Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sewing Space Organization: Small Spaces

Sewing Space organization  is something I have struggled with a lot.  It is apparently in my nature to make a big mess.  When I am creating I get into the flow and scraps fly.  But I have worked hard and put a whole lot of time and thought into the organization of my sewing space.  I am incredibly thankful to have a whole room devoted to sewing, and while it definitely gets messy, I can honestly tell you that it is finally well organized.  It is such a joy to always know where to find things and to have them easily at hand.  Tomorrow I am going to show you my room, and explain how this organization came to be and what works for me.  

For years, however, I did not have the luxury of a sewing room, and I had to figure out how to make space for sewing within rooms also used for other purposes.  I think the most important thing that I want to say on this subject, is that if you do not have your own sewing room (yet), then find some place where your sewing machine can live all the time.  I know it's a cliche, but it also is true that out of sight equals out of mind, and if you have to set up your machine before you can sew, you will likely often not bother.  Just find some small space somewhere to dedicate to this purpose and you will find yourself sewing.

My first place for sewing consisted of 2 feet of counter space in a corner of my kitchen with a small cabinet underneath to hold my supplies.  When my stash outgrew the cabinet, I was able to claim part of a drawer in the same room, and then I acquired a large rubbermaid tote that I stored nearby in the laundry room.

My machine has lived in a laundry room, too.  This was actually a nice arrangement and I found myself keeping up with my laundry more than was my usual habit!

I have also shoved my clothes tightly on one side of a closet and tried to carve sewing space from the other.  This didn't work well for me as it was impossible for me to avoid being overwhelmed by a mess.  But as I said, I tend towards messiness; for someone more inclined towards neatness this might work fine.  I once saw a photo of a beautiful space created from a dedicated small closet.  Maybe you could keep most of your clothes in your dresser and store your hanging clothes in the back of a child's closet to have a whole closet for nothing but sewing.  That would be a luxury!

 I once lived in such a small house that the only space I could find was behind the couch, which I pushed forward.  I made enough room for a small sewing table and a couple of bins, and while my room looked cramped and not chic, this worked well enough.

And then I moved again, and I was gifted a desk.  It has six drawers which can hold a lot of notions and a backboard with shelves which was made by some person, and not bought in a store.  There are two long shelves and then the top shelf has a lip going all around, which keeps things secure.  This arrangement held all of my supplies in my bedroom in a beautiful way.  Except for the fabric; I folded small pieces and stored them in an underbed box, and kept yardage neatly pressed on hangers in the closet.  This was my favorite arrangement until I was blessed with an extra room.  This shelving unit could be easily made by anyone who knows how to work a hammer and nails.  You will see it tomorrow.

Other options available are wardrobe armoires, entertainment centers, computer desks (my favorite for my machine; the keyboard tray holds pins and scissors right where you need them), even toyboxes.  A china cabinet or hutch could hold a lot of fabric.  How often do you use your china anyway?  Couldn't you just stash it in a box?

I have seen a crafter claim space in a hallway, with a bookshelf and desk.  My friend had a large family and small house.  But she had a huge dining room table and her machine had its place at the end.  All of her supplies were kept at hand in a set of plastic drawers on wheels.  This was kept out, with the machine, almost all of the time.  For Thanksgiving or company, she would wheel everything into her closet out of sight.

And then there are wonderful cabinets made just for this purpose.  I looked over at Amazon to see what I could recommend, but to be honest, I saw a nicer one that will be a better price on sale starting July 8 in the Hancock flyer.  It's not online yet, or I would give you the link.  What I did see at Amazon are these plans for building one yourself.




There were several things that helped me when I was cramped in small spaces.  The first I have already mentioned, clear plastic bins.  I don't like to buy new plastic, so I acquired these mostly from thrift stores, and freecycle.org.  While clear bins are helpful in letting you see what's inside, I found these worked better when I labeled each box.  Gallon Ziploc bags are wonderful for storing pattern pieces and fabric.  When I am planning a quilt, I often group fabrics for the project together in a ziploc.  This helps me remember I have plans for this fabric so I don't grab it for something else when inspiration strikes.  I also group like things together in smaller ziploc bags in my sewing toolbox.  A tackle box works great for storing and organizing your tools, too, by the way.

I have even used cereal boxes for grouping and stashing.  Just cut off the top and cover the box (you could use wrapping or construction paper, or fabric)- these are nice for storing your ziplocs!  Now I use a thick binder with sheet protectors to store patchwork and small unfinished objects neatly on a shelf.

Baby food jars work great for buttons and pins, beads, or other small notions. You can also make pincushions from these, which are as cute as they are useful; here is one link.

Another thing that is helpful is to also claim wall space.  A bulletin board can hold pattern pieces, design sketches, or inspirational photos.  Or what I prefer is a piece of flannel tacked to the wall.  The flannel will hold quilt blocks magically so you won't have to use pins.  You could get a thread rack that hangs on the wall, and/or hang nails or hooks for storing your ruler, rotary cutter, and scissors.  A piece of pegboard and hooks could be painted to match your decor.

There is an advantage in not being cloistered away.  Having to share space for your sewing means you will work within view of your family and home.  This is really helpful if you have children to watch!  It also helps partners to not feel abandoned for crafts!

Be creative and resourceful and you could transform any bit of space into your own sewing haven.

I want to encourage ya'll to comment if you can add anything on this subject.  Please tell us about your small sewing space and what you have found helpful in organizing it.

1 comment:

KC said...

You are so right about out of sight out of mind. I work at our dining room table, and when I need to put the machine away, it tends to stay put away. So far I haven't been able to find a space that I can dedicate just to sewing, but I'm going to start looking at all the empty space in the house a little more critically.