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making space monday :: studio tour of Sewplicity

it’s that time again…making space monday…the month long tour of sewing studio spaces.

this week, Jennifer from Sewplicity has generously offered to take us on a thorough tour of her sewing studio.  Jennifer runs a successful sewing business making beautiful high chair covers and was named one of the top etsy baby sites on in 2011.  she previously worked in Manhattan but left her corporate job to be with her kids and sew! she balances motherhood and her sewing business while nestled right here in central jersey. she is one very organized gal, though she swears she isn’t as organized as she used to be.  either way, I’m sure she will have lots to suggest about making space (and keeping it tidy)!


STUDIO TOUR by Sewplicity

Let me preface this tour with a little history.  My current sewing space is probably larger than the space many can dedicate in their house….but it didn’t start out that way. I live in an old house (circa 1920).  While I seriously love the character and detail of the house, space is quite limited.

When I renewed my passion for sewing about 3 years ago, my sewing machine and supplies sat on a side table in my dining room (yes, interior designers would cringe).  But it was what it was.  It worked and it was manageable.  Having spent a good deal of time constantly taking out and putting away my sewing things, I would highly recommend setting aside a DEDICATED space for your sewing.  If this means that you need to have a small sewing table on the side of your dining room, or a closet (I’ve seen some awesome closet sewing spaces) do so – there are tons of options for “hiding” away your sewing stuff when not in use.  It will save you the headache of having to continually clean up which interferes with your sewing time and your life.

Ok, so back to my space.  Once I started my business, and it began taking off my supplies quickly took over my dining room, barely leaving us space to eat. (Now I was cringing).  I couldn’t stand looking at the room anymore and not being able to leave my work out was becoming a HUGE problem.  Something had to give….so….I ousted my hubby from the frightening “finished” basement where he had his home office set up.  Although he was not happy about giving up his space, I think he was sick of looking at all my stuff in the dining room too!

A major clean up, replacement of the old, scary 70s dark paneling, the rickety staircase, some fresh paint, some track lighting, a new carpet and the space was transformed into a sewing studio.  MY sewing studio….

The Tour


As you head down the steps you will see my big basket of pre-washed fabric.  To the right I have some rods where I hang wrapping paper for easy access and underneath is a magnetic board to hang my kids’ artwork.

TIP:  Pre-wash your fabric as you purchase it that way when you are itching to make something you can get right into it.  No waiting for the laundry to be finished!


I played around with a lot of different layouts and this is what works best for me.  80% of my time is spent in my “sewing square”.  When in my sewing chair, I have access to my sewing machine, my computer, printer, my serger and embroidery machine on the table behind.  To the right is my cutting table.
TIP: If you have enough space for a square like this, you can swap out the 2nd table for your ironing board and iron.
By the way, I purposely choose bright colors for this space (I LOVE my orange wall) to not only inspire my creativity but keep me content.  A basement studio can be dreary with lack of light and bright paint and lights give it personality.



Within the square I have all of my sewing stuff nicely organized.  I try to live by the “Everything has it’s place” rule.  It’s a huge time saver.   My embroidery threads are all on a wall rack, my tools hang on the wall and that cabinet houses a ton of thread and other supplies.  Under the table I have a wire rack for fabrics and other supplies.  The shelves to the left of the table is where I keep my mailing supplies, tape, pencil sharpener, files and patterns.

TIP: Regardless of the amount of space you have, organization is key in maintaining a tidy work area as well as your sanity.


My cutting table is actually a kitchen island from IKEA (where the majority of my furniture comes from). This table doubles as a craft table for my kids (hence the folding chairs) and is great for wrapping gifts! I keep a table height garbage pail next to the table so I can just slide the unusable cutting right into it.  (I also keep a small garbage pail right by my machine).

I hung some track lighting above the cutting table and my sewing table to provide extra lighting when required.  It really makes everything super bright.  I actually don’t use this all that often, but it is nice to have when I need it.

TIP:  If you have an island in your kitchen, do use it as your cutting table (protect it of course).   The height is perfect for this task and it will save your back.  Another option is to pick up a folding cutting table that can easily be stored when not in use.


I purchase the majority of my fabric by the bolt to accommodate my custom business.  While bolts make organizing fabric a tad easier, you can see in the far back left of the photo that I have a smaller shelf for my remnants.  I use fabric organizers to help keep them neat.  This allows me to easily spy what I have and find coordinating prints quickly.  This lovely rocker is typically littered with cut pattern pieces, but I cleaned it off for the picture.  It looks so much nicer here then it usually does!

TIP:  Find a way to organize your fabrics that allows you to view what you have easily.  Fabric left in boxes typically stay that way.  Proudly display what you have!


The final wall in my studio is where I keep my irons (I have multiple) and back-up sewing machine (a necessity with a sewing business).  I also keep my large rolls of batting (empty roll pictured), and “Tess” my mannequin (Yes, I named her!).

When working I set up my ironing board in this area.  I hang it on the door to the wash room when not in use to give my kids access to the floor for playing.  I recently mounted my TV so I could make better use of this space.  This is also where my daughter is learning to sew.  Oh, and that back curtain hides the tiny corner where my kids keep their toys. (Yes, they only have a small corner to store their stuff – but they can use the entire space to play – with the exception of my sewing square that is).

