Despite my best intentions, my String Quilt Set on Point is as incomplete today as it was more than a month ago.

I enjoy sewing so much, yet I hardly ever find myself actually doing it. I ask myself, why is that so?

It’s not an issue of inspiration. Over the past half a year or so, I’ve started to collect back issues of Quilts Japan, most of them from eBay. These magazines are filled to the brim with inspiration: quilt block construction, designs and patterns, color combinations, and everything in between.

It’s not a matter of time – I find time to knit, so why not sew? Nowadays I actually have more than enough time on my hands (oh, unemployment, I heart you and hate you at once). Plus I have my sewing class – that ensures that I get behind the machine at least once a week!

Partially, my equipment (or lack thereof) is to blame. My $88 Singer is a trooper, and has always performed the best that it can, but it’s not a machine which can handle serious sewing. It has always had tension issues, and at best the bobbin side of the sewing looks “passable”. If several layers of fabric are involved, or I’m sewing something heavier, the wrong side looks awful. For a long while now I’ve been contemplating an upgrade – a workhorse Elna, Bernina, Pfaff, etc. – but my budget absolutely cannot accommodate such a purchase. I should investigate one of those “Contribute to Kathy’s Elna fund” buttons on my sidebar ;). Until then, the Singer will have to do.

The real hindrance to my productivity is my lack of dedicated sewing space. I have only one desk in my tiny 386-square foot apartment: it’s a simple table from Ikea, about 36″ X 24″ in size. I know its dimensions because the tabletop is almost the exact size of my 36″ X 24″ Olfa mat. But on a typical day, my sewing machine is nowhere near this table. To put it there, I first have to clear off all the junk.

  1. the mail
  2. my computer and mouse
  3. my watch
  4. notes, pens, miscellaneous stuff
  5. drinking cup
  6. sweater shaver
  7. calculator and accounting book
  8. pile of papers and books
  9. sewing project
  10. knitting catch-all – patterns, notions, and other miscellany
  11. computer speakers
  12. under desk – yarn storage

What’s worse, I have to put all that stuff back on the table after I’m done with the sewing! Oh, brother!

Is it any surprise that this set-up is entirely counter-productive?!? And that knitting, which can be done in nearly any space, is my predominant hobby?

If you live in a tiny apartment, how do you manage your space-occupying activities, such as sewing, spinning on a wheel, weaving, etc.? Do you have dedicated space for these hobbies, or end up assigning multiple uses to whatever little space you have?


91 thoughts on “Productivity

  1. Kelley

    I hear you, loud and clear! My apartment is tiny and I love to sew and quilt, but space is a problem. I get by with my dining room table, which rarely sees meals, and when it’s set up for sewing, it’s there for weeks. We have a console table that holds all the crap, and the overflow goes onto the ironing board. A better method could be found, I’m sure, but we haven’t managed yet.

  2. Nielsdottir

    Shelves. Back when I only had one table that had to serve all purposes, I had a lot of shelves around – and they weren’t that high, so it was not as if it was a problem to access the things on them. I did forget to use them sometimes – because it’s just easier to throw the mail and keys and everything on the table, but if I had to use the table, it was always quite easy to move my stuff to the shelves.

  3. Dibble

    I wish I had a helpful answer for you, but after 30 years of knitting and sewing I believe it is very much an issue of dedicated space. (Which I still don’t have.)

    Sewing requires space, not just for the machine, but for the project itself and the ironing board.

    I used to haul my machine (and related equipment) to our church to use a classroom and large table to get away from inquiring, small children. Do you have somewhere you can go for 1/2 a day?

  4. CatBookMom

    Look at Staples or Home Depot or Ikea for some small plastic 3-drawer units (about 8.5x11in) that will fit under your desk or in the corner. That way you’ll have a place to put the things that just need to be near your desk and don’t have to be right on top, like your laptop. Some of them have little pencil/paperclip tray-things on top, and some have rollers; they’re lightweight enough to move easily. Gee, if postage wasn’t too much to Boston, I’d send you one of my spare ones, lol!

  5. Carrie

    Well, our apartment isn’t THAT small; I do have a dedicated craft corner. I have a table for the sewing machine, from which it never moves, and a table with a fold out section where I can set up an ironing board, or mat for cutting, or whatever, and then it collapses back down when I’m done. My hubby keeps wanting to know why I can’t just sew on the dining room table, but you’ve summed it up pretty nicely! I love my setup, compact as it is. My problem is finding TIME to sew — the only time I have is evening when I want nothing more than to plop on the couch and knit!

  6. Amanda

    I live in a small one room loft space. my answer is to set up my sewing machine on a portable/ fold-up sewing table that only gets taken out when I’m actively working on a project, and generally gets put away fairly soon after I’m done, OR if I know I won’t be sewing for another week or two. It is hard, though, to manage all of the crafting clutter!

