Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sewing in a bedroom...



A few months ago, when I mentioned on Instagram that our bedroom doubled as my sewing room, a few people said they'd love to read a blog post about how that works. I've kept meaning to gather together some photos for such a post, and have finally been pushed into action by not wanting to leave it too late, as I enter my last month or two of using our bedroom in this way. For nearly seven years, we've sacrificed clothing space; I've vacuumed and cleared up from the fabric explosion before going to bed at night; and my husband has accepted he may sleep at risk of being jabbed by a forgotten pin. Finally though, due to a re-jig to move our educational apps business away from our dining room table (another multi-purpose room - in October it will be three years ago since I wrote this post!) and into a more self-contained home office, I'm also going to be getting my very own sewing room up in the loft once it's been converted.

However, while I'm completely excited by the idea (to the point of not being able to sleep entirely well some nights!), I have occasionally come across people saying that they'd love to sew more, but they don't have anywhere to do it, so I feel enthusiastic to share how entirely possible it is to sew without the luxury of a dedicated sewing room. (Although I'm aware that if you live with someone, then you may need a ridiculously indulgent partner to sanction all that you're about to read…).


I should preface this by saying that my husband really dislikes mess and clutter and that I'm a surface neat freak (surface, because I'm far less fussy when it comes to the inside of cupboards!). Although small piles of clutter occasionally form on my desk, it would be illegal in both of our minds for us to go to bed in a room strewn with fabric, so I've tried to store things in a way that's relatively easy to pack up from - I think this is the only way a multi-purpose room could have worked for us long-term.


First, the fabric. My storage for this has changed frequently, but it currently lives in two plastic boxes on wheels beneath our bed. I have one box for quilting fabrics and another for dressmaking fabrics.


Quilting needs a large amount of floor space, so the bed is placed against a wall, beneath a window to maximise floor space. I quite like sleeping next to a wall (it's cosy and perhaps because at some level, I feel further away from any potential burglars!) and the window sill is fine for a glass of water and a book.


This is my version of a design wall. It causes problems when my husband needs to walk across it to get to his sports clothes (that seems to be the main thing he'd come in here for, other than actually going to bed!), but otherwise it's fairly effective. If I need to pack it away to get back out again another day, I just gather the pieces back up and label the different rows with pieces of paper.



My cutting mats and perspex grid rulers all live standing inside the wardrobe next to my husband's shirts and my Hasbeens. 


I tend to put the ironing board up in the corner of the room when I'm about to start work, as I usually leave it out for the whole of the time I'm sewing. I used to have a miniature ironing board, but it's not ideal when you start to work on anything bigger than a 6" block.


When it's not in use it lives in the very messy airing cupboard. This has possibly been the most frustrating part of the bedroom-sewing arrangement. Nearly every day it falls out at us when we open the door to turn the heating on or off, hitting pipes, causing my husband to rant, and me to pointlessly defend the obstreperous ironing board. But if you look to the left of the ironing board, you can also see one of the saviours of the bedroom-sewing arrangement standing next to it.


Until I bought a floor sweeper, I used to have to bring the vacuum cleaner upstairs from the other end of the house every time I'd been on a fabric-cutting spree. This floor sweeper isn't quite the dust guzzling monster that a Miele is, but it's wonderful for making the floor look superficially clean at midnight when you're desperate to just get into bed.


I've had a few different sewing desks, but never any bigger than this and it's absolutely tiny. However, it's fine for using both the sewing machine and the overlocker at the same time, which is what really matters.


The only frustration is if I'm using my laptop up here - there's not really a space on the desk where the mouse can sit. The cotton reel storage is kindly overlooked as some sort of sewing-related art-form by my husband, which is very lucky as it's the most convenient way to store thread. Very occasionally, he actually tells me that I've ordered them incorrectly and takes it upon himself to better the colour arrangement.


Some of these drawers really do have normal clothing occupancy, but the whole of the top drawer is dedicated to sewing paraphernalia…and the my clothing drawers may have tailor's hams nestled amongst the jumpers.


Because my only real work space is the floor in this room, when I take my rotary cutters out, they come out with the plastic box, so that they're never left unprotected on the floor where they could cut my husband or children's feet.



In my desk drawers, I keep tiny boxes filled with sewing machine needles and feet.  These are both old Liberty gift coin boxes.


Very occasionally, mid-project, I'll need to store something assembled in groups. In this case, under my desk seems like a good place…or in the throat of my sewing machine.


My English paper piecing is usually stored in these series of open boxes which get carted around the house with me most days. If there's ever a point in our work when we're discussing something, the EPP will invariably come out, and at the weekend, it appears the moment anyone starts watching a film.


