Sewing Room Storage – Yet Again

The before…

Hello everyone! I’m back with the final final storage for my sewing room. When we moved last year, we just took it all with from the old house and I used what we had and made do. And it was fine; it worked, and somehow I got everything stored (despite having more to store; see below.) But I was never happy with it, my husband was never happy with it, and I finally decided on what I did want for storage. I think it was just the oppressive feel of those big, dark cabinets in such a light-colored room. They worked really well in the old house, both as storage and as furniture but they felt out of place here.

Lots of boxes to unpack

So, out with the old, in with the new – we got a closet storage system to cover one entire wall. This particular one is by Easy Track, and I like it because it hangs from the wall, allowing you to use the space underneath as well. The units are 24 inches wide, 30 inches for the corner units, and come with your choice of shelves, rods, drawers or doors. You can also get 15-inch-wide units; 35-inch selves to use with plain vertical panels; baskets, shoe shelves and hampers if you’d like.

Nearly done…

It went in over one long week; we did two or three hours after work each day, and spent the weekend before breaking down the previous storage and rearranging the room, packing up everything that was inside the cabinets and other storage; the weekend after putting everything away again. I also made space in my office for the bookshelf and a majority of the books and my embroidery designs, though I left in the sewing room the books that I tend to use in there.

The fashion fabric is in…

The boxes come flatpack, so you do have to assemble it yourself. That wasn’t so bad though. The bad part was they sent the wrong doors, so I had to hang curtains to protect my fabric while I waited on them. And in fact they shorted me one set of doors, which I’m still waiting on…. The doors and drawers come with brushed nickel knobs, but I found some pretty clear acrylic ones to use instead. They’re a little “boudoir”, but I like them.

Finally finished!

Otherwise it’s up and done and working so very nicely! I’ve finally found the storage system that works best for me and my sewing room.

Around the corner to the left is yet a little more shelving.

As for having more to store… I was not entirely honest with myself at my old house. I was always saying that I had everything in my sewing room, except my 10-needle machine. Not true! I had at least half a closet of things that necessitated additional storage when we moved to the new house, if I were to keep everything in one room. Which I still don’t in fact; I have some lovely vintage actual cotton velveteen (which just means cotton velvet) that I keep stored by hanging in a closet. But I know that’s there, so it’s alright. Happy Spring, and see you here again soon!

More Organizing in the Sewing Room – And, a Product Review

Many, but not all, of my physical embroidery files – and loads more that are just digital!

Like many embroiderers, I have a terrific number of embroidery designs – egregious might be a better word. And while I do my best to keep my files organized, I lose track of what I have, and have had several near-misses in regards to purchasing the same item a second time.

Too there is the difficulty with design names – something like Celebrations might be appropriate, but without context, what does it mean? Holidays? Birthday-themed? Balloons and candles? When I save designs to my computer, I do try to label them with something descriptive, like monogram frames, or greetings cards, or animals, children’s… but then we are also limited to 250 characters in a file path name, and can only label them so much.

Enter database software. Yes, if you are inclined, and have a copy of it, you can use something like Microsoft Access. Me, I’m lazy, and don’t do well with computers so I prefer someone else to set up the database for me, and I don’t mind paying for it.

If you have Baby Lock’s Palette 11, you can use their Design Database software. It will let you add keywords and search and create catalogs of your designs, among other functions. Even if you don’t have Palette 11, you can download the software from their website, and use it to transfer designs wirelessly from your computer to your Baby Lock Wi-Fi capable machine. And you can still sort and print catalogs of your designs, but you can only add keywords within Palette.

I do have Palette, and I did try to use Design Database, and while I got it to work once in a test, I can’t get it to work again so I have a ticket in to Baby Lock and we’ll see if I can learn to use it. If I do, I’ll tell you about it in a future post.

This post though is about Floriani My Design Album (MDA). It’s one of the few embroidery-design specific database softwares out there. It’s also the most expensive, stand-alone software at $499.

It does what it says it does, but I would qualify that with “just barely”, and “not as well as you would think it should.” Floriani does have very responsive customer support, so you can ask them questions, they just don’t always have an answer that will help your situation.

