Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

July 30th, 2011 10 comments

I did it!  I knocked off (most of)  the pieces I’d planned for my Threads-inspired wardrobe!  Here are the pieces all spread out on my cutting table:
Well, actually, I didn’t make several of the garments I’d planned.  Here’s the list of what I did make:

  1. a dress
  2. a reversible tank top
  3. a skirt
  4. a print tunics
  5. a solid tunic
  6. (7. 8.) three pair of leggings

That’s a set of   eight coordinated garments which can be interchanged a bunch of ways. The total cost of for all eight pieces was under $60 (USD), or about seven dollars and fifty cents a piece.  (Don’t hate  me; I can go to New York City any time and buy inexpensive stretch fabrics!  At least until the fabric district disappears.)

(My original post quoted a likely total cost of about $70, but I had also purchased several yards of a spandex that I didn’t end up using.)

All eight pieces fit into a single packing cube, rolled up like so:

Here it is, all zipped up with a ninth piece added:

This cube is 13.5 inches by 11.5 inches by 3 inches deep — not too big to carry in a large handbag!

The ninth piece wasn’t part of the original plan.  It’s an eggplant-colored wrap that you may be able to suss out on the lower right of the first photo.  I haven’t blogged about it yet.  I take it along to wear when going from 95 degrees into air-conditioning.

In the end, I didn’t follow my plan exactly as originally intended.  Instead of a wrap jacket, and instead of making two long-sleeved tops, I made two sleeveless tunics.  We’re really hurting this summer on the East coast, so “sleeveless” was a much more appealing idea.  The tunics gave me mini-dresses that I can wear alone with the leggings.  Also, I made only one sleeveless shell, but made it reversible.


  • Sewing with a plan is fun!
  • These garments were so quick to sew that the entire wardrobe could have been done on a week’s worth of evenings.  Choosing simple patterns might be a good way to kick start when motivation is lacking.
  • Because this was sort of a kooky project, I let myself experiment with fabrics I wouldn’t necessarily  usually wear.  It’s good to move outside the comfort zone a bit.  (I’m a linen or technical fabrics wench as a rule.)
  • On the other hand, I learned that a tropical spandex print isn’t really “me”, at least not when it involves long sleeves.  My princess dress wears well, but the wild print makes it feel like a whole body tattoo — and all I can’t think about when I’m wearing it is the way those tattoos degrade and become muddy over time, and the way tattoos look a decade later, when skin has morphed.  Not a pretty image; it kind of spoils the dress for me.
  • It’s a lot of fun to be able to sneak 20 minutes and run in and stitch up a pair of leggings!  Verry satisfying!
  • This was a great way to discover and explore a new (to me) pattern line.
  • If the princess dress were made in something a little more, ahem, mature tasteful this wardrobe might carry me almost anywhere. (If it were a little black dress, for example.)
  • Wardrobe in a pocket; I love it!


Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

June 14th, 2011 4 comments

Chez Noile is still in chaos, so I needed some quickie sewing projects that would chew up stash and require minimal space in the sewing room.  Also, I need summer clothes, since I’ve done little about acquiring any for years.  The Christine Jonson summer wardrobe from Threads (Issue 155 June/July 2011) became my springboard:

I made up a storyboard to keep my goal firmly in mind, and I even made the Princess Dress, although I’m not much of a dress-wearer.

Not only is the storyboard a great help in keeping me on track, but it’s a marvelous tool for checking and gathering notions.  I used line drawings from Christine’s site (altering at least one neckline according to my whim), and mocked it up on my computer, leaving room (more or less) for swatches.

The next step was to print it it on cardstock and glue my fabric swatches on.  Then I cut a transparent quilting template to fit over the whole thing, which protects it when attached to a clipboard.  With clipboard in hand, heading to the fabric store to pick up whatever thread or notions I need is fast and easy.  Matching colors is a cinch using the storyboard; it’s much easier than managing a slew of loose swatches.

Inevitably, I’ve made a few changes.  I’ve decided not to make the sleeveless vest, since I can’t actually see myself wearing it.  In summer, if I need a wrap, I need it over my arms, to compensate for air-conditioning.  And I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the jacket.  Do I make it reversible?  In a print?  And I’m not sure I’ll make the sleeved top from the Princess dress pattern, since I now suspect that, for this particular design, my bust is better balanced with a skirt.

