Saturday, January 24, 2009

More on the Tools of our Trade

Ideas for Storing the Tools of Homemaking:

Do you sew or do crafts? If so, you need a way of storing your materials that not only looks neat, but allows you to find the items you need quickly.

One way of storing notions or little craft items is to use one of those fairly inexpensive plastic containers made for storing little tools. These usually have little drawers of different sizes, which you can label so that you can find things you need. These are great for storing glue sticks, measuring tapes, hem gauges, hem tape, ready-made appliques, seam rippers, glitter, or any other sewing or craft items that will fit in the drawers.

I have a shelf above my sewing center on which I've placed little square white baskets which I bought at the Dollar Store. I use those to store patterns I'm currently using or plan on using soon, fabric glues, etc. They are very handy.

There are cases made especially for crochet hooks or knitting needles. If you don't have one and don't want to buy one, buy one of those inexpensive and decorative tubes made to hold a wine bottle from your local craft or dollar store. You can drop the needles and hooks into the holder and place the top on it. You can also make yourself a case for shorter needles out of placemats that you buy at a dollar store. Sew narrow pockets inside to hold the needles.

If you purchase a comforter, bedspread, curtain, sheet, or pillowcase, chances are it will come in a heavy plastic bag with a zipper or a snap top. Consider saving these. The plastic is not very breathable and isn't the best for the long term storage of fabrics. However, they are perfect for organizing fabrics for current and future projects. For example, if you quilt, you can store all of the fabrics for a quilt project in one bag, the fabrics for another quilt project in another bag, and so forth. This is especially helpful if you buy a lot of quilt fabrics in one shopping trip and then work on them throughout the year. You can also use these to organize knitting, crochet, or scrapbooking projects. You can also travel with these. If you are going somewhere, and you want to hand stitch a quilt or knit a scarf, just grab the bag that holds the project you'd like to work on and you're ready to go.

For large stocks of fabric, you can use big cardboard boxes. You can cut sturdy pieces of cardboard a little narrower than the box is wide and a little shorter than the height. You can wrap the fabric around these cardboard pieces, as if you were wrapping fabric onto a bolt. You can slide these "mini-bolts" into the box, as if you were filing papers in a file drawer. Then, when you are ready to sew, you can flip through the box. If you have many fabrics, label your boxes. Group like colors together or like textures. You can attach index cards to each fabric with any information you'd like to remember, such as the width of the fabric, the type of material, the length you have on hand, when and where you purchased it, etc.

Swatches and scraps that won't fit on your homemade bolts can be kept in a separate box or in a big plastic container.

Be sure to be disiplined and go through your fabrics and espeically your scraps every once in a while. Give away fabrics you know you will never use.

If you have an extra closet in your sewing area, you can also fold lengths of fabric and attach them to clothes hangers using clothes pins.

Remember, your system of organziation needs to be only as elaborate as you need it to be. If you sew or craft only once in a blue moon and you don't have many sewing or craft items to store, it doesn't make sense to spend hours setting up a means to organize your small store of stuff. If, on the other hand, you are an avid seamstress or crafter, putting in the time to organize it up front will save you lots of time in the long haul.

If you use sewing patterns, think twice before storing your patter for future use. Will you really use it again? If so, store it. If you won't, it's not worth the space to file it or the time to put it away. Try to use patterns from which you can get a lot of use.

One easy way to store patterns and pattern pieces is to place them in large manilla envelopes and file them in a box that will hold the envelopes. Or, you can store them in zip lock bags that are big enough to hold your fabric cover and your folded patterns. Doing this saves you the effort of tryng to fold everything back into the pattern cover.

Many people do put their patterns back into the covers. You can buy boxes especially made for storing patterns at craft and sewing stores.

Did you know that you can make a book or ring of zip-lock storage bags? Reinforce the top with mailing tape and punch either one hole at the top or three holes down the side like notebook papter. Hold the various bags together with loose binder rings. Store embroidery threads or other craft supplies inside the bags. You can use quart or gallon size bags in tis way.

If you knit or crochet, you might want to store a few skeins of your yarn in an open basket. This looks beautiful in a sewing area. You can also place a colorful pair of knitting needles in the skeins (Unless you have small children around who might take out the needles and injure themslves with them.)

Do you garden?

Lawn tools can be hung on a peg board or a specially made row of hangers or even between to closely placed nails.
You can also put rakes, hoes, shovels, etc. into a glavanized garbage can and tie the can's handle to something to keep it from falling over.

What about tools for home maintenance?
Keep a special jar for screws that you find on the kitchen floor or in a drawer. Don't throw them away until you're absolutly sure that they didn't fall out of some place where they are needed. An empty, clean baby food jar is great for this. Be sure to place little items like this all together so that if you do need to find a missing screw or bolt or nut, you don't have to rummange through five drawers looking for the perfect one.

Dishpans make great slide out drawers to use on shelves in a garage. You can use them to store light bulbs, extension cords, etc.

For ideas about organizing sew rooms, follow this link. Don't be discouraged if you don't have the sewing space that these ladies do. You can function quite well if you have a place in the bottom of a closet in which to store a sewing machine, a table you can clear and use for cutting and sewing (You might want to cover it with a cutting mat to protect the table), and just enough fabrics and notions for your current projects.

Here are some ideas for organizing the garage. Again, don't be dismayed if you don't have the money or time right now to create a fantastic looking garage. Just take whatever ideas work for you. Here's more about organizing a garage. Here's a garage someone has set up to hold a potting bench. Hmm...that looks much better than my collection of garden odds and ends.

We'll get back to our apron project soon and move on to crochet.

In the meantime,
Happy Organizing!


. said...

I'de like to know how the course works, we just come here and read or should we join?
I'm very interested.

Elizabeth said...


You can come and read at your own pace. Our course will last just a little over a year. We began in the late fall of 2008 and will end Jan. 31 of 2009. I will leave the posts up as long as I can so that people can catch up as they please. You can do as much or as little as you want and read as much as little as you want. When we're through, it should be a resource that will teach us lots of things.

If you'd like to be included in the sidebar, please let me know and leave your link. That way, you can visit others who are reading along, and they can visit you. That is optional.

Glad you're enjoying it.

. said...

I'd like very much to be included in the sidebar, it would be an honour.


Ivy in the Kitchen said...

I was actually going to ask what the first commenter did. Your project is very enjoyable; I've been reading off and on since December or so, but only recently started a blog of my own.

Currently, I'm single and being at college, don't have a household to run. My childhood didn't include training in domestic arts; now I'm scrambling to learn them.

Thank you for posting such wonderful information.