Finding the Space to Sew

Sew Well - BHL Polly Top

Boy has it been quiet around these parts lately. A new baby and a new house have meant I’ve needed to find new rhythms and new routines.  I now have to add home renovation projects to the baby/science/running/sewing juggle!

Thanks to some longish baby girl noontime naps, I’ve recently been able to start setting up a nice sewing space in the basement, complete with a makeshift cutting table and ample space for fabric and pattern storage.  There’s not a lot of natural light, so getting work-in-progress shots will not be as easy as it once was, but I love that I can now leave whatever it is I’m working on out on the sewing table. Not having to clean up really helps keep projects moving forward when I only have twenty minutes or so to sew at a time.

I’ve yet to find the time to actually organize anything, partly because I’m still trying to figure out how to best utilize the space.  I really liked the recent post by Sarai of Colette Patterns on her comic-book-pattern-storage system.  I used to use narrow boxes that came free from my local Costco and fit nicely under my bed, but the differently sized envelopes of the various pattern companies’ patterns never stacked together perfectly.  Now that I have space and actual shelves, I’d like to figure out a system that would be a nice, permanent solution.

As for my fabric stash, I’m wondering about hanging it on hangers instead of shoving it into large plastic bins or folding it up on the basement shelves.  Anyone have any thoughts as to the best way to store fabric?  Does hanging fabric stretch out of shape over time?

In the meantime I’m trying to work on my first post-baby project for MSN.  I wanted it to be a By Hand London Polly Top (my first BHL pattern!) and Vogue V1247 skirt (a repeat, first made here), but I’m currently underwhelmed by the fit of the top.  Since I was eager to get sewing, I cut right into my fabric after checking the typical bust, waist, hip measurements on the paper pattern, but I didn’t think to measure the length of the shoulders.  I think I would like the top better if it were a little shorter, but it just breaks my heart to undo the bias binding along the neckline and the sleeves since so much of my precious sewing time this past week went into putting the binding on.  I have half a mind to just resew the seam with the bias binding as-is, and then tack back the seam allowances.  But, what I should probably do is just put the top aside, work on something else, and then come back to it when I’m ready to put in the time it needs to fix it correctly.  Regardless, I hope to have something new and fun to show off over at MSN sometime this month!

What are you up to these days, and what tips do you have for someone setting up a new sewing space?

26 thoughts on “Finding the Space to Sew

  1. Kelly says:

    Ugh, that’s the sort of issue that causes me to abruptly cast something off into a deep UFO pile. I feel your frustration. I’m totally amazed that you’re doing so much, though, where do you find the energy??

  2. Judi says:

    Years ago I hung my fabric on hangers. No it didn’t stretch it out…probably because it was folded several times. That didn’t last long…I don’t remember why I didn’t like it. I went to storing it in large plastic bins, which is what I do now. However, I didn’t like rummaging thru the bins to find a specific cut of fabric.
    My solution, and it works for me, is to put my fabric in 2 1/2 gallon ziplock bags. I write the fabric description, yardage and the pattern # I plan to use on the outside (if any). The bags are numbered sequentially in the upper right corner. I put that info in a small spread sheet, along with the # of the bag and the # of the bin I am storing it in. When closing the bag, I compress it. That sounds complicated, but it isn’t!!! The bags stack neatly and the fabric stays clean.

  3. Ruthie says:

    Um, just my two cents: I cut the tops of Trader Joe’s bags (who has never forgotten their cloth bag at home??). Then I place the envelopes upright. Then two rows of these bags fit perfectly in a Bankers Box. They have the colored kind, which I like for the added identification ease.

  4. crab&bee says:

    Taking out binding is the pits! I do think you’re right to set it aside and do it later, because it looks beautiful from your picture. (Funny, I had to add 1/2″ to my Polly top shoulders – although I think it must be long because I normally have to add 1″+ through that area! – while my friend took out 3/8″ when we were making ours yesterday.) I also sew in our basement, and love the ability to walk away!

    • Amy says:

      I wish I’d been sewing with you guys. I probably wouldn’t have waited to try on the top until it was finished, giving me time to adjust before adding the binding. I love the cloud print!

  5. Marianne says:

    My fabric lies folded on the shelves of a reclaimed cupboard. I like the overview. If you have the space for it I really recommend this! I used a piece of cardboard as deep as the shelves and about 20 cm wide to make nice stacks. Dustfree, organised and fun to open the door and pick some fabric for a project!

