place and organized.

It’s a single, large room – 19 ft x 19 ft – with my main sewing table holding my Solaris, Sunny, along with a second sewing table that holds my Sashiko machine, in the center of the room. With the leaf left in place, I have a 70- by 53-inch work area, where I can sew large items like curtains, do quilting on my regular machine or Sashiko, and have space for cutting and layout. When I need extra (though I can’t imagine it!), I can deploy the side tables and extend my worktop to an amazing 102 by 53 inches – wow!

Under the main table on both sides, I have my “in progress” project drawers, as well as table leaves and inserts.

Just behind the main table is my serger Gargantua, a Triumph, sitting cozy in his own table. I can easily turn from my main machine to my serger with a spin of my chair – it makes using both machines together a breeze.

On the other side of the main table is a side table, used for storing equipment and paper work, among other items. Also on this wall are the bookcase and main storage cabinets – four “pantries” that are 24 by 24 inches, and seven feet tall. The majority of my fabrics, as well as notions, cutting dies and a few other things are stored here. The top of the cabinets is a good place for large, lightweight things like batting.

Across from the main table are two windows looking out on a side yard, where I hope to have my future kitchen garden, and can have something really nice to look at while I sew. My dress form Duplicate O’Neill and a tall storage cabinet are in the corner.

Also across from the main table are a small sofa for when I do hand work, and a TV to play ‘Anne Girl’ DVD’s when I have very long projects to get done. (Anne Girl being Anne of Green Gables, based on the books by L.M. Montgomery. And if it’s not Anne Girl, then it’s Inspector Lewis or Star Trek… my taste in TV runs very wide.)

The storage tower on the other side of the door holds all of my sewing patterns, which I talk about here.

The main feature on the other side of the room is my 10-needle machine, Enterprise G, as well as my first machine, an Elna 540, who is officially named Jarvis but mostly goes by Good Boy.

For my 10-needle I have a wide variety of hoops, some in multiples as well for when I’m doing large projects with multiples. My husband hit upon the idea of a pot rack to hang them all from the ceiling since floor space was so precious, and I have to say it has worked out very well. Below the hoops are a short a cabinet with serger and decorative threads, and on top is a set of drawers for my embroidery threads, which is joined by a smaller set of temporary drawers with yet more threads, sewing and otherwise.

My Elna has its own cabinet too, and I usually leave it setup to practice template quilting, though perhaps that’s more aspirational than I’d like to admit. But it was put through its paces recently as the topstitching machine for two sets of overalls – see here for my post.

And what sewing room is complete without an ironing station? Mine is here, behind the 10-needle, with my Reliable i400 boiler iron ready to go any time. The little storage piece has my ironing accoutrement on top for easy access.

Thanks for taking a tour with me; I hope you’ll share your own sewing space soon.

Staying Organized in the Sewing Room, Continued

My pattern cabinet also holds my “sound system”; and old iPad mini and stereo speakers. I also have a lovely Patty Palmer original sitting on top.

Recently nursing a twisted ankle allowed me to finally catalog my paper patterns. I don’t remember how many boxes I needed for them when I moved, but pulling them all out of the file cabinet that week I needed six 12-in boxes. That’s six cubic feet of patterns! Turns out, I have 342 paper patterns – quite a collection.

Finally, nice and tidy!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I catalogued them in an Excel file, and cross referenced them with the pattern photos.

This is the cabinet I keep all my sewing patterns in; when I put them all back, I organized them by company, then by number so I can quickly find them when I need to. I keep my cut patterns in clear plastic string folders. Which for the moment all fit in the bottom drawer, but eventually I’ll need to find more storage for that size folder.

Share your ideas for pattern storage in the comments!

No, I’m Not “Ready for Fall”

Nothing like white linen to give you cool thoughts… even if it isn’t cool out.

I guess our fellows in the north get excited around mid-August, maybe they even feel a change in the air; but here, in Houston (and the New Orleans area where I grew up and used to live) it’s still hot. Damn hot. And will continue to be hot for weeks, if not months. So no, I’m not ready for fall sewing, fall fashion, fall baking – and I’m really not ready for holiday plans.

But it’s not just people in the north, people here get into this, I don’t know, false-fall mode? Media, the news, stores, restaurants – there’s even a pseudo-holiday when Starbucks announces its pumpkin latte flavor is back on the menu… I hope they serve it well chilled.

