Sewing Room Reflection: Routines & Creativity

I admit it. I am the kind of person who likes to-do lists, schedules, routines and calendars. I feel very organized and productive when I can look at my list of tasks to see what I’ve accomplished and have yet to accomplish. I have even gone so far as to create a calendar for the fun and 100% optional activities I want to do this summer, things such as going to the farmer’s market and attending concerts in the park. If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator test, you’ll know what I mean when I say I’m a “J”.

I often feel a little bit aimless or adrift when a day without a schedule is in front of me. I’m afraid I won’t make good use of the day if I don’t have a list of things to do. I hate the idea of wasting this precious time. Even though I know it’s good for me to have free time to just take things slowly and spontaneously, it often feels unnatural to me.

Lately, even though I’ve had lots of unscheduled days, I’ve had some very creative (in my opinion) ideas and opportunities come to me. If I had had a schedule to keep I would probably have missed out on these moments, which is a very sad thought. I feel like these ideas and moments have “come from nowhere”, which I know is impossible and false, but it’s the sensation I’m left with nonetheless. If my time had been taken up with a schedule to keep, I wouldn’t have had the freedom to just accept certain creative opportunities, with no specific goal in mind. If my mind had been occupied by the list of tasks I had to accomplish, I might not have been in the right frame of mind to solve a problem with a creative solution.

Even though I am excited about this burst of creativity in my life, it’s probably not enough to change my nature as an organized, methodical person. I guess it’s just a reminder that life well lived is about finding a balance. The pendulum may swing from one extreme to the other at different points in my life, but I can be assured of a good measure of happiness and fulfillment if I recognize that I need a good deal of both structured and unstructured time.


Update: Urban Threads Studio

Remember when I told you about this free sewing event in Chicago? Since then I’ve attended a couple of Urban Threads Studio’s events and met their founders, Ilona and Michelle. I actually just got back from meeting with Michelle and my head is swirling with all of the different ideas we talked about. So, let me tell you a little bit more about the different ways I’ve gotten involved and some of the exciting workshops coming up.

As I mentioned in my original post, Urban Threads Studio (UTS) is located in the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago, Illinois. Their tagline is “textile arts for all” and, from what I’ve experienced so far, they are doing a great job of making this mission a reality.

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My first experience at the studio was helping with the Mending Café, which is the first Wednesday of the month from 6:30-9:30 pm (the next one is tomorrow night). I was there to help other attendees learn to mend their clothing. I spent most of the time helping an older gentleman patch up a pair of jeans for his wife. It was great! He was a natural at operating the sewing machine, but he needed a little help threading it and deciding how he was going to fix the threadbare areas of this favorite pair of pants. I think this event is so unique and am looking forward to helping each month because I am sure it will be different each time.

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The next time I was at UTS was during the Art Center’s open galleries evening, which is the third Friday of the month. During this time, UTS hosts TGIT or “The Greatness in Textiles”, which is a chance to mingle, have a glass of wine and learn a new textile art. My friends joined me for this event and we were able to complete three small projects: a Japanese shibori dyed sample, a gift pouch that looks like a flower, and a wet felted sample. We were also able to see some of the other studios’ galleries while we were there. (All of the photos are from this night.)

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UTS operates as a non-profit and the workshops, youth camps and other events they offer are really there to teach a valuable skill and art form. They have a community outreach plan that brings textile arts into schools and after school programs. This is where I really see them living out their mission to “teach creative problem solving through textile art in a nurturing and community building environment.” I am really excited about supporting this mission, which is what Michelle, the Artistic Director and one of the founders, and I spoke about during our meeting today. My involvement is evolving, so I don’t want to give away any details too soon, but I am just thrilled about all the possibilities we discussed.


If you get a chance, please check out UTS. Maybe there’s a workshop you’ll love or something else you can do to get involved with this new and exciting collaborative. Finally, if you are in the Chicago area and there’s a class you’d love to see on the schedule in the future, don’t be afraid to leave a comment. I’ll be sure to pass on your ideas because I know they are trying to build and grow based on the interests and desires of the community.

Sewing Reflections and Predictions

Sew Mama Sew is sponsoring a series of posts about what has happened in the sewing world during 2011 and what’s to come in 2012. They’ve generously invited readers to share what they think on their own blogs. Here’s what I’ve got to say:

Looking back at the 2011 sewing scene, what trends stand out in your mind?
I mostly sew clothing and I’ve seen very feminine styles and details such as Peter Pan collars and scalloped hems this year. There continues to be a big interest in vintage and vintage-inspired styles.