With the Floriani software you can add your designs to different categories, and you create the categories so you can have exactly what you want and need. You can also add keywords to the design files, and you can search by keyword, file type, and file name. You can also view image files and cut files, like SVG, which can also be categorized and keyworded (is that verb?) They have several videos on their website that demonstrate the software and all that it can do.

And it comes with other software: Image Maker, which gives you pictures of the designs in File Explorer – but only for Large and Extra-Large icons; and Thread Converter, which is self-explanatory. Not to mention a pretty good editing program too, in case you don’t have any other embroidery software. And – bless them for it! – they give you two licenses, so if you have two computers – say a desk top and lap top – you can put it on both.

But… (which is the whole point of this post, isn’t?) there are several quirks of the software which make it not as useable as I would like.

Firstly, nowhere in the manual, or in any videos I have seen to date, does it say that you have to categorize a file first before you can add keywords. While this is fine, the situation is further confused by the fact that there’s a Keyword button in the main screen, and it shows up while you’re in the File-View window; if you can only add keywords while you’re in the Category window, why is it available elsewhere? If you’re in File View, you can click on it, type in the dialog box that comes up, and even hit OK – but it won’t actually save anything. I wasted a lot of time and energy tilting at that particular windmill….

Then there is the fact that, once you’re in a Category, it gives you everything in that Category, so if you’ve already put in 300 designs, you’ll have to remember the files names you’re currently working with. If you’re lucky, they’ll all start with the same number so you can whittle it down in the Name search box. If not, then you’ll have to look for each file individually. Personally, I would prefer to add keywords in the File View window, since I know when I select a specific folder, I’m only working with those files.

Keywords, once created, cannot be altered or deleted. So if you misspell a keyword, say “Quitl Blocks”, you can’t correct it. Yes, you can add a new keyword, Quilt Blocks, and then make sure not to add anything to the misspelled one, but when you’re selecting from the keyword list, it’s very easy to select the wrong one.

In the search area, you cannot use multiple keywords, only one. It seems to me if you can add multiple keywords to a file, you should be able to search with multiple keywords. Also, the search box for Keyword doesn’t show you a drop-down list of the keywords you’ve created, so you’ll have to be very certain of which keyword you added to the file you’re looking for. Which rather defeats the purpose I think… and if you’ve misspelled it, heaven help you to remember your misspelling!

You cannot move or rename files, not even within the software. I can understand that if I move files while outside the software, the link it created will be broken. Fine. But if I’m in the software and move a file, why can’t it rewrite the link? Other database software can do this; I know my Photoshop Elements does it. And if I move a file outside of the software, Elements will let me run a search for broken links, and lets me fix them by locating the file. Often it can even do this on its own, with no input from me. With MDA, you have to delete the broken links from the Category, then re-categorize and re-keyword your files again. So you’d better be quite sure of how you have your files organized to begin with.

I will however concede that while Adobe has millions upon millions of users, Floriani customers are probably only in the thousands, and economics likely plays a role in how they design and update their software. (But this customer is complaining, so if you’re listening….)

Then there is the oddity of “no information”. An embroidery design file is created with things like stitch count and size, and embroidery software can create an image for you to view within the program. However, several times now I have come across files that present as having no stitch count, no size, just a big goose egg of info. Or, they’ll have all of this info, and it will show up in the information pane at the bottom of the window, but it will still not be able to create an image for you, so you have to open it in other software to see what it looks like. When I asked, I was given no information other than “no, it doesn’t show up on my computer either.” Hmm. I have found that if you re-save the file it will correct it nine times out of ten.

Well, that was exhausting – now you know how I feel when I try to use computers! For those of you who touch a computer and make it sing, may karma continue to smile upon you. But for people like me, when we touch a computer, it’s more like un-tuned saws with nails on the blackboard as an accompaniment.

I hope this review was helpful to you in deciding about Floriani’s MDA software; if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them below!

Book Suggestions – And a Tip

My go-to sewing reference, and it’s quick look-up companion

I frequently see posts on forums and other sites bemoaning the lack of instructions in sewing patterns. People ask how they should finish a seam, or how to sew on a button, or what kind of treatment to use – fusible interfacing? Sew in? And how in the world do you do even do hand stitches?