  7. knitterykate

    I love to knit and it’s probably because it’s so portable. I keep baskets and bags of knitting all over the house. I use to sew but didn’t want to leave my machine out all the time and I hated to have to set up and take down every time I sewed so I stopped. Plus my husband didn’t want pins on the floor because of the babies…(my baby is now 19 and I’m just getting back into sewing). Since two of my girls moved to the basement (where our business use to be) I just got an extra room for my sewing/knitting/cross-stitch/quilting/scrapbooking and I can leave it as messy as I want–until we have company.

  8. Emily

    I’m just starting to sew, and a big problem for me is that our one table surface is our kitchen counter/dining table/desk/room divider. The sewing machine lives in my bookshelf. Like in your apartment, I have to clear off the dishes, junk, mail, sometimes even food prep items to have a place to set the machine. But when I do, I love it!

  9. anne

    I’m sure you’ll get a lot of machine recs. Old workhorse machines can sometimes be gotten for a song and often have excellent stitch quality. If you lived closer, I’d give you my 22-pound Pfaff that I inherited from my mother-in-law. It sews like a dream.

    Small space? Luckily not my problem at the moment, but I can say that keeping my cutting board area cleaned off is key to my wanting to sew.

  10. Mary

    Wow! Getting my brain around the idea of 386 sq ft is challenging enough, let alone planning how to use it efficiently! I, too, really enjoy sewing; but lack of time and a dedicated space to set up without having to take down also keeps knitting needles rather than sewing needles in my hands. Can you find a reasonable sewing machine on ebay or Craigslist? I saw a 25 y.o. Bernina on Boston Craigslist for best offer. Good luck!

  11. Kara

    Personally, I don’t get behind the sewing machine as often as I’d like because it requires a lot of prep. Not quite like your prep, but because it’s housed in the basement, I have to get my music ready, make sure I have a drink, a glass of water to keep the steam in the iron full, whatever I’m working on (which was usually upstairs for the cutting and laying out portion of the sewing… By the time I’m finished getting ready to sew, I’ve used a good chunk of my sewing time up. Then when you add in the incessant barking the sewing machine causes (Rileypants the dog has some issues with things that make noise), it’s almost not worth it.

    This is why my super simple quilt is STILL in the same place it was 2 months ago. ๐Ÿ˜›

  12. Bertha

    I have a older model workhorse Elna and I love it, so should you go that route at some point, I think you’d be pleased!

    And yeah, no dedicated crafting space here. I used to sit on the couch and pull the coffee table close and sew there (ouch! recipe for a back-ache!) but with the baby, we took the coffee table out of the living room so now I have to sew on the living room floor, or the ottoman. It’s definitely why I haven’t sewn in a while, but I’m hoping to remedy that this week!

  13. Laura

    Hello! I often read your blog, you’re always saying something interesting. To unlurk, here’s what I do about sewing in my 550ish sq.ft. apartment.

    The floor: is where I do all my laying out of cloth and cutting. The hard wood makes nice measuring stripes…

    The hallway: is where I iron on a short folding ironing board.

    The blanket box: Mine’s about 23″ high and it doesn’t fit in my bedroom. So I have it set up as a console table against the wall, by my couch. The sewing machine lives on it permanently, and when I want to use it, I put it at an angle, pull the couch up a little closer, and sew away. Very cosy.

    bonus tip for desk storage: upright magazine holder (great for stray papers, books)

    Best of luck (can’t wait to see the finished quilt)

  14. Tana

    When I lived by myself in an apartment, I sewed a lot. I would get it out and just sew for hours on the weekend. Now I’m a mom. I have a nice machine that doesn’t have the issues my old one had (oh, so feel your pain!). I have a sewing machine cabinet to store it in. And yet, it’s much easier to pick up my knitting for a few minutes than it is to try and devote enough time to sewing to actually finish something. Why is that?

  15. Anna

    Look into Craigslist for finding a good sewing machine that you can afford. I got a lower-end Pfaff model for $80 after 2 weeks of searching Craiglist. You can even set up an RSS feed of your search (e.g. “Pfaff OR Bernina OR Elna”) so that you aren’t constantly going to the website to look.

  16. Katie B.

    I bought a Janome on layaway about ten years ago, and haven’t regretted it a bit. It’s the exact same model as the bottom-of-the-line Viking of the year before, just with a Janome label instead of a Viking label. It’s a good workhorse, and will doubtless serve me for many years to come.

    I have semi-dedicated space for crafting right now, but it will shortly become even more multi-purpose, as we’re moving and the second bedroom in the new place is a) smaller and b) will have to accommodate more purposes than ever (crafting, office, guest room, library, etc.). But it’ll work. For a while. I don’t know what we’ll do when the still-incipient munchkin gets big enough to need its own room, but DH is respectful enough of my crafting needs to think about them quite a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚ Before we got the setup in the second bedroom going, I’d set up my sewing on the dining room table… not something that takes minor effort, probably why I haven’t done much serious sewing in quite a while (knitting is much easier for armchairs!).

  17. Amy

    I, too, have a tiny apartment and a tiny table. I keep my sewing machine in my linen closet and take it out to sew. Then at dinner time I have to put it all away. It’s a major pain.

