Home Sewing Tutorials Guide to Sewing Room / Office Makeover for the Organizationally-Impaired and ADD Crafters – Part 1

Guide to Sewing Room / Office Makeover for the Organizationally-Impaired and ADD Crafters – Part 1

by Sarah

Are you constantly losing your sewing supplies? Do you have a bin full of scissors because you keep re-finding ones you previously lost. Do you spend more timing searching for lost fabric then actually sewing? Me too. “I know I have it here somewhere,” is my catch phrase. There are a few others, but let’s keep this PG. I had an epiphany the other day and realized life would be easier if I would just stay organized. But as a self-proclaimed mess-aholic, I seriously struggle with keeping organized. Some people are naturally successful at cleanliness. I am not. Never have been, never will be. But, to be able to accomplish my goals, I have to increase my efficiency. When I really thought about it, I figured I spend about 20% of my day cleaning, re-cleaning, searching, losing, and walking around aimlessly. Time to regain control. And by controlling your environment, you can shift your focus to more important tasks, like remembering to feed and bathe the children.

Theory of Organization: Functional and Personal

I don’t claim to be Martha Stewart, but I do have years of experience watching my Mother creatively organize. I don’t know how I missed that gene hand-off. Either way, I have one big theory of organization: functional and personal. There is no point in cleaning/organizing if it doesn’t provide a faster way of locating items and putting them back. And if you don’t spend time making your space personal, then why even keep it clean? There has to be some level of pride. There are two parts to this activity. First, de-trash, de-clutter, and organize. After everything has its own place, then it’s time to decorate and personalize.

Budget-Friendly Makeover

If you’re on a low budget, welcome to the party! Use what you have as much as possible. Use any container you can find, because eventually we will go back and dress everything up. It doesn’t have to match or be expensive. Basically, we are totally McGiver-ing this. Challenge yourself not to spend any money. If you really have nothing to work with – limit yourself to the dollar store and under $10. You can do it!

Reality Check – Efficient  and Practical Use of Space Structured Around Your Behaviors

Getting organized effectively doesn’t happen in a day. Or a weekend. To truly discover what layout works best  for you, you need time to actually test it out. Give it a week, then adjust accordingly. How many of us have set out to get our sewing rooms (or any area of the house) organized, only to have it fall right back in the same mess a week later?  Next thing you know, you’re mentally kicking yourself for being such a slob. I was ALWAYS messy and never understood why I couldn’t just keep my area looking nice. And here’s why ; I didn’t consider my habits. Yes, my fabric might look prettier if it was all folded and arranged by type, but I would rather be sewing than constantly refolding fabric. And when I’m in the sewing zone, I’m not going to carefully remove layers of fabric to get to the bright purple silk right smack in the middle. I’m totally throwing fabric on the floor until I find the one I want.  And I wondered why I was losing everything. Now, I roll the majority of my fabric up into remnants and wrap with tape or paper and stuff it in color coordinated drawers. Much easier than folding and readjusting.

Find Your Sewing Lounge (like a man cave, only cooler)

You need a space all your own. This doesn’t mean you need an extra bedroom for sewing (although that would be awesome), it just means you need a section of real estate for yourself. We’ll call this your “Sewing Lounge”. Find some way to separate it from the rest of the house. Before, I had my sewing room/office spread out across the living room, dining room, breakfast room, bedroom and den. Everything was everywhere and I couldn’t keep track of which room had what supplies.  So, I said, “Screw it! I’m taking the Den!” Then, I was reminded that the Den was my son’s playroom.  Fine then. I’m taking half of the den. And I soooo did. I even separated the space with rugs. I also plan to create a partition to really isolate my space.

Getting Started: Chuck all the Trash

Start by sorting through all of your stuff. And you know you have stuff all over the house. Ideally, you want all your sewing/ craft stuff in one area because their uses tend to overlap. Sometimes space issues make this impossible, but try as best as you can without over stuffing.  I like to dump everything out on the floor and de-trash. You’ll be surprised at how much trash is taking up space, like the 1/4 inch ribbon you saved from birthday gifts and will never used. Junk…lots and lots of junk.