And that’s about it.  I seriously love my sewing space.  I have to – I spend over 30 hours a week in it!  Thanks for stopping by!


summer sewing project :: the dresses

there has been some making and there has been some smocking. this first dress is made with the shards fabric from Cloud 9 fabrics…it’s a part of their affordable organic line.  I have been so impressed with the beautiful fabric coming out of this small fabric company and all of it is organic.

the pattern for this dress is my own using an adaptation of the dress pattern in the Cal Patch book “Design Your Own Clothes”.     I started with a muslin following her instructions.  she uses a side zipper and my muslin came out too loose and maternity-looking. so, when I made the ‘real’ dress I adapted the back of the dress by using elastic thread to add smocking.  it actually made construction easier and the fit better. yay!!


this is a close up of the smocked section.  the elastic thread (in the bobbin only) makes smocking so easy and it looks so good and professional. as excited as I am about the smocking and my clever adaptations, I’ll admit I’m not wild about this dress.  it just isn’t very exciting and the neckline came out a bit conservative.

so I moved onto a the next one! this dress is so simple to construct!  to make the pattern I mixed things I learned from Cal Patch and a pattern in the Heather Ross book Weekend Sewing.  the back and front pieces are the same pattern and then it’s just straps…that is it for cutting.  the top of the dress is smocked, again with elastic thread in the bobbin. then topstitch the top, adding in the straps and then just hem! and done!


here is a close up of the smocking.  yes, I voluntarily took a close up photo of my chest. the sewing has obviously gone to my head.

want to know one of the best things about this dress? the fabric is vintage and was in the collection I got from my grandma! isn’t that awesome! it’s got these fantastic peacocks dancing all over it. I can’t wait to wear it this summer and give it new life.

making space monday :: studio tours…a month of peeking

welcome to making space month at *a happy stitch*! the sun is out and the buds are blooming (over on this side of the earth at least).  it’s spring and that always brings with it a desire to clear out and clean up.  with all this dust flying I thought it would be a good time to show off sewing studios.  with the hope that, perhaps, in the midst of the cleaning and clearing you will find inspiration to clear some space for your sewing habit.  if you already have studio space, maybe these posts will inspire a freshening up.   it makes a huge difference to have a little spot set aside for the making and dreaming.  a space that doesn’t require any putting away when the dinner bell rings.  so, for the month of April every monday will be a making space monday.  that means we will be peeking into the studio of 4 different sewers/artists and the month will cap off with some tips and tricks about organizing from a fabric store owner! it’s going to be great fun.

I’m starting with my own space.  and before we begin I should mention  that I’m really excited about making space mondays.  space is important; it can be a little getaway and it can also be really hard to carve out.  I get that.  I didn’t have a set aside space for a long, long time.  and what I have right now is a sad corner in a dingy basement.  I’m boxed in by two furnaces, a water heater and the sump pump.  yep, pretty fancy.  that said, I love my studio space but I may be the only person that loves it.  when I told my husband I was going to blog about my studio he said “oh man.  everyone is going to hate me!”  apparently, he feels responsible, which is nice and old fashioned of him.  I’ve had friends refer to it as a dungeon.  and it is a little bit of a dungeon but, it’s my dungeon!

so, here goes:

the essential components of my space are the separate sewing table and cutting table.  I can get things done so much more smoothly and precisely because I cut/measure/design on one table and then sew on another. I also have my serger out (the covered blob) on the cutting table in case I need to pull it out and switch between my standard machine and my serger. under the cutting table in plastic bins I store additional supplies and reusable fabric (old clothes waiting for a new life and the like).  I also keep my bias tapes, ribbons, zippers, and buttons in the plastic tower next to the cutting table. I’m not naturally very organized so I like to have bins that I can throw things into.  keeps the clutter at bay without the tedious interruption of actual organization. and because I work in a basement I want everything to stay clean and dust-free.

behind my sewing machine, hanging on the wall, is a handmade tool organizer. in here I can keep the tools I use regularly (like measuring tape, chopstick, pad of paper and pens) so everything is handy when I need it. the white thing on the wall is a strip of white fleece that I use as a design wall (a bit like this one).  it allows me to play around with a pattern idea by sticking it up on the wall.  very handy and this was so inexpensive because it’s just white fleece, nothing fancy. (ten points if you notice the banner hanging there!)

the other side of the room is where I keep the chaos…uh, I mean fabric, thread, books, works in process, and ironing board, iron and general mess.  I keep my fabric in a closed cabinet that I picked up at a yard sale…it keeps everything dust-free and clean.

I have things set up in a u-shape between sewing table, cutting table and ironing board.  this is a pretty efficient set up for those times when I’m sewing like mad. (note the lovely furnace.  ever seen the movie Brazil?  I’m living it!) the small brown table to the right is a handy space for setting things while I’m cutting.

