Monday, April 23, 2018

A new sewing space tour

I've been sewing and quilting for years but I've always been pretty lazy about organization. When we moved into our house I took over what was meant to be the dining room as my sewing space. It's a fairly large room but I made little effort to make use of the space in the most efficient way. I sewed and cut on a dining room table that my husband had, utilized a cheap office chair that I've had since my early post-college days, and bought a few storage units here and there.

But as I've gotten older I've noticed that sewing and quilting gave me a lot of pain. I have back problems anyway and having to lean over the dining room table to cut would make my back ache after a few hours. My crappy office chair wasn't right for the table height and I started to feel a lot of pain when free motion quilting. So it was finally time to be an adult, invest in some more ergonomic furniture, and get organized.

I should probably note that I won't be winning any awards for prettiest sewing room. At heart I am a deeply practical person and I don't really like things that have no purpose. So you won't see many knick-knacks or tchotchkes that collect dust or nice area rugs that will just accumulate pet hair.

I forgot to take a picture of it closed but this is a dining hutch of my husband's that matched our original dining room table (RIP). It has a closed door with a couple of shelves and then one large drawer underneath. The drawer (not pictured) contains the beginning of my 1/8-1/4 yard cuts while the shelves fit most of my mini bolts.

An aside: As Jeff and I were dismantling our dining room table, I said, "This is it. If we ever wanted to invite people over for dinner, well now we can't." And then we gave a collective shrug and went on with our lives.

I purchased comic book boards to hold my larger cuts of fabric. I can fit from about 1/3 of a yard up to roughly 3 yards of fabric on these mini bolts. I separated out larger cuts from smaller 1/8-1/4 yards. When it was all jumbled together before I had a hard time distinguishing the bigger pieces for bags/backing from the smaller cuts. Now I can just go to the "bolt closet" to easily find those pieces. Buying the comic book boards made me confront just how much quilting fabric I own. There are a little over 300 mini-bolts total. They don't all fit in this space. One of my goals is to get them all in this space within a year or so. I put them in rainbow order and put solids at the end of each color but did not further organize the bolts, as I know I'll frequently be pulling fabrics and putting them back.

Next I have this thrift store cupboard that Jeff bought me several years ago. I had been using it as kind of a tool "junk drawer" and I also had spillover fabric on the bottom. I moved it to the middle of my space, threw away my old ironing board, and created a pressing board from one of the leaves of our old dining room table that is covered with 3 layers of batting and some cotton canvas.

Underneath is the remainder of my mini-bolts and very large fabric cuts, including some 108" wide backing plus my solid bolts and interfacing. I put all of my quilting rulers and stencils in the drawer where they can lie flat. The Chi iron is a new purchase. My old iron leaked so it was time for a new one. I haven't actually used it yet so I can't offer a report but I am hopeful it will last at least a few years. I have terrible iron luck though so we shall see. I bought a few jugs of spring water to use in the hopes it'll prolong the life of the iron.

Against the wall is my new somewhat unfortunately expensive sewing table. I did a lot of research before buying. I did not want some cheap unstable piece of crap. I wanted my machine to sit flush with the table to make quilting easier. Most of the really nice cabinets I looked at were twice or even three times the cost of this one and their most salient features were lots of storage (which I didn't need) and the ability to fold them up all nice when you aren't using them which is a feature that I will never EVER use. so i went with the table that fits my sewing machine perfectly. it's quite small, which isn't ideal. and when I need to use the free arm I think it's going to be kind of a pain but I have to test that out to actually know for sure. I kept a couple of folding tables so I can use those if I'm ever quilting a really large quilt and need additional space to support the weight. I have been using it for quilting small pieces and it is wonderful for that. Having the machine even with the table height really is so much better for machine quilting.

I also bought a new chair that had good recommendations both for being used as a sewing chair and being ok for short people. The only knock on it was that the padding wasn't adequate so I bought an additional lumbar support pillow set and it seems to be working well so far. I just did not want to invest hundreds of dollars into a chair. The height is just right for the table, my feet touch the floor, and there aren't any arms to get in the way.

