Welcome to the Neighborhood
Eleven years ago when we moved into our current house, our first with more than one bathroom, the smallest bedroom (10′ x 12′) was designated to be my husband’s office since he had just started working from home. When he realized the plaster walls blocked all wifi to the room he set up a temporary office in the sun room; just until we rewired the house.
The temporary office became permanent, as many temporary fixes do and the little room upstairs was filled up with boxes, odd bits and pieces that hadn’t found a home yet and things that would go in a hall closet if your house had a hall closet.
As I slowly found homes for things and recycled the boxes I slowly move into the little room. My old drafting table, which hadn’t found a home, stayed and coincidently became the perfect desk for my sewing machine. The ironing board stayed. A metal shelf unit stayed. Boxes of fabric and patterns stayed as well. How convenient.
And then a friend asked me to make curtains for her new house.
It Just Got Real
With that request, the little room officially became my sewing room.
Payment to make the curtains allowed me to build a cutting and ironing surface out of a hollow, flat door, some cotton quilt batting, muslin and a used folding banquet table. The scrap lumber glued together and placed under the door to raise the work table was free.
For extra lighting, I used cheap clamp on lights from the hardware store and clamped them on to the old curtain hardware that was still on the walls.
Later a set of tall, semi-stable shelves (bought from a friend moving away) were added to the room. I painted them bright red. The fabric came out of the boxes and onto the shelves along with a drawer divider for sewing tools, a basket for threads, a larger basket for patterns, sewing books and the nails that stuck out from the craftsmanship of the shelves became hooks for rulers. Perfect.
You get creative and resourceful when you need something.
As we settled into our house more, and we settle slowly by many people’s standards, furniture was shifted out of and into different rooms. More furniture came into the house as well when my husband closed his downtown office and moved headquarters back into the sunroom.
The sewing room benefited from the furniture shuffle with nicer shelves and a little file cabinet. Things were looking pretty swank but it really went upscale when the folding banquet table that held the wood that held the work surface was replaced with two shelves from Ikea, placed on casters, not scrap lumber, to achieve the proper height.
Finally, the kids’ complaints became too hard to ignore and the router and wiring were moved and upgraded. We now have wifi upstairs.
I loved my space. I loved it almost always. I loved it until I spent every day in it, all day long.
If one thing was out of place it was in my way. If the dog was in there, he was in my way and he was always there. My drafting table was too small to hold both the sewing machine and the laptop at the same time and I was needing both of them working at the same time more and more. I really wanted a serger but knew there was no room for it.
Then the new neighbors cut down some large trees between our houses giving the morning sun a direct path to my window. I love the sun shining through a window but I could not work with the wicked glare it now put on my laptop.
That glare was the straw that got me to stop putting up with my inefficient sewing space and take action. (Actually, I think I complained about it so much my husband suggested I take action.)
I could have put up curtains, and thought about it but really the broken piece in my sewing room was the drafting table. It was too short for the laptop and the sewing machine and yet a longer desk couldn’t fit where it was so if I replaced it I’d have to move it.
Moving the table would mean everything else would also have to move. So much was packed into my room that like dominos standing on their ends, you couldn’t move one thing without affecting everything. I was at a loss as to where to start.
You can see the room in an earlier stage here.
The New World
It was my husband’s brilliant idea to pretend the room was empty, a start from scratch, approach. He was ready and willing to help me get my sewing room, my office, some attention (and maybe to also put an end to my complaints).
We made a table, long and narrow, to fit the wall facing south, except it stopped a foot short to allow easy egress from the room. We actually made two matching tables because one long surface would require support in the middle and should the room change, two tables are more flexible than one.
We moved the shelves to the east wall which was too short for all three units to line up like they did before. So, think differently. The third unit went on its side on top of the other units.
The work table went to the north wall knowing that it would have to be shortened to fit. The top was cut down.
Drawers Are Where Tools Go To Hide
Two pieces of peg board went up above the tables. They are the best thing ever for holding tools within reach and in sight. They are not the best looking, even painted, but maybe because I’m not a big fan of polka dots. So, we covered them in fabric.
Any tool I need at the machine; needles, scissors, bobbin cases is on the pegboard. Tools I don’t need as often, like safety pins, bias tape makers, ribbon, embroidery hoops are hung higher up.
The peg board on the computer side is for office tools; a calendar, clipboards with notes, a small whiteboard, and wall pockets for files.
The Best Laid Plans
“No plan ever survives contact with the enemy” and my new sewing room didn’t either. What you think will work doesn’t always. You need to tweak it once you get in there.
The office chair was too big to fit between the computer table and the work table. Gone. Now I sit on the stool I bought to reach the upper shelves.
Then the laptop died. Its replacement was a lovely refurbished Mac. I’m grateful for it but I didn’t plan for such a large monitor. It took up much more area and covered up much of the pegboard. So I found a shelf in the attic to extend the table top (it juts into the doorway a little) and moved or abandoned items, like the whiteboard, on the pegboard.
Cloudy days came and left the sewing machine in a dark corner. The desk lamp, moved there to fix the problem became a problem itself as it’s base kept getting in the way of sewing. A clamp light now hangs from the peg holding embroidery hoops. And the desk lamp is on the work table for extra light when photographing.
The Prize in My Box of Cracker Jacks
My husband said he would make a spool rack when we were making the new tables. Months later, after being in this space for awhile I decided the best place for the rack was the pegboard. It wasn’t full.
Going over ideas and options and preferences, he came up with little shelves, with wide spaced pegs. They would have two holes drilled on the underside which allows them to sit on J-shaped hooks in the pegboard. It’s genius.
The wide spacing of the pegs allows for wider spools OR for the crowding of tall skinny spools behind the standard home sewing size spools.
I love seeing the spools straight on in all their glorious colors.
A cushion needs to be made for that stool.
And eventually, I want to take the door off the 9″ deep closet and build shelves in it for art supplies and sewing items I don’t need frequently. I imagine putting hampers across the bottom in there. One for mending, one for batting, and one for… not yet sure but I like the idea of 3 hampers.
It’s a Process
Do you have a dedicated space for sewing? It could be considered a luxury or a priority depending on your creative needs.
I had a corner in the basement of our old house. I had a shelf in the bedroom closet in an apartment. My mom had a desk in the back of our family room. I have a friend who turned her dining room into a craft room/office, with a long farmhouse table and a shelf unit holding all the supplies in decorative containers. When she needs the room for dining the sewing machine and ironing board are put into another room. Another friend made a closet into her sewing space with a table, a string of lights and a shelf.
As you use any space, you understand what you need to make it function better. It usually isn’t anything fancy. You might have what you need in your house already. Look around and think differently.
My husband gets a lot of credit in this post – rightfully so. He has an outside perspective, and he’s pretty clever. Getting a different perspective can be very helpful.
What have you tweaked in your permanent or mobile sewing space to make it function better? Do you have any tips you can share?