Sewing Space Shuffle Part 3: The Fabric Scraps Dilemma

Fabric scraps. The bane of any sewing person’s existence? Or are you good at either throwing your scraps away or actually using them to make something?

I vacillate from throwing out my scraps, to using them for something.

I’ve pinned many a tutorial that converts fabric scraps into useful and pretty doodads. But pinning, though a sewing term, is not actually sewing.  And I can rarely envisage a personal need for said doodad, so it never gets made.

Except, one day, I will suddenly want to make a doodad, but I recently threw or gave away (to a childcare centre) my scraps, and so have to use (or go buy) a fat quarter to make a doodad, thereby creating more weirdly sized and shaped scraps. Argh!

However, I have developed a system. It’s new, and I’ve not quite yet put it into place … The system is that I keep scraps divided into knits and wovens. One 10L plastic box, and no more, of each.

The Before

The Before (actually, The Sometime After Starting & Then Realising A Picture Might Be Helpful)

For knits, I will keep larger than fat quarter size only of fabric that I will use again. If it’s smaller, but awesome, I’ll keep it. If it’s smaller and one of the colours of the rainbow, I’m cutting it into 16″ squares, and putting it into a little bag, which will one day become a rainbow jersey duvet cover, yes it will. I do keep and use long bits of knit fabric cut into strips for tying up tomatoes, and other gardening miscellany. The balance of knit scraps go into a scrap rubbish bag, which either becomes filling for something that needs stuffing (like my Scraptember pouf) or gets thrown away when the bag gets too full, and I start again.

For wovens, I’ll keep fabrics thus:

  • larger than fat quarter but less than a yard
  • fat quarter size
  • smaller sizes cut into
  • 5 inch squares
  • 2 inch strips

And I will not budge from this system. Nosirree. If I cannot manage a square or a strip from the fabric, it will go into the knit fabric stuffing bag.

I also keep pretty selvedges, because they’re pretty. But they’re kept with ribbons and binding and a miscellany of ‘trim’.

What will be chucked. Well done, me.

What will be chucked. Well done, me.


Sewing Space Shuffle Part 2: Taming the Fabric Stash

The majority of any sewing space organisation is always: what on earth do I do with all that fabric! I sew with much more knit fabric, than with woven, but in the early days, I acquired quite a lot of woven fabric, including much that is completely unsuited to what I will sew (er, silks, I’m wondering why I bought you…)

I haven’t decided if I’ll swap/ give it away, because I do love it and maybe one day I’ll sew it up? Maybe? Also, I bought some silks in outrageous yellow and orange hues, which may not suit very many people at all.

Also, the awesomeness of prints in wovens is greater by a factor of 23.75 bajillion than in knits (in Australia, anyway). Given that most of my sewing is for my everyday wear, I found it a wee bit difficult to work out how to incorporate hedgehog & fox fabric into a work appropriate outfit… and though I love florals because I love flowers, I don’t often wear them.

However, I have got better over time.  I’ve slowly learned to not buy fabric that I cannot work out what to make with it when I’m at the fabric shop. I’m slowly learning to avoid stripes in knits, because though I adore stripes and would wear them, I hate having to stripe match and I’m not good at it.

My stash is not an outrageous size, but there’s plenty there, and more than I’ll get through in a few years of sewing. I am a bit of a sucker for remnants, and a sucker for bulk buys, but the first part to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem, yes?

I want all of my sizeable fabric to be stored in the cubic shelves inside the wardrobe. Sizeable to me means more than a metre in length, as I’m likely to be able to get at least a top from that amount.

Previously, I had my fabric folded to novel sized and shelved vertically. While I loved this, it would not work in the cubes, because that’s simply too large for the fabric to stand up, so they are back to being horizontal.

This is how I folded my fabric to fit the size of the cubes.

How to fold fabric 1

  1. I cut some cardboard to the width of the shelves, as my folding template.
  2. I then folded each piece of fabric selvedge to selvedge and laid it out across the floor. I used our camping Thermarests to spare my poor pregnant lady knees, as well as to stop the fabric picking up gunk from the carpet (vacuuming beforehand was not an option, nope).
  3. Using the template, I then folded the halved fabric into thirds (usually for 150cm wide fabric), or into the middle (usually for 110 wide fabric).
  4. I then turned the template, and began wrapping the fabric template, smoothing fabric out as I went.
  5. At the end of the fabric, I folded the cut edge in, so it was all nice and tidy.
  6. To finish, I secured with paper clips, the more clashing the colour of paper clip to fabric, the better.
Ta da!

Ta da!

And then I repeated this a zillion and 26 times for each piece of fabric.

