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Tips for Sewing at your Kitchen Table

I dream of having my own sewing and craft room with a big, sunny window, and lots of lovely organization.

But until then I sew at my kitchen table.

On the bright side, sewing in the kitchen means that I am always close to my family.  My kids can work on their homework at the kitchen island and I’m right there to answer questions… since I’m so brilliant at algebra.  I’m part of, and not separate from the flow of my family, even when I’m busy working on a big project.

The downside is obvious.

The mess.

Stacks of fabric.  Stacks of blocks.  Mat and cutter.  Scissors.  Pieces of thread everywhere.  Ironing board in the way.  The occasional pin or needle in the carpet (ouch!).  Patterns.  Embroidery Floss.

Mess.

I’ve had a few people ask me lately how I keep it all straight…  and the honest answer is that I don’t.

But over the past year, I’ve been working on cleaning up my act.

One of my mom’s favorite sayings has always been:

That’s my number one tip for sewing in your kitchen.

I know it sounds obvious, but getting organized is the best way to sew in your kitchen… and not drive you or your family crazy.

Here are a few strategies:

I keep my projects separated in 12″ x 12″ Protect-n-Store boxes.  Each of those boxes is a quilt I’m currently working on.  For the most part, I’ve found these boxes are perfect for holding my fabric and finished blocks for a single project.

The boxes aren’t pretty (and they feel a little flimsy).  But unless I try to store a quilt back, they are big enough for most of my projects.

I love that they are super cheap, and make it easy to take a project with me, if I’m sewing at a friend’s home or at my mom’s.

I purchased my boxes at a local craft and hobby store for around $3 a box.

For storing fabric, I needed an option that was mobile.  I keep all my craft supplies and fabric on shelving in my unfinished basement.  When I start working on a project, I always “shop” from my stash, before going to the fabric store.  Which means I cart my fabric up and down the stairs OFTEN.

The solution is Sterilite 25 quart containers (approx. 24″ x 15″ x 6″) from down to the Walmart.

I keep my fabrics sorted by style first (30′s, modern, Civil War) and then by color within that style, so it’s easier to find what I need.

Some of my fabrics aren’t sorted by color, but by collections.   For instance, I have my Denyse Schmidt’s Katie Jump Rope together and all my collection of Bonnie and Camille Marmalade in one place.  If the collection gets small, then they’ll go into the rainbow.

The trick is putting it all back in the right place at the end of the project ; ).

The other problem, that I still need a solution for, is what to do with my scraps.  I almost never throw fabric away.  And since I really do use even little scraps for things like 1/2″ hexagons, I keep them all.  Right now they are all in a big bag… and it’s not working out too well.  If you have a mobile solution for your scraps, I’d love to hear.

Yes, more plastic bins.  They are so ugly.  And so useful.

I keep most of my sewing and craft supplies sorted in plastic shoe box bins, purchased from Costco.  The little labels are actually for jelly or jam, but they work great to keep me organized and give my boxes a little style.

I use these boxes for keeping my embroidery hoops and supplies, hexagon paper pieces and cut fabrics, sewing notions, etc.

The bins fit nicely on the shelving in my basement, to be brought up as needed.

Ideally I would have a closet close to my kitchen table for all my supplies, but since I don’t, I leave my ongoing projects on the table and we eat at the island, or I move my boxes and machine to the area under the window in our breakfast nook.

If I keep my supplies organized as I go, it’s easy to clear it away before dinner.

I’m the first to admit, sewing in your kitchen is not ideal.  But I have a funny feeling that when I do get that sewing room I dream of, I might be a little lonely in there.

I hope some of my tips are helpful to those of you who also make it do without a sewing room.



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26 Responses to “Tips for Sewing at your Kitchen Table”

  • Lani:

    Are you sure you don’t live in my house? And your not my twin? You have described my quilting persona and facility to a tee, right down to the fabric storage in the unfinished basement! I’m right there with you hoping for a gorgeous studio of my own someday :)
    Thanks for sharing your organization ideas. They are really awesome! And your labels make the containers look simply darling :)

  • Rose:

    Love the ideas you shared. Yeah, plastic isn’t ideal aesthetically, but it sure helps keep your search easier. Plus it shows off the colors! One suggestion, and I hope you don’t think I’m being a jerk about it: in your little sign, the it’s needs to be an its instead. Sorry, I’m an English teacher :)

  • Your kitchen table looks so much better than mine. It’s a good thing I don’t have kids at home or a husband who wants to eat at the table.

