For some people who sew, their sewing space is sacrosanct―a place where they enter, close the door behind them and lose themselves in a physical space that they claim for only one function―sewing. Others consider that to be a luxury. Those are the people who don’t have the space to set aside a room, or even part of a room, solely for sewing. Then there are the rest of us.
This last group is the group that genuinely doesn’t need a separate space for our sewing. The sewing is what we escape into―not the physical space. The process of sewing and all that it entails is all the space we need. Sometimes we arrive at this realization out of necessity, sometimes by choice. Mine was a bit of both, and I hope that this might be interesting for any of you who don’t have dedicated space for your sewing (I might have a few tips). I also hope it might help those of you who are at a point in your lives where you might be considering downsizing your living space (or right-sizing as my husband and I like to think of it), and you fear that you won’t be able to make the smaller space work for your sewing projects. This concern about a smaller space was my consideration a few years back when we sold our spacious house on the ocean for a downtown condo which we absolutely love. The question was, however, could I happily sew in a more restricted space?
You’ve seen them. All those sewing rooms that people splash across Instagram. They resemble sewing studios where sewing is taught.
Here are a few sewing rooms that somewhatsimple.com thinks are terrific.
You might think so, too, but I couldn’t work in any of them. These rooms all have one thing in common: they are too busy, too fussy―in my mind, too messy. Although they look tidy, I could never sew in a space with all my fabrics, notions and accessories on full view any more than I could write in an office with pens and papers and books all in full view, or cook in a kitchen with open shelving where pots, pans and crockery are on full view―even if they all have lovely holders. Maybe that makes me odd, but I suspect there are others out there like me.
Here’s what I like in a work or play space:
- It should look sleek.
- It should encourage me to clean up completely at the end of each session―not just the end of each project (or, god forbid, never).
- It should have an appropriate storage receptacle for everything.
- When stored, all receptacles should be out of sight.
- When I begin each day, it should be with a clean slate.
When we moved from a house with four-plus bedrooms (the plus room was what I had turned into a meditation/yoga space) and a music room and a family room to a downtown condo with two bedrooms, one of which would be an office/guestroom, I knew I would have to be innovative.
My overriding theme is to ensure multi-use of the space I have. For example, our kitchen (which, by the way, does, in fact, always look like this when no one is cooking in it at the time) has a huge island. (Great for entertaining, great for sewing!)
Since it’s at counter-level, it is ideal for cutting out fabric. I can lay out two meters at a time and not hurt my back when doing it. See below?
We had custom storage built into our office space, resulting in my ability to have shelves (with doors) that house everything I need for sewing in clearly labelled plastic boxes. If I’m drafting patterns or marking fabric, I have a single plastic box with everything I need in it. I simply pull it off the shelf and, when I’m finished, put everything back in its box and back in the cupboard.
Below, you can see my shelving and that empty space? It for the bin that holds everything that goes along with a current project. If I’m not working on an actual sewing project, it has its space on the shelf…then I close the door!
My sewing machine sits on a fold-away sewing table at one end of our large main bedroom. My husband actually loves it when it’s in residence, and Gloria Junior (my mannequin!) is wearing a new outfit. But sometimes, I spend weeks on pattern-drafting projects, so that’s when I put it all away in a storage room.
My serger sits right inside a closet door next to my sewing machine with a pull-out shelf holding interfacing, muslin fabric and a box containing my machine feet.
As for slopers and fabrics? They have a special closet space next to my computer in my office where I write.
And fabric? Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I absolutely hate the idea of “stashing” fabric. Whenever my small pile grows to more than a few lengths in it, I have to figure out what to make with them immediately. The idea of having fabric stashed around―even if it’s as tidy as in the sample photos above―gives me palpitations. I believe that fabric is meant to be used, not stacked neatly to look at. But that’s just me.
I’ve done pattern-drafting with this arrangement, made Chanel-style jackets, learned traditional tailoring, sewed up dresses and tops. You name it, and I can do it in my right-sized sewing space.
So, if you have limited space, get some of those plastic boxes (they are cheap) and a marking pen and start organizing everything into groups. (P.S. the ironing board? I put it up when I need to use it, then put it away at the end of each session. When I tell her to, Alexa turns it on and off for me while I’m sitting at the machine.)
Before you know it, you’ll have a hidden sewing space that you recreate quickly every time you want to lose yourself in sewing.
2 thoughts on “The down-sized sewist: Finding the right sewing space”
I very seldom reply to posts but I was so pleased to read the “voice” of realism concerning downsized sewing and lack of stashing (hoarding) fabric. I am a woman of an unexpected age and appreciate and enjoy all that you write. Like you, I have also downsized considerably; my portable cutting surface consists a covered piece of plywood that lays on my ironing board when in use and then stores away.
Buying fabric in a small town is difficult at best and presently unattainable so mentioning Fabricville in one of your posts was very helpful. My preference is to buy from a Canadian shipper due to the inherent obstacles of foreign shipping, most especially time.
If you have time to answer, where did you purchase your Gloria Junior? My double went in a different direction than I did during the move.
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So happy to have you along! I often think that so many people who would enjoy sewing don’t do it because they don’t think they have enough space. Once you have a system, you can sew anywhere! As for hoarding- I mean stashing! -fabric, don’t get me started. I see so many people on FB groups, for example, with hordes of material that they then need to give away. I always have three lengths with a project in mind. The only time there is no project is when Fabricville online is having one of those buy one-get-two-free sales on something I’ve liked for a whole season. then I have lots to play with and will take a few risks! I got Gloria junior on Amazon and did a project to customize her.
I did two posts on her: https://gloriaglamont.com/2016/08/09/the-search-for-perfectly-fitted-clothing-begins-here-my-dressmakers-mannequin/