I treated my knit fabrics in exactly the same way. I’m considering rolling my knits, because I’m not averse to a bit of pulling fabric out and refolding (fun times!) but I keep worrying about whether rolling will distort knit fabrics? Anyone want to throw in their two cents on this?

The next difficult bit is how to group the fabric. Wovens and knits are kept separate, but how to group them otherwise? I toyed with the idea of making a rainbow, but half my stash is in dark, dull hues (fabric still allocated to trousers…), so I was back to my trusty ‘light and brights’ and ‘dark and dulls’ system. Plus, when you have prints with all colours of the rainbow on them … It’s hard to work out which is the dominant hue to fit into the ROYGBIV spectrum. But you can still sing Rainbow Connection, while stacking.

Sewing Space Shuffle: Part 1 of I Don’t Know How Many

With the advent of a new person in our lives, we have had to do some room reshuffling, and My Sewing Room – being the smallest in the house – will become the new person’s room.  This means the larger spare room – currently the Entertainment Room and His Study – will now become the Guest Room, Entertainment Room, His Study and My Sewing Room. It is about one and a half times as large as my erstwhile sewing room and, in that space, will have to undertake multiple duties!

We’re not too fussed about making sure New Person’s Room is ready prior to her arrival. We don’t intend that she’ll be occupying it for quite a while yet, and l doubt very much that she’ll care what it looks like. And even if she does, it’s going to take her a long while to communicate that to us.

Partner shifted my sewing stuff out, and the room (which I still call My Sewing Room) is a blank canvas for now, with the bones of what we’ll need to accommodate her accumulation of stuff. How does a person who as yet has no independent corporeal existence manage to accumulate so much stuff? It still has the guest sofa bed in it, looking very cosy and minimalist, unlike how it used to look for our guests, when it shared space with my sewing stuff (lots of things got shoved into one side of the wardrobe, with a clear warning to guests to NOT OPEN THAT SIDE!)

Prior to shifting my sewing stuff out, Partner reorganised the garage, to accommodate stuff from His Study (mostly our camping gear, actually), and the study, in order to make room for my sewing stuff. He then shifted my stuff in.

There’s a reason I’m so absent in all this reorganising and shifting around of stuff, which is that I’m under instructions not to do too much, and certainly not to lift things etc. My sewing stuff is presently in no state to be used, as it is mostly piled around the place.  Now that I will be occupying a smaller area, and a shared one, I need a better organisation and storage system, and I’ve spent rather a lot of time thinking about how best to fit everything in, in a compact way, and to have it all easily and quickly put away for guests, without the usual stuffing the random bits and bobs into half the wardrobe…

In effect, I’m going from spreading my stuff all over one room and two tables, to one table and half a wardrobe. While I don’t have a lot of stuff, and my sewing space has always been reasonably well organised; it had not been especially compact, because there was no need for it to be.

Now, there is a need!

My usual reorganisation strategy is to simply dive in, move stuff around and work out what works, setting off to get what I need when I realise I need it. Given my restrictions, and the fact that I want to keep the ‘study’ (we really need to come up with a name for this room!) fairly tidy as I go, that strategy is not going to work.

I had to craft a plan. Preferably a cunning plan.

First, I thought long and hard about what I had. I wandered into the study and stared at my piles of stuff and made lists. I’ve been resisting the lure of fabric for a while now, to try to rationalise my stash somewhat. It helped that pregnancy hormones sucked up my energy and sewing mojo. I do have almost twice as much knit fabric, than woven, and I have lots of reasonably sized scraps that are not quite large enough for even a top, but too large to simply discard. They might be good sizes for this new person entering our lives, who has proven to be so disruptive already!

Not a storage solution.

Not a storage solution.

This is the Stuff that needs re-homing:

  • Patterns
  • Sewing books, manuals and magazines
  • Fabric, which has sub-categories of:
    • Wovens
    • Knits
    • Fabric scraps, of which there are
      • Reasonably sized bits
      • Pretty quilting cotton bits that I must surely be able to find a use for even though I haven’t for 4 years now
  • Bias binding and ribbon, to be boxed (Goodbye Hanger of Trims. We had fun times, no?)
  • Zips, to be boxed
  • Buttons, already boxed but might need a bigger box. Uh oh.
  • Elastics, including Fold Over Elastic, to be boxed, maybe with the bias binding and ribbons?
  • Thread
    • Sewing threads on a rack
    • Overlocking threads, which are presently just all over the place (to be boxed)
    • Woolly nylon, of which I just bought 30 cones (to be boxed)
    • Embroidery thread, which is already neatly in a box
  • Pressing ham, sausage and cloth (which I keep losing!)
  • Sewing machine feet and needles, presently boxed
  • Rulers
  • Scissors & Rotary cutter and cutting mats
  • Tracing paper, interfacing and batting
  • Pens, sticky tape, glue
  • Other craft bits and bobs (origami, calligraphy, glass cutting), some of which are boxed; some of which are just … around the place.

