Deanna McCool from SewMcCool.com is the author of 50 Ribbon Rosettes and Bows to Make. She gave us a handy infographic for How to Choose Your Thread earlier this year, and the “Goin’ to Camp” Duffel Bag too.
After extended time focused on her blog, Deanna is ready to reorganize for new sewing goals. What about you? Are you nicely organized for easy, efficient sewing? Do you have some work to do to organize your space this year? We have tips for how to Spring Clean Your Sewing Room, How to Organize Your PDF Sewing Patterns, how to Make Your Own Spool Organizer, plus we love to look at sewing spaces!
Near the end of each year I set goals for my business for the following year– sort of a business plan to guide me and help maintain focus. After spending most of 2013 writing a book, my goal for 2014 was to spend the year focused on my new blog.
So in October when it was time to reflect on my goals for 2015, I realized I needed to get serious about how my work spaces were negatively impacting my productivity. And though a lot of people set the goal of “being more organized,” my actual goal was to “get more organized now” so that I could streamline my workflow for 2015.
Simply put, organization to me isn’t the end goal, but a goal I needed to meet in order to accomplish the sewing, design and writing goals I’ve set for 2015.
I’m sure my work space isn’t that much different than most people starting out with a sewing or other creative business they do in their homes. But for eight years I typed and edited photos on my dining room table (which eventually ended up causing a repetitive stress injury in my elbow because I wasn’t typing in an ergonomically correct way). I designed and cut patterns on the floor of my foyer, because it was the only place with good light.
And then I sewed downstairs in a walkout basement that, while it has a sliding glass door, still didn’t have enough good light. Also, half the room was taken up with exercise equipment, a too-big couch and toys.
I’d lose scissors and supplies from one room to another. I’d also get somewhat distracted going up and down the stairs for the various tasks.
I was also growing irritable that I had no place to call “home.” I’d grumble while I had to battle the noise in the house on weekends if I needed to type in the dining room, in full view of everyone; despite my pleas to leave me alone for “just an hour please,” they would start asking me for things or stop by to complain about each other.
My youngest daughter finally drew a picture for me with a bug on it that said, “Don’t Bug Mom,” that I was supposed to hang when working.
Not only that, but I’ve been so busy with the business the past eight years that I’ve mostly ignored the growing mess in my sewing area. It had remained the same for the past 14 years as well, all the way back from when my sewing and crafting was a mere hobby. It really wasn’t set up for the type of work I’m doing today.
Can you relate?
I wrote a post about what my sewing room looked like before and shared all the embarrassing photos. Here are two of them:
I know, right? It’s okay to laugh. Really.
So what’s taken me so long to fix the problem? After some reflection, I realized that I didn’t want to stop working on my goals long enough to improve my work space.
But in October, I knew it was time to rip off the bandage to consolidate my work, from computers to cutting area to sewing stations, all in one room. I haven’t been able to sew or write much since the beginning of November, but as I approach completion of my project, I know it’s been time well-spent.
Jen Hagedorn of the kids’ clothing PDF pattern company Tie Dye Diva understood my woes when I explained how many areas of my house were being used for my business.
Here is her studio photo (since my room isn’t completely done and isn’t nearly as pretty as hers right now):
Isn’t it gorgeous?
Jen said, “My ironing board was downstairs and my sewing room upstairs. In fact, my early patterns are constructed so that you do all the pressing at once, then all the assembly, because I didn’t like to keep going up and down the stairs! And my cutting mat was on the floor. I suppose all the up and down and bending and straightening was good exercise, but sewing goes much more quickly now!”
It took Jen awhile, despite a brisk business, to give herself permission to move her business into its own space.
“My husband gets the credit for seeing before I did that I needed a better setup. I think I was afraid my business wasn’t ‘real’ enough to warrant taking over an entire room,” she explained. “But he saw that I needed more space in order to grow, and he was right! So now I have a second desk and shelves identical to the one in the photo on the other side of the room, with my ironing board between them. I use the second desk for drafting and laptop computer work, and then as a cutting table and station for my second serger and coverstitch when I’m sewing.”
Maris Olsen teaches sewing lessons in her home, and also blogs about garment sewing on Sew Maris. She’s always had a dedicated sewing room in her house, but once she decided to earn money from her love of sewing, she knew she needed to expand.
“Absolutely, I could not teach without a dedicated space, especially when I run my kids sew camps,” Maris said. “There are up to six students in my studio for camps, and a dedicated space is just critical to making them run smoothly. There is no way I could have met my teaching goals without my dedicated studio. For my blogging I do tend to move about the house more; some time in the studio, some time outside, some time in the living room. Sometimes I need a change of scenery!”
