making space monday:: sewing studio *at the end of this row*

it’s monday and time for another peek at a sewing studio!
this week we have been graciously invited to roam around the beautiful space of Beth from at the end of this row…. Beth is an avid knitter and a member of the brilliant make do and mend collective. she lives in the midwest, is mother to 4 lovely girls and recently got her phD….you know, in between pregnancies, feedings, knitting, sewing and parenting.  yup, she is the kind of person that can seamlessly make it all happen.  this also makes her a master at the art of balancing parenting with getting other things done! those of you that know me know that when asked “how do you get any sewing done with your kids around?” I usually answer with an adamant “I don’t!”.  well, Beth is here to thankfully offer a better answer to that question!   she is also an long-time college friend of mine.  I have always been lucky to know her and benefitted many times from her no-nonsense insight, advice and inspiration.  so, I was thrilled she agreed to let us into her studio.  let’s take a look!


Hi, my name is Beth.  I blog over at the end of this row… where you will find posts mostly about knitting, but a little about sewing, crafting and making a creative life with kids too.
I am flattered that Melissa asked me to share my studio space – as amateur as it is – with all of you.  So, without further ado, allow me to open the door to my sewing room (cue angels singing, clouds parting and bright streams of light).  I jest, but I am really lucky to have this space.  Especially with lots of kids running around.  We live in a big house in the Midwest, and I quickly commandeered a bedroom for creative purposes the very moment we moved in.  But the kids kept coming and now we are faced with the reality of raising four girls, with one bathroom.
What does that mean?  This room will not be around forever.  In the near future we hope to begin converting some of this room into a second bathroom.  And at that point all my creative materials and supplies will be moved to a recently renovated space in our basement.  This changing reality has given me a lot to reflect on.  Questions like:  What do I need from a studio space?  What kind of sewer am I?  How do I want my space to function?  How much space to I actually need? are percolating around in my brain these days.  As they say, there’s the dream and then there’s the reality.  This post, I hope, will give you a bit of insight into both for me.


We call it ‘the sewing room’ but it’s really not.
True, this room does contain my sewing machine, fabric, and notions, but it is also (and mostly) the space that I,
: put piles of too big/too small clothes,
: mend clothes and fix broken toys,
: wrap presents and store holiday decorations,
: store everything that doesn’t have a place in the rest of the house (old picture frames,etc.),
: keep my books from graduate school,
: manage the relentless laundry/thrift store cycle,
: store art/craft project materials,
: listen to the sound of a keyboard typing late into the (occasional) night.


In short, this room is used for sewing sporadically, and mostly around holidays.  It is also a space for my husband to work from home.  He doesn’t work from home that often, but when he does he needs a space with a door that can close.  And I think that we accomplish sharing this space successfully because we have two tables – one for him and one for me.  We are free to temporarily borrow eachothers’ table when necessary (fabric cutting for me, laying out books/papers for him), but we always try to return it to the way you see them both now – clean, uncluttered and spare.
This is nominally “my space” but everyone comes in, looks around, and hangs out.
So, in actuality it’s not really my sewing room.  This room is used by all of us.  And while there is a door that closes, and we can tell the girls to keep out for a bit, they inevitably work their way in.  When they do, the room is stocked with things to keep them busy and occupied while we are working.  There is an extra chair for them to pull up to watch me sew or iron.  I have chapter books on the shelf they can curl up with in a corner.  And in all the nooks and crannies are little fun toys to play with – buttons, lacing cards, stuffed animals, play figures.  Crayons, tape and paper are here too.  The idea is to let them be in the same space as us, but to encourage them to be independent and creative too.  Does this mean that I often have to stop what I am doing and mediate-direct-chastise-and re-direct?  Yes. All the time.  But it also means that on occasion I can get stretches of 30 or 40 minutes when they are happy and involved and I am able to continue on with what I am doing.




This room doesn’t have many things that a traditional sewing space has.  But that doesn’t mean it’s any less functional.
I am a dedicated hand knitter first, and a hobby sewist, second.  So that means that I dabble with sewing and mostly stick with crafty-type projects like things for my kids and our home and very simple clothes/costumes.  So I don’t have a dress form, or a thread holder, or design wall (three things that I feel belong to every serious sewist).  But I do tape things to the wall to keep me inspired and I try to place beauty in the room and rotate it about.  I have my fabric stash here, and I love looking at it.  I also have space for storage.  There are bins full of misc. crafting materials like paints, dyes, fake flowers, embroidery floss – you name it and it’s likely here in some form or another.  The other thing this room has going for it is space.  There is space to spread out and do what we want.  There’s table space – helpful for winding yarn.  And floor space – incredibly helpful in basting quilts (and an impromptu game of indoor, masking tape hopscotch!)


I spend maybe 4 hours/month in this room.  So where do I actually do my work? 
Truly? I work from a basket full of yarn and on the living room couch.  As I noted before, I am mostly a knitter.  And I have four kids.  So in reality I have a mobile studio.  My “studio” is a basket with my current project (yarn, needles adn pattern) and small zippered supply pouch.  I carry them with me throughout the day.  I am able to work on a few rows while the baby crawls from one end of the room to the other.  I am able to knit a few more rows while waiting for soccer practice to end.  It’s not very glamorous, but it’s entirely functional.


At the close of my tour I hope you can see the reality of how “my studio” really works in our family.  Documenting my space as it is, and writing about it, has also given me the chance to think about the future home of all this stuff.  For my new space – which itself will be temporary, right?  Because one of these girls is bound to leave home in 12-17 years and I can take over her bedroom! – I know I need a few things.  A bookshelf, a sweepable floor, two work tables and a wall to put things on.  Some storage space and good lighting.  But these things don’t a sewing space make; this much I know.  It’s the heart and soul of a sewist (or knitter!) that makes a space what it is.  And I hope this peek into my room gives you some insight into the creative world of a home hobby sewist, who shares her space with five other people.  Thanks for taking a look!

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