This week I shared a complete tour of our new studio, and today I want to talk about how everything is organized. Since our pegboard started cropping up on Instagram, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about sewing studio organization, so I’m hoping this post will be helpful to you if you’re feeling oppressed by the chaos of a messy workspace.
In the dog days of our old studio, I started having borderline erotic fantasies about how I wanted things organized once we had room to do it properly (if you needed help identifying symptoms for Type A syndrome….) There were random boxes and Rubbermaids crammed wherever we could fit them, and it started wearing me down. Once I started planning the new space, I knew that I really wanted to create a peaceful, efficient work environment where everything had a place, and it was easy to keep things as neat as possible day to day. (Note that I am not generally the tidiest person in the world, but I’ve started realizing that as someone who is prone to anxiety and stress, creating order when it’s possible to do so makes me feel much less anxious and stressed in general).
SEWING STATION & PEGBOARD
Our sewing station was my first priority. After sewing at the same cramped desk for four years, I wanted something long and spacious with everything immediately at hand; no more digging through messy drawers and boxes. I also wanted something that could act as a feature and celebrate all the beautiful and useful tools and supplies we get to use every day: a giant pegboard was an obvious choice.
Pegboard is available at any home improvement store in 4′ x 8′ panels (you can also find smaller pre-cut ones like this). We used two side by side; each one was cut about 6′ high. You can paint it, although I wanted it to stay crisp and white like the walls. You also need mounting hardware to create a gap between wall and board so the hooks can fit properly in the holes.
I used a variety of hooks and hardware from Uline, although you can also purchase complete hardware kits from Amazon. Our 6″ hooks are perfect for holding serger thread, and I also like having plastic containers to hold smaller items like chalk and pattern weights. Smaller hooks of various sizes are used for rulers, drafting tools and scissors. I especially like the multi-prong tool holder for things like awls that don’t have holes in the handles. I know Ikea has it’s own version of the pegboard, but traditional hooks aren’t compatible so I would steer clear of it unless you’re okay with only using Ikea designed hardware.
Each desk is anchored with a drawer or cabinet unit; one side stores our extra sewing machine, and the drawer unit holds un-hookable items like pins, measuring tapes and sewing machine feet. Since we have so many cables at this table, I made sure to hide them using this rack; I hate seeing messy wires. We also have a big fabric bucket we use for unusable scraps (you can see it under the desk in the image below). H&M has a fabric recycling program, so every few months I empty this and bring a few bags to a nearby store.
Sidenote, but I feel like I should mention our stereo set-up. We like listening to music and podcasts in the office and I wanted something right next to the sewing machines so it wouldn’t be blaring from my computer 20 feet away. I did a ton of affordable speaker research and absolutely love these bookshelf speakers. The speakers are plugged into an Apple Airport (super easy to find on Craigslist secondhand) to create a wireless network; the sound quality is much better than most Bluetooth speakers, and it costs less than one of those Sonos or Bose units.
FABRIC & SUPPLIES STORAGE
I am in love with our giant fabric and supply cabinets. One side holds our fabric stash, and the other contains all our notions and other supplies. It’s such a relief to keep all this stuff neatly stored away!
The cabinets are the PAX system from Ikea. I was using them for my closet at home and realized they’d be perfect for studio storage since you can completely customize the interior with shelves and drawers. One of our big projects after the move was finally cataloging our stash; we are now using Evernote to do so. We create individual notes for each fabric, including a photograph, category tags, yardage and any relevant notes about what where it came from. It makes it easy to know how much I have of any particular fabric, and hopefully will prevent me from overbuying stuff we already have.
Once it’s been cataloged, it’s folded and stored in the cabinet – I sort everything by fiber on labeled shelves. Slippery fabrics like swim knits and silk are stored in the drawers below. We are already running out of space so I’m trying to just sew from the stash for the next few months to make more room.
Next to the fabric stash is our supplies cabinet. This is where we store all the various odds and ends we use to sew with: interfacing, zippers, elastic, buttons etc. Most everything is kept in clear plastic Ikea bins and is labeled to identify the contents ( I love my label maker). Just to illustrate how full-on storage-dork I went with this project: I drew out this cabinet on gridded paper and then figured out the exact size and quantity of individual bins I would need for each shelf (in case you needed a second symptom to diagnose Type A syndrome).
This cabinet gives me a lot of happiness. Sewing just requires so much stuff and having it neatly organized and easy to find makes my brain happier.
BOOK AND SAMPLE STORAGE
Our main storage area is hidden behind a wall at the back of the space; this is where we keep all our pattern stock, cleaning stuff, extra shipping supplies and large format printer. I also have my pattern collection back there in large plastic bins. While all that stuff is hidden, I did want to put our samples on display. We put so much work into them, it seemed silly to hide them out of sight.
This clothing rack displays our finished samples, along with hanging sewing patterns. The entire rail is suspended from the ceiling using 1″ thick cotton rope, with wooden rods from Home Depot. I kind of made this whole thing up as I went along, so I don’t have very detailed info about this DIY – I just tied the rope in hangman’s knots and Amy and I tinkered with it until everything was more or less even. If you do something similar, note that the middle rope should be a little bit shorter to help prevent the rod from bowing in the middle.
I really love this DIY; it was relatively simple to do but adds a little something-something to what would otherwise be a dead corner.
Kitty corner to our sample wall is our “library”, which is really just a rolling Ikea cabinet with our printers on top. I like this unit because there are optional drawer inserts; we use them to hide our printer ink and paper.
And that’s about it for our storage system! I didn’t really get into our pattern storage because that is Alex’s domain and not necessarily of interest to many people, but hopefully, my manic need to force order on the universe gives you some ideas for your own sewing space. It’s almost physically painful for me to think about what it was like before this; while I am still a somewhat messy person day-to-day (my desk is always a disaster), having this overall structure in place prevents that messiness from spiraling out of control and taking over our studio.
Are you a messy or tidy sewist? Any clever organizational tips you’d like to share?