Well the answer is – your library is incomplete. Or perhaps your training is, but it can be supplemented by adding certain books to your library. You see, sewing patterns are really more of short hand, especially patterns from the well-established companies; the Big 4(5) as they call them. That’s because long ago when learning to sew was a more everyday occurrence, you were taught a lot of basics – like choosing a seam finish, buttons or snaps, how to sew in a hook and eye – and myriad many more things in the course of learning to sew. That’s not to say you learned everything, though, and that’s why many companies put out books – sewing companions or primers – with sewing techniques.

My favorite is Vogue Sewing, Revised and Updated, ISBN #1933027002. It’s no longer in print, but if you come across a copy for less than $40, grab it. The price can get crazy online, so be careful. I would say this was an excellent book, except for one tiny thing: it has some, “health” advice? in the introductory chapter. Nothing bad, but telling people if they don’t like the way they look in their clothes that they should diet, well, really doesn’t belong in a sewing book I think. Getting your clothing to fit well is a much easier and more productive use of your time to look better in your clothes, and this book can help.

But my goodness, the amount of information this book has – about so many things. It will help you choose a seam finish, explain all the types of fasteners and when it’s best to use which, what the pattern instructions mean when they say certain things, a lot about fabrics and notions and tools, types of sleeves, types of bodices, types of necklines, types of pants… it really has so much!

Another good one is The Complete Book of Sewing by DK Publishing ISBN #0789496585. While not as detailed as the Vogue, it’s still an excellent reference. Unfortunately I lent mine out a while back, and I don’t think I’ll see it again. Sigh.

Singer also has great books too, like Sewing Essentials. Actually, most of the Singer books are really good.

Sadly, all are out of print, so you’ll be scouring those tiny little out of the way books stores in each small town you visit, looking to see what they have. And you never know what you’ll find – I scored an excellent book about draperies and other window treatments.

And don’t be afraid because the pictures are old or seem dated – the fashions may have changed but the techniques are still very useful, and can still be used.

But back to my tip, which is – you need a companion book. Where the pattern instructions stop, these books pick up. I share the rest of my library below; what are your favorite sewing references?

Older reference books that have some different and interesting techniques
I use this one a lot to refer to hand stitching
Other books on various subjects to round out my fashion sewing
Books I find very useful for home decor sewing, as almost no contemporary guides exist
And finally, just fun and informative books I’ve found on subjects that no modern sewing instructors touch on – I guess they think we only want “basic” sewing

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!

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?

Tips for Moving a Sewing Room

Whether it’s to a new neighborhood or a new state, moving can be stressful and chaotic. But it can also be an opportunity (sorry, I can’t think of any way to make it fun; “opportunity” was the most positive thing I could think of.)

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve recently moved to a new home. Luckily it was only two and half miles away. Unluckily we’d lived in our previous home for fifteen years – and had the accumulated stuff to show for it. I’m going to list some thoughts and tips on moving in general and a sewing room specifically, in no particular order. I hope it’s of help to you in your next move!

Start packing now. Now being as soon as you decide on a new home; don’t wait until a week before the movers arrive to start packing. That goes for the whole home as well as your sewing space; start packing up everything that you won’t need between now and your moving day.

Leave yourself one box that you move yourself, that holds any essentials you’ll need those first few days. Think of it like a carry on – what do you need to have with you in case your big suitcase is lost by the airline? What will you need to have easy access to in case you don’t unpack all your boxes that first day? (Because you won’t, unless you’re moving out of a dorm room, and even then you may still not be completely unpacked.) That can be one box for household essentials, one box for personal essentials, and another box for sewing essentials, especially if you need to keep sewing during your move.

Label those boxes! And I don’t mean “kitchen” or “sewing room”, I mean write down as much detail as possible on the outside of that box about what’s in that box, because when you need that one thing so you can finish a project or cook dinner, you don’t want to have to wade through 45 boxes marked “kitchen” or 62 (yes!) boxes labelled “sewing room.” Yeah, it takes a lot of extra time, but you’ll spend a lot more timea lot more time – looking for stuff if you can’t get unpacked within the first week (or longer.) And no, “sewing room, supplies” isn’t specific enough, not when you have three or eight boxes labelled that way. As an aside, I had over 220 boxes – and that’s not counting the stuff that didn’t get packed because I couldn’t get it to fit in a box – or because I just ran out of boxes.