What were some of your favorite things related to sewing this past year?
I personally had a great sewing year. I was able to buy more high quality fabrics, which motivated me to take my time and make the best possible garments. To do that, I looked to several new sources, patterns and techniques. Some of my favorites were Colette Patterns and Built by Wendy Dresses.

What did you make that you’re most proud of? (Share a photo in your post!)
The jacket I made for my husband is the project I am most proud of by far! I tried new techniques, I took my time to get the fit right, and it turned out decently well. I learned a lot along the way about what I would do differently next time, and, even though this project was a massive undertaking for me, I can actually imagine there being a “next time.”

What sewn projects have you seen this year that you absolutely love?
I discovered the Sew Weekly blog/website this year and it’s quickly become a favorite in my RSS feed. I am consistently blown away by what Mena and her crew are able to sew in a single week. I’m not even sure if I could pick a favorite from them all!

The dress that prompted my discovery of the Sew Weekly

Do you have a favorite sewing book or pattern from the past year to recommend?
As I mentioned above, I made great use of the book Builty by Wendy Dresses. I loved that I was able to start with a basic pattern that I knew would fit me and change the design. These are just two of the dresses started with a pattern from this book.

Are there any trends you’re over and done with?
I’m not too concerned with trends even when they are happening, so I’m definitely not the one to ask about which trends I’m done with.

What are your thoughts about social media? How is it going for you? What do you love or hate?
I’ve really enjoyed blogging this year. I get so excited by each and every visitor and comment that I get. Other than blogging, I pretty much stay out of social media. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter or Flickr or Pinterest. I’m not saying I won’t ever get into those, but for now I’m happy with my level of social media activity.

Did you have a favorite fabric collection or print in 2011?
I mostly sew with solids since I’m not a quilter, but I definitely loved seeing more fabric designers offer their prints on substrates that are more suitable for clothing. Of the prints that I used in 2011, my favorite was the Anna Maria Horner print that I used from her Innocent Crush collection.

What do you predict for 2012 in the sewing industry?
I wouldn’t call this a prediction as much as a hope, but I hope that the industry continues to grow and draw in a new, modern crowd. I would especially love to see the Big 4 pattern companies try to modernize their sizing and styles and offer more online support for using their products.

Can you tell us what to expect from you in 2012? Any big projects or life-changing goals?
I got some great sewing gifts for Christmas this year and hope to learn more as I use them. My goal for Fresa Handmade is to be able to incorporate my love of teaching more into the content you see here by posting tutorials or instructional posts. I have a few thoughts about this, but I haven’t figured out all of the logistics of how I want to put my idea into action.

Giveaway Day!

Thank you again to everyone who entered the giveaway! Thank you also for stopping by to see if there was anything else here that caught your eye. I hope you’ll be back soon to see more.

Your comments were all so interesting for me to read. I identified with the experiences of almost everyone in some way. I also started learning by sitting next to my grandmother as I completed my 4-H project each summer. I also had home ec in middle school, but I was already too advanced for what was taught and finished every project early and then helped my classmates with theirs. Eventually, I was able to work independently and most recently I have advanced my skills by reading books and blogs. All in all, I have had a lot of support and help in learning what I know. What struck me about the winner is that she has learned to sew, and is continuing to learn, but that she has had to work a little harder to find learning sources because she is deaf. I am impressed by her insights into hear learning experience and how becoming deaf changed those experiences for her. Thank you, Nancy Sue, for sharing your story with us! You have won the wool yardage! I hope you’ll be able to use it to learn something new or to teach something new to your son!

Welcome! Today is Giveaway Day, organized by Sew, Mama, Sew! This is my first time participating and I am excited to be a part of the online sewing & crafting community that is participating. Today I am giving away two yards of 56 inch wide plaid wool. It is light-medium weight wool. It would be great for a skirt, cape or jacket. The main colors are gray and peach.

To participate in this giveaway, you’ll need to answer a question in the comments. Before scrolling down to see more pictures of the fabric and what your question is, please note:

  • the giveaway is only open to US residents
  • you must provide a valid email address so that I can contact you to get your address
  • the giveaway closes on December 16th at 5pm, PST
  • the winner will be announced here and contacted by email on Sunday, December 18th

 Since I’m a teacher, I want to know your thoughts and experiences related to learning to sew. Please answer at least one of the following questions.