  18. Edith

    Like others have already mentioned, I’d suggest trying to use the wall space above the desk to store all the items you need to access. Buy some shelves and some beautiful boxes to store stuff in. I’m guessing that you have space above the desk. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck! I can’t imagine living in 386 sq ft. EEEK! I live in 1600 sq ft and still don’t have a dedicated art/craft space. LOL! Of course I have two kids and they have pretty much taken over everything.

  19. penny

    We forget our square footage, it’s a 1 bedroom in brooklyn currently undergoing a kitchen renovation.

    My sewing machine, shira, hasn’t gotten any singing time in way to long because there is no space. my desk is packed with ball winder (i gave up putting it away), light, camera, ipod, laptop, a pile of stuff to review and deal with. i have shelves above but those are filled with books. If I want to use it I have to use the dining table and that’s just very difficult. I have decided that sewing sadly has to take a back seat for now.

    The spinning wheel, on the otherhand, is a hitchhiker and sits just next to the coffee table near my spot on the couch. that area was unused space anyway so it sits out near me but out of the way … now if I only had the time to spin…

  20. susanna

    For about 5 years we lived in a “coach house” that is where the horses and buggies used to be kept it was never made for human habitation, but it was so charming AND small! Me, Jeff, and 10 year old Kate plus the other children who were living with their other parents. I was at the time quite an avid quilter, a Master quilter in fact. I diverted my attention (as you cleverly did) to knitting. Such a neat portable artform.

    Did I miss sewing? Well, yes. I did manage to get in some sewing by taking over the dining table when it was Jeff and I and we could eat on our laps or outside, but I hear you loud and clear about the set up, strike set issues. Now I live in a 3 bedroom house. I spin, I knit, but still I have not returned to sewing.

    Now it could be that my attending Master of Theology and pastoral duties has something to do with that. But I tend to think that sewing that needs to be set up, taken down diminishes the fun. I gave up weaving for the same reason. The preparation was soooo much work that the law of diminishing returns kicked in very quickly.

    Maybe someday I’ll have a dedicated sewing room and a tapestry loom. For now, I am quite content to knit with the odd foray into sewing/stitching. Maybe too I’ll be slender, gorgeous, and grow long legs. Yeah, the odds are just about the same.

  21. Yvonne

    Hey, I have the same sweater shaver!

    I wish I could help you on the space issue — my sewing machine is still sitting in its box, nearly three months after getting it, for the exact same reason.

  22. Helen

    Perhaps there could be a surface that disappeared — into the wall? up to the ceiling? when not in use (like a murphy bed, only for sewing on).

    My sewing machine languishes next to the washer. Even in a fairly large house, I seem to have no where to create a dedicates sewing space.

  23. domesticshorthair

    When it comes to living in tight quarters, I always say, “Look up,” meaning lots of that stuff can go on shelf space above your workspace so that the table is clear for sewing. You could get a shelving unit, like Ikea’s Ivar (unfinished wood), and add as many shelves as you need. Your table looks narrow enough that it might fit between the two sides of a wide Ivar, etagere style, with the shelving above.

  24. Angie

    I live in a pretty big house but have a small sunroom for my desk,some shelves in the pantry for my stash, and no crafting space. I’m a bit jumpy about sewing, even with my smart machine. But when my daughter or I want to sew, it’s take over the dining room and don’t clean up till your done. All the prep is done before the machine comes out. We’ll have dedicated weekends to make something. It’s messy, but I get the best light in the house.

  25. Candyce

    (delurking here)

    I’m not a frequent sewer, but I do get into sewing projects from time to time.

    That being said, I must also admit, I live between three places. My job frequently takes me to different areas of Seattle metro for a solid 10 hours a day, where I run my portion of the office out of my vehicle. I also stay with my boyfriend about 2-3 nights a week, max. On top of that, I also stay with my mother about 2-3 nights a week max. Then on top of that, I tend to stay at my office about 2-3 nights a week.

    Admittedly, at my office, I have this really huuuuge architecture drafting table. In other words, my boss is really nice about letting me store my sewing machine under my work table. (I do hem up his pants, and fix seams for everyone in the office)

    However, I tend to do more knitting. I have a nice solid Harrod’s tote, which I store my life essentials. Food, water, knitting, and my purse.

    With an apartment of your size, I would suggest stacking. Or even a chest of drawers under your table? I have two sets of drawer chests under my drafting table, along with mega huge storage in the back. And I even have enough space for my sewing machine. Admittedly, I do have a large table…

  26. Sherry

    I took up knitting for exactly the situation you describe with sewing. I am an accomplished seamstress but I now live in a great location in a small house with 2 teenagers, a husband, and a dog. By the time I got my sewing set up, I had no time to actually sew. So I set out to find a portable craft with little to no set-up time that can be set aside quickly – knitting.

