Sewing Room Reorganization

History

You might recall that my “studio” was actually our guest room. When we moved into this house many years ago, my children were very fortunate to have two sets of grandparents. Each of these four grandparents came to visit once a year, for several weeks at a time. We LOVED having them over! We did everything we could to make sure they were as comfortable as could be. Our guest room was the most pleasant room in the house, with many windows facing the garden. We furnished it with a queen-sized bed, a table and a chair, and a glider for reading. We wanted our guests to enjoy their stay.

When I decided to dedicate more time to quilting, I looked for a sewing table that would look good in that room. I found a Koala table that matched the color of the other furniture, and which folded into a cabinet when not in use. The esthetics of the table were so important to me, that I ended up spending a lot more money on the sewing table than I did on my sewing machine! 

When my daughter started playing piano, her piano went into a corner in the guest room. The room became more crowded, but was still fairly specious and bright. Our guests didn’t mind.

Then, at the end of 2015, I wandered into FabMo and got the bag bug. I started filling the room with fabrics. We soon had to move the piano to another room, and replaced it with fabric cabinets. Everything was good, for a while. But I kept accumulating fabrics and other art supplies. Being dedicate to zero waste didn’t help. There’s a very thin line between thrifting and hoarding… A mess started building. A creative disorder, if you wish. Organizing and reorganizing the room became a part of my routine. When guests came, it sometimes took me weeks to move everything out in preparation. It took just as long to move everything back again. With time, the room filled up so much, that I barely had space to move. The bed occupied half the room, hardly leaving enough clearance for me to work.

In the meantime, sadly, our guests started dwindling. My father in law passed away first. Then my mother in law. My dad stopped coming, and soon my mom followed suite. In 2019 my father passed away. My mom planned to come visit us in May 2020, and we were really looking forward to that. But you all know why that never happened… She passed away in April of this year without visiting again.

Decisions

I was willing to put up with my crowded working conditions as long as I held to the hope that my mom would come. After she passed away, however, I just couldn’t stand the mess any more. I really needed more room to work in, and so the bed had to go. I decided to replace it with a floor-to-ceiling storage closet, that would hopefully (!!) hold most of my stuff.

For weeks I searched online for a nice-looking, affordable closet. Eventually, I decided to go with IKEA’s Pax cabinet, which could be easily customized to fit every need. I wasn’t quite sure what supplies I had, since most of them were spread in piles all over the room, on the bed and under the bed. In other words, I had trouble planning storage because I didn’t really know what had to go in it. Still, I played with the online customizing tool until I created what I thought would work best. 

My daughter measured the room for me, and made a drawing of it with movable furniture pieces for me to play with. This helped me think about how to organize the entire room.

Process

Beginnings

I was eager to start my sewing room reorganization. Unfortunately, the cabinet I wanted was out of stock. Blame it on the pandemic and on supply-chain issues… I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Weeks passed, then months. In the meantime, I tried to plan what to put where, once the closet will be up.

I checked IKEA’s website almost daily. I signed up for alerts. Eventually, the main frame arrived at our local store. I purchased it immediately, together with some shelves. Other parts were only available online, so I ordered those. Some parts were still out of stock, and I planned to get them later.

Once I had the frame, I started moving the piles that were on and under the bed. I first moved things to the other side of the room.

When that was full, I started piling stuff up in our living room. 

My husband helped me take the bed apart, and move it out.

Suddenly, the room looked so big! I vacuumed the carpet really well.

Finally, we started putting the cabinet together.

My husband and daughter helped. The process was more complicated than I expected, so I was deeply grateful for their assistance.

We built one half of the closet.

Then the other.

We secured both the halves to the wall, because California is prone to earthquakes.

Setback

After both frames were up and secured, I went back to the IKEA website to check if the next part I needed was back in stock. This part was supposed to allow me to divide one cabinet into two halves, and install mesh baskets into one. To my horror, once I went online I learned that IKEA discontinued that part, and that I could no longer build the cabinet the way I planned it! To add insult to injury, I had already ordered the mesh baskets online, but haven’t received them yet.

Once I calmed down a bit, I went back to the drawing board. After some online research, I decided to buy more Elfa units from The Container Store (I purchased three of these last year for my scraps, and have been extremely happy with them).

I bought the shallow mash baskets, which worked really well for a lot of my small art supplies. In fact, they were a much better solution than my originally-planned, much-deeper IKEA mash baskets! IKEA’s screw-up turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Meanwhile, the parts I ordered online arrived. Since I could no longer use them, I had to waste half a day returning them all to the IKEA store…

Organizing

I took everything I had out of every cabinet, drawer and box in my sewing room, and slowly sorted through it all. This took days. My art supplies were scattered in many places, often unorganized. I sorted my fabrics by size and type, and put them all in one place. Similarly, I united all my buttons/strings/threads and so fourth, and placed them together in neat boxes/drawers. I made sure to label everything. I thought long and hard about where things should go inside the cabinet, placing items I need more often in more accessible locations. Sometimes I placed things in my new cabinet only to move them somewhere else later. Eventually, I was happy with the new arrangement.

When I finished, I went back to the IKEA website to purchase sliding doors for my closet, to keep the dust away and make the room look neat. Alas, it turned out IKEA discontinued the sliding doors as well… So for now, my closet will remain doorless. 

Outcome

Once I finished organizing the closet, it was time to move the other furniture around. I turned my sewing table and cutting table 90 degrees, and put them back to back, creating an island in the middle of the room. That freed up a lot of space, and gave me access to three windows, which I couldn’t reach for over a decade.

I still have a bit of tidying up to do, and will eventually also need to put up a design wall. But for now, I am extremely happy with the results! The guest room is now a studio, albeit small. I am looking forward to creating in my new space in the months to come.

Some Conclusions

  • Every artist needs a supportive family 🙂 I am very grateful to my daughter for helping with the reorganization, and to my husband for helping me put the furniture together. Likewise, I’m thankful to my entire family for putting up with the huge mess that my reorganization created. Our living room was unlivable for quite some time…
  • I have a LOT of fabric. Probably enough to last a lifetime. I should NOT acquire any new fabric going forward, no matter how tantalizing this might be.
  • Over the years I selected much of my fabric stash with bag-making in mind. I found some gorgeous pieces while tidying up, and could see in my mind’s eye the amazing bags/functional items they could become. It really was tempting… However, I’m not interested in getting back to that (yet?). At the moment, I derive much satisfaction from creating fine art. I might have difficulties incorporating many of the textiles I have into fine art pieces.
  • As with fabrics, I should not get any new art supplies until I use up what I already have. I barely managed to fit most of my stuff into the new closet, and it is already completely packed. There is no storage place for anything else.
  • I will need to think very carefully about the size of artwork I create. My newly-organized studio can store some small artworks, but has absolutely no storage space for larger pieces. How many big pieces should I create a year when storage is a real issue? Something to consider.

 

 

 

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