Disorganization is still an organization, just not an optimal one

by Erin on July 16, 2008

I think maybe two years ago I said I was going to organize my sewing room "soon" and show you all pictures. Ha. I managed to carve out a few hours a couple weekends ago and made a start, anyway. Here's a look at one of my bookcases o' sewing:

Bookcase of Sewing

And yes, that is a large box labeled RICKRACK there on the lower left. The pattern pieces on the wall are held to a metal strip with magnets; the patterns in the boxes are ones I haven't filed yet.

Here's a closer-up view:

Bookcase of Sewing

And these little trays? Are all full of bias tape, sorted by color:

Bookcase of Sewing

I had this fantasy that I would sort everything out and have matching gorgeous boxes and pretty jars and so on and so forth, a sort of Martha Stewart organizational orgy, but then I realized that I liked the weirdness of all my leftover shoe boxes, file boxes, Mason jars, and candy tins. Some of the hardware boxes and cigar boxes were used by my husband's grandmother to keep HER sewing things in, which I like.

The bookcase itself is a leftover from our last apartment. (In our house, the sewing room is where furniture goes to die. "Should we toss this?" "Nah, just put it in the sewing room." I'm surprised there's not a saggy twin bed and two slightly wobbly dining room chairs in that room.)

I'm nowhere near done — there's still an entire closet that might as well be Fibber McGee's, and a couple of drawers I am hesitant to open, not to mention the fact that every time I move a box I find a couple more issues of Threads lurking behind it — but it's getting closer. Anyway, now I know where all my rickrack is. That's a start.

And speaking of Threads, I have three extra copies of the most recent issue, with my piece on fabric shopping in Tokyo in it. I was thinking — if there's interest — I'd auction off signed copies (with tape measures thrown in for good measure, ha ha) to benefit Homeless Women Veterans again. What do you all think?

Oh, and I keep meaning to tell you — Marge is having a sale at Born Too Late Vintage (the vintage Born Too Late, not the patterns Born Too Late): $10 off any item $50 or higher. It ends tomorrow, the 17th, so get clickin'!

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean July 16, 2008 at 5:43 pm

That’s a great idea! The veterans are always in need of help! Good cause!Say, for some reason your pic’s didn’t come thru! At least I’m not getting them? Just wondering… cause I would like to see all this organization! Something to dream about I guess.

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Anonymous July 16, 2008 at 5:45 pm

No, I’m not getting them either.-Sandra

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Super Kawaii Mama July 16, 2008 at 5:51 pm

I am so pleased to see that I am not alone in my Sewing room organisation style. You’ve made me feel much better. I have a fantasy for it, but mine is also where things go to die and or be fixed. Also, I wrote a short post yesterday inspired by your ‘What I’d wear if I was a man.’ I can’t stop thinking about it.

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Erin July 16, 2008 at 5:52 pm

I forgot to take out the height=”” attribute if I’m not going to use it … if you refresh in a minute it should be fixed!

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kagitsune July 16, 2008 at 5:53 pm

I love having an organized sewing room/bedroom… but then it just gets all thrown apart whenever I have a big project. xDI didn’t know you did an article in Threads! I definitely won’t be able to buy a signed copy, but I’ll try to pick up a copy at Jo-Ann or something! ^^ It’s the august issue, right? :D

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Cel Petro July 16, 2008 at 8:19 pm

I appreciate having a peek at someone’s organizational systems other than the magazine-tidy ones, its just right–resist the Martha Stewart look and I will too!

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Cindy July 16, 2008 at 8:19 pm

I just posted my sewing nook which is the corner of our bedroom. I am constantly finding my husband’s suit jacket draped over my sewing machine! Erin, your sewing room sounds like a dream! Stash some ric rac for me–I’m jealous!And definitely auction off the mag!cindy

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edot July 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm

up to and including the dis- end of it, I love the organization of various sewing spaces/niches/rooms/wings. And it’s fantastic that you’re reusing cigar boxes for new generations of the same purpose! I love it. A quick question about your bias tape stashes: do you make you own ever? I’m sort of addicted to buying neat fat quarters/remnants and making my own with the clover* bias tape makers. If memory serves, I got about 9 yards of 1/4″ double-fold bias tape from a fat quarter. What a bargain!*not dritz! that thing made me crazy in like 14 seconds.

