Ergonomics – getting my space ready

New Year’s Resolution?

Get my sewing space organised!

I have been leading a double life – or treble if you factor in the amount of “active grannying” that has been going on lately. My job has been full on (and fortunately Notting Hill Housing is doing very well) and I stitch mainly on weekends. But I often try to do just a bit in the week, and that is when I get in a muddle. I have a tray on legs that has become a general repository, until the pile more or less topples over. As a result I often lose things. Looking for them wastes time. I need a system so that I can find all of these things without getting up from the sewing machine. So, before I start the SWAP I have one last job.

Organise my space!

Look at the spaces captured on the internet and you see two models

a) semi-industrial, white with touches of colour, everything stacked, labelled or folded away

b) country cottage with handmade patchwork whatsits, cushions, wicker sewing baskets and cat

Neither of these models are for me. The model I am interested in is

c) the operating theatre

In my mind I will be like a surgeon with everything laid out and to hand. I will be able to call for “tweezers!”, “basting thread” or “clean needle” and a glamourous, white-coated assistant with beautiful eyes will pass it over, without me having to so much as look up.

Ergonomics in the Operating Theatre
Ergonomics in the Operating Theatre

That’s it. Ergonomics! I want my work to “flow” around the workspace, rather than get bunched up, creased up, smashed up;  knotted, ravelled or unravelled; gruby, separated or simply sliding onto the floor in desperation. In fact my worktop invariably includes

  • post card inspiration
  • small car
  • something sticky
  • empty cotton reel
  • lost pattern piece

I am afraid the photograph below is not staged.

Messy work space
My work space

The other problem area is my chair.

I put my projects into carrier bags as I work, will the aim of a) keeping everything together b) instant access. Because I usually have more than one project on the go. At the moment this includes

  • remains of disgraced red jacket
  • cut out cerise slim leg trousers
  • cut out stretch silk blouse
  • printing samples which I plan to use to cover more books
  • patchwork Christmas stocking left overs
  • wrap round skirt pattern and tiny offcuts
  • baby hat design
  • pattern pieces and envelop I cannot reconcile
  • an experiment with a wrap round skirt and top in jersey, awaiting additional fabric, which may be lost forever.

I have several bags hanging on the back of my chair. Unlike those internet images these are not lovingly crafted (bar the Breton bag from screen printing) but tasteless, ghastly polluting plastic (where did that Lidl bag come from?). This project bag system works something like a balance, in that if I add another one on my chair will tip over. At that point I sort out the bags and we start again. This is the chair I sit on when I use the sewing machine so you can see that I must perch. Or squash a project.

chair covered in plastic bags
Project overflow

The tray area looks like a bomb has hit it. The tube of Pringles does not denote sewing and snacking, but something I planned to cover with hand printed cloth for a knitting needle container. I think I have had it on that tray since last Christmas.  I am especially embarrassed by all the gubbins hidden under the tray table.

Rubbish in the house
Messy corner

I need the following equipment when I am sewing (have I missed anything out?):

  • cutting scissors

  • embroidery scissors

  • trimming clippers

  • basting cotton

  • coloured thread

  • spools

  • needles

  • pins

  • machine needles

  • tweezers

  • safety pins

  • marking felt tip

  • chalk

  • tape measure

  • small metal measure

  • iron

  • pressing aids

  • pattern and instructions

  • pattern paper

  • paper scissors

  • ruler

  • set square and specialist rulers

  • adhesive tape (the sort that you can write on)

  • supplies of interfacing, shoulder pads, sleeve support, cotton tape, crin

  • press studs, buttons, zips, hook and eye

  • petersham waist band

  • fabric, lining

I will try to create a system where these can be accessible and safely stored at the same time. My husband has ordered me a peg board to hang up the instruments I use daily.

Peg board
Peg Board

11 Responses

  1. Juliet

    It won’t help if I say, “It happens to us all” will it? Project bags on the chair back need to move in the interests of safety (mine – I retain especially sturdy bags just for this purpose – are on the floor which wouldn’t help if your grandchild is crawling). Could you use one of those “over the door” hangers somewhere?
    Tapes and interfacing get strewn around my small sewing desk in the heat of the project but I try to tidy up after each project (I read that somewhere so cannot take credit for it). Best of luck and do report back if anything works….