Don’t forget to take your machine boxes out of the attic. Because you saved them like you were supposed to, right? This is why you saved them – so you could safely move your machines. Whether you’re moving down the road or across the globe, pack your machine with its original box and stuffing. Because I had my original packaging, I felt just fine about letting the movers handle my machines.

Consider sending your machine(s) to the spa. I really should have done this myself, dropped my machines off at the dealer to get all spiffed up while I was setting up my new house and sewing room. I went two and half months without sewing as it was, that was plenty of time to get them all their annual tune-up (I have five that I use regularly.) If you have more than two machines, you might call your dealer in advance and make sure they can take them all at once. This way if you didn’t save your boxes, you can have them safely put away somewhere until you’re ready to bring them to your new home.

Make a diagram of your house, showing where all the rooms are. Then, label each room – on the door, or the door frame – so the movers know where each room is, and they can put those boxes where they belong. Hang the diagram by the front door so the movers can see it and don’t have to ask you about every box and piece of furniture – they will be so thankful! I myself am thankful to my sewing buddy Jodi for this wonderful piece of advice – thanks Jodi!

Take the time to cull your belongings. This is a popular one with advice columns (blogs?) because it’s a good one – if you get rid of your crap stuff first, you won’t have to move it! Genius, isn’t it? I wish I had gotten rid of more stuff before we moved, because we got rid of a heckuva lot after we moved, I can tell you. Really go through your stuff too; you’ll be touching each and everything anyway, you may as well decide whether you should keep it, toss it or give it away.

And if you have lots of time, make an inventory of your sewing stash if you need to. I stash patterns, fabric, buttons and ribbon. And buttons. Did I mention buttons? I love buttons.… Ahem. I actually started to inventory my fabric and patterns long before we even though about moving. You see, I was having trouble keeping track of all my thoughts and ideas in regards to projects. I tried several different methods, I even tried a couple of different programs (software?) Nothing really stuck. My latest revelation was that I like to browse my stash for inspiration, So I came up with – wait for it – an excel spreadsheet, with links to the photos of my fabric. In addition, I have folders with subfolders on my computer that have the photos from my patterns. Yeah, I know – boring and old school… made more so by the fact that I keep a running list – on paper! – of project ideas… go ahead, giggle, it’s good for you. Where was I… You can actually do your inventory before or after you move, since you have to take it all out of the boxes again anyway. But doing it before gives you the opportunity to cull, instead of just shoving stuff into boxes.

Know where your furniture goes before the movers’ put it there. Huh? Yeah, I know. What I mean is, get the layout for your sewing space (or any room really) decided beforehand so the movers can actually put the furniture where you want it, instead of saying “oh, put it anywhere, it’s all on wheels so I’ll just move it later if I want…”  Moving it later is a bear, because it’s not all on wheels, there are dozens of heavy boxes in the way, and it’s holding your collection of very heavy books that you now have to take all down to move the bookcase and then put all the books back – know where you want the furniture in advance!

About those boxes – keep them small. I know how tempting it is to get great big boxes and fill them as much as you can, but eventually you or someone else has to lift those boxes, and stuff gets heavy fast. Save the medium and big boxes for pillows, comforters, batting and other exceptionally lightweight stuff. I found the “book” size boxes – about 12 inches square – to be the most useful. Small enough for me to lift, even when actually filled with books.

Find a place to stage those boxes. We were lucky; we park in our garage, so we only had to move our cars to the driveway for a few weeks while we slowly filled the garage with most of our boxes. And the movers were glad too – it was all right there when they pulled up the truck. They only had about a dozen boxes to pull from inside house, in addition to the furniture. Speaking of…

If it has to be disassembled, do it at least a few days in advance. I know: you know how to take apart that piece of furniture or exercise equipment or playset or whatever it is that needs to be disassembled. Guess what? Something will happen, and you will be frantically trying to take apart that easy-to-get-undone thing while the movers stand there waiting for you to take it apart because it’s the last thing that needs to go on the truck… and then put your back out and cut your arm while doing it. Because that didn’t happen to me or my husband… right.

Bookmark your projects in some way. I pushed to get all my hangers-on projects done before we moved. Not that I didn’t have a few projects that were long term hangers-on… and this is something you should be doing anyway, because you never know when you may have to put a project down or be able to pick it back up again. I go into a bit more detail in my post here.