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Pam July 16, 2008 at 9:52 pm

I love your reuse of the Ikea cd case. I have two of those sitting in my garage (another place where furniture goes to die.)

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britta July 16, 2008 at 11:44 pm

I love that you know about Fibber McGee’s closet! I didn’t think anyone under 45 had heard that- I can still remember Molly warning “Don’t open that closet, McGee!”Your Threads article on Japanese fabric came out the same week I learned that we will be in Tokyo in November! It’s an omen- now I just need to convince my husband that we need to visit fabric stores there……

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India July 17, 2008 at 7:42 am

Hey, it looks organized to memost of my fabric is stored in a plastic trash bag, and the notions are scattered among various inappropriate receptacles.Different kind of sewing, but related: my mom’s fabric stash. (She uses it in her paintings.)

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banzailibrarian July 17, 2008 at 8:48 am

If you can get hold of one, an old library card catalog is a WONDERFUL sewing and craft room organizer. I have two low 36-drawer units that I put on wheels and use as both a cutting table and storage. The little drawers are ideal for everything from buttons to shoulder pads to beads to trim. (Mine has the plastic drawers with solid bottoms — if you get the older kind with wooden drawers you can cover up the open slot with a piece of cardboard cut to size.) They are getting harder and harder to find, though…

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Lisa @ the Vintage Fashion Library July 17, 2008 at 9:01 am

I love that you’re using things that your grandma did. Can you come organize my pattern room now?

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Anonymous July 17, 2008 at 11:25 am

I’m jealous! I purposely don’t look at other people’s sewing rooms ’cause mine is combined w/ my work/computer area so it’s rather a jumble. I lost my sewing room to my middle son when he turned 13 and could no longer live in peace with his younger brother! Love your organization style!Teresa

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xstpenguin July 17, 2008 at 12:04 pm

I was so excited to see you in my copy of Threads (got a sub, it arrived this week). I really hope that they get you writing more articles for them – you have plenty to say that would be relevant to their readers!! (perhaps a version of the Rules for Buying Fabric for the back page!?)Great to see at least part of your sewing room – you’ve whetted the appetite for the rest now!! I think your style of organising reflects you and your attitudes to sewing – the practical, the vintage, the colourful and the witty!I have a giant size, portrait hung, magnetic white board on my bedroom (read workroom) wall, so I have lots of magnets too. I use it for tracing patterns and drafting from scratch. It is attached by hinges at the top and can swing out about 6″ at the bottom and is braced out by magnetic folding brackets. So it is angled at a nice tilt for standing at. Best thing I ever bought/arranged. I use it for displaying my vintage patterns too, especially recent purchases.Do you think if one attached RF tags to all ones notions and scissors, one could spend more time sewing and less time looking for things??Cheers,AJPS just to be predictable – I like the Green box the best, what’s in it!?

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Jean July 17, 2008 at 12:12 pm

Yeah…. pic’s are back! I like your boxes, baskets, etc… it’s an ecletic look! (sorry, my spelling is terrible…) Besides, like you I like a container, doesn’t matter if it matches… as long as I know where things are!Good job! Oh, and ahem, if dresser tops could be Fibber McGeeish… mine would be! Seems that’s where I put things that I don’t want to deal with. Used to be everything got tossed in the sewing room! Until I decided that it took forever to fight my way in.

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Anonymous July 17, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Ummmm…that’s a LOT of bias tape! Someone once told me that different people have different organizational styles. Some people are filers and others are pilers. I was happy to be justified that my piling was officially an organizational style instead of the mess I’d always perceived it to be. :) Your style suits you.JenL

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DivaJean July 17, 2008 at 2:29 pm

I think my organizational style can be referred to as pfiling. I have two dressers that were rescued by me (ie- taken from the curb before the garbage man came) where my “good fabric” is kept neatly folded and organized. I have three drawers dedicated to nothing but red fabrics to use with redwork embroidery projects. Clothes that I mean to repurpose into doll clothes, quilt squares, what have you- end up in a cardboard box on the floor or in a growing mangly mess. I do manage to keep bias, rick rack, elastic, velcro and other doodads of this nature organized in clear shoeboxes bought from the dollar store. I organized all my crafty supplies in these shoeboxes and labelled them neatly with a label maker. My embroidery thread box somehow never gets put away or has its lid on it. And my daughter’s bead supply- also kept in my craft room- has a tendency to end up all over the place when my eldest son decides to “help.” Currently, the rug in my craft room is permeated with those Perler beads (the kind kids line up on a form then melt together) he spilled.