I also maintain an inspiration board…this one is simple fabric encasing cork tiles that hangs on the wall. when I see something that strikes me I pin it up. I don’t use it formally, the way some people use a ‘mood board’ but I just keep up those things that speak to me.

on here right now are (clockwise-ish):

the two things I really like about my space are that I can see everything and I can leave it all out.  I’m a pretty visual person so I like that I can see everything…I never know what I might find inspiring.  also, by having a basement space I really feel like I can leave things out without worrying that a little person might wander over and get themselves caught up in a nest of pins. for good reason, no one comes down to the basement. that has its advantages.

I’ll admit that I dream of a sunlit airy studio sometimes but that is not a reality for right now.  and there is something to be said for subterranean sewing.

see you next week.  we will be peeking in on the inspiring and prolific Jennifer Evans.


lucky day

 as a fabric lover and sewing teacher there is always a small part of me that is oh-so-tempted to design my own fabric. to get it just right, ya know?

so when I saw this book from the people behind one of my favorite textile blogs True Up, I knew I wanted it.  but, I played it a little too cool and it wasn’t in my stocking on Christmas morning…darn that Santa! so, you can only imagine how excited I was to find out that I won it from Christina at A Few Scraps.  and, it is just as fabulous as I imagined it was going to be. it includes great coverage on different fabric types in general and thorough, thorough discussion on the different ways to make your own fabric from stamp-making to screen printing to digital printing.  it’s very inspiring.


and, because Christina is just plain awesome she even threw in a fat quarter of the first fabric she designed.  it’s called ‘selvedge on steroids’, she made it on spoonflower, which is one of the digital fabric printing studios.  (one warning: it is incredible and if you click on the link and head over the spoonflower, I cannot be responsible for the many lost, happy hours that may result.)  isn’t the fabric perfect!! especially given how much time I spend discussing selvedge! now…the find the perfect thing to make with it!

summer sewing project :: the halter top


I finished the halter top, another item off my list for my summer sewing project (a make-not-buy summer wardrobe).  this pattern is really straightforward, clear, and easy.  the top easily came together.  I used anna maria hornet’s voile, which is beautiful and soft and  lightweight.  it drapes well and feels scrumptious….but it also makes the top look a bit like a nighty.  harumph.  you had better believe that I will still be wearing this to cover up at the beach (I made it myself, after all) but I don’t know if I would actually wear anywhere else.  we will see.  here is a shot of the voile used for the halter tie…it’s so pretty.

I did make a muslin for this (in ikea, child-themed cotton) and I must admit I like the stiffness of standard cotton. I do not like the hint of a grouchy face in this photo? sheesh! but the shirt looks good with a little more body, no?  I might have to make this again in a stiffer fabric.

I was really hoping to lengthen the top to make it an easy, breezy summer dress but I might have to keep hunting for the right summer dress.  the elastic in the back kind of pulls a bit make it unsuitable for anything much longer.  I’m considering something like this one.

in other news, I’ve joined a handmade wardrobe group run by the super stylish grainline studio.  so, if you are feeling a handmade clothing bug, click on the button below and you can scan all the amazing creations pulled together on flickr!

BWS tips button

the year 2011

sometimes a blog post is like an imaginary friend.  it’s living and breathing and writing itself in my head for so long that I actually start to think that I’ve written it already.  but when I sit down to actually write it all my ideas are scattered and my attention span is short and….well, it doesn’t happen.

this is one of those posts.  I’m late in writing it because, even though it is already written imaginar-ily, it’s a breathtaking reflection for me.

how to begin to look back at the year 2011?

I’ll start with numbers:

1 conventional job left behind

1 home life and 2 small boys with lots more mama time

1 website created and 8,003 html codes gone wrong

9 sewing classes taught to a revolving ragtag group of 28 amazing people (and growing!)

at least 10 sewing machines newly nestled into to the homes of that ragtag group

28 new, crafty, creative friends to obsess about sewing with

2 craft fairs

2 very special quilts

100 cups of coffee, 145 (or so) yards of fabric and 310 (approximately) spools of thread

here it is in pictures:

work hard, sew hard max.quilt.sneakpeek            

thanks so much to everyone that made 2011 a stupendous year.  every single person that has waltzed through my classes has not only been a natural sewer but also become a friend.  you all make the *work* behind a happy stitch worth it. I’m guessing there are easier ways to make new friends but none are nearly as fun as this.

2012 is already swinging with an incredible skirt class under foot and a bag, beginner, and superhero cape class up ahead.  plus, I got a few soon-to-be-revealed sewing goals in mind as well. maybe you will want to join me with those? huh? huh?


valentine ideas

I’m crazy about valentine’s day. it’s got none of the heavy expectations that come with other winter holidays.  and, in all honestly,  I’m just better at pulling together something special without all that pressure.  in fact, it’s not impossible that I have friends out there who have never received a Christmas card from me but have been getting hand-crafted valentine’s cards for years now. I plan to share more of what I’m making soon but, for now, here are some of the love day craft ideas that have got me inspired to make away.



top to bottom: {felted heart garland} {fabric heart cards} {heart zipper pouches} {danish heart pockets} {love mobile} {love song stenciled pillow} {heart enclosure envelope}

p.s. all of this (and so, so, so much more) is up on my pinterest page.

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