The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Guest Post with Kay Young aka The Sewing Lawyer

In more posts from ladies who have working careers AND sew, here’s a guest interview from Kay Young also known as the Sewing Lawyer.

The point of these guest blogs is to demonstrate that even if you think you don’t have enough time, it’s balderdash….as evidenced by these ladies who sew even though they have full-time and sometimes more than full-time jobs. Some of them have massive schedules outside their jobs.  They do this by budgeting their time and that means that they have set time blocks in which they sew.  They know this is how they get things done and this is the only way they get things accomplished.

I usually ask questions, but I like for my interviewees to answer how they like.  Kay liked a more chatty version, so here is her interview.

In theory, I manage my time by being disciplined about it.  My fitness and health are important to me, so a basic weekly workout schedule, including 2 early morning swim practices and 3 workouts with weights, is bedrock.  Full days in the office, workouts and other hobbies (including knitting), on top of family time means I have little time to sew.  This does not make me happy even though I enjoy the competing activities.  Time spent sewing recharges my batteries.  Plus I need to sew because I make almost all my clothes and my wardrobe needs periodic injections of new items!  So my goal is always to fit in time to sew between my other commitments, even when I am tired.  This is a challenge!  Happily, in practice, I have found that I can get a lot done in small chunks of time.  The challenge is to convince myself to start when I’m tired.

I started sewing a lot in high school.  I had tons of support from my mother but she didn’t sew.  So she encouraged me to take classes and was willing to buy me patterns and fabric.  Her mother was a terrific sewer, but lived far away (see blog post http://kaythesewinglawyer.blogspot.ca/2010/10/if-theres-sewing-gene-i-got-it-from-her.html).  As a young teenager, I could look to the mother of a friend who was very elegant and sewed from Vogue patterns.  But mostly I learned from teachers in school, and from being relatively fearless in terms of what I would attempt (see   http://kaythesewinglawyer.blogspot.ca/2010/01/did-i-not-promise-plaid.html).  As an adult, I have a good friend who was trained as a tailor, has sewed professionally, and has wonderful and refined sewing skills.  She has been a very positive influence on my skills development, and a slightly more troublesome influence on my stash acquisition habits.

As a professional who dresses mostly in self-made clothing, my own perfectionism has pushed me to improve my technical skills and my fitting abilities.  I don’t want to be dressed in “home made” clothing.  My goal is definitely custom made clothing.  In recent years I have really tried to improve my fitting skills and I spend the time to make muslins for a good proportion of my projects, if I am planning to use special fabric and/or I’m not sure of the pattern.

In knitting they say there are process knitters (who revel in the activity of knitting for its own sake) and product knitters (who always aim to make an item that will be worn or used).  I am in the latter camp in both knitting and sewing.  Sewing for me is a means to an end; creating unique things that fit me and work with my real life.  I take satisfaction from the planning process but more from finishing a project.  My main satisfaction derives from doing a great job technically and producing something that looks really good.  When I first started sewing, I was very slap-dash.  I would routinely skip finishing details like – say – actually sewing a button on a skirt waistband.  I was in such a hurry to wear whatever it was I had made.  Now, I stop regularly to check that my garment layers are laying smoothly, that my hand stitches are invisible, that collars/lapels are symmetrical, that my pattern matches, etc.   I use my seam rippers (plural) a lot.  I have a debate with myself over whether a technical flaw is small enough to ignore.

I have always had a dedicated sewing space even when it was a corner of the master bedroom.  Until this year, I had the smallest bedroom in our house as my dedicated space.  However, my son has grown up and moved away and I expanded into his former room.  Now my smaller room houses my machines and my ironing board.  The larger room is for cutting.  (See http://kaythesewinglawyer.blogspot.ca/2013/08/massive-sewing-room-reorganization.html and http://kaythesewinglawyer.blogspot.ca/2013/08/the-great-sewing-room-makeover-phase-ii.html).

