I’ve been so terrible at blogging this year. I had good intentions, but I just seem to have been so busy, but with very little to write about!
Back in May I was in the midst of getting a summerhouse built in my garden so I could set it up as a little sewing studio. No more sewing in the corner of the kitchen, and having sewing supplies in piles all over the house.
Well, there are still piles of sewing supplies all over the house, but I do have a sewing studio!
I recently went on a workshop at my sewing hero Tilly Walnes’ studio in London, and was way more excited than I should have been about her choice of IKEA furniture. The turquoise Råskog trolley, a white Alex desk, white and turquoise Kallax shelving – WE HAVE ALL THE SAME FURNITURE! It must mean something, does it mean that me and Tilly are destined to be sewing buddies forever? Please say that it does.
I moved my sewing machine and supplies in, and I have spent many happy hours sitting at my desk, listening to gory true crime podcasts while I sew and watch out for a bloodthirsty serial killer vaulting over my fence to murder me in my sewing studio. That’s what a daily dose of true crime podcasts does to the imagination.
On the subject of gore, while I was putting the desk together for the summerhouse I managed to push a screwdriver through my thumbnail. I would not recommend this. Once the blood started coming up through the hole in my nail, I thought I was going to pass out and had to sit quietly on the kitchen floor for a while. Thankfully, that has been the only accident so far, and despite having an iron, a fan heater, various sharp implements and a very clumsy sewist in a very confined space, it has been fairly incident free.
When I first started planning the summerhouse, I felt guilty for spending so much money on myself, and I wondered if I would actually use it enough to warrant the cost, but I am so glad I did it. It means sewing without distraction, which feels like such a luxury, even for someone who lives alone. If I’m heading outside to my little Fortress of Solitude, I’m going there to spend time indulging in one of my favourite pastimes, and no annoying chores or other household distractions are going to tear me away from my project. It means time away from screens and computers, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to my podcast ‘friends’ while I work. My favourites to sew along to include My Favorite Murder, All Killa No Filla, Sword and Scale, Thinking Sideways and Casefile.
I’ve now been sewing for about two years, and I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. When I think about some of my first projects, I was so pleased to finish a simple cotton shift dress, or a gathered skirt, and now I’m challenging myself more to try new techniques and work with different fabrics. One of my first projects was the Margot pyjama bottoms from Tilly Walnes’ book, Love at First Stitch. I was so proud of these, they seemed like such an achievement at the time.
I’ve worked my way from these to this dress that I made for two weddings I attended this summer, with a lined bodice with contrast, fold-back panels and a hem that was approximately four miles long.
I feel like this dress is a long way from those pyjamas, and there have been a lot of fun projects in between, including helping Tilly test out some of her patterns before they went on sale, which has made me pay more attention to patterns and construction. I don’t look at clothes in the same way any more, and I’m forever picking garments up in shops, looking at them, saying, “I could make that,” and then returning them to the rack. Just being able to say that feels like an enormous achievement for someone who has taught themselves to sew, and who didn’t even know where to start with sewing in a zip two years ago. Incidentally, I still have not managed to master the elusive invisible zip. You know there are some things that you just can’t do, no matter how hard you try? Well, mine is invisible zips. Invisible zips and whistling. Perhaps I should try to master both of those in 2017.
I can’t wait for next year, and all the projects I’m going to sew in my summerhouse while I fill my mind with more true crime stories…
After having been dressmaking for about a year, I now feel like it’s firmly become one of my main hobbies. I seem to spend so much time thinking about what patterns I want to make, browsing for fabric and reading up about techniques. I can sit and leaf through my dressmaking books for hours, looking at the patterns and planning which ones I’m going to add to my ‘to do’ list. And that’s apart from the entire weekends I spend sitting behind my sewing machine.
So, I’ve decided to take the plunge and spend a stupid amount of money on setting myself up a permanent sewing space.
It was my mum’s idea, she was staying with me for the weekend, and she looked out at my crap old shed and said that I should replace it with a nice new summerhouse, and turn it into a little sewing studio.
After that, I just could not stop thinking about the possibilities. I live alone, so it doesn’t really matter if I leave my unfinished sewing projects out, but it would be so much nicer to have a special place just for sewing, rather than having my projects infused with gross cooking smells if I leave them out in the kitchen, where I currently do all my sewing.
I also have two tortoises, who live in the kitchen, right behind where I sit to sew. On a warm day (my kitchen is like a greenhouse when the sun is out), they tear around their wooden enclosures, and they have no spatial awareness, so all I can hear is the clonking of their shells against the wood. It is VERY annoying when you’re trying to concentrate on sewing in a zip!
I’m sure most sewists will understand the pain of trying to find room to store all their patterns, supplies and fabrics properly, and this is one of my main problems. My battered old dummy is upstairs, and I have fabric stashed in three rooms of the house. How nice it would be to have it conveniently all in one place, alongside my sewing machine.
I immediately started furiously pinning sewing rooms and summerhouses on Pinterest, and doing a whole buttload of research into whether or not I could afford to do it, and I can. With some careful budgeting, I can get the studio in place this summer and have it all paid off by Christmas.
After numerous hours of research, even drawing up a floor plan to see how much furniture I could fit into it, I have ordered my summerhouse. I’m having this style, but in the green and cream colours shown in the swatches. Plus I’ve chosen all this super cute furniture from IKEA, and a swanky new dummy.
It’s not all exactly the same shade of turquoise/green, but I’m going for a general palette, rather than ultra match-matchy, which is a bit of a departure from the way I plan what clothes and accessories I wear!
I’ve had to look into solutions to prevent damp, because obviously the last thing I want to happen to my fabric stash is for it to go mouldy. I think I’m going to get a nifty little thermotube heater. You can leave them on all the time, and they just heat the air enough to remove the humidity, and they only cost about 24p a day to run. My garden is also south-facing with only fields behind, and gets a lot of sun even in winter.
I’ve also been looking at fun ways to decorate the space. I think there absolutely has to be some bunting made for it at some point, and I’ve found loads of images from old dress pattern envelopes which I think I’m going to print out and frame, like these:
I’m trying very hard to stick to the green/turquoise theme I seem to have got going.
As soon as I’d ordered the summerhouse I was wracked with guilt and doubt. Will it be worth the cost? Will I get enough use out of it? It suddenly seemed like such a lot of money to spend on something so frivolous, that was just for me. But I reassured myself with the knowledge that even if, for some reason, I lose the taste for dressmaking, I could convert it into a proper summerhouse with comfy chairs and a TV, or even a super posh reading nook. I’ve always wanted a reading nook.
And anyway, it’s my money, so I can spend it how I like!
Now I just have to be patient until June, when I can start using my gorgeous new Sewing Palace.