By Erin Huffstetler | 11/09/2020 | 6 Comments
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Several of you requested a peek at my sewing area, so here it is.
It’s taken me three years to get this space right. And “right” will no doubt continue to evolve. My entire sewing area is only about 50 square feet, so it’s been a real challenge to fit everything in and create an organized space that I actually want to work in.
I finally landed on something that works for me about two weeks ago, and frankly it’s a relief. Working in a space that doesn’t work for you is stressful.
My “new” space isn’t worthy of a feature in a magazine – not by a long shot – but it is highly functional. And that functionality is what’s important to me right now. I have ideas to make the area prettier, but I’m just going to let that evolve over time.
Let me take you around the space, and show you how I have it organized.
I’m sure the most stand-out thing in this photo is the fact that I have three identical sewing machines sitting side-by-side on my sewing table, so let me address that first.
While I know a lot of sewists insist on having top-of-the-line sewing machines, I just don’t feel like that’s necessary for what I do.
Those three machines sitting on my desk cost less than one of those fancy machines, and they’re absolute workhorses.
Sewing is an important part of how I make my living; and since I sew a lot of the same things over and over, it saves me a lot of time to have dedicated machines that I can leave set up for specific tasks.
I have one that I keep set up with cotton thread and a single needle. I have another that I keep set up with cotton thread, a twin needle and a walking foot, and my third machine (it’s brand new) will soon be set up with poly thread and a vinyl foot. It’ll also serve as my back-up machine, so if something goes wrong with one of the other two, I can just swap it out, and keep going without missing a beat. My husband handles all of my sewing machine maintenance and repairs, so this will allow him to handle repairs when he has time, not when we’re hammered down preparing for a craft show or the holiday shopping season.
If you’re curious, my machine of choice is the Singer Heavy Duty. I have the 4452 model, which comes with a bunch of different feet and a few extra features. I run them non-stop, and I don’t have anything bad to say about them.
My sewing “table” (shown in the previous picture) is actually a desk. Specifically, it’s the Realspace Magellan Standing Desk. I buy most things second-hand, so it isn’t often I can recommend a specific product to you. But this time I can.
I bought it a couple years ago, intending to use it as my writing desk (hence the standing feature), but I just sort of ended up using it for sewing. While it’s not designed to be a sewing table, it works awesome as one. Since it’s a standing desk, the base weighs a ton, which means it doesn’t shake when I’m sewing – and that’s saying something, since I pretty much always run my machines full out.
Another great thing about this “table” is that my machines stay put when I’m sewing, but are easy to push back when they’re not in use. This allows me to use the front of my desk to piece projects together.
It’s 60-inches-wide, so it has plenty of space to accommodate my three machines, but it’s only 30-inches-deep, so it doesn’t gobble up a lot of floor space.
Amazon sells them, but I bought mine on sale from Office Depot.
Alright, now that you know all about my sewing “table,” let me show you what I keep on it (and under it).
The tools I keep on my sewing table are the things that I use day in and day out. I keep sewing pins and clips next to my machines, along with scissors, my sewing gauge and a ruler.
I also keep a couple trays and cups at the back of my desk for other commonly used tools – pinking shears, air-soluble markers, hera markers, bodkins, seam rippers, etc. I’m working on a list of the sewing supplies that I use and recommend, so stay tuned for that.
It’s probably also worth pointing out that I keep two trash cans under my table. One is for compostable materials – cotton thread, fabric and batting, paper, etc. The other is for non-compostable materials. I’m always looking for ways to cut down on trash, and this is just one of the systems I have in place. All the compostable stuff either ends up in one of our composters, or it gets used to start a fire in our fire pit.
Most of the stuff that I make to sell gets made out of quilting cotton, so I keep my cotton stash right next to my sewing table.
Everything gets washed as soon as it comes in. Then, it gets sorted into these bins by color.
I usually have a lot more quilting cotton on hand, but since I try to buy most of my fabric second-hand, I just haven’t been able to get out and shop for it this year.
I also keep my batting, interfacing and flannel in this area, as well as dedicated bins for batting scraps, cotton scraps, custom orders and damaged quilts for repurposing. I plan to add a bin for my vintage fabric collection, as soon as I’m able to safely shop for one again.
My fabric bins are sitting on a maple workbench that we picked up at a yard sale several years ago. This allows me to stack bins all the way to the ceiling, while still making use of the space under the workbench.
Normally the entire area under the workbench is taken up by our craft show tables, but we’re using some of them right now, so I have my buckets of heating pad and eye pillow filling tucked under there temporarily.
I’ve been meaning to make a skirt for the workbench for a few years now . I may try to tackle that over Christmas break. I have some “just for me” sewing projects planned.
To give you an accurate picture of the scope of my fabric stash. I keep all of my poly, fleece, cotton canvas, outdoor fabric, etc. in another room.
With some of the things that I make, I can’t have other fabrics getting mixed in with my quilting cotton, so this is the system that I’ve devised.
My second fabric stash is organized by color and divided by fabric type. This makes it easy for me to quickly find what I need.
And I definitely want to mention that I got almost all of this fabric for free. Some of it I inherited, but a good bit of it was simply given to us.
We partner with a local recycling coalition to hold two Recycles Day events each year, where people can drop off hard-to-recycle materials for recycling and reuse. We provide a list of items that we can use in our business – thing like fabric, used candles and old Reader’s digests – and we’re always amazed by the response.
This allows us to keep our product prices low, and provides the materials that go into many of the how-to projects that I share on My Frugal Home.
Okay, now that you’ve seen my fabric stash, let me show you how I keep my sewing projects organized.
See those bins stacked to the left of my sewing table? Each one of those holds cut pieces for a different product that we sell.
So do all of these bins. We’ve been cutting fabric since this summer to prepare for the holiday season, so I have A LOT of sewing to do at the moment.
That basket to the left of the bins holds all of my non-cotton fabric scraps. Whenever my scrap bins get too full, I brainstorm projects to make with them. With as much sewing as I’ve been doing lately, it’s time to come up with some new scrap-busters.
And see that built-in shelf next to my sewing table?
I tried storing different things on it over the years, but I never felt like I was utilizing it well.
I finally decided to use it for sewing notions, and that’s been a total game-changer.
Now all of my most-used stuff is just steps away from where I work.
I bought these archival boxes at a yard sale several years ago, and they ended up being the perfect storage solution for my thread and needles.
I have one box for cotton thread …
another for my poly thread …
and a third for my sewing needles. I buy all of these things in bulk to save money and time, and these boxes do a great job of keeping them from becoming clutter.
I have labeled storage bins for my 1-1/2-inch ribbon, 3/8-inch ribbon, Velcro, keychain hardware and bias tape. There’s nothing on this shelf that I don’t use regularly.
As you can see, I am by no means a minimalist sewist, and I don’t think I ever will be. I like that when I come up with an idea for a project, I usually have the things I need to make it, and that I seldom get stuck paying full-price for supplies. For me, my sewing stash is no different than a grocery stockpile, and I utilize it the same way. If I feel like I’ve accumulated too much of something, or I haven’t used something for a while, I brainstorm ways to put it to use.
By keeping my supplies organized in a way that makes sense to me, I stay aware of what I have, and am able to make the most of what I have.