My main sewing machine is a Pfaff 2042 “QuiltStyle” machine that is about 15 years old.  I have two Featherweights, one of which was my maternal grandmother’s main sewing machine.  I pull out “my” Featherweight for topstitching and its buttonholer attachment, and sometimes I also just sew on it (because it’s such a gutsy little machine).  I have a Pfaff 5-thread serger and a Janome Coverstitch machine that I have not used enough and feel guilty about.  I also have an old Singer treadle.

I use a gravity feed iron (Consew CES300) which is not fancy but works very well, and a Reliable ironing board with a built in fan to pull moisture and heat out of whatever you are working on.  I would never go back to a household iron or flimsy ironing board.  I have a relatively extensive supply of pressing aids that I use regularly.  My favourites are a wooden tailor board made by my husband and my sleeve board but my pressing ham, sleeve roll, seam stick etc. are also regularly used.  (See http://kaythesewinglawyer.blogspot.ca/2010/02/pressing-equipment-how-to-use-it.html)

These days, I take inspiration from my stash of fabric and patterns, and from blogs and sewing websites like Pattern Review.  I hate shopping and I do not have time to browse fashion or retail websites. I depend on you and other bloggers to show me what’s out there.  That said, it’s not important to me to be wearing the latest style or colour and I don’t have enough sewing time to keep up with trends.  I try for classic items that I can wear for a long time.

The number of fabric stores in my city has diminished a lot since I moved here 29 years ago.  There are very few independent fabric retailers left, but there is a decent chain store.  I’m 2 hours away from Montreal, which was historically a garment manufacturing centre and has a street with quite a few great stores.  I also visit Toronto and Hamilton periodically, both of which have fabric districts.  I do not buy fabric on line.  I’m trying really hard to shop my stash as I’ve basically run out of storage space despite my double sewing room.

Wadders don’t happen very often in my sewing room.  In part that’s because I am stubborn.  If a project is something I’ve invested a lot of time and good materials in, I hate to quit on it and more often than not I’ll finish it even if I never wear it.  I confess that there are a couple of half-done things hanging about in my sewing room (including a version of Claire Shaeffer’s jacket pattern V8804 http://voguepatterns.mccall.com/v8804-products-22886.php?page_id=262 that I have not touched in about 18 months).  In my mind, it’s not a wadder, it’s in some kind of time out and I may eventually finish it.  Luckily, that is not a transitory style!  A few years ago I finished a winter coat that had been languishing in this way, when I figured out how to overcome what was bothering me about it.  I had written its obituary on my blog (http://kaythesewinglawyer.blogspot.com/2010/01/burda-7731-coat-sad-sad-news.html) so I had to bring it back from the dead in the same way (http://kaythesewinglawyer.blogspot.com/2011/02/burda-7731-back-from-dead.html).  It ended up being a fabulous success story and I am still wearing it frequently.

Occasionally people ask me if I would be willing to make things for them and I have learned to answer that question with a very definite “No” in almost all circumstances.  If sewing were an obligation, it would become a source of stress rather than a stress reliever.

 

One Note:  Some how my link-o-meter is not working on the blog, so no telling what’s going on.  I put Kay’s blog links in bold and underlined and you will have to cut a paste.  Hopefully this won’t last long!!!

Isn’t Kay inspirational.  Makes me want to go in and completely reorganize how I budget my time when I’m sewing.  More than anything she proves that she has a life outside work and her professional career and sews.  She doesn’t need to spend all her spare time sewing because she makes clothes that last for a long time and perform for her all the time or they are expelled from her closet.

This is a finely tuned wardrobe and closet at its finest.  It’s hard to realize how well this works when you hear it – it’s sort of yada, yada, yada.  But the fact is that not only is this easier on yourself, but it’s also far more time efficient.  Kay does not have the time to go shopping every two weeks for new clothes.  She needs to make them perform for her all the time.  When they aren’t performing – they are out of her closet and she has a replacement that will perform for her.  It’s so much fun to hear about this first hand – from someone besides me!!!!

 

 

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2 Comments
  1. Very inspiring! Thank you!

  2. Wow, such an inspiring article. Thanks!

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