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Monday, July 15, 2013

The Sewing Zone - Carving out Room for Sewing

I used to dream over those photos in sewing and craft magazines where the happy sewist has a lovely room dedicated to the enchanting pursuit of sewing. 

She (yeah, I know you sewing fellas are out there - but in this case "she" is an imaginary me) has racks on the wall full of neatly arranged spools of thread, full length mirrors on either side of the room, shelves and cabinets stocked with neatly organized and folded fabrics, interfacing and lining, file drawers stocked with patterns that look like they did the day she brought them home from Fabulous Fabrics and two permanently situated dress forms in some idealized size, onto which her patterns fit without the need for any kind of adjustments. Naturally her sewing machine occupies the place of honor, right next to a huge perfect-height cutting out counter.

Now let's get real. I live in a small two-bedroom house with two other people, a pooch and a marvelous marmalade cat. We do other things here besides sewing, including cooking, eating, watching movies, reading newspapers, magazines and books, and gardening. Out here in California many folks have smaller houses and most of us don't have basements or the kind of attic you can walk in (we can slide a few things along under the eves by standing on a ladder, but that's not where I want to cache my sewing inventory - though I have done it!). There is no hardly-used room or covered space that I can discover. Our garage does not house our cars, but it does serve to store bikes, tools,  and numerous metal racks that hold products from the big box store and other household necessities.

There's no little-used room or commodious closet (our bedroom closets were built in the late 30's when, apparently, people were happy to be able to hang up 5 or 6 garments and call that their wardrobe) that I can claim as a sewing room. But over time I have carved out what I call my sewing zones. There are two sewing machines setup on different parts of our family room, and I'm happy I can keep them setup all the time. My sewing zones also includes room in some cupboards and on shelves in that same room. I share those storage areas with other members of the household. In a pinch, I've been known to hang fabric folded over a hanger in the front hall closet, or one of our tightly packed 1939 closets. And, yes, I do have a few stacks of plastic bins on the big box shelves in the garage, that hold another portion of my fabric inventory. My duct tape dress form, Helen, lives out there in a plastic bag as well. My new dress form, Colette, (I'm making her in a class at summer school) will live there as well, when she's not in use.

When I need to do some cutting out I clear off somebody else's work or study project from the family room or dining room table, get my project done and then shift their stuff back. When my daughter was younger I used her twin bed with one of those grided accordion folded up cardboard things you buy at the fabric store. I have to keep my ironing board put away when I'm not actually using it, so that people can get out the back door.

My sewing zones are kind of fluid. If we have a party, I may need to carry my machines out to the garage (don't open the door and try to walk, please!), and when my daughter graduated and moved back home (good fortune on the post-college job hunt Darling) I cleaned out the whole front hall closet for her and managed to stuff the fabric inventory I kept there into another corner of the antique wardrobe that compensates for our lack of closet space.

I don't fret about moving things around. I don't mind if you want to watch "Myth Busters" while I sew, in fact I kind of like it. I often put on an old movie in the background for company when I'm sewing on my own anyway. When I do my hand sewing I watch t.v. with my family, or curl up with it in my bedroom, or take it out in the living room to hang out with others while they read or play a game. Because sewing can be a pretty social activity, and I don't need to be isolated to have a lot of fun doing it. I'm very happy for you if you are able to dedicate an entire room to sewing, but I'm not envious. 

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't turn down a present of a special just-for-me room if the great goddess of sewing suddenly showed up on my stoop and handed me the golden key to an invisible door I'd never seen before. (Yes, that does sound like a children's novel waiting to be written, doesn't it?) However, no matter how limited my space, you're always going to find that I'm still.... enchanted by sewing.

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