another tour: my sewing room evolution and declutter revelation

August 29, 2020

Welcome to my happy place, my creative empire, my sewing room.  I really, really love to be in this room. It's a place that brings a calm the instant I step inside. Since I was young I've had a sewing and craft cubby. Creating and making has always been important to me. When I was a little girl I had a round table centered in a tiny alcove of my bedroom that was surrounded on all three sides with windows. I had sewing and craft supplies dripping from every window pane. When I was 12 my marvelous parents bought me a sewing machine and it was in that alcove that I started making Barbie clothes and then my own clothes. When I got married and we had our first home, there was a little closet that had a darling, teensy one-foot-square window that faced the garden. Even though space was tight, my husband was totally supportive when I used that precious closet as my sewing room. I squeezed in a second-hand desk for my sewing machine and added my childhood dresser and a used bookshelf. I added a lamp and some pictures, then painted flowers on every surface--the furniture, walls, and ceiling. It was my happy place and I adored it. I was newly married and 21 years old and had my first official sewing room.

Our second home, the house we live in now, has four bedrooms. When we bought it 35 years ago we really only needed three so we decided to use the fourth room as a guest/sewing room. I had a mind to place an emphasis on the sewing part because saving an entire room for an occasional guest never seemed like a good use of space, and after all, a sewing room was something I would use every day.  

The years went on, the nest emptied, our needs changed, and the rooms changed too. Twenty years ago my then teenage son and his friend helped me remodel the sewing room. My main requirements were counter space, a big sewing table and storage. I purchased two used  counter-height bookcases and one tall book case from a shop downtown that was remodeling. They were in good shape and made of heavy oak and became the nucleus of my reimagined sewing/craft room. The boys installed vinyl flooring, a formica L-shaped countertop, a built-in ironing board, shelves in the closet, and lastly, ready-made cabinets from Home Depot. I painted the room and made curtains to cover the lower shelves and the open closet--we had to remove the closet door when I put in the large sewing table--the door wouldn't open! I believe that good lighting is important and have spots of task lighting where needed. The big charcoal linen wing chair is from Pottery Barn and was a bit of a splurge for a sewing room, but I think a comfortable chair is equally as important as good lighting and I've never regretted the purchase.

The last time I shared the sewing room on the blog was nine years ago and since then there have been many changes. I commandeered the room next door (our son's former room) and that became my knitting room--see the tour of my knitting room here. All the yarn that was stored in this sewing room was moved to the new knitting room next door, which also serves as a guest room. That freed up a lot of space and now my sewing room houses not only my craft and sewing supplies, but lightbulbs, batteries, hammer and nails, electrical cords, wrapping supplies, office supplies and a myriad of other household items.

When I reorganized all my supplies, I also purged, because all professional organizers will have you clear out unused items before you reorganize. Purging is tough for the crafter because crafty people tend to see a use in almost anything and because of that, we find decluttering to be more difficult than the non-crafter. Crafty people don't usually require a clutter free environment anyway and that makes it even more difficult. Still, you are ready for a craft purge, whatever your craft may be, if you can say yes to any one of these scenarios:

1. You can never find what you're looking for, and to be honest, you're not sure anymore what you have.
2. You have no room to actually create because there is too much stuff taking up your creative space.
3. You simply feel burdened and overwhelmed by it all.

If you can yes to any of the above, it's time to purge. I did it and you can do it too! I'm going to share what actually worked for me:

BOOKS: First, I paired down my craft books and kept only what I was certain I'd use. My goal was to see negative space on my book shelves and that would mean removing about half my books. 
Book removal tip #1: Remove a book if the subject matter no longer interests you. (I see you Macrame book.) 
Book removal tip #2: Remove that book if you can find the same information online. (I see you Tye Dye book.) 

And snap! just like that I was able to rid myself of half my books and in return get the empty shelf space I had been craving. FYI, I kept my Rowan magazines, the Kim Hargreaves, Kaffe Fassett, and Elizabeth Zimmerman books, and a handful of classic knitting and quilting books I treasure and think I might use again. I sold about half of my books at a second hand shop and the rest were donated to the library charity sale.

SUPPLIES: I threw out anything that was broken or unusable such as dried out glues, pens and paint. I tossed anything that was outdated or a craft I had lost interest in. As for unfinished projects that were over a year old, I had to face the fact that I was not going to take the time to finish them. Senior centers and churches usually have groups of craft ladies that will take this type of donation, but if it's ratty, throw it out NOW. If you are on the fence as to whether or not you should save or toss, look at it and ask yourself, if I was shopping right now, would I honestly buy it again? If the answer is no, you know what to do. Don't waste valuable storage real estate on something you don't like/won't use. Don't forget to donate those multiples of anything. How on earth did I end up with 10 rulers? Box everything up and make a few calls. Art teachers and nursery schools are usually happy to take your craft supply donations. Lastly, think twice before you make a purchase at the craft/fabric/yarn store and do not purchase anything without a specific project in mind, and only if you are going to start it that week. Once your craft space is decluttered, you'll want to keep it that way.

