Tips for Organizing Your Sewing Space

by Atlantic Sewing Guild founder,
Julie Culshaw

(timeless ideas from the Timmel Newsletter, January 2003,
reprinted with permission)


Happy New Year!

Well, let’s get off to a great new year full of sewing projects. This would be a good time to clear out your sewing room and area and find out exactly what you have in stock. Many of us have bought fabrics and put them away, then forgotten about them. Why not take them out and be ruthless here? If you no long like the fabric, give it away. Perhaps you have a friend who would like to have that piece of fabric. If not, find school or community center and donate that fabric to them. Many schools and seniors’ centers look for donations of fabrics for craft projects and classes.

How about your patterns? I would recommend that you go through the patterns that you have and divide them into three piles. Those in the wrong size (face it – they’re never going to fit now) and those you no longer like or are too dated go into the first pile. Give this pile away; don’t even look back, just pitch it or take it to the sewing guild and give them away. The second pile are patterns that you still like, are in a size that will fit without major alterations, or have a detail that you want to use in a garment. Find a dresser or file cabinet or trunk to put these patterns in. you can catalogue them if you like, but for now, just group them together and store them for future use. The third group of patterns are the tried and true patterns, ones that you really love, ones that you know you will make again and again. Put these in a visible place in your sewing area or in a box labeled WINNERS – these are the ones you should reach for when you need to make a basic garment or when you have to make something fast. These you know will work and you can cut your fabric out, being certain of the result. These patterns are like gold, never get rid of them until they are outdated or you don’t fit into them anymore. To keep them pristine, you can even fuse them to that cheap fusible interfacing that is no good for garments, but it’s great to keep your patterns lasting for a long time.

You can also go through your thread and pitch the spools that have only a small amount left on them, or put them in a box for basting thread. It is a good idea to keep your thread covered so that light and dust do not cause it to deteriorate. One idea I really liked is to cut the pegboard the size of a drawer, drill holes in it and put in ¼” dowels cut or 3 or 4 feet long. Then you can easily store your thread in a desk or dresser without it all tangling up together. Bobbins can be attached to the spool of thread, there are gismos you can buy for this, or simply thread a garbage twist tie through both and twist it at the top.

Scissors, rotary cutters, tape measures, rulers, these things are stored well on pegboard mounted near your sewing machine and serger. If that is not an option, cutlery trays are good for keeping these things from forming a big messy pile on top of your sewing table.

Large Rubbermaid containers are where I keep my personal stash. I am in the process of taking an inventory of it so that I know what I have and where it is. So I have a binder with pages inserted into plastic covers. On each page is a swatch of the fabric, the content, the amount of yardage, where I purchased it and when, and which pattern I have in mind for it. Some fabrics have no plan as yet, but these are listed in there as well. I also write whether the fabric has been pre-washed or not. You can also mark the selvage with a pin or marker to indicate that you have already washed it.

Interfacing is often a big problem when going to sew. You have everything but you forgot to get interfacing. And you can’t even get started now without it, because it is usually the first thing to be done. So, keep on hand, 3 yards or metres of your favourite interfacings so that you will be prepared for any type of sewing that strikes your fancy. I keep Fuse-a-Knit for knit garments and also for some wovens, Sewers’ Dream for light weight wovens such as shirtings and dress fabrics, and SuitMaker for tailoring projects or anything more substantial in weight than cotton or linen.

In my sewing room, I have a built-in dress along one attic wall. One drawer is full of interfacings and stabilizers, the second has buttons and snaps and zippers, the third has ironing equipment such as spray starch, pressing cloths, tailor’s ham and roll and my all-important clapper. Probably my #1 sewing notion.

For most of us, a messy room is a real turn-off. A little organization will make your space much more pleasant to sew in. If you are a born organizer, you already know how to do this. But if you tend to be a packrat (like me), you need all the help you can get!


Do you have any tips for organizing your sewing room to share? Please do so in the Comments, if so. Thank you!



Thank you to Brenda Boudreau for providing the suggestion for this timely and useful article, and the article itself. She also provided some pictures of her beautiful sewing room (except for the first one to illustrate the problem to solve). The pictures were taken a few years ago after a big January cleaning, but Brenda admits that her sewing room doesn’t look this clean now as her stash of fabrics has grown again. 🙂


This historic article is the first of the Atlantic Sewing Guild’s Guildenberg Project to digitize past articles in print to post online for archiving and more universal access to potential readers. Please click on the project logo at right to see more.


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