Thinking Creatively About My Sewing Space

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The past year plus has proved challenging when it comes to finding places to sew.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, my husband and I sold our house of 30 years last year, June 2018, and I gave up an enormous sewing studio. This is where I used to sew:

Pati Palmer's old sewing room

We moved to a rental condo with no sewing room. I adapted. The condo had a huge kitchen island for cutting. You can see pictures of how I managed sewing locations in the kitchen, living room, and even the laundry room in that blog about our new creative shirt pattern—EASY & FUN SHIRT OR ARTIST’S SMOCK.

This summer I faced another challenge. Just before I was ready to begin a “marathon” sewing session to prepare for our summer workshops and for Frocktails (an annual not-for-profit community event for Portland, Oregon, area sewists scheduled on a Saturday night in the middle of workshops) we had to move again! Our condo’s owner decided she wanted to live there herself.

So we bought a different condo nearby and moved in within three weeks. Whew! This time I created sewing space in a loft/office. I converted a simple closet to a sewing closet with shelves to hold baskets of sewing supplies, machines, notions, and fabric.

I put machines on a Parsons table next to the closet, making it easy to grab supplies for my sewing marathons.

sewing machines on a Parsons table

No large kitchen island—boohoo! But fortunately, the desk I bought last year is a variable-height motorized one, so VOILA! That desk can now be my cutting table.

Pati Palmer's office space

Pati Palmer's desk converted to cutting table

There is a bathroom on this same floor for water for the iron. Because I had to put my office items on the floor in order to cut, I decided that since I need my computer daily, I’d cut out five garments at once before putting the desk back to office/computer use.

That’s when I discovered I could use the bed for pinning large pieces together. Maybe I should have put the cutting board on my bed to pin this knit pant together! Looks like a mess! Next time!

using the bed

I used every surface, even stacking the cut garments along the loft railing.

project draped over the railing

my sewing space/office

For light, depending on what I am doing, I get close to either a window or a lamp. On a sunny day, the large, tall windows near the loft edge and the skylight over the stairs provide plenty of natural light. On gray days I need to be more creative finding enough light for certain tasks. I started out sewing black pants. I should have waited for a sunny day (not always predictable in Oregon!).

Watch for next week’s blog to see what else I’ve been sewing!

If you need creative ideas for your own sewing space, turn to our book Dream Sewing Spaces. I’ve used it many times for guidance.

Dream Sewing Spaces book

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23 Responses
  • Julie
    August 7, 2019

    I don’t have a large cutting table space so I use a cardboard cutting board on top of my bed. It works out pretty well! Great to see how you have adapted!

    • Carolyn
      August 9, 2019

      Sometimes I do the same thing Julie does. Another thing I do is set my ironing board to approximately the same height as a drop leaf table with the leaf up and put the cardboard cutting board on the leaf and the ironing board. My house is 730 sq. ft. so this works o.k. If the fabric is long, I just let the excess fabric pool onto a chair.

  • Kathleen Kolb
    August 7, 2019

    The old saying “where there is a will there is a way” You certainly made your space work for you. The natural light from the window is great. A little sunshine goes a long way and makes me happy and much more productive. Wish I lived closer so I could take your classes, the books are working for now and Blueprint. You have such a beautiful smile, such joy and inspiration! Thank you for sharing!

  • Corey Hill
    August 7, 2019

    Most people start their sewing using the dining room/table. That is what I had to use until I had space, further I had to put everything away once sewing was done on the weekend. There is no issue with down sizing, you just need to think creatively about how you will organize everything.

  • Mary Rosseau
    August 7, 2019

    I also began sewing at my kitchen table & putting it all away until after dinner. That was years ago now we have converted our garage apartment into my sewing room / guest room. I have the book mentioned, “Dream Sewing Spaces” & have used it many times for ideas & inspiration, it’s a wonderful! I’m planning some changes again soon in my sewing room & will be using this book again for guidance. Happy sewing everyone!

  • Shirley Budwig
    August 7, 2019

    Bloom where you are planted. Job well done.

  • Jenne
    August 7, 2019

    What do I think? I think you deserve to have a dedicated space to run your business!
    but if that’s not possible, I appreciate your creativity. I often use a giant cardboard pattern cutting board on top of my bed for cutting and pinning. It works pretty well.

  • Nancy Seifert
    August 7, 2019

    I’m looking at your nice clean, organized space and thinking “less really is more”!
    Congratulations on your lovely condo. And I can’t wait to see what the lime green outfit looks like!
    Nancy

  • Liz Gaskill
    August 7, 2019

    You go girlfriend! If anyone can figure it out, you will.
    Liz Gaskill
    P.S.I really like this blog! Keep me on the list.

  • Mary
    August 7, 2019

    I also began my sewing at my kitchen table which meant everything had to move for dinner. But I didn’t know anything else so I didn’t mind. Fast forward about 20 years & I now have our converted garage apartment that my husband & I turned into a sewing room/guest room. I have the book mentioned, “Dream Sewing Spaces”, & have used it so many times for ideas, inspiration & drooling ha-ha. I’m planning on some changes & will be consulting this book again. It really is a treasure trove of ideas & important information for everything sewing. Enjoy your sewing, everyone!!

