Let’s Get Organized!
I don’t know about you, but starting a new year out I always try to put “getting organized” on the top of my to-do list. Something about feeling like I am organized calms my mind and lets me focus on other (more important) things. When I stumbled upon a blog post from Nikki over at Pin, Cut, Sew Studio. I wanted to share some of her ideas on organization for readers who may have the same goals. I often see the question of “how do you organize your sewing room?” within the Beginner Sewing group on Facebook. Nikki definitely has some share-worthy tips on this topic.
SIDENOTE: I have also decided we should all start calling our sewing rooms “sewing studios” from now on. If we want to advance from beginners, let’s start thinking like pros! You in?
Here is what Nikki had to say...
Let me start by saying that I have sewn in all kinds of spaces, including a dingy basement, a corner of my living room, a shared guest room, a narrow hallway desk (I used the hall closet for storage and had a door hanging ironing board!). In my last home and this one (Army life, we move a lot), I am thrilled to have had large spaces for sewing. If you don’t, though, you can still put these tips to use. In fact, they might even be more useful for smaller spaces, since it’s more important to keep small spaces functional.
ALSO, I know there are people who totally thrive in a creative, beautiful disaster in their crafting/sewing endeavors and that is okay too! If that’s you, carry on, more power to ya. I can’t function well in a mess at all, which is really going to make my parents laugh if they read this because I was a MESS as a kid. I was the kid who’s dad had to go in with the trash bag and throw everything into the hall and threaten to throw it away because I wouldn’t keep my crap cleaned up, lol! I don’t know what happened to me. I now verge on minimalism. It’s been a weird progression.
So here we go 🙂
Opt for closed storage.
When most people think about sewing room or craft room storage, they automatically think open shelving. Fabric goes on shelves, books go on shelves, patterns go in bins, but up on the shelves go the bins. I’m a person who does not like a lot of visual clutter, so this is a rule of thumb throughout my entire house — I almost always opt for closed storage. Drawers, cabinets, cupboards, dressers. Basically, storage that I can close and hide the stuff inside.
I have a giant second-hand dresser turned cutting table that stores ALL of my fabric, patterns, and most of my other supplies. Because all of my supplies are housed in these drawers and cupboards, my sewing room can be cleaned up in a jiffy and has a clean, clutter-free vibe. Ahhhhh, I love being in here with a clean slate!
Before I had a large sewing space, though, I stored my fabric in a smaller dresser, and in one house I stored it in bins on shelves in a closed closet. The point is to have it behind closed drawers and doors. I also have a handmade cabinet that my father-in-law made me that stores my thread, ribbons, trims and other things. If you don’t have a wood worker in the family, you can purchase similar cabinets with shallow drawers like these, which are so handy for crafters.
File, don’t stack.
Let me explain! I assume you’ve heard of Marie Kondo. I read her book many years ago and the main gem (among the weirdness) I got out of it was her system of folding clothing. I’ve actually written a blog post about this very thing, but it’s worth repeating in this one because it’s so dang smart! She recommends, rather than folding and stacking clothing into drawers, placing it into the drawers on end, filing cabinet style, if that makes sense. Not only did this revolutionize my dresser drawers, but it’s also been a game-changer in my sewing room! This is how I store my fabric, patterns, trims, and anything else that can be stored this way.
I’m not lying when I tell you I did NOT reorganize these drawers to take these photos for this post. I moved here six months ago, plopped the fabrics in like this and it’s pretty much stayed neat ever since, regardless of how often I’m rifling through them (which is very often!) This is because I don’t have to dig through stacks of fabrics and nothing’s coming unfolded as I’m looking for what I need. I just file through them, pulling out what I need, then fold and file them back in when I’m done. The above photo is of my quilting cottons and novelty fabrics, while the photo below is of my smaller scraps in the next drawer, filed into a smaller bin, and my holiday fabrics behind that.
In the next drawer, I keep my garment fabrics. Because I’m always on a pretty tight budget, I don’t usually have a very large garment fabric stash, not that I don’t wish it could be bigger, haha. Incidentally, I received the fabric order I spent my Christmas money on today, so this drawer is gonna need to make room!
I store all my patterns this way too. I’m someone who feels overwhelmed and gets decision fatigue if I keep too many patterns, so I only keep the one drawer full, plus my collection of indie pdf patterns, which I store in manilla envelopes in another drawer. I know some people don’t like to fold the pdf patterns and choose to hang them on skirt hangers, but I could never handle that visually, I really really need things put away.
