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Archive for the month “July, 2015”

About True Love and a Happy Place – My Sewing Studio

We all have our idea of what an act of True Love is. To some it means a fancy dinner, for others it could be a home cooked meal. While some enjoy their true love’s company at a resort, others may squeal in delight at an unexpected bouquet of flowers on a Wednesday evening.

But what about those things your love does for you which may seem insignificant to others but you know in your heart how much you are loved when he/she sets you free? Free as in “do what you love and I’ll even take you there“. Back in 2002 Gagan and I took a trip to Philadelphia because I wanted to attend the ASG conference. On the way there, when I asked to stop at Threads HQ, he did and I got a personalized tour of the #1 sewing magazine.

What will you do while I am at the ASG conference?” I asked. “Oh no worries, I’ll find a Barnes and Nobel” and work from there. “Really?” “Yeah of course, you go have fun!

I don’t have pictures from that trip but I don’t need them because its etched in my memory forever. So while I enjoyed my first ever sewing conference, Gagan spent his day at Startbucks working. And when I got back, he was even excited to hear about my day. It still brings a smile to my face whenever I think of that time.

Yes, its true love which makes you do things like this.

Fast forward to 5 years ago when we were painting Dia’s nursery (which used to be my sewing space) and moving stuff out of it, when Gagan suggested “Why don’t we convert the screen porch into a sewing room for you?

I totally refused saying that I didn’t need it. But guess what? He went ahead and did it anyway 🙂 So yes, this post is about my sewing studio, my happy place. A place where I go in and feel inspired to CREATE. When I enter this room, I smile. And Gagan did that for me. And if that’s not true love, I don’t know what is?

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It took me 5 years to write this post about my sewing room because it has been a work in progress since then. I have been organizing it, collecting furniture for it, setting it the way which makes more sense with a little one around so she can use it too. It has been a labor of love for me and I’ve loved every minute of it.

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I feel lucky and blessed to have this space to create and it gives me pleasure to share it with you, in the hope that maybe it’ll give you some ideas for your own space, whether its a shared or a dedicated space. My biggest advice to you when you are thinking of setting up your sewing space is to not feel that you have to do it in one day. Mine took 5 years! Depending on your life and your budget, start with the essentials and keep adding slowly. Its more fun and enjoyable this way.

So lets start with the tour shall we?

I picked this really vibrant color (I’ll have to find the exact shade but I think its called Waterfall – Benjamin Moore) because it makes me happy. Everything pops against this color and the white trim keeps it super bright and fresh.

Without doubt the focal point of this room is the cutting table with lots of storage under it. I can’t take credit for it. On our trip to IKEA we saw a room set up as a “sewing room” and I love the idea of using kitchen butcher block tabletop with 4 cabinets under it which have storage. I could envision lots of time being spent on this table doing crafts, homework with Dia and of course cutting fabric. A solid butcher block meant this piece is virtually indestructible. The bad part, you can’t move it. The cabinets are screwed together and then the tabletop is placed on top and also secured with heavy duty screws. Since this room has no storage I was grateful for the cabinets under the table to store things.

My in-progress pattern pieces or the patterns I am currently tweaking or working on go up on the wall to the left of the cutting table. And of course the bulletin board is a constant source of inspiration for whats coming next. I pin patterns and swatches of fabrics for the projects which I am going to make next and somehow I still don’t follow the plan.


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I’ve dedicated a cabinet for my jewelry making endeavors, other to knitting. One holds the leather and interfacing the final cabinet holds paper crafts. Yes I am a woman of 1000 hobbies. But isn’t it nice that its all in one place?

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The sewing table is pretty basic ALEX tabletop from IKEA with two cabinets on either side. The left side holds serger thread, sewing machine manuals etc and the right side drawers have sewing stuff and notions and what not. The last two drawers are for paints and stamps. For my serger thread, I cut pieces of foam core and made dividers for the drawers. Easy Peasy!

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The ironing table is right next to the sewing table. I made the cover (polka dots of course!)

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The Billy bookcase is indispensable for the amount of stuff which lives here and it also utilizes vertical space so its a win win. Threads magazines, Jalie patterns, elastics, zippers and other random stuff goes in the top shelves and the heaviest  – Patterns are in the bottom shelf. The boxes are also from ikea and are perfect size for the paper envelopes. Of course now I am struggling with where to keep my digital patterns which when printed on heavy paper take up a lot more room. Right now they are rolled up in a wrapping paper bin which you can see in the first photo. It works for now.

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Moving on to the other side of the room, I’ve kept it pretty bare because I like the open space. We weren’t ever going to use the fire pit so we covered it up with boards and added a shelf. Where I keep my only Vintage Kenmore (backup machine) and Dia’s sewing machine (when she is ready). Although she thinks she is ready now 🙂

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I picked up this letterpress tray at a thrift store, cleaned and sanded it and then stained it to a dark color. Gagan helped me mount it to the brick wall. I was running out of space for thread so later I stained the June Tailor thread rack to match this tray. I keep my neutral threads on this rack.

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I found this ribbon rack at Michaels and it was perfect for keeping the ribbon spools organized. It looks pretty too.

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This Cubby is probably my second favorite piece in this room (The Cutting table is the first) in this room. I contemplated for a long time before buying it because you know Pottery Barn… but I really couldn’t find anything else. I even looked up how to make it myself (who am I kidding? ) but in the end decided to buy it at thanksgiving sale last year and I’ve loved it since then! I keep my buttons, snaps and other decorative items here.

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That’s it! Oh wait… The Fabric Stash! DUH…

So there is this small alcove between the firepit and the wall.  I decided this was where my stash was going to go. It looks small but is very deep. I got these wire shelves cut to size from home depot and mounted them. Put a tension rod up and added a simple curtain from IKEA and called it a day.

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So that’s it, An act of true love which makes me feel loved every. single. day!

I’d love to share some tips which have helped me.

  1. Clean up whenever you are done for the day. Put things back where they belong, Tidy up your workspace, even if it means neatly stacking things. This way whenever you are ready to come back in, you’ll feel inspired.
  2. Use the walls for vertical storage. Bookshelves are great for storing more than just books and magazines. Some people like to use pegboards to store notions.
  3. Make sure your cutting surface  is the right height for you. If it isn’t use bed risers to adjust. Trust me, cutting on the floor is not a good idea. Really bad for the back. Before I had this room, I used my kitchen island to do all my cutting because it was the perfect height for me.
  4. Go into your sewing space at-least once a day even if its for 10 minutes. It will make you smile and maybe you can even sew a seam or two. Don’t be under any pressure to crank garments out.
  5. If you don’t have a dedicated sewing space, make the most of whatever you have. I used to schedule cutting sprees on my kitchen island then keep them in separate plastic bags so I am ready to go whenever I have time to sew.
  6. Most important – Take it slow. Remember “Rome wasn’t built in a day“.

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Thanks for walking along with me in my sewing room tour. Whether its a shared space or a dedicated studio, or even a table in the corner of a room, I hope you get joy from your sewing space. Dia and I have spent so many wonderful moments in this room and hope to continue to do so for a very long time.

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Montreal , Canada – Jazz, Sewing and More…

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Ah Montreal… my love. You are such a tease. So close and yet so far.

It is where I discovered the first underground mall, and the loveliest of gardens. The fries covered with cheese and gravy – so gross and yet so delicious. The charm of your old city and the lovely people keeps drawing me to you and I keep going back again and again. And to honor you, I even dressed in your colors to celebrate Canada Day!       canadaday

You made me so happy in my recent trip that you inspired me to blog about my travels again! So thank you Montreal for a lovely weekend amidst Jazz and Sewing Friends and Gardens and Yummy Food.

This was not our first time in Montreal. Just for kicks I dug out a photo from 14 years ago which was indeed our first time in this city.

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This was our 5th but Dia’s first and this time we just decided to “hang out” and relax. We weren’t interested in doing any touristy things and that’s what was different this time I think. Coincidentally the International Jazz Festival was also going on so that added to the fun. Oh and if you’re driving to Montreal and Grantham NH is on your way, you HAVE to stop at Farmer’s Table Cafe for a wood fired Pizza! SOO good. What did we ever do without yelp? Beats me.

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On our first day there, we took Uber to The Botanical Gardens where we soaked in the natural beauty. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. Especially if you have kids. Its a great way to educate them about nature. Dia was completely fascinated by it. The orchid section was my favorite as was the bromeliads! Look… a flower growing in a flower!

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Yes, Dia and I are wearing matching dress. Made by me of course! ( like you even needed to ask). This is my first time in public wearing matchy matchy and it won’t be the last. Thanks to dinagideon for encouraging me!

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From there we walked to the rose garden and then the Insectarium where Dia and Gagan really had fun. I was mostly taking pictures. I’m sorry but insects don’t float my boat 🙂

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Dia was a trooper. She walked so much that day.. so I let her have ice-cream for lunch 🙂 We just ate at the cafe (meh.. )

IMG_0183and headed back to St. Catherine for some Jazz Fest Fun. We took the metro back. I love taking public transport wherever I can and I guess when you’re a 4 year old, everything is fun. Dia enjoyed the train ride.

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Back Downtown, we spotted a fountain and there was no going back. Lack of bathing suit didn’t deter this girl from having the most fun! Gagan and I sat on the steps listened to jazz (playing nearby) and it was one of the best afternoons ever.

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Back at the hotel, Gagan and Dia hung out at the pool while I freshened up. We went out to this vegan place La Panthere for dinner which was just ok. Why do all the vegan places smell the same? You know the “crunchy granola” type smell. Anyway… I am not a big fan of fusion cooking so whatever… Dinner was so.. so but I was craving crepe for dessert. Luckily we’re in Montreal so that’s not a problem. We had the best nutella and banana crepe at this little hole in the wall place on St. Catherine. I forget the name. Except that it was heavenly. Ok I found it. Paris Crepe. And its actually on St. Crescent.

Day 2: We took it easy, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our hotel. Why do croissants taste so good in Montreal? Must be the butter 😉

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By the time we reached Jean Talon it was nearly lunch so we walked around eating lots of fruit samples, bought a bunch of cherries and strawberries and blueberry juice to quench our thirst and had the best buckwheat crepe of my life. I had remembered this crepe from 5 years ago when I was in Montreal last for PR weekend. And decided to re-live it. Dia loved it so much that we had to get her her own – with cheese. Its like Dosa mom! Yes it was. So yummy and delicious. Note to self – try at home. Creperie Du Marche

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This balloon spiderman lasted all of 5 minutes sadly… but it was fun while he was with us.

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From there, Gagan took Dia back to the hotel to hang out at the pool while I met up with some fabulous sewing friends and had another memorable evening! One of the best perks of starting and running PatternReview is the lovely people it connects me to, and I feel grateful for that.

I met up with Anne-Marie on St. Hubert and even managed to do a little fabric shopping at Tissue Marina (full review on PatternReview). From there I took another Uber to Gainzbar with Heather where we met up with about 15 other Canada sewing friends from PatternReview and blogging community.

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I have this annoying habit of getting photos taken in the same spot if I’ve been there before. This is in front of UltraTex.

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And this is from 5 years ago at PR Weekend Montreal 🙂

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Left to Right… Anne-Marie, Me, Rhonda (in the back), Carmen (in front) and Kay

Time flies when  you’re having fun doesn’t it? I relived some old memories and definitely made a few new ones. I had asked for a source for African Wax Print fabric before our meet up and ReneeB and Caroline gifted me some! Monseratt showed us how to needle a thread the way her granddad showed her and it is a life changer. Here’s a video I took of her showing it to us.

I missed Renee(miss celie’s pants) just by a day. Darn it. She blogged about her trip here. I also finally got a chance to meet Carmen Bouchard. And she is as lovely in person as she is online. What a small world we live in!

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Gagan and Dia were having a blast in the hotel so I decided to stay for dinner. Heather recommended this el salvadorian place for pupusas  and Vicki was kind enough to drive us there in her car. The food was to die for! I ate a LOT!

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The late night commute back to the hotel was enjoyable because Caroline and Claire accompanied me. We talked about schools and retirement and sewing and how to get the best view of the city 🙂 Which we tried out the next day at Mont Royal Park.

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We drove there on our way out from the hotel and checked out the lake before driving up to the highest point where there was a short hike up the mountain. It was really lovely and the view was terrific!

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And because we’re foodies and I started the post with food, I feel obligated to end with food also. If you are in Montreal and are vegetarian, you must go out of your way to eat at-least one meal at Lola Rosa We ate at Rue Milton so can’t say about their other location. But hands down the best burrito ever! and I don’t even like burritos.

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Drive back was uneventful and except for the 1.5 hour delay at the border we didn’t hit any traffic.

You want to know the best part about traveling? You get to come home with a lifetime of memories! And that night as lie down in your own bed, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t fall asleep. You are after all still mentally in Montreal  🙂

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