Categorize: Macro and Micro

Categorize your supplies and separate into bins and boxes. There is a drawer or a box for everything and it’s all kept together as much as possible. All my glue – in one box. All my glitter, in one drawer. Sometimes items fit in to 2 categories. When that happens, choose the category that first pops in your head. For instance, glitter glue. It’s glitter and it’s glue – but my first mental association is made with glitter. So, it goes in the glitter box.

For Example

Fabric: I put some easy-to-stack fabric on display as decoration. Specifically because it goes with the colors of the room and is relaxing. I have so much fabric, I can’t really keep it all in my half of the den. I filled up as many of the drawers as I could. The rest is in clear bins under my bed and on high shelves in my bedroom. Is it ideal? No, but I’m working with little usable space. Apparently, “the house is not my workshop.” Insane, I know.

Rulers – Chalk and Fabric Markers – NeedlesScissors

Tools (non specific) – I have a screwdriver, awl, kitchen knife, pliers, snap tool, and utility blades in the fifth drawer of the jewelry box.

Sewing tools – (tiny screwdriver, seam ripper, spools holders)

Paint –  Stencils and Stickers – Office Supplies – Receipts

Thread (regular and serging) – Big, yellow dollar store bin. They end up all over the place anyways, so I just keep them all in one area instead of trying to keep them stacked somewhere. I never ended up putting them back.

Batting – Muslin – Fasteners – Binding – Presser Feet – Instruction Manuals – Trim – Zippers/Elastic – Pins –  Safety  Pins – Measuring Tapes – Books – Sewing cords – AccuQuilt Supplies – Crafting Paper – Ribbon – Non specific cords – (extension cords, chargers, USB, etc) – Cameras –  Beads – Bobbins

You get the idea. Everything is categorized. Each category has its own little place to chill.

Breathing Room

There is something even more important than everything having its own little area. You need it to be spaced out. For those of us with small sewing areas, space may be hard to come by. However, to keep your area looking ‘open’, you’ll probably need to arrange and re-arrange until everything is space without feeling cluttered. Trust me, it works. I rearranged at least 5 times before I came across this set up. For instance, I could fit all my sewing and crafting supplies on one big bookshelf, but I would have to take the whole thing apart to reach what I need. That wouldn’t be an efficient use of time. You and I both know we probably aren’t going to re-stack every time when need the glue that’s stuffed behind the sewing books.
It’s like a fabric shop and Toys R Us threw up in my den.
See what I’m saying? Not very inspirational.
finished 10
Muuuuuuch better. My son’s toys are on one side and my toys are on the other.
finished 11
At this stage, nothing matches. Right now, most of my  furniture is either borrowed or passed down from family member to family member. I’m a little hesitant on painting any of it. We’ll figure that out in another post.
finished 14
My son thinks he’s a painter and any white surface is fair game. Hence, blue marker meets closet door. And as a family, we are a little sticker-happy. No judging. The black and white bin hold patterns, many of which are stored in ziplock bags and labeled. The purple bin has non-sewing cords.

finished 7
This is actually an old plastic jewelry box – thing. Great place to store needles. The other 5 drawers have scissors, snaps, magnets, sewing tools…it’s awesome. Just needs some paint!

finished 5
This is what I mean by Macro and Micro organized – boxes inside boxes.

DIY Glam Up Series
Now that everything is nicely put away and practical, the next step is to personalize your space with decorations. I want to come to my area and feel relaxed. I don’t want to be too over stimulated, but I want to still feel energized. I started to doodle on the pictures to a get a visual of what I may want:
Sans the Bert and Abby stickers. However, the Monster stays.
What do you think? I’m having trouble with the two different bookshelf colors. I really don’t like the white one – but I can’t paint the brown one. Any suggestions how to make them flow better?
We will be doing a monthly series to cover ways to glam up your sewing area with little to no cost. Stay tuned!
Do you have a secret way to stay organized? A idea that has been a life saver in the sewing chaos? Leave a comment below – we want to hear from you!

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Holding Nips December 6, 2018 - 3:29 am

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Janet November 12, 2016 - 8:03 am

Wow that was such great ideas and loads of inspiration Iam just in the middle of sorting out all of my haberdashery ooops lol lol junk I’ve got too get used too my new word (junk ) lol lol

Sarah November 13, 2016 - 3:37 pm

It’s a constant battle!

Cheryl Van Rooy Tyrkalo August 1, 2014 - 4:27 pm

Hi I love all your great tips. Now it’s my turn to give back. I have put on my decorating hat for your space.

