A CLOSET FULL OF COSTUMES & A CUPBOARD FULL OF TEA:
MEET VALARIE LABORE
Continued / Part V
When Valarie and I talk of costumes and sewing or tea, it’s easy to get her going. She’s willing to share all she’s learned about costuming and sewing, but when it comes to discussing her accomplishments, she tends to laugh them off. Generally, she assumes the posture that she just stumble-bumbled her way. From her perspective, she sees them mostly as things she’s learned through her own mistakes and she easily laughs at those as well. Obviously, mistakes are merely lessons. Valarie doesn’t shy away from challenges either. She may step away from them and contemplate them, but she comes back and tackles the challenge. It’s not a matter of winning with Valarie, it’s a matter of learning and gaining knowledge. Then she takes the knowledge and is willing and eager to share what she’s learned. Valarie has done that within the costume community with seminars and also through her wonderful blog!
Today, Valarie allows us a peek inside her sewing room. Like many of you, I enjoy learning how someone else has set up their sewing room or allotted sewing space. I’m always seeking new insight on ways to create a better working space and streamline organization. Most sewing rooms always have a bit of clutter it seems. Usually it’s what is in progress at present. If the sewing area is picture perfect, I become suspicious.
Goose Mother: We’ve had a brief delay as you were on a vacation of sorts. I trust it all went well.
Valarie LaBore: Yes, it did. I just got back from a two week trip to Washington State visiting with my Mom and attending a Victorian Festival where I modeled in the fashion show again.
The Festival is a series of events showcasing Victorian history and dress in the town, all to benefit the historical society. You may want to visit the Victorian Festival site and Victoriana Events. This was my second year in the fashion show and all donations go directly to the historical society’s scholarship fund. Some of my friends from the Seattle costume guild, Someplace in Time, Unlimited, were in it too. It gives me a chance to wear more of my costumes for an audience that hasn’t seen them. I just finished my blog covering the event, and my photos plus some photos taken by my friend are now published in my online pbase album. (Valarie’s Album)
You expressed an interest about how I organize my costume collection, and my sewing room…Hahaha, looking around me right now, I have costumes and hats and things that I just unpacked from my trip and I’ll be trying to work around that for a few days until it all finally gets put away.
Goose Mother: Yes. You have so many beautiful costumes! And you seem to be so organized and I was curious as to how you achieve that. You make it appear so easy!!
Valarie LaBore: At some point my completed costumes and accessories have taken over my sewing room since this is also where they have to be stored. I have a fairly large and long closet in this room and years ago my neighbor helped me turn half of it into shelving to hold all my wood and painting supplies when I used to do folkart. Now it holds stacks of fabrics. Each shelf averages two rows of eight bolts, so with five shelves full, that adds up to eighty different fabrics. That doesn’t mean eighty costumes because some fabrics get combined into one costume. I store my fabrics on the cardboard bolts that fabric is sold on. Our JoAnn’s Fabric store throws them away so they’re happy to have us recycle them. Just ask at any fabric store’s cutting table to see if they have any. I can usually get about five or six at a time.
The other half of my closet is hanging space, with two shelves above them. I store my wigs and miscellaneous things up there. Outside of my closet on one wall I have a hanging rack that holds current projects and most of my petticoats. There’s usually an ironing board in front of it at all times. I have two large clear boxes that hold the rest of my underpinnings and corsets stacked next to them.
I mainly keep my hats in hat boxes, and usually three or four in one box, depending on their sizes. Each box has a small photo of the hats inside taped to them so I can quickly find ones I’m looking for. I started stacking them on top of my computer cabinet but they are up to the ceiling at this point and are now are getting stacked anywhere I can find a spot.
My patterns are stored in large clear boxes too, stored under my sewing table, and each box is labeled which pattern company is included in it. At some point I saved photos of each pattern in my computer and printed them out in groups on a sheet of paper to keep in a notebook for quick reference. I have a large notebook at my desk, then a smaller hand-size one I carry with me when shopping.
Goose Mother: That’s an idea I like. Computers and copiers have made this very easy to do.
Valarie LaBore: It used to take me about a year to make a gown since I was working full time and didn’t have as much time or knowledge to make them. When I retired almost six years ago that has increased to an average of four a year. That’s not a lot when I look at what some of my friends can make in a month but I’m a slow sewer and only work a couple hours each day, if that. But it does accumulate, and after those six years I had about twenty three costumes, and I was running out of space in my closet. I couldn’t even get a piece of paper in between them. So I needed another solution for storing ones that don’t get used much. It was only recently that I remembered Space Bags. Now I have four of them on the floor in my closet with those. Further, in keeping with my OCD (obsessive/compulsive disorder), I labeled each bag with a number, and in my computer I have a file with those in it, and each number has a list of what’s in it. It really helped when I needed a gown but didn’t see it hanging in my closet, and didn’t want to unseal each bag to find it.
And just so you don’t think it’s all neat and clean, this is generally what my sewing table looks like, with stuff stacked around and piles growing. It’s a 3×5 foot banquet table.
Goose Mother: I spy a kitty cat. She looks quite comfy there.
Valarie LaBore: Yes, my black & white cat, Chloe, is in her basket on top of my plastic boxes. Both my cats like to lay on my fabric when I am trying to cut it, and Chloe likes to pull out the pins that she thinks shouldn’t be there. Rudy, my grey cat, would hold the fabric so I wouldn’t lose it. It seems cats and sewing go well together according to all my costume Facebook friends. We share our photos and stories of how our cats help us when we’re sewing. (laughter)
Goose Mother: Is that what they’re doing? I thought my cats were just claiming my sewing things as their own; they just allow me to borrow the stuff! (more laughter)
Valarie LaBore: Getting back to my organizing; when you have large amounts of fabric and patterns you need to have some kind of reference file or a system that allows you to quickly find what you have and how much fabric you have or the pattern needs. I’ve purchased the same pattern twice!! This is why I started keeping a record of what I owned. Also, I’d forget what it was that I bought some of my fabrics for. And if you wonder how can that happen, you haven’t met a costumer yet.
I began saving the little picture the pattern companies have on their websites in my computer after I’d purchased them. I also save photos of the patterns I intend to purchase in the I WANT category to help me remember those. I like the ease of reference on my computer, but I’ve also learned you need to back-up everything in hard copy just-in-case. So I place the photos in a Word document in their prospective company names and include that in a regular notebook. I also made a smaller handheld version that I could carry with me and I include the fabric amounts when I’m shopping for MORE FABRIC.
I carry a small baggie with my fabric swatches for shopping too, but at home I have another notebook that I have a second swatch so that I can record what pattern it was purchased for and how much yardage I have. I keep thinking I should enter in how much it cost me but that’s never been an issue, although it is fun to share when you find a great fabric for $1.99 per yard.
Goose Mother: As I said earlier, a picture perfect sewing room makes me suspect it’s not used often. Thank you, Valarie, for allowing us a peek inside your sewing room and sharing your organization tips.
Valarie Labore: It was my pleasure and delight! And Rudy’s and Chloe’s!!
To be continued …
If you are interested in learning more details, please visit Valarie’s blog; Time Traveling In Costume. She shares more tips on organization: Storing & Identifying Hat Collection and My Sewing Room. And, do view Valarie’s photo album on pbase. (see link above) If you weren’t able to attend this event, Valarie’s photo collection is the next best thing to being there!