Craft Room Solutions

Living in NYC, space is at a premium. Ever since I started to sew and knit, I’ve been trying to find ways to hide my machines and supplies. Whenever I start a project, I must haul out all my tools, which invariably take over our dining area/foyer and part of our living room.

It is such a hassle to store away my supplies after an hour or two of work, so all stays out.

Finally, I think I have found a solution.

It’s a craft cart on casters. I assembled it during a bout of insomnia last night and spent this evening labeling drawers and going through my disorganized bits and bobs.

My thought is that I can wheel it out each day, stationing it either by my “cutting table” or in front of the couch, or even in the office if I want to hang out with my Awesome Hubby.

To encourage me to put tools away immediately, I divided drawers by function.

They are:

  • Cutting/Pinning
  • Mending/Hemming (Tools)
  • Test Scraps (cutoffs of current project fabrics that I can use to test stitches)
  • Tracing
  • Knitting (Tools)
  • To Mend
  • To Rip/Tink
  • Muslins
  • And four “Project” drawers to store supplies for current or upcoming projects.

I could use a clip on light and some sort of hanging bucket on one side to store overlong objects like yardsticks and rolls of tracing paper. Unfortunately, I have not yet found what I need.

Suggestions on how I could make this setup better are very welcome.


I found this nice drawstring bag stuffed into a drawer, and it ties neatly onto the side of my cart to store oversized items. Very useful and easy!

Time Machine Tuesday: Denim Pencil Skirt (Simplicity 9825)

My second sewing effort after my decade-and-a-half break was a pencil skirt, seen here:

Simplicity 9825 – A Pencil Skirt in Denim with Topstitching

It took only one muslin to get the fit, and I was satisfied with the outcome. Although I wouldn’t yet label this pattern “TNT,” I think that, with patience and a bit of tweaking, it could be.

Certainly, the line of the skirt is good, and, although I had to do some tweaking to make it fit better, it was minor. I can see myself coming back to this pattern multiple times, and I think it would look good in various kinds of fabric.

Proud of . . .

  • The burnt-orange embroidery thread that I used for the topstitching.
  • The top-stitching itself, which I kept an even length by lining the edge of the presser foot with the seam alongside which I was stitching. It worked!
  • The fabric choice: Although the photos don’t show off the color, this fabric is a lovely, dark indigo with a hint of lycra. When I brought a sample in to The Sewing Outlet to practice getting the proper setting on my new serger (ie, a lesson), the clerk admired the swatch.
  • The finishing: I serged everything on this skirt, so it looks just as nice on the inside as the outside.
  • The fact that I figured out how to fix the poor fit in the stomach area by pulling the extra fabric into the waistband (shortening the front).

Want to work on . . .

  • Actually writing down the alteration I made so I don’t have to figure it out the hard way again. Ooops.

Here’s my review of Simplicity 9825, as posted on Pattern Review.

This is my second sewing effort, made after Simplicity 5914.

Pattern Description: 
Misses’s Slim and A-Line Skirts Each in Three Lengths (six total views). The skirt is made of four panels with a back zipper, and the skirts include a broad waistband. I made “View C,” a knee length pencil skirt with stitching details down the front and around the waistband.

Detail: Topstitching

Pattern Sizing:
I sewed a size 14, and the basic fit was good. However, I did have to raise the front of the skirt into the waistband to eliminate bagginess in the tummy area. Also, the diagonal stretch lines so cruelly visible in this photograph suggest that either I have put on a little weight since I made this or I needed to make the hip area slightly wider.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes. The pattern is what it says it is! 

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were easy to follow, definitely. I am glad I made a muslin, since that’s how I discovered the need to pull the front of the skirt into the waistband to eliminate stomach bagginess.

I can’t remember if I followed the directions for inserting the zipper for this pattern; I think I again referred to the Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. Nevertheless, Simplicity 9825 seemed much more amenable to having a zipper put in, and the waistband helped the process.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
The wide waistband hits right at my natural waist, rather than sitting on my hips. This cut definitely creates the illusion that my waist is smaller than it is. The skirt has a nice silhouette.

As for dislikes . . . well, it isn’t the pattern’s fault, but getting the perfect fit around the hips, especially since this garment doesn’t have much ease, wasn’t easy for a new sewer.

