I'm asked this question a LOT. Why bother sewing garments for yourself when ready-to-wear is so inexpensive? I'm glad you asked!
I hope this list has given you something to think about. I'm going to keep sewing my own clothes, and maybe my wardrobe will be closer to 60-75% handmade a year from now!
Why do you sew clothing? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
Why do so many of my products use anchor-printed fabric? I'm so glad you asked!
My favorite crafty bloggers will periodically show their work space. I don't know about you, but I love seeing where others create! That made me think you might want to see where I create.
But then I hesitated. That seemed like getting very personal. You know those close-talkers that can make you uncomfortable? That's kind of how I reacted to showing you photos of my studio if you've never been to my home.
It's not finished. It needs paint, but has been very low on the list of home improvement projects. It needs a new floor. The prior owners splashed paint everywhere when starting to fix up this part of the house. Paint is on the windows, my friends. It doesn't even have heat! We get plenty of residual heat coming up the stairwell, and why would you care if it's heated sitting on the other side of this screen??
I realize that 95% of the people reading this blog are my friends who have been to my house already. That doesn't stop me from fretting over the 5% who haven't and who might still judge me. So I decided not to care if someone judges and found it liberating! Need to do that more often. I think it's a cool space, and really, that's all that matters at the end of the day because I'm the one working in it at the end of the day (and beginning, middle, and every moment I can spare).
The tour will take a few posts, though the space is very very small (a former upstairs bedroom in our house).
No space is perfect. There's no such thing as perfect, really. But this space is mine, and I love it! Beautiful things come out of this space, of which I am very very proud. Maybe showing my not-yet-finished and very un-Martha-Stewart-like space will inspire one of you to dive in and make beautiful things right where you are.
We'll start with where I sew. This is Janey. She's a Janome brand machine, who lets me take plain Jane fabrics and turn them into things of beauty and usefulness. I like her a lot. We get along swimmingly and I would highly recommend Janome to anyone shopping for a new machine. You do not need all the bells and whistles that she comes with, but they make my work (hours per day, keep in mind) much more enjoyable.
This is the main desk area. We are so lucky that the built-ins came with the house. This is set up and wired perfectly to have a computer on the left, my sewing machine on the right. The desk is flanked on both sides by built-in drawers (seen on the right in this photo), and four drawers in the center. As I mentioned, everything needs paint, desperately, but it functions extremely well for now while we get around to painting. Note the bright sunlight streaming in through those windows--it's a very happy space!
Computer area. I'm not going to lie, I moved a few piles of papers in order to take this photo. Most of the time it looks like this, but you've seen photos in previous posts showing how messy the studio gets when I'm on a deadline, juggling multiple projects, or a craft fair approaches (today, all three happen to be true). Usually I listen to NPR (makes me feel smart) or Pandora something or other. If it's a very creative day, maybe Ani DiFranco or Florence and the Machine. If I'm working on a deadline, it might be the Gwen Stefani station to keep me energized.
My sewing space. I have all my frequently used tools handy, plus patterns, inspiration, notes tacked up about how many bags I'm trying to make this week to stay on track for a craft fair, and of course cute photos of my children. You'll have to strain to see them because I'm deliberately not zooming in on them. Can you see all the dots on that window??? Paint. <sigh>
Messy lists, but that's how I roll. To do lists, materials to buy lists, customer orders, things to work on with my Etsy shop--running a small business is so much more than sewing bags! This is one way that I stay organized and kinda-sort-of on top of things.
Family contributions to my studio. The thread spool painting is from my daughter; the embroidered rose is the work of my great-grandmother; and the wooden scissors are a handmade gift from my Dad (I plan to paint them white and maybe put my logo on one of the blades). I think the cover of Threads magazine in the bottom pocket of that organizer is hilarious--how seductive can one really look on the cover of a sewing magazine? And why would a publisher want that look?
The picture in the background to the right is a framed greeting card a dear friend and fellow Navy wife gave me. It's a print from the 40's that says, "Gee I wish I was a man, I'd join the Navy." I love it!
