mermaids

Sew Organized

Posted on: 4 August, 06

Ah…. the great organizing question….”where do I start?” There are two basic methods. The first is the “clean sweep” method… clear out the room and only put back the good stuff. It’s effective, but can be overwhelming, both in terms of time and emotional energy. Because it is such a big task, many people get frustrated, give up, and still have a big mess. The other approach is to chip away at the mountain, but there needs to be a plan. Otherwise, you just spend a lot of time shifting stuff around.

What works beautifully for my sewing space is grouping like items. All of my zippers are together. My elastics are in one storage unit. Ribbons in another bin, with laces in their own section. The size and configuration of the storage space/unit depends on how much you have of each. Ok, now you have to figure out what you have and where it is.

Pick a notion…. zippers, elastics, buttons, whatnot…. then go thru your whole sewing space and collect all you have of that item. Once you have it all together, you can weed out the stuff you don’t want. You might discover you have way too many purple zippers. Now you have to decide how to store these. Plastic bins? A drawer in a storage unit? A shelf in the closet? Uh oh…that space/drawer/bin is already occupied by other stuff?!?! Don’t panic. Have a few boxes that will be *temporary* housing. Don’t start sorting thru that stuff yet…. stay focused on the notion you selected. (That’s how we end up wandering aimlessly instead of following our plan.) Once you have that first notion all sorted, organized, and nicely stored, sit back and enjoy the beauty of it. Take a break, have a beverage, or even quit for the day. Keep repeating this process for the various categories of sewing stuff. Remember to keep the categories rather specific. “Zippers” is easier to manage than “notions.”

Now, where to put everything?!?! My first priority is to put things close to where they will be used. Cutting tools are near my cutting table. A second consideration is frequency of use. I don’t use laces and ribbons too often, so they are in a less accessible place. Embroidery thread, stabilizers, cards, and hoops are near the emb machine.

There is a myriad of storage options available. We have entire stores devoted to ways to store our stuff. Here are a few of my favorite methods of storing various things. Elastics – each type/color in a zip lock baggie, which come in a wide variety of sizes. The baggies are then placed in a drawer unit…. FOE in 2 drawers, other elastics in another drawer. Zippers – in zip lock bags according to color families. Since it is easy to alter the length of a zipper, I look for color first, length second. Again, all the baggies are in one drawer. Thread – small spools in baggies, by color. The baggies go in the bin with larger spools, which are again grouped by color. Emb threads are in color group baggies, but kept near the emb machine. Buttons – one of those units from the hardware section that has lots of little bitty drawers. Needles – each of my machines uses a different type of needle so I have a small box near each machine with the appropriate needles. I also have a small box that has each machine’s tools/accessories. The key is keep like items together and put them where you use them.

To avoid wasting time looking for certain things, I have multiples. At each machine and near my ironing board, I have a pincushion, seam gauge and snips. At my cutting table, I have a small drawer unit which contains pattern weights, rotary cutters, extra blades, pinking shears, regular shears, pens for pattern tracing, rulers, marking pencils, and tape measure. To keep my family from taking my items, I make sure they have their own sharp scissors, rulers, pens, etc. One of my boys loves my big Olfa ruler for making game boards. He is allowed to use it if he puts it back. The only time he forgot to return it promptly, he lost the privilege of using it for a period of time.

Fabric…. well, that’s a whole organizational challenge on it’s own. Some people like plastic tubs, others like shelving units. Do you fold or roll? Group by color, type, season, intended purpose? Those are personal choices, which can be driven by the space you have available for storage. I *love* my swatch cards because then it doesn’t really matter in which tub the fabric is placed. I have the cards on binder rings which are loosely grouped by fabric type…. lightweight knits, fleecy knits, bottom weight wovens, lightweight wovens, silks, etc. When planning an outfit or several outfits, I will take cards off the ring to see how they look together. Sometimes I will clip them together with pattern numbers and notes, displaying them as a reminder of my plan. Because the yardage and location is noted on the card, it doesn’t really matter where I store the fabric. It only takes a few minutes to pull the right box and find the fabric. Getting your whole stash onto cards can take a long time. I suggest start with anything new that comes in and then gradually chip away at the back inventory one box at a time.

Now, I know you are saying, “But I don’t have time.” Schedule it on your calendar and make it a priority. It is amazing what you can get done in just 30 minutes a week. It is sort of like dieting. The space did not become a pigsty overnight, so you can’t expect to tidy it up overnight. Slow and steady wins the race. While the children are watching a favorite TV show, sneak away for your date with the sewing space. Some children might even be able to help. Sorting buttons or untangling elastics can be quite entertaining.

Ok, you’ve got it all clean. How do you keep it that way? That’s the hard part. 🙂 You have to clean up as you go. It is far easier to put away a few things in a few minutes than it is to dig out of a huge mess that has accumulated over time. I clean up after each project. It honestly doesn’t take long. Because some patterns get used several times in a season (the boys’ shorts, for example), I keep a basket where those pattern folders go until I feel like it is time to file them, usually when the weather changes. The key is to make sure all the pattern pieces go back into the folder and are not just floating around. This does take a bit of discipline.

Here’s what happens in real life…. You finish that dress in the wee hours of the morning, which means you are too tired to clean up. “I’ll do it tomorrow….” Of course, tomorrow’s agenda is already full and another sewing deadline looms perilously overhead. Before you know it, you have not cleaned up from the last ten projects and can no longer see the floor. Try to find a few minutes to put away a few things. I often do this while I am on the phone or watching a movie. When everything has a place and you know where that place is, cleaning up doesn’t take long. You will actually have more time to sew because you won’t spend so much time trying to find things.

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2 Responses to "Sew Organized"

ohhhh, you are the guru! love it, thanks!

Great post, Teri! I nodded my head all the way thru it – yep, got drawers, bags, bins, all sorted out, etc etc. But you hit the nail on the head in the very last paragraph! That and, when new fabric or whatever is brought home, the bag gets stuck on my table or chair with great intentions. Um, those great intentions have really piled up. today is great intentions day – I’ll be cleaning the sewing room up while I watch the NASCAR race this afternoon!

Sue in MD

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