Sewing Spaces

I've moved house and potentially I have a large space to set up as a sewing space.  Only I don't have any storage, a cutting table or even a sewing table, because these were all built into my old house for me.  I have a couple of bits of furniture that could be overhauled and brought into service.  My new house came with some excess timber, so I could possibly build a table.  I am collecting catalogues filled with pictures of highly organised spaces that seem to be attached to very highly priced items.  Tempting as it is to rush out and spend, spend, spend, I am taking the time to decide what it is I want, what I already have, and what works for other people.  Lots of google research to do.

In the meantime, I thought that I would review what I had, what worked for me and what didn't.

This was the heart of my space.  A desk, 3 shelves and 3 drawers.  I had both my machine and overlocker on the desk.  If I needed the coverstitch machine I needed to set it up on the clearest space I could find around the house.  Cutting was done on the dining room table.

To the left was a wardrobe where I hung my fabric stash and my body double.  The plastic drawers inside the wardrobe were for my remnants and knits.  Pressing tools were also stored there.

The desk drawers were custom built so that the top one was only deep enough to hold cotton reels, the second drawer was deep enough to store patterns side on, and the bottom one was filing space.

The cotton reels were separated by lengths of metal doozets (technical term!), cut to the depth of the drawer.  I also kept my every day sewing tools in this drawer.  I liked this drawer.

 In the middle drawer there was a different shaped metal doozet to keep the patterns in line.  I think an indent was drilled into the front and back of the drawer to hold this doozet in place, though I couldn't be sure.  When the drawers were built, we thought that it would hold my entire pattern collection, but sadly, the collection grew beyond the confines of the drawer.  I do like keeping patterns in drawers, as it makes it easy to rifle through them.  The side space in this drawer was used for overlocker threads, button tins, and a tin of sewing feet and needles.

The bottom drawer had another type of metal doozet attached to the sides so that it could be used for hanging files.  I used to keep machine manuals, A4 sized patterns (eg Jalie, Knitwit), pattern magazines (Ottobre, TopKids) and packets of interfaing in this drawer.  The interfacing packets were those plastic sleeves that you buy sheet sets in.  I liked storing the interfacing this way but I didn't like storing the patterns in hanging files.  Hard to rifle through, didn't seem space efficient.  I still need to overcome the problem of storing magazines with traced off patterns.

Now onto the shelves.  Some of them were used for books, which I have not photographed.  The top shelf was used for notions, grouped and stored in ice-cream tubs.  Although they were messy on the day this photo was taken, this system generally works well for me.  One tub for elastics, one for zips, one for trims, one for piping, bias tape, rayon binding etc, one for bra-making findings, one for snaps, hooks & eyes etc. 

Vogue designer patterns also had their place on the shelf.  You can see here that I stored wide elastic, bought in bulk (for all those childrens' pants, not to mention ballet leggings) wound onto a piece of cardboard.

Articles from sewing magazines are sorted into topic and stored in display books.  I kept the earlier editions of SewStylish complete as they were chock-a-block full of good stuff.

Burda magazine patterns.  I generally don't buy Burda mags as I don't use them much and my library stocks them.  The ones I traced I kept in a binder, along with Twinkle patterns I printed and a couple of patterns that would not go back in their envelopes.  This did not work for me at all.  The binder is on the shelf for the photo, but it only fit there because I had already packed half of my things into boxes.  Truth be told, I have never used any of these patterns twice, so if I can't come up with something better, I may just chuck them.

So I guess my biggest problem was storing patterns that don't come in envelopes. Perhaps I could put them in envelopes.

Of course, I have shown you the neat version of things.  The background of the following shot shows how it typically appears.

I had an ironing board in this room.

I would like a work table separate from the machines, where I could layout pieces for the project I was working on (you know, rather than the floor, which every body seems to need to walk on). This could double as a cutting table. 

I am in two minds about under table storage.  Is all storage good storage, or is it better to have empty space under a cutting table for your feet / ergonomics of cutting?

