Wednesday, April 11, 2012

STASH ORGANIZATION: Part 4 - Tool/Supply Storage and My Quilt Cave Work Space

This may sound weird, but I think sewing/quilt construction have a lot in common with preparing food.  I see patterns as recipes and my stash as ingredients.  Maybe my sewing machine is like my mixer or stove...the place where all the ingredients get blended and "cooked" together into a fanciful fabric banquet!

 I have an old quilt next to the sewing machine for Weasley...if it wasn't there, he would just be lounging on whatever was there anyway...

See?  Now that I pull the camera back so you can see the space (and stop cropping out the ugly areas) you can see just how unglamorous the space really is.

No...not a noose for when seams don't match...a drop down extension cord for when I put up a temporary work table.

I could not put a shelf unit where the water comes into the basement, so I just use second-hand shelves to connect the ones on either side.

I approach my sewing space and tool storage as I do my cooking area and kitchen gear.  I like useful tools, and they need to be handy so that I can lay my hands on them when I need them!  There are utensils, pots and appliances that I don't use often when I cook, so those don't occupy the choicest storage spaces in my kitchen.  So it goes, as well, in the quilt cave.

I have boasted (and lamented) that my sewing area is in the basement...the quilt cave.  It is a shared family space and also has the added excitement of possible flooding due to sump pump failure, extreme heavy rains, or the storm sewer backing up. 

We've had a few inches of water down there twice in the 16 years we've lived here.  This part of Michigan used to be a swamp with friendly dinosaurs splashing around, and our house basically sits in a hard clay a result, we worship our sump pump (in the corner...just beyond the cat). 

Therefore, the basement isn't finished and the collection of area rugs that is "patched" together in the traffic areas can be rolled up quickly and dragged upstairs if we notice water sneaking in around the edges down there (if we are home...).

All this house history explains why I set up my sewing area the way I all seems temporary and movable.  I would love some built-in fixtures with drawers, work surfaces...a ceiling...but the distant memory of water/moisture removal makes that not likely in this house. 

The plastic shelving units that line most of the basement perimeter can get wet...the bottom shelves hold plastic tubs that can tolerate a few inches of water.  Some fixtures are up on blocks, bookcases are up off the floor, tables/fixtures either fold up or are garage sale/curbside finds.  A dehumidifier is on standby.  I'd like to think I am always ready for the next flood.

Our basement is "L-shaped," and everything is set up so that our old TV, on a lazy Susan, can be viewed from anywhere down there (priorities...).  Therefore, my sewing space centers around the bend of the "L" and the one metal support column that supports the house I-beam.  That pole (and sewer pipe...lovely) would be out in the middle of the floor if I had not set up around it.

If this was a TV reality show, at this point I would say "with all this in mind, DESIGN THIS SPACE!"

I like having my tools readily accessible as I sit in my space and sew, design, quilt, and craft.  As Julie Morganstern preaches in Organizing From the Inside Out everything must have a home.  If this weren't the case, I wouldn't have anywhere to work because every surface would be covered with stuff. 

Labeled, plastic, drawered storage, both on the floor and on tables helps everything have a home and keep the surfaces from being cluttered.

I found these drawer units on sale years ago...I think they were meant for hardware, screws, etc., but they are perfect for small tools and supplies.

I do label these, and if I need to change labels, I just stick the new one on top of the old one(s). 

I used to think I would just memorize where things were, so I wouldn't have to label.  Yeah, right. 

I guess I thought I would just sit there, opening and closing drawers, until I found what I needed.  What a silly waste of time!

The drawers are easy to move around, to make sure that the ones I access the most are the fastest and closest to get to.

I like that the drawers also serve as a container that I can remove easily and take to where I am working (as long as I put it back when I am through).

I used to use a sewing box for tools, but the box was hard to store, not easy to access, and didn't hold everything.  It was deep, dark, and cavernous...I would have to root around it it for a while to find something just out of reach at the bottom...another silly waste of time.

Having tools easy to access and not lost eliminates re-purchasing tools that can't be found...having a home makes the tool, or drawer, almost fun to put away...and it is a quick and satisfying exercise.

In her book, Julie preaches that if the storage or container is inconvenient or hard to access, it discourages the "equalizing" step...putting things back...this is so important if you are to maintain and enjoy a newly organized space (or have any hope of finding the tool the NEXT time you want to use it).

I place 3 out of 4 of these little-drawered units on top of a treasured family heirloom.  This sewing machine cabinet was designed and built by my husband's grandfather, Arthur Joy Rawson, for his wife, Margaret Byrd Rawson.  When she asked if I would like it, I jumped up and down like a 4-year-old!  It is so charmingly practical!