  27. Pikku-Kettu

    Two words: The Kitchen Table. We have not, for a long time now, actually eaten on our kitchen/dinner table. We do it on the sofa instead because there is always at least one sewing-related machine (the serger or my trusty husqvarna) on the table.

    Fortunately for me we will be moving this month to a new place where I get a whole room to my crafty stuff!

  28. Artsygal

    I hear you on the lack of space! I bought a sewing table and stuck it in my breakfast nook area a couple of years ago, moved my tiny dining table to a corner of my living room and thought I’d get lots of sewing done. Today.. all my dyeing stuff lives on the sewing table, my skeiner on the dining table (last time I sat at it for a meal was 2 years ago) and my poor machine – which I replaced fairly recently with a nice one with eleventy billion stitch functions – sits abandoned in a corner hoping for a time when I’ll get 24 hours stright where the dyeing table won’t be needed for something else. A for the spinning wheel? It sits between the couch and the TV. I get a LOT of spinning done that way.

  29. LEO

    God, it always baffles me to see pictures of people’s special craft rooms with lovely antique furniture on their blogs. It just drives me crazy. I wonder where all the space and money comes from… I have a corner in the living room of our 2 bedroom apartment, which I feel very fortunate to have. But it’s always exploding with yarn and it looks like a disaster and hence drives me crazy. There’s barely enough room for yarn and projects, but then once I need space to block, forget it. That sucker is incredibly in the way no matter where I put it. I do use some plastic drawers in The Corner to keep the smaller items out of control, but honestly I’m not in love with the way it looks…

  30. klaus

    You know what else makes me not want to sew? It’s all prep work. Knitting, you know, I sit down and I knit. Sewing I gotta like…iron..and cut things…and cut thread, and thread the needle, and put thread on the bobbin, and then you sew for 10 seconds and you have to iron something again. It’s really hard for me to get in a groove unless I am sewing a giant quilt or something.

  31. Jenn

    I know what you are talking about here. I have to use the front room floor right in front of the telly to do my cutting of patterns and then I have to pull the sewing machine in to the front room from the back room in the corner clean off the wee table sew what I want and then put everything back on the table and put the sewing machine back away in the corner. Ive fallen in love with sewing but dont do it as much becuase its not as easy as sitting on the couch knitting. But I always feel good once Ive done it.

  32. Kristin

    Definitely IKEA. When I was an undergrad I lived in a 118 square feet flat – complete with its own kitchen and bathroom – and thanks to all their glorious storage ideas it never actually felt that small.

  33. Nancy F. Smith

    I know it isn’t fast but have you tried hand piecing? It can be done the same space as knitting

    if you precut the blocks…Nancy

  34. V.J.

    Precisely why I don’t get any machine sewing done. Machine is in the closet, there is no dedicated space and I end up sewing everything that needs to be sewn by hand. Knitting on the other hand finds dedicated space just about anywhere. I totally symphatize with you. vj

  35. maryse

    do both of you live in that tiny apartment? bless you!

    i don’t have your space issues but one reason i don’t sew is that i don’t have a dedicated sewing area. i’ve had a sewing machine for years and it’s still sitting in a closet.

  36. Nicole

    1. Sort mail when it comes through the door and recycle as much as you can right away. The rest can be tucked into a tupperware container in the kitchen.

    3. Leave your watch on your bed nightstand

    5. Put your drinking cup in the kitchen, can’t be far!

    6. Store your sweater shaver with your sweaters or under the table with your yarn

    9. sewing project – ready and waiting for you!

    10. Move knitting catch-all – patterns, notions, and other miscellany- to under desk with yarn storage

    12. With more in the under desk yarn storage, makes it much easier to just move it aside when you’re ready to sew.

    Invest in a wall shelf for the following:

    2. my computer and mouse

    4. notes, pens, miscellaneous stuff

    7. calculator and accounting book

    8. pile of papers and books

    11. computer speakers

  37. Gale

    Consider hand-sewing the patches together. It’s not as bad (or as slow) as it sounds. And in that tiny apartment you won’t have to deafen your husband by running the machine.

  38. June

    Craigslist (or freecycle) are obvy places to look, but many sew-n-vac places have older machines (trade-ins) that have lots of good years ahead of them. I bought a great old Viking that way (~$75), it lasted for several years until some plastic part disintegrated and I found that the part hadn’t been manufactured since the 1980s. Ha! Still, I was even able to trade it in for a $25 credit on the next machine.

    Did you finish your degree?

  39. Jennifer

    Hello! I worked on a $90 singer for over 20 years. And, back when I initially bought it I sewed most of my own clothes! About five years ago I took it to a repair center and they gently suggested that I consider a used machine. I bought a Pfaff (Hobbymatic I think). I payed only a few hundred dollars and I love it. It makes a huge difference–not so much in what I am able to make–but in how much less effort it takes. As for space management I don’t have any great suggestions. For me, keeping all of my knitting stuff in the floor of my closet, in several large baskets, works. My husband and I used to live in a studio apartment so I totally sympathize.