    I’ve got those same Sterilite bins and fabric folded the same way. How funny, and I thought I was the only one. ;)

  • Shanny:

    Wow! So NEAT! I wish our kitchen table is that neat! hahahaha.. Thanks so much for some tips. :) I get my bins from Ikea and the local super market. And I also reuse promotional diaper bags (given by local baby products gift association – they give out samples of baby shampoos etc). And they are DARN UGLY! LOL!

    As I do XS (a lot) I normally store them in small zip lock bags and arranged by numbers in my 2-in-1 bin. Its a bin that you can store things inside and sit on. :) I had to do this as I have almost all colours of DMC. My fabrics are normally pre-wash as soon as they arrive, ironed and folded in bins.

    I made a portable ironing board which is light weight and can be carried and set up in no time. I even invest in a tiny (and CUTE) travelling iron as I just do not feel like hauling my normal big ironing board and iron out every time.

    As we have 2 little boys (below 6 of age), I almost had to do a little vacuuming every time after a meal. So a portable vacuum cleaner is a must for me. :)

    • Mary:

      Shanny, how, may I ask, did you make a portable ironing board?

      Calli, I absolutely loved your ideas for organization! Organization is a gene I missed in the gene pool, so I have to be directly taught and practice! Thanks for the ideas.

      I so admire any woman who posts a blog while raising a family.

      Take good care! Mary

  • Dee:

    I so relate to your post. We rent and many of the houses we have lived in didn’t have enough space for a dedicated sewing / craft room. It is only now that our eldest has left home that we have the space for my room.
    I started using plastic crates of various sizes many years ago and still find them the most practical for storing just about every thing in my sewing room. They aren’t the prettiest but nothing else really beats them.
    I use more plastic crates for my scraps. It was originally sorted by size but they are getting a bit too full so I am about to re-sort them by colour as well as size.

  • Leanne:

    I sew at my kitchen table too, but I’m nowhere near as organized! I’m slowly incorporating organizing ideas into my routine…emphasis on the slowly. I see cheap plastic containers in my future. Thanks for the post.

  • lorene holrook:

    hi Calli, I am lucky enough to have my own wonderful sewing room – now. ut many years I was at the kitchen table. with 5 children room was tight.

    I save all my sqs. I LOVE scrappy quilts. about once a month I have a cutting marathon. I cut all my squares from 1.5″ to 10″ sqs. I store them lights, everything else, 30′s, batiks, holidays, civil war, they are sorted by size. I have a old pattern cabinet I am able to store them in. you could always store them in the plastic tubs.

    When I get ready to do almost anything – applique, a scrappy quilt, just about anything I check my drawers first. wait, that didn’t sound right! LOL…. I almost always find what I need. the benefits? don’t have to go into my stash!

    it is kind of a daunting task to look at all your scraps and think I have to cut all that! but it does go quickly. and it feels so good to use those squares up. anyway, those are the sizes I use and works for me! you have to decide what works for you. great post!

  • lorene holrook:

    Oh I forget to say that I also store 1.5 to 5″ strips also! leftover binding gets put into a box because once in a while I will make a scrappy binding. it all gets used!

    Lorene

  • Karen:

    Don’t quilt (yet) but enjoy your site. Always a YEAH! when I find you have posted. hint.

  • I also quilt/sew at my dinning room table, I think I currently have 7 different projects going.

    For my fabric scraps, I use recycled plastic ice cream containers and peanut butter jars. I have one for each color, and then I use the PB jars for my tiny scraps and ribbons.

    Luckily for me, I inherited this huge dinning room furniture set and I don’t have enough china to fill the china cabinet, small buffet and large buffet. So the large buffet hides all my fabric and storage containers.

    I really should get some little containers for current projects like you have, it might not be the prettiest but it is organized and easy to put away.

  • Patricia:

    Seeing your organizing skills gives me suggestions on how to tweak my sewing supplies. Like your Mom that is my favorite comment. Though I have a room for sewing my husband perfers me to sew where he watches TV and this way we spend our time together.

  • Rita:

    I love your site! This is too funny. I sew at my dining room table also, I keep thinking like you said at the end when you actually have a room your going to miss being in the action!