  • Julie Diana
    August 7, 2019

    Best of luck in your new home! Thank you for so many years of inspiration and brilliant instruction.

  • Jan McCullough
    August 7, 2019

    I like you have moved. Only I went cross country to Missouri. To help my mother. Lol no space in her house . So I now have a 10 x 24 shed. Utilizing 10 x 14 for sewing and the rest for my show bunnies. Waiting for electricity. Then I will have to figure out how to put 90% of a 15 foot u-haul in it. Any suggestions?

  • Carolyn
    August 7, 2019

    Please be careful of your back when cutting and pinning at lower than optimal hights. We never think about something like that until its too late.

  • MG Ronan
    August 7, 2019

    Thank you for showing us what you had & what you adapted to quite well I might add…using all your space…gives me some ideas …we will be moving one of these days & I might end up in a smaller place than you have…LOl but we make it work!

  • Kathleen Bryan
    August 8, 2019

    I am so happy that I was in your fabulous house of 30 years on the hill (a mountain in Texas!). It was a wonderful evening after one of your workshops.

    I too have always been creative with my sewing space, and even more challenged with our apartment in an independent living residence. I asked for a separate sewing/hobby room and we got it! Two rooms with a connecting bathroom! Six of us share the space at this time. Of course not enough room for everything but we manage….!

  • Patty Davis
    August 8, 2019

    Oh Patty, sorry you had to give up your beautiful sewing room. I’ve always eyed it with envy. 🙂 My husband would also like to sell however, I just retired and am having so much fun getting back into sewing, I am not ready to give up my sewing only space. I like not ever having to spruce up, I can just close the door and take up the next day where I laid off.

    I hope you have a lovely remainder of summer.

  • Jennifer Shaw
    August 8, 2019

    I love your current set up in your beautiful new home! Where do you store your fabric? That is my current dilemma. Now that I have a sewing room, it gets overwhelming with my knitting, hand embroidery and sewing.

  • Terri Baker
    August 8, 2019

    I’m getting close to building a house for my sewing studio. We are building an actual house that can later be sold (when we are dead and gone!!) easier. I’m so excited! I’m looking at building a two bedroom (master with large walkin closet – for my actual office, with an additional bedroom for possible over night guests. I will have a large kitchen (for also teaching canning) with a large island – open to a large dining room – living room – which will actually be my sewing space/classroom. This will be built, along with my husbands’ “dream garage” on the lot behind our actual home. We are so excited!! I wish I were as talented as you – to be able to adapt to any space….I’m feeling like a sardeen in a can right now!!!

  • Maggie Deegan
    August 8, 2019

    I’m impresses by your creative eye which can visualise possibility in spaces that one tends to overlook. Well done. I loved sewing Camp this year because it illustrated how well we sewaholics can adapt to conditions that challenge us to be innovative. Is there anything in the world that could keep you down Pati ?????

  • Cheryl Lampard
    August 8, 2019

    Oh my, if I’d had a sewing room space like your previous house, I’d never want to move! Thanks for sharing the sewing space challenges you’ve had and the solutions you’ve made work. I’m taking inspiration from them as I’m trying to create a better sewing space in our guest room, without having to get rid of the bed. I need to go back and revisit my copy of Dream Sewing Spaces!

  • Robyn
    August 11, 2019

    Pati,
    You are amazing, since I moved back to Los Angeles I can understand having to adapt.
    Since I have a high bed too it has become my cutting table. Good idea about the closet.
    Sorry I missed camp this year but heard that it was great as usual.

    Enjoy your new condo. I agree with Maggie, nothing keeps you from meeting challenges
    head on and coming out a winner.

  • Pati Palmer
    August 17, 2019

    I’ve enjoyed reading all of your comments. First, I can’t believe I didn’t mention Lynette Black’s book Dream Sewing Spaces which we published. It is a great source of utilizing spaces large an small. My former luxury sewing studio is featured so it will always be with me. Lynette is a certified kitchen and bath designer and addresses ergonomics. As a teen in Missoula MT, I cut on the shag rug on the basement floor. Costco has sold lightweight folding tables that you can raise to your best height with pvc pipe sections making the legs longer.

    I enjoyed all of your ideas. One of you asked about fabric storage. I also had to address my fabric stash. Final solution? I First divided out what I might never sew and then found happy takers. The more I gave away the happier I got seeing especially young people, home ec teachers, 4-H leaders and make It With Wool advisors who told me these kids don’t have money to buy fabric, especially good fabric. I finally gave away all but the fabrics I wanted to sew soon and a couple of museum pieces! I figured if I needed something, I could buy it, like denim for sewing jeans and publishing our new jeans book. I had given the author my jeans stash and she’s already sewed it up! Good thing or I may have asked for some back.

  • Pati Palmer
    August 17, 2019

    Oops, our design director did include Dream Sewing Spaces at the end of the blog. Thanks Linda!

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