The built-ins are great storage for all sorts of business supplies. Here are some stamps and fabric ink.
Thread and bobbins are at my fingertips while I work. I prefer not to mount the thread spools on the wall because the space gets dusty quickly. They can stay protected from dirt, as well as any sun damage (sunlight weakens thread quickly, not to mention the fading). Want an idea to occupy a preschooler for over an hour? Ask them to sort a drawer full of thread spools by color. Or a giant jar of buttons. Works every time.
Trash drawer. It hides nicely when I need it to go away.
Often I find surprises on my desk. They always make me smile : )
My view when typing at the computer of the Sakonnet River. See--this space is ah-mazing! Worth the crappy paint job. My house is not as big as these!
The view from my cutting table, which I'll show you in the next part of this series. The view will change when the leaves come in, but for now I love seeing the sunrise come up over this water in the morning. Looking at beautiful trees out the window isn't bad either.
Thank you for joining me on the first part of my studio tour!
Image from SeventhGeneration.com
"Caring Today for Seven Generations of Tomorrows" (www.seventhgeneration.com)
The first time I saw the logo for this company I was deeply moved. It clicked, it made sense. The company motto is taken from a Native American way of life. We should be emulating people who lived in harmony with the Earth for centuries. How did we stray so far by creating a culture that values buying so much cheap disposable stuff made far far away from here?
My eco-friendly efforts start at the beginning when I wash all my fabric. Not only do I wash with this detergent, but I wash everything in cold water in an energy efficient high capacity front-loading machine. I freely confess to machine drying the fabric as well, but that is to pre-shrink. After that, line drying is best.
Bubble mailers seemed the right thing to use at first. Even though my items are not fragile, the thought of a package sitting on someone's front step in the rain for hours is awful. Who wants a new handmade soggy tote bag? The plastic liner seemed necessary. Then came Eco Mailers (www.ecoenclose.com). What a fantastic product! Compostable. Tamper-proof. Can be used a second time with an additional adhesive strip. If you throw it away, it will biodegrade in a landfill within 60 months. AND they are comparably priced to bubble mailers. Genius! I plan to order all mailing products from them as I run out of what I currently have in stock.
Everyone loves a beautifully wrapped parcel. Etsy buyers have come to expect some sort of clever packaging from an artistic community of sellers. This always costs more, by the way! Elaborate packaging that would simply be thrown away doesn't work with my business practices. Enter the 100% recycled tissue paper and fabric scrap ties. You still feel like you are opening a present when you receive your order, but the paper is on its second life, you can recycle it further after opening, and the "ribbon" would have otherwise been discarded in my studio but now has a second life prettying-up your parcel.
Hand sewn alternatives to plastic rings true through most all of the products I offer for sale. Even the baby shoes are washable cotton as opposed to, say, Baby Crocs, faux-leather Robeez knockoffs, or even trendy 80's-retro Jelly Sandals.
My reusable bags speak for themselves. Saving approximately 500+ plastic lunch baggies from the landfill per child every school year? Totally worth the investment, in my opinion. How many of you recycle your clear plastic produce bags? Hmmm, thought so. The mesh bags are a great solution. I'd love to hear ideas for a solution to those bags I still use for grocery store meat, other than buying all of my meat at my local farmstand.
So much plastic has entered my life since having children. I thought I would try to do something about it. Tic Tac Toe, Memory, Go Fish and crayon rolls are great birthday gifts and have been very well received by other moms. Most of my toys are made for the holiday season, but I happily make crayon rolls all year long.
Previously I have made tote bags from upcycled, thrifted fabrics. I like using tablecloths because the weight of the fabric translates well into a tote bag. Everything I make is not upcycled for several reasons: 1) Plenty of people still have an "ick factor" with used fabric and simply won't buy those products. 2) There are so many gorgeous fabrics out there! I can't resist them, and I see no reason why reusable can't be gorgeous or fun or both. 3) When someone asks me, "Do you make snack bags in XXX theme because my Johnny would love to have those in his lunchbox!" I jump on the opportunity to make some. Not only am I helping along the next generation by encouraging green living at an early age, they will be excited about it and maybe their friends will think it's cool too. This is a no-brainer business practice, but it's just a good thing too. See my comments above about thinking forward to future generations.
