Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dressmaking: getting started + my setup.

My start

I bought a sewing machine a few years ago when I quit my tech job and had what seemed to be the mid-20s equivalent of a midlife crisis. I made a little sewing supplies pouch that I no longer use and one seat cushion (yep, I gave up before the second), and my sewing skills were basically "Can thread the machine and sew in a straight line".

This fortunately left me in a great place to get started this time around - I already had the machine and knew how to do the basics on it, and the dressmaking book I bought picked up from there. There is a lot more to learn beyond just using the machine - washing/drying/ironing/cutting the fabric, seam allowances and finishing your seam edges, using patterns and making adjustments, and specific techniques like darts, ruffles, and inserting zippers.

So, I bought Love at First Stitch, after seeing some of her patterns around the internet and loving every single one of them. (Once I finish the book, I'm planning to treat myself to the Fran├žoise dress and Arielle skirt - I'm obsessed with the mod silhouettes.)

My setup

If I didn't already have a sewing machine, I would swear I don't have room for one. My house is pretty cramped, especially as far as storage space goes, and I definitely do not have room for such luxuries as a dedicated sewing table. I've seen smaller apartments for sure, but I also feel a bit of envy rise up when I hear follow seamstresses talk about the lack of space on their sewing tables or even (gasp) craft rooms.

All this is to say - don't less space be the limiter if this is something you'd like to do. Here are a few pictures of how I make it work in my place, mess (+ Tumbles) and all:

Fortunately I have a pretty big table - bigger than I comfortably have room for, but I loved it too much to get rid of it when I moved to a smaller place. I can clear off most of the table and use it for my sewing machine + cutting fabric.

Another view of the table - it's basically in the kitchen. If I use an ironing board, it actually takes up part of the kitchen and I have to move my dish rack to plug the iron in. I've since moved on to a blanket on the floor/coffee table (photos of that below). Also - hello Tumbles butt.

This is certainly not recommended. Just... don't use the sink at the same time, I guess.

I have a (small) room for all of my storage needs, in lieu of closets. It's kind of nice except that it's too small and crowded to easily get to most things. My sewing machine lives in an IKEA shelf behind my clothing rack (my laundry basket is usually in that nice empty space in front, totally blocking it). It's an ok storage spot but definitely a pain to get in and out, particularly since I frequently switch between wanting to use my kitchen table for sewing and not-sewing.

Typical setup these days - sewing on the table, ironing on the coffee table just behind it. Usually lots of fabric and supplies piled up on the couch in between.

My IKEA coffee table with a folded blanket becomes an ironing board. I wouldn't try this on a nicer wood table, but so far this one has survived. 

Sometimes when I want more room than my coffee table allows, I'll use the same blanket on the floor for ironing or cutting. This adds the extra challenge of making sure Tumbles doesn't eat any pins....

Since I'm being honest about my mess here: this poor chair, which has become almost eternal storage these days (a shame, as it's a comfy one). You can see my new, big cutting mat shoved between the chair and the wall. Not the best place for it, as it's not totally flush and gets a bit out of whack. I need to find a better spot.

And to add to the storage drama, I recently got a serger! I really don't know where I'm going to store it, and it has lived on my kitchen table for the last week and a half. (Note: you really don't need one of these to get started, and my book doesn't even mention one, but it's so delightful once you reach the "obsession" stage of your sewing hobby!)

There you go! Next I'll put together a few posts about the things I've made so far and how the learning process has gone. Thanks for reading!

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