Well that’s about all the wisdom I gleaned from my recent experience in moving. I hope you were able to pick up some good tips, and if you have any to share please do so in the comments! See you here next time…

Dress Forms

My Dress form, Duplicate O’Neill – you’d have to watch a particular scifi show to get the reference.

This is probably the most frustrating area for home sewers: finding a fast, reliable, replicable way to get a good fit. Many of us, especially those of us who are larger, come to sewing to begin with because we got tired of shopping for clothes that don’t fit well, if they fit at all. So for us, fitting is the whole point of sewing. Unfortunately, even if we learn how to fit well (a whole other topic), fitting ourselves is nearly impossible, or at least tedious, difficult and frustrating.

Many sewers I know gave up on sewing, or moved to home décor or quilting because there’s no fitting involved. Or, they only sew oversized, loosely fitted clothing, or only sew for other people. That makes me really sad! Sewing should be a revelation, a revolution, a release – and it is for so many! But for so many more it became instead a struggle that caused them to turn away from sewing for themselves.

If you’re at all serious about sewing for yourself, you need to find a way to fit, and a dress form is the simplest way; unfortunately it’s also the most expensive way. Other ways of getting a good fit are to get a sewing buddy – someone you can consult with on sewing projects, fit issues, whose opinion you ask for color guidance, selecting fabric – and someone to meet with on occasion and gush about all things sewing! Because no one else in our lives wants to hear about it….

I am very lucky; I found a wonderful local fashion sewing community in the Houston Sewing Fashionistas, any of whom are always happy to help or offer an opinion – and many of whom are professionals! So lots of help available there. And I have a sewing buddy. She unfortunately lives an hour away (which is not a long distance for the Houston area, trust me) so we don’t get to meet as often as we’d like, but we each have dress forms so we can work on our own mostly and communicate long distance, getting together occasionally for big issues.

Yet another option is to get well-fitted slopers, which you can use to check your adjustments to patterns. This does require a fitting buddy or hiring a seamstress at the beginning, but you won’t have the expense of creating a dress form. If you are fairly standard in shape or size, and only have a few, small adjustments to make to a pattern out of the envelope, this may be all you need.

But if you are very large, very small, or have large variations to make from the pattern, you really need a dress form.

If you are close to the size of a standard dress form, you can probably get away with padding it out; check different brands, they each have a range of sizes and shapes so one brand may work for you while another is too far off. Also, there are padding systems like Fabulous Fit which make the process easier. Some brands even offer personal or community guidance for shaping a dress form to fit you.

My dress form is a Uniquely You, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I thought it was the best option between a dress form you have to really work to customize, and a made-to-order form.

The UY works like this: you buy a pre-made foam core that’s closest to your size, but larger. Then you fit the cover, very, very tightly, to your body. Then you place the cover on the dress form (sitting on it like trying to close an over-stuffed suit case works well) and check the measurements, adjusting as needed. It worked very well for me, except the bust which I had to pad out more to get my full forward projection, but otherwise it was fine. It took about 2, 2 ½ hours for me and a sewing buddy to fit and sew up the cover.

There are custom dress form makers out there, doing everything from 3-D scanning and foam creation (Ditto or Beatrice), to traditional custom dress forms from PGM and Wolf, and independent craftspeople who can help you make one. And there are make it at home types like Uniquely You and BootStrap, and of course really make it yourself with homemade ways of creating a body double from paper tape or plaster.

The 3-D and custom forms are very pricey as I understand, north of $1000 or $1500 dollars – not to mention the expense of travelling to the manufacturer (or getting an iPhone.) But if it’s in your budget and you don’t have a sewing buddy, or you have a highly irregular body shape (which is probably why you’re sewing your own clothes anyway) then it may be worth saving for.

I think though if you have a sewing buddy, or a local professional seamstress who will work with you to adjust and fit the cover, the Uniquely You or Bootstrap would be your best option. I am not personally familiar with BootStrap, but it seems to be the same principal as UY: adjust the cover to fit you skin tight, so you can replicate your measurements when you stuff the form.

I know a lot of sewers find dress forms frightfully expensive; either you have to pay someone else for the materials and to do all the work, or you have to spend money and your own time to get it right. As with all things, only you can decide which combination works best for you.