Of course I realize that not everyone has the space (and the luxury) to dedicate an entire room to her or his sewing and office space. But even then, it’s easy to set yourself up with a computer work station in a nook or corner… There are lovely options to gawk at on Pinterest. For your sewing, find (and clear) a section of a room that has good lighting. Make the space appealing so that you’ll enjoy “going to work.”
In my case, I had a lot of work to do in my room, with some help from my husband and a neighbor who removed the couch, as well as put the treadmill and exercise bike in an unfinished section of our basement (which is in another room with a door). I also had to deal with the light issue and the lack of outlets, so I hired an electrician to do some upgrades.
For aesthetics, I simply had to de-’70’s (and de-late-90’s) the room. I know that vintage is all the rage, but the dark fireplace had to go, and the walls that I had so lovingly sponge-painted were now looking dated and depressing.
I also wanted at least one comfortable chair for relaxation, and for some hand sewing work! So I replaced the over-sized couch with a new recliner.
And I simply had to purge a ton of fabrics that I’ve kept around for too many years.
I’m not done yet, but here are some peeks of the space so far. This is my personal work area; there is another long table just out of the shot that I’ll use when teaching sewing lessons in my home in 2015. I’m going to use peg boards for a variety of types of storage on the walls. I think my thread stash will hang here.
And here’s the upgrade of the fireplace area, with my comfy new chair. As you can see, I need to do some decorating (there will be more pegboard space here for sewing supplies, too) and I still need to go through those drawers and purge items I no longer need.
I’m really in love with the light I now have throughout the entire space. It looks completely different too, don’t you think?
(I really did NOT love painting all of those stones on the fireplace, but I think it looks so much fresher now.)
The item I’m most excited about in my new work space is this cutting table. I used an IKEA “hack” tutorial as the basis for my table. Mine isn’t quite finished yet; I need to complete the plywood top by sanding, staining and adding some trim, and need to permanently attach the top to the shelves. My table doesn’t have feet because I’m only 5’1″, and this table height works great for me.
The rulers will go on the wall pegboard I’ve yet to mount, and I haven’t really decided what I’ll be stashing on the shelves and in the drawers.
The bones of the room are in place for me now, but I still need to work on organizing my fabrics and patterns.
I love how Jen’s fabric is organized neatly on comic book boards in the first photo in this post… It just looks so nice and neat.
“Because I sew children’s clothing and rarely use the same fabric twice to keep my pattern covers fresh, most of my fabric pieces are small– ½ to 2 yards. Comic boards work well for me because I can pull them out and push them in like books in a library,” she said.
She organizes them not by color, but by how the fabrics will be used in the garments she designs.
“Fabrics that I would use as focal fabric for a garment are organized by shabby florals, stylized florals, novelties, holiday, etc. Then coordinates are organized by stripe, dots, solids and the like,” she said. “It probably looks like a crazy mishmash to those who organize by color, but it works for me. It was my first setup years ago and I’ve used it ever since.”
I haven’t yet decided exactly how my fabrics will be organized, but I know I won’t keep up with the comic-book board system. I just won’t. And I’ve decided that’s okay. It’s fine to determine how you will best keep your work station neat, and work within your own comfort zone.
For now I’ve got knits organized in one corner shelving unit (I’ll spray paint the unit white in the spring, I think). Small pieces of wovens are loosely arranged by color on the wire bins hanging on the wall. There are also bins with other items I use frequently, like scraps of fusible interfacing. I also have shelves dedicated to larger cuts of woven fabric and muslin; they’re folded and laid neatly.
Here’s a peek at my fabrics now:
(I found the giant bill shown here inside a pattern envelope after my mother-in-law died. Rumor had it that she kept money in her patterns to hide it, but all we found was this bill that says “The Bogus States of America” and has her photo in the middle. Apparently she had the last laugh, but it also makes me laugh every time I see it.)
I asked Maris about how she organizes her patterns, because I’m a bit at a loss.
“I keep all my pattern envelopes in sheet protectors in binders, and all the pattern ‘guts’ in cardboard banker boxes,” she said. “This way I can flip through all my patterns quickly and easily to find the ones I want.”
Here’s what she’s talking about:
Just as I’m working to find the right method for my sewing area, you’ll find one for yourself. I can’t wait to finish my room, though I’m already enjoying the fruits of my labor. Right now I’m typing on my properly sized desk, and my elbow doesn’t hurt!
I’ve sewn a couple of skirts, I’m getting ready to sew a third and I didn’t have to deal with sprawling out on the floor in my foyer. Also, I’m able to work in the evening now; previously I couldn’t cut patterns after dark because I simply didn’t have enough light.
I’ll post my completed sewing room on SewMcCool.com when it’s completed in early January 2015.
So, are you ready yet?
Organization doesn’t have to be your goal, but a good workflow will let you reach your goals. What will you do to upgrade your sewing area for the new year?