Put the 2 brown shelves together in a pair and if you have the space leave a gap between the white and brown. This will create another space for the eye. If your a bit handy. And I can tell you are. Attach a hanging rod between the brown and white shelves use this to hang things. I use my hanging space for my poster board patterns hanging on clip hangers and my notorious unfinished projects. I must get better at that. Or you can hang fabric, or anything really.

Hope this helps

Sarah August 6, 2014 - 10:43 am

Hi Cheryl! Thank you for the tip!!! I love the hanging rod idea!!!

bumpkin February 1, 2014 - 4:23 pm

I hung my bolts of quilt batting and wide muslin from my ceiling with large eye bolts in the 2X4s in the ceiling. I also hung a 1X2 on the ceiling and put large cup hooks in it to hang my many baskets from. Indeed, its the ONLY place in my sewing room that was empty. I also added shelves all the way to about 1.5′ from the ceiling to hold my sewing books. I have 8′ -> 10′ ceilings, so it gave me more room to do that, and I have a sturdy stepladder to open up anytime I need items from the upper shelves and ceiling, which is not very often.

Sarah February 3, 2014 - 10:37 am

That sounds awesome! Do you have any pictures? I’ve been wanting to hang things from my ceiling, but not sure where to start.

bumpkin February 3, 2014 - 5:16 pm

Sure. But my room is primitive, VERY full, VERY primitive- no class or beauty at all. Just functional. I took strong cord and tied it through the eye bolts I drilled holes into the ceiling studs for and screwed into the holes, and then slipped them over the ends of the bolts. There is a third, smaller bolt behind the visible ones. A wide stepladder is required for me to go up to them, but I have two stepladders if I need them, and since my ceiling slopes, I need the higher stepladder to get to the baskets, the lower one for the bolts. The pic with the baskets only shows a portion of them, but you get the drift. You can just barely see the edge of the light fixture in the baskets pic.

Carrie February 5, 2014 - 12:41 pm

I’d love to see the photos too.. Primitive or not lol.. I’m sharing a space with a closet. It’s n a decent sized room but I’m trying to figure a way to organize it so that everything has a place and it’s functional. Love the idea of hanging stuff from the ceiling and was actually contemplating that but have no idea how to arrange it.

bumpkin February 1, 2014 - 4:17 pm

Perhaps sponge brown on the white one to blend them

Mary Ann January 6, 2014 - 3:24 pm

I have a nice large sewing area and I enjoy antiques. I took my hump back and steamer trunks, sorted ribbons and lace by size and colors into ziplock bags and placed them in the trunks. One for lace, one for ribbon etc. Now notions are easy to find. My sister had the idea to stack a hump back trunk on top of a steamer trunk laying on it’s side. That saves space and looks very nice. Steamer trunks could also be left open for looks with various notions in each of the drawers. I have also seen where old trunks are painted white etc. to match the room. I also sorted all of my cotton fabrics by colors, folded precisley to fit open shelves and display them on 4 open faced white book shelves. It looks so cozy and old fashioned and fabrics are easy to find! I found a short metal file cabinet with 10 drawers. I labeled each drawer with one or two colors and keep all of my regular thread spools in them. The serger thread I keep in antique baskets around the room. It makes for splashes of color. I agree with you to organize sewing supplies by catagory.

Sarah January 7, 2014 - 8:13 am

Oh my goodness – this sounds beautiful! I would love to see a picture. I have an old truck I’ve been meaning to use – thank you for sharing. Now I know just what to do with it!

Annette January 6, 2014 - 1:35 pm

I have 4 sewing machines. I keep individually marked containers for each machine in their own box. That way I never have to try matching bobbins, feet etc. Also, what would my family do if I wasn’t around to sort it all out? ha.

Sarah January 7, 2014 - 8:16 am

lol – they’d be lost! Great idea to keep the sewing machine parts organized – never thought to do that. Thank you for sharing!

gayle rush September 23, 2013 - 10:52 am

i forgot to tell you thanks for the organizing tips. you did a super great job of how to and it was inspirational as well. my before is way worse than yours was. promise. lol. thanks tons, gayle again

gayle rush September 23, 2013 - 10:50 am

I would paint BOTH bookshelves with amazing fantastic favorite colors. look in mags about re-doing flea market stuff. you could do stencils and just make it fabulous and all your own . light aqua with darker aqua for backboard and stenciling…but any colors…your fav colors. or cover them with awesome cheap fabrics. i would go completely crazy with this opportunity to make it all your own and your own work of art. when you look at it 10 years from now it still make you happy when you see it. make it take your breath away. hugs gayle

Sarah September 23, 2013 - 2:53 pm

I love your stencil idea! And you’re right, I should go totally crazy with it. After all, it’s for a creative space. A little wacky is always acceptable!