  • How did you learn to sew? Did you feel that it was the best possible way for you learn to sew?
  • What are you most proud of learning in relation to sewing? Why does this make you proud?
  • What resources do you wish existed for sewists wishing to learn more?
  • How do you continue learning new sewing skills (especially if you are an experienced/advanced sewist)?

I will be choosing the winner based on the quality of the answer. I am looking for the answer that will best inspire me and my readers to be lifelong learners. I will be searching for thoughtful answers that will help me learn more or teach you more.

Thank you again for spending some time here! I appreciate your visit and home you’ll be back soon.

Hi there!

Hello there visitors! I imagine that if you’re a first time visitor it’s because you saw the gracious reference that Oona of the Sew Weekly made. I just want to say that I’m still around, even though I haven’t had much time to share what I’ve been up to. Since I’ve got a few spare moments now, why don’t I let you know what’s been sparking my creativity.

White felt snowflakes:

Striped sweater dress:

Red corduroy pants:

Thanks again for your visit! I hope to see you here soon.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Things about Fresa

One project I am particularly proud of:
1. My wedding dress. I spent months planning and making it. It was definitely the most enjoyable part of the wedding planning process for me.

Two mistakes I’ve made in the past:
1. Rushing through a project so that I have it done and ready to wear, but being disappointed with the fit or final look.

2. Not taking good care of my sewing machine (sewing over pins, not changing the needle, not getting it cleaned, etc.).

Three things that make my work unique:
1. The quality of the workmanship. I am a perfectionist.

2. The functionality. I rarely make something just because it will look good. It has to be usable and practical as well.

3. The love that goes into the making. My handmade items would be just like any other thing if I didn’t put love into the process of creating.

Four tools I love to use:
1. My magnetic pin “cushion”. Since receiving it, I’ve stepped on fewer pins.

2. The iron. I’ve really embraced how simply ironing a bit of fabric can help whip it into shape.

3. The computer/Internet. I get so much help and so many ideas from reading about and seeing what others are making and how they go about doing it.

4. My brain. This is probably my most important tool! Sometimes my brain gets distracted or focuses on a problem and I end up making mistakes. When my brain is focused, I make beautiful things though.

Five inspirations:
1. Necessity. You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I am inspired by what will work, practically speaking, in certain situations.

2. Small details. A seemingly simple detail such as a pleat, a gather or interesting seam can inspire a whole garment.

3. The materials. Just as often as I start with the shape of something in mind, I start with a particular piece of fabric or trim in mind. If I love a fabric, I work hard to turn it into something that complements its weight, drape or pattern.

4. Other’s handiwork. I love seeing what others make because it helps me believe I can do it too.

5. The seasons. As my surroundings change with the changes in the weather, my sewing does too. I find that I have the greatest amount of new ideas for what to sew when I am anticipating what the next season brings. Right now, fall is around the corner and my mind is turning to cozy fabrics and designs that go with cool, crisp weather.

Recent Inspiration

Lately I’ve been longing for the past. A simpler time. No debt ceiling crises or unemployment or standardized testing. Aw, who am I kidding? I just long for the clothes! I’ve been watching Downton Abbey on Netflix and I just saw Midnight in Paris at the theater. Both have gotten me drooling over the fashions of the past.

Downton Abbey is set in Great Britain around 1915. The women wear gorgeous, intricate dresses all of the time. Most of the dresses wouldn’t translate well into practical modern styles, but I’ve especially taken note of some interesting neckline and sleeve details that could be incorporated successfully into current styles. There was one especially wonderful and humorous moment when one of the daughters ordered a new “frock” and when she came down to dinner dressed in it, it turned out to be a pantsuit a la Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin. I won’t be recreating that anytime soon, but there are other ideas I’ve gleaned from the show.

Midnight in Paris mainly showcases two eras–the present and 1920s Paris. The dresses from the 1920s might be my favorite of any era. (It’s an era where being petite and non-curvy is actually an asset, so it’s right for my body type.) I’ve never been brave enough to sew myself an ensemble that resembles 1920s fashions, but I might now that I’ve seen how lovely Marion Cotillard looked in a simple dropped-waist dress. What I’m sure I’ll need to experiment with is finding fabrics and embellishments that don’t make it look like a costume.

So, what’s inspiring your sewing right now? (Perhaps it’s the recent abundance of Sorbettorelated posts that have been cropping up in sewing blogs?)