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Working With Small Spaces

by Leah C. Day

If you’ve read my article on sewing room compromises then you’ll know that I’m pretty lucky when it comes to crafting space. I’ve got more than enough room now, but it hasn’t always been this way.

Before we moved to this house, my husband and I lived in a tiny 550 sq. foot apartment. At the time both of us worked at home in our bedroom, Josh on the computer and me as a seamstress. Needless to say we barely had room to turn around in, but we managed to both work in that small space for about two years. In the end I had figured out how to maximize the capacity of that little place almost to a ridiculous degree. There was fabric stashed everywhere!

Here are some tips that I learned from the experience:

Plan, Plan, Plan
– Go buy yourself a 20 ft tape measurer and really take your time measuring and planning how you want your rooms to be laid out. A lot of space can be freed up by placing your bed in a different location. Pay attention to things like cable lines, outlets, and vents as you’ll need access to power, but you don’t want to block vents or tie up your cable. Also pay attention to how the sun hits the room. Quilting with the sun in your eyes is just no fun.

Purchase the right sizes – Measure everything! Figure out exactly how big of furniture you can fit. I managed to sew professionally in less than 20 square feet of space solely because of the tables I used. Don’t forget to account for the space your chair will take up either. You will still need a place to sit!

Do your research – Once you have found the sizes of furniture you can accommodate, don’t settle for anything less. The perfect piece is out there, you just have to find it. I used Big Lots and Wal-mart for most of my furniture purchases. The measurements on the box are usually accurate to within an inch and the price is right.

Storage is key – If you’re like me you’ve got fabric coming out of your ears. I’m not super extravagant, but if I see something I like I usually grab it. I might never see it again! To store it all I purchased plastic storage boxes that perfectly fit my storage spaces. I could fit six medium sized boxes under my bed and four more under my futon couch.

Be willing to modify – The tables I bought were perfect, but they didn’t have any pull out drawers for my scissors or feet. Read my article on adding drawers to see how you can use simple brackets and roasting pans to create shallow drawers perfect for crafting.

Multiple use is multiple gain – Anywhere you can save space by combining functions – like the Cut n’ Press cutting mats with the pressing pad on the back. These really can help you save space. For pressing large pieces you can open out a full sized ironing board, but for the average sized block and general cutting these two in one mats work well.

Think high – You can really save so much space by putting as many things as you can on the wall. Thread racks are an especially big saver. Not only do they keep your thread more organized and untangled, but it frees up yet another box, drawer, or bin. Also consider installing a narrow shelf along the side of your station. This is useful for things like drinks and pincushions. You wouldn’t want to install this to the back of your machine because your quilt could knock everything around when you are wrestling it under your machine.

Believe me, I know it’s difficult to work with a small space. Just trying to find places for all our supplies, fabric, thread, and feet can be very difficult. Just try to be open-minded and constantly on the look out for another place you can save space!


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