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7 steps of how I setup a functional workspace in less than 100 square feet

I've been sewing and crafting since I can remember. at around 7 years old my grandma taught me to sew on her sewing machine and I've been hooked ever since. from wall hangings to purses to quilts to dresses to pillows and anything in between. more recently, I've been working on a little interchangeable system called Switch Stitch. making and creating things is a part of who I am and with that comes the need for a space to let the ideas, and mess, flow.

no matter where I've lived, a workspace for this creative brain has always been a priority. even in my first apartment I used my laundry space as craft storage and chose to go to the laundry mat so that I could have my crafting supplies within reaching distance. so when we decided to downsize by 2,000 square feet, one of my first thoughts was 'where will my sewing studio go'?

there were only two options for my sewing studio when moving to hillcrest. the crisp, new shed Russ + Terrie had built across the patio or the sunroom on the front of the house. although the shed is bigger than the sunroom, I ultimately picked the sunroom for my workspace. the shed isn't temperature controlled and I'm very particular about my surroundings in this way. it's also not connected to the bathroom or kitchen...where I find myself floating to a lot while I work. plus all the windows in the sunroom have me forgetting I'm inside most of the time, which makes me so happy to be working in nature and amongst all the trees.

however, the thing I love the most is also the thing that has proven to be the most challenging. I didn't realize how much wall space I used for organizing all my things. when we lived in cincinnati I had installed a whole closet system specifically for my sewing supplies. it was blissful. I also had baskets hanging on the wall for all my books, a ruler rack mounted above my cutting table and the most adorable thread cabinet for cute and functional access. above my computer I had a stationary setup, that I made, for pens, clips, headphones, blue light glasses and the most interesting magnet board for all those random notes...and Switch Stitch Buttons of course.

almost all of that would be gone in this new space. great.

after a few weeks of a wonderful blend of anxiety, wtf did I do, total frustration and a big splash of resentment, that Bob didn't have to deal with any of this kind of thing, I chose to dig in and make it work. I decided to embrace my natural tendencies for organizing and task analysis to create a super functional workspace. oh and lots of sacrificing.

but truly, the way I approach setting up a space can boiled down to seven steps. I use this process for a variety of spaces I spend time in from our kitchen to bathroom to shed and it seems to have served me well over the years. here's what that looks like in real life in my sewing workspace. check out the video below to see how I've used seven steps to create a functional workspace.



in all the sewing spaces I've setup [this is number eight] this space is definitely the most challenging and it'll take much longer than I anticipated. the struggle with making any space ultra functional is that it takes time to understand how I [we] move through and utilize it. whether I like it or not ,this workspace will be a work in progress for a bit longer as I gain awareness on what's flowing and what's not.


I knew before moving I'd be doing some renovating of the sunroom even before I could unbox any sewing stuff. I wanted to get the biggest footprint out of the space that I could so we removed the built in seating. doing this added almost 40 square feet!!...that's so critical for this tiny space. there's also a few non-negotiables I'm dealing with that can't be moved like the fridge and built in radiant heater.


next was putting in the vital pieces I need for sewing. since I've been sewing for 25+ years I've honed these pieces fairly well over the years. spoiler alert...this small space couldn't physically fit all the pieces I had in my cincinnati setup.

foundational pieces for me and my process include:

- a desk for my computer + sewing machine

- work in progress storage

- thread storage

- cutting table

- fabric storage

- ironing space

the ones that don't fit are the cutting table and that adorable thread cabinet. I adjusted and now my desk does triple, sewing machine, cutting table. I boxed up some much older works in progress, stashed them in the storage unit and was able to use that 'extra' space for thread storage. it'll work for now and I'll continue to refine.


it took me a few weeks and several sewing sessions to tweak the layout. I had to work in the space and place things in a way that supported the flow of my work...and also I don't have a lot of options so this part didn't take as long as it has in the past. right now it feels good for my workflow and nothing is permanent.


once all the big, vital pieces were situated I moved to functional placement of the supplies and smaller tools I use regularly. for me this means lots of medium-ish sized containers, to hold different categories of supplies, that I can move around until I find their ideal placement. having like supplies/tools clustered together and knowing what container to grab when I need something saves so much time for me.


this is about where I've been in pause for quite a bit. I'm going to use the weather as an excuse. when it's summer I'm not much into my sewing and indoor crafting. with what I've setup currently, I'm able to work smoothly enough to get things done. I know once the weather has me inside I'll start getting into the nesting phase. that's the part where I do the nitty gritty organization like I did with our kitchen. its where I hone in on functional storage and my four parameters of design.

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nesting is my favorite and it also takes me the longest. it's the details part of the whole 'setting up a functional workspace' and details always take more time and energy. yet, to me, the details seem to have the biggest impact on my workflow, productivity, efficiency and mood. here's to looking forward to a nesting post on my sewing studio circa next spring.


maybe it's me, but assessing and refining what's working in a space and what's not seems to be an ongoing thing. refinement is kind of infused into each step rather than being on it's own. but sometimes it's easy for me to keep ignoring a space if I think I need to re-do the whole thing from the beginning.

refining as it's own step helps me procrastinate less. I'm able to make small adjustments without feeling the need to 'Marie Kondo' the whole room. been there, done that and don't want to go back to that chore again. small wins create big changes.

although I don't consider my sewing studio done at this point I would label it as quite functional and super adorable. it's something I'm proud of given the time frame of a few weeks, the small size of the room and all of the things I want my workspace to do.

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what I'm experiencing first hand [again] is how much I'm impacted by the environment, the tasks being done and the relationship between them. when I have a functioning workspace, ready to support the main tasks I do, loaded with the appropriate tools and supplies, that are located in the most logical spots; I find myself happier, more at ease, more present, I do better work and I'm able to handle hurdles with a more clear mind. overall a functional workspace makes good use of my time and energy so that I have more of it to do all the other things I love.


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