  40. Jennifer

    One other thought regarding leading a creative life. I am a designer. My office is located off the center hall of my house, right at the front door. At times my studio is lovely. The wall color is gorgeous, I have nice pieces of art, windows on two walls, some lovingly collected furniture, a dynamite oriental rug (that I bought dirt cheap online). But, most of the time it is a shambles. Being creative is messy business. On a normal day my tables, floors, and stools are covered in bits of paper, proofs, piles of books, markers, colored penciles, samples, knitting, etc. Accepting the messiness is important. Shuffling through it is necessary.

  41. Mary K. in Rockport

    My machine is a tiny, ancient Singer with a handle on top that runs beautifully – as long as I only need to sew straight forwards or backwards. It lives under the bed for long periods. I recently read “Bend the Rules Sewing” and followed her suggestions. I arranged the ironing board, set low, right beside a sturdy, card table. I could just turn my chair between the two, first pressing, then sewing, very handy. The whole mess stayed in the corner of the living room until the fam complained that it was blocking the TV. In the past, for quickie jobs like Halloween costumes, I just plonked the machine right on the ironing board and worked standing up. It’s somewhat wobbly but quick to set up and take down.

  42. knittripps

    I live in a house with space in my attic dedicated to my painting. However, I never seem to find the time to paint. I think it is the concept of “out of sight out of mind”. I just don’t go up there. Sometimes having the space isn’t any better.

  43. Emily

    I very much remember the days in Boston of a 455 square foot apartment shared with my husband. I sewed on the dining table. It wasn’t ideal, and I did have to put the machine away when I was done, but it was better than the desk. The space issues are a real reason to move out of the city. I may live an hour and a half away from a city now, but I have more than 3X the space for less than half the price. Does the unemployment mean you graduated?

  44. Shanti

    My desk actually doubles as my sewing table; I end up shifting things around a bit in order to be comfrtable, but it works, and when I’m done, it slides underneath and out of the way. My yarn stash is in lidded baskets that serve as end tables for my living room, and my spinning wheel actually sits on top of a bookshelf in the corner as “decor” unless I’m using it.

    BTW, I bought my Janome, which isn’t high end, but serves my purposes, at the end of the model year on a really deep discount. I’ve seen some decent ones at Overstock recently, too.

  45. tracyb

    That is totally why I stopped sewing. I never had a dedicated space for the sewing machine. Also, knitting is awesome because you can sit down anywhere and do it. It’s conducive to having a conversation with the hubbo, who doesn’t want to sit at the kitchen table and talk over the motor of the machine, or watching reality tv, etc. ..

  46. kelly

    oy vey. I share a 900-sq-ft house with hubby and four young kids. I never manage to get out the sewing machine… now I’m going back to read your other comments to see if anyone else has a solution for me in their suggestions to you!

  47. Anamarie

    In the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living (April?) there is a tutorial on how to make a crafting cabinet out of two bookshelves. I think it would work great for a small space and probably wouldn’t be too expensive, depending on where you get the bookcases.

    You use a large hinge to connect the two bookcases (fronts together) and then connect one bookcase to the wall, and decorate the outside back of the other bookcase (so it looks nice when the cabinet is closed) and add casters so you can easily swing it out to open the cabinet. I think this could be a really cool knitting/sewing cabinet, if you added a table top with a hinge on the back part of the cabinet that would fold down, like a drop leaf table. The outside bookcase (on casters) could be used to store yarn, fabric, patterns, etc. on the shelves – the instructions say to use clear plexiglass to hold in the shelf contents.

  48. Stephanie M

    When do you take your sewing class. I live in the Boston Area and am very excited to be getting my first sewing machine this week, but I have not a clue how to use it. I am not finding that many classes in the area though.

    As for storage, I would think you have to go up.. It would be nice to say that people who live is smaller spaces need to be more neat and organized but that just never happens!!

  49. Jo Skabo

    I hate to tell you this…I live in a 3200 square foot house and STILL don’t have enough room for a dedicated knitting/sewing area! I think this has to do with the sharing of said space with an eleven year old girl with “touch-itis”. In other words, everything she sees must necessarily be touched! My sewing kit is up on a shelf that even I have trouble reaching. My lovely Elna machine (Quilter’s Dream) is in the back of my closet, hidden by several comforters, lest someone decide to explore it and loose feet, needles, bobbins, etc. The only way I’ll ever have my own space is to kill off the hubby and progeny! XD

  50. pennie

    I gave up on sewing for a few years ago for pretty much the same reason. I learned to sew after my second child was born and I did the whole “clear the table and then put everything back when you’re done” thing for a while but it’s gets tiring and old really fast. Our space has increased but so has our family. Now with 6 children, I still don’t have anywhere to dedicate to sewing. Oh well…may be after everyone has gone to college :).

  51. Toby

    When I didn’t have a dedicated space for sewing, it took over the dining room. There was one benefit to this – it kept me close to where my husband was in the house so we were still spending time together.