Second, I measured the wardrobe space and spent plenty of minutes just staring at it, trying to work out what would be the best way of using it to store my stuff.

I then drew the wardrobe space. Good thing it is pretty much just a rectangle, because my drawing skills leave much to be desired.

Like almost everyone else in the sewing world, I thought cubic shelves would be the best way to keep everything. I must admit that I’ve coveted cubic shelving for a long time, but it didn’t seem necessary when I had a wardrobe and a bookshelf. I ruled out the IKEA Expedit/Kallax shelves because IKEA is simply too annoying to go to. We only go there for Ivar shelves, because that’s the entirety of our furniture pretty much. Instead, we got some cubic shelving from Bunnings, which is a mere one kilometre from our house and just much less annoying to go to. The cubes are a bit smaller than the Expedit/Kallax cubes, but that works well inside our wardrobe.

We have some of the Bunnings cubic shelving already, so I could go look at it to see what configurations I though would best house all that stuff up there.

This is what I’ve come up with.

The Plan

Now I just actually have to DO IT. (Best laid plans and all that jazz)

I’ve been inspired by The Fabulous Dr E’s recent blogposts to outline my organisation process.  I probably won’t be as thorough, however.

Sewing Room

I’m going to tell you about my sewing room because I can and you cannot stop me.  

I’m an organised person.  And what’s more, I *like* organising, and I *like* cleaning, and before you ask, sure! I’ll come round and clean and organise for you.  No worries.  Just feed me and let me do what I will in your space, yes?

I continually refine my organising, however, and it’s taken me a while to get a grasp of what I need in an organised sewing workspace.  I like to be able to see what I have.  This is because I’m a verbal person and not a visual, spatial or tactile person, so it’s gotta all be OUT THERE for me to know what it is. I could rattle off a list for you of what I have, but I cannot get a grasp of how it can be something else without looking at it, and touching it, and unraveling it to see how big (or small) it is.

When you step into my sewing room, you will see that it is rather full of furniture.  My sewing room is also our guest room, so there is a sofa bed in there.  It hulks along one wall, and is very useful for depositing works in progress or for throwing myself upon when I am in the doldrums because I cannot for the life of me work out how best to proceed with whatever step has now flummoxed me.

To your right is a built in wardrobe.  It houses my WIPs, sewing bits and bobs, and ironing waiting to be done.  

My piece de resistance in my wardrobe is how I house my bias bindings, ribbons, zips and other itty bitty trims.  I present to you: The Hanger of Trims.  It is a trouser hanger that I got from Kmart or Big W or one of those kinds of department stores, with swivelling arms.  The zips I’ve attached by little metal loop clips, which can be obtained from most stationery stores, or in my case, Daiso. They’re much nicer like this, and at a glance I know exactly what I need to go and buy. Ha.

I have two tables in my sewing room.  One is for cutting and dumping things upon.  The other bears the weight of my sewing machine and overlocker, and is also another space for dumping things upon.  

My fabric collection is not too over the top, but there is more there than I can use in the near future, and it still seems that I don’t have any of the *right* fabric.  Do you experience that too?  Partially, this is because I have bought lots of fabric remnants, and much more woven fabric than knits, even though I sew and wear more knits than woven,  I’m still up in the air about whether I should try to change that and sew more wovens.  

My fabric used to live inside my wardrobe, on one of those hanging shelves you can get from Ikea.  However, as I pull my fabric out quite often, the stacks kept getting messy and I did not like it.  So I hunted around the internet for other ideas about how to stash it and found that many people like to use comic book protector things to wrap their fabric around and then store like books. That way, if you’re taking out one piece, all the rest do not collapse into a mess, resulting in no more sewing and you on the floor re-folding all your fabric.  

Now, I don’t hold truck with buying things if I can find a workaround using things I have.  My woven fabric is mostly cotton, linen and linen-cotton blends, and will likely stay that way (I doubt a foray into silk or chiffon sewing anytime soon…) I can see the value in using the special comic book protector cards for special fabrics, but I’m not too bothered if the cardboard stains my fabric.  It will mostly come out in the wash.  Also, my shelves were novel-spaced apart, not comic book spaced apart, so I needed things I could cut down to the right size.  I cut cardboard until I realised that greeting cards are about the right size, so I used some old greeting cards to wrap the fabric around.

I did this until I got the hang of how to fold the fabric so that it would just end up the size I needed.  I’m a dab hand at folding (I bet that I could fold origami and fitted sheets competitively), so it didn’t take me long to get the knack of it.  Not all my fabrics have card inside to keep.

