The Free Motion Quilting Project: Finding a Place for Everything

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Finding a Place for Everything

It's probably pretty obvious that I like to organize. It's not so much that I like the act of organizing itself, but I absolutely love being able to find what I want, exactly when I want it, and exactly in the place it's always supposed to be.

Just in case you've missed this line of posts, most recently I posted on organizing one specific space in my studio and weighing different drawer options to fill the space most efficiently. I then had so many requests for a sewing room tour I had to shoot one to show the whole space in one go. So click on those links if you're interested in learning about my organization feats so far.

But recently my sewing room and kitchen studio have been cluttered to the point of distraction. I have loads of space, I have invested many times in more storage, I have even built extra odds and ends into the place to make it hold far more than it could originally, but I still find myself tripping over bags of wool and bins of scrap fabric on the floor. WHY ISN'T MY ORGANIZATION WORKING?

Because I truly believe that if my space is properly organized, I WILL NOT have things to trip on. Everything will be put away. When I want to play with something I'll pull it out and play with it and at the end of my sewing time, put it away in its proper place.

So today I've been first trying to figure out WHY my sewing area is getting so messy. WHAT specific items are making it feel cluttered and why are they there and not put away properly?

Very quickly I realized that there's a lot of stuff in my studio with no specific space. Certain tools, materials, and even threads are haphazardly organized across many drawers with no rhyme or reason. I can't find a pair of scissors to save my life, but I have 3 different places I'm keeping needles. This is just weird.

So I have a new mantra: LABEL IT!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This morning I went through every drawer and labeled each one with what it specifically contained. This was both fun and will finally stop me from opening the wrong drawer 4 times before picking the correct one.

This also helped me to start cleaning up. Instead of needles in 3 places, I now keep new, unopened sewing needles in one drawer and the packs I've opened in another. All the rotary cutters have a special place, all the yoyo makers, everything that can be lumped into a set group is now together in one space and much easier to find.

I'm also finding from this experience that many things I've put in drawers should NOT be in drawers. Precut fabric is best put in artbins so I can pull the whole bin out and put it on the table while I'm laying out my fabric and planning a design. While most thread I use commonly works great in drawers, this thread in particular needs to move to an artbin:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Why? This is trash/art thread. It's several years old, some of it good, some bad, but none of it will ever be stitched into a quilt. I'm going to make stuff out of it, eventually, but for now this isn't a project I'm needing to jump into, so this thread needs to get out of a drawer that's in such a primary location and up on a shelf out of the way.

Of course, once I started organizing, I found more places I've not used wisely. Many times I'll finish a quilt and just shove all the scraps from the project in one big bin and shove it on the shelf. This is NOT a good way to organize scraps:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Which got me thinking - what IS a good way to organize scraps? I have yardage organization down as my hanging method is still working great, but scraps have never been my forte. This is just not working with so many colors all jumbled up!

I began pulling out red pieces and putting them all in one bag. As soon as I started pulling out the colors and sorting, I realized I would love a bin of just red scraps, a bin of blue, a bin of purple, and so on. Instead of cutting yardage I will be far more likely to use scraps if I know I have a bin of all one color ready to go.

But here's a question: should I keep prints and solids separate? 

I use printed fabrics sparingly (i.e almost never) because they usually hide a pretty quilting design which never makes me happy. I use batiks that read as solids and solid colored fabrics far more. Should I keep these two different types of fabric separate or lump them all together so long as they are the same color? How do you organize this?

I'm leaning towards separate, but that would require 12 bins or more to organize all the colors of the rainbow by color AND by solid / print. So I need more bins...hmm...

Yes, I think I need to get back into the sewing room and look around and think some more. Unfortunately it's right about now that I'm feeling so overwhelmed by the problem that I usually just throw everything in the corner and walk out of the room. I'm trying hard not to do that today and to work through this step by step.