I'd say that the biggest problem of working in this way has been not having a cutting space. I find cutting out - whether it's dressmaking or quilting - takes hours and is often more time consuming than the actual sewing. For years I felt entirely happy spending hours sitting cross-legged on the floor, but since December, the moment I sit down in this way, my back is in pain and starts to complain. Due to the extent of my obsession, this doesn't actually stop me from doing it, it just isn't quite as enjoyable and involves the use of painkillers to facilitate it. My parents were actually going to have a bespoke cutting table made for my birthday which would flip down from the wall and fold back up again when not in use, which seems like a really good option for a multi-purpose room (they didn't do this in the end, as we decided to convert our loft shortly after they'd suggested it). I'd also considered one of those fold out  wall-papering tables that people use at craft fairs, but you'd need somewhere more cavernous than our airing cupboard to store it.

I'm always really fascinated to see how other sewers set up their work spaces, so I hope you've enjoyed this post, despite the fact that it includes the inside of my wardrobe and airing cupboard! Our builders and carpenters arrive on Monday, so for the next few months, my sewing storage may be more about dust protection, but hopefully it will be worth it.

Florence x

30 comments:

  1. Lovely! And ingenious!
    I too use only a small desk and find it quite sufficient, and have my fabric and notions all squirreled away in boxes.
    But luckily I do have a large dining room table where I can do all my cutting.
    All my best wishes for your loft/attic conversion! It will make the entire world of difference to your lives. x

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  2. I too have a very understanding husband. Up until recently, I was allowed to have a little corner of the living room (well actually, when including my storage boxes, it used to extend to more than that ;-). I now share the finished basement with my children and their play area and I have a massive cutting mat that I slide out from under the lounge to cut and draft on the floor whenever a movie goes on. Again, very accommodating husband who deals with a floodlit fabric strewn floor during movies. But at least the machine is downstairs now!

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  3. My sewing space was in the bedroom in our old house, though I can't claim to have been anywhere near as organised as you are! Or to have always hoovered away those threads at the end of a seeing session ... It's so lovely to have the study-o now, and my glass-fronted Billy bookcase fabric storage, although there is still a large box of fabric under our bed! You must be so excited about moving upstairs. Any ideas on how you'lol organise the new space? X

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  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and feel you put me to shame with your tidiness. Just lovely.

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  5. Oh thanks for posting this - I LOVE seeing how people organize their sewing materials! I am fortunate to have a small part of a bedroom for sewing - I get a large table and have a small bookcase for storage. Unfortunately there is not anyplace for cutting, but I try to do that on our kitchen counter when I have the house to myself. I am in awe of your tidiness!

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  6. Thanks so much for sharing your space, Florence! I absolutely love it and I'm in awe of your tidiness... I think you really deserve your own sewing room! Can't wait to see what you make of it!

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  7. Wow, you are seriously organized! I see it came from necessity, thanks for sharing!

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  8. It's a beautiful and very neat sewing area. I have a dedicated small room for my sewing only and find it too small, even though everything I need is there. In fact, I was also thinking of moving some of the stuff, either machine or cloth to the bedroom as I seem not to have enough time to sew. Thinking that if my machine is upstairs, i would have more time to sew.

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  9. Very organised! I keep all of my things in different places in the bedroom, mainly under the bed. However there is no room to work in there at all. my sewing machine is kept in a box in the hallway and I set it up on the dining table when I am sewing. Then everything has to be brought downstairs that I want to use. It is a pain though to have to separate it all.

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  10. Fascinating! I love looking at other sewing spaces - and fabric!

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  11. I love the phrase "surface neat freak"! yep, me too :) I long to be a neat freak behind the cupboard doors as well... one day!

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  12. Ah, thanks for "surface neat freak" - now I know how to describe my partner! He's an incredibly tolerant one, though, because I'm the very opposite: my folders, drawers, and boxes are obsessively organised inside but somehow at least half of my possessions seem to be on the floor at all times. I have a teeny sewing desk in our kitchen/living room, a sideboard full of fabric, and overflow fabric storage in our wardrobe and the hall closet. Plus the floor, of course...

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  13. Oh, if only I could be half as tidy as you! Lol! Thanks for sharing, it's so interesting to see how others organise their "stuff"! Btw, I thoroughly enjoyed your hexie articles in Love Patchwork mag and am halfway through The Last Runaway. I get so much from your blog, so thanks!! Xx

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  14. I am really impressed Florence. I am not very tidy so despite having converted the loft into a sewing area, it's still a mess. I wish I could have someone like you come around my place and help me seeing the light!

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  15. Ahahahaha! Surface neat freak! I can relate to that... just don't open my wardrobe doors and look inside!