Please note that my decluttering was done over a year ago. Because of the pandemic some donation options may not be available at this time, but don't let that stop you from your goal of making your craft zone wonderful and usable.

Now that I had it decluttered, I wanted to make my room pretty too. My collections of distressed tin and mercury glass add a little decorative flair. I keep the counter work surfaces clear because I like room to spread out when I'm working and often there is a myriad of repairs-in-progress on the counter; household items or Carter's toys that need gluing or something that needs a hammering or oiling. At Christmas time there are a half dozen Christmas projects and ornament repairs, plus this is wrapping room central for the family. It looks Christmasy crazy the entire month of December, but this room is in use every day of the year and that makes me feel good. 

You've seen what my sewing room looks like on the surface, but I'll bet it's what's behind the doors and curtains that is of most interest to crafters. I think it's fair to show what's squirreled away so I opened up the cupboard doors and swept the curtains aside and took a few photos. I have only shelves in this space and I really do prefer drawers, so I purchased heavy, clear, plastic drawers from Target that work well for me. Smaller items are stored in shoe boxes. 

Recently this room has taken on a beautiful new life. My 3 year old grandson and I spend a good deal of time in here. He loves doing crafts which has been so nice now that we are stuck at home during the pandemic. We pulled down a rug from the attic and laid it down because Carter and I often sit on the floor and a rug makes it more comfy for grammy. He has a step ladder and side by side we stand at the counter and make our creations. Last week we buried dinosaurs in a baking soda paste. We let it dry overnight and the next day unearthed the dinosaur fossils with a squeeze bottle of vinegar. It bubbled and oozed and he (we) loved it. We are saving little wood and metal boxes to make musical instruments or a wind chime or a combination of both; it will reveal itself to us as we make it. We're also looking for the perfect box to make an outer space diorama that papa has promised to help us make. The lentils we dyed yesterday are in the greenhouse drying out. I have no idea what we will do with them, perhaps a mosaic, but whatever we decide to do, it will be messy and fun. Carter spent the night last night and woke up in the middle of the night crying for mommy and daddy. I was able to calm him back to sleep with the promise of a fun craft the next day. He woke up with a smile and said, "Now we can do our craft because we are done with bed." So today we made a gorgeous dinosaur land using cardboard, felt, sandpaper and a glue gun. It has a watering hole, volcano, mud pit, and sand pit with scary tornadoes whirling around and grass and trees for grazing. He loves it. I've started a list of seasonal projects we can do when he's in the mood to create. I'm absolutely thrilled that my happy room has a new enthusiastic fan. 

I know many of you have a space you'd like to make into your own sewing/knitting/craft zone. I really encourage you to do so, even if it's as small as a closet. If there is no budget available, it's pretty easy to scrounge around for furniture pieces that can double as storage and work space, then paint it all to create a uniform look. If you have a budget I would head straight to Ikea. I love what they have for craft rooms. As you organize I would encourage you to purge, purge, and purge again. Use my tips above; you'll truly be glad you did. 

Thank you for stopping by. I hope I've given some inspiration to make your creative space as beautiful and practical as it can be. I love to read your comments, and if you would like to make a comment, either scroll down or take this direct link.  You can view my knitting room here. xo Kristen

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  1. Okay, Kristen, this post just pushes me forward. Since your last post on your knitting room, I've been planning my takeover of the smallest, fourth bedroom in our house. My desk looks like your sewing table and it's from Ikea! My needs are for knitting space and for writing space. I'll be moving stuff from our rec room up to that bedroom. I'll send you some before and after pics once I get going. Here's hoping that writing you this note kicks me into gear to get it done.

    1. Hi Janet. I admit I had you and another online friend in mind when I wrote this. I'm excited for you and I'd love to see before and after pictures. Write a blog post and then we can all see it! I'm sure you'll have fun doing it, but I still wish you good luck! Kristen

  2. Your home projects / spaces are as inspirational as your knitting. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much Claire. I so appreciate reading you kind comment. Kristen

  3. Another inspiring post from you. (Cue applause). You’ve been very thoughtful about your decisions regarding which room to use, the items to let go of and how to store what’s important. It’s nice to do that when you are NOT in the process of moving. Panic, when presented with a whole house move sets upon us when we have to decide on the minutiae. As you said, it’s surprising what little things we don’t want to part with because we’ve “made do” with serendipitous finds in our own stashes, delighted to finally find the “perfect” accessory to a current project in our own “stuff”. Ugh - we need this show and tell pep talk as much as you needed to share it. Thank you so much. Beautiful topic for me.

    1. Hi Dasha--Oh no, it sounds like you've had to deal with a move recently. If I'm honest, one of my reasons for decluttering is because I don't want to have my kids stuck with a monumental job when we're gone. I feel very young and don't plan on kicking the bucket any time soon at all, but there is no point in holding on to things I don't use nor plan to use--and no one else wants. It took a few years to declutter my entire house, and while it's not perfect, it's good enough to make me very happy. I'm completely over the over-stuffed drawers and over-stuffed closets. I don't want to live like that anymore. Thank you so much for your comment. Kristen


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