I used to sit directly under the ceiling fan and so had adequate light but now that my sewing table is off to the side I bought an ott-light for extra illumination. Honestly it works ok but I don't know that I wouldn't have been fine using a regular floor lamp. I also got a smaller ott-light desk lamp with the set that I'm using upstairs in our bedroom for cross-stitch so there's that.

This is my new cutting table. I wanted a counter-height table so that I would not have to lean over the table and contribute to my back problems. Of course, I did not account for the fact that a normal-person counter-height level is not the right size for 4'9" me. So I once again utilized a leaf from our old dining room table which gives me about 3.5" platform to stand on and now the height is perfect.

The chest underneath is the first thing my husband ever made for me. It holds UFOs that I want to finish. When I was cleaning and organizing I threw away several old WIPs that I just wasn't in love with anymore and had no interest in completing. It actually felt pretty liberating as my stack of UFOs is now much smaller and more manageable. I haven't figured out what to do with the wooden box that my husband also made, but I'll figure something out.

Just a note: I kept one of our dining room chairs and put the quilts in it in the hopes that my cats would take to it. They both like to hang out in my sewing room and they are little monsters who frequently knock things off the shelves and make little nests in my fabric when they can. I made another little nook for them that you'll see later. And you know what? So far neither of them has the slightest interest in their little cubbies. I caught Wyatt laying on my pressing board yesterday on top of some WET fabric and Ellie likes to use the chair as a springboard to jump onto the cutting table. It's a losing battle, folks.

I had been using this ikea-lite cube bookshelf for holding scraps but I had way too many for this tiny little unit. I did a major reorganization of my scraps. First, I threw away the tiniest little scraps (smaller than 5" square). I figured if I need really small scraps I can cut larger pieces into smaller ones. I weeded out small, thin pieces from my strings and only kept larger and longer ones. Then I used a bunch of gallon ziplocs to sort strings by color and then by light values, dark values, and solids. I did the same with fairly small scraps. This should make it much easier to pull fabrics for a scrappy quilt. Then I divided them equally into the cube storage bins, keeping strings separate from small scraps.

The rolling cart holds all of my most-used tools like rotary cutters, marking tools, spray starch and water bottles, binding clips, and a couple of empty bins for holding scraps. I like to toss my scraps into bins when I have a cutting session and then sort through, organize, and put them away after I'm finished cutting. At least in theory that's what I do.

The built-in storage is nice but 1) it gets a lot of sun so I can't store fabric there (learned that the hard way) and 2) my cats constantly roam these shelves and knock shit on the floor, which is maddening. so I tried to store only fairly stable things here like my serger, my big shot, a bolt of fusible fleece and battings. My thread is in the shelf with the door to keep it out of the light and hopefully less dusty.

Finally, against the fireplace I have more 1/8-1/4 yard storage on rolling carts. On the fireplace mantle I have all of my tools and bag supplies nicely organized in the stackable three-drawer units. I also kept my most-used craft books downstairs. On the right are scrapbooking cases that hold pre-cut fabrics in increments of 10" squares, 5" squares, 3.5" squares, 2.5" strips, and 2.5" squares. I actually have quite a bit of room to grow in these cases because I've been lazy about cutting my scraps into those units. Plus I used most of my 2.5" strips in my recently finished herringbone diamonds quilt.

The plastic shoeboxes hold large scraps, organized by color and separating prints from solids. Going through these bins was actually kind of fun and I'm very excited about making more scrap quilts. The empty cubby with the old quilt is another abandoned cat nook, and the shelf with a door holds more works in progress, including the quilt I'm currently working on.

So that's the tour of my new sewing room! I am so motivated and excited to use it now. it will probably never be this clean ever again because let's face it--I'm not going to stop being a huge slob but at least things are in a logical place and can be easily found at the moment. And hopefully my new furniture will help keep my back healthy for the foreseeable future.

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