But changes and refinement as I go along are all part of the program.  I’m really enjoying making up a planned wardrobe; I think this is a first for me, and I’m counting on making this my “go-to-it’s-brainless” summer travel wardrobe.

So far, I’ve completed five of the garments, and will be knocking off a few more as I wait on the tradesman’s fancy and the moment I can put the house back together.  Finished are the dress, a reversible top, one skirt, and two pair of leggings.  Reviews to come, and more on the way as I knock off the rest.

Christine Jonson quotes a budget of “just under $400” for nine to twelve garments that yield over twenty outfits.  My costs will run under $70 for all pieces, but I’m not using the premium cotton/lycra fabrics Jonson features.  (I can say “for all pieces” now, because I’m working with a finite number of fabrics, even though I haven’t finished the project.)


Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Presser Foot Storage

January 16th, 2011 3 comments

My Pfaff 1229 has storage for the five most commonly used presser feet on the top of the machine, but over the years I’ve acquired quite a few more of these handy accessories.  I store them in a double-sided box meant for fishing tackle:

I’ve tucked the labels for each foot into the corresponding slot, or provided labels for those that came without.  I might go a few years without using a specific foot; this ensures that I’ll have a clue what I’ve got when I go hunting for the right foot for a rare task.

There’s a loop in the end of this particular box, which makes it perfect for hanging up behind my machine:

That hook solves one of the banes of sewing — not being able to find the tool you want when you most need it.  I find, too, that I’m more likely to use my “library” of presser feet if they’re handy; that’s made my sewing easier and more efficient.  And more fun, too!

By the way, if you own (or acquire) a wonderful Pfaff 1229, presser feet and accessories marked “D” are the ones that fit your machine.  I’d suspected this for years, but many of my feet also fit other machines, so I wrote to Pfaff customer service recently, and they confirmed my suspicion.  Although my Pfaff is 25 years old, a surprising number of these accessory feet are still available, as they’re also compatible with much newer machines.

Categories: Machines, Organization, Presser Feet, Tools Tags:

Organization -1798 Style

April 7th, 2010 No comments

Philadelphia has had to stretch a bit to capitalize on its association with Benjamin Franklin; sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  I suspect that many of the visitors to 322 Market Street leave believing that they’ve seen a replica of Ben’s own office, but the restored room actually belonged to his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache.

It’s still historical, and still of interest, whether or not the association with the founding father is direct, so it doesn’t particularly bother me that the two Bens get a bit conflated.  As often happens, it’s the small artifacts of life that catch my eye most frequently.  Here’s what I saw on the wall at the address in question:

bb-fkln-400Grandson Benjamin published his own newspaper, The Aurora, here in the late 1700s, and this was his wall file.  Butterick’s got nuthin’ on Ben Bache.  (You’ll need to click on the third picture from the left, directly under the large picture at the link to get the specific reference.  Heaven forfend a pattern site link should actually be useful.)

Categories: Home, Organization Tags:

Butterick 5160 – Sewing Machine Cover

March 13th, 2008 No comments

Naturally, the first project in my new sewing room had to be a sewing machine cover. I’d been using a simple, channel-quilted muslin cover, but it was pretty blah. When I found some inexpensive, very pretty yardage in blues that coordinate perfectly with my walls, I was ready to go.


I adapted the cover from Butterick 5160, making some major changes. First, of course, it had to be fitted to my actual machine, which meant shortening it width-wise, and making it a bit taller.


An outside pocket was a requirement, but didn’t need (or like the look of) the two pockets provided. One of the other views (probably for the slipcover) had a slightly fan-shaped pocket. I adapted this piece by exaggerating the fan shape, and enlarging the pocket. The idea was to have enough room to keep whatever spools, bobbins, trims, etc. I am using on current projects right at the machine for fast starts.


