As you may or may not know, about 6 months ago, I had a traumatic fall and injured my shoulder. This injury required surgery and during my recovery, I developed adhesive capsulitis, better known as frozen shoulder. Because of this injury and the complications that have arisen, I have been unable to do my job. I haven't been able do massage work, facials, waxing, sewing, and until recently, I couldn't even type on the computer! It's been the most frustrating experience of my whole life. As I'm (hopefully) nearing the end of my recovery and working my way back into the world of business, I thought it might be fun to give you a sneak peek into my sewing studio and learn a little bit about my what I do, and where I do it, since I've just gotten back in there and started sewing again. So please, read on, and learn a little bit about what inspires me and how I got to where I am now with my textile art. Happy reading!
My 4 Beautiful Sewing Machines:
Here it is, my original sewing machine. The one I learned to sew on. This machine was manufactured in 2010, and found it's home, with me in my sewing studio. There's an interesting story here, so bare with me. My friends wanted to do something nice for me for my 30th birthday which was in May of 2010. They all chipped in and got me a gift card to JoAnn Fabrics. I had never expressed any interest in sewing, as I had always gravitated towards clay as my primary art medium, however, my mother had been telling me my entire life that if I could just gather up some patience (of which I have very little) and take the time to learn how to sew, she knew that I would love it just as much as she has since she was a child. So, though it took until I was 30 years old, I finally listened to her and I bought myself a sewing machine with my gift card from my 3 sweet friends, Jaime, Jordyn, and Rachel. I taught myself how to sew by watching the DVD that came with the machine, and upon my mother's advice, I took a sewing class at the local fabric store. From that moment on, I became totally enamored by the machine and started sewing all the time. And so, after learning how to sew on this machine, I started getting frustrated when my stitches weren't working properly (remember how I mentioned that patience issue that I have?). I found myself yelling at the machine, occasionally smacking it and all around, acting like a fool. Dave would hear me from the other room and he'd make me take a time out until I had cooled off. Eventually, my mom suggested that we trade machines, since she's a seasoned sew-er (is that a word?). I agreed to the trade, and the machine below became my new sewing machine. What I didn't know until after we traded, was that I was putting the needle into the shank incorrectly, causing my stitches to be uneven and ragged. A few weeks ago, my mom gave me back my original machine, because she now has a much newer, better quality machine, and no longer needed mine. Her machine is still my primary machine though, because even though it was made in the 1970's, it is a BEAST!
Oh, the 1970's, what a groovy time to be alive! I cannot claim that decade as mine, as I was not born until 1980. However, this super cool vintage machine was born in the 1970's sometime between 1973 and 1978. This machine here is my right hand man. It is amazing and I am obsessed with it. When my mom first traded with me, I was afraid that an older machine wouldn't be as easy to work with as a newer machine. Oh, was I wrong. So wrong! This machine was so easy to work with, and as you can see my mom used a sharpie to draw arrows around the levers for threading the upper thread properly into the machine. Without these sharpie arrows, I guarantee, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would destroy the threading of the machine and make a huge mess out of every sewing project. Thankfully, my mom thought ahead, and while I'm sure those arrows were not originally intended for me (they were probably put on the machine well before I was even born!), I still believe she knew somewhere in the back of her mind, that someday, she'd be giving me this machine and that I would desperately need instructions because I am too stubborn to just look in the instruction manual. So, thanks Mom! I worked with this machine for quite some time, and I never really thought I'd have more than one machine. I mean, I didn't really have a need. I just had a desire in my heart to someday own a Singer treadle machine, which I am still waiting on. I love antiques, and I particularly love mechanical antiques, such as Singer sewing machines. So, when I go to an antique shop, I usually find myself looking for 1 of 3 things. An antique Singer treadle machine, an antique typewriter (already have one of those, but I like looking at others), and the most rare, an antique cash register (while I haven't found an antique cash register, the hubs and I did find a 1930's adding machine, which we adore). So, when my husband and I saw the machine below, you'll understand why it took us 4 months to purchase it.
This beautiful gem (lovingly known as the Green Machine) was discovered by Dave and me on a trip to Berlin, Maryland in 2013. Berlin is an adorable town in Maryland that was featured in the movie, "Runaway Bride" with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in 1999. It has become a summer tradition for the hubby and me to take a trip down to the Delaware beaches every Spring for our anniversary, and Berlin has become a part of that annual excursion. Berlin is chock full of really unique (and HUGE) antique shops. On our 1st anniversary trip in May of 2013, we happened upon one of the coolest antique shops I've ever been in and saw this machine. My jaw dropped and I didn't know what to do with myself! It was priced at $125, and we agreed to not buy it because we felt it was just a bit too pricey. A few months later over Labor Day weekend, we went back to Berlin and lo and behold, there it was, on sale for $25. We were both shocked and thought that maybe we were misreading the price. So, we brought it up to the front desk to ask the owner if it was the correct price, or if our eyes were deceiving us. He also had a look of confusion about that dramatic of a price cut. But alas, it was not an incorrect price, and sure enough that machine was destined to be ours. Of course we bought it, with no questions and have never looked back. We brought it home, and Dave played with it a bit and fixed it up so that it was in working order. Now, it's his favorite of the machines and he even uses it to sew when I need assistance with a project or if I have too many orders to complete by myself (usually around the holidays). This machine is an industrial sewing machine and can cut through super thick upholstery fabrics. I really thought that this was going to be my last machine, until we found the stunner below.
