Read an Excerpt
Dream Sewing Spaces
Design & Organization for Spaces Large & Small
By Lynette Ranney Black, Pati Palmer, Jeannette Schilling & Kate Pryka
Palmer/Pletsch PublicationCopyright © 2010 Palmer/Pletsch Incorporated
All rights reserved.
Analyze Yourself, Your Needs, Your Space
The "typical" sewer is an illusion. We are all different and the design of our sewing space will be different. Each of the sewing spaces in the photos was created for a unique individual. Each design is determined by that individual's needs and desires.
The first step to creating YOUR custom sewing space is to analyze your needs. Ask yourself questions using the questionnaire beginning on the next page. Think about what kind of sewing you do. Is it a hobby? Do you earn your living sewing? What kind of projects do you work on? What kind of space is required? What tools and equipment does it require? How many people will use the space? Perhaps you and your child sew together!
First, take inventory of all the items that will go into your dream sewing room. Then analyze your body. Learn how you move and use space. The final step is to analyze the space you have to work with and to begin planning how to use it.
When you are finished with the questionnaire, you might want to look at the photos in the previous section again. Try to figure out what the people are like who work in these rooms. What are their needs?
Your Needs Inventory
Are you a hobby sewer or a professional? ____
If professional, do clients come to your home? ____
How many people will work in the room? ____
Reason for the question: The more people in the room at a time, the more equipment will be needed and a larger and more spacious space should be allotted.
What type of sewing do you do?
Rate by % of sewing time spent.
Home Decorating _________%
Art to Wear _________%
Reason for the question: Different types of sewing have different needs. For instance, the craft sewer has zillions of little items that need to be stored, so storage and organization are of utmost importance. The actual sewing, cutting, pressing area need not be large or extensive. But the home decorator, quilter and bridal/formalwear sewer need large spaces for dealing with a large amount of fabrics, and storage space must be planned differently. See chapter 9, Specialty Sewing.
Are you a one-at-a-time project person or do you have lots of projects going at one time?
Reason for the question: Multiple projects require organization of the parts and pieces for each project.
Do you sew one-of-a-kind projects, or many of the same items at a time?
Reason for the question: A one-at-a-time, one-of-a-kind project person requires less space dedicated to projects in construction, such as hanging space or project baskets.
Take inventory of your sewing items.
Taking inventory of your possessions will help you visualize your needs and give you concrete measurements to use when designing storage spaces and deciding on organizational tools.
How many machines do you have?
No. of sewing machines _______ No. of sergers ____
Others (e.g. embroidery, commercial, blind hem, etc.) ____
Do you use every machine all the time, or is there a machine you rarely use but must keep?
Reason for the question: The more machines you have, the more space you need. However, if there is a machine you keep just for a particular task, consider storing it under the sewing counter and bringing it into commission only when needed.
Do you own a press? How often do you use it? Why do you use it?
Reason for the question: The press, like a microwave in your kitchen, should be placed according to how you use it. If you use it only for interfacing, it may be best to store it away and bring it out for use. If you use it all the time, it must be planned into the design. Most use the press in a standing position so it should be placed at a higher height. If you use it while sitting, place it at a lower level.
How much fabric do you have on hand?
Number of bolts ________
Fold and stack the fabric and measure it.
How many inches high? _________"
How many patterns do you have? __________
Line them up and measure the inches of space needed. ________"
Are you a "pattern collector"? ______
In your planning, don't forget to allow for growth of your pattern collection.
Do you have the same pattern in many different sizes? _________
How many spools of thread do you have?
Line up and measure the inches of space needed.
# of small spools __________ inches __________
# of large spools __________ inches __________
# of small tubes __________ inches __________
# of large tubes __________ inches __________
# of cones __________ inches __________
# of king cones __________ inches __________
Number of pairs of scissors, shears and rotary cutters ________
List them and their uses ________________________ _____________________________________________
Number of sewing and crafts books ________
Line them up and measure the inches of space needed. ________" Remember to allow for additional books.
Do you have multiples of the same sewing notion? If so, make a note of them. _________
Are you one to buy every sewing item ever created, or do you make do with what you have?
Reason for the question: The more we know about ourselves the better we can design our space. If we buy every new item on the market, expansion space needs to be planned into our design.
Now you need to take some measurements of yourself. You may need a friend's help to ensure accurate measurements.
