The Sewing Studio of my Dreams
About two months ago, we moved from our little downtown house to a larger house fit for three growing children, four furry mammals, and – perhaps most necessarily – our humming sewing pattern business. In the weeks since, I’ve put a good bit of effort into designing and curating my new sewing space.
In the past, I’ve made do with all sorts of sewing spaces: the kitchen table, a tiny desk in rural Mexico with poor lighting, a remodeled shed, a creative space I shared with my kids (check out the video here), a very small guest room/office combo, and now this lovely, dedicated, mid-sized room in our new house. I want to underline that you can sew in almost any space and circumstance, and not to be discouraged if you are not in a place (either physically or mentally) to have this nice of a set-up. I’ve been dreaming about this sewing room for over a decade, but have made many beautiful, meaningful garments and memories in my less ideal spaces.
The first thing you might notice is that my sewing room doesn’t really look like a sewing room
This is because I made a conscious decision to equally weigh these two questions: 1.) What do I need to be able to DO in this space? and 2.) How do I want to FEEL when I’m doing these things in this space?
It’s pretty easy to simply ask the first question and gloss over the second. A making space, after all, has some serious practical weight to pull. Little annoyances, like the wrong lighting, the absence of proper storage, or a surge protector that’s not big enough for all of your machines can be truly frustrating after a while. But when I started thinking of my sewing space like The Kitchen of craft pursuits, it all started to click. Sure, you can cook in a kitchen without a window, cut off from the rest of the living room, with all of your small appliances, spices, and pantry items in plain view. But before long, the visual clutter starts to get to you. The practicality of the space becomes oppressive. It becomes harder to keep organized. Eventually, you dread going in there to cook meals, and your meals become less creative. You just need to get outta there.
I want my sewing room to be beautiful, just like I want my kitchen to be beautiful. It gets messy, sure. But there is space for children to sit and chat and try their hand at my crafts. There are plants. Fun lighting. My most favorite crafting “cookbooks.” And my notions (and even my fabric) are properly stored away so they don’t overwhelm me, just like a well-organized fridge or pantry. My favorite music plays while I work, and the twinkle lights twinkle.
It’s a practical working space, but it’s also a living space
The second “heart of the home.”
Here are my answers to Question One, What do I need to be able to DO in this space? – many of which may be the same as your needs as a creative person, and some of which may be specific to my family life:
- Cut out large pattern pieces on a permanent cutting table that doubles as a computer work station.
- Sew, using either my regular machine, serger, or coverstitch machine.
- Press fabric.
- Store fabric, scraps, books, patterns, notions, and lighting equipment, etc.
- Have various seating options, including adjustable stools for myself and the other folks in my house of different heights.
- Have a more-or-less permanent set-up for taking outfit photos, next to a large window.
- Provide comfortable seating next to a large window for hand stitching, mending, and knitting, with a spot to set my coffee or tea mug.
- The ability to adjust my lighting for different needs – daylight, night sewing, and photography.
I was able to meet these needs by shopping my own house first, secondhand second, and small artisans third. I refinished an old table we’ve had for over a decade (originally secondhand) and topped it with a custom cutting mat. I scored the beautiful armoire at the thrift store last year, and I recently found an antique baker’s cabinet on Facebook Marketplace to serve as my pressing table and scrap and notion storage. I’m storing my scraps by size, to facilitate future scrap-busting projects.
I have an old cutting mat as a barrier between the wood and the wool pressing pads. I love that my iron can rest on the pull-out board while I adjust the fabric, and it fits so nicely in one of the little cupboards.
The large armoire holds lighting, camera gear, photoshoot paraphernalia, and audio equipment. If sewing wasn’t how I made a living, I would just store my fabric in there. (My small stash is kept in the small cabinet under my coverstitch machine and and any overflow is kept in a closet close by.)
The armoire drawers are where I store my in-process projects – a necessity if you have three cats and a puppy who enjoy chewing on pattern pieces and furring up any fabrics that are left lying about. 😉
Atop the armoire, you’ll find my pattern stash in some cute baskets.
And my answers to Question Two: How do I want to FEEL when I’m doing these things in this space?
- Calm and focused
- Connected to the natural world
- Connected to the people in my life
Focusing on bringing in natural materials (real wood, plants, and natural fibers) was a huge factor in establishing this vibe, as was the fun lighting. I brought in little touches that you might find in a living room rather than a sewing room, like the funny jackrabbit lamp and macrame plant hangers and window decor.
