Join me in my adventures as I write romance novels and sew vintage and contemporary fashion.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sewing and Writing Off the Grid

My husband and I live off the grid, meaning that we generate our own power. We're only two miles from the nearest power lines, but the cost of bringing electricity in is a cool $500,000. That will buy a lot of generators. My house is modern in every way, except for that continual power thing.

We've lived this way for twenty years and soon I hope to (finally) invest in solar. In the meantime, we turn the generator on first thing in the morning, run it until around noon, then turn it off for a few hours. We turn it back on again around 4 pm and run it until 9 or 10. When we go to bed, the power goes off. There are benefits to this way of life. When the power is off, a peaceful silence settles over the house. I read a lot more. My kids grew up reading and playing in the creek. Everyone in the family is quite talented at getting around in the dark.

The biggest adjustment for me when we moved to this place was not
being able to sew whenever I wanted. I have to schedule it for when the power is on. I also have to schedule laundry, hair drying, baking, ironing, vacuuming (I rarely schedule that), etc, so the power hours can be jam packed—especially since it’s the only time I can watch TV. That means something has to go by the wayside if I want to sew. Usually it’s housework.

When the power is off, I cut out patterns, sew by hand and plan my next projects—writing and sewing. I also write, thanks to a laptop with a multi-hour battery. When the power is on, I sew and recharge both my brain and the computer battery, so that I can write some more when the power goes off.

Living off the grid isn’t for sissies. Generators break down. They need servicing. They develop mystery problems.  Once it was so cold I had to jump  start my house using our truck and jumper cables. I'm afraid of jumper cables, so this was a trial.  Also, I want to sew whenever I get the urge--a seam here, a dart there--but I can’t. When I feel like whining, though, I think of the women who sewed for centuries without benefit of electricity or a sewing machine.

This story has a happy ending, though. My son recently bought me the most beautiful treadle sewing machine. I haven’t used it yet—I’m waiting for summer break and a slightly less jam-packed schedule—but I can’t wait to be able to sew whenever I want. Who needs zigzag?


  1. oh goodness me, I'm super interested in this. We have just bought a property which is off the grid and are currently investigating power options. We are hoping for solar, but may well need back up generators. It will come down, at least in part, to cost and the energy requirements, which is an interesting calculation in itself. At the moment the property will just be for summer holidays and weekends but in the future, who knows. I hadn't even factored in the sewing machine! Now I'll have to investigate a trundle option. I love this post, and the scheduling of a life around 'power on' and 'power off'. Also your backyard is fairly spectacular!

  2. Hi Julie--I do love my view. Living off the grid is a challenge--I won't lie--but it's very doable. With solar and batteries, you'll probably be able to run a sewing machine, but the iron will be the challenge because it draws so much power. There are some very nice systems where solar is the main power source and then when the batteries get low, a backup generator kicks on. That's my dream system. I do however, really like power on/power off. As I said, the sense of peace when the generator goes off is amazing.

  3. Your blog is fascinating, as are your two vocations - writing and sewing. I need to go order a couple of your books! Happy sewing and working in the most beautiful surrounds the planet has to offer...

  4. Thanks! I love your avatar, by the way. So cute!