Reason for the questions: The measurements are necessary for getting the sewing, cutting, and sitting height proper for your body. You need to be familiar with your comfortable reach to aid in determining upper storage placement and countertop depth.
A. What is the measurement from your sitting position to the floor? Sit with feet flat on the floor with no pressure on the back of your legs.
B. How far can you comfortably reach while sitting?
C. What is the measurement from your mid-elbow to the floor?
D. How far can you comfortably reach while standing in front of a 25"-deep countertop?
Now that you have taken inventory of your sewing items and taken a good look at your own physical measurements, it's time to look at the space you have to work with. It may be a section of the family room or bedroom, or you may be fortunate to have a spare bedroom, converted garage, basement or attic space all to yourself! In any case, measure the space with a metal tape measure. Note where the windows and doors are in the room, and any architectural objects, such as plumbing chases, heat ducts, chimneys and posts. The reason for measuring is to determine the space you have to use, so measure from corner to window or door trim, door trim to trim, window trim to trim, and height of window from floor to trim. Also measure the ceiling height and note the location of electrical switches, outlets and light fixtures.
Using these measurements, draw a floor plan of the space and elevations of each wall. Graph paper may help with this task. Use a lightly gridded paper so your lines will show up well. Use a scale of ½"=1' (Designers work in this scale; architects work in a ¼"=1' scale.)
A floor plan is a bird's-eye view of your room. Pretend you are stuck to the ceiling and looking down at your space. This is a floor plan.
A head-on view or frontal view is an elevation. It shows how a room looks to a person standing in the middle of the floor and looking at one wall. The purpose of an elevation is to allow you to plan room layout in relation to windows, doors, electrical outlets and other architectural objects.
When your sewing space is on paper, it will be easier for you to be objective in planning work and storage stations. If you have existing furniture you plan to use, measure it and cut out 1/2"-scale templates to "play" with your layout.
Your layout begins to take shape as you play with the pieces that need to fit into your sewing space. Cut out templates (scale models) of the major elements, and then move them around your floor plan to experiment with various layouts.
Architects and designers use standard symbols to indicate certain features on floor plans. They are simple symbols, and you will want to use them on your floor plan, especially if you are hiring electrical or construction work. The symbols add essential information without cluttering the floor plan with written labels. Below are samples of the most common symbols.
Space Layout Possibilities
The one-wall style has the use of only one wall for furniture, cabinets, or tall units, but the actual sewing space can be expanded out into the room for temporary use. This is a common style when sharing the space with the family. The sewing machines and all primary storage are housed along the wall. Any overflow storage and secondary equipment must find a home elsewhere, such as a bedroom closet, linen closet, or under a bed. At right is a compact one-wall sewing area. Below is another idea.
Note: Allow a minimum open knee space of 24" per machine. Therefore, two machines side by side need a minimum of 48" of knee space.
Use a Hallway Linen Closet
Take advantage of an "extra" closet (see Appendix, page 122, for help in creating an "extra" closet).
A hall closet, freed up and converted into a sewing space, has a countertop extending the length of the closet, allowing space for machines. A thread rack, bulletin board, and 4"-deep shelves, for button and other small storage, line up along the back wall. Shelves allow storage of projects and fabric. Pegboards on the sides store other sewing items. Finally, a cutting board lowers from the wall onto a bookcase, finishing the sewing space. This design works best if the closet has bifold doors. If it does not, remove doors and replace them with bifold doors or cover with a curtain.
The "corridor" style uses two sections or lines of cabinets with space between. This can be created by using one wall with an island or two parallel walls. The space between cabinet sections should be at least 36".
Use a Breakfast Nook
This 6½'-square breakfast nook has been recommissioned as a sewing space. Both sides of the nook are lined with cabinets and serve as sewing centers. The press center is simply an ironing board that hangs from a caddy when not in use. Cutting occurs on the dining room table. A simple curtain hung on a rod serves as a door.
One-Wall Under the Eaves
This drawing shows the use of a small, usually unused area in an attic or corner of a room. A sewing area is created using drawers and a countertop. The cutting surface folds down from another wall and rests on an attached leg.
When There Are No Blank Walls ...
The bedroom above has low windows, two doors, a closet, and built-in bookshelves ... and so furniture cannot be placed against the walls. The solution? Create an island corridor in the middle, leaving at least 18" around the outside edges.
