I love things being neat and clean. But I’m also a creative spirit. So that means parts of my sewing room are cluttered with random fabric heaps, antique magazines stacked on top of hat boxes, various bins of ribbons, loose pieces of pattern paper, and of course the “current project” pile.
But having some sort of an “organized mess” in your sewing area will be immensely helpful to projects being successfully completed.
Even if you are one of those really creative personalities that naturally has a disheveled and messy sewing room, you have to be organized at some level.
So how do you arrange all those piles so that in the middle of a project you can go straight to the spot where your bone casing is kept? Let’s take a look at 19 helpful ways of storing your sewing stuff where you can find it.
1. For starters, every historical sewer needs a place for her books. As we study past fashion and work on new construction techniques, our personal library becomes vital to delving deeper into historical clothing and costumes.
A simple bookcase can hold more than books, though. Use it to stack patterns and pattern boxes, hat boxes, trim bins, fabrics folded and on boards, and more. One day your costume library will expand so much that a second bookcase will be needed. ‘hehe’
2. Open wall units with a variety of shelves and spaces are great places to store books, boxes and even bonnets too big for regular hat boxes. These smaller cubbyholes are perfect to store a current project’s materials. Or use each space for a different project.
3. Utility shelving (open shelves with a metal frame sold for garage storage) are mighty helpful in a sewing room. The shelves are large enough to hold plastic bins, tall hat boxes, baskets, pressing aids, fabrics, a radio or TV, and a bowl of chocolate chips. The openness of the unit allows room for irregular-sized costume pieces to have a place of their own.
4. Peg board can be mounted to any wall for vertical storage. You can find small bins with their own hooks to store pens and pencils, notions such as hook & eye sets, cloth tape measures, and pins. Tie a ribbon onto your scissors and hang on a peg hook. Many rulers sold today have a top center hole – hang those up as well. This makes your tools readily accessible for any project.
5. If you have the wall space, a small corkboard can be used for more than photos and design sketches. Pin up current project sewing instructions. Keep a few hand needles stuck in one corner for quick tasks.
If you’ve learned a new technique and made a sample, put it up for future reference. Use the corkboard for all sorts of samples and good-to-remember tips. Pin up a cartridge pleating sample, embroidery stitch samples, and ribbon pleating strips. Notes with helpful hints like where to set your machine guides for stitching in boning or piping or when using the ruffler foot are useful to have at a moment’s glance.
6. Ask for discarded fabric boards and tubes at the fabric store. Use them at home to keep your own fabric wrapped neatly. Pre-treat your fabric then fold and roll onto the board or tube.
Be careful of wrapping soft fabric onto tubes then standing them up for storage. Gravity can drop the fabric down the tube, causing buckling around the bottom. This can be very hard to press out. Fabric rolls should be stored horizontally if at all possible.
7. Mark all new fabric purchases with the yardage amount (length), fabric width, fiber content, and if the piece has been pre-treated onto a square of muslin. Safety pin the muslin to the fabric corner. This one step will save you a lot of good sewing time!
8. Keep like fabrics together when storing. Fabrics should be kept lightly folded but flat or on boards. Sort them by fibers (silk, linen, cotton, rayon, etc.) or by colors. Protect wools from bugs with cedar or moth balls.
9. Plastic bins of all sizes are great for storing folded fabric, interfacing, fabric scraps, patterns, trims (sorted by color or type), ribbons, notions, you name it! And if you get the clear bins, you can easily see your supplies without digging through stacks of boxes. The plastic bins available today stack so well is so you can use vertical storage in a small sewing space.
10. How do you find that bone casing? Purchase medium bins the size of shoeboxes to separate supplies. Have one for bias tapes (purchased or made), another one for piping, and a third for bone casing and twill tapes.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with too much trim, divide your laces from ribbons and other trims such as feathers, and keep all in their own spot. You can further divide them by storing all white lace apart from colored lace, black trim separate from light and dark colored trim, etc.
11. Hat boxes also make terrific sewing storage containers. Use smaller sizes for hairpieces, wigs, embroidery supplies, or for a good-size travel sewing kit. Medium and large hat boxes can be used not only for hats and bonnets, but also for flowers, feathers and other 3-D trims, ribbon spools, sewing tools and hardware, and current project supplies. They stack nicely on the top of a bookcase.
12. Try a fishing tackle box to store your small notions and tools. The little sections work really well for hook & eye sets, buttons, snaps, marking tools, cutting tools, crochet hooks, grommets, buckles, elastic hanks, even boning if a compartment is long enough.
13. If you hang your finished costumes in a closet, drape an old sheet over the rod, coming down each side to cover the tops of the clothes. I’m still surprised how much dust can collect on the tops of costumes in closed closets.
14. For carting costumes to events, utilize bed sheets for transporting. Use old sheets or purchase them at discount stores and sew up a long bag. Use a twin or full size flat sheet. Fold in half lengthwise, sew the edges together, then fold down the top edge and sew a casing for a drawstring. Keep the bottom open.
Slip bag over your costumes that are on hangers, and pull up the drawstring around the hanger bases. You can also add a button hole in each side of the bottom hem to pull up and slip over the hangers. Makes a neat package!
15. Also using old sheets, you can sew up pillowcase sized bags with a simple drawstring casing to hold undergarments like corsets, chemises, drawers, petticoats, stockings and shoes. Even mini bags can keep your historical jewelry separate from your modern jewelry while keeping pieces clean and protected.
16. Many craft stores carry wooden slat crates that are perfect for holding all your historical sewing patterns in their oversize envelopes or bags. Most are available to purchase unfinished for you to be creative with paint. Look in the wood section.
17. Boning stores well in a tall kitchen canister with the lid removed. Look for spaghetti-type storage jars. And rubber-band like sizes together.
18. Use a Sharpie™ or other thin marker to write bone length sizes on the end of your flat white bones. This trick is amazing in saving time searching and measuring to find the correct size bone. It also makes it easy to glance at your stash so you know which sizes to order.
19. Presentation paper pads, (approx. 24” x 32”) from office supply stores, make for workable pattern paper. Use picture hooks to hang from the top holes behind a door. Makes the paper handy, keeps it flat, and gets it off the table so you can sew!
No matter if your sewing supplies and materials are stacked, folded or thrown in a corner. Having a little bit of “method to the madness” will make your sewing life easier. It’ll also help you get those projects done faster.