Here's to finding a place for everything, even when that means reorganizing the entire room!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

29 comments:

  1. Oh my.. organizing everything can be tricky, especially with scraps...I have a solution, my postbox is empty, LOL

    Just kidding, good luck! I too rearranged and changed things around, and suddenly after that I was a bit confused and could not find my way around the place for a while, but soon after I was back on track. Try not to move things around you use often, that's the mistake I made.... Labeling is of course brilliant, a TO DO on my list of lists.

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  2. since you know that more bins are needed, this could become a two step process. Sort all scraps by color and then after you get the bins you need sort one color at a time into separate sections. It would be less overwhelming that way :)

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  3. I like prints so I have them separated by color in bins. Then I have one large bin for solids. Perhaps you need to do it the other way around and just have maybe three large binds for prints.

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  4. Your dilemma is one shared by so many and the solution(s) are as varied as the number of ppl involved! So many factors make each situation/need so different. It will come and you have gotten a great start....just leave some energy for your art!!! Hugs, Doreen

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  5. I use zippered lingerie wash bags to store my scraps, which are sorted by color. Multi-colored prints have their own bag; because I have so many, black/white prints are divided into bags of "more white than black" and "more black than white". I keep all the bags in one large lidded storage bin inside the tiny closet in my studio.

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  6. I've cut my scraps into useable sizes/shapes so they aren't a jumbled mess. The book Cut The Scraps (from Taunton Press) got me started, but I've added some of my own too. I have squares of several sizes in stacks in clear shoe boxes. Strips are in another for strip quilting. Crumbs are in a zip lock bag. When I get a lot of one size I make an effort to do a project using that size. Since I do a lot of charity quilting it's easy to mix prints, plaids, solids, batiks, etc. The charities are thankful for them.

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  7. If you rarely use prints, why not try keeping them all together and have separate bins for each of your solids. Not much point separating them if you aren't going to use them. Try it for a while and if annoys you, reorganise.

    I have a different problem in my sewing space, I never take the time to put things away where they should go. I just live in a world of clutter!

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  8. I ought to do this too! I am just setting up my (very small) sewing space and it needs to be organised. I am forever looking for the same things and I think I will follow your example of labelling stuff.

    Also just a quick note to say how much I'm enjoying your Craftsy course and I finally took the plunge and had a go at FMQ this week! My first attempt was dismal but my 2nd was much more controlled. I am leaving my FMQ foot on my machine for a while to make me practise more. Your course has lots of great tips so thank you!

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  9. Hey Leah!

    Ok, I'm not going to be much help in regard to scrap organization, but one thing I did notice (I LOVE to organize) is the way your threads are sitting in the drawer that you're about to clear. My thread is all in drawers right now, and over the last few years I've learned to situate them this way: if they are wound on a single-based spool like Isacord, Floriani, YLI, Aurifil, or any other cone-type thread, stand them up in the drawer, because you can still see the actual thread. If they are wound on a double-based spool like Superior, Kreinik, Gutermann, Wonderfil, Clark, etc., lay them down on their sides. It takes up more room, but you can see the thread! I've found that it's well-worth the extra space requirement. I love what you're doing with space and time!

    Linda

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  10. Hi Leah,

    I need to figure out how to organize scraps as well. I started by tossing them into a gift bag leftover from some birthday. That's full. Then I grabbed a clear bin, but that bin is not the right shape; I can't leave it "open" or easily get to it, so scraps wind up on TOP of it, waiting to be put inside later. I just noticed two days ago that there are too many scraps to fit....

    When you described your conundrum with prints and solids, it seemed to me that you might sort solids by color and put prints all into one bin. As you say, you don't use them that often, so why take up the space with a bin for each color of print scrap?

    Looking forward to your posts this week--oh boy it's all quilting this week (except for a few days of work, it's going to be a fabulous week!). The Salt Lake HMQS starts on Wednesday. This is my first time to go, and I am taking two classes with friends.