The L-shape space is a step up in efficiency. It allows you to place a work center on each leg of the "L." A good rolling chair puts a final touch on efficiency.
Note: When creating an L space, you end up with one "dead" corner. There are many ways to use that space. Consider placing a large basket or free-standing shelf or drawer unit in the corner, or use corner cabinetry such as a lazy susan or rotary trash bins. The bins could be used to store bulky items such as Poly-Fil(r) or fabric scraps or as a giant button bin! (Just kidding!)
A Corner in a Family Room
In many cases, a section of another room, such as a family room, is a logical choice for sewing. In this type of arrangement, the L-shape is an efficient layout.
A Corner of a Dining Room
When you use beautifully finished wood cabinets, a sewing space in a dining room can fit right in with your other furniture. To maintain the furniture look, you may want to store the machines inside the cabinets when not in use.
The End of a Hallway ...
A dead-end hallway provides a cozy and convenient space for a sewing L. This hall is 4' wide. The lower cabinet on the left leg of the L is 18" deep — a great depth for storage. The cabinet above it is 12" deep and has a tambour door behind which the serger is stored. The right leg of the L is a 21"-deep sewing center. The "dead" corner houses open storage. Upper cabinets line the wall to add extra storage.
A Peninsula L
An L doesn't need to follow the walls. This L-shaped peninsula is an ideal work area, with easy access to sewing and storage areas. Efficient space was created by incorporating the closet storage area into the primary work space.
As in a kitchen, a U shape may be the most efficient layout. The U allows you to have all work centers within easy reach of the rolling chair.
Use Three Walls to Create a U
This U allows for sewing to be surrounded by storage and project layout on one leg, and cutting and pressing on the other. A fabric pantry, TV/DVD unit, and extra serger storage are also incorporated into the space.
A Sewing Cubby in a 4' x 8' Butler's Pantry
This tiny space's original life was as a butler's pantry. Now it is a small but efficient sewing space. Lining the walls with wall cabinets greatly expands storage (and the cabinets may already be there). The space between wall cabinets and the counter-top is efficiently used by adding narrow shelves for thread and small storage, pegboard for notions storage, and a bulletin board.
Combine an L with Additional Work Space to Create a U
Meredith Piatt created an efficient, yet comfortable, sewing space in her Ft. Meyers, Florida, home. The L sewing center shares the end of one leg with a pressing center. The cutting center is a special folding table (see page 65). An appealing tall unit was added to the room, with open shelves to house the TV/DVD unit and decorative items, and closed doors for fabric and "messy" storage. The window seats serve as pattern storage and also as a "landing" spot for her husband. (His books and magazines are stored in a 12"-deep cabinet facing the left window seat, which also serves as support for the countertop.) The "extra" cabinet and counter surface between the windows were planned for growth — perhaps an embroidery machine will sit there, or a press, or ...
You may have been dreaming of an island kitchen; now dream of an island sewing space. The island variation can be used with any of the aforementioned shapes, and is guaranteed to increase efficiency.
Often the island is used as a cut and/or press center because of its accessibility to all sides, but it can also be used for sewing machines. This is especially suitable for the home decorator, quilter, and other sewers who deal with stitching large pieces.
The island can also double as a storage unit. When planning, be sure to allow a minimum of 36" for an aisleway between the island and any other object.
The island may be nothing more than a table. Or it could be created out of cabinets. If the island will be used for cutting and pressing, the minimum size should be 30" x 48". This size allows for laying out a 1 1/3 yard length of 60"-wide fabric folded in half.
Graphic designer Linda Wisner chose to use an extendable oak table as a multi-use island in her compact studio. The table serves as a planning area and cut/press center, as well as conference table and layout area for her design work. See page 98 for more information on Linda's studio.
Professional dressmaker and international speaker Kathleen Spike created a large cutting island by using a 4' x 8' sheet of top-quality plywood. She padded the plywood with army blankets then covered the entire surface with cotton duck cloth. The covered plywood was placed atop an unused table. She added storage below the surface through the use of rolling wire-basket systems. See pages 113–114 for more information on this space.
Excerpted from Dream Sewing Spaces by Lynette Ranney Black, Pati Palmer, Jeannette Schilling & Kate Pryka. Copyright © 2010 Palmer/Pletsch Incorporated. Excerpted by permission of Palmer/Pletsch Publication.
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