I love seeing photos of customised sewing areas, with purpose built units and storage, but I can’t emulate them here. Maybe you have less than ideal conditions? This post’s about what has turned out to be a successful workaround for me and what needed a rethink. Have you perhaps discovered a good solution for storing and quickly accessing the plethora of equipment we need? This jay’s happy to pick up any shiny bright ideas she can, so please comment.
I have a room about ten foot square, and feel pretty lucky, though it isn’t blank slate. Some awkward aspects can’t be changed. The lighting and electrics are a problem. Despite being my most luxurious area yet, it’s not big enough to have a full size drafting/cutting table, plus an area for machines, and space to store a fabric stash, books and notes, patterns, blocks, related equipment and threads, elastic, ribbon, tape …. you know, all the necessary junk.
For the last couple of years I prioritised being able to walk around both sides of my cutting table. This is a door on legs by the way. Cutting out and most drafting is easier if you can get to both sides, but squeezing through the narrow space to get to the sewing table by the window or the shelving, while tripping over the obstacle course of overflowing fabric and scraps became a disincentive to actually entering the room.
I’ve sacrificed cutting convenience now and moved it against one wall. The room feels much more spacious and workable and the floor space is big enough to spread a full width of fabric for the occasional asymmetric kimono cut pattern that won’t fit on the table.
When the furniture shifting was done, I realised I’d have room for a floor cushion. So when I want to flick through magazines, or break out the crochet I can sprawl.
Room to Slouch!
Annie flagged up the ever present problem of losing stuff. So many little pieces of equipment are used in sewing and they do wander off, don’t they?
My solution is to strip out all the stash fabrics from the shelving units and divide the space into activity areas – just like Primary School really. Those infant teachers know a thing or two about organisation.
The areas I’m aiming for are Patterns and Drafting; Sewing; Embellishment, Knitting and Crochet; Design Sources and Historical Costume ; Hats.
Patterns and Drafting takes a whole unit and some overflow.
I’ve kept the hanging space for blocks, and a magnetic bar and hooks on one side for long rulers, paper scissors and the main set squares. Also retained is my current storage system for commercial patterns. These are in plastic magazine holders on top of the unit. A notebook with the pattern numbers and a rough line drawings indexes them. Realistically, this collection needs pruning. I don’t need 120 patterns.
Self drafted patterns have been through umpteen systems. I re-use some but throw out others after one rendition. I’m just folding them into a folded slip of A4 paper, quick sketch and size on the front, and hit on cutting up the cardboard boxes that come with DH’s medical supplies to fit the shelf height exactly. These each hold several patterns neatly and are easy to slide in and out of the shelves. There’s an index book for this too.
A large chest of drawers houses fabric. The top was piled high with projects. In the spirit of trying to get the room welcoming I’ve prettied it up.
The folder with my personal blocks sits there. The Japanese paper wrap came round a kimono. I use these blocks frequently and have kept the cotton toile in there as well to make it easier to adjust them if they stop fitting.
Personal Blocks Folder
My pattern magazines fit on the shelf unit, with the textbooks, the folder with the worksheets I used when I taught drafting, downloads, Stuart’s* brilliant swimwear and stretchwear info, and anything that get’s referred to in drafting like measurement charts. There’s also an A4 envelope for stray pattern pieces. Neat freaks may wonder at this, but I’ve learnt to build in systems for when the systems fail. (there’s also a box for patterns not yet filed, a box for pretty bits and bobs I might use sometime, a dish for buttons, beads, fastenings unhoused, and downloads waiting to be filed are in one of those three tier letter racks). Know thyself, especially where thyself might mess up.
One shelf will have pens, pencils, curves, tracing wheels, sticky tape, glue, and a foam sheet to protect the table when wheeling through. One pattern hook is for perennially useful pattern shortcuts like a side seam pocket shape, and cards with cup size info and an aide memoire for ease allowance.
Patterns overflowed on another shelf unit. I put the pattern sheets from pattern magazines in ring files with the working drawings some time ago. I’ll pretty up these files some day as they’re repurposed from offspring’s studies and still have teenage drawings and stickers on them.
Pattern Sheet File
Sewing is sharing a shelf unit with Embroidery, Knit and Crochet. Books, Threads and Anna are here, more of the medical boxes cut to shelf depth house zips, elastic and tapes. Other shelves have essential haberdashery.
Before I had a room, I made a portable container from a ten litre paint pot, covered in some vinyl fabric scrap. This is still brilliantly useful. One side has pockets for sewing machine feet. How I love this! A card is tucked in with each foot to remind me of the machine setting to use. Pockets on the other sides hold scissors, tweezers, gadgets for marking fabric, and turning rouleau. The tray in the top holds pin boxes and cushions, needle threader, and other bits and pieces. Inside are fastenings. The plastic tub with a hole in it, btw, is for broken needles and bent pins, and the china elephant holds cocktail sticks for guiding tricky bits under the machine foot.
Hat making gets it’s own corner, on a unit which also has design materials and reference and historical costume books.
Fabric storage is largely unsolved. There are two large boxes under the cutting table, where a couple of machines sit. Three shelves in another unit also house fabric. The obvious answer is to make it into stuff asap and not buy more! Also living under the table is a large zipped plastic bag holding mending and part done projects. These used to clutter the sewing table, but having them visible didn’t make the jobs happen any faster.
This is still a WIP, but so far I’m happy with the changes.
*Sadly I don’t think the website is up anymore