sewingroom.jpgAfter the holiday rush is a great time to hunker down and try to bring some semblance of order to my sewing room. One of my “rules,” which keeps me somewhat under control when it comes to buying fabric, is that I must physically handle each piece of my fabric at least once a year. And it is amazing that for quite a bit of the fabric in my stash, that ends up being only when I’m doing my annual cleaning! However, another good reason to do the cleaning at this time of year is to make room for any fabric I’ve been buying in the great year-end sales (I admit that I have seven more yards coming in the mail over the next several days and that I recently purchased many yards at my local fabric shop).

Opening my Etsy shop late last year has done much to contribute to both the size of my fabric stash and the chaotic state of my sewing room. At first, I thought I’d be able to use up some of those fabrics that had been in my stash for years when I started making placemats, mat bags, etc for my Etsy shop. But what I’ve found is that if a fabric has remained untouched for years in my stash (okay, except for that annual cleaning), chances are that I’m really not that fond of it and I’ve only been keeping it around out of guilt. I’m not interested in making anything out of it, whether it be for me, a friend or relative, or for a complete stranger. “Fabric guilt” is a pretty silly thing. It seems pretty selfish to keep these fabrics sitting on my shelves rather than seeing if I can get them out there to people who might enjoy or use them (this, in fact, is my approach to all of the unused or unwanted material items in my life). So this year, I’m doing my best to pull out those fabrics I’m not going to use and try to find a good home for them. A local quilt group makes charity quilts for children and is always looking for fabrics appropriate for kids. I’ve seen fabric swaps taking place on Flickr that I might look into. I could try selling some of it on Etsy. And some I might donate to Goodwill.

The annual cleaning is quite a big undertaking, and here are some things I’ve learned that may be of use to others wanting to tame their studio space:
1) Do NOT attempt to do the whole project all in one go. You’ll find that your progress gets slower and slower. Set aside time, say 30 minutes, each day over a few days. Figure out a way to divide the task up. This year, I said I was going to tackle one cubby in my big fabric shelves, which does contain stuff other than fabric, at a time. Then I’ll move onto my sewing cabinet drawers, magazine pile, etc.

2) Decide on a way to sort your fabrics (or other supplies). Whew. This sounds so easy, doesn’t it? I admit I have trouble with this and I constantly change the sorting categories. At first I was just dividing them into solids (or mostly so) and prints. Then I had to divide those prints up into kid-themed, really bright, licensed designs, etc. Then I had to break out 2+ yard pieces, 1-to-2 yard pieces, smaller-than-1-yard pieces, scraps. It can be quite tricky to not let this get out of hand! (Go ahead and let go of any idea that you will get this done perfectly.) As you can see in my photo, I’m still in the process of sorting.

3) Pull out fabrics that you know you’re not going to use as you go. Be honest and forget the guilt. So what if you paid $10 a yard for it? If you’re not using it, you’re not getting any value for that $10 anyway. Besides, think of all the great deals you’ve gotten on fabric you love. They sort of balance out the “bad fabric karma” of those you paid more for and then didn’t use. If at some point you start putting these fabrics back in your other piles, that is a pretty good sign that it is time to stop for the day.

4) Keep a few boxes handy – one for trash, one for recyclables, and maybe even one for the “getting rid of” fabric. In fact, if you put that fabric into a box where you can’t see it so easily, you might not be as tempted to pull them back out.

5) Great music or a good audio book can really help keep your energy going.

6) Enjoy finding things you forgot you had or those that you thought had gone missing. My favorite find this year is a small photo album of pictures I took of my early quilts that I gave as gifts (I must get back into that habit) along with thank-you notes and cards from many of the recipients.

7) Avoid the obvious distractions. When you see that jar of buttons and then think you just might dump them out and sort them all, you’re being distracted from the overall project. The buttons can be sorted another day. Take a quick break (say…to blog about the annual cleaning of your sewing room) and then get back to it.

Well, it is time for me to get back to my own cleaning. I’ll be sure to post an “after” photo when I’m all done. (Meanwhile, enjoy all the weird non-sewing stuff you see in the photo. Click on it to see a larger version in my Flickr account. Yes, that is indeed a talking Ed Grimley doll sitting up on top of my fabric shelves.)