This pattern is one of Butterick’s Waverly series, and the fabrics on the envelope photo look like Waverly home decor products. They probably have some heft to them, but my fabric didn’t, so I decided to use a layer of thin fleece for structure, and to line my cover with a sage cotton. The pattern calls for bias binding, but I didn’t have enough of coordinating binding to handle three somewhat bulky layers, so I assembled it with conventional seams.


Originally, I didn’t intend to make the handle on top, but it became obvious soon that lifting and moving the cover was going to be a little bit of a pain if I didn’t. Besides, the bias trim and covered buttons were just too much fun — very reminiscent of 1940s aprons. The pattern envelope shows the handle popped up, which looks very cute with the cartoon-y look of the bias-trimmed cover, but I decided to attach mine flat, in keeping with the slightly more sedate look of my cover. I used the same olive trim on the top edge of the pocket, as well as for the buttons.

In spite of the many changes I made, this pattern offered a great starting point, and saved me the time it would have taken to do a careful self-draft. Along with this cover, there’s a chair slipcover (with a bunch of pockets included), basket linings, a sewing tote, a hanging wall organizer, an ironing board cover and, bizarrely, an iron cover, in case you need a flammable place to store your hot iron!

Categories: Home, Organization Tags:

A (Sewing) Room of One’s Own

March 2nd, 2008 3 comments

What could be better, for this first post at Noile.Net, than to describe my new sewing room? Over the course of the next month or so, I’ll be moving articles from my old blog to this new domain, and, of course, add new posts as I sew. But today, it’s all about my new room.

With just a little bit of work, and not too many dollars, we’ve transformed what was formerly a storage catch-all into what it was originally meant to be: a proper sewing room. Now that it’s done, I’m amazed and thrilled at how much easier it is to work in my new room.

tubs.jpgWhy didn’t we do this years ago? And why were we able to do it now? Over the past few years, we’ve learned lots about goal-setting and planning — skills we have never had in any quantity (at least in our personal lives). Without a plan, my sewing room was always doomed to chaos, and to the “organization” system you see on the left. In the past decade or so, I probably spent nearly as much on opaque plastic tubs like these as we spent last week on my new room. But I got so much more for my dollars (and effort) last week. Last week, I had a plan.

stash1-400.jpgThe first goal was to get my stash out where I could see it, be inspired, and know what was on hand. This Expedit “bookcase”, from IKEA ($150), was perfect for displaying yardage. I added seven Lekman boxes (at $12 a piece) to hold current patterns, scraps and smaller pieces of fabric. There’s a whole row of the Lekman boxes on the bottom of the unit in concession to the cats, and just because it seemed like a good idea.

rolled.jpgI put interfacing, batt and other items that don’t lend themselves to shelve storage in this round, mesh laundry hamper. It’s over-stuffed at the moment, but now that I know what I have, I’m expecting to see most of it disappear. The choice of this container was accidental, but inspired; there’s lots of room, and the mesh makes it easy to see anything that’s drifted to the nether regions.

pegboard300.jpgThe next goal was to get the most frequently used tools out of their hiding places so that they could be used and replaced easily. This pegboard was the solution: Home Depot offered it in white (as well as the commonly found brown). They’ll cut large sheets to size for customers, but you must buy the whole sheet, which is 4 feet by 8. This pre-cut sheet was 2 feet by 4; although it wasn’t the perfect configuration, it worked fine. The pegboard, the hardware to install it, and a huge assortment of hooks (as well as several accessories you see) cost under $20.

clip125.jpgThe patterns I’m working with are hanging from Mallen clips (3 for $2); I found them in the bathroom section at IKEA. They’ve got a rubber-like ring; there’s a peg-type gadget you can get from IKEA to hang them from, but they dangle from this peg hardware just fine and add one more bit of inspiration to the room. I’m going to enjoy changing this display as I work through my projects.

cuttab300.jpgThe pegboard hangs above a basic cutting table I bought at Joann ($59 — fortunately on sale last week). This is a “cheapie” version of much more expensive ones, and it’s just right for me at the moment. I’ll be writing a review of it later; overall, I’m pretty impressed with it, and it’s working well. Here it is with just one leaf unfolded; my first project in the new room is a small one. With both leaves open, there’s plenty of room for most of the projects I make; closed, it takes up very little room. Casters make moving the table and its leaves smooth and simple.

