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Category Archives: Sewing Space

Cutting Table Raised

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In all my years of sewing I have never had a cutting table at a proper height for my 5’2.25″ frame. I now have a table set at 36″, right at my waist. I had to dance!

Happy Dance!

Thanks, everyone, for all your suggestions for raising a cutting table! Wonderful ideas, all. I got a few minutes with my husband and we decided to try the leg sleeves of PVC on my husband’s Mother’s old dining table if we could find the correct interior diameter of PVC.

Tonight my husband brought home eight 2.5 inch in diameter PVC pipe, cut to 25.5″ long sleeves to fit over the highly profiled table legs.

2.5" diameter PVC pipe with bolts at 6.5"

The table has two drop leaves and one insert leaf so it is very versatile for a small space. A hole was drilled through the pipe, offset so that the leg would sit on top of the bolt exactly 5.5″ from the floor.

2 Drop Leaves

Our main concern was finding PVC with the proper interior measurements that would let it slip over the legs and not grip or be sloppy. We found the 2.5″ diameter would have an interior measurement just approximately .025″ larger than the widest part of the legs themselves. Perfect! The table top is now at 36″ from the floor.

Raised from 29.5" to 36"

In this configuration the table top measures 62.5″ x 43.5″ and is covered by a mat gridded by inch to 36×56.

Old Dining Table
There’s now even more storage space under the table. Ah, so now I can finish making a certain husband’s new shirts.

This worked out just right.


On the Cutting Table

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Cutting Table

Things are progressing very slowly on the cutting table. This table is too short, it’s an old dining table and 29.75″ high. I should be cutting at 36″ high. My old table at The Stitchery was 39.5″. The one table that was the correct height was my embroidery work table and now it is our dining table. And, remember, I’m cutting 5 workshirts from a denim cambric

Ouch, I need a break, lots of them!

Lately it’s almost impossible to cut more than 1 piece before my back is in spasms. I cut, I go sit. Over and over. I don’t remember having this happen before, usually I can push on through, not right now.

Ever had a project become bogged down from surprising circumstances?

Well, the mind is willing, even if the body is not. I decided to make the job even worse by pulling the fine shirtings that have been waiting for years upon the shelves.

I always like to cut as much as possible from the pattern before me, it makes more sense than cutting one garment and searching for another pattern, ’cause I can take for—ever to decide what’s next. It’s bad. And old production habits die hard.

I have these lovely fabrics that have been waiting for shirts for the husband. This new piece just came in from in
Acorn 2013, from Acorn, UK

I didn’t know the source of the blue stripped fabric, purchased from The Wool House, until I went to Acorn’s website

The Blue Stripe is from Acorn, The Wool House 2008

This top fabric has the lightest hand of all

Lightest hand of all, not sure if I will cut it

and while I bought it for him, I may cut it into a shirtdress for me. It suggests “feminine”

Purchased 2006? Source possibly Michael's Fabrics

This last piece is the most unbelievably silky hand, the finest denim I’ve ever seen. It may be too good for this pattern. Maybe I should wait to cut this when I find or draft the most amazing shirt ever? Yeah, probably.

Fine Denim Shirting, Italy, The Wool House 2011

I bought it from The Wool House in Toronto when I went to meet Els and Lorna in 2011. This is seriously fine cloth and most likely from Italy, since that’s where their fabrics are supposedly sourced.

So, I’m cutting slowly and wondering how to get this table raised when I really don’t have the bricks or vegetable cans to put under the legs. Oh OK, I should go buy the 5″ tall cans and insist that my husband help me get them under the table legs.

A woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do. Well, if he wants the shirts, right?

Mom's Graduation Project, Traphagen School of Fashion 1936

Testing: Styrofoam Pin cushions

When there’s a flaw in the final product, these wooden boxes become home storage. Anyone know why, stuffed with recycled Styrofoam, they couldn’t become the new pin holders?

Pin Cushions:  Recycled styrofoam stuffed into wooden boxes

I’ll give it a try!

No Magnetized Pins!

Yes! Favorite Pin Holder No! Pin Holder

Pins lay around my sewing machine as I stitch through a project and remove them before the needle passes over them with one easy pass of my hand. They pool in the small space between the machine and the edge of the table where I also keep the snippers, scissors, tweezers, and seam rippers for easy access. I sew quickly but I have to stop and use two hands to remove magnetized pins from my other tools.

Yes, having a way to pick pins out of carpet is a good thing. I sew in a room without carpet, thank heavens. If I had carpet I would use a toilet brush dedicated to the sewing room to sweep the pins out of the carpet pile rather than return to having magnetized pins in my environment.

