Setting up your sewing workspace

My desk has certainly become my creative sanctuary. I look forward to climbing up on my stool everyday to work, whether it's handing the nitty-gritty paper work of running your own business, answering emails, sewing up something fun for myself, or experimenting and creating samples for new classes and workshops. 

Not everyone has a designated sewing space in their home, let alone a separate studio to let the threads fly! But here are a few tips for creating your ideal sewing workspace, wherever it may be!

Pick a tidy place, and keep it tidy.

There's nothing more frustrating than trying to sew in a cluttered area. Sewing requires space so clear some room before you start.

Choose a comfy chair.

It's really important to have a good, comfy chair when sewing. Hours can pass without you even knowing it! Something with a back support is also good. Make sure your sewing machine is set on a solid, flat surface, at a comfortable height.

Sewing and eating do not mix.

Save snack time for later, when you take a break. Crumbs have a way of finding themselves all over your fabric, and they can get inside your sewing machine too, and we don't want that. When hunger strikes, or you fancy a cup of tea, step away from your machine and your project.

Keep all your supplies at the ready.

It's a good idea to have all your tools and sewing things handy when you're settling in for an afternoon of making. Get yourself a basket for all your sewing things or a few little plastic storage containers that you store under your desk or your workspace. That way when you need those thread snips, they're within arm's reach.

Make sure you have enough light.

My mum is that tiny voice in my head that says, "turn a lamp on, you'll strain your eyes!" But she's right! You will strain your eyes and we can't have that. During the daytime, sew next to a window and invest in a decent lamp when you're sewing in the evening.

Pick a room that doesn't have carpet.

There is nothing like having to hoover after every sewing session! Threads have a way of getting absolutely everywhere, on our socks, our trousers, our sweaters... If you can, sew in a room with a floor that is sweepable.

Put on some music!

Some fun music is always a good way to get in the sewing mood. Sometimes I like to listen to audiobooks or podcasts while I sew, but sometimes there's nothing like Spotify or a favourite 8tracks playlist to sew by.

What does your sewing space look like?

The Golden Rules of Sewing

We all have our favourite quotes and mantras to live by. When it comes to teaching sewing, I have my golden rules, which aren't really rules at all, but rather things to think about when just starting out. Whether you're eight to eighty and learning to sew, here are some thoughts to sew by.

Always be positive.

Start every project with a positive attitude. Think it's going to be super hard? You can do it! If you get stuck, remember to take a break before you get panicky and stressed. Sewing should be fun, challenging but fun. 

Use your imagination and make it your own.

Don't be afraid to get creative and try something new, and maybe different. Mix and match fabric patterns, go bold and unusual, make your project your own. It doesn't have to be perfect and it doesn't have to look the same as someone else's. 

Practise.

Sewing with success does take practise. I can always tell when my students haven't touched their machines over the summer holidays or Christmas break! Just like any other skill, it requires regular practise. It took me at least a dozen test buttonholes to get them just right! Thank goodness for scrap fabric :)

Sew slow... the turtle wins the race, remember?

On week one when I get a fresh group of eager students, they just want to sew, sew, sew! They're so eager that they put the pedal to the metal and sew as fast as the machine will go. STOP! Control is key when sewing and while some think sewing faster will get their project done faster, that's not true at all. You'll often make more mistakes when rushing, have to stop and unpick and sew again. Sew slow like a turtle and you'll get there in the end, with a beautiful project to boot!

What's your creative mantra? 

Basic supplies every sewer needs

What's in my sewing box you ask? Well I'll tell you! When starting out with a new hobby, especially sewing, it can seem like you need a buy a million things to get started. That's not exactly true, and you don't need all the fancy little tools out there, but some things will definitely make your life a little easier. 

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Here's what I would put in a beginner's sewing box (hint, hint, this would make a great gift for someone who's keen to learn how to sew!):

  • Extra sewing machine needles (some machines come with spares but you never know when you'll break a needle, so best to always have some spare ones on hand)
  • Pins (sharp ones with colourful pearl-heads are ideal, and oh-so-pretty!)
  • Hand sewing needles (for those finishing touches)
  • Scissors (two pairs: one only for fabric and one only for paper)
  • Seam ripper (for those times we make mistakes)
  • Thread (I mainly use white and black for crafty projects, but it doesn't hurt to have some funky colours as well, for fancy contrasting top stitching)
  • Disappearing-ink fabric marker or chalk pencils (these are invaluable for tracing templates onto fabric)
  • Ruler (one should be at least 30cm long, and clear acrylic quilter's rulers are also quite handy)
  • Flexible measuring tape (essential when measuring to make garments)

Some fancy extras that I love having around?

My pair of thread snips. They're quick to grab and snip away all my extra threads when I'm finishing a project.

A rotary cutter makes cutting out shapes super easy, especially quilt pieces. 

Pom pom makers in different sizes are a lot easier to use (and faster) than the old folk method or the cardboard circle method. These Loome tools are perfect for making pom-poms quickly, and being made of wood are sturdy to hold and don't have little plastic bits that can break off. They're also easy for kids to use.

A sewing gauge ruler is my best friend for measuring seam allowances and when pressing hems.

Chocolate... for those times when you need a sugary fix to keep going!

What's in your sewing box? What tools can you not live without?

Grin and bear it!

We've been sewing plush teddy bears lately, here at home and also with some of my private after-school sewing students. It's a nice break from all the clothes we've been making! The girls picked this Wool & Liberty Bear from PurlBee and I whipped one up ahead of our class to show the girls.

He is a dear, isn't he?

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On week one we cut out all our pieces (there are quite a lot!) and pieced together the head and legs. Week two we sewed the arms, the body and assembled it all together. The girls have plans for tiny jackets and top hats for their bears; it reminds me of some of my first sewing projects making little clothes for my stuffed animal friends!

If you need a nice weekend project to sew with kids who are competent on the sewing machine, this is definitely a sweet pattern to try. He does need something, maybe a tiny cape or a bow tie so he doesn't look so bare!

What have you been sewing lately?

A call for mittens for bushfire koalas

I couldn't help but share this story because 1) Who doesn't love koalas? and 2) Who doesn't want to help a koala in need? This week an Australian wildlife organisation, called the International Fund for Animal Welfare, has put out a call for homemade mittens for koalas whose paws have been burned in the bushfires in South Australia.

Did anyone else's heart just melt? 

Here's  what they need:

Koalas urgently need your help. We may see more koalas coming into the care of wildlife groups for treatment of burns. We urgently need mittens made from 100% cotton sheets or tea towels to protect injured paws. Please cut out our pattern and get your friends to get sewing too. Send your mittens to IFAW at 6 Belmore Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010 and we will distribute them where they are most needed – to vets, vet nurses and wildlife carers.

Here's how you can help:

Sew some mittens! Lots of them! And then pop them into the mail to Australia.

The mittens are very easy to sew as their main purpose is to cover the koala's bandaged paws. They need to be made from 100% cotton fabric, so using old bed sheets, tea towels and even t-shirts is recommended. Click here for a printable PDF of the pattern.

Where should you send them?

IFAW

6 Belmore Street

Surry Hills NSW 2010

Australia

So it looks like my weekend is sorted. Don't worry koalas, your mittens are coming!