In my other cabinet, with the shallow drawers, I store my thread, ribbons and trims and interfacings. I’ll admit the interfacings are pretty much just tossed in there and they’re a mess. Maybe that’s my Monica drawer (if you’re a Friends fan, you’ll know what I mean, lol). Otherwise, things are filed neatly.
I mentioned I just reorganized the ribbons and that’s because they got jumbled when we moved and I hadn’t gotten to it yet. They should stay pretty orderly now, though, although I do redo these drawers yearly because they just get more out of order as time goes on than the fabric drawers do.
(Side note: the big spool of white is my mask elastic, which I wound onto an empty tulle spool. So much better now!)
Keep handy things handy.
There are thing in the sewing room, of course, that really need to be kept at hand. For these things, I use attractive containers on my surfaces that I can easily plop all of those things right into when I’m tidying up the sewing room. As with other areas of your home, try to keep things where you most use them. If you notice there’s always a pile of shoes in the entryway, don’t put the shoe basket next to the garage door — move it to the entryway! Similarly, if you always have a pile of loose pins on the ironing board, put a pin cushion there. Keep things where they make sense. If that means you need three pin cushions and two pair of thread snips, then make it happen!
On my cutting table, I keep my cutting tools, pencils, a note pad, pattern weights and lots of little often-used tools in a cutlery container.
I keep my elastics, zippers, and Velcro in pretty containers too. These things store better in these containers than with the filing method because they’re just prone to becoming a mess.
On my sewing machine table, I have a flower pot, a thread bowl, a small cutting mat, bobbin containers, and small bowls holding machine needles and little tools like a screwdriver, lint brush, etc …
While my minimalist tendencies do love things to be put away, these little things are ones I reach for constantly while sewing, so it just makes sense for them to be at hand. Keeping them in pretty containers, though, is so much better than having them strewn all over the table, and makes cleaning up a breeze.
And I keep my rulers in a cute napkin holder on my windowsill. I use these so often that although they’re not super attractive, I like to have them out and at the ready. Plus, they’re easy to put back when cleaning up.
Clean up and cleanout.
This is where those good habits come in! I know this is super hard for some people, but if you thrive in a neat environment (and most people do), get in the habit of cleaning up the sewing room between projects. Once you have the above storage systems in place, this task should be a lot easier, I promise. My sewing room can go from disaster to sparkling in a matter of ten or fifteen minutes. It feels sooooo good to have a clean slate for the next project.
I have seen people lament that they want to sew or craft, but they’d have to clean their space first, so they just don’t even want to go in there and they end up letting it go for months or even years. Don’t let this be you!
I cannot express enough the importance of cleaning out often.
Once perk of closed storage in the sewing room is that it gets full. When it’s full, that does NOT mean it’s time for more storage. It means it’s time to clean out! And don’t just clean out once every few years. Reassess often what you’re using, what you don’t need multiples of, fabrics you really don’t even like anymore, or patterns that aren’t your style. In fact, when I make a pattern and decide it’s a dud, it goes straight to the bin. I don’t even bother folding it back up. Just like the experts say to deal with mail/paper immediately, try making immediate decisions about fabric scraps too.
This takes a huge change of habit for many people, I really do understand that. We hold on to things for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes recognizing those reasons can be helpful. When I stopped teaching kids sewing classes, I held on to things I knew I didn’t need anymore, but I was actually really sad to have let that venture go, so I just wasn’t ready to get rid of them. They took up a lot of space, though, we had another move coming up, and they were causing mental stress/sadness/doubt just by having these things and looking at them! When I reminded myself that I could easily obtain those things again if I ever started teaching again, I was able to release those extra things. I sold the machines to former students and gave the books and some fabrics to a young aspiring sewist, which was so sweet.
All that to say, it can be hard. But, I do know that once you start purging, you’ll be super inspired to keep going and it will make your life better!
Final tips …
A few extra things:
I keep small paper patterns, including the printable patterns from my own tutorials, and things I’ve printed from Etsy, for example, in a big binder with page protectors. This is a great system for keeping those little patterns safe and easy to find.
You need more cutting space than sewing space.
I didn’t really know where this tip fit in and maybe it’s not even about organization, but if you have the luxury of planning a sewing space and obtaining furniture for it, this is a good thing to keep in mind. You don’t need that much space for your sewing machines, (unless you’re strictly a quilter, maybe), but cutting and laying out projects needs a lot of space! Prioritize a cutting table, for sure.
More from Pin Cut Sew
If you would like to see some of Nikki’s other posts and advice or beginner sewing tutorials, visit the Pin Cut Sew Studio.