    Space or no space, I find the reason I knit more than sew is because knitting is more relaxing. I can kick back on the couch when I’m tired and still knit. Sewing requires sitting up at the sewing machine plus all the back and forth to the iron. I have to have a lot more energy to sew!

  52. Anamarie

    Yes, it is the April issue of Martha Stewart Living with the bookcase/cabinet idea – might not be on newstands yet.

  53. Meredith

    Kathy, I truly understand. Your space limitations are very much like my own. I think I have about 400 sq ft in my tiny place, and those limitations are the major reason my sewing machine and serger hide in cabinets until I nearly forget them! Good luck on pile transfer and sewing machine set up so your string quilt gets to come out to play very soon!

  54. Laura Sue

    Another delurker. I got together all my stuff to go to my quilting group last week and asked my husband to help me carry it out to the car. He took one look at the pile and said, “Another good rationale for knitting.” Couldn’t agree more. Even with about 10 quilting UFO’s I’m afraid my quilting days are over.

  55. Mercuria

    My desktop computer (with a giant CRT monitor and all) lives on the dining room table, so I’ve gone to folding tables for my crafting needs.

    I sew on a traditional 4-foot (I think?) folding table I got in college for $5 or $10, but nearly anything else I do is on my personal folding table. In a pinch, it would probably work as a sewing table for not-large projects.

    It’s sturdier than you’d expect from anything called a “personal table,” and my favorite part is that, while the feet are squarely under the table, the legs are offset, so the table can be pulled in close (think “Table Mate,” only without the cheapness and incline-ability). This is especially useful when I want to knit on the couch, but I’m trying to chart what I knit at the same time (I tend to end up shifting my weight onto clipboards, causing bad things to happen).

  56. Rachel

    sweet sasquatch, I totally know how you feel. I myself live on a boat. and I like to sew, knit, spin, dye, cook, garden, and lounge about. I have the same exact problem you have, I have to make every single three-dimensional space do three different things all at once. oh, and we’ve had a houseguest for the last 13 months ๐Ÿ™‚ The link at the bottom is a photo of my euphemistically named craft room. It is a bunk bedroom, and I do occasionally need to put someone up for the night! You can see my workhorse kenmore sewing machine in it’s cabinet on the far right, the serger on the bed (made a tad more stable by a sheet of plywood on top of the mattress) living cheek-by-jowl with my small collection of purses and knitting bags. the top bunk has the stash in the bins (I need a sixth one now, sigh) along with out-of-season clothes in vacuum-packed bags. My houseguests extraneous material then gets packed in all the available space. this room also has to store our out of season jackets, wetsuits, and luggage. le sigh. I dream of having a hobby studio. but I, too, am a graduate student and haven’t the coin. someday!

  57. Suzanne V. (Yarnhog)

    When I lived in tiny apartments, space was always an issue, and I was very creative about storing my things and finding space for activities (one year in college, my desk and computer were located in my little walk in closet, and I would push the hanging clothes to the side to use my computer). Now that I have a relatively large house, one would think I’d have plenty of room, but it never seems to work out that way. Everyone else in the family has a dedicated room for their own work/play/hobbies–but Mom never does. I do almost all my work–paid and and unpaid–on a corner of the sofa. If I need more space, it’s the dining room table for me! Even though my husband and I are both lawyers working at home, he has the enormous home office (that I designed and built), but I only have ad hoc space where I can find it. I’m not complaining; I like working on the sofa. It’s just odd.

  58. Seanna Lea

    My condo is not nearly that small. I use the dining room table, but it is nearly always covered with something (mostly mail). I’m not a neat freak, and neither is my hubby, so I have a production to get the table clear for sewing. By the time I’m done clearing off the table and setting up the sewing machine, I have lost the drive to actually work on something.

  59. Tracy

    I have to say, my little house is just about the same size as yours. Because I am newly into sewing, my machine stays out all the time to accommodate my sudden inspirations. I went to Ross and picked up one of their metal, rectangular garden tables. It’s approximately 12″x24″. I covered the openwork on the bottom of the tray with two leftover pieces of ceramic tile. When the machine is not on it, I use it as an end table to my couch. But the best thing about it? It folds up when not in use, like a tv tray! I love it!

  60. Kristin

    I agree with everyone else that sewing seems to take much more space than knitting (or many other crafts). My apartment is more than twice the size of yours, but my sewing machine hasn’t been out in years. The sewing desk is tucked next to my regular desk which means it doesn’t open to expose the machine without moving it. And moving it requires moving the guest futon. I’ve been considering moving it for a while, though haven’t confirmed it will fit anywhere else and still be able to open. For now, my knitting books are stacked on top. Alas, I have no actual suggestions for you, just commiseration.

    Umemployment? Does that mean that in addition to getting married you’ve also finished grad school? Congrats.

