For the past nine years I’ve had a room in the house which has had the slightly grandiose title of ‘sewing room’. It’s actually the very smallest bedroom with space for little more than an Ikea desk for my sewing machine, a wardrobe with some storage in and a basic wooden bookshelf standing on the bulkhead over the stairs. I do appreciate that I’m very fortunate to have even that much room because many people only ever have the tiniest of spaces squeezed in between furniture, under stairs, on the kitchen table etc (although I did that for years and years too until I had a home of my own so I remember what it’s like)
For reasons I won’t go into I pretty much stopped sewing for several years until I left my job over a year and a half ago. I started to sew again and began to teach dressmaking for a living so that’s the time my fabric stash started expanding exponentially, my pattern buying and making increased and I basically needed much more room. I’ve been cutting out on the dining room table, the ironing board has to live downstairs and, when I’m not cutting out on it-or sometimes at the same time, the overlocker is on the table too…we even need to eat at it at times too, necessitating clearing everything off it. Not ideal although it meant I was getting exercise running up and down the stairs all the time!
Our daughters both still live at home but as we have a reasonable size garden so the solution was to erect a building in it, when funds allowed (for me to sew in not for them to live in!) Early last year we knew we’d have a bit of cash coming so I started making plans. This was all very exciting but we live in a town which is the first planned-from-scratch Garden City anywhere in the world and this brings particular issues if you want to do any kind of building or alterations to your home, lots of hoops have to be jumped through. Whilst the wooden building wouldn’t need planning permission as such it needed a lesser local form of it and it can take a verrrrry loooong time!
By the summer we were ready to order my wooden building from a local firm, Miller’s, who we’d used at our previous house. They can create wooden buildings and offices to your specific needs and site and they’re all fully lined-out, insulated and double-glazed. Millers don’t provide drawings that are sufficient for the Council’s planning process so my dad, who is a retired structural engineer, did a beautiful set of plans for us and they were duly submitted and I started dreaming of the day I’d be in my own little sewing space!
As I said, the wheels of the planning department move very slowly (presumably because they’re collapsing under the weight of red-tape for things that no other council would bother with-replacing a back gate with another one the same? putting up a modest potting shed in your back garden?) After 3 weeks, when I’d assumed all was ticking along nicely, I had an email saying that there was a ‘scale’ missing on one of the drawings (it was on another one but it had taken 3 weeks for them to decide that wasn’t enough) This meant Dad had to make the alteration and I resubmitted the plans again. I’d been led to believe I’d have permission (providing nobody objected) on or before November 30th so I booked for delivery on December 3rd and we set about demolishing the old shed and putting a base down.
The other shed in the picture was to be moved through 90deg as we still needed garden storage and I had no intention of sharing my space with deck chairs and spades!
We had some men in to put down a base (not entirely successful!) and so we thought we were good and ready….but no! A week before I expected permission (I knew my neighbours weren’t going to object as I’d had conversations with them ages before) I found a random email from the Council saying they needed longer to make their decision! No explanation, no apology. Needless to say, I went nuts! I’d been waiting months to go ahead, delivery was booked and now this. After some furious emails and phone calls (and draughting in our local Councillors-after all isn’t that what they’re for, helping local residents?) it transpired that the planning department had forgotten to inform one of my neighbours and because it was a planning requirement we had to wait another 28 days!! I went nuts again!! I have to say that our Councillor was tremendous because she got right on the case and got us an assurance that we could still go ahead as booked and the planning department wouldn’t issue an enforcement action against us for starting before we had our permission-very big of them in the circumstances….
The shed men duly arrived on December 3rd….and decreed that the base wasn’t level enough and they couldn’t put the building up on it!!!! So they took my building away again….I think I probably wept as they drove away taking my sewing room with them.
Thankfully the ‘base’ man came back and put it right straightaway but it had messed all the timings up now because I had to rearrange the electrician as well as the shed people.
Anyway, as you can see, the building WAS eventually put up and some electrics put in but they couldn’t return until after Christmas to do the insulation etc inside.
So in mid January the shed men returned to put the walls/floor/ceiling in and then the electrician returned and I FINALLY have my dream sewing space! If I’d known at the outset it was going to take this long and with so many silly hurdles to jump I’m not sure if I could do it again but, as you can see from the photos, I have a gorgeous sewing room which is pretty spacious (8’x14′) so that everything I’ve had crammed into the tiny bedroom or distributed around the house cluttering other rooms now has it’s own home. I can look out at the garden from my desk while I’m sewing (I’ve installed a bird feeder in the flowerbed which is already attracting birds) and appreciate my surroundings. I have an oil-filled radiator so it’s very cosy when it’s cold outside and I’ve designated it a ‘shoe-free’ zone so I wear a natty pair of slipper socks inside.
I’ve gradually sorted my stash into large boxes and my patterns are categorised too-everything is finally in the same place and I don’t have to try to recall in which part of the house things are. I’ve found things I didn’t know I still had and it’s been such a trip down memory lane because I’ve got scraps, offcuts and patterns from things I made decades ago (I reckon I might have 250 to 300 patterns!) Unfortunately Doris the dress stand’s leg fell off in the excitement so she’s currently legless in the corner but she’ll soon be fixed and ready for anything.
Tinker the cat has managed to make the doors filthy already but with a sewing view like this on a sunny day I’m prepared to forgive her. My fantastic ‘new’ desk was one of those occasions when the stars align properly because a friend was moving from one office premises to another where there was too much furniture and “did I want a desk?” I certainly did and it’s probably saved me between £200 and £300 for furniture-result!! It’s a corner one so it means I can sit at a slight angle for a better view and there’s enough room to have my overlocker beside it. Happy days indeed….
It’s been a very long time coming-I’m hope not every Council would make it so torturous, it’s a wooden building for goodness sake not the Taj Mahal!! I’m still getting everything organised and straight which will probably take ages but it’s ALL MINE, the family may not see much of me but at least they’ll know where to find me.
I’m not sponsored in any way but I’m happy to recommend Millers and Herts Garden Buildings as they’ve been helpful and flexible all along and the guys who came to erect and finish the building were great-I respect and appreciate that they didn’t put the building up on a base that wasn’t suitable, they could have done so simply to get the job done but I would have had problems later on with the building not being level and they also have a good reputation which they understandably want to protect.
Anyway, I’m off outside now as I have sewing to get on with…