Ah, the villains in action! Luckily (or not) I found 3 old pins that had escaped the clean out of The Stitchery so I could take this picture. These scissors are not usable when covered in magnetized pins.

Magnetized Pins

I have tried using wooden boxes and pin cushions but I just get moving too fast and putting the pins into a special holder also takes up time. The wool wad accepts pins quickly and easily.

Magnetized pins grab on to anything metal and enough of them can then realign the electrodes in the object so that it becomes magnetized. The cycle is endless and a conspiracy to steal my time. At 30 seconds per occurrence in a 6 hour sewing session that could add up to an extra 30 minutes a day. I haven’t timed the problem but I do want it to stop! And I’m hoping that all my metal tools can be demagnetized if necessary.

Demagnetization is a pain and I haven’t been effective at it with my hand held magnets and piles of pins. There are products you can buy to demagnetize things but I don’t want to add to my sewing clutter unless it is some fabulous fabric or gadget.

For the curious and determined here are a couple of articles on demagnetizing:

Wiki Answers: How Do You Demagnetize An Object?

Wikipedia: Demagnetizing Field

Here’s my wool wad. It has sat next to my button sewing machine, holding the special needles I needed for production. I found a heavy little ceramic dish to hold it at a restaurant equipment reseller when looking for paint booth mixing supplies. A heavy bowl is important to make this tool work well, I think.

Wool Wad and Holder

It was just happenstance that it fit so well. I’m sure there are other solutions to be found at Goodwill or second hand stores.

The wool wad accepts pins more easily than the stuffed pin cushions I’ve run across and the wad is not so thick that short needles disappear into it forever. The natural lanolin in the wool supposedly helps prevent rust as well. Here’s an article that happens to agree with me about magnetized pin holders.

You can buy Ewesful pin cushions directly from Ewesful or find them on ebay and Amazon.

Pretty, eh? Love the psychedelic colors. Yeah.

A Much Smaller Sewing Space

I’ve managed to fit the stash, sewing machines and knitting yarn cones into a medium sized bedroom that’s 11.5′ by 15′ (including the closet). It’s not put away nor cleaned up nor ready for public consumption but I want to share some thoughts on fitting a studio’s worth of sewing into one room.

Cardinal rule: Everything must be small and movable. So here’s what I’ve done so far.

I bought a new piece of furniture to hold all the smaller spools of thread and I have 2 drawers left over. Maybe some office equipment can go in those drawers. This is the “Alex Drawer Unit on Casters” from IKEA.

IKEA Unit On Casters

This was a good move! It is on casters and supports a couple of smaller closet organizer shelves that used to sit on the floor. Now the whole thing can be moved around to gain access to those messy jerseys on the fabric shelves

IKEA Drawer Unit

Shelves line both sides of the longer walls of the room and storage will continue on right up to the ceiling

Right to The Ceiling

The work table is also on casters, is modular, and contains drawers and shelving underneath. Originally this table was 44″ x 61″ but only one row of the units is being used at this point. The work surface is now 22″ x 61″. I may try to add the second row of units later after I’ve finished arranging and squeezing. Most of the interfacing and tailoring supplies are in the drawers. One whole side of drawers is devoted to Pammy’s interfacing from 🙂 You can see the labels sloppily hanging off the drawer fronts. I believe in stashes.

Interfacing Stash and Work table

This work table is too high for me to comfortably cut out a whole project so I have my old slab of laminate covered MDF with a large cutting mat on it under the bed in a sleeping room. I may have to resort to the dining room table. We’ll just have to see how things go.

I have two oak Sofa Tables that will hold the sewing machine, serger and coverstitch but not all at the same time. When a machine is not being used it will reside on the floor under the table. The commercial machines went to Hello Wood to perform their duties for the company there. Other sewing machines were “sold” (almost given away) at The Stitchery yard sale. I hope they get used by their new owners.

You can’t really see the sofa tables well, since they are covered in extension cords, and office equipment, but they are there and due to their smaller depth and felt padded feet they are easily movable. They will be arranged in an “L” shape. In the foreground you can see a folding stool that will allow seating at heights from regular chair to high stool.

Sofa Tables for the Machines and folding chairs

The above shot was taken from the door to the room and behind the door is the ironing board, folded up and leaning again the wall. I am unsure what to do about the ironing station at this point. I may pad out a small table top board for pressing as I sew and leave the big board with it’s extra big topper leaning against the wall until I have wool to steam or yardage to press. Lots of executive decisions to be made yet!