  61. Kim

    I lived in a very small flat in Hong Kong with 3 kids and a husband and 2 cats. Sewing and crafts were what saved my sanity. I HAD to have my own little desk (just a cheap student desk) in the corner of our tiny flat. Keeping your sewing machine out is the only way to go if you want to sew. It’s easy to just sit down and work a bit on a quilt, and then put it down and go do other stuff. It was just a given that I had to have my sewing desk in a corner. Too bad if it’s unattractive, too bad if it’s in the way of the TV, too bad if we eat dinner at the coffeetable while sitting on the couch. We all have our priorities and having my own space was mine. Even if it was only 3 feet by 2.

  62. Mel

    I feel your pain – though at 600 sf and no husband, perhaps I feel less of your pain. Anyway, when I bought my Pfaff machine a few years ago I got a deal on a floor model folding Koala craft table, like this one at It folds down to just 31″x17.5″ and holds two sewing machines inside. I also store everything on shelves above my work area.

  63. TracyKM

    I have an old Kenmore in one of those tables where you flip open the top and it becomes a bit of a work surface, and the machine is hanging upside down. As long as I keep it set up, it’s not bad, but when I fold it down to ‘tidy up’ then things get piled on top and I get lazy. My kitchen table is large, but is usually covered in kids stuff. It is hard to find space; knitting is a little easier cause I do most of it on the couch or in the truck, LOL.

    I’d highly recommend Freecycle, Cheapcycle, and Craig’s List to find an older good machine. You know, from back when metal was more popular than plastic and things were built to last.

  64. Miss Knotty

    This isn’t on topic, but you AND your husband live in an apartment that’s This isn’t on topic, but you AND your husband live in an apartment that’s <400 sq ft? I officially feel guilty; I haven't lived anywhere that had less than 500 sq feet... ever. And I'm about to move from 1000ish sq ft (2 br w/ a roommate) to 700 sq ft (1 br by myself) and have been complaining about the relative downsize. How do you not kill each other (or drive each other crazy)in such a small living space?!

    Miss Knotty, who was already in awe of you, but is now even more so.

  65. Robin Ferguson

    I have always found a tiny closet in which to put my sewing machine table with chair tucked under. Therefore, I just open the door, uncoil the extension cord and plug it in, sit and get going. While I store other things in the closet, I make a rule not to put anything on the sewing table itself. I have a lamp mounted on the wall of the closet that is plugged into the extension cord. If you don’t have any closet space, you might think of raising your bed high enough to just roll it under there, or lay on your tummy! Hope this suggestion helps.

  66. Miss Knotty

    Aw for cryin out loud. My comment was actually:

    This isn’t on topic, but you AND your husband live in an apartment that’s less than 400 sq feet? I officially feel guilty. I’ve never lived in a space smaller than 500 sq feet, and am moving from a 1000ish sq ft apartment (2 br with a roommate) to a 700ish sq ft apartment (1 br by myself) and am complaining about the relative downsize! I just feel selfish now.

    Miss Knotty, who was already in awe of you, but is now even more so.

  67. tiennie

    When we lived in an apt, all of my sewing was done at the dining table and everything was tucked away in the corner. On the sewing machine front, I have a Bernina and I love it but have you considered a brother? My good friend purchased one for less than $400 and it works like a dream. I’m thinking of purchasing one for my daughter. Another idea is to get your machine serviced and it should work better. Yet another idea, if you really only want a machine for piecing quilts, an old Singer Featherweight is awesome! I have a few and they sew perfectly straight lines. I have a few of those too. I love quilting so I may have gone a bit overboard with my obsessions.

  68. carrie

    Wow, that certainly is a lot of prep work to set up your sewing machine! When you have the budget for it, I recommend getting a Bernina 830. They’re mechanical sewing machines from the 70s and they are really are workhorses. I’ve had one for 5 years and I’m super happy with it.

  69. Sara H

    Nail a few pretty baskets to the wall above your desk. Then you can toss your mail and other essentials in them to keep them handy yet out of the way.

    My sewing/craft space is actually behind the headboard of our bed. I carved out a 3-foot alley back there with just enough space for a drafting desk between two 6-foot bookcases (with a shelf across the tops to create more storage), a flat-storage art caddy and my sewing machine. Snug, but it works.

  70. HDW

    I just wanted to thank you on behalf of a friend with breast cancer as well as from the bottom of my heart! Your Odessa hat (2with beads and 1 without) is gracing the beautiful bald head of a dearhighschool friend of mine who is 33 with 2 small children who was diagnosed with not 1 but 2 types of breast cancer 3 days before christmas. She is half way through chemo and loving your young pretty Odessa hats! Thank you for a beautiful versatile pattern!!!

  71. Alexandra

    My sewing machine has been sitting in the box it came in under my desk while I try to figure out how to de-clutter my life and get some space. Do you think my roommates would mind if I took over the kitchen table?

  72. Adrienne

    Two keys for sewing in a small space from my point of view(500 square feet)- one, keep the workspace clear. Other folks have already suggested lots of great solutions. The only things that live on my desk (aka sewing table)are my laptop and the printer. The second and harder part is, sew when you have a chunk of time to do so. It makes it worthwhile to move the machine around if I have at least an hour or two to use it. Unfortunately that means I only sew on the weekends, usually, and not even every weekend.