Using organic fabric is an area I would like to explore more this year. Organic fabric is not just dirt-colored hemp--look at that gorgeous snack bag! The variety and availability is increasing rapidly. There are really beautiful and fun prints out there, though they are still more expensive than their conventional counterparts. The fiber is produced without pesticides and fertilizers, so the land from which the cotton comes is clean. That's a good thing to support. The fabric itself is not treated chemically before arriving at my door. That's another good thing to support. Produce bags made without any chemicals coming in contact with my organic produce? Yes please! Are most of the residues removed during my pre-wash? Probably, but I don't know for certain.
Image from swamplot.com
Is this the mess we want to leave the next seven generations ahead of us to clean up?
My new product tags from Moo.com
Buying Local, Sustainable and Handmade is GREEN. Do it now. Repeat often.
Once upon a time I worked in sales for a west coast start-up. They had an unusual name (Velocity 11) and I loved the inevitable question: "Where did the name come from?" Most often I cited the movie Spinal Tap and how the dial "went to 11," but there was never one real answer. My story is not that entertaining, but it's a story nonetheless.
I used to dance. A lot. As in studied ballet from age 3-18. No, I won't be sharing photos. Don't get me wrong, I was never very good and certainly did not have the body for it, but I loved it and kept at it (God bless my mother and the countless hours she logged carting me to and fro). Let's just say it has always been a big part of my life and while I don't study anymore, I'm one of the most appreciative audience members you will ever meet. Modern dance, which I fell hard for in college, was much better suited to me. Add up the years, and that's a whole lotta dancing.
Have you ever watched the threads move within a sewing machine? The thread from the spool is fed through the eye of the needle and thread comes up from the bobbin underneath, weaving the two threads together to make a stitch. A string of stitches is a seam. To me, those two threads dance while I sew.
I live in Rhode Island, and have for 7+years now. We've put down roots and love it here. Plus, there was a weaver in Indonesia who had the "Dancing Threads" shop name already claimed on Etsy. Hence the slightly disjointed "RI" part. That's my story and I'm sticking with it. Plus, the state and feds now know me as "Dancing Threads RI," and it would be a pain to change. I like it. If you want to just call me Dancing Threads, I'm ok with that. I won't tell the weaver if you don't.
Thank you for visiting as I venture into cyberspace! You can probably tell that I'm not very tech savvy (am I the last person on Earth to start a blog?), so please bear with any glitches along the way as I get my sea legs.
In this space I hope to share tips, pics and quips as they pertain to my adventures in sewing (yes, sewing can be adventurous--you should hear the swearing that ensues when something goes so wrong that it means an hour-long date with my seam ripper). Also, I'm not going to lie in my first real post, the blog will hopefully help me to grow my business, Dancing Threads RI.
What you will not see are photos of my family. As important as they are to me, this is my endeavor and any and all mistakes will be my own. We have felt strongly that our children will not appear online until it is one day their decision. Paranoid? Maybe. I'm fine with that label when it comes to this topic. I don't want a 16 year old finding out one day that we chronicled his potty training experience for all the world to see. I would not feel comfortable today had my parents done that to me! Do I ever think that more than 5 people will read this blog? Of course not! But you never know.
Things I do hope to share here: new product releases, previews of things in the design pipeline, things I sew personally for family and my home, tutorials for simple sewing projects, organization ideas and a whole lot more.
The picture of the antique Singer occupies a place of honor in my studio. It was my grandmother's treadle machine (meaning no electricity, the needle is powered by a foot pedal). I adore this machine! It currently is non-functional because of a needed belt replacement, but one day I hope to have it working again. Once upon a time I sewed with my grandmother on this machine, so it would be fantastic to make her run again. How I started on this machine and ended up running a home-based business is a story for another day.
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.