And finally, here’s the closet:

Shoe Hanger for Thread

There a cheapo shelving units holding acres of Malden Mills technical fabrics and bolts of wools and cotton stand in the corner between them but best of all is the idea that came from a friend who answered my plea for help: use clear hanging shoe units to hold thread.

And then there’s bags of knitting thread cones that have to be organized on the shelf above. As soon as I get the energy to climb the step ladder one more time, I’ll get right on that. LOL

So, what’s my favorite thing about paring down and selling off stuff? Getting rid of those darned magnetized pins and needles that have been the bane of my sewing since I brought them in contact with the seemingly wonderful magnetic pin holders.

Pin Holder

I sold (almost gave away) all my pins and am looking forward to using just a simple wool wad for a pin cushion.

My main “bother” is that I no longer have an office. After 20 years. I feel kind of unstrung about that.

OK, now I’ve shown you my mess. Does it make your mess look better? Hope so. And now that I’ve made this mess public I hope it will spur me on to show you a more well organized room in a few days.

Dogs and Laundry

I am shaky today. My little Westie is undergoing exploratory surgery because she has been diagnosed with cancer of the bladder and they want to assess the tumor. I am rarely WOD (with out dogs)

Another Attempt

She’s been my constant companion for almost 11 years, and a major contributor to the weird looks on my face as I try to get photos done for the blogs.

Bottom Cut Straight

Solo photography is hard enough to do without a couple of dogs hamming it up: sometimes I just have to give in

How to Take Photos

Last week was all about getting the laundry room set up at The Stitchery and finally everything is done


and the hot water heater produces clear water now that it has been inadvertently drained like a scene from a Walt Disney movie.

Because I bought a front loader for the house I had to paint the laundry room there when the over-the-washer cabinet had to be raised.

House Laundry Room

And now I’m loving having the ability to process fabric during the day instead of working even later into the night in prep for the next sewing project.

I’ve been truly blessed. My only thought now is this prayer:

Dear Lord: Please protect Gaely GoLightly, Westie Extraordinaire, and guide her Vet’s hand. And please don’t let any one else in my family get cancer!

The Shut Off Valve Is Under The House!

The odyssey of adding a fabric pretreatment center continues…

I decided to move my 5 year old Neptune top loader washing machine into the Stitchery and get a new front loader for the house. So I got a call this morning that the new washing machine has come in and I set a delivery date for Thursday morning. Husband was in town for meetings so afterward he came to the house and we moved the old washer (which I dearly love for gentle treatment of fabrics) over to the Stitchery. We place it and leveled it.

Before hooking up we ran some water into a bucket and the water was red from rust. I turned on all the other faucets until all the water ran clear and then filled the washer. The water was opaque. Not red, just not clear so I found the drain valve on the hot water heater and using a cordless drill and a bucket I opened the valve…yup, too much crud in the water. I don’t have a garden hose so I thought I would drawn off 4 or 5 buckets of water to get the crud out of the hot water heater.

I tested the water valve again: it turned on and reversing the drill I easily turned it off again. No problem.

So I started draining and turned off the valve when the bucket was full. Went and emptied the bucket in the tub: back to it. But this time when I turned the valve on I opened the valve farther than I had before and when I tried to turn it off again, the drill bit couldn’t reach or something and

I couldn’t turn off the water. No water pan under the heater and no shut off valve that I could find anywhere! I did management to get the gas pilot turned off but

Oh shoot! Water gushed out in between bucket changes, all over the square of carpet under the heater and the 50 year old hard wood floors.

I had 2 bathroom waste baskets and one 5 gallon bucket. I had to fill one and slip the next under the wide open spigot and run to empty in the tub. Somewhere in there I needed to find the phone and call for help…somehow I did that…I have no memory of where the phone was. Got husband on the phone and he will have to drive 8 miles.

So I ran back and forth emptying buckets for another 15 minutes, shouting at dogs to get out of the way.

And Husband showed up, got a pair of pliers and turned the valve handle as far off as it would go. It was broken so the water was reduced to a dribble but not stopped. I used the flat head bit in the cordless drill to turn it the rest of the way off.

And I mopped up.

A shut off valve is less than $3. Why would it be under the house and not on the water line running into the heater???

Someone’s cheap home renovation. A 40 gallon water tank with no way to turn off the water. Joy….

But the good news is that the tank was almost completely drained and hopefully I will have fresher water for the first load of fabrics. I believe I’ll start with some very soggy towels.

After I catch my breath.