when your sewing project has to be put down for a little while.
Have you ever “failed” at a sewing project? Sometimes your project comes together all at once. You find a pattern then the perfect fabric (not your muslin but final garment fabric) then notions are easily procured. Sometimes it’s user error, sometimes its poor pattern fitting, this time it was a notions fail.
I know how it is to organize a sewing space in a tiny apartment with kids, a loft with your partner, my bedroom, or now in my luxurious sewing room. You see we have moved A LOT, and while it is a pain in the rear, it has definitely honed my spacial relation skills. There are some who have their own space like I do now and some who have to pick up and pack up mid project. It’s hard, but I sew not only for the better fitting, feeling and longevity of my garments but because it brings me peace. I think I must weave in a bit of magic for each successful make.
When my sewing was confined to my bedroom:under bed storage was great for my tools and patterns. It quickly slid in and out-of-the-way, was shallow enough to see everything and held a lot. Fabric has and continues to live (sometimes I think multiply in the dark) in large rubbermaid bins. They stack easily, have great handles and aren’t too heavy to move about. My sewing table was a folding banquet table that I used for craft shows as well but any hard surface would have worked.
When I shared a loft with my partner: I still had rubbermaid bins for fabrics and those lived in a spare closet. The plastic drawer units held my patterns organized by garment type and my tools by frequency of use (all my leather working tools in the bottom drawer and my sewing scissors and such in the top). I kept the room mostly room like with a large desk as my sewing table and the bed with a cardboard cutting mat as my cutting table (this was before my love of rotary cutters). The only thing that was more sewing room like was the duct tape dress form of myself.
When I sewed with kids in a tiny apartment: I can’t sing the praises of stacking, lidded bins enough. All fabric lived in a bin organized by home dec, suiting, special occasion, cottons, and knits. Yeah I had a lot of fabrics. My sewing supplies were in a plastic tool box by Martha Stewart for Kmart. I can’t find mine but any art supply bin or Caboodle will do (for us 80’s kids). I still had the cardboard cutting mat and would lay that on the dining room table to cut out my projects. I would work as far as I could then box everything back up till next time. Sometimes it was 5min of sewing or 2 hours, sometimes it was days between. I think this is where my dislike of UFOs started (UFO’s are Un Finished Objects).
When I have my own room: I love books and now have a book shelf for all my sewing and art related books and magazines. On it I also have a small plastic drawer unit with my sewing needles, glues and tapes. In two other boxes with a lids are my office supplies and electronic supplies. Next to my book shelf is a very small Ikea dresser that has all my big four patterns (McCalls, Vouge, Butterick and Simplicity) and on top of it in manilla envelopes and magazine holders are all my print at home and indi patterns. Fabrics mostly still live in rubbermaid bins but now I am down to two. One for all my quilting cottons (I’m not a quilter so I don’t pull them out often) and another overflowing with my garment fabrics of varying make up. I do have one of the closet hanging shelf things for my sewing and lingerie fabrics as I don’t have much of them. All my notions are in lidded shoebox size plastic boxes by type: zippers, bias and assorted tapes, buttons and fasteners, bra making, elastics, piping and velcro. This makes it easy to grab what I need and know if I have it or need to run to the store.
Do you have any great organization tips to share? I have been meaning to keep a fabric swatch book or a digital form, I hear good things about Evernote. What have you used?
My tips and suggestions for fabric shopping in Downtown Los Angeles CA
Fabric shopping can be so exciting, sometimes even treasure hunt like. I live about 45 minutes away from one of North Americas few fabric and manufacturing hubs, Downtown Los Angeles. Where there is garment manufacturing there is fabric. If you are visiting Los Angeles, you like to make clothing for yourself or others and you brought an extra suitcase (not really, but maybe) you really should get out there and shop DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles).
There is lots of walking and lots of people (if people aren’t your thing try to go during the week or early in the day)
It is very dirty downtown and you will be walking, a lot
Micheal Levine has a bathroom, most fabric shops don’t, some chain restaurants or food places may want you to deposit a quarter or use a code given by a cashier to unlock the bathroom
Bring cash. While many are totally fine with using a card swiper, you have more bargaining leverage if you pay cash, at the smaller vendors especially
If you are driving, everything is paid parking expect on average $20 (I’ve usually paid about $15 but rates can change) or use a social ride service, taxi or public transport
There are a multitude of small shops along Maple Ave. packed so tight it’s hard to walk into them but it is so worth it, thats were I found an entire roll of picot elastic for $6.00. Be aware some are closed on Saturday but open on Sunday. In between Maple Ave. and Santee St. on E. 9th St. is my favorite place to find swim and some underwear fabric Blue Moon, Google maps will take you to an indoor mall where its appointment only so beware. On Maple Ave. is Michael Levine’s, the map apps will take you to the right location for this one and it is worth it for a wide variety of fabrics, notions, yarn and ribbon or just a bathroom break.
Across the street from the main Michael Levine location is their Upholstery fabric and The Loft above. DO NOT MISS THE LOFT! This is where the treasure hunting starts. Up above the beautiful rolled and sorted upholstery fabrics are large boxes and bins of “one offs” “remnants” and “end of bolts”. Sometimes it’s a yard or it could be four, all of it is sold by the pound. I found loads of poly and nylon for lingerie sewing and knits, oh so many knits. The Loft is closed on Sunday so plan accordingly.
If you go on a weekday or Sunday (they are closed Saturday) there is a large vendor of trims and elastics on Maple between 9th and 8th. The building has “Trim Expo” painted on it but I don’t know if that is still the name of the business. So many beaded trims, woven ribbons, wedding lace and lingerie elastics in the back.
Once you are done getting down and dirty for your fabric fix, head toward Mood Fabrics in the Miracle Mile/La Brea part of Los Angeles. There on S. La Brea Ave you will find Mood fabrics and a bit farther up The Fabric Store-Los Angeles. This is where you can find silks and french ribbons, linens and New Zealand merino Jersey. At Mood they are happy to help pull down rolls or if you are wanting to “wait and see” give you a generous swatch. I am still using the swatch of Tulle Leonardo I received there, Bra making is great for using small bits of fabric.
There is also FIDM to visit if there is a costume or fashion installation to be displayed but that is for another post. I hope this has giving some intrepid sewist out there the info they need to explore what DTLA has to offer, it really is an experience that should not be missed.
I finally took the plunge and altered my 14 dollar denim from Old Navy. I don’t know why all their denim leaves a gap in my derrière area but it’s just unsightly. I used my new Organ Sewing Machine Needles my mother sent me (I think mine are sz 16) and then found out I was out of the yellow jeans thread, but plugged along without it. I added two small darts under the waistband, then took in the waistband under the center back belt loop (that I had also ripped off) just to hide it. They fit so much better, and without a before wear picture and because I don’t really want to take a picture of my butt you will have to take my word for it.