It used to hold a Necchi sewing machine, so there is an interesting hole where the machine used to sit that I cover with a piece of Plexiglas.  At some point I may fill the space with some antique sewing machine attachments.

Arthur designed and built each drawer to Margaret's specifications.

Rather than deeper drawers fitted with short dowels to hold thread, she wanted shallow drawers to store thread on its side so that she could select her spools quickly and easily.

He affixed little pieces of wood to the floor of each thread drawer to keep things from rolling out of place.

I love that he put label hardware on the drawers.  I can easily label and relabel things as needed.

I find the shallow drawers very efficient storage space for tools and items that store practically flat.  Scrap booking people tell me that pens should be stored flat, so these drawers are perfect for my Pigma pens. 

I keep my good scissors separate from my paper and junk scissors.

No digging for things...everything is easily visible.

This is my grab and go kit for doing hand quilting...most of the hand quilting tools that I love are stored in this zipper pouch I can grab it quickly before going to a sit and stitch (although I see I need to add a couple of finger cots before running out the door next time...). 

I don't keep it stored with the quilt I am working on just in case I need that thimble, etc. while working on something else (the hair scrunchy on the spool keeps the loose end under looks kind of silly, but works).

This really deep drawer has a removable divider.  Margaret told me that Arthur designed it to store commercial clothing patterns (without the divider) or taller items.  I store large zippered project bags in there.

The center top drawer fit around the base of the sewing machine...I love how he designed this!

The cabinet has a knee bar and built-in foot pedal holder, which I temporarily removed so that I could add some storage underneath.  As lovely as it is for storage, the dimensions of the small work surface are impractical for piecing quilts using a sewing machine installed in this cabinet.

I store two 3-drawer plastic storage units, stacked, to hold my smaller rotary cutting rulers and cutters.

Small square rulers.
Larger square rulers.

Specialty rulers like my Pineapple Rule, Companion Angle, Easy Angles, Tri Recs, etc. store easily.  Instructions that came with the rulers are in the bottom of each draw, under the rulers, so that I don't have to go searching when I need help.

I had always wanted pegboard to hang rulers on, but I don't have wall space...this solution works better because I can store the directions with the rulers.

I have a few sets of those Marti Michell templates, which are all in one place.  Each set has multiple pieces, which I hook together with these rings.

The bottom drawer hold scraps of template plastic.

I store tall pads of drawing paper, my revolving rotary mats and  Art Bin dividers that aren't currently in use beside these drawers, a few inches off the floor.

To the right of Arthur's cabinet, my square, brown, wooden table is the base of my work area.  I bought that table for $15 from a used restaurant supply store 20 years ago when I lived in Galveston, TX.  I've really gotten my money's worth out of it! 

It is really heavy and sturdy (the legs are solid wood, 4" x 4"), so I don't think twice about stacking other second-hand fixtures on top of it for additional storage.  I found the brown shelf and white cubby hole cabinets for $10 each!  A little cleaning and some paint made them a valuable part of my storage set up. A fourth set of plastic drawers holds things I don't use regularly.

I keep a few of my favorite movies downstairs and have a CD boom box for listening to books and the radio.  With an old TV, DVD player, VCR, and my stash, I could entertain myself for WEEKS down there!  (The lack of a quilt cave bathroom is the only snag...)

It is fun combing thrift shops and garage sales for storage fixtures for my set up.  It would be fun to make a pretty arrangement, one that might make Martha Stewart take notice, but since I am in the cave I just worry about function and practicality.

I have an odd $5 end table beside the wooden table (and behind the small folding table work surface).  This allows me to store my large 15", 16.5" and 20.5" square rotary rulers standing up between things (hiding to the left of the yellow arrow, below).  The two big plastic drawers hold quilt hangers and larger quilting odds and ends that I don't need immediate access to.  I consider these drawers "catch all" drawers for things I don't know what to do with and that don't really organize very well...odd stuff...if you were looking for my chaos it is!

Long rulers reside in commercially-available slotted storage racks which joyfully fit in 2 of the cubby holes.  Other things stored in this salvaged cubby hole cabinet include:
  • spray starches and quilt soaps
  • tape dispenser
  • freezer paper on a roll
  • a roll of narrow paper (for designing applique borders)
  • a duster
  • a back scratcher (big grin)
  • a stack of index cards, always at the ready for renaming a bin or inserting in a project/UFO box
  • lint rollers (to remove the cat from projects)
  • an old vitamin bottle for discarded needles and pins
  • some containers of pruned scrappy squares
  • a few handy tools
  • my magnet wand for picking up lost pins/needles.

I have more drawered storage under the wooden table, with my bulky light box hiding on the top of them, just under the top of the table.