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Eirlys July 17, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Yes, I’m glad you’re not faux-organised there – that’s reassuringly real! So far, the only sewing stuff of mine mimicking orderliness of any kind is my cotton reels – in square Ikea drawers arranged four by four, designed for (I think) CDs, but four rows of Sylko cotton reels slot in just perfectly across each drawer (that’s an almost mystical arrangement of fours). As I’ve confessed to you before, Erin, I’m an avid cotton-reel collector, which fact rightly meets with almost universal bemusement. Sometimes I even sew with them.You could come over all Virginia-Woolf-y about A Sewing Room of One’s Own and how crucial it is to prioritise such personal space. But there’s also something rather pleasant about having the room that shelters and harbours all disregarded objects, a kind of Ellis Island of huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…Yeah, time for bed. And if I had any medication, rest assured I’d take it now.

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CountryMouse July 17, 2008 at 5:11 pm

I love your Wonder Woman doll!

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lorrwill July 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm

sqeeeee!!!!!!!! It’s a bit into Erin’s world. Why does this give me warm fuzzies?:-)

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lorrwill July 17, 2008 at 8:22 pm

ok had a brain fart. My comment was supposed to read “peak” into not “bit”.I have no idea where that word came from.My p(f)iling brain is fried today.

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TootsNYC July 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm

OK, so I can’t leave well-enough alone. Are you sure you can’t add shelves to that CD tower, and place those neat-o white trays closer together, so you can fit more of them in there?Looks like you could drop the peg one hole, and the tray would still fit, even w/ the tape standing up straight on edge.And, where *did* you get those cool white trays that just fit in there, anyway?And how long will people understand Fibber McGee references, do you think? I know I never heard him except on novelty records or on “history of broadcasting” sorts of productions.

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Deirdre July 18, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I love it when you throw in old school cultural references. I learn so much reading this blog.

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Jenny July 18, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Thanks for a peek at your organizational system. It inspired me to post about my letest bright idea for keeping my patterns organized. All it took was a trip to my local comic book store…http://chronicallyuncool.blogspot.com/2008/07/comic-books-and-vintage-patterns.html

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littlemissme July 18, 2008 at 8:37 pm

That hat! I want it! It’s so lovely!I have my tea and sugar and gravy mixes all over the kitchen in various pretend-antique jars and tins. At first I thought it was a bit tacky and then I realized…it’s just like my mom’s kitchen. It makes me so feel rather cozy when I’m bustling around retrieving things from various ones.

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scormeny July 22, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Okay, somewhat crazy association, but your donations to the Homeless Women Veterans made me want to promote an excellent play that I just saw this weekend at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC:Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, by Julie Marie Myatt. It’s about a 30-year-old woman who is an Iraq veteran who returns to the US after losing part of her leg, and decides to head to Slab City, an impromptu community of more-or-less homeless people in southern California, and from there the drama ensues. It’s a lovely play, with lots of humor and some sadness and anger. While I’d say the costumes are great for the production I’ve seen, the play’s got nothing to do with sewing, but everything to do with female veterans. I hope anybody who has the chance, goes to see it. It’s only on through July 27, 2008, here in DC, but if it comes to your town, take the opportunity to check it out.

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Dana July 29, 2008 at 10:00 am

There’s something charming about this room… It doesn’t matter if you’re not Martha Stewart, you have style!

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Nutmeg July 30, 2008 at 8:07 pm

LOVE it! My fabric closet has a Fibber McGee quality to it, and I thought I was the only one who knew that sound! I was raised on old radio shows my parents taped for us.:)Nutmegmaterialmama.compodcast about fashion and craft sewing.

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