Most of all, I avoided displaying anything that would give the room a factory vibe. My tools are easily accessible in drawers, as are my thread and notions. It’s not inconvenient at all to have them tucked away visually, and it provides that “clean slate” state of mind when I walk in here.
I’m excited to witness the art and the memories that will be made in this sacred, creative space.
- Paper lanterns
- Copper lights
- Adjustable height stools
- Custom cutting mat
- Wool pressing mats (I use two, side by side.)
Beautiful! You’ve inspired me to take a hard look at my own sewing space.
Looks great! Love the view! Thats inspiration enough!
This is a lovely, welcoming space. I especially like the cozy spot by the window for sitting and stitching (or drinking a cup of tea). I’m curious about your pressing station. I’ve heard those wool pads work really well but I was wondering how you find the set-up for pressing yardage? I’d like to replace my ironing board with something that would give me storage space underneath but I’m worried it would become really difficult to press large pieces of fabric (like after it’s been preached but before you start cutting things out).
Err … that should say "pre-washed" not "preached"! Bother autocorrect!
Your room is lovely! I so agree about a window to outside – DH sometimes suggests moving my now stuffed room to the basement, but… yeah the view out under the deck is not exactly uplifting. Not to mention there’s So. Much. To. Move. ACK! I also like that you didn’t paint all the wood furniture, or fill the room up (a mistake I made with my room). You’ve made a great space to sew, or just sit and ponder the next project.
Such a beautiful space. I love the idea of creating your space around not only what you need to do there but also how you want to feel. I’m primarily a painter and although how I want to feel has unconsciously driven my arrangement of my studio over the years, I’ve never explicitly considered it. Right now I’m in the beginning stages of planning out a new studio in my home and will definitely be writing out my own list.
Thanks so much for the inspiration!
Thank you for sharing, Meg! Seeing your sewing space and reading how you described it gave me happy tears. I so long for my own creative space! Right now I sew at the kitchen table and have to put everything away after I’m done. A bar stool is occupied by my current WIP. Your space has me dreaming of what’s possible.
I am an installation artist who has sewn clothing ‘for ghosts’ for the last thirty years. For the first ten years and my first five major exhibitions that honoured themes of nature and mortality, settler infant death, the loss of the passengers in the Swiss Air Crash (and coincidentally 9/11) and the loss of the Newfoundland regiment in WW1, I stitched my ‘healing garments’ from my antique kitchen table (in an antique early settler’s house that had formerly been the home of a midwife). I chose ‘stitching’ as I was a young mother living rurally and found sewing to be much ‘safer’ than painting or drawing (with my young homeschooled children near by). We too moved to a bigger and newer house and I finally got the sewing studio of my dreams. I remember being shocked by the space and having no idea initially how to furnish it. It felt so grand to me. My husband told me I needed two things: a table and a shelf. We found both on the street. We added two Ikea sushi tables that when stuck together make a wonderful cutting table (with shelves and drawers as well). I added a vintage mid century modern chair, my parents beloved teak drawer unit, a wonderful old factory table filled with graffiti, an amazing retro bench from an old department store (found on the street in downtown Toronto), my ironing board and two shelves that I display all my vintage Barbies, Francies and Skippers. I stitch my ‘Library of Dresses’ to honour dead women authors in this space and adore it as much as the first day I moved in and ‘figured it out’ as you have with your delightful space! I’ve featured many dresses for my series from your Sew Liberated patterns. The Metamorphic Dress is well loved by Virginia Woolf, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Mary Shelley, Louisa May Alcott, Shirley Jackson and Sylvia Plath love thier hacked Hinterland/Metamorphic dresses as well! Enjoy your new space! So grateful for you patterns! Thanks…Michele Karch-Ackerman (#michelekarchackerman)
I’m loving the idea of "How does it make me feel?". I will be setting up a new space soon and will definitely give that aspect some thought. Thank you!
Great questions! I’m thinking about pulling out everything in my studio and only bringing things in as I use them. I think that will help me get a more focused workspace. Less clutter will also help me FEEL more focused as well. Thanks for the inspiration.
Lots of good points in this video. My sewing room is a large attic, so vertical wall space is at a premium. Also it has to double as a junk room – and 99% of that is MY junk. At some point soon I’ll have to stop trying to ignore it all (because I’m not really able to ignore it and it’s weighing on my mind constantly) and clear it out. I have cupboards and drawers and huge storage boxes that were filled with “stuff to be sorted later” when we moved in here 16 years ago, and most of it is untouched since then. So, if I disappear for a few weeks, it’s because I’m up to my oxters in decluttering!