I'm addicted to good labeling !  Making a nice label for a permanent storage area is my reward for getting it's the little things...

My batting scraps, large yardage for quilt backs, etc. are stored in the creepy area under the basement stairs (also family costumes).

I store my 3 large folding tables against these bins until I need more work space or friends are over to sew (BIG grin).

I store my rolls of fusible web and interfacing, large quilting templates, paper, etc. in tubs on top of the "wall of stash".  They are light enough that the larger tubs, stored up high, aren't too difficult to access.

My new Jenome 6600 has this excellent raised work table.  I am able to store my machine accessory box right underneath, and it has enough room to hold a dozen bobbins, filled or empty.

Due to the cat, my pincushion is not convenient...if it is convenient for me, it is TOO convenient for him.  My buddy Ola made me this little "needle minder" which makes grabbing a needle quickly REALLY easy to do.  I use it both at home and on the road. 

My pressing table is a tray table that I got a great deal on because it was scratched.  My June Taylor pressing board fits well on it.

My 14" x 14" Art Bin containers fit on my salvaged, mismatched shelves ONLY because the basement is unfinished and they just fit between the wall studs.  See?  Not so glamorous. 

I guess if I were to install wider shelves I could drywall this one little wall, but as long as the bins are in place, no one can see how ugly the wall really is.  This stairwell wall is the only non-concrete wall in the whole basement.  I share that space with my daughter's computer table...for now (evil grin).

The only place for a design wall down here is at the bottom of the steps...I really need to replace this pink blanket (left over from college, believe it or not) with something decent.

OK...this WAY-to-long post is finally over.  The last installment of this 5-part series will be about organizing books, patterns, magazines, all kinds of quilt media.  Thanks for playing along!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. Thank you for the wonderful virtual tour of your space. I am going to my sewing room to see what I can refine.

  2. I thought I was organized till I saw your space.
    It looks like it would be fun to come over and sew.

  3. Too Amazing!!! My sister (who doesn't sew at all but likes to collect fabric) would be in heaven with your organization and labeling. I can see her dancing in your cave in delight. You are just amazing!

  4. I've enjoyed the tour of your sewing space. You have the most amazing organized sewing EVER!

    I could hear the slight pain in your voice when you mentioned the water in the basement. We sit in a clay bowl here too and I just know exactly what you're talking about!

  5. OH.MY.GOSH. I'm in organizing heaven! Yes ma'am, I can feel the OCD juices just a flowing through my veins. I LOVE this post! You truly are my hero! Thank you so much for taking the time to take all the pictures and explain everything in detail. HUGS....

  6. well it might not be a finished basement but you have surely turned it into a quilt cave of distinction!! Wonderful use of your space and keeping in mind it might get some water on the floor you really did good!!

  7. Now this was good - it's all the 'extras' that I need to be better at having organized/contained. I don't have a lot, but they tend to get tossed in the 'catch-all' style and then I have to hunt for things.

  8. Okay, I have to ask the question. When did you start this organization? It would be an impossible task if you had this kind of stash and THEN attempted to organize it.

  9. Yes it was a long post and I enjoyed every minute of it. thanks for taking the time to take the photos and explain everything. When I saw the plexiglass over the empty sewing machine well I immediately thought 'light box'. It is already there so you wouldn't have to pull out your big bulky light box for a small project.

    The second light bulb moment for me is that you are fully documented if there was ever a disaster and you had to go to the insurance man. You could easily bring up your blog and show him what you have (had) to file a claim.

  10. Totally A-MA-ZING, Teresa!! I'm glad my family can't see this--they think I'm organized (LOL) compared to your cave, my room is a disaster area.....Terrrific post Julierose

  11. Thanks for sharing. Sure am enjoying your organization...

  12. Thank you so much and War Eagle.

  13. I am impressed! I have a finished basement for my studio, but I love the way you are organized! I'm glad that I'm not the only one who has lots of stuff! Thoroughly enjoyed the tour! Thanks for sharing.

    Carol in IL

  14. I am loving these posts. Thanks!

  15. I am so delighted to have proof that someone has more stuff than I do. Most people I know, including other quilters, think I am crazy and should reduce but after almost 30 years I have accumulated lots of supplies. I would love to see how you have tackled the issue of lighting.

  16. I have really enjoyed seeing how you organize, I have working on my stash/clutter for a couple of years, the one thing I wish I had done is NOT mark on my containers, I now use an index card on the inside, I like it much better, especially when I purpose projects. can't wait to see what you have to share

  17. These posts are great. I love that everything has a place and that it allows you to STAY organized. You are an inspiration. It is also wonderful to see how you are making such good use of Margaret's sewing cabinet - I'm sure both she and Arthur would be delighted!