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  11. Oh what fun you have had today! :) I organize my scraps by color in Sterilite plastic drawers. I stack the drawers and then just pull out or take out the drawer I want. I keep batiks separate but I do mix prints in with the regular cottons. I find that it's pretty easy to sort for plains since I'm just looking in one drawer. Good Luck! You will love having the sorting done. ~Jeanne

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  12. Leah, I've struggled with the same issue of dealing with scraps. I've been implementing Bonnie Hunt's "leaders and enders" idea to tame my heap... http://quiltville.blogspot.ca/2005/06/leaders-enders-whys-and-hows.html

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  13. Hey Leah,
    I use the large Ziploc bags to sort my color scraps. Have handles to move them around, zip closed to keep from spilling and can fit anywhere since they are plastic bags. Love them!
    Have a great quilting day! Love your site!
    Dejah

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  14. I'm totally feeling the need to organize. My main quilting space is fairly tidy and has to stay that way because it is in my bedroom (you know, where the hubby sees it). But my secondary storage area for all things creative is an utter disaster. It is overwhelming for sure.

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  15. Do your bins the way you want and bag the prints if you don't have as much. The baggie should fit on top or on the inside of the bin. I have found this works for me- FYI- cw

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  16. I like to sort my yardage and scraps by color, in rainbow order, LOL. I don't have many scraps yet though due to a house fire a few years ago. Maybe if you tuck solids in a bag, prints in another bag, then both bags in a bin?

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  17. Oh my goodness, it is such a relief to know I am not the only one out there with the best intentions to stay organized, even though it doesn't always work out. I've built shelving and bought various sized tubs and bins to sort things into, but my craft-space still looks crazy.

    I've been going round and round in my head on how to organize scarps. I have so many sizes that I thought about dividing by small/medium/large sized so a different bin depending on the size project I was doing. But by color may make more sense :)

    Maybe you could do one bin per color, but use a divided bin...or make your own divider out of a scrap of cardboard. So your box of reds would have solids on one side and patterned on the other. Hope that helps!

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  18. I like organising too, there's nothing so seductive as a set of matching bins and drawers in a shop. But I never truly got the hang of it until I found FLYlady (google her if you're interested). Her mantra is: you can never organise clutter, you can only get rid of it.

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  19. I found the best way to organize is to give my scraps to a friend. A big bag of scraps. She's making 16 patch blocks w/ two inch squares...course I still have boxes and bags of scraps to get rid of. I have enough fabric that I don't need scraps.

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  20. Leah what I did with my scraps is I sorted them by color and put them in baggies and then in a big clear see through container. Works Great!

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  21. I'm a neat freak too which begs the question where did you get the drawers systems on the right in your first photo? I've been looking high and low for something exactly like that to store scraps in.

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  22. Alicia - That's a Artbin Cube. It holds 4 single sachels, 6 slims, or 2 of the double sachels and 1 slim. They're kind of expensive because it's only the cube, but so far I think it's definitely worth it. Just google Artbin Cube and you'll find it.

    Cheers,

    Leah

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  23. You gave me a lot to think about on reorganizing! The way I currently have things is not easily seen or accessible! Thanks for the ideas:) I need bins bins and more bins!!!!

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  24. Instead of doubling your scrap bin, why don't you keep the patterned scraps in a ziploc within the drawer of that color? By your own account, you don't use much novelty fabric so it shouldn't take up much space. I just got done organizing my sewingroom and I LOVE it. I love the process of organizing! I have always kept my scraps color coded in ziplocs and now I have them in drawers. All my fat quarter are organized by color and sorted on the shelf in rainbow fashion (roygbiv) and all my fabric yardage is sorted the same way. This has worked for years, but all those OTHER THINGS, thread, buttons, zippers, etc...WOW, I just got all that crap organized and it's great. Try out the ziploc idea, you might save space! Also, about that thread...if it says Coats and Clark, give it to a new hobby sewer! That stuff is CRAP!

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  25. I put my small scraps in glass nut jars and sit them around by sewing studio, I also use large clear plastic jars with lids that you get from big box stores, that have pretzels, or wrapped candy. I put my red scraps in the fire ball container, it smelled like cinnamon for awhile. They look really cute sitting around the room, and I when I am cleaning up, I just toss like colors in the appropriate jar. I enlisted the help of my grandkids when I started this system. They loved it. When I am looking for small pieces, I just grab the jar and bring it to the table. They look great on a shelf. or sitting on the floor. Perfect for applique, yoyo's, and English paper piecing.

