Welcome to my new sewing/workout space! We’re calling it the JoJo shed.
This week’s post is a brief house update and a not so brief tour of the room where I’ll be spending a vast amount of my time over the next few years.
In terms of the rest of the house, we’ve got some art on the walls, repainted the stairs, arranged for someone to come and talk us through the process of replacing carpets, and gratefully accepted the offer of some free dining chairs from one of Husband’s colleagues.
Now, onto the JoJo shed. It’s a shame we moved here in November because it’s pretty darn cold in there at the moment. I have to give myself a bit of a pep talk into going out there to get sewing/sweating. Once I get going/put my little heater on it’s grand but the initial venture out of the main house is a little daunting.
My cowardly nature aside, let's have a look around. This is the exercise end of the shed.
It features a pretty standard collection of kit for a climber. Beastmaker 1000 (on a rather wobbly frame). A big box of weights and a pair of weightlifting gloves. A foam roller. A yoga mat. A bag full of resistance bands of varying thicknesses. A bodged TRX like device. A chalk bag. Liquid chalk. A harness. A whiteboard for training plan organisation.
And a cute drawing of a cat.
Husband bought this from a lovely Polish man who was selling his drawings door-to-door. I’m definitely more of a dog person than a cat person but I’m very fond of this picture. If only I was half as nimble as my feline friend here. I’d be climbing much higher grades than 7a.
And this is the sewing end of the shed.
I admit it looks rather chaotic and higgledy-piggledy at the moment. I’m still working on exactly how I want it to be set up and where everything should live. I find that you don’t really know how a space should be laid out until you start using it and establish where you naturally reach for things. So, this is a work in progress.
Like the exercise end of the room, you can see many of the standard tools of the trade. A couple of sewing machines. An overlocker. Many boxes of fabric. An ironing board and two irons (one clean and one for interfacing and messy ironing). A clothes rail made of an old piece of braid tied around the beams in the ceiling (cheap solution and saves on floor space). Many pairs of scissors. Bobbins of every colour. Buttons by the bucket load. An antique eyelet punch. A mannequin named Matilda. Some clothes queuing up to be sewn. A cushion for my sewing assistant/foot warmer, Amber.
And a massive tub of sweets. A steady blood sugar level is crucial to a seamstress’s sewing success.
Husband was positively giddy at the notion of not having to share a house with the enormous table you can see on the left-hand side of the picture above. It’s approximately 1m by 2m and Husband is sick to death of sharing a living space with it.
Originally, when searching for the perfect sewing table, I explored some very fancy and very expensive options. If you have enough money and the desire to spend it, you can buy very sophisticated sewing tables that fold in half, have sneaky built-in storage compartments, go up and down, and probably sing you a victory song upon the completion of your latest sewing project.
In the end, I decided a massive plank of wood screwed onto the top of two cheap bookshelves would do the trick. Admittedly, I’ve built, dismantled, and rebuilt these bookshelves far more times than they were probably designed for. The chipboard panels are rather scruffy. The very thin panels of wood that go on the back of the shelves are clinging on with some nails that have been made very wonky by repeated unprofessional hammer wieldings. And the parcel tape they were wrapped in during transportation has pulled off whatever cheap finish was put on the wood leaving random stripes across the faces.
But it still works, which means I’m sure as heck not replacing it. I make a point of defiantly using things until they literally fall to pieces.
Moving onto some more of the artwork adorning the walls of the JoJo shed.
I’ve thrown out a lot of the souvenirs I picked up while working backstage in theatre, but the ones that hang on the walls of the JoJo shed are those that still spark joy.
These very battered frames hold transcripts of the two crucial speeches from The King’s Speech. On the left is the speech delivered by George VI on 3rd September 1939, announcing that Britain was going to war. The speech on the right was delivered by Edward VIII on 11th December 1936 announcing that he had abdicated the throne so he could marry Wallace Simpson.
I am not a massive royalist. I flip-flop between not giving a toss about the royal family and thinking that the whole thing is a bizarrely cruel and expensive way to make people miserable. The King’s Speech, on the other hand, was the first touring theatre production I worked on and I have so many positive memories of this experience.
The team of people who worked on this show were delightful. We toured to some absolutely beautiful venues. And I adored the show and the costumes. The whole production was frickin’ gorgeous and I bloody loved it.
When you work backstage on the same show for long enough, the script has a way of seeping into your memory. At some point during the tour, the actor playing Edward VIII realised I had the entire script memorised, including these two speeches. When our paths crossed backstage he would throw a random line from the show at me to see if I knew which line came next. And, more often than not, I would get it right. In the grand scheme of things, this was an entirely useless ability, but I was oddly proud of my brain’s talent for absorbing information without even trying.
There is no way I could recite these speeches today, or any other line from the script for that matter. But I like having them around as a reminder of a fun tour and a job well done.
The final item of interest on the shed tour is this drawing of a pair of tights and a letter to Letitia Blacklock. These came from a production of A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie.
I spent so much time mending tights on this tour that it became the overriding memory the ASM/Understudy had of me. She was generous and thoughtful enough to draw this bittersweet picture for me. It makes me grateful for her engaging company and the hilarious times she and I spent together working on this show. It also makes me grateful for the fact that the only tights I have to deal with now are my own.
The letter to Letty was used in the show and gives away a little theatrical trick. As you can see, it has the lines of the script written on it rather than what would have been written on it if it was a real letter. It’s nice to give the actors a helping hand in any way we backstage magicians can.
There you have it. My little slice of the world. I look forward to telling you all about the things I create in the JoJo shed. So far, I’ve made one chalk bucket and sewn a wayward button back onto a skirt. Nothing too exciting yet but I feel lucky to have the space and equipment to be able to sew all things great and small when the mood takes me.
Even if it is currently bloody freezing in here.