  18. I'm amazed and inspired. Your space is awesome. I don't think I could stay that organized even if I tried.Love the iron on the little side table next to your work space and all the little "tool" drawers.

  19. WOW...I am so impressed. I have labels on my storage containers as well, but you have me way beat on organization. Nice work!

  20. Thanks for showing your quilt cave and organizing system. I have garnered some great ideas that I can put to use in my sewing space.
    Linda I Southern Illinois

  21. I am soooooo impressed!! And learning so much to save space and time!!! Thank you!!!

  22. I, too, enjoyed every minute of this post. You are so very organized! While it did take you a while to do all the labeling, putting everything in place, etc. staying organized really does save one time in the long run.

    Frankly, I really like your space better than a Martha Stewart type space - the only thing missing is windows and a view! :) Your space looks and feels very usable - and obviously is.

    Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with us!

    Oh, and what are "baby tools"? Just curious. :)


  23. .Thanks sew much for sharing these posts. I am so impressed and amazed by everything. I know this has helped me so much. Thank you again for taking the time to write these fabulous posts. I want to be you when I grow up. ;).

  24. I always am impressed when someone uses what they have to the best advantage. I think you are an excellent example of this. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful organization!

  25. You are inspiring!

    When I finally get to organise my space (when grown up kids have left home) I will use some of your tips!

  26. Teresa, that is one beautifully organized quilting cave! The plexiglass over the sewing machine hole would make a perfect lightbox.

  27. All I can say is WOW!!!! How very impressive. Someone could go on a shopping spree down there. Thank you for sharing and all your wonderful ideas!

  28. I doubt I can ever be that organized, but your example is something to aspire to. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  29. I love your space! You are very fortunate to have so much room and storage. Thank you for sharing. I have the sudden urge to get the labeler out.

  30. I have the same question as Florida Farm Girl. Did you always organize this way or did you suddenly become overwhelmed and put this together? When I create, I need a lot of stuff out to look at. I am not much of a pattern follower so when I see a bunch of fabrics, ideas come to me. Then I remember other fabric I have that will work so I have to go rummage for more. I am trying to organize, but is difficult to keep quilting at the same time. To sew or to clean? THAT is the question.

    I think the one hint that tells me you were not always so organized is the fact that you own so many of the same tool. I end up with another stitch ripper or pair of scissors or rotary cutter because I misplaced the others. (P.S. I just found you blog and I am loving it. Also, I am a big fan of above stated book, Organizing From...)

  31. You have enough plastic bins to start your own store. And filled with enough supplies to start a quilt shop. But oh wonderful it all looks. Basement and all. I used to have a sewing room in a basement back when we had a house with a basement to have it in.

  32. OMG Teresa, you are so organised! I can only dream of my sewing space being as wonderful as yours.
    Happy stitching hon

  33. If only you knew how good this post has made me feel.
    I always felt just a tad guilty having so much fabric etc but seeing your stash has made me feel quite saintly. lol

    Love your blog, if I ever flag, your posts get me up and running again,

  34. As much as I enjoyed your organization post at "Sew We Quilt" last year, this detailed series has been even more fun to read! An unglamorous space? If you say so but I'm betting there are A LOT of quilters that are now dying to join you in "the cave", me included!

    Add a bathroom and a mini fridge and I'd say you were a "Doomsday Quilter" ready to ride out the next disaster in blessed quilting comfort. BTW, you are doing Ms. Morganstern proud!

    P.S. Love the progress on the Lori Smith quilt!

  35. wow, truly amazing. let me know if you ever want to come organize my sewing room ;-) I've had the label maker for a couple of years and have never used it. you inspire me to do better! oh, and this house is new to us, but I really really hope we never have water in the basement. scary. We have the sump pump but don't know about clay soil...

  36. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
    soul food in baltimore

  37. I just decided to move quiet a bit of my fabric storage to our basement in our house and have some similar water issues. I hesitate to put my machines down there, though because the main two are computerized and I don't think the moisture would go well with them. Down the road, maybe I'll get the water issue sorted out. But I really love your organizing! I've got a lot of fabrics, ribbons and tools and hate spending time looking for something I know that I have. Love the labels! It may not be glamorous, but if you can work effectively without having to spend precious time looking for this or that, then it's the perfect space!

  38. Merveilleux- je vous envie-Quelle organisation-Je crois que je vais vous "piquer" quelques idées pour mon petit coin de patch.
    Merci pour tout
    Sylvie ,une petite et vieille Française !!!!!

  39. Merveilleux- je vous envie-Quelle organisation-Je crois que je vais vous "piquer" quelques idées pour mon petit coin de patch.
    Merci pour tout
    Sylvie ,une petite et vieille Française !!!!!


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