I have done a google search on sewing studios, but if anybody has any links that they particularly recommend, please pass them on.  I do like Kristy's pattern drawers and the second photo in this post really appeals, it looks so ordered and neat...as though you could actually walk in and start sewing without having to spend an hour clearing a space first.


  1. I've had various sewing spaces over the years. One which worked well for quite a long time until the laminated chipboard just disintegrated finally was a student desk with 3 drawers and attached bookcase. This fitted well in a really small space. I'm renting at the moment so have a miscellany of gifted furniture which isn't great. I miss my built in fabric cupboard from the last house the most.

  2. My sewing space is filled with hand-me-downs, ebay finds and road side furniture. It takes a while to get things, but since they are older, they are normally a little stronger. I'll be increadibly jealous of your cutting table, if you get one. I still use the dining table and floor for cutting and tracing. Your pattern collecion also looks quite modest, in my opinion. Maybe you need to acquire more?

  3. I use the floor for cutting. I am hoping my knees hold out!
    I have a small,not quite room for my sewing room (filled in end of a verandah in a QLDer), and I feel that my personal problem with the seemingly perpetual need for tidying it before I start sewing is just that sewing is far more interesting than putting things away, so I put off the clean and organized bit until it becomes physically impossible to use the room without doing it :) I am sure it would be the same if I had a bigger space. It helps that I can close the door so no non family member views my mess.

  4. Like you Katherine, I dream of a well organised and functional sewing room. We've recently made some minor changes at home and we now have a small room to create an office/sewing room. I'm compiling a oinboard on Pinterest . I've found some sewing rooms I like for inspiration.
    Hope you fingd something useful there -

  5. Hi Katherine,
    I really like hungry zombie's organization, although her space is not as cute as the ones you've already blogged...

  6. I hope you find something to meet your needs - your previous custom drawers are really interesting! When we finally get round to renovating, I hope to get a sewing room - I'll still have to share it with the spare bed, but will not have the office in it as well, which will give me some more space to spread. A separate cutting table is a great luxury - I cut out on the table, but I have to move a lot of things first - so it is a little annoying.

  7. You're smart to wait and think a while before designing your space. My ideas of what I need have evolved, but moving house really helped me start from scratch. I ended up buying some Ikea items that have worked really well: a 4 cube unit with fabric drawers for threads, some patterns, and projects in queue. Along one wall I have three narrow tables holding the 4 machines (one is the kids' sewing machine) and 3 chairs - don't have to switch those around much. I keep my patterns in shoeboxes stacked on shelves hanging up on the wall, and my traced patterns fit in manila envelopes the same size as pattern envelopes. But, I use the floor for my cutting surface. Maybe that will keep me fit longer, hehe!

  8. I cut everything out on the floor but I can say with certainty that storage under the sewing table is not a good thing if you don't have room for your legs to get under the table while you sew. I imagine it would be nice to have space around / under a cutting table too but less essential... I look forward to seeing how you work it out. Oh and I store most of my patterns in 2 small hand me down filing cabinets - they have deep lower drawers in which patterns can stand, and medium depth upper drawers where I keep the patterns I'm deciding between for the next projects. The filing cabinet thing works and I really like having a lock on the drawers when curious kids are roaming.

  9. Putting aside my intense envy at your having a room to design for your sewing needs/desires...

    I cut out on the kitchen bench that happily sticks out like a bar but it has cupboards underneath (Open plan kitchen/living/dining, the bar/cupboard bit creates the "wall" between the kitchen and dining room)

    I have never once even thought about the cupboards underneath. They just don't get in the way. I would have no hesitation if I was designing a sewing space with a cutting table (oh the luxury!) to put storage underneath. I would only make sure the handles etc were not sharp, as you do move around and round and round it. You wouldn't want to brush up against something and cause an injury.

  10. This is the reason why we should always arrange books and papers properly.