  2. Janice

    ……. Kate – I love your blog for your insights about style and to see the clothes you make. As for the photos of your workspace – these images have made me feel much better about the huge mess in my sewing room. I am going to do a huge tidy and clear out on Friday. However I do wonder if a very tidy and organised sewing space will only be achieved by someone who doesn’t actually sew ( and allow creative ideas to “ferment”) . I guess there is a happy medium.

    Meanwhile a very happy New Year to you.


  3. Jane's sew & tell

    Happens to us all! I have some Alex drawers from IKEA which are great. The top drawer has a cutlery holder full off scissors, tape measures and other tools. The second drawer has all my threads. The third one has interfacing and other bits of haberdashery and the others have sewing machine instruction books and patterns and so on. It’s great because I can wheel it around and have everything sitting right beside me when I sew.

  4. Jenny

    It looks like you have only a small corner to work in which I know is frustrating and difficult to work in/keep tidy. You could use stacking baskets for your projects and Ikea have a Raskog 3 tier trolley on wheels which looks useful and pretty. I have a floating shelf which holds quite a lot and looks quite attractive. It also keeps things like scissors out of reach of little hands.

  5. Stephanie

    Ha! I think you and I are neck and neck in terms of messiness in sewing space! My friend C. is always amazed that I can sew over the bins that jut out from under my sewing desk, which is the dressing table with mirror that was owned by my great-grandmother (and why I like it so much!). Good luck with the optimal design plans. I have learned over the years that messiness kind of works for me, although there’s a Japanese organizer’s book that is trendy right now that I am thinking of trying for fun for my entire apartment.

  6. Galina

    I remember another image somewhere on your blog where your fabric cupboard shows how well organised you are Kate. Fabrics nicely sorted on the shelves and your pattern collections stored neatly in folders in one place. I think a bit of messiness is a must around the working space of a creative person.

  7. annieloveslinen

    Kate, sewing is a messy hobby, I’ve seen pics of pristine sewing rooms, some with rugs (how is that even a thing?).

    A psychological trick that helped me to feel, if not be, organised was creating a working routine, I use a basket for storing the current project and put all pieces into it when I’ve finished. I stop sewing at the same time each evening, cover the machines and have a quick sweep round, in other words, I made a ritual that works for me, think about how and when you sew and what you need for harmony and go from there.

    For storage, I use ziplock food bags for almost everything, lace, elastic, trim, interfacing etc. then they go into a cheapo plastic trolly on castors that rolls under the table. Large food bags hold a surprising amount and are useful for small projects.

    A pen tidy is good for storage and a lazy Susan works too. I put coloured ribbon on my thread snippers and hang them around my neck. I think the key is to assign a place for things and discipline yourself to put them back after use, then it will become a habit. (I’m still working on this, I’ve lost my blasted tweezers again!).

    Store stuff you’re not working on away from your work area – easier said than done I know, however, it will help you to stay focused on what projects you have and what your original intention was. Even better, plan to complete projects from your box, that way you can record progress and accomplishment and avoid nest building and overwhelming yourself.

    Oh yes, on your list of essentials do add a magnet, I have one on a stick, those pins get everywhere.

  8. amaryllislog

    Ah, the sewing/craft space. It’s a challenge for me too! The only thing I do differently when it comes to sewing is allowing myself to work on one project at a time. I can plan multiple projects and they get “stacked”, but I can only proceed with one. That might ruin the fun.

    I’m just so impressed at all you make! Looking forward to seeing your creativity in 2015!

  9. ejvc

    LOL your space can fight with mine.

    Ergonomics – a short comment here that’s helped me. I organise supplies by task, buying duplicates if necessary. For example – pattern choice: I need a comfy chair, my magazines, my computer, and my fabric swatch (es). Or tracing: I need pencil/pen, tracing paper table, pattern, tape, rulers. It’s no good if the tape is on the other side of the room when I need to tape my tracing paper together. I suggest you figure out what stages you go through when you make a garment and organise your room in working areas. Then you can keep tools together by task.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you Elizabeth. I think what you have said is very relevant for me. I have such a small space in our main sitting room/kitchen. I use the peninsular unit to do cutting, pattern cutting, alterations and ideally tailor tacking. The artificial light here is the best. I use the sewing area for sewing. There is a seat by the fire where I can do hand sewing or knitting, but don’t often do. Thank you for your insights.

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