This is my gorgeous 1927 (more specifically, March 23, 1927) Singer Sewing Machine with knee lever rather than foot pedal. It is in 100% working condition, (thought we did need to replace the belts) even though it's a little beat up looking. Dave found this pretty girl at an antique shop in Doylestown, PA. As we were wandering around the store he came across this machine, thinking it was a tool box. How could he possibly have thought that this beautiful machine was a tool box? See photo below. Notice the Singer emblem on the front of the cover? It was facing the opposite direction, so he thought it was an old tool box. A minute later he opened the box, and the picture to the right is what he saw. All I can tell you is that I heard his voice from about 15 or so feet away from me yelling, "Honey! Honey, come here! You have to see this!" I came over and with his eyes all wide and excited, he took the cover off and we both got goosebumps. He didn't even ask if I wanted it, he just took it right to the front of the store to pay. It was $40!
We brought it home, plugged it in, and it ran like it was brand new, but it wasn't, it was born 90 years ago! It is 5 years younger than my grandmother! The biggest surprise with this machine, is that it has a knee lever rather than a foot pedal. You can see the knee lever, coming out of the front of the base of the machine on the front right side. And in case you're wondering, yes that is a poster of the inside of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. It currently decorates the space directly behind the sewing table above. Long story short, I purchased that poster in Italy when I was 15 years old, during a family trip to Italy. And it is now studio decoration.
As we delve a little further into my sewing studio, you'll come across my drafting table, and my many many pieces of fabric. I organize my fabrics in a few different ways. Smaller pieces (for the most part) get filed in filing bins, larger pieces get folded and stacked on shelves on one of my sewing tables, stored in large paper Trader Joe's bags, or in one of the compartments along the top of my drafting table.
As you can see, I have a large amount of fabric in my collection. My fabrics vary from antique and vintage to modern. I have various types of fabrics, including upholstery, throw pillow pillowcases, table runners, vintage cloth napkins and scarves, cottons, batik fabrics, curtains, and so on. I source my fabrics from antique shops, thrift shops, IKEA (in their AS-IS section), JoAnn Fabrics, estate sales, and of course, bags and bags of fabric samples from friends who don't need them anymore. I keep collecting fabrics because somehow, I always find ways to match fabrics together for my wallets, usually unexpectedly and sometimes years after purchasing them. The love I have for all of these fabrics is hard to explain. In some ways, I feel like each and every piece of fabric has some sort of story, whether it's the antique fabrics or the newer fabrics, the pattern, texture, design, etc. makes each one unique, therefore when I make a wallet out of these various pieces of fabric, it tells a more complex story, and in essence, begins to have a life of its own. But how did this crazy textile obsession begin? Well, I'll tell you. In July of 2010, after dating my now husband, Dave, for a few months, we drove out to New Hope, PA which is a beautiful town along the Delaware River, across from Lambertville, NJ, which is a very similar small down. We drove to New Hope for their Friday night fireworks, which at the time were a staple in the summer months. While wandering around the town, we happened upon an antique shop and my textile obsession began. In the back of this store were bins that were chock full of antique and vintage upholstery fabric samples. On that first trip, I must have left there with about 10 or so upholstery samples. Subsequent visits would yield anywhere from 2 or 3 pieces all the way up to 30 pieces. They make up the majority of my textile collection now, 7 years after we first discovered this amazing store! Sadly, last weekend we made an impromptu visit to our favorite store only to discover that they had closed about 6 months ago. My heart was broken, and I am still in the process of trying to track down the owners and find out if they still have their fabrics or where I might be able to find them!
The photos below are a small, literal snap shot of where and how I take photos for my Etsy shop and my facebook page. You have to get creative when you're not a photography expert, and sometimes you have to use stack-able storage containers from your craft shelves to stabilize your camera! I also have the best director of photography in the world, in my hubby/business partner. His experience as a production assistant has given him some excellent knowledge about how to position things, and how to get the best light, and so on. If it wasn't for him and his ideas, my photos would be total garbage. I'm not kidding! He is the photographer in this marriage, not me. Photography is not an area where I excel, at all.
For more on my textile projects, check out the photos on my facebook page: www.facebook.com/CaraBDesignStudio or to view my wallets currently for sale, check out my Etsy shop: www.carabdesignstudio.etsy.com
Stay tuned for my next post when I talk about the importance of sun protection, by way of Brush on Block!