  • Meg:

    You are so neat even at the kitchen table!! I am impressed.

    I too like you, wished and waited for day to come when I could have my own sewing room. The day sort of came when one of our daughters went off to college and left one upstairs bedroom empty. My hubby took out the regular closet shelving and installed the vinyl coated shelves. I was so (sew!) excited. The day had finally come.

    What I did realize is that I didn’t like being up there by myself. I want to be near everyone. I now moved almost all of my sewing stuff to the yet-to-be finished basement and mostly sew in the dining room which is right off the kitchen. I only have to move it two/three times a year.

    Your pictures where great. Everything looks so nice and neat. Thanks for sharing!

  • I do have a sewing room, in my attic, and four little kids so I only use it around Christmas time, the rest of the year it is more of a storage room. For the reasons you stated, I need to be in the kitchen, accessible to the kids. Maybe in a few years when they are all at school I’ll go use my sewing room more regularly.

  • CeCe:

    I’m not much of a sewer, but do have a machine for use when needed for some of my crafts. I have 2 young children and an office in an upstairs spare room. However all our “living” goes on downstairs– all the bedrooms are downstairs. I have a sewing table/nook in my office upstairs, but always end up doing my crafts/sewing on the kitchen table or dining area table. We have one of those houses that doesn’t have an actual dining “room”. The den, dining area and kitchen kind of flow together. Because the kids are always into stuff, I have to be where they are to do my work. So I end up NOT using the office. The sewing machine is right now on the floor beside the dining table(which doubles as the homework station). For cutting fabrics or doing photography of small objects I set up on the kitchen table.

    I keep my supplies in an unused TV armoir in the den; which I can close up every night.

    Thanks for this post. I feel quite ‘normal’ now :)!

  • [...] Make It Do has tips for organizing your sewing if you sew on your dining table. [...]

  • Kim:

    I sewed at my kitchen table for a long time, and the fabric stayed stacked on the floor. A few months ago my husband got tired of the mess and made some room for my stuff in the master bedroom. Nothing says romance like stepping on a sewing pin.

  • Jean Goldsmith:

    I cannot seem to find the $3.00 boxes at my local shops. What store did you buy them at. They would be a huge help to me.

  • Tammy:

    Such great tips! The only organizational tip that I can contribute is that I keep my fabric in a 3-drawer plastic roller system (sort of a small plastic bureau on wheels). Right now we live in a 2 bedroom apartment and we move around quite often for our jobs so I have to be mobile and creative about my space. My hubby has taken over the 2nd bedroom for his fly tying hobby and it’s also our spare bedroom for visitors. My space is the kitchen table just like you. I do, however, have a love of antiques and I am currently looking for an antique pie safe to place in my current (and future) dining room so that I can have a designated place for my some of my collectibles as well as my fabric squares. Because I am so mobile, though, I have to be very strict about starting one project and finishing it before starting another. My planned projects are all in my computer and I save them so that I know exactly which project to start next. Since I also have other hobbies, too, this works out well. Happy sewing!!

  • Ugly!? I think your storage solution is perfect! As a person in love with, but not quite a master of, organizing my constantly moving craft and sewing projects, this is the best solution all around! I use the same approach and can stack boxes (for a small footprint in my work area) and can see through to what’s inside. Thank you for sharing! I don’t get enough time with my sisters who sew (it would be ideal if our yards back up to each other!), so it’s great to have found your blog – thank you and blessed be!

  • Heidi:

    Great tips! I use a rolling suitcase for my scraps.

  • iliana s:

    Those are some grea tips for organizing. We lived in a small apartment for forever and i had all my fabrics in those plastic tower drawers from walmart near my office desk. And of course the kitchen table was where all the magic happened. When i work.. there is fabric everywhere and cuts and scraps and threads. My husband said once we move im getting an office, and if he sees one piece of fabric outside that office he will burn my whole stash. He is a total neat freak haha. What i do with my tiny pieces is when i work i just stash them in a little mesh-metal baskets i bought from Target for 3$ each. Once the basket fills up i sit down during my favourite tv show and put them colorwise in sandwich ziplock bags and then in one of those containers you keep your fabrics in. That way when i need scraps for applique or paperpiecing something tiny or for hexagons, i can pick the bag of color i want and check if i have the right size for what i need.

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