Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The mobile sewing room

One simultaneously fun/not-so-fun aspect of moving is the issue of the sewing room.  

On the fun side - setting up a sewing room!  It's fun to figure out where everything goes and make the space pretty.

On the not-so-fun is all the time I lose to unpacking and packing.

At the start of the tour, while I'm waiting an excruciatingly long time for our stuff to arrive - usually about two months - I scope out the space and look for the best place to set up my machine(s).  I generally don't get sewing until about a month after the moving trucks have come and gone - I have to set up the kids' rooms and the kitchen, at a minimum, before I can do my own thing.  

On the other end, I usually start pre-packing the house at least six weeks before the packers come.  Sometime in there I try to get the sewing room disassembled; I prefer to pack my machines rather than leaving them to the movers.  So that's 4-5 months lost to moving in each of the last two two-year assignments.  In between, here is what my sewing rooms have looked like.

I had only been sewing for about nine months when we moved to Moscow.  My machine (more pics below) was a very basic Kenmore that had belonged to my mother.  She had barely used it, and when she gave it to me, the box had not been opened in at least 20 years.  The machine only had two stitches - straight and zig zag - and the zig zag was stuck.  I had it serviced and restored to full operating capacity.

My sewing room in Moscow was a corner of the guest bedroom/office/overflow room.

You can see my entire fabric stash on the shelves to the left.

I kept patterns in the green dresser to the right, though back then I was still sewing mostly from tutorials.  Now that I am a bit more advanced in my sewing it does seem counter-intuitive to sew only from free tutorials as a beginner.  I have a future post brewing about the phenomenon, so that is all I will say about if for now.

A year after we moved, I decided I wanted another machine.  I really liked how heavy and stable my Kenmore was, and I liked that it was a metal, mechanical machine.  So I bought another, fancier model, on eBay.  This one happened to come with a walking foot, which changed my sewing world.

This machine has served me very well, although it is currently refusing to do zigzag stitches on knits.  It accepts "cams," which would enable it to do some decorative stitches.  I keep meaning to find some and try them out, but I haven't yet.

When we first set foot in our house in Tbilisi, which is literally twice the size of the tiny condo we lived in in Moscow, I couldn't decide where to set up my machine.  There were too many choices.  Ultimately we decided to section off 1/3 of the dining room as a craft space.  The rest of the room is the kids' playroom. It is bright and airy with windows or sliding glass doors on all four walls, and gets the most natural light of any room in the house.

Isn't it pretty?  I was sewing on just the fancier Kenmore and the serger, but recently I set up the older Kenmore for twin needle sewing on knits and I really like having them all set up.  I doubt I'll have this much room in our next house, though.

I should mention that all the furniture is good old U.S. government-issue.  It is what it is.

I got my serger (the ever-popular, with good reason, Brother 1034D) shortly after we moved in.  I love how easy it is to sew seams and finish them with this thing.  The rolled hem feature, which I only recently mastered, has been really handy and is much quicker than doing a fiddly rolled hem on my regular machines.

Most of my fabric is on these shelves, numbered from 6 at the top to 1 at the bottom. 

Shelf 6: On the top shelf I have what remains of my quilting cotton stash (every beginning seamstress's downfall, right?) and apparel cottons in quantities of .5 yd to 1.5 yds.  To the right on that shelf are some PUL and swimsuit fabric cuts.  

Shelf 5: Apparel cottons and cotton blends in quantities of 2 yards.

Shelf 4: On the left are rayons and cotton/silk, on the right are woven apparel fabrics in quantities of 3+ yards.

Shelfs 4&5: Knits, of which I have suddenly accumulated a lot.

Shelf 6: Dupioni silk, net/tulle overlays, other fancy-type fabrics and lining fabrics.

The top two tubs on the left also hold fabrics - scraps in one, and fleece/minky/velour in the other.  Another tub holds my yarn stash (which fits completely into it - yay!) and a fourth holds packing paper that I salvaged from the move and use for pattern tracing.  That mess at the bottom of the shelf in a clear plastic bag is clothes for refashioning.  I haven't really touched it in over a year so I should probably just donate all that stuff.

There is one more tub of fabric, that contains my corduroys, velveteens and some flannel.

To make my cutting table, I took two matching cabinets - I don't know what they are really called; buffets, consoles, something like that - and turned them back to back, then slapped my cutting mat on top.

In the drawers of that console I keep my PDF sewing patterns.  Underneath I keep some of my notions and then other craft supplies for the kids.

On this bookshelf I keep sewing and knitting books, notions and printed patterns.  On the bottom I keep interfacing and more clothes for refashioning.  My paper patterns are in that brown basket.

As I was writing this post it became very evident how much sewing-related stuff I have accumulated in the last four years.  I feel like that should slow down now.  I am at a place in my sewing development where I feel like I have both the skill and proper equipment to tackle most things.  My one big challenge when we move back to the U.S., though, will be refraining from impulse fabric shopping.  I'm certainly not immune to it now, but since I do 99 percent of my fabric shopping online, and I take for-ev-er to place an order (like at least a week of filling my cart and refilling my cart), I am able to keep it in check.  I am ok with the size of my stash now but I don't really want it to get any larger!

Hope you enjoyed this peek at my mobile sewing room.  I hope to have another cute one to show you in a few months when we move again!


  1. loved seeing your sewing room! it must be hard moving all the time, but i guess it inspires a good clean up which is never bad!

    1. It definitely has its challenges, but there are fun parts of this nomadic lifestyle as well.

  2. It is always so fun to see other people's sewing spaces! I admit, I would find moving around that much very challenging! I *hate* moving! Like hate hate hate. Like, the last time I moved, I promised I was going to die in my house rather than move again, and that was eight years ago and the pain hasn't really faded much (unlike, say, childbirth). But you do have a really nice set-up here - my little corner is much more cramped, and I long for a real "cutting table."

    I totally agree about "free tutorials" btw. I learned to sew back in the day, when the big four patterns were all that was available, and while they had their limitations, they did teach me basic technique and there is a certain degree of reliability and quality there. With free tutes - well, some are great, but many are ... not.

    When I talk to people who want to learn to sew, I urge them to get a really great Indie pattern like Rae's parsley pants as a starting point. They balk at the $, but man, it's cheaper than wasting your fabric!


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