Thursday, June 2, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Julia, Mamafitz, Carla, Katherine, Claire, Debbie and Elaina for talking back to my confession last week! I asked about organizational challenges and tips for the sewing room, and I got some great advice!

First though, the challenges – every time I read one of these I was like “Oh, that is SO me!” ;)

Julia called out putting things back when you are done with them – been there, haven’t done that either! ;)

Carla called out unfinished projects taking up room – I hear you! Although, in her case, these are quilts that her Grandmother started – what a wonderful legacy!

Claire’s biggest problem is all of the little things that she uses all the time – pins, bobbins, thread, marking tools, etc. She finds that she is constantly moving these things back and forth between her cutting table and ironing board, in order to open up space on whichever one she wants to use at the time. I’ll second that and add the seam gauge, snips, tape measure, hand needles and seam ripper to the list…

And Debbie struggles with pattern pieces – she has a filing system, but doesn’t always get her TNT patterns put away after she uses them. She’s still one up on me – at least she has a filing system!

Now that we’ve determined that I am not alone, on to the tips. I think the best way to organize the tips is by the category of item they address. The 2 biggest categories were (a) notions and (b) tools. Fabric, thread, patterns and “little bits” were also called out.


Four people addressed how they deal with their notions – you know, things like elastic, zippers, Velcro, bias binding, etc. Basically, everyone has their favorite medium –sized container and they use a bunch of those containers – carefully labeled and stacked - to store their notions.

Two people called out clear plastic boxes (around the size of shoe boxes, for example) to store notions. The advantage of clear boxes is, of course, that you can quickly see what’s in each one. Debbie, on the other hand, uses black photo boxes because this reduces the “visual clutter” in her sewing room.

Katherine has an inspired alternative – she uses ice cream buckets! The only “downside” is that you have to eat the ice cream first… I think I’d be willing to make the sacrifice for my sewing room… ;)


The second most popular topic was the tools – and people mostly called out tools for cutting and pressing – things like scissors, rotary cutters, rulers, marking tools, pattern paper, pattern weights, ham, clapper, etc. While one person did call out installing shelves over the cutting table and ironing board, two people suggested alternative methods to hang these items on the wall.

Claire uses kitchen utensil bars (like the kind for hanging up spatulas & ladles) in her sewing room to hang up her scissors, etc. And Debbie uses a peg board. In addition to hanging the usual stuff like scissors and quilt rulers, she even has a hook for her cutting mats and a couple of cups attached to the board that hold pens and marking pencils, etc. She says it’s very easy to put things right back where they belong the minute you are done with them…


People didn’t focus as much on organizing or storing their fabric, but we did get a couple of ideas. Katherine hangs hers in a wardrobe. Debbie mentioned using a storage bin. And Elaina (the queen of what we call at my office “dual use”) keeps a lot of hers in an old train trunk that doubles as a coffee table.


As mentioned previously, Debbie uses manila folders to store her TNT pattern pieces and binders for her patterns. She also keeps her thread in a cabinet. And Katherine acknowledges that there are just some little bits and bobs that will never be officially put away – so she keeps a tray next to her sewing machine to hold them.

What I have really gained from all this advice is a changed focus on the process of organizing my room. It used to be that I looked at some kind of empty space or storage container and wondered, “Hmmm… What can I fit there?”

Now I’m going to start with my stuff and try to figure out a system that works for it – more like, “Okay, here’s all my miscellaneous bits of elastic, ribbon, binding, etc. – let’s go find a set of containers that are the right size and will stack and hold those things and keep them organized.” I think this approach will be much more productive!

Finally, I can’t finish this post without calling out kudos to Debbie and Elaina for dealing with the least amount of dedicated space. Debbie’s “sewing room” is a 7 x 9 space that she SHARES with the washer and dryer! And Elaina doesn’t really have a dedicated space. She and her family live in a place that is just over 500 square feet. She has to keep her sewing stuff distributed all around the house and she gets double use out of almost everything – for example, throw a cloth over the boxes of patterns and, voila, a table for the kids to use. Next time I feel cramped in my sewing room, I’m going to remember what they deal with and be thankful. :)

Okay, this reminds me of a joke. A man goes to one of the wise elders in his village and asks for help. He complains that his house is too small for his family, but he can’t afford a bigger one. The elder asks if the man has a dog. He does, and the elder advises the man to bring the dog into the house to live with the family. The man is doubtful, but follows the elder’s advice.

He returns a few weeks later and reports that this has not helped. Now things seem even worse! The elder asks if the man owns a goat. He does, and the elder advises the man to bring the goat into the house to live with the family. Again, doubtful, the man follows the elder’s advice.

Again, he returns a few weeks later and reports that things are even worse! The elder asks if the man owns a cow. The man – somewhat reluctantly – admits that he owns a cow. Sure enough, the elder advises the man to bring the cow into the house to live with the family. Incredulous, the man goes home and brings the cow into his house…

Finally, in desperation and at the end of his rope, the man returns to the elder and reports that the situation in his house has become completely unbearable. The elder advises the man to put the cow, the goat and the dog back outside.

Within days the man returns to the elder, ecstatic. Suddenly there is plenty of room for his family in his house!

I guess it’s all a matter of your point of reference… ;)


katherine h said...

That joke is one of my favourite children's stories!