iron300.jpgBetween the pegboard and the shelving unit are my iron and ironing board, sitting on a hanger from Joann. That was a desperation purchase, since I didn’t want to order one. It’s crude and cheaply made, and worse, uses smaller than standard screws, which weren’t included. Still, it’s doing the job until the right one comes along. There’s room below for whole bolts of fabric, or anything else bulky that doesn’t fit elsewhere. My dress form fits partly into this little nook; it’s accessible, but neatly out of the way when not needed.

thread-house-closed.jpgThread storage was not a problem. I’ve been using this charming little “thread house” ever since I found it at a thrift shop many years ago. (See it closed, on the left.) Dust isn’t a major problem in most areas of the sewing room, but sometimes thread does hang around for years, and leaving it out renders it unusable if it’s not cleaned regularly. (I admit it, dusting spools of thread appeals to me not one whit.)

thread-house-open.jpgHaving everything sorted by color, and completely visible, is a huge advantage, and has saved me many a last minute trip to the store. You’d think that I’d have trouble with the spools tumbling over, but it’s never been an issue. If I were really worried about it, I could string thin wires just above the shelves inside. (Thread house, open, on the right.)

My sewing table is an old folding conference table. I’m not sure it’s the best thing I could have, but it works just fine, and I’ve not yet seen anything I like better. The two machines I use most frequently fit just fine on top, and there’s enough room to do just about anything I want to.


The wood organizer behind my serger holds sewing machine needles, extra pens, and pin cushions along with whatever else (not much) that doesn’t fit elsewhere. A massive surge suppressor is hidden behind it.


I’ve been using these rainbow organizer drawers (on the right in the picture above) for years (I got them from Costco), but this week was the first time I put absolutely everything that belonged in them in their proper places. I didn’t like this color arrangement, so I rearranged them to emphasize the array of colors a little more.

chalkboard.jpgThe chalkboard/organizer on the wall is Luns ($14, also IKEA). It’s a legacy item, but I think it will stay there. I post projects I’m thinking about here and keep whatever pattern(s) I’m currently working on in the front bins. There are small speakers mounted on the bins. I hang my MP3 player on one of the hooks below, and plug the speakers in — a wonderful quality-of-life add-on!

Of course, there’s an over-sized trash can under the table — with a lid, so that I’m not tossing away the wrong things.


I’m not usually the whimsical type, but painting this room a bold color, and accenting it with crisp white and the “rainbow” drawers were good choices. The room is cheerful, playful and inviting. It floods with light during the day; at night the (yes, it’s IKEA) Jokel lamp, combined with the overhead light, provides plenty of illumination.Whatever choices you make for your sewing space, don’t forget how much it matters that you love being there!

It’s incredible how easy it is to work when I can put tools away as soon as I’m finished with them, and reach for them on a second’s notice. These few changes have taken the drudgery out of sewing, and make my room a true creative center.

There are still a few things left to do. My machines’ cases, and one other sewing machine, are beneath my sewing table, where they most definitely don’t belong. They’ll go into the closet as soon as we move the items we’re storing there for a family member.

mdstool.jpgI also need a proper, rolling chair. My mother-in-law has a wonderful physician’s stool (like this picture, but cushier); she loves it, and it’s very comfortable, but I want one with a back. That’s easy enough to find, but the stumbling block has been my hardwood floor. It’s surprisingly difficult to find a rolling chair that doesn’t require a protective mat under it — especially if you don’t want to spend a fortune.

And there’s that one, last little basket on top of the organizer drawers that has a little too much miscellaneous stuff in it.

So what did this transformation cost? Shelving unit, $150, boxes, $84, pegboard and hardware, $20, iron hanger $9, cutting table $59 for a total of $322. I don’t know exactly how much money I poured into “solutions” that never made my work area a comfortable, or useful, place to be, but I’ll bet that, over the years, it came close to this. This time the money was well-spent, and it seems like a small price to pay for the transformation we’ve effected.

(The lamp and blackboard aren’t included in the tally, since they are items, like my machines, etc., that I already had.)

Image of rolling stool from Amazon.

Categories: Organization Tags: