Spring Cleaning the Sewing Space

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:26:36 Spring Cleaning the Sewing Space


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Lisa is connecting with Julian Collins for Menswear Sunday, April 16th, at 3 pm on the Black Sewing Network on TikTok. They will sew the boxer brief pattern the Gable by Made for Mermaids. Lisa enjoys the Gable pattern because of its simplicity (3 seams, 2 hems, 1 waistband) and the size inclusivity. The kid size goes from toddler to teen; the adult size fits waist sizes 28″ to 63″. Not bad for $9. Get the Made for Mermaids Gable boxer briefs BWS affiliate link

Check out the BWS Amazon store for pinned supply list

Lisa Woolfork

Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of English specializing in African American literature and culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, Black identity, trauma theory, and American slavery. She is the founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she actively resisted the white supremacist marches in her community, Charlottesville Virginia. The city became a symbol of lethal resurging white supremacist violence. She remains active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the Community Engaged Scholars program. She believes in the power of creative liberation.

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Lisa Woolfork  0:14  

Hello stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Lisa W  0:48  

Hey, friends, hey, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. And as I say every week, this is a very special episode. Because this episode is about spring cleaning. And wait, wait, hold up, before I lose you, I meant spring cleaning your sewing space. Don't think I'm about to talk about cleaning, spring cleaning your house. No, no, no. This is only about sewing stuff. So, let's take a deep breath and just get back to the task at hand. Spring cleaning the sewing space. I came to this topic because I recently finished spring sewing of the garments that I traditionally do in the spring. This was a dress and three button-up shirts. Two of those button ups were short sleeve and one was long sleeves. So that's an additional placket and additional snaps. The sewing space was in disarray. There was stuff everywhere, and it just was really out of control. But the nexus, the center of that chaotic hurricane, was my desk. So, I decided that the desk was the priority in terms of getting things cleaned up. Usually after the end of a big project, there will be lots of mess and detritus all over the place - stuff that was not that important to pick up at the time, and you left it there and now you got to go back and get it or you're like, ooh, gosh, okay, I have pushed the envelope on if I'm going to vacuum or not. Vacuum must happen now. This kind of critical mass is where I found myself. Made me realize that I do appreciate having a clean or clear workspace. This is why I have developed so many tips and strategies around tidying up stuff in the sewing space, because I think as artists, we need stuff. The stuff that we have sparks joy, every piece of fabric is potential. For me, rather than just eliminating or reducing disproportionately what I had in my collection, I started to treat it more like a collection, and to think about where the fabrics that I would bring would fit into what I already had. And so, because I had this kind of fabric intake system, just to name one example, it can make it easier to get things cleaned up because I know where things are supposed to go. Now, what I wanted to talk about today were just a few tips that I had that might apply and be useful for your space. And it's about the categories of work. When I approach my sewing space to get it cleaned up or organized, or when I'm trying to transition from a place of disarray and disorder, to bring it back to a center, to bring it back to a place where I can get back to my joyful creations, I've identified three categories of work that helped me to move through what could be a complicated and tiresome process. I divide the work into three categories: shallow, middling, and deep. Shallow, middling, and deep. And these terms refer to how much time, energy, resources - how much energy would be required to complete them, to start them, to get to the outcome that I wanted. What I wanted to talk about is how you can identify tasks in your space that can meet these categories so that you can best determine how your energy is going to be spent. Keep in mind that we love to sew. We know we want to be creative. We want to make things. We want to have the magic that is sewing in our lives again. And one way to do that for myself is to clear away what I've already done, and already accumulated, in the process of making, so that I'm ready to start fresh, and make something new. I love the making. I love the ending of the process. And I love the beginning of the process. But that space in between, wow, that was such a whirlwind of great activity. That was amazing. And wow, let's take a deep breath. Get this new project coming; it's so exciting. Let's go ahead and wash the fabric. That space is a mess. Like I'm looking at mine right now. You know, the cutting table has animal crackers and Super Bubble, and LaCroix cans, and labels from the garment that I finished, and embroidery floss, and cutting tools. It's just like easy things to put away. But when I'm sitting here looking at it, it is not making me feel like I want to go over there and get started making something. That is a deterrent. I want us to clear away obstacles to making and creating. And one of those ways to do it is to clean up. And to make cleanup easy, I identify those tasks for myself. What's going to be shallow, what's going to be middling, and what's going to be deep. And we'll talk about what some of those examples are after this break.

The slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is that we will help you get your stitch together. And now we're bringing it to you in a new way. The Stitch is a newsletter from Black Women Stitch, and I am delighted to tell you about it. What do you get when you sign up for the Black Women Stitch newsletter? You get to hear what's happening with Black Women Stitch and the Stitch Please podcast, events that we've had, events that are coming up, contests for prizes, live shows, social media meetups, IRL meetups, episodes of the podcast that you might have missed, as well as opportunities to learn and sew in community with other Black makers across the country and across the world. You'll learn also about some actual stitches. We will help you get your stitch together with continuing education for your sewing life. Oh my goodness, y'all I am so excited for this newsletter. There's all these things I want to tell you, you know. the how, well now we have The Stitch. Sign up using the link in the show notes or on our website. We look forward to helping you get your stitch together soon.

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Hey friends, hey. Welcome back to the Stitch Please podcast. We are talking this week about spring cleaning the sewing space. And I thought I would tell you more about the categories. And as I said earlier, they are shallow, middling and deep. It's about the investment of energy, time, and resources that you would give to a particular task. A shallow task is something that does not take much time at all. It's something that you can do very quickly. You can do in passing. You can do when you are maybe doing something else. These are things like picking up the trash on the table, putting the cans and recycling [away], putting the animal crackers back in the cabinet. These are examples of things things that I would do that are really efficient. They are things that can absolutely clear the space and help me get to the goal that I want, which is the goal of having a clear area in which to create. And it doesn't take a large investment of time. If I'm on my way to put away some laundry, or if I'm going to put something in the washing machine, I can easily, while I'm waiting for this thing to dry, I can pick up a few things. So that's an example of a light task. Another light task would also be, if you don't happen to have that kind of clutter sitting around, another light task that's also really useful is to change all the sewing machine needles in all your sewing machines. Just do it. And if you go through your machines, and you put in a fresh needle for the project that you're most likely to sew, put the best, most appropriate needle for the machine that you are going to be using. That way, even if you aren't using your machines for quite a while, you will know that needle is fresh. If you wanted to be extra careful, you could make a note of when you changed all the sewing machine needles. And you could look back at that and say, "Oh, I don't know how old this needle might be, but I changed it like six months ago, and I know I haven't used that machine since. It's good to go."

Now that I've talked about what a shallow task might be, let's talk about a middling one. A middling task is one that doesn't take that much time. It's obviously in the middle between being shallow and deep. And you have to decide for yourself what that is. But if we imagine that a light task could take 15 minutes, and a deep task could take three-to-six hours of devoted work, then a middling task could take about an hour, or it could take as little as 20 minutes but still have a significant impact or still take a lot of energy. So it doesn't matter so much how much time you're spending. It's about how you manage your energy, your investment. How much of the best possible time can you give to this outcome? Middling tasks for me involve sorting. Sorting things out is really important to me. But it's also time consuming. And having to go through and see, okay, which of these pins are all dried out, let's throw away the ones that have dried, let's donate the ones that are good. When I'm releasing these things, it helps me to clear away this space that is affecting me with its clutter. So this kind of cleanup and the kind of a middling investment of my time, [is] very useful. And so. go into it knowing that, okay, this is going to involve some work, you're not gonna be able to finish this in 10 seconds. Tasks take time, tasks take time, and this one will take a middling bit of time. And that time isn't just chronological time. It's measured for me in energy and potential for fatigue. And speaking of fatigue, now we get to the deep tasks The deep tasks are those that benefit from focused and sustained attention over a duration of time. And that can be: is it going to be an afternoon? Will it be a week? Will it be a day? How will you break this down? And for me, a deep task is an extension of the sorting task that I described before as kind of middling, in that a deep task is one that either requires me to give deep concentration on nothing else for a period of time,. That could be an hour, that can be two hours, it could be longer than that. But I find it's sometimes exhausting, if I'm not in the right headspace, to focus on a task that requires this kind of deep concentration. And so one way I get myself into that zone is to explain to myself, that this is something that I will be doing because I really want this outcome. I know this will be much better in the end. And so yes, we will spend an hour cleaning off the desk, putting things away, getting rid of things, asking ourselves why do we have 60 pens on the desk when we could have the same 60 pens in another easily accessible location. And this, for me is another advantage of taking your time to go through and give the work the kind of concentration that can best meet your needs. Because for me, I realized that having all of these choices just helped me to delay doing what I was going to do anyway, I had to find the right color pen, the right kind of pen,  "Oh, I don't know if that's the one. Oh, is that a good ..." And it's like, if you have seven pens in there, you know, that for me - seven pens is not that many pens because I have to have the permanents, and then I have the Frixion, I have the writing ones, I have pencils, et cetera, et cetera, highlighters ... you gotta have highlighters. All of it just to say seven is a really good number when I think I'm pretty sure I had 60 in there. And when I had 60, I could never find anything I wanted. It's like with cable, you know, you get 500 channels, and there's nothing to watch. And that was like what my pencil box was friends. My pencil box was cable television, and I just wanted to find a really light-hearted drama. And I could never find it buried in the pencil box of my cable television. I lost the thread of that metaphor, but I know you're with me. Identify what some of these deep tasks might be for you. And what would be required for them to be completed. And don't feel like you can't think outside the box. You don't have to complete all these tasks by yourself. You can get people to help you. I was very fortunate to work with some neighborhood kids and teenagers before the pandemic who helped me organize my patterns and fabrics and helped me by entering patterns into a database. You can hire people to help you do something very similar. I have my PDF patterns in an Airtable database, and they have the instructions, the photos. And I'm really grateful for it. And I didn't have the time to do it all myself. But I was able to get a lot of support. Don't be afraid to ask for support. Sometimes it's a team lift. I saw this wonderful quote that said, "the reason that you're tired all the time is that you're doing the work that usually a team would do." So it's like doing a whole group project on your own. The deep tasks don't have to be solo accomplishments. 

Before we wrap up today, I wanted to remind everybody that we have a sew-along this Sunday, 3pm Eastern Standard Time. On the Black Sewing Network. You can find the information on TikTok as well as on Instagram. We are trying to broadcast it on multiple platforms. But there's information about it coming up in the next segment. And it's talking about how much I love making underwear, and come out and give it a try. I think you'll have a good time. I think you'll enjoy it. And even if you're not sewing, if you just want to watch and hang out and have a good time, we're sewing with the Black Sewing Network during this sew-along. It's a kiki. So just reminding you all to come through for that project. Now in the next segment you will hear some really good details about the pattern, if you want to make it. And if you know how to sew a straight line, and if you are not afraid of knits, (and why are you afraid of knits?), you should give it a try. Not the boxers, then another pair. It's really a fun thing to sew, and it's a very satisfying feeling. 

