It has become very apparent over the last few weeks that leaving my sewing machine and dress form set up in the living room isn’t going to be a functional way to construct my trousseau. When it was just Grandma and I (before the fire), she usually left my things set up the way I had them and didn’t fuss too much if it took me a week or three to finish a project. That’s very important for me, especially in a project that’s going to test my skills and creativity. But now that my aunt has moved in as well, it’s rare to come home and find my things where I left them the night before. She frets about the “mess” in the living room from having my sewing machine and other sewing supplies sitting out. And when she “straightens up” sometimes it takes me weeks to find everything that she moved. Don’t get me wrong, I love my aunt and I don’t like having a messy house either. But in the absence of another space to sew in, the little corner in the dining room that I’ve staked out has been my creative space.

(Note: My aunt’s house burned down in July and she has been living with my Grandma and I since then.)

My bedroom is about 9 feet by 10 feet and is in the attic. So in addition to the tiny floor space, I also have sloped ceilings which limits the furniture placement in the room. I’m only living in just over half of the attic space, and I had left the other half alone as storage for seasonal decor and things with sentimental value. I do have permission to clean out the other side as well and use it as living space also. But in the 8 months that I’ve lived here, so far I haven’t done anything with that space. Today that’s changing.

I have a vision of that other area being something of a combo sitting room and sewing room. I’d like to convert the twin sized bed on that side into a day bed (Grandma refuses to get rid of the bed completely, so I’ve just got to work around it) and remove the built in shelving unit that takes up one entire wall. All of the seasonal things can be stored in the closet or the crawl space, and most of the momentos need to go home with my other aunt and my mother. I’ll put a desk/sewing table in front of the window. We need to replace the window as well, we broke it removing an ancient metal frame bed that had been on my side of the attic because it wouldn’t fit down the stairs. My dress form and a book case will go along the wall where the shelving unit is now. I also need to remove the wall paper from the walls and re-paint, but that may wait a little while. It took me three solid days to remove the wall paper and repaint on my side of the attic before I moved in. It’s not a fun process.

Now for my tools. I have a 1960’s Singer sewing machine, robin’s egg blue, that I’ve mentioned before. It sadly does not have a free arm (which makes sewing in tight spaces like armholes much easier) and it doesn’t have button-hole capability (that I’m aware of). Why not buy a new machine that has these two features and more? My Singer was a gift from my Grandma on my 12th birthday. Despite it’s age and limitations, it’s actually a much better quality machine than the newer machines in my price range (under $200). Quite frankly, the thing is a tank and has survived 14 years of use without any maintenance. My other big, expensive piece of equipment is a dress form which I managed to get on sale for only $120. A dress form is similar to the mannequins you see in stores, but it’s got adjustable measurements and a soft layer over the top that you can pin into if needed. Normally a dress form in a plus size is about $250. I consider my dress form to be absolutely essential to this project. Because I am still losing weight, it allows me to construct clothing that’s smaller than my current size because I know my proportions and I know that I can reach the goals I’ve set for weight loss.

Also in my sewing kit I have:

-Pins: Several types from lightweight sharps for sheers and silk to heavy pins for denim and bottom weights. I also have some pins that can be ironed without melting the heads and binder clips for use on fabrics that can’t be pinned.

-Marking tools: I’ve got wax-free transfer paper and a marking wheel (you place the transfer paper between layers of fabric and trace over the pattern markings with the wheel), and a chalk pencil set.

-Seam ripper (for my “that was stupid” moments)

-Awl (for punching holes to place eyelets and grommets)

-A variety of thread in various basic colors and colors I’ve used before (for sewing as well as for repairs)

-Plenty of extra bobbins (the small plastic or metal spools that go inside the machine below the needle)

-A measuring tape (I also carry one in my purse and have one sitting on my dresser)

-A variety of hand sewing needles ranging from very fine sharps to blunt pointed yarn needles

-Bits of leftover trim and ribbon from other sewing projects (you’ll never know when it will come in handy)

-A few yards of lightweight and tailor weight fusible interfacing

-Good sewing scissors and pinking shears (I get really nasty if anyone uses my sewing scissors on paper, or god forbid, tape; it dulls the blade and can leave sticky residue from tape)

-Plenty of spare machine needles (I can go months, sometimes years without breaking one, then bust 4 or 5 in one sitting.)

-A grommet or eyelet setter

-A standard snap setter

-A variety of random spare buttons, elastic, zippers, hooks and eyes, snaps, eyelets and other bits and pieces left over from various projects

-I’ve also got a hammer, wire cutters, and pliers not in my sewing tool kit, but handy in case I need them. You’d be amazed at how often I’ve used those tools in the last year.

If you’re not a seamstress yourself, and you wander over to the notions department in a sewing store, you’ll see a vast assortment of other things that every seamstress “must” have. Personally, I’m a very back to basics seamstress. I like my no frills machine. I don’t feel like I need every little gadget known to woman to make my garments turn out well. Aside from the sewing machine and the dress form, all of the notions could be purchased for around $50, as long as you catch them on sale. I have very few one-purpose tools, and where I do have a tool like that, it’s because it’s the only tool that does the job well and it’s a job I do often.

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