I repurposed the Ikea hanging shelves as dividers for my knit fabric, which don’t really work wrapping around card.

My patterns and sewing books live on the same bookshelf, together with my threads, which form a sort of decoration, and I like to stand there and rearrange them periodically.

Other sewing paraphernalia live on the bookshelf too: all the additional sewing machine hardware (feet, mostly) and other paraphernalia (needles, pins, extra rotary cutter blades, lots of washable crayola pens).   

There are also things that don’t quite have a place: a box of reasonably sized scraps; boxes of elastic and other bits and bobs, and my neglected other crafts stuff (origami paper, calligraphy pens, glass cutters).  I keep musing about how to deal with all this stuff, but they have not yet quite got out of my head and into my reality.  I’m not happy about them, but Ive hidden most of them away in the wardrobe.  I also want a pegboard for the wall above my desks, and then I can leave my scissors and rulers hanging in a decoratively tidy yet accessible way.  Soon, soon.  

I guess I would be obnoxiously smug if my sewing room was perfect.  Right now, I’m just averagely(*) smug.  

(* it’s a word now.  What of it?)

Pattern Organisation

I used to keep all my patterns in a lovely large orange binder.

Not so long ago, I acquired rather a few patterns in rapid succession. It was detrimental to my
(1) orange binder;
(2) rule about tracing patterns as soon as I receive them;
(3) mental health and
(4) sewing.

Because, you see, my sewing table was now covered with patterns, unopened in their envelopes. Patterns were exploding out of the orange binder, and it would not close. I had a bag of patterns to be traced, and that bag was also out of control. I am a neat and tidy and organised person, and having disorganised and disordered spaces affects my ability to work well.

Solution? Don’t go near the sewing corner. Good solution, ha?

My solution was aided by a wee trip to Brisbane to spend Têt with my family, and general life busy-ness (which is also the excuse for blog silence. I have been tweeting. You should go check my twitter out. I am utterly witty, engaging and hilarious all the time. Okay, fine. some of the time. Okay, maybe once or twice. And I only rarely post tweets plus photos of breakfast/lunch/dinner. Oh, who am I kidding. I tweets & post pics of breakfast/lunch/dinner with alarming alacrity. And you don’t have to read my tweets. Or you can read them on the sidebar just over there -> Lucky you!

I then had a brilliant idea about how to house my patterns.

It did involve a little reorganisation of the study, because I needed to clear a shelf. Ideally, I would like to hang all my patterns. Currently, I hang 3 that are traced off: Renfrew, Tiramisu and the Your Style Rocks Eva dress (because it was printed on poster paper, and trying to fold it small enough to fit into a plastic envelope defied even my origami skills). But hanging all my patterns was not feasible. It would not even suit some of them.


I bought some foolscap document wallets from that untapped resource for sewing notions: Officeworks. I had previously organised my binder into 4 categories: (1) Tops; (2) Bottoms; (3) Dresses and (4) – the scourge of the organised soul – Miscellaneous. I bought document wallets in three pale colours for tops, bottoms and dresses,(green, yellow, grey) and have decided to leave my other patterns (mostly bags) in the orange binder for the time being.

Each document wallet is large enough to hold the original pattern, the instruction sheet, my traced off pattern, and any other bits and pieces I want to add such as my notes or fabric swatches. I say fabric swatches but actually I’ve never done or used fabric swatches. But I might in future…

I’ve also added all of my patterns to a Pinterest board, and also to Evernote. This way, I can show other people what patterns I have. The reason this is useful is because I was recently at home in Brisbane (home Home) and my siblings (well mostly my sisters) were sufficiently impressed with my sewing that they wanted me to make garments for them.

(I wore the elephant dress, the tablecloth dress and my Christmas tiramisu, which never got worn at Christmas, for each of the three days I was there. Also I was visiting at Têt and as I wore self made clothes all Têt weekend, this means I will be wearing self made clothes all year. I had better get cracking and make more clothes then!)

I wanted to show them what patterns I had, so they could choose a garment, or alternatively (and more likely) concur with my assessment that ‘this top is just your style/ will suit you/ you’ll love if I just make out of a print with some owls on’ (The last is for the girlfriend of my nephew who is owl-obsessed).

Then I thought it would be an awesome idea to collect all of my makes on a Pinterest board, too. I may have been procrastinating from life in general, and sewing in particular. But it’s awfully satisfying looking at the “Things I’ve Made” board (great title, isn’t it. You can plagiarise if you like, no need to credit me). Next, I need to modify this blog to include the boards and update when I update. But that will be a task for another phase of procrastination because I’m back to sewing! (currently on the sewing table: the Your Style Rocks Eva Dress, hence its recurrence in pics on this post.) Hurrah!

Everything is going to be amazing, all of the time.