Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The great dig (AKA Cleaning the sewing room)

I have been struggling as of late with sewing.  While I enjoy sewing I am finding it is not always practical for me to be set up at our dinning room table, or the kitchen counters.  Yes using those makes me keep them clean, keeping them clean is the problem. 
We can't eat dinner at the table if there is sewing stuff on it, so each night I have to pack it all up and take it back to the sewing room/ office.   This means I then have to turn right around and go get it once dinner is over.  That can be frustrating if you had the project just right to sew something, and you waste time.  On top of that our daughter LOVES to spend time with us, but most of her toys are in her room.  I can't blame her that she doesn't want to be alone in her room when mommy and daddy are doing something fun in the living room.  This can lead to frustration on all our parts. 

A couple weeks ago we decided to do a bit of de-cluttering of the house, we do it every January, and June. It lets us get rid of the things we simply do not use, or want anymore.  Christmas decorations were put up, but we still had a section of the living room that we had stashed stuff.  Be honest with yourself,  you have a place that when in a hurry, you put it back there until company is gone, but you never really ever take it back out.  Yeah, that area needed to be cleaned out.  We were thinking of rearranging the living room, and we would need that stuff gone. 

I  decided yesterday would be the day to tackle it, and the sewing/office.  I pulled out all the junk from the stash area. Went threw it and got rid of 90 % of it, and consolidated the rest.   This gave me room to bring out the boxes, and bags from the office to go through.   I started by breaking the room down in sections in my head.  This was to allow me to systematically know  what needed to be done next and where things should ultimately go. The first area I hit was my fabric tubs.

Sewers and crafters are notorious for keeping way too much in their stash, and as a theater person I am required to keep stuff in my stash, but there comes a point where you simply have to say "No! You are not paying your rent, you need to leave!"  I went tub by tub and pulled out anything smaller than what I could cut a sleeve for my daughter.  Anything smaller went into my scrap bag.  Let's be honest it was a kitchen size trash bag.  I heard some one in the back saying, "But you make great stuff out of scraps."  This is true, but I don't need little pieces of silky fabric because they ravel and are not sturdy in those types of projects.  I do have one large tub that I put any of the fabrics that were 1/2 yard or less that would fit my needs.  Trust me I am set for that project.   Also as I went through the tubs I took a look at the yardage that I had been holding on to for a while.  There was some that was just plain hideous!  I get that you sometimes need quirky fabrics for characters, or there is an 'Ugly Fabric Contest", but I really would NOT have wanted to work with them even then.  I simply didn't love them, so out they went.  I want stuff in my stash that if I needed a gift by tomorrow AM I could walk in there, pull out the fabric and make something.  Not dig through tubs of stuff I can't stand to look at, much less use.

After going through all the fabric I found that I had consolidated down by two whole tubs.  I was quite proud of myself.  Then came the organizing.  The first thing I did was dust, wipe down, and vacuum.  Always ALWAYS  ALWAYS vacuum multiple times when cleaning, just because you got up any pins or screws the first time, does not mean you haven't dislodged more in the mean time.  Trust me, I swear I found more after each vacuuming.  That is why rule #1 in my office is "Wear hard sole shoes!"  Yeah, it is even above "don't touch my scissors!"  I've had a pink removed from my foot, not something I want ANYONE to repeat much less my little daughter.

All across the net people post thing about "organize your fabric" but they don't really tell you how, and what is the best way.  My thoughts on the matter are this: #1 what is the purpose of your crafting.   #2 Organize to that purpose.   Sounds silly but it seems to work.   I've seen hacks where people put fabrics on file cabinet folders.  That is not going to work for 5 yards of satin or wool.   My choice has been plastic storage bins. I keep mine in large bins by color.   I keep pinks/ reds in one , yellows/ brown in another, Green/Purple/ Blues in yet another, then black and grey in the last.  I keep any creams with the browns, but whites have their own bin.  If you have the space, I would also break it down into like with like.  Put all the cotton of the reds together, blues, yellows ect.  I say that because in certain situations that works best.  I keep all my velvets and high end brocades in a special tub. That way I can protect them from being crushed much easier.  For sheers, or chiffons I keep them in a clear plastic bag.  That is the only fabrics I do that to.  Ideally they would have their own tub, but given that sheers take up so little space, having a tub strictly for them, seems a waste of space.   When it comes to tubs, get ones with opaque sides.  I know you would prefer seeing your fabric but fabric will degrade if it sees too much light.  Best to keep them in the dark.  If you want to know what is in the tub, I recommend the new all sticky post it notes.  Post it now makes a note that is all sticky on the back, not just one spot.  These make great removable labels. Regular post it's come off easily on boxes and tubs, not these. Highly recommend them.