Why can’t we embrace our own seasons here in our part of the country? Why do we have to follow trends and declare that it’s fall, and start trying to wear sweaters and boots and coats, and drinking hot coffee that tastes like melted pie?

Do not mis-understand me; as an amateur astronomer, I am especially appreciative of the wonder that is nature and am happy to celebrate its cyclical nature, and acknowledge the shortening of days with the summer solstice, and then to later acknowledge the more quickly lengthening nights with the autumnal equinox… and I love pumpkin pie, but only serve it if it’s going to be cold on Thanksgiving, which it so often is not here.

I feel though that fall is forced on us, that we’re left celebrating or at least moving to a schedule that isn’t really our own. Perhaps a hang-over from our culture centering on trends from places like New York and Paris? I’m sure I’m not the first to suggest this, but maybe we should have our own seasons, and call the coming months second summer – or at least acknowledge that autumn for us is decidedly not cold, and is usually even warm.

Maybe I can rally my fellow Houston Fashionistas (our local sewing club) to create a style or wardrobe that is unique and specific to us, instead of looking to the northern climes for boots and sweaters and coats – and whatever other inappropriate things show up in our stores come the beginning of September.

What do think? What should we put in our closets to reflect our local seasons? Share with us in the comments!

Why I Have a Fabric (and Pattern, and Button, etc.) Stash

My stash at my old house – the stash looks pretty mcuh the same, photos to come!

It’s been noticed – and noted – that I have a very large stash. Yes, I do. Like most humans and bowerbirds, I’m a collector at heart. I tend to collect around my hobbies, like sewing and cooking. I also think it’s part and parcel of being creative – we collect things around us to inspire us. And so it is with my stash; it’s meant to inspire me.

I also keep a stash because I’m lazy and forgetful, as well as easily distracted: when I go to work on a project, I want to work on the project. And, because certain things aren’t in constant production, like fabric.

When I first started sewing, I would see a project or idea or fabric that I really liked. But I would get home and forget about it, or decide to buy the fabric later, only to find it sold out, or forget what the pattern was or where I saw it, so couldn’t go back and get it. I also hate having an idea and not being able to act on it immediately – my inspiration is fickle and fleeting! I also really, really dislike going out to get supplies for a project. If I don’t have the ingredients in my pantry, or the supplies in my sewing room, I’m likely to skip it and choose to do no project instead.

So, I have a store of ingredients in my pantry, and a stock of fabrics, patterns and notions in my sewing room. Some may enjoy coming up with an idea, then figuring out what they need, then running around town getting it together, but I don’t. As I said, I’m lazy, find crowds and driving exhausting, and even with 2-day shipping that’s too long and I’ll get distracted by something else and the project will get pushed to the backburner, and I’ll find the components stuck in a drawer months later and wonder what I wanted all that stuff for.

What do you keep in your stash and why?

Which Door is Which? – A Quick Project

The photo above is the foyer in my new home. There are three doors on one wall, looking very much like each other; can you tell which is the garage, which is the coat closet, and which is the powder room? No, I couldn’t either, it took me a few tries after we moved in.

Now can you tell? I found this set of cute designs from Anita Goodesign. I just did it as a quilted panel, then put binding on the edges, with a little cloth hanger. Notice the serpentine stitch on the binding?

That’s called “I calculated the width of the binding way wrong and needed a way to hold it down” decorative stitching. Actually outer borders and bindings often have decorative stitching, it’s just that in this case, it was also necessary.

See how it catches it on the back?

Quick product review: if you notice, I used a command hook to hang this. I used to think these were the bees’ knees. In my old home I used them to hang all of my embroidery hoops on the wall. Well, since moving they’ve come down a little in my estimation.

Apparently, the sticky pad can get old. This makes it either very difficult to remove years later, or, they cannot be used if you’ve kept them around for a while. I had a tough time getting all the hooks off the walls in my old house, and when I went to rehang them in the new house, I used the sticky pads I’d already had for some time.

After a couple of weeks, I started hearing noises from my sewing studio: turns out, the hooks – and hoops! – were falling down. At first, I thought it was because the walls were a bit more textured than usual, but I had tried to place them where the texture was low. Every few days another hoop would fall – don’t worry, none were damaged. By the time I went to take them all down to do the remodel, I was having trouble getting them off the walls.

