Monday, September 28, 2020

Sewing Spaces

 I woke up on Sunday with a bad case of giggles.  I had a hilarous dream and could not shake the merriment it brought me.  For a couple of nights, I had been watching a Netflix show called Get Organized with The Home Edit.  The Home Edit is a small company of organizers who have built an empire that services regular folks and celebrities with their organizing methods. 

The show is cute; lots of laughter and some good ideas.  In my dream, they were to organize a quilter's sewing room; when they entered the room, their usual upbeat countenance eroded and was replaced with unabashed horror.  My laughter only increased when I googled "messy sewing room" and thought of the mayhem they could encounter.

I admit that I'm a bit obsessed with organization shows and have been watching these kinds of shows for decades.  I love purging things as life rolls on.  My husband on the other hand...well he still had clothes from high school when we got married--and he was in his 40s at the time.  

Most of us are always eager to look for a way to organize our sewing room so it doesn't become a mess.  We want the perfect system and perfect organizational method so we can find everything when needed and walk out of the room without a zillion pieces of thread stuck to our clothes.

Sometimes we reorganize with a particular purpose--like finding space for a new type of sewing machine or a new type of sewing (or knitting).  Beth has been in this process throughout the pandemic and carefully planning her sewing room to accomodate the sewing classes she intends to teach in the future.

The idea of the "sewing room" is actually quite modern.  For centuries a woman's sewing was relegated to their work tables.  
A wonderful article is on the V&A website here.  Through the years I've had about a dozen sewing tables like this one which is still somewhere in the attic:

Think about our mothers and grandmothers.  Where did they sew?  Nana Betty kept her sewing machine in the front room.  She loved being surrounded by kids and activity and sewed right in the thick of it.  My mother preferred the bedroom.  Thinking of it now, I'm sure it was because she could close the door and escape the kids.  I don't recall Nana Elsie even having a sewing machine although she did a lot of hand sewing;  this might be because she worked in a sewing factory and had enough of machines at work.  Where did your mothers/grandmothers sew?

It seems like "the sewing room" is a fairly modern use of household space.  The earliest photo I could find was this one.  I like the room but thought: where's the fabric?  Oh yeh, maybe in those small bins behind the bookshelf: 
January 1945, Ladies Home Journal:  "A Mother and Daughter Room."

This sewing room is from the 1950s and is found in the laundry room:

Here's a 1970s sewing room set-up which I found on a blog called Pattern Junkie.  The blogger's explaination of this room is hilarious and worth a read (here):

Another 1970s sewing room (put on your sunglasses):

So we are obsessed with our sewing spaces.  One reason may be because for many of us, we've put our families' needs before our own for decades.  Once the kids have grown up and moved out, we can finally have a space that is our personal (and prized) real estate in the home.  We reorganize because we can.  I do this every few months not because I am disgusted with my space but because it gives me pleasure to do so.  

Being creative is often messy so we need to clear our minds and our sewing rooms so we are inspired for the next project.  This is particularly important during the rough times we are in.  The world is chaotic and we need one space in our home that is orderly--and ours.

Maybe we have too much fabric.  But who among us isn't grateful  for our stash during this pandemic!

There are whole industries on sewing/craft room organization and plenty of ideas on blogs, websites, magazines and even whole books.  Why doesn't any of this keep us organized?    We may be limited by income or time or a myriad of other factors.  

I suspect that one way to organize does not fit all.  The best organizer I have ever watched on tv takes into account the actual personality of the person.  Cassandra (Cas) Aarssen had a show recently on HGTV.  She has a website and a theory that we are "not messy.  We organize differently."  She even has a quiz to determine what kind of organization may suit your personality (see here).  If you take the quiz, let me know what your result is; I'm a ladybug.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about comfort sewing and making doll quilts.  I showed a vintage doll quilt made of sample pieces that women could get via catalogs like Sears.  For the life of me, I couldn't remember where I had put the hefty pile of sample pieces I had.  I found them last week in the area of my sewing room designated for current projects and scraps.
Here are a few:
All organizers have tips that we can find useful in our spaces.  The Home Edit divides spaces into zones.  If the samples were actually stored with vintage fabric, I would have found them right away.  

Would you like to share your sewing space ideas or photos?  I'm not ashamed to show mine; I'm in the middle of making a few hundred four-patches for a new quilt and that means I am in the midst of a mess:

a=fabric currently using for quilt.
b=vintage fabric
c=finishing station:  quilts to bind and behind is a cabinet with backing fabric
d=fat quarters (or scraps of that approximate size).  Below fabric yardage is stored.

e=current work.

Everytime I finish a big project, I clean up the room to start over again.
What do you do?  What works for you?  Email me your thoughts or photos to

Have a safe and happy day!


  1. In historic houses (not necessarily mansions) I've seen a sewing machine positioned in front of a window (for light) in the upstairs hallway. Or in a small "bonus" room, also upstairs. There were dressmakers who went to people's houses.....In more modern times: when I was growing up the sewing machine was in the basement laundry room. That laundry room was relatively fancy (it was like that when we moved in in 1962) -- there were built-in cabinets, and the sewing machine was on a built-in craft table. (The family room = TV room was also in the basement, and part of that was my dad's home office, so all of us spent time down there.) But by that time sewing was not my mother's primary leisure activity. We wouldn't have known what a fabric stash was -- we bought "material" and a pattern for a specific garment. But when I reached adulthood (my own apartment, my own income, independent time) it didn't take me long to start a stash. In the mid-70's it was needlepoint....for a few years cross-stitch....and garment sewing. Early 90's: quilting.....Yes, I'm still spending time in the basement but I've graduated from the laundry room to the family room!

  2. P.S. The mother/daughter room has the drawback of many staged rooms: the lighting is all wrong. If you sat in those lovely chintz-slipcovered armchairs you wouldn't have enough light to sew or read by.