Jeannette September 21, 2013 - 8:21 pm

I got a lot of ideas from this blog. I am moving into a new place and I will be using some of your ideas. Can’t wait.

Sarah September 23, 2013 - 3:13 pm

How exciting! Let us know which ones work for you!

Jamie September 19, 2013 - 1:36 pm

Sarah, I love your ideas. I wish I had a room to use them in. I think you should paint the front of the white book shelves and the inside. If you use brown for the trim (and maybe the back) it would help them blend better. If you use Sylvia’s idea of putting a board across the top the 2 wood bookshelves it would make it look more like a unit. I think contact paper on the back of all the shelving units would look nice and its removable. I use contact paper on a lot of mismatched things and they look like I bought them at the same time as a set.

Sarah September 20, 2013 - 7:00 pm

Hi Jamie! When you use contact paper, do you have a preference for a printed design or a solid color? I wonder if using a print will better hide air bubbles or if doesn’t really make a difference?

Teresa February 27, 2015 - 8:09 pm

I covered front of drawers with fabric tried a variety of methods but the easy way is to cut fabric to fit face of drawer slide fabric into a tub of liquid starch, lay fabric onto surface, squish out all the extra liquid starch. I used a sponge and a rectangle plastic bucket to work with. Let dry over night. I tucked edges inside edges and pressed corners into muttered points as if it were a quilt. Made valance to match fabric on drawers and covered lampshade to match Teresa.golden@att.net

Sylvia Parker September 5, 2013 - 12:32 am

Love your blog! Your writing about how to do things makes sense & the videos are helpful.

My sewing room: went from a cramped little space to a great big room. I LOVED the big space, still 0verflowing, but organized by -(just what you recommended) – the way I use it.
1. Pegboard on a wall gives a flexible area of hangers, pegs, & baskets to adapt to my habits.
2. A friend helped me to arrange my space by watching me as I sewed. He suggested that I use (my mismatched) bookshelves to store items.
3. We put a long 8 foot x 12 inch x 1 inch thick board (Home Depot shelving aisle) across the top of mis-matched bookshelves to create new crannies for plastic bins of supplies, and rows of thread. Linked them together w screws to stabilize them.
Put a 2″ x 8-ft wood strip across top front of bookshelves and added curtain rods on the front. I found a bunch of cheap long curtains to hang in front and cover the bookshelves. When sewing, I open the the curtains open with ribbon tiebacks. When I am done, I close up the drapes. (Cafe clips would work too).
4. Improved ironing station – I made an ironing board cover for my white laminated folding cutting board on wheels. It goes in front of the shelves when folded and I iron on it, no need for a wobbly ironing board

I will miss my den-corner sweatshop of joy when the house sells, but will build a new one!

Sarah September 9, 2013 - 1:35 pm

Hi Ms. Sylvia,
You have such amazing ideas! Would you mind sharing pictures??? I’m really interested in what #3 looks like. I may need to do that myself!
And congrats on the huge new sewing room! I just bought a new house this spring and am LOVING my huge sewing studio as well. Not sure how I managed to fit so much in such a little amount of space before, because even now my room seems cluttered.

Jamie September 19, 2013 - 1:24 pm

Great ideas. I don’t have a room for the bookshelves but I am going to steal your cutting board ironing station. I have a rolling cutting table that folds up and the center is just the right size. Thanks much.

gayle rush September 23, 2013 - 10:54 am

love love love your ideas. thanks, gayle

kara June 27, 2013 - 12:30 am

P.S- I love your idea for adding molding- you could also add height by picking up some decorative legs for the shelves at any home improvement box store- The legs can turn any shelf into a beautiful looking piece of furniture- and would compliment the molding while making each unit the same height by adjusting the leg height- fairly inexpensive for feet and legs- just price checked them myself for a project at my local box store and they vary from a buck and change to around 5 bucks a piece for the ones I liked- all in all not bad= you could also get the spindles and cut them down to size- the ones used for decks and such- then paint or stain to your liking …

Sarah June 27, 2013 - 1:42 pm

That is an AWESOME idea! I will be doing that this weekend – Brilliant!

