Tips for Sewing in a Small Space

Sewing with digital patterns – Rosie Shepherd 2021

I watch far too many sewing videos on Youtube where the maker has their own sewing room with shelves stacked high with fabric and tools and a cutting table that I could lie on like a starfish. I do not have this luxury. I have a table that doubles (triples, quadruples?) as my computer desk, my working from home desk, my sewing/making desk, and my drawing desk. I basically live here, sat at my desk in one corner of my bedroom of a one bed flat. So I decided to put together some tips on sewing in a small space.

  1. Keep as much digital as possible. We now have so many digital patterns, online books and magazines that we can reduce that amount of shelf space needed. Yes a tactile book is a wonderful thing but they take up a lot of space. I also use my local library a lot to borrow books and keep a notebook of interesting techniques.
  1. Regularly review your fabric stash. If you have an idea or a new pattern for a project, go through your stash BEFORE browsing for new fabric. And sometimes you can see a fabric in a new light and it suddenly speaks to you for a project you weren’t expecting. Also buy fabric samples before you buy online. That way if it turns out to be the wrong colour/weight/feel for your specific project you don’t have to store it away and think of another way to use it.
  1. Work in batches. It’s not always possible to have a dedicated space for your sewing machine to be unpacked and ready to sew at. Mostly I have to take the time to clear my desk and unpack my sewing machine, then get as much done as I can. One of the reasons I love my hand-cranked Singer 99K is that it’s a small scale machine with no wires or foot pedels to set up.
  1. Cleanse your UFO pile. Half finished projects take up space and resources. I’m sure half of my pins are holding together projects waiting to be finished. Although knitting is the worst. I only have one pair of 4mm needles which I use a lot. But I have to finish each project as I go to keep using them.
  1. It’s OK to dump all your sewing notions in one box. It may be #aesthetic to have glass jars full of buttons or thread spools but a plastic tub shoved into the wardrobe is much more practical and saves on shelf space.
  1. Be mindful of what tools and gadgets are essential and which are not. Remember that having more tools doesn’t make your sewing “better”, they generally just make things quicker.
  1. Embrace the slow burn. Hand sewing takes up a lot less space and is wonderfully portable. Instead of being stuck at a table with a sewing machine you can sit on the sofa, in the garden, where ever is comfortable for you. This is a lot slower process but time is a resource I have in abundance (mostly) space, I don’t.
  1. Take full advantage of floor space when alone in the house. This can include moving of furniture around, but you can double up by having a really good vacuum while your there.
  1. Find creative ways to apologise to people you live with.

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