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Studio Organizing with Purpose

Over New Year’s weekend, I decided to start organizing my studio.  As you can see from the picture below, it was getting a little embarrassing, and the mess was completely killing my creativity.  What started with simply trying to put fabric away turned into a complete studio overhaul. Along the way, I discovered that the more I tried to turn my studio into my “private quilt store”, the better I was able to understand how to put things away in a manner that made sense for me.


Organizing Fabric

I started out with seven 56-gallon tubs filled to OVERFLOWING with fabric. I did not sort all of it.  That would have taken me months, and I probably would have gotten discouraged along the way and quit.  To start, I dumped out three bins worth of fabric. One of those bins became my “warm” color bin, the second my “cool” color bin, and the third my “neutrals and prints” bin.  Then, my daughters and I started sorting the piles of dumped out fabric back into the bins.  I gave away some fabric that I knew I would never use.

As we came across large pieces of fabric (more than one yard), we folded it over magazine boards.  I got this idea from So Sew Easy. My husband was going to the comic book store anyway, and he got this pack of 100 boards for about $13.  I think about 50 folded bolts fit into this 56 gallon tub.


For smaller pieces of fabric, we used the folding video tutorials from In Color Order, and made a little display of fabric in a wire bin from the Container Store. Just like with the larger fabric folded bolts, I picked fabrics for the small bin that I wanted to use sooner than later.


Over the years, I have accumulated a precious stash of Alison Glass fabrics, and I wanted to keep these together for an upcoming project.  So I arranged them all in a pretty basket, along with the EPP papers I’ll be using.  This looks much more inviting than the previous pile on the floor!


Finally, I dealt with a bin of fabric for an ongoing baby quilt project. Each year, my kids’ school makes baby quilts for moms in crisis pregnancies. I make two quilts a year, and the kids bring in special fabrics for the quilts. They usually bring in much more than the recommended 8” square. After doing this for 10 years, I have a huge stash of baby quilt fabric.  I keep meaning to go through it and make additional baby quilts, but the magnitude of fabric overwhelms me.

In the spirit of making my own private quilt store, I pulled out my favorite quick-quilt pattern, Yellow Brick Road.  Then my girls and I chose fabrics from the donation bin and made six “quilt kits.” Each ziploc has enough fabric to make a baby quilt from the Yellow Brick Road pattern.  Now, whenever I need an easy, mindless afternoon of sewing, I can pull out one of these bags and make a quilt without having to worry about choosing and measuring fabrics.



Now, my fabrics are “organized enough” to motivate me to start sewing.  And all of the bins close without sitting on them!  Once I go through some of the “featured fabrics” shown above, I’ll go back to the bins and fold and sort more to feature. I love how manageable this system feels, and how inspired I am everytime I see the pretty fabrics on my new shelves.

Organizing Projects

Confession: I have enough UFO’s to complete TWO APQ resolution pages. Yes, 24 UFO’s. That has to change, and I am bound and determined to whittle that list down this year. Again, I have to “see” what I’m working on to stay motivated.  So I made a couple of mini-design boards by pinning batting to artist canvases.  I also use leftover lids from broken plastic bins to store projects I’m working on.


During the overhaul, my husband got me a set of sturdy wire shelves to store fabric. Now I can just pull out the bin I need (instead of unstacking boxes all the time). Even better, the shelves have just enough room to slide a project board on top of each box, so I can keep my UFO’s in sight, but not too cluttered.

Organizing Notions

Last but not least, I FINALLY found a way to organize my most-used rulers. These are usually out on my sewing counter, or propped up on the floor near my sewing counter.  Which means I’m always losing them, tripping over them, or worse, cutting my toes along the edges of them. (true story). I bought some inexpensive coffee cup hooks at World Market, and hung them from the sides of the new shelves.


Now they’re easy to find, and impossible to trip over. I also hung a roll of masking tape on one of the cup hooks, which I guesstimate will save about 20 minutes per quilt.  Everyone in the house uses masking tape, so I can never find it when I’m ready to baste a quilt. Now my roll is hung high enough that the kids will never snag it.

So that’s my studio makeover.  I estimate it cost me about $70 for the shelves, magazine boards, and cup hooks. Here’s how the studio looks now:



Still far from perfect, but FAR more inviting and accessible than it has been. I love my new private quilt “store”, and spent the entire past weekend in it, sewing with my girls.  Now, to tackle those UFO lists. .  . .

What’s your favorite way to organize your quilting space?

Happy Stitching!




  1. Janina says:

    You are so lucky to have such a large bright dedicated sewing area. Mine is the smallest unused bedroom,still has a daybed for when the kids and grandkids come home. You are also right about mess and clutter being the killer of creativity! I also find unfinished or now unwanted projects are a heavy anchor.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Oooooo. I agree that it is so much easier to create when the space is organized. I am way over agreed upon limits in my room. So it’s a year of finishes and being resourceful for me. Can’t wait to wat check your UFOS get finished. 🙂

  3. Kathy says:

    Sooooo very proud of you!!!! Love the board idea! Might try the shelves inside my closets! (My big bins are also stacked…) Looks wonderful! You are a wonderful inspiration for all of us!!!! Thanks!!!

  4. Laura says:

    Lookin’ good! I love the coffee cup hook/rulers idea! I have got to do something with my rulers!

    And I love the kit idea for your projects! So fun to just pick up a kit and start sewing!

    I also have more than 12 UFO’s, but I gotta start somewhere, so I did make a list of just 12 and I joined a UFO Challenge to work on one a month this year. Hopefully, I can stay motivated and get at least 12 projects out of my sewing space. 🙂

  5. Celtic Cate says:

    HA!! I’ve been doing the same thing. I had things in pretty good shape until the grandkids arrived for Christmas, and then it was a lovely mess again, but I’m still working toward full organization. My problem is how many crafts I’m trying to fit into a small bedroom/craftroom (the overflow is in my office now). Imagine all you need for: quilting, rug hooking, knitting, jewelry making, paper crafts, and?? (I’ve discovered that yarn takes up more space than fabric.) My large pieces of fabric are on foam boards on shelves and other fabric is in see-through plastic containers in the closet. I removed the closet doors and have a lovely faux silk curtain instead that gets pulled over the whole shebang when I have to shove everything behind it if company is coming. It’s always a work in progress. I finished my cousin Pam’s Yoko Saito purse (I’ll send pix when I figure out how to save them so I can; they’re in a Word doc. now) as a first step to finishing UFOs, and I’m hoping to get the two mosaic/tile quilts that are pieced stitched together soon. Thanks for sharing your before and after organization pix. Good to know that I’m not the only one who has to organize from time to time. It truly does open up the creativity door!!

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