One of my favorite things to sew is undergarments, especially drawers, panties, pannies. However you say it, whatever the word is, whatever the term is in your region. I love making them. I believe that sewing underwear is one of the few opportunities that you can sew something for less than buying it. So I am a huge fan of underwear sewing. It's a huge scrap buster. And it is efficient. It's quick, and it's so satisfying. I have not bought drawers in eight years. I'm just saying. And once you make a pair that you love, you won't buy any either. Especially if you enjoy sewing with cotton lycra, double brushed poly, or any of the breathable stretch fabrics that many of us use in garment sewing. This leads me to my third pattern, which is the Made for Mermaid Gable boxer brief, this is a wonderful pattern. And when I tell you it's simple to sew, I mean that. It is easy as 1-2-3. One elastic waistband, two hems, three seams. That's all you need, and you got a pair of boxer briefs. And check it out, you get a chance to sew with me and Julian Collins in a sew-along. So I'm going to close this episode out with information about the collaboration between the Black Sewing Network and Black Women Stitch. Mark your calendars for April 16, 3pm Eastern Standard Time where you can join us in a sew-along of the Made for Mermaids boxer brief pattern.

Now, when I say us, who am I talking about? Are you talking about yourself in the royal we again, Lisa? We've talked about this; that is not appropriate. No, I'm actually talking about myself and Julian Collins. Yes. That Julian Collins: menswear selling expert, Bernina ambassador, menswear ex-designer with KnowMe patterns. He and I are going to be sewing boxer briefs together. And this is the first time he's sewn boxer briefs. So I'm really glad to take such an expert seamster through the pathway of sewing undergarments. I think he's going to absolutely love it. Here's some things you'll want to think about if you participate in the sew-along. Here are some of my recommendations for working with the Made for Mermaids Gable pattern for sewing these boxer briefs. One, invest in some Steam A Seam 2, quarter-inch wide, pressure-sensitive fusible tape. Yes, it is a bit of a mouthful, but don't worry about it, I have the link to my Amazon shop in the show notes. It has a list of all of the things I'm going to tell you about. The reason this is important is that when you are working with cotton lycra, those fabrics can curl. And that makes them difficult to hem or to stay in place, even when you press well. Even when you are taking all of your time to be careful, the fabric will still shrink up and act in resistant ways. The Steam A Seam 2 helps the fabric to fold better. That adhesive on the fabric helps the fabric to hold its hem. And this is important because if you're going to do a zigzag hem in the leg, or if you're going to do a cover stitch hem in the leg, it's much easier to do that without having to navigate pins at all. And this is an opportunity to practice that. So the recommendation that I have is for Steam A Seam 2. The second thing I would advise is, if you want to stick with the 1-2-3 formula for this pattern, I would advise you using an elastic waistband - doing an exposed elastic waistband. And in this exposed elastic waistband, you are going to essentially wrap your waistband around the garment itself. And you're going to mark a quarter-inch seam on the elastic. And we're going to baste it, and it's going to be great. It's going to be fine. Don't worry. It's just, I think that the elastic tends to work better than the self fabric bindings or the self fabric waistbands. I think the self fabric waistbands tend to stretch. I've noticed that some of the undies that I've made will stretch in the body part, right? But they won't stretch in the waist because that's elasticized. So that's just another recommendation is to use elastic. And the third recommendation is to get a marking pen that works well in your experience. I am a fan of Frixion, that has worked well for me in the past. I say that because when you use your elastic, you are going to need to mark that quarter-inch mark on your elastic before you stitch it on. That is a guide. And so we're going to use that as a guide to make sure that the elastic is on, and is also catching the back of the elastic which is how the brief itself gets attached. So it's gonna be very fun. I'm really excited about it. And who knows, this might be the start of some type of online series where I go and make drawers, different types of underwear with people in these kinds of sessions. Wouldn't that be fun? As I say it aloud, I imagine the people that know me and love me saying, absolutely not. So don't you get it? Don't get excited. It's probably not going to happen. Thanks for listening, everybody. Have a great one?

You've been listening to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you joining us this week and every week for stories that center black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. We invite you to join the Black Women Stitch Patreon community with giving levels beginning at $5 a month, your contributions help us bring the Stitch Please podcast to you every week. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support, and come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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