I discovered some years ago that one key to getting more sewing done was to have at least one little corner where I could keep my sewing machine set up. Part of the challenge, however, was that this corner was often subject to relocation. This meant that I had to organize my supplies with compact and mobile methods. It also meant that I was not going to be setting up any picture perfect sewing room. No pastel shelves in an office loft, with light beaming in slanted windows for me. At least not in the last 30 years.
Having a small sewing space did not mean I didn’t buy fabric or patterns. I just couldn’t count on storing them directly in my sewing area. Sometimes the bins were strategically stacked to form low walls dividing the children’s play area from my sewing spot. Other times, the bins lived under beds or in closets. Until, one day, after some of the kids moved out, and this strange new space appeared. I claimed it and called it a “sewing room.”
Actually, for the first few years, it was still no more than half of a small bedroom, or a larger corner of a den, but it was mine. I had some thoughts of decorating it, and initially did some basic wall painting. But the next thing I knew, family spaces were shifting again. Now, several more relocations later, my “sewing room” IS actually a whole, very small bedroom. With a hodge-podge of bins and shelves, it holds most of my sewing supplies, using the same basic, low budget ways to organize that I have used all along. Here are 12 ideas that might help you make the most of your sewing space (click on any photo to enlarge):
1. Store fabric in clear plastic bins. Make these of a size that is reasonable to pick up. Sort the fabric according to things like fiber content, weave, and basic uses. The fabric stays dust free, but is still a bit decorative.
2. Stack the bins on an open set of shelves that allows them to be accessed individually. Otherwise, it is inevitable that the bin you want will be the one under 4 others.
3. Plastic sets of drawers are great for storing patterns and notions. The visibility factor makes sewing time run more smoothly, even compared to labeling the outside of opaque drawers.
4. But still, collect cheap or hand-me-down dressers that come your way. I just inherited my third dresser. Drawers in dressers can be good places to store projects in progress. They are also solid enough to be a more sturdy foundation for the stacks of plastic drawers, making it easier to get good floor to ceiling storage.
5. Have some sort of bookshelf near your main sewing/thinking station. Mine is an old, cheap, laminated particle board shelf. Having your sewing references and idea books close, and not mixed up with the rest of the household books, helps keep the sewing flow going.
6. Get some different sizes of those inexpensive drawer divider baskets at someplace like Walmart. This helps make excellent use of drawer space by keeping notions grouped and in specific places. Thread can be organized by color, bias tape stays nicely side by side, zippers lay well in longer baskets.
7. You can also save all kinds of little cardboard boxes or tins that come to your house as packaging for other items. Cut off flaps and reinforce corners with masking tape. Save jars of heights that fit in specific drawers. Such jars are nice for smaller notions, like snaps, safety pins, or bag hardware.
8. Keep patterns in recycled zip lock bags. This is especially useful when a pattern has been used and can make you crazy trying to fit it back in its paper envelope. With a ziplock bag, you don’t have nearly the risk of mangling it, making it much harder to use next time around. The plastic protects the pattern more than the paper envelope, too. Don’t forget to keep the envelope in there with it, though.
9. Stores that sell tools sell sets of little teeny plastic drawers for keeping things like screws and nails sorted. These drawers are great for buttons and similar small things that you want to access more frequently.
10. Over the door towel racks, such as are sold for bathrooms, are a handy addition to the sewing room door. You can hang freshly ironed fabric over them or a project-in-work on a hanger instead of on the door frame where it might get knocked off.
11. A portable, folding clothes drying rack is another way to neatly hang some fabric that you don’t want to be creased. If you have a closet available, it might fit in there, while still leaving higher hanging space free. My current drapery project hangs on a drying rack.
12. If you have any wall space to spare, a bulletin board is a good thing to hang behind or near your sewing machine. It works well to pin pattern instructions or design notes up there where it can be easily seen and not easily crumpled or lost.
So, after all these years, the “decor” of my sewing room may have more of an eclectic, mad scientist look about it, but it suits me and speaks of what the sewing area is really all about anyway! When I go in there, I am there to create. My low budget surroundings also remind me of how I can work with what I have at the moment and get excellent results!