It was then I realized two things: most of the ones that had already fallen were the old pads I had purchased long before moving, and thus fairly old. And the ones that I had trouble getting off the walls – pulling up paint and paper from the drywall and breaking while trying to pull – were also the old ones. The new sticky pads I had purchased to hang the remainder of my hoops were holding fine on the walls, and were very easy to remove.

So I recommend these with a few reservations; if you’re going to buy sticky pads as you need them, and are going to move the hooks around fairly often, then they work as advertised. If you plan on hanging a hook and leaving it there for years, it will last but will be a bear to get off the wall without damage to the wall or to the pad. And if you try to use pads you bought years ago, the hook may just fall off the wall.

See you at the next post…

Staying Organized in the Sewing Room

My poor little binder; so much time to compile, so little used!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, moving house has presented an opportunity to evaluate and inventory my sewing stash(es). I keep lots of fabric, patterns, and other items on hand, like frequently used underlinings and interfacings.

I’ve tried several methods over the years to keep track of not only my stash but project ideas: paper lists, binders, swatches, boxes/ files, and of course software (I outline a few tips and ideas below.) It took a while, but I finally figured out the way I like to work, and what I most enjoy is “window shopping” or browsing; I find visual stimulation the most inspiring, and having photos of my stash helps me see what I have and then I can get excited about using it.

I don’t have photos of everything I stash, just the most prolific items – patterns and fabric. And having photos on my computer lets me see all of it together. It also allows me to group and sub-divide as finely as I want, without becoming too burdensome, as it might if they were physical representations.

All my pattern photos in one place

The photos are supported by an index, which I keep in Excel; then in each cell I can link to the photo, whether fabric or pattern. Excel also lets me put in as much or as little information as I want regarding each fabric or pattern. This is where I can also keep a list of projects ideas; again, linking to the photos of the fabric or pattern I want to use.

Yes, there are apps that will let you do this, but most are free (which means they’re not of course, they collect and sell your data), and even the paid apps are mostly subscription- and cloud- based, which means they get expensive and you never have complete control over your information. I am definitely old fashioned, and don’t like giving up control of my stuff to others.

Whatever method you try, keep in mind it all takes time – it’s data entry no matter how you slice it. It’s also collation, inventory and evaluation, which has to happen before the data entry. Whether your stash is large or small, new or many years in the making, be patient with yourself and if your first method doesn’t suit you, don’t be afraid to try another!

Share your favorite sewing room organizing tips in the comments; see you at the next post!

Things I have already tried – maybe they’ll work for you!

  • Software. There’s a lot of inventory software out there, some general use, some specific to sewing. My favorite was Home Inventory Pro by Radium Technologies. Alas, RT is no more. It was basically a pre-made Access file, which you could fill with whatever you wanted, you could even change the names of the fields. But as I said, it’s gone and I’ve tried many other programs since. Doing a search online will help you find more reviews for even more software, and Pattern Review is an excellent place to start.
  • Wild Ginger Stitch-n-Stash v7. It’s OK, basically another Access-type program. There are pre-filled fields, and you can link to photos and other files on your computer. Good things are it’s inexpensive, it’s stays on your computer, you can link all the files you want, and you can create and print lists.

Bad things: there’s a free trial, but it’s for an older version. If you decide to buy it, but don’t download the current version, you will run into problems (ask me how I know; I had the help desk mystified…) Also, when you’re sorting, you can’t sort by certain things, like fabric type, or pattern type. They said they we’re working on that, so maybe it’s changed since I used it in early 2020.