Once the fabric was sorted I hit the pile of patterns.  This is another spot where darkness is good.  Talk to any good comic book collector and they will tell you light is bad for paper.  Out on the net I see two ways that people organize their patterns A:  They put them nice and pressed into comic book bags and boards.  B:  They put them in 10x13" manila folders with the pattern envelope taped to the manila folder. Then filed in a filing cabinet.  Neither of those worked for me, so did something in between.  I put any pattern I have used in a gallon size zip lock bag.  This keeps all the pieces together, and I can keep any alteration pieces in there as well. I just make sure I squeeze all the air out of the bags before I put them in the file.  I have found that I prefer to use bankers boxes over comic book boxes.  The bankers boxes are about the width of the zip lock gallon bags, so they store well. Unfornatly they are a half inch to narrow to put two patterns side by side when they are not in the bags.  You might have to get creative staggering them, if you want to go that route. I keep my patterns sorted by gender, type, time period, and size.  This means I have an infants to size 4 box, and a infant to size 12 kids costume. I have a women's costume- ren faire, as well as one for 1800's, 1900's and Modern, then a plus size box.  For men I have a basic Mens, and then a Men's Renfaire,  and Costume.  Then a general "group costume" for those patterns that are used for both genders.   Then one for accessories/ dolls/ and crafts.   Each box is labeled and sorted. By being in bankers boxes they are easily handled and moved from my closet.  I can pull each out, look for what I need , and put them back.  I think of them as a modular filing cabinet.
 The other problem is knowing what you have and don't.  There is nothing more aggravating than buying a duplicate when you already had the pattern, or thinking you have the pattern but it is in the wrong size. There are various computer programs you can use to keep file of them.  There are even excel spread sheets , and Access Data bases that you can use.  There is even apps you can buy for your phone that will let you set up data bases in the cloud so you can access them on the go.  I tried those a few times.  While they work, it takes ALOT of work to get it up and running, and it is only as good as you updating it, and using it.   At some point I'll get to that, but that is another day.

In 8 hours of work I managed to get through half the room, and get rid of alot of stuff, but I am certainly not done.  My next challenge is to finish up the last of the boxes, and get my sewing trims and the like sorted out.   I did learn something yesterday.  When working with maribou trim, keep it in plastic bags when you are not using it.  The DH lost a yard of light colored fleece because the yellow and black feather trim he got to make puppet hair disintegrated in the box that he had it in.  The color also leached into the nearby light colored fabric.  Thankfully most of it can be cut around, but still a section was ruined.   I have found if I color coordinate my trims in a shoe box or bankers box, and they are stored in quart size zip lock bags they keep their color, and are easier to find when needed. 

Having all of your supplies organize not only helps you get work done, it honestly saves you time and money.  Think about it,  if you know what you have in your stash, and when to find it easily it will save you money so you don't have to go to the store and buy something you already have.   Also by having the supplies organized you are also safer. More stuff where it belongs means fewer things to trip over or fall on you, or someone who love.  Honestly it will also make you happier and more productive.  I'm not going to say you need to go and do as I did and "nuke the site from orbit", but it does help.  The problem with tackling something this big is that there is always "fall out".  I still have items in our living room, that I have not yet gotten back into their home, because their new home is in the area I haven't cleaned yet.  The other fall out is the dust I stirred up when ever I clean. I got alot out into the air, and unless everyone in the house has on dust masks until 2 hours after you are done cleaning, allergies will run rampant. We had an air purifier going, which helped but you will turn up alot of dust.  That is why I recommend you think of this cleaning as an archaeological dig.  One bit at a time, and wear a mask and goggles when diving into the "dirt".  Just remember in the end, it will be worth it, but like any good project it might take several 15 minute segments to get it all done. :)