    I have a sewing table in a corner of the living room, and to solve the cutting problem, I have two folding card tables that I set up in the middle of the floor and then I fold them up and tuck them away when I'm done. With two dogs it's too hard to cut on the floor as they love to walk all over my projects!

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  16. Wow! I'm very impressed with how organised you are and how disciplined at tidying up at night. I have the extreme luxury of having quite a large loft room to use as my craft space (as well as for storage of suitcases, old clothes etc). The problem with the space is that it is ALWAYS a total mess, which often deters me from actually going up there to sew. Because only I use it, I tend to just leave everything lying out & have got into bad habits of not putting things away between projects & not cleaning up mess of threads, fabric trimmings etc! Good luck with your conversions - I'm sure you'll make much better use of your space than me!

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  17. This was a fabulous post! You have some great organizing ideas. I've always been frustrated by needing to put everything away whenever I'm done sewing. I sew at my kitchen table, with one cupboard dedicated to sewing supplies, including my machine. The rest of my fabric lives in an old steamer trunk in our family room. My sewing cupboard isn't really organized at all, mostly everything just gets thrown in on top of whatever is already there. I wonder if my husband would consider thread to be art?

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  18. I found this so interesting, I don't have a sewing room, I used to work in the loft but the noise kept baby awake and it was damp and freezing. so currently i'm in pretty much every room of the house! but you have inspired me to be MUCH tidier, so I don't drive the hubby up the wall!
    Frankie
    http://www.knitwits-owls.blogspot.co.uk

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  19. I loved reading this. Very amusing! It took ovey Husbnds old office/ spare room when I started sewing, but found the lack of cutting space and isolation from the rest of the family downstairs meant that I didn't enjoy or use it that much.
    Now I use the dining room. I have a big cupboard for machine a d fabric and use the table for cutting. I don't really mind having to
    Clear seat my stuff for meals and do a lot
    More evening sewing now.

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  20. I so wish I had a tidy gene. My sewing space (also in a bedroom, but the spare room I can close the door on it) is a complete tip and I have piles of fabric everywhere. I cut out on a table on the landing so the mess spreads there too. I yearn for such order, but I seem incapable. I really enjoyed reading this, I am inspired! Thank you for sharing

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  21. So inspiring to read how you have made the impossible (for me!) work. I am sure you are going to love having a permanent space of your own, though. I have a sewing space in the granny flat above our garage which is wonderful in many ways but hard to get to at night if I'm the only adult home.

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  22. Very organized if you ask me! I use the living room floor or kitchen table for cutting my fabrics with the ironing board set up in the kitchen also ....I have wonderful ideas for a sewing room if I ever gain an extra room :)

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  23. I'm a bit new to blog-reading, but stumbled in here from reading your Love Patchwork and Quilting projects and am amazed! What a beautifully tidy and organised space- I'm a kitchen table sewer and it drives me nuts to be always tidying everything away for mealtimes. I'm also not naturally tidy, so it just goes to show that if I were really organised, perhaps I could fit into a corner of the playroom now the smallest one is old enough not to rifle through my things... hmmm... Thank you for sharing!

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  24. PS Two things-
    1. Where did you find the lovely wooden tray set? I am currently using an old box lid and some ice cube trays, but these are much nicer.
    2. Have you published the pattern for the epp work that's in your desk photos- it's stunning! I'll have a look in a minute, it's probably here somewhere and I just haven't seen it.
    Thanks

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  25. Do you recall where you got your nesting wood and mesh boxes/trays? Thanks for any info.
    valekort at yahoo dot com

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  26. I have a belief that we are all voyeurs. Or at least that's what I tell myself when I get so excited seeing other peoples fabric stashes. I've seen many stashes and it's these kind, efficient, organized and inventive that I find the most interesting. Thanks for the glimpse into your creative space.

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  27. I colonise the dining table and make everybody eat in the kitchen. The only down side is I have to keep scampering up and down the stairs to the office when're I keep most of my sewing stuff. Fabric is in the spare room, but you don't need to access that quite so often, I find.

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  28. My husband grumps about the noise of the sewing machine at the best of times, I can't imagine him ever tolerating it in the bedroom! For a while I had a craft/spare room... and now it's becoming a nursery for our new little one, so it's back to the dining table with my sewing machine, which I am not thrilled about! I love the look of the rainbow piece of patchwork you are working on, the colours are gorgeous x

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  29. I love to see other people's sewing areas. Mine has moved from bedroom to dining room and finally to a little box room of my very own (well, along with the bookcases filled by the rest of the family).

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  30. Pure genius and such a fantastic use of space! I've been "hoarding" fabric in our bedroom closet, but you know how this stash habbit can get out of hand really fast, so I think I'll have to steal your under the bed storage tip. Thanks :)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x