Organization tips for quilters by Linda Griffith
Do you ever avoid quilting time because of the mess in your sewing space? As a professional organizer and avid quilter, I travel the country helping others organize their sewing spaces for optimum efficiency. I’d like to help you too!
Start by understanding the space you have to work with. To do this, make a paper “pattern.”
Using ¼” graph paper, draw out the dimensions of your room with one square representing one square foot. Make sure you include the location and measurements of windows, doors, and closets. Remember to note if opening or closing doors blocks or hinders access to floor and wall space.
Next, make paper “furniture.” Decide if you’ll use your existing furnishings or purchase new quilt-specific cabinets and storage units. Measure your existing or new furniture and draw to-scale representations of these on a second sheet of graph paper. Cut out these pieces so you can experiment with furniture “arrangement” without actually moving heavy pieces. Note where
large doors or drawers open and table extensions take up space.
If the room has natural light coming from a window, try to position your sewing cabinet at a right angle to this light source. This position gives quilters needed space to the left and rear of their sewing machine. See the sidebar on artificial lighting.
Using your drawn room layout with noted light sources and paper “furniture,” try different arrangements, keeping the most-used items within easy reach and allowing enough room to move around your space in comfort. You’ll quickly realize which layout works best for you. The image to the left shows a sample before and after room layout.
Reorganizing means some level of throwing things out, so get ready by setting up several large tables in an adjacent space. Assemble three large boxes labeled Donate, Keep, and Toss. Gather some friends to help and you’re ready for action day!
Start by emptying ALL of the contents of your sewing room onto the tables. You want everything out—even the furniture—so you can thoroughly clean. New flooring and repainting should be done now.
Sort all the items on the tables. When making choices, keep in mind the last time you used each item and whether you have duplicates. Working quickly, place each item into the labeled boxes. Don’t take time now to refold your fabrics.
Once your initial sort is complete, if the Keep box is overflowing and the Toss and Donate boxes are fairly empty, sort through the Keep box again.
Once you are satisfied with the sorting, the next task is to group like items you’re keeping. Label areas of the tables with wide masking tape and a black marker. Sections might be labeled books, patterns, thread, notions, embellishments, or fabric. Regroup the contents of the Keep box into their labeled areas on the tables.
Whether to store fabric in closed or open systems depends on climate and personal preferences. Open, stackable wire shelving and drawers work well in humid areas. If you live in the desert, dust is a problem and clear, stackable plastic containers with lids are a better choice. Use the same brand and size for efficient stacking. Label the contents and never stack more than two containers per shelf.
Think about what can be vertically mounted on your walls and still be in easy reach:
- Hang rulers on peg board, wall hooks or vertical ruler racks; clip cutting mats to skirt hangars.
- Use narrow wall spaces between doorways to mount vertical thread racks.
- Store stabilizers in upright wine bottle racks.
- Keep magazines in wall-mounted magazine racks.
- Mount the TV, DVD player, and cable box to the wall.
Referring to your drawn layout, start moving everything back into the room.
The photos below illustrate the before and after results from three of my previous clients.
These photos show the smallest sewing room I’ve ever organized, 7′ x 11′, with a 30″ recessed area.
I placed a small banquet table into the room for a sewing table. Since the table had no drawers, I moved a tall bookshelf to the back wall, providing storage for sewing machine accessories directly behind the sewing area.
Custom built-ins were created in the recess.
The upper cabinet has adjustable shelving with doors; the bottom has eight drawers with full-extension, ball-bearing runners. The countertop is customized to the owner’s height and serves as the cutting area.
There was no space to move around in the room shown in the bottom left. We created a floor plan, ordered a new sewing cabinet with a flipup rear extension and new closet shelving, and selected new flooring and paint. On action day, everything was spread out in the living room. The existing bookshelves were kept but reorganized to store the most used items in easy reach, as seen in the bottom right.
The new sewing cabinet has storage drawers and the rear extension is lowered when not in use. The closet holds containers neatly on adjustable shelves, as seen in the image below.
No matter what your room size or budget, there are improvements you can make. And the reward will be many more happy hours creating quilts!