My dress form is in need of a small shaping update, but is current to my measurements. I covered it in satin to allow garments to slide on and off (the UY canvas cover makes clothing drag), and I currently have pins marking my guidelines, but that’s an old rig-up that needs to go; loose threads catch easily on the pin heads and can cause pulls. I need to finish my original plan and use ribbon and flat head pins or small U-shaped staples to mark and hold the cover in place. It’ll probably be a couple of months before I do, but once it’s done I’ll share a photo.

Other notes about my dress form; the base is formed from a table top from the craft section of the home store, and has casters on the bottom. I wish I had made one of them a locking caster, but it still works. I also used a piece of all-thread for the stand, and a set of two nuts and a washer to support my form at the right height.

Sewing Tip: Decoy Scissors

One pair of scissors left out all the time

Everyone at home needs scissors at some point. And everybody at home knows where to find them – your sewing room. For those of us who saved up to get some really nice shears, this is unfortunate. Because, even when they’re in the kitchen and know you keep a pair of scissors in the junk drawer, they still go all the way to your sewing room to get scissors. Why? ‘Cause they’re cool, or extra sharp, or pointy, or, just because, I imagine.

But wait, what’s this below?

Many of my sewing associates have told me stories of loss and damage to a highly valued (and valuable) pair of scissors to a family member, despite “all the times I’ve told them not to touch my sewing scissors!…” I decided to take a different tack. I know my husband, and however much I love him he would never remember not to use my sewing room scissors, so I put out a pair just for him to use. They sit there, left out on top of the sewing table, ready for him to grab. And he does, all – the – time. They’re sticky from packing tape, scratched from opening boxes, and may even be a little bent from being dropped many times, but that’s what they’re there for.

Shhh! This is where the good scissors live…

 If you have little ones in the house, you may want to try hanging your decoy scissors higher up on a wall so they can’t reach them, but you definitely want them to be out and obvious as soon as someone goes into the room. Well I’ll just put them away you say; no, then they start looking for them and then they find the good scissors and now they know where the good scissors are and they go right to them every time – ask me how I know! So find a new hiding place for the good shears and scissors, then put out a decoy pair for the household to use.

How Long is Your Wish To-Do List?

Almost the entire of my fabric stash; will I sew it all?

We all have them, a “wish” to-do list, that running list of things (or maybe a paper or digital list) in our head that we’d like to get to, someday, eventually…. If we live long enough…. Aside from the general life list, I have a sewing list. Last December I wrote down everything I could think of, mostly because I had some time to kill while waiting.

It wasn’t as long as I thought, only 37 or so items. Of course some of those items have multiple parts so it may be as long as 50-plus individual pieces. And in fact, I have achieved some of those items, so I got to cross them off when I reviewed my list this morning. But I’ve also added some items, mentally anyway. Not that I can remember them right now to write them down… they may even be the same things I’ve already written down (that’s the problem with mental lists, can’t see whether we’ve gotten it down already or not!)

A small part of me wants to be very alarmed by this list – it’s so long, when will I ever finish! And what I see on websites and forums is that others are just as worried about their lists too: is my list too long, how do I manage it, how do I get all of it done? They seem to think they’re a bad person if they don’t.

But I remind myself of the things I’ve learned from my other lists over the years – my travel list, my cooking list, other similar lists. The first one is, I don’t actually have to do everything on the list, sometimes it’s just fun to have a fantasy or two.

The next thing is, things change. Out lives change, our financial situations, our personalities, and thus, our dreams and desires change too. Sure, when I was twenty and had nothing else to do, I wanted to see the world. Now that I’m older, have a husband and home that I love, I don’t need to see everything. I have done some traveling and lots of cooking, and I will do some more before my time is done. But other things interest me now.

So, I may have dreamed of visiting the entire of Asia (and the entire of Europe, all of the Pacific Islands and most of North Africa…), but maybe one trip to Japan or Thailand will suffice, or a European river cruise. I have over 1900 (!) digital recipes on my computer, not to mention the couple of dozen (after a cull, still a couple of dozen) cookbooks on the shelf. I’ve made many dozens of these recipes over the years, and I will make many more, but I know I will never make them all. Some are for inspiration, some are just to make me happy. And that’s OK, as long as I have the space and mental energy to deal with them.

So don’t feel bad about your lists, your pattern stashes, your fabric collections, your dreams – have fun playing with them instead.

The rest of my stash, waiting to be washed and put away.