sewing zone

i’ve probably mentioned here before that i am trying to get some real furniture for my sewing space. i just started sewing a lot a little less than two years ago, & i’ve just been using a big folding buffet table that had been in the basement. it gives me a fair amount of space (though never enough, because everything has to be ON the table & preferably pushed to the back to keep it out of the hands of a curious toddler), & it’s an okay-ish height. but i’ve jacked up my back/neck on several occasions because it’s really not the right height for either cutting or sewing. & every time i am incapacitated with another round of tendonitis in my shoulder, i have to take a break from sewing until i heal.

of course i looked into buying a new sewing cabinet & cutting table, maybe painted in some adorable color like mint green or robin’s egg blue. however, i don’t have literally thousands of dollars to blow on this shit. i mean, i guess maybe i could, but then i would have no savings, so…not a great idea.

i started prowling craig’s list & various thrift/antique stores in pursuit of something useful. one day i found a vintage sewing cabinet from the 50s at the antiques mall, priced at only $40. i mulled for a bit, but i was worried about wasting $40 on a cabinet that wouldn’t fit my modern-day machine. i went home & mulled some more. i asked the opinion of a friend who had been at the antiques mall that day. (of course she told me to buy it. she always tells me to buy everything i want for sewing.) i dragged my feet & mulled some more. i asked jared & he told me to just measure my machine & then measure the opening in the cabinet & decide from there.

duh! of course! so i made some measurements & went back to the antiques mall, where i discovered that the person selling the table was closing their booth & had marked everything down 50%! now the table was only $20! i opened it up & discovered that it even came with a sewing machine! it’s a singer slant-o-matic, from maybe 1958? complete with all the original feet, manual , etc. the opening in the cabinet was all wrong for my modern machine, but for $20, i just couldn’t walk away.

for christmas, jared commissioned a company to make me a customized insert to fit the table & my modern machine. we’ll have to install a platform for my machine inside the cabinet, but that shouldn’t be too difficult. so, assuming the insert fits okay (they called today to double-check measurements & hopefully i will have it soon), i have a cabinet. it’s in really excellent shape, too, & the insert & platform are removeable so i can put the slant-o-matic back in someday if i like.

next up: a cutting table. i have been prowling around for anything that might work. i’ve looked for kitchen islands, bar tables, drafting tables, & more. i’ve found plenty of tables that would work…for $300, $400, $500. i started thinking that if people on craig’s list are charging that much, maybe i should just buy something new, but even a decent-sized kitchen island made out of particle board costs like $200. just when i was thinking that might have to be the way i go, given that i am not particularly adept with tools, i found a solid wood butcher block on locking casters at the antiques mall! it even has a platform that rolls out, that i can use to hold fabric that is too big for the work surface, so it’s not trailing off on to the floor & having its grain all distorted.

so i snapped that up & as i was walking to the counter to pay, i found a cute little shelving unit for only $18. i have been daydreaming about owning a secretary desk for a while now, even though–let’s be real–there is nothing wrong with the desk i already have. it’s just the allure of the new. & what really attracted me to the secretary desks i was seeing online are the hutches with all the little selves & whatnot built on top.

this little cabinet thing is very much like a desktop hutch! & i have been desperate for a new way to store my sewing tools & reference books. i have various bins & drawers, but things still get so messy & the system i had been using ate up a lot of real estate in my sewing area. i was just asking jared last night if we have a small bookcase in the basement that i could re-purpose for some kind of sewing storage.


ta da! i’m really pleased with how this tidies & consolidates my sewing area! now once i get my new furniture moved in, i’m going to have a great set-up–all for under $200! i mean, i’ll probably have to figure out some smarter system for fabric storage eventually, but i just re-organized all of my fabric a few months ago & it’s fine for now. all my quilting cottons are sorted by color in one bin. all my apparel fabrics are in another bin. i have a box full of works-in-progress (actually only four WIPs–i do try to finish old projects before jumping into new ones), & two more boxes full of random stuff i didn’t know how to categorize: PUL, wool scraps, bemberg rayon, various weights of interfacing, etc. & all the bins & boxes are labeled.

& also a whole box full of viewfinder yardage because…i bought A LOT of that fabric, in all three colorways. the bits you see here are for a skirt, which i’m hoping to finish by wednesday because it’s supposed to be nearly 70 degrees that day! thank you, kansas. this almost makes up for the spider crickets…almost.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

2 thoughts on “sewing zone

  1. Awesome finds! I think that sewing spaces, and, really, houses in general, are a lot cooler if you have to get creative with them. Anyone can plunk down a bunch of cash and get stuff that’s kindof generic. Having to work with what you can scrounge up can sometimes give you much better results. It looks like your sewing zone is going to be a lot cooler than if you’d just bought a new table and cabinet. 😀

    1. i don’t know, there are some new sewing cabinets out there that are really cool-looking. but they also cost like $600, which is money i just don’t have for spending on a table.

      i kind of waffle on this sort of thing because, one the one hand, i like to get a good deal, but on the other hand, i worry about wasting money on something that won’t hold up, when i could spend a little more for something that lasts. i guess i just freak out about money all the time, full stop.

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