Mrs Parks Sew-Along: Mrs. Bennett Regency Dress Week One

Table o’Contents: Week one; Fresno Hancocks Deals; How I work in a Tiny Space.


How do you do, dear readers? I’m “Mrs. Bennett” (also known as Heather, in real life) and I’ll be doing the companion blogs to Mrs. Parks’ Sew-Along blogs.

mrsbennettMy interest in sewing started about 10 years ago when I began helping Mrs. Parks at Renaissance Festivals. But don’t let that number of years fool you! While I had worked my way up to what I think are intermediate skills in those first few years, that was basically just because I was sewing SO MUCH.

In the past five years or thereabouts, I haven’t been sewing nearly as much. A few small projects & some very fast work here and there. But most of my new costumes for the past few years have been made for me. My skills have atrophied – greatly!

So my companion blogs will be to give you an idea of what a non-expert sewer experiences during the sew along – and hopefully to help you feel okay with your own process!


Week one is all about prepping the project BEFORE the project starts. I cleaned my apartment of post-wedding detritus and swept the floors (always a good start to a project!):

And then I started getting motivated:

Then the first thing I did was order the pattern on  My fashion fabric and trim was purchased last January in the LA garment district. It is a deep garnet silk dupioni and a burgundy and gold trim. Total pricetag: Around $100.

IMG_7900Then, I printed out the checklists and went over my stock in my sewing closet. (I will be talking more about the sewing closet later, if you’re interested in how I sew while sharing a small apartment with my husband). 

Many items from the checklist were in stock, but there were a few things I felt I needed to pick up – especially mock up fabric. So I headed to the Fresno Hancocks to scope out their going-out-of-business deals. (I will also be going over the sale opportunities at Hancocks later, if you’re interested).


But if dropping a ton of money at Hancocks isn’t for you, you can get all the basics you’ll likely need at Target – with out the pretty distractions!


Target has 3 basic Singer machines too- if you’re just starting out. 

When I get home I take out the essential items from my sewing closet and set up the room for a project.

  • Temporary space for the sewing machine – coffee table. This is so I can use it for small things if I need to, but I won’t be using it much until I have the pattern mock up cut out.
  • Dinette table cleared – no tablecloth like it usually has. Cleaned off.
  • Ironing board out and in its spot so I don’t have to do it in the middle of the project.
  • Extra 4’ table out to hold the project supplies, etc. This will be Project Home  for project items and supplies. At the end of every work session on a project, all of the pieces and supplies go back to this table. (See below in Working in a Tiny Space).
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Sewing Machine on Coffee Table.  4 foot “Project Home” table – Wine and Pepcid AC optional. 



The ironing board station and dinette table cleared (mostly). 

My living space will stay like this for the rest of the month until it all gets put away at the end of the project.

So there we are! Now I’m just waiting for the pattern to arrive and for instruction on WEEK 2: Prepping the Pattern and doing a mock up!


This is a sad thing in the long-term. I actually liked going to Hancocks for basics like notions and white poly-cotton or lining fabrics. The place was always saner than JoAnn on the north end of town. But the current state of things for textile businesses is hard – the profit margin is so slim to begin with and people have online and wholesale options for fabric shopping.


Part of my haul from Hancocks.

But. . . because they are closing (most likely by end of June, they said), everything in the store is 50% – 75% off. Their notions wall is already pretty much decimated, but there are some less regular supplies still to be had. I got 12 yards of boning in the casing for 60% off, for example. They also have a ton of patterns on sale from $1.50 – $3.50 depending upon the brand, so if you want to stock up on some Big 4 costume patterns for yourself or your kids, now’s the time to head over there.


IMG_7891My haul includes 2 bolts of 100% cotton fabric and 3 bolts of poly-cotton blend for mock up fabrics and lining. They have a LOT of cotton and poly cotton 45” bolts left there- most are 50% off, but if you buy the whole bolt, they give you an extra 10% off. So white poly-cotton was about $1.40 a yard and 100% cotton about $4 a yard.

They had a lot of prints there, too, which would make great Regency day-dresses or very sweet gowns. The poly-cotton might need to be washed and dried first to have a good drape, but it will do for a very low price. Especially for someone just starting out in sewing.

There were also several FAT bolts of eyelet cotton to be had, a goodly amount of spool o’ribbon, and some trims still to be had.

So, if you’re catching up or just starting out, go to Hancocks, ask to be pointed in the direction of the cotton and poly-cotton fabrics and prints, and go to town. Inexpensive fabric is the best to experiment on!


It occurred to me as I was setting up that occasional sewists and new sewists may be at a loss regarding how to organize the STUFF. Because there is a LOT OF STUFF involved in sewing. And there’s even more STUFF involved in keeping your creations and accessorizing them!

Many people you read online have sewn for a long time and have created space in their lives to accommodate it. They’ve got a spare room for it, have converted a home-office area, or take over their kids’ play-rooms when they work on a project.

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The living area of the one bedroom apartment I share with Mr. Bennett.

But many of us occasional sewists don’t have that. We trot out the machine to the kitchen table when there’s a project and tuck it away when it is done. But what if you’re getting into more regular sewing, but still don’t have the space?

Well, Pinterest has lots of really beautifully perfect pictures about the “Small Sewing Space” 

But they seem impossibly twee and never seem to address storage or how to maintain it. So I thought I’d give you a few tips on how I’ve managed the sewing stuff and costume stuff over the years.

The first thing is having a solid plan for your SEWING CLOSET.


Our coat/storage/sewing closet with the 3 drawer plastic bureau.

My sewing closet is actually shared with the coat closet in my apartment. (We have a sum total of TWO closets in our apartment). And THE BEST thing I ever did with it was get one of those 3 drawer plastic bureau drawers college kids get for their dorms. They often come with wheels for the bottom.

TOP DRAWER: Essentials – scissors, threads, pins, spools o’ribbon, etc. All the notions, bits & bobs you often need on hand.
2ND DRAWER: Trims and accessories. When you live in a small space, you’re more likely to become a trim hoarder than a fabric hoarder. Fair warning.
3RD DRAWER: Full lengths of fabric for costuming projects. I keep only 3 projects worth of fabric in these drawers at a time. More than that, it’s getting crowded.

This 3 drawer piece is the best thing when you’re starting out or trying to scale down. Get one of these, park it in a solid place in a closet, fill it, and roll it out when need be.

Another tip for this: Get various sized, inexpensive food storage containers to organize things like buttons, closures (snaps, hooks & eyes, etc), elastics, binding tape, etc. You can see through them so you can find the right box right away and they stack well in the drawers. (Some people also use ziploc bags, but I don’t think they organize as well.)

TIP FOR KEEPING THE SEWING SPACE RELATIVELY TIDY: One of the other things I acquired for the space, is a lightweight 4’ table that stores easily in the closet, but comes out for projects. As the “Project Home” for the project, I make sure that all of the project stuff goes back on this table at the end of each work session. This helps keep my tiny apartment from being too overrun with project flotsam and jetsam and keeps me from feeling like I’m losing my mind by the mess. And as my dinette is cleared, there’s no problem with breakfast the next morning. Also, since I gathered everything together before leaving off, I have a very good idea of where everything is the next time I tackle the project.

So those are my first few tips for working in a small space. There will be more as we go along – probably involving bankers boxes, repurposed plastic storage, wine and Pepci AC.

Thank you for your patience and good attentions, dear reader!

See you in a few days for WEEK TWO!


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