Fabric Used:
I used a lovely, high quality dark indigo denim (the color doesn’t show up well in the photos, perhaps because my living room is painted blue!). It has a bit of stretch to it. I accented the denim with top-stitching in burnt-orange embroidery thread (picture above). The top-stitching gives a nice, subtle, professionally-made look to the skirt.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
As mentioned above, I had to raise the front of the skirt into the waistband to eliminate front bagginess. I chose to hem the skirt to knee-length instead of mid-thigh as pictured on the package.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would and I will. I already have some fantastic tweedy wool in my stash which is intended to be a work/professional version of this skirt. It only awaits me getting a bit more confident that I won’t ruin my expensive fabric with novice-errors!

I am triangle shaped (though I do have a waist about 10″ smaller than my hips). Though I think this skirt is flattering, I suspect it would not suit someone who is even more bottom heavy than I am, or who is more rectangle-shaped. As it is, I think this skirt looks best on me when I wear a top that gives my shoulders the illusion of being a bit wider.

Simplicity 9825 (View C) is what it promises to be. It matches the envelope and it’s easy to make. It’s also versatile–you could make anything from a jeans skirt to a suit skirt with it. The wide waistband is flattering and accentuates one’s waist.

For a beginner like me, S9825 offers some minor challenges (applying the waistband and facing, having had to fix the tummy). It’s also–unless I made it wrong–quite fitted, so it’s good that my denim had a bit of lycra in it. The fact that my wool tweed is NOT stretchy and I will have to be more precise in fitting it over my curves is part of why I haven’t lept to make this skirt again. However, I know that I will. This is an excellent basic pattern to own.

Time Machine Triage*: Trojan Women Costumes (1997)

“You’ve been working in a costume department, haven’t you? Good! Then you can design and make the costumes for the school play!”

My Beloved High School Drama Teacher

Me as Andromache. You wouldn't believe how much time and mousse went into making my hair into those little snake-like twists (1997).

Me as Andromache. You wouldn’t believe how much time and mousse went into making my hair into those little snake-like twists (1997). **

When I write here about “my first skirt” and “my first top,” I am being slightly disingenuous. I’m talking about my “firsts” as an independent sewist, returning to a skill about which I was taught the basics, under close supervision, as a teen. I was first introduced to sewing when I volunteered at a local professional theatre. As a dresser for musicals, I was mostly responsible for getting actors out of one costume and into their next as fast as humanly possible.

However, accidents do happen backstage, and I was taught the basics of how to sew. Later, when I was hired to assist occasionally in the costume shop proper, I was given a more thorough introduction to how to use their sewing machines and industrial serger. I made little pillows, and–with a lot of assistance from the costume shop manager–I made a dress (which I will show in another post).

Those little lessons gave me two things:

  1. Confidence that I could sew someday, if I actually wanted to.
  2. An unexpected assignment at my high school.

After all, we were doing Euripides’ Trojan Women as our fall play, and we needed rag-tag costumes for the imprisoned chorus and their deposed royalty. So, my drama teach recruited me to design and make them.

After all, I knew how to sew, right?

Cue seventeen-year-old panic. How was I going to do that? Don’t worry, I was reassured, they don’t have to be fancy. These women have just lost a war, after all.


At the costume shop, I got advice: the easiest way for me to make seven semi-Greek costumes was to get lengths of fabric, sew them into robes like a giant T, and then put in the neck-holes. Those could be augmented with contrasting fabrics and trimmings to make them more form fitting and to finish the edges. That should be good enough for a show that would run for one weekend.

I still remember taking all of the girls to Jo-Ann in our hometown with instructions for them to find one basic fabric in a neutral color and a second fabric, if the wished, in another color that they felt expressed their character (those would become wraps and ties). Only royalty was allowed to use gold or silver detailing. I think everyone had fun, though many wished they could pick out prettier or fancier fabrics than “losers of the Trojan War” could be expected to own.

Then there were the late nights in the costume shop, measuring and sewing and hemming, adding trims to the necklines to hide the raw edges where I’d cut in the shape requested by the actress. I don’t know how many hours I spent on these in addition to schoolwork and rehearsal.

Somehow, I got the tunic-t-shirt-dresses done, and the photo of them on the costume shop dress dummies represents my idea of how each actress might or should wear them. They had other ideas, and of course the outfits were bags with holes cut in them, but considering the situation and the fact that I had to make these on my own, alone and unsupervised, in the costume shop’s after hours, I was pretty darned proud.

