Beyond Organized: Tips for an Inspiring Sewing Space

Hey there readers! It's been a while! Kind of a recurring theme in my blog intros in 2016, huh?? Well new year, new home, new blog goals! Including a profound desire to share with you my recent creative endeavors in the world of home decor, DIY wall art, and some personal photography projects I have planned. So today's post is the first nod in that direction, and meant to compliment my guest blog on Project Run & Play today. If you haven't already, go check out my sewing space organization tips!

Let me preface this list by saying... for five years now I've only expected my sewing space to be functional. And pretty things were still made, no problem. If that's where you are, and you're happy with it, then rock on my friend. Just brace yourself. This list has nothing to do with efficiency, and you may find some of these suggestions absurd. Promise me you'll read it anyway! An extra dash of inspiration can't hurt!

As for me... sewing has shifted meaning for me this last year. It used to be my connection to an outside world, a skill I could grow when the rest of my SAHM work proved as mindless as it was endless. Now, my social life is tied directly to my kids - their playdates, school events, and activities - and the other parents I face it all with. Sewing, then, is my chance to get away from it all. To relax, as pajama-clad and deodorant-deprived as I want, while I remind myself - stitch by stitch - that I'm a talent, and I deserve time to be (and develop) Becca the adult, the individual, and the artist. Sewing is my retreat - and my studio should feel like one. Yours can too!

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I feel like this is a Free Notion cliche, but it's pretty much ALWAYS relevant! The things around you impact how you feel. When their impact is negative, those things have GOT to go!  

  • That broken sewing machine you're "REALLY going to fix this year, promise, promise!" - get rid of it! Let it bring joy to someone who will fix it up. It's only bringing you guilt.
  • The stack of "nevermind, I'd rather be a kitty cat!" princess fabrics you bought a few months ago? That's bringing you frustration.
  • The "why, oh why didn't I double check my measurements before I cut out a size too small?" pattern piece you are in-no-way-obligated-to-fit-into-but-you're-holding-onto-anyway? It's bringing you shame.

That feeling - whatever it is - no matter how mild or how fleeting - is OPTIONAL, friends! Opt out. Free up that mental energy so inspiration can take it's place. Bonus: less to clean, less to search through.

...And if you have a good place to donate broken sewing machines... let me know.... asking for a friend... ;)

Let there be LIGHT!

This sort of piggy backs on the same "set yourself up for success" message above. Replace the burnt out lightbulb, swap out those heavy curtains for something a little more transparent. Bring IN more lamps, ensuring that you'll never again have to quint at that "black? or navy?" spool of thread again. I believe in this idea so much that I had my contractor replace the balcony door (all wood) with this fully window'ed (full-light?) one. 

A well-lit space is an inviting space - but choose the COLOR light you put in your space based on your sewing habits. Do you spend most of your time sewing during the day? Try white or blue lights to improve mood and increase alertness. Do you sew mostly at night? Stick to red lights that won't mess up your internal time clock and promise you insomnia in the hours to come. (Source)

No room or budget for new lights? Bounce the existing light around with mirrors! 

Put your work on display

With the nasty vibes out, let's bring the smiles in!  This tip is SO easy I want you all to do it like RIGHT. NOW.

Did you make your dress for family photos last year? Did you painstakingly piece scraps from all your child's mama-made into an elaborate quilt that said-child has rejected and leaves wadded under the bed? Print those photos. Steal back that quilt. Fill your space with mementos from your sewing successes, and absorb the sense of pride and accomplishment they emanate. 

The rejected quilt in question... 

The rejected quilt in question... 

DON'T get stuck in the trap of thinking "but I'm learning still, and I've learned so much since I ______[made my first quilt, learned to properly fit my body, etc]___, I'm sure my next project will be even MORE worthy of framing." Listen. Year-ago-you was proud of that work, and present you is worth the daily reminder of that pride, and your progress. Besides, if you ARE right (and lets face it, you're you, so you are) and you DO produce more display-worthy work soon, let year-from-now-you worry about printing and displaying those. 

Can't think of anything worth displaying? Fill your walls with some budget-friendly scrap art! Set aside a couple hours and piece some scraps together to make an oversized quilt block. You can pick up a 24 x 36 canvas at many craft stores for cheap with your half off coupons (Michaels, JoAnn, AC Moore...) and simply "stretch" the quilt block onto the canvas with some spray adhesive and a staple gun. You may even get more inspiration-bang-for-your-buck this way, since each scrap is tied to a project with it's own colorful chapter in your creative story!

Next step.. stretching this over canvas!

A video posted by Becca DuVal (@beccaduvalphoto) on

Bring in some Life

When the cold weather hit, I moved some potted plants inside from the balcony.  My orange plant had been in it's new home in my studio for about a week when I realized how much time I spent admiring it. In a room of frenzied activity, it was a living thing.. in constant stillness. Plus its blooms smelt sweet and the vibrant greens were undeniably cheerful. Just as you're thinking to yourself "wow Becca's a total nutcase!" - you should know this is a scientifically proven phenomenon! Sharing your space with potted plants is linked to increased alertness and well-being, AND lower anxiety levels. And they're pretty. So win-win-win-win for our creative juices.

I have an epic black thumb - I'll kill any plant in my care - so while my buddy Tang here is chugging along alright (Holy Moly, I totally just dated myself), I'm going to introduce some sweet hanging planters to the space with these surprisingly convincing fake succulents I found at world market. This is a great option for those of you whose sewing rooms are in basements or other low-light environments. 

Create a full-sensory experience

Before I walked into my son's doctor's office this past Fall, it had never occurred to me that decor was anything other than what you see. Sure, the room looked nice enough, but it was so much more than that.  It SMELLED nice. It SOUNDED nice. Even walking over the plush rug FELT nice. Walking into this room felt like walking into a warm hug.

I was in this room for minutes and felt, down to the bone, a sense of calm. If "sensory decor" could lift my spirit that fast, what could it do to the hours each week I spent in my craft space? I had to try it out. At best, I'd have a creative cocoon of inspiration. At minimum, I'd rid the space of a lingering smell of dog fart.

That's a guilty face if ever I saw one.

That's a guilty face if ever I saw one.

So I bought a diffuser, and made up a blend of citrus and peppermint to perk up my senses as soon as I open the door. I reassigned a fur pillow from downstairs to my chair, so I could sink into tactile comfort right away. I switched out my usual NPR election coverage in favor of the spotify playlist "Chill Hits." And I organized my fabrics by color, so I could be surrounded by a full spectrum of colors at all times.  

So there, my granola is showing, but its revolutionized the way I experience decor and I totally recommend it. 

It's *not* a work-space.

Now let's not split hairs here - of course its a work-space. But there is great power in words - and we can do SO MUCH BETTER than: "this is a space. I do work here." I don't care if you want to go all Phoebe "Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock" on me - it's your space, your rules. But try finding a label more true to the reasons you sew. I call mine a "studio." First it felt snooty and ridiculous, but its a name that represents better represents artistry and creative expression. 

Well, there you have it! Lots of little ways to treat your innermost self to a pleasing sewing experience, every time. Which trick are you going to employ first??