Monday, April 30, 2012

My sewing room organisation ....

I am fortunate to have a dedicated sewing room, all for me, me, me. Mind you, our house nearly broke in half due to the earth bank under one end of it collapsing (the house is built into the side of a hill) and as we had to do so much to fix the situation I suggested that while we were at it, we convert that now extra space into two proper rooms that are an extension of the downstairs part of our house. Yes, rather drastic measures to get a sewing room but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do right? I did suggest that the other (bigger) room be tigerboy's workshop which I thought was pretty generous. It's a small room but I'm grateful to have it.

I considered tidying it before taking pics but ............ well, I couldn't be bothered, sometimes it's best to just get on with it or it'll never be done right?

Unlike tigerboy who spent many, many weeks fitting out his workroom and makes sure it always looks immaculate by way of not using it, I do use my sewing room and wasted no time in starting to use it. As such, I haven't finished organising it - it's still a work in progress and probably will be for quite a while - I want to use it already!

Ok, so here we go .....

My cutting table:
  • I've added a hook and some nails at the end there to hold rulers, tape measures, shoddy paper scissors and whatever else I shove on them. 
  • I got the self healing mat from ebay, it's just slightly bigger than the table which is approx 130cm x 100cm I think. In reality, I still often have to do my cutting out in the foyer on the floor because as cutting tables go, it kind of small when you're dealing with metres of fabric and I'm always trying to work out how I can fit a pattern that needs 6 metres of fabric onto a 2 metre piece.
  • The table was a bit low and I also wanted it moveable, so I bought some castors on ebay and had tigerboy hollow out some bits of wood for the legs to sit in and attached the castors to the bottom of the wood.
  • Those tubs under the table? Huge lengths of knit.

  •  I picked this up from Bargain City for ~$20 - it's still unorganised and I just keep jamming things in there like WIP's.
  • Some of my sewing books are in there but the majority are still upstairs. 
  • It does have my pattern folders in it though (the group of black spines with white labels). I use the plastic binders with the clear inserts to put the pattern envelopes in. The actual innards of the patterns I put in ziplock bags in boxes. This way, when I'm deciding what to make etc. I can just grab the binders and take them where ever to flick through, I don't need to trawl through boxes of patterns (not that my pattern stash is very impressive compared to a lot of people's).
  • You can see some shoeboxes with notions in them - the majority of those are upstairs too, I tend to bring them down as I need something and then find a home for them (or, more accurately, somewhere to shove them) in the sewing room.

The boxes of patterns & the overlocker (serger) thread:
  • Under the window you can see some shelving from our old kitchen. Those are copy paper boxes full of ziplock bags with patterns in them.
  • On the right is the start of my sewing bench. The drawers are really deep, the top one is perfect for overlocker spools.
  • To the left are the mirrors. We bought a full length mirror to stick on the wall because I couldn't find any free standing ones in the stores - and I checked a lot of stores. But, I need to move the mirror around so I didn't want to stick it on the wall. At the moment it's resting on a plastic tub that is full of stretch woven fabric. Anyway, I bought the cheval mirror on ebay - didn't have much of a selection there either - and now I use them so that I can see the front and back of clothes. Not great but better than nothing and better than running upstairs to check in the closet mirror!
  • You can see Dot behind the cheval holding up a couple of vogue dresses - haven't reviewed those yet, one needs hemming and I'm still deciding whether I should bother to try to save the other.

My old machine:
  • This is my trusty old Janome that my grandmother gave me when I was hmmm, well it was well over 20 years ago. 
  • The drawer under the machine has the machine manuals, tools and overlocking samples in it. (Basically, I record the settings for the overlocker for various fabrics by writing them on the little test piece and tossing it in the drawer.)

an overlocking sample

The rest of the machine bench:
  •  Unfortunately my pc down here can't pick up the signal from the router upstairs but I do use it to listen to audio books while I'm sewing (although lately it's all been Michel Thomas teaching me Spanish - I don't really concentrate on it, often I'm not even conciously listening, so I end up listening to the same stuff over and over but I figure it has to be doing some good right?). When I'm not listening to Michel, I'm listening to non-fiction audio books - I don't listen well enough to follow the thread of a story (and I'm not keen on having fiction read to me), so I find that non-fiction is good. I can listen to the same book a lot of times, tuning in and out before I feel like I've actually heard it all.
  • Behind the back of the chair you can just see my dodgy arrangement for catching the offcuts from the overlocker - a little plastic bag. I keep meaning to upgrade ......... one day.
  • My overlocker is a Lumina - Aldi sell them. Actually I intend to do a post on it at some stage because all I've ever been able to find on the web is people asking if they're any good (and quite often others that have never used one or known anyone that has used one advising against buying them) - it's fine, a heck of a lot better than the old Janome Mylock I have (that I want to give away - if you're reading this and you're in Brisbane, you can have it, it's on the northside!).
  • My Brother sewing machine - well, it's a basic machine, nothing to write home about, some annoying things but certainly useable (clearly, or else it would be packed away like that old Janome overlocker).