  • Trello/ Evernote/ Tap Forms/ other “workflow” apps. Well, they’re free, or they’re subscription, which I don’t like (how I miss the days of buying a single-user-license and having it on my computer…) and they don’t all cross from phone to computer (for free versions), or IOS to Android, so you may be stuck working from a tiny phone screen, or printing lists from your computer. But lots of members of my sewing club love these apps, and highly recommend them.
  • Sewing Patterns App for IOS. This wasn’t bad; I bought it and used it for a while (it’s inexpensive, $5.) It’s rather, minimal? not organized for the way I think? just not what I was looking for? But it wasn’t bad, the developer seems like nice people, and it may be what you need.
  • Worksheets/ Binders. When I first wanted to get organized, I designed a worksheet that let me put a swatch, pattern and fabric info, and a section for notes. And it was fine, except I never went back to look at my binders. Never. Ever. I couldn’t tell you why, I certainly spent enough time creating them. But my new system is basically a digitized version of this, and it works much better for me.
  • Swatch Books. If you keep a lot of fabric, it can be hard to remember what you’ve got, especially if it’s in enclosed or “hidden” storage. Keeping swatches on hand in a binder, or just on the outside of your storage can help you remember. I tried keeping swatches in my binder, but that didn’t work for me; now I keep photos as digital swatches on my computer.
  • Organized Fabric Storage – a version of swatching. Or maybe not…. Basically, I tried to keep my fabrics folded and stored in such a way as that I could open a door or drawer and see all of it, kinda how you look at a book shelf and see all the spines facing you. This is OK, but it can be overwhelming visually, and it can be a bit difficult to make all of the fabrics visible. Some get lost, pushed to the back; some are very small compared to others, so you don’t notice them. It didn’t work for me because, every time I opened a cabinet, instead of being inspired or looking for what I wanted, I would feel overwhelmed with too many choices, and a bit let down that I wasn’t using up all of this fabric. Which of course is not why I have it… but that’s a discussion for another time!
  • And of course, good ol’ paper lists. Well, they’re OK, I’m definitely a list person. But I find I write a list out, and then forget about it, misplace it somewhere, then later on I’ll make another list, after which I find the previous list, then I start all over again losing the next list… keeping them on the computer allows me to keep a running list in one place.

Curtains And Other Window Treatments, Part 3

The kitchen curtains are finally finished!

Well here we are, finally at the other end of a home renovation; whew! That was long; it’s always too long, even when it ends on time – and of course, they never do!

But as promised, the tie-backs for my kitchen curtains. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was cutting the extra yardage off the panels from the plain end, instead of the patterned end. I did this so I could decorate the tie-backs. Initially I thought to use the patterned end, but I realized I had an opportunity to gussy them up a bit, so chose the plain instead.

Sewing on the edge – no, not really; see the photo below!

I added a bit of trim to the edges of my tie-backs. I used my Sashiko machine to couch variegated yarn onto the edge. You actually do this in the flat – you don’t have to try and sew on the edge! Then once the trim is on, you can fold your fabric and sew it up.

The trim is applied in the flat first, then folded to create the edge.

For these tie-backs, I didn’t have enough to do a full fabric backing, but that’s ok, it wasn’t really necessary. I stabilized them with Pellon Decor Bond (#809) so that they will hold their shape and stay smooth and full. I then folded the edges under and topstitched them down.

Then I added these little plastic rings (you can find them in the draperies notions department) to attach them to the wall hooks.

Et voilà, much better looking curtains! You can see in the photo below, tying them with string gives a very crushed, bunched look; using a tie-back allows the curtains to drape nicely.

Old-style tying on the right gives you strangled curtains…
And now the curtains can breathe…

Have a great week and see you at the next post…

Getting Back to Work

Renovations in my home are finally complete; I can cook in my kitchen again, and I have a sewing studio once more.

When we first moved in, my goal was to empty moving boxes, not necessarily put everything away in anything like an organized fashion; I knew the renovations were coming, and that I would have to keep everything under wraps for an extended period of time. But now that my sewing studio is set up, I can put things away more thoughtfully, and do a bit more inventory too. I hope to soon be sharing details of my pattern and fabric inventory method, and photos of my sewing studio.

I will also be working on my next sewing project, curtain tie-backs, as promised so many weeks ago.

I hope you’re having an excellent summer, and I’ll be with you here soon!

It’s definitely summer; the cicadas are buzzing and the dragonflies are zooming outside!

Yet Another Filler Post… And a New Neighbor

It seems the permits department had a three-week delay in getting permits and inspectors out, so I have a three-week delay in getting back to my sewing studio – which will hopefully be the first full week of June.

In the meantime, we met one of neighbors last week (if you’re squeamish about these things, I apologize.)

Are you looking to see who moved in?

He (or she) is a very pretty Texas rat snake – who strangely seems to eat more birds that rats according to my source. Ah well. And judging by the next picture, the information that these snakes are very comfortable in trees seems true:

It was a good sunning spot that afternoon…

After spending several minutes twisting and twirling in-and-out of our wicker furniture, he climbed up on this pallet and sat for quite some time.

We’re taking it as a sign of a healthy mini ecosystem in our backyard, and are happy to meet this and all of our non-human neighbors. What kinds of animals do you see in your backyard?