The chorus costumes on dress forms. (1997)

The chorus costumes on dress forms. (1997)

I was prouder of my hairdo, though.

* Ok, so I meant for my “time machine” posts to always happen on Tuesdays, but I’m so bummed about my top that I’m going to go ahead and delve into the past for a moment I was happy with (surviving) a massive project.

** Curse you, disposable cameras of the 1990s. So many of my photos from those days look just terrible and grainy because of imperfect lighting conditions. I’m lucky to have any photo at all of my first dress, and these two pictures aren’t much better.

Simplicity 5914: First Skirt

So far I’ve only posted talky-posts and one brief discussion of my very first failure of a knitted scarf. Today I post proof that I have, in fact, sewn something wearable–and am proud of! I give you Simplicity 5914, View F:

I have actually sewn something. And lined it, too. (Early 2011)

This is one of my basic, tried-and-true (TNT), “can make this over and over in a dozen different ways” patterns. I have put my review from below the divide, but I will write what I am proud of and wish to work on here:

Proud of . . .

  • The choice of fabric: a very inexpensive brown polyester suiting that looks much better than it is.
  • The hemming, which I stitched straight around without any really obvious wobbles.
  • The zipper placket, which is surprisingly decent!
  • The lining. The Simplicity pattern does not give any directions on making a lining for this skirt, so I looked up the instructions (either online or in one of my reference books or both) and figured out how to make one, insert it, and the facing correctly. Yay for improving on the pattern!

Want to work on . . .

  • Stitching the skirt panels together straighter.
  • Doing the facing more neatly. On the outside it looks good, on the inside, it doesn’t look as good.
  • Making the inside of the garment elegant and attractive. I made this whole skirt on my lemon and it shows. The edges are finished with pinking shears on the skirt and with zigzag stitches on the lining. The hem of the lining is also done with a zig-zag stitch. It is fully functional, but when I look inside I see “home-made” not “hand-made.” It’s the disconnect between how this skirt looks on the outside and how it looks on the inside that made me decide to get a serger, which I have used for my other projects.

This is a TNT pattern if ever I saw one.

I would label this not only “Easy & Great for Beginners” but also “Great Wardrobe Builder.”

Pattern Description:
A-Line skirts in two lengths, three versions flaring from the hip and three versions flaring from the waist. I sewed “View F” — the most basic paneled A-Line in the package.

Pattern Sizing:
I sewed size 14, which fit me without adjustment.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, very much so. This pleased me, since I purchased the pattern hoping to mimic my favorite store-bought A-line (which has, however, eight panels instead of six).

Were the instructions easy to follow?
For the most part, the instructions were easy to follow. This was my first sewing project since my teens, though, and even then I did only one dress. Therefore, I found the instructions for inserting a zipper to be confusing and the results unattractive. I followed the instructions in my copy of the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.

Next time I sew this, I think I will try to do an invisible zipper, because the zipper placket on the side, though painstakingly sewn, is a distraction from the line of the skirt.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I think this is a fantastic basic skirt pattern. With two silhouettes and two lengths, it should be a go-to pattern in my stash.

As mentioned above, the instructions for inserting the zipper were unclear (thank goodness I made a muslin) and I think the garment would be better served by an invisible zipper.

Fabric Used: Brown polyester suiting. The fabric is machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant, and looks high-quality even though it was quite inexpensive. I think this pattern will work well with many types of woven fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I added a lining (following instructions from the internet) because I was trying to mimic my favorite black store-bought skirt. I thought that without a lining the skirt would cling/be limper than the model. However, since this pattern has six panels instead of eight, the resulting skirt-with-lining stands out from my body a bit more than the ready-made one.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes to both. Simplicity 5914 is an excellent choice for a new sewer or someone returning to sewing after a long hiatus. Nice, straight lines, nothing too complex. Just make sure to have a good reference for inserting zippers and practice if you are new to sewing as I was.

Misc.: I think that–for a “professional” look–the added lining was essential. It makes this skirt feel extra-snazzy.

This pattern is fantastic: easy, flattering, versatile. I have plans to use it both to make staple skirts and to make “outfits” and “suits” once I get to the point where I am ready to sew vests and/or jackets.