Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Organizing the Sewing Stuff - Part II "After"

Now to share the results of my organization project to tame my sewing stash. First, I did find the tucker kit that inspired the project in the first place. It was in a catch-all box containing all sorts of unrelated things, many Civil War, but also fabric lengths and other jumbled together things. I also found a book I have been desperately looking for (Skirting the Issue by Elizabeth Stewart Clark, a Civil War sewing technique book), a new box of quality pins I had bought months ago and really needed, and a couple other things that were MIA.

I tried to spend as little money as possible on this. I already had lots of bins and file folders, and a label maker. I wanted to pare down the stash to fit into not only the bins I already had, but the space I have as well. I ended up buying two plastic file boxes (buy one, get one free!), another large bin, and a refill of label tape. My goal was to fit everything onto no more than two of the several wire shelving units in our basement.

The categories I used in the sorting process were: Fabric, Patterns, Current Projects, Unfinished Projects, Tools, Trims, Notions, Ribbon, Toy Making, Millinery, Corset Making, Quilting, Embroidery, Books, and then the piles for Give Away and Sell.

I was able to reunite lone, lost pattern pieces with the rest of the correct patterns. I made two bins of "Projects On Hold". At some point I may get rid of them; the fact that they are in a bin labeled as such not only reminds me they are there, but also will hopefully will either inspire me to get to work on them, or give them away, discard, or use for something else. I have all of my over-sized patterns with their toiles in a separate box since they won't fit in a conventional file box (the toile pieces are just too big to cram all together to fit in a file folder. But again, they are labeled so I know where all are).

My patterns were purged of ones I will not use. This was so painful! The keepers are now in file folders, in chronological order, the labels showing the range of time periods for each box. (For example, "Medieval-Civil War, Part I".)

I still want to go back and micro-organize the interiors of a couple of the boxes. My box of trim and my small box of ribbons could use this. I did micro-organize the drawers of the small chest of drawers that sits next to my sewing machine table. I have these small boxes that my kids had to get with their school supplies ages ago. Each one contains different notions (such as elastic, or hooks, snap, and fasteners, etc.), each one has a label so I know what's what.

Finally, I would like to purchase one of those fabric-lined baskets to put my Current Projects in (not too many please!). This will sit atop my chest of drawers, neatly, for when I am ready to sew.

Here are the results:

The small chest of drawers by my sewing machine table. Most of my notions are in the middle drawers. Sewing machine manuals, machine needles, bobbins, and presser feet are in the topdrawers. Tools, pattern weights, measuring rulers, etc. are in the bottom drawer.

Sadly, I don't have a dedicated sewing room; my machine is up in the dining room and my stash is stored in the basement. However, now it is all in one area, not scattered about in various parts of the basement. And I was able to achieve my goal of only using two shelving units.

One of the fabric bins. This my Whites bin. I had many of my fabric lengths measured already, and indicated that on each label. Not everything in this bin was measured. That's another task I can go back and do in the future.

Two of my pattern files.

I have a separate bin for my Titanic patterns (my favorite fashion era). The box next to it are my over-sized patterns, including the majority of my Sense & Sensibility patterns.

Yesterday I sewed for the first time since I did this organization project. It was delightful! I worked on my corded petticoat. I knew where it was, where my crochet cotton was, I was able to use my fresh new pins for pinning the cording in place. Also, I didn't have a ton of stuff to be transferred from atop my sewing machine table before I could begin sewing (and before this it was really a huge, intimidating pile of stuff). It was just my small pile of other current projects (that will someday soon be in the designated basket I mentioned above), my little notions caddy, and my large pin cushion that needed to be placed on the dining table so I could open up my machine. When I was done sewing, the crochet cotton went back into its labeled bag in the labeled drawer, the petticoat was folded and placed in the Current Projects pile, the machine was tucked away into its cabinet, and the items placed back on top. It took a few minutes, that is all. Lovely!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Tonight, after a calmer weekend, I ended up going nuts in the kitchen! We're short on cash, so I wanted to bake some desserts. I was also inspired to make Boule bread, after reading about it on another blog. Earlier this afternoon I had mixed up the Artisan Bread Dough, so it was waiting in the fridge. After supper, Tyler and I started the cookies, while Paul took care of using the apple peeler-corer-slicer on some Granny Smiths and got them into the bowl with the sugar and spices for the pie filling. While the cookies were baking, I made the pie crust and assembled it. Cookies out, adjust temp, pie in. Then while the pie was baking, I got the bread shaped and ready to rise. About 45 minutes later: pie out, bread in. By the time the bread was done and I took this photo, a lot of the cookies were MIA. All was good if I say so myself. We all liked the bread the most though. Yum!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Organizing the Sewing Stuff - Part I "Before"

Recently, I was inspired to finally, finally organize my sewing supplies. The incident that prompted this was when I was looking for a tiny thing, a tucker kit for my Civil War ballgown. I looked all over the place in every bin (although, as it turned out, I hadn't looked hard enough), but I simply couldn't find it. I knew I still had it though. I ended up ordering a new one from Mrs. Christen's Miscellanea where I had gotten it before. Although it was inexpensive, it really bothered me that I had to spend good money on a duplicate item, simply because I was so disorganized.

