My top 4 tips for organising your sewing and dressmaking supplies

Get control of your stash of fabrics and sewing patterns once and for all!

If you love making your own clothes then you’ll know that it can be quite a space occupying hobby! Between having space for your fabrics and dressmaking patterns, all the tools and notions, your sewing machine, and ironing board and also space to cut out, it can quite easily become a bit out of control in your house.

Despite having a big sewing studio in the shop itself, I do all of my sewing at home. I live in an open plan house and the space I have for work/sewing needs to have many uses. It’s where my kids play area is, it’s a mini home gym, it’s a photography studio where I take all my photos and do filming and it’s where my main computer desk is that I use for running the business.

After all the lockdowns during covid times, the home schooling, having a second baby, it’s safe to say that things were getting a bit hectic in the house with clutter - too many toys, fabrics and just general stuff everywhere and it was getting overwhelming. So one sleep deprived morning I googled something or other and I came across Victoria who is the founder of ‘A Tidy Mind’. Her team offers professional tidying & organising services across the country.

Full disclosure here, I paid for Victorias services in full and was under no obligation at the time to share anything about it. My main priority at the start was dealing with the kids toys but I’ve found that the principles she taught me have been super helpful for my sewing stuff and fabric stash and I think you lovely lot might find it helpful too!

So if you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of sewing related stuff you have, or maybe you have lost your sewing inspiration and motivation because everything is all over the place and you can’t find anything, then here are my 4 top tips for organising your sewing space, fabric stash and sewing patterns.

Hear me chat about them in my latest Youtube video!

1. Categorise

Choose a category of supplies you are going to sort through, for example fabric, sewing patterns, notions, haberdashery/tools.

So for example if you were going to do fabrics, then get every single bit of fabric you have from every place you store (or hide!) it in the house, even the scraps, all together in one big pile.

Separate it out into different categories. When I did this I had a pile for all the different types of fabric. So a jersey pile and a sweatshirting pile (depending on how much you have you could combine those two types). I had a wool/coating pile, light weight cottons, linens and so on.

This part is not about making decisions on what to do with it (yet!), simply separate things out so they are in smaller manageable chunks.

You can do the same for sewing patterns as well. Separate them out into garment type for example - tops (woven and stretch), dresses, coats/jackets, trousers and skirts etc

I also did this for all my haberdashery. So a pile of all chalk and markers, pile of pins and needles, pile of measuring tools. I realised I had 5 tape measures but in reality I only have one favourite one that I always use.

2. Declutter

When I worked through my fabric stash, I bagged each category of fabric up in clear plastic bags and then every night I went through one bag and decided what to keep.

This was a hard as I am a ‘I’ll keep it just in case person’ but once I could see that I have say 3 pieces of fabric that were pretty similar, it was then easier to pick a favourite one and get rid of the others.

Try to think to yourself…..Do I really still love/like this thing as much as I used to? Does it have a specific use? Do I have something similar already? Could someone else make better use of it than me storing it for X number of years.

What to do with fabrics you don’t want or need anymore?

Set up a destash on instagram or facebook

Donate them to charity or a local school or arts project

Recycle them, some charity shops will do this

Give them to a sewing friend

Finding things hard to part with? Or feeling guilty?

Try to weigh up for you whether the effort of having to store it, look after it, make sure it doesn’t get eaten by moths etc is harder/more annoying/makes you feel worse that it’s there but you aren’t using it is harder than just getting rid of it, parting ways, passing it onto another destiny where maybe someone will love it and use it.

Work out what the worse case scenario is, you get rid of something then later realize you need or want it back - what would you do? Is it easy to replace? If it is, then is it really worth keeping? The effort of replacing it may be less than the effort of having to keep it and look after it for potentially a long time.

I found this really helped a lot with PDF patterns that I had printed out. They take up so much space and if I had made a garment using a pdf and wasn’t sure if I was going to make it again or wouldn't make it for a while, I just recycled the paper and decided that getting it reprinted if I ever did want it again was easier than having to find space and time to store and organise it.

3. Assign a home

Give everything a designated place and know your limits.

Whether you have your own designated craft or sewing room that you can close the door on, or like me you tend to keep fabric in various places of the house wherever there is a little bit of space - you need to find a designated area of different categories of things and know what the limit is for you. This will be very individual. For me I decided that for fabric it was going to be a tall cupboard that is actually in my living room/area. All of my fabric and notions needed to be able to fit in this space. I then have another shelf in a cupboard for patterns and one for projects I’m currently working on.

Once you have that limit set you need to stick to it. So if you get say a nice new piece of fabric and you aren’t ready to start sewing with it straight away you’ll need to store it somewhere. If it doesn’t fit into your designated area then it means you have to get rid of something else to make space. Keeping on top of what comes in and out is the key to staying within the limit and in control of all the stuff.

4. Organise and have a system in place

This was probably the biggest penny dropping moment for me that made it feel manageable to maintain all this new organisation I had. Knowing where things are, being able to see and access them easily, find something that I was looking for is a huge sense of relief and makes me feel better about the amount of sewing stuff I have. It also helped me to prioritise projects that I was halfway through and decide if it was worth keeping them, or just finally finishing them off!

This process is great for sparking new ideas and motivations for old and new projects!

I used drawer organisers from Ikea to help section things out but you could do this in anyway you preferred. You could use old shoe boxes for example. All I’d say is that if something is in an opaque box, make sure it’s labelled clearly so that you don’t forget whats in there!

I have one of the modifiable peg boards from Ikea to act as a display for certain items but also to keep things organised so items like bobbins, machine feet, buttons, needles etc all have their own little drawer.

You could use something like the thread stand to make a nice feature of your threads, making them easier to access and see what colours you already have and prevent buying duplicates.

I keep all my notions in this little wooden trug that I got years ago at a vintage market. I took it with me when I was on the Sewing Bee all those years ago so it has special sentimental value!

Make sure you know how things will flow through your sewing space. So for me fabrics will move from the fabric stash into a dedicated area in a cupboard that is for projects I’m currently working on. It means if I even need to do a quick tidy I can easily put works in progress away in their own temporary home. I used some larger Prym stackable boxes to put each project in so it's easy to pull them out one at a time.

Once I’ve finished a project I then have a separate area for completed projects that I need to take photos videos of. That last step might now be needed for you but make sure you know where that finished item will go when it’s finished. Does it have a space in your wardrobe or drawers for example?

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