    • Amy says:

      A cupboard would be nice. One reason I hesitate putting my fabric directly on shelves in the basement is the dust. A cupboard would solve that issue nicely!

  6. Lori says:

    My fabric sits on shelves and gets moved around there. I am so happy you found a spot to set up shop. Also, I totally understand about the basement and no light,which describes my spot. I did get an overhead shop type light and just turn it on when I am taking work in progress pictures.

    Now on the binding, if you love the fabric, then I would redo the binding if it is just a so-so fabric, I would probably sew it and tack it, then move onto the next thing, especially with limited sewing time.

  7. zilredloh says:

    How wonderful to have a space. The polly top is really cute, too bad about the extra adjustments needed. :(

    I actually have always hung my fabrics – I use pant’s hangers for them and have never had any stretching or anything weird. I do it for all my fabrics (silk, cotton, wool) – but I don’t have knits. Those I fear would stretch out since they do have so much stretch. I think it keeps them tidy and less creased than if they were folded.

    • Amy says:

      Glad to hear someone give a thumbs up to hanging fabric. How’s the house coming along, by the way? We still don’t have a real kitchen!

  8. Carroll says:

    Congrats on the new space. I have many many patterns, the system I prefer is pattern envelopes in clear slip sheets in binders by category (jackets, tops, etc.) pattern tissues & instructions in file folders stored alpha/numerically ( M1234, V5678 etc.) in file drawers or boxes. I can pull the jackets binder find one I want then go to the drawer/box & pull the instructions & pattern. The envelope always stays in the appropriate binder. Some days I flip through the binders to remind myself of what is available or to just dream of what could be.


  9. Bunny says:

    Most of my fabric is folded but things that won’t tolerate that well are on hangers. I fold them and hang them all on pant hangers by the selvedge. They hang full length. I use this for my velvets, vinyls, leather looks or anything that really shouldn’t crush. I have a heavy pole straddled between two 72 inch high Rubbermaid shelves and that’s what they hang from. The folded fabrics are left and right with the hanging fabrics in the middle. I like to see all my fabric and this system works well for that.

  10. aspen @ little green orchids says:

    I had to take a ton of length out of my Polly top straps too…and then that threw everything off so I had to lower the neckline and arm holes. And then took some width out of the side seams while I was at it. So pretty much everything. Hah. I’m so sorry you already put all that work into your binding! Booo. When I attached mine it stretched my neckline out so after all my adjustments I have a bit of a saggy top. Oops.

    • Cation Designs says:

      So glad to hear that I’m not the only one who had to take length out of my Polly straps! I decided to just leave the neckline and arm holes even after taking the length out; it’s not the most comfortable fit ever but still good enough for me to wear all the time.

  11. coco says:

    So nice you have a space now! Well, IMO, it’s bins for fabric. Fabric picks up odors, humidity, and dust so quickly in the open. To help with the craziness, I put wovens and knits in different bins, and scraps (less than a yard) by themselves as well. Since the bins are clear, I can pretty much see what’s inside by looking thru the sides.

    OK, I’m also OCD about my pattern and fabric inventories, which I keep on Evernote :-) so I know what’s in those bins by yardage, woven or knit, content, color, etc., which also makes this work for me.

    Have fun in the new space! Soon little girl will be playing in her playpen or on quilts there with you!

  12. Erin says:

    Congrats on the dedicated sewing space – I’d love to have one of my own! In addition to figuring out organization I’d make sure the basement looks like a place you’d enjoy spending time in. I love the idea of hanging fabric but I’d want to make sure there’s no chance of mustiness. I use ikea kasett boxes & a phone app to organize my patterns. Good luck finding a system that works for you!

  13. Carolyn says:

    I sew in a basement space and there are two things that help make the space lighter…one the walls are white, two almost all of my furniture is white or light. All of the fabric is covered in white coverings – also add to the lightness of the room. Lastly I have a lot of lamps. An Ott Lamp by my sewing machine serger and over the ironing board, then I bought a couple of lamps from Walmart that use three way bulbs so that I can control the amount of brightness. These lamps were strategically placed around my sewing room and add brightness to the room. Oh and the Walmart lamps were inexpensive…the Ott Lamps were purchased on sale. Glad you’re figuring out a way to add sewing back into your life!

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