So I decided it was time to get it all organized. This included everything. I used the organizing plan that Peter Walsh (from Enough Already!) uses. I took everything up to my parlor so everything I had was all in the same place; it was an enormous stash. Then I envisioned how I wanted it to look once organized. I mainly wanted to have similar things together, in easy access bins, where I could find anything I need at a moment's notice. I also wanted to be able to see exactly what I did have. And I didn't want my stash to be encroaching on other areas of the house. Basically, I just wanted my stash and the way it was stored to be my servant, not my master.

The next task is to sort through everything and divide all into piles, those things to keep and those to sell, donate, or trash/recycle. It looked overwhelming when I first had everything all together:

I made up some labels for the various piles. I just printed out a big list, then cut them apart and laid them along the walls of the parlor:

Next, I sorted things into the piles, including my piles for things to be thrown away, recycled, given away, or sold. This was difficult! There are many things I had a hard time delegating into the sale/donate pile. The things I wanted to keep were then organized into bins and drawers. I had my trusty label-maker at hand, large and extra large Ziploc bags for oversized patterns, etc. and file folders.

I was up extremely late when I did this, but by the time I finished I had most of it done. I spent the next week putting the finishing touches on my stash.

Stayed tuned for the next episode: Organizing the Sewing Stuff - Part II "After".

Blueprint for Late Winter and Spring

After a long week with illness, I am on the mend, and making plans for the upcoming months. I have three goals:
  1. Restoring Health, including proper exercise and eating.
  2. Organizing my "stuff", especially sewing stuff and music.
  3. Preparing my home and harp for Easter.
My exercise regimen took a big hit, first because Paul and I were working very hard on our house, refinishing woodwork and installing it. We have been waiting for years (literally) to do this. The big push came because we were anticipating having our house appraised for a refinance (fingers crossed, still waiting to hear!). Then late last week the whole family, except for lucky Robert, became ill with this horrible virus. So starting Saturday, I want to go back to the health club and plan some wholesome meals.

I have begun a huge organization of my sewing supplies. I am close to done. (I will post my How-To and photos once this process is complete.) This process was so satisfying, I want to also do it for my music, which is in similar disarray as my sewing supplies. This clears the mind, makes finding things a breeze. So I would like to have both areas completely organized within the next month.

Finally, I am very excited about Easter. I met yesterday and today with our interim music director and another choir member to help plan Easter music for the Triduum (In the Catholic Church, this is the three important components of Easter: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening). I will be playing harp and singing with the choir. Lots of work to do! Lots of practicing ahead for me. I also want to have the house all clean and sparkley for Easter, and I would like to have my extended family over on Easter Sunday. I have time off from work around then, so this will be delightful. I will also have the week after Easter off to start gardening.

I feel very happy about this plan!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Resurrected Ballgown

Did you ever have one of those dreams where you walk into an area of your house that you never knew was there before, and it's really awesome? I had a similar (real) experience this week with a Civil War Ballgown.

I had started a lovely ballgown five years ago that I boxed up in frustration after a problem with the taffeta I was using: apparently the needle I was sewing with was either not sharp enough, or had a burr on it, because it was making these odd lines in the fabric, almost like a run, but not as bad. It looked gargantuan to me and I abandoned the project. So, it's been sitting down there in the basement and I didn't know what to do with it. I had thought of taking it out many times, even of throwing it out, but it was silk taffeta that, even though it was purchased on a great sale, it was still a lot of money.

I am needing a ballgown in either March or April for Civil War balls that I am just dying to go to. I decided to assess the situation in the basement box. I thought I might have enough fabric to re-do the parts that had concerned me previously. The bad news was that there wasn't really enough to re-do. The good news is that the areas I was concerned about are no big deal. Either time has improved it (unlikely) or my standards have lowered, or could it simply be that with time and work I have let go of much of the perfectionism that has blighted my life? Whatever the reason, I am ecstatic! A project well on its way already, most of the dreary stuff done.

So, I began ironing the skirt panels to be sewn together, and the skirt lining, while listening to one of my favorite sewing CD's Harpestry (seen above on one of the lilac taffeta skirt panels). The bodice itself just needs to have the side seams and piping done; I had done the lining and interlining, some assembly, and the eyelets for the back closure already.

Blizzard 2011

We are used to deep snows and terrible weather in the Chicago area. This one had us *a bit* concerned (some predictions were that we might get 28" of snow!). We didn't get that much, but almost, and the blowing and drifting snow made huge hills and mountains. We had prepared for the worst (getting in food, purchasing extra shovels, propane cannisters for the space heater and wood for the fireplace in case we lost power). I also decided to buy a sled for Tyler in case there was some fun sledding to be had.

There was!