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  26. Leah, I organize my scraps in wire basket stand by VALUE (so you don't have so many drawers)--light, medium, dark. Something to think about.
    Sally in Seattle

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  27. Hi Leah,
    I am admittedly OCD and my kids have teased me for years about my labeling and organizing everything from shoes to spices. They would Freak out if they were in my studio. I have book shelves (from Walmart) that are about 30: high with shelves 11" wide x 10" high x 11" deep. On these shelves I keep kit patterns (If I like something, I take the magazine or pattern, add the fabric & thread I want to use, put in a 2-gal zip-lock bag, label the end and stack them on these shelves. I also keep backing fabrics and quilting books & cds on these shelves. I have 2 six foot tall tower book cases that are 16" wide, 12" deep and have adjustable shelves. On these I keep my stash fabrics by color, folded into 12" squares, then beside the 12" stack, I place fat quarters or larger scraps of the same color folded into 3 1/2" wide pieces (all folded fabrics are organized "fold out" so I can flip through the stack to find what I want. I tack clear UV plastic over each shelf so that I can see all of my fabrics without removing them from the shelf, and I can just pull out what I want.

    When I retired, I took an entire month to iron sort and cut all of my scraps according to what I use most (6" wide strips for 1/2 square triangle paper; 5" charms, 4" sq, 3" sq,3 1/2" sq 2-1/2" sq, and strips of 1-1/4", 1-1/2, 2", 2-1/2" widths. I cut according to the largest pieces I could get out of the scrap. I also have a zip bag of scraps I chose not to cut up, but I did Iron. They had to be small enough to lay flat in a 2-gallon zip bag. I also have a container of "shapes" (left over triangles, flowers, leaves, etc.) I keep the strips and squares in 13" lidded cake boxes from Wal-mart. I can also fit some quilts I've already cut out, along with their patterns & threads in these boxes, all of which are labeled. I have enough scraps that were cut and organized from one drawer to make 5 quilts, and I have 6 bins of precut scraps left over. I haven't tackled my batik scrap drawer yet.....

    Buttons are in Mason jars, Rulers stand up on a slotted piece of wood.

    I keep all tools in labeled drawers, and I keep my threads in thin drawers that stack. Threads are by color and they lay in the drawers on their sides so I can open the drawer and see all of threads in that color family (a swatch of fabric in the thread color is taped to the front of each drawer). Variegated spools are in a large clear bin that sits on top of my storage counter (looks very pretty). Working on a solution for my large 3000 yd spools now, most likely will organize on a spool rack that hangs on the wall & cover with clear UV plastic. Quilt tops that are made and waiting to be quilted are folded and stacked on another shelf. I have no hanging space as my studio is a loft with a pitched roof, so my design wall is a folding room divider that is covered with felt. My studio is strangely shaped, due to the staircase and pitched roof so I've had to figure out how to use every last inch of it and still have ample sewing space. This is what works for me. Hope you can glean something from this that will work for you. I had toyed with the idea of putting colored scraps in a bag and laying it on top of the fabric of the same color, but it just seemed like too much additional sorting, so I didn't do it.

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  28. If you don't have that much printed fabrics, why not put those in ONE bin all together and sort the others? I used to cut my scraps in sizes, but recently got to sort with colors too!

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  29. Love your Quilty classes and blog! I've been piecing quilts for over 20 years...that's a LOT of scraps. I decided the best way for me to organize scraps is to sort them the way I make quilts--not by color but by lights, mediums and darks. I can always pull out a particular color from the mediums & darks if I only need that color in my quilt but most of the time, I make very scrappy quilts (I need to use up as much of the small pieces as possible). The scraps are put into large, clear plastic bags. Anything 1/2 yd. or larger is folded and put on a shelf. I hope this helps.

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