Sewing room makeover ideas

Posted by on January 31, 2013, in quilting & sewing,

Mary's two-car garageLike many quilters, I used to dream of having a space set aside just for my quilting—a place I could call my “studio.” In my case, I dreamt of a space large enough for two, since my husband is a quilter, too, with his own machine and an equally large and unruly fabric stash. When we moved into a home that had two two-car garages (one whole garage more than we needed, shown at right), we began to think about how we might convert that space to a quilt studio. We sketched out pages of quilt-room design ideas and discussed how it might all work. But it wasn’t until we had the opportunity to be one of the ten makeovers designed by Lois Hallock for her book Creating Your Perfect Quilting Space, that we started seriously researching designs for sewing rooms. We were so excited!

Lois is an engineer with expertise in factory design, so she understands efficient work flow and ergonomic needs. And she’s a quilter, which means she also understands all the “stuff” that comes along with the hobby—the fabric, tools, notions, patterns, books, and machines that need to be organized and stored. So even though we had some ideas of our own, sitting down with Lois to design a sewing room was eye-opening. She helped us prioritize our wish list and think through issues we hadn’t even considered. And she helped us go from this empty garage:

Mary's quilt studio--before

to this amazing studio.

Mary's quilting studio--after 1

Mary's quilting studio--after 2

It took us eight months of working nearly every weekend, but isn’t it fabulous? And you know what? Eight years later, we still love it. We wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe just one little thing: we positioned the lights over the cutting tables a little differently than Lois recommended, and we know now we should have listened to her. Sigh. Why did we think we knew better? They’re okay and we have plenty of light for cutting, but it would have been just a teensy bit better had we followed her advice. Otherwise, aside from the fact that the room hasn’t been this neat since the photos were taken, it looks pretty much the same. More important, it still works well, and I’m confident we spend more time there than we ever would have if we hadn’t undertaken such an extensive makeover.

In the process of creating our perfect quilting space, I learned so much from Lois about what’s important in any work space. Considerations such as adequate lighting, ideal cutting-table height, and proper chair adjustment are covered in many books and articles. But did you know that the principle of the work triangle used in kitchen design can be applied to sewing-room design? Anyone can set up a work triangle, whether you’re sewing in a big studio or at your kitchen table. Plus, it can work for both permanent and temporary spaces.

Quilter's work triangle

Did you also know that a comfortable ironing height is about 3″ taller than a comfortable cutting height, because an iron is heavier than a rotary cutter? How about the fact that some full-spectrum lightbulbs—the kind that render color accurately—can also fade your fabric, just like natural sunlight can?

Here are a few more sewing-room design tips from Creating Your Perfect Quilting Space:

  • Fabric that is folded uniformly is easier to stack, makes for a less cluttered appearance, and makes it easier to find just the right piece. (I cringed when Lois told us we had to fold ALL our fabric this way, and it took hours, but she was right—it’s so much easier to work with this way.)

Fabric organization

  • Storage pieces and work surfaces come in all styles and price ranges, from repurposed bedroom dressers to kitchen cabinets from Home Depot or Ikea to custom furniture.
  • Keeping tools and supplies organized and within reach saves time and energy, allowing you to spend less time searching for your missing seam ripper and more time being creative.

Hang your rotary rulers

  • Proper lighting is essential to avoiding fatigue and eye strain, but most of us don’t realize that our lighting levels are too low. A person at age 40 may require twice as much light as a person at 20 (ouch!). Increasing the amount of light, especially task lighting, can allow you to work more comfortably for longer periods.

Whether you sew in a corner of the bedroom, on the dining-room table, or in a large, dedicated room, there are tips and ideas here that will help you be more organized, work more efficiently, and enjoy your quilting and sewing more than ever. You may even decide to take the plunge and plan your own makeover!

How do you organize and store your fabric? Share your best ideas—or your biggest challenges—in the comments!

Check out the slideshow below for even more ideas from the book; then take advantage of this week’s special sale.


A portable, clamp-on ironing board offers plenty of space to cut and press blocks while seated. The design wall is in easy reach, located just behind the sewing station.


Typically, bookcases aren't deep enough to store folded fabric efficiently, but if you can remove a shelf or two, they're perfect for housing fabric bolts.


A purchased buffet offers something ironing boards don't--lots of bulk storage! Simply add a homemade top covered in heat- and moisture-resistant fabric.


A vintage cabinet recycled from the garage now displays neatly folded fabric and baskets for tools and scraps.


An articulated task lamp makes it easy to direct additional light on either the sewing machine or the embroidery machine in this studio.


Store magazines in plastic or cardboard holders in your bookcase. You can generally store a year's worth of each subscription in one folder.


Divided baskets are a good way to organize fat quarters and scraps.

25 Comments (leave a comment)

Leave a comment

*Indicates required field