The machine feet & bobbin drawer:

This is the top drawer at the other end of the bench.
  • I've got a bobbin box for my new machine, two bobbin boxes for the old machine, a bobbin box full of full bobbins that I just got from Mum (they don't fit her new machine but they'll fit mine).
  • I also got two plastic fishing tackle boxes to hold most of the different machine feet.

The thread drawers:

This is where all of my thread lives.
  • I picked this set of drawers up at Big W and the drawers are the perfect size for reels of thread (except those cheapies sitting on the top - they're too fat).
  • The top three drawers are in colours: red/pink/orange/purple, blue/black/grey, white/yellow/brown/green.
  • The bottom drawer has one of those cheap sets where you get ~20 reels of thread with 20 full, matching bobbins (those bobbins just happen to fit my new machine) as well as some other little el cheapo reels.
  • The other drawer has copy paper, marking tools, needles for hand sewing and quick-unpicks.
  • Those boxes on top of the drawers have scrap fabric. I pull pieces out to make sure the stitch is going to work or try something new before I mess up the 'real' fabric.

The fabric stash:

  • Not all of this is stash, some is mending, some of it is slated to be refashioned.
  • You can see there are actually garments hanging at one end - they need to be changed in some way before I'll wear them again.
  • More notions boxes at the top.
  • There is an entire box of jeans in there - I just used 3+ pairs making the Palin bag for tigerboy, more about that in another post (like, when I finally finish the thing).
  • I've got a single/double bed mattress protector that's going to be batting (we no longer have single or double beds).
  • One of those boxes is full of fabric that will only ever be muslins or linings.
  • If you view the bigger pic you might even be able to read the labels.

Machine needle pin cushion:

Never able to remember which needle you left in the machine? It was always a problem for me. Now that my eyesight is failing, sometimes I can't even read the markings on the needle when I'm wearing glasses (esp. the cheap needles, I don't think they always print correctly ........ or maybe my eyesight is even worse than I think). I'd read about putting a sticker on the machine and writing the needle type on it, keeping a post-it notepad handy and using those and a few other variations on the theme but I couldn't find the pen and/or notepad or whatever I needed at the time (or I'd just completely forget), so those methods just didn't work for me.
Anyway, this is the solution I'd been looking for. I read about this idea some time last year - what an excellent idea, so easy.
  • Basically, you use the segments of the tomato to denote the different needle sizes (label them, so that you don't forget what is what). 
  • I have also divided mine horizontally for the different types of needles: ball/stretch; universal; sharp.
  • When I put a needle in the Brother, I put a blue topped pin in the correct segment. For the other machine, I use a different coloured pin.
  • If I'm using a specialty needle, like a twin, or just don't have a needle in there, I put the corresponding pin in the chilli.
  • The only problems I've had is that a couple of times I've taken the pin out without thinking, to actually use as a pin (idiot!!).
Yep, I know that pin at the top is bent - it just hasn't made it to the bin yet.

My low tech fabric catalogue:

Yes, I know I could do this in Excel (as tigerboy suggested ........ of course) but I wanted something quick, easy, convenient and portable, I mean, I'm not planning WWIII here.
It's not complete but it's getting there and it's been really useful.
Basically it's divided into stretch and non-stretch, within those categories are widths - ~90cm, <=120cm, >120cm, then I write down the pertinent details.
When I want to make something I take a quick look through here to see what I have that suits.

See the one on the right that's crossed out? That got turned into Vogue 8555

The portable tool box:
  • This is an old dishwasher cutlery basket.
  • Several pairs of scissors, rotary cutters, chalk pencil, tracing wheel ... basically whatever I think I'll need to carry around.
  • In the background (on the left) you can see a cloth, zip up rice bag with handles. We eat a lot of rice in this house, I don't even bother buying it in quantities less than 5 kilos and it comes in these types of bags. I find it really hard to throw them away but they're a bit small to use as shopping bags. I use some in the sewing room for WIPs, sometimes I'll use them for shoes - anyone got any other ideas?

Tigerboy and I tiled the floor ourselves. A tile floor is not the best idea for a sewing room. I've had to 'fix' a few tools that have fallen - sharp ends aren't sharp anymore after smashing on to tile - the quick-unpick, more than one pair of small sharp scissors and my chaco marker to name a few. I had to get the pliers to the chaco marker to straighten out the little metal teeth, for the scissors and quick-unpick I used a really fine emery to remove the burrs. Vinyl or lino would be a better choice, as unappealing as they sound.

So, there you go. I hope someone gets some tips from this.


  1. Oh, I love the drawers for the thread - mine is piled into a shelf and I can't see it, but yours is all laid out - gotta write that down. And holy moly at the fabric, and the fabric notebook. I tried a pattern app to organize my patterns one time, but you have to type everything in yourself, so it's a waste of time. I finally get why you would put the envelopes in a binder and keep the pattern in a ziplock bag! Thanks for the tips!

  2. Love the idea of those apps but I just don't think the setup time is worth it for me.

  3. girl, you got some serious stuff. xx

  4. Wowsa that's a mad sewing room!!!!! Damn I'm jealous of that huge cutting matt!!! I definitely would've ordered one like yours as sugggested but they won't ship to my po box :(