Jamie September 19, 2013 - 1:17 pm

You can also get legs the way I do… take them off old furniture that is being thrown out. I keep any removable legs when I get rid of anything. Casters too. It really saves me money.

Sarah September 20, 2013 - 7:01 pm

That’s a GREAT idea! I would never have thought to take them off of old furniture. Smart lady!

kara June 27, 2013 - 12:21 am

Hi- I suggest painting the white shelf a deep FLAT soft black- like a charcoal- you can add a tiny bit of white to it to make it a little smokier in colour- even though the white shelf is n0t wood it can still be painted whatever colour you like- the charcoal gray/black is always my go to for furniture refinishing when it is not solid wood- then when using that colour your bright fabrics will really pop- plus the two bookshelfs that flank it will lool nicer as well- to make it a little more uniform and maximize flow – I would suggest either A) painting or wall papering or covering in the same fabric,paper or colour the back of the shelf either – you can paint the wall behind the shelves so the colour peeks through or insert covered cardboard between each shelf- there are quite a few tutorials out there that explain how to do this better than I can here- but I think by making the background the same for each shelf would accomplish the look you are going for- Thus far I have never regretted painting anything in that colour- IT looks so deep and rich- and truly everything you pair it with looks awesome… I love your sewing space.

Sarah June 27, 2013 - 1:43 pm

Another awesome trick! Thank you so much for sharing!

Adrienne June 25, 2013 - 5:04 pm

sorry, Sarah – I messed u my url = it should be:

Adrienne June 25, 2013 - 5:03 pm

I think I’m a relative – my Mother was an organized, neat pick, and me, a wandering-here-the-heck-did-I-put-that time looser. (Your before images look better than my after attempts…).

I am so adopting your ideas. Thank you – you are generous to share them!

Danita April 7, 2013 - 9:50 pm

If you are looking at doing some painting – try chalk paint! No sanding, no stripping – it will stick to anything. I’ve tried both Annie Sloan and Cece Caldwell – they are both great. Annie Sloan has some great videos on youtube for ideas.

Sarah April 8, 2013 - 1:08 pm

Great idea! I’ve also heard there are some recipes online to make your own chalk paint, but I haven’t tested it myself.

Danita April 8, 2013 - 5:59 pm

I highly recommend the paint. Plus it’s non-toxic – I painted my dining room table and chairs inside – no fumes, no smell. Just paint and then wax and buff. So easy – it’s a beautiful thing!

Sarah April 9, 2013 - 5:09 pm

Great idea! I love painting furniture.

Carol March 27, 2013 - 1:56 am

I LOVE what you did with the bobbin holders! Those are my favs! What a clever way to store them. I’ll now be using that myself – Thank You!

Remember that you’ll be sewing for the rest of you life (?) The organization that you put together now, will probably last you for that long. AND, you can buy things one at a time, and still get what you want. (Garage sales?) What I really should tell you, is measure your space, take the tape measure with you, to find containers that fit the space. As sewers, we never have enough. Also, know what it is that you need to store. No sence in buying small containers, if you need something big, etc.

I have found, that for me, drawers work the best. I LOVE the plastic drawers best… they hold everything. (The small drawers hold bobbins, feet, small thread, elastic, zippers, trims, etc.) Larger ones are great for patterns, & fabric. You can stack (small ones), them, and the small ones fit on a bookshelf.

You have to find what works best for YOU. The above works for ME. I even started by laying everything out on graph paper 🙂 (It doesn’t only work for floors)

Hope this helps. But really, find what works BEST FOR YOU.

I didn’t have walls in my basement, I waited for JoAnne’s sales, bought 1 bolt of muslin a a time, made “drapes”, and “draped” my sewing area in the basement. – I now have walls (just DON’T lean on them. hee, hee.

Sarah March 28, 2013 - 2:46 am

I agree with you – drawers are awesome! And what a clever idea to drape your walls – genius!

Gloria March 7, 2013 - 5:47 pm

Amazing improvements! I see several ideas I can use in my little sewing area too. Thx for sharing.


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