  73. Karlie

    I am also a sewer, and had a crappy Singer for a long time. The cheap Singers have zero tension control, just like you said. For my birthday, I got a Huskystar by Husqvarna – and OH MY GOD. It is LOVELY. And fairly inexpensive, with a few decorative stitches and everything. I even sewed a duvet cover out of upholstery fabric on it without any difficulty!

    As for organization, I have a computer desk from IKEA that’s about 7 years old now – it looks like a very tall, moderately deep bookshelf with covers on the front. The large middle cover folds down to make a desktop, and behind is a space large enough to store my sewing machine (since it was designed to hold a CRT monitor).

  74. Katie

    You should check out the Ikea Hacker blog. Just Tuesday this awesome Ivar shelf-turned-desk was posted. Since then I haven’t been able to get it out of my head as an excellent customizable desk and shelving unit solution. It folds out of the way when you’re not using the space, and you could even just shove everything toward the back and fold down the front! I’m seriously considering this because we ALWAYS need more shelves.

  75. susan

    as someone who similarly lives in a tiny space (my new apartment comes in around 350 sq ft, a significant improvement over my old one which was about 225 sq ft), i feel your pain. the shelves ideas are always good. the other quick/less organized idea is to get a basket/box that you could sweep everything from the top of the table into when you want to sew). its not the long term organization,b ut if its stuff that usually lives around the table, you can then just pop the basket back up to root around after the fact.

  76. Mindi

    I live in a one bedroom apartment. The first thing I did was list my stash (pre-Ravelry) and have since posted quite a few photos of stash on Then, I packed all of the stash in space bags except current WIPS. The bags are now stored in a guest bedroom at my dad’s house (20 minutes away). When I did store the stash at the house, it was in big plastic totes and on wire shelving.

  77. Jan

    I live in a tiny 2 bedroom beach cottage with no attic, basement or garage and use a fold-up sewing table for my Bernina 930 (I’ve had it for 23 years and it is such a workhorse that it can sew canvas boat sails). I use about 1/3 of the living room for my craft space and it is messy. Yarn and fabric are in plastic bins that can stack to the ceiling. Remember all of the unused space on the ceiling if you are not particularly tall.

  78. Sue F.

    Storage ottomans. And IKEA has a dining table that is square, moderately sized, but that has 2 pull-out leaves that about double the size of the table but easily go back in for storage (Bjurrsta).

  79. Melissa

    While I was in college I lived in an apartment with 3 other girls on campus. We each had our own (very tiny) bedroom and then a very small shared kitchen and living area. I kept my sewing machine and serger set up in a cramped corner of my bedroom on the minuscule desk (I am thinking 18″ by 36″) that was provided with the furniture and set my computer up on the sewing machine table that my mom let me borrow (it was bigger and I could actually fit my monitor on it). I used shelves and drawer units to hold a lot of things and had a box of fabric under my bed and used peg board on the wall to store my threads. I actually sewed things cramped into that corner! When my room was clean it was difficult to maneuver, even worse when it was not. If my roommates were out for the weekend and I had a big project I would pull everything out to the living room. This made me appreciate the space that I had when I got married and we moved into a 3 bedroom apartment and I got what would be a very small bedroom all to my self and my sewing stuff! It was so wonderful having dedicated sewing space where I could do the work that I wanted to do and then close the door and leave it and not have to worry that someone would want to use the table. My sewing room is now even bigger since we bought a house. I am soooo spoiled. My sewing room is what would be considered a master sized bedroom.

  80. Jenny

    2 options:

    1. I have my mother’s old sewing machine, which comes in a cabinet. Lift the lid, fold open the side table, and the machine is resting upside down in there. Bring it up and voila, a sewing center. Top can be used for crap while it’s closed. However, not much space for material, etc.

    2. Second option – a friend of mine bought an armoire at an office supply store, meant to use as a computer desk, but she uses it for sewing – you could use it for both. It also has fold down tables and much storage. Open it up and leave it open as you work, but close all the doors when company comes!

  81. KathyB

    I live in a small apartment with my boyfriend, but it’s filled up at least 80% with his books. I get around my lack of space by having my wheel, stash, and spinning stool in a corner, and everything else tucked away under something else when not in use. The “auxilary stash” (patterns, WIPs, needles, notions) lives in a small box on top of the record player (partly because this box is half the weight of the cat, who would LOVE to take over that nook), my laptop lives tucked under the couch, ready at a moment’s notice, and my fabric and sewing machine lives under the bed. Like you, any change in my craft-world entail a good deal of hauling, unpacking, moving, and setup. And the best part is I don’t have a table for my sewing machine – the choice is the coffee table (too low) and the kitchen table – bar height, so my feet can’t reach the pedal. Le sigh…

  82. Sally Villarreal

    I’m in a tiny apartment, but I’m not good example of how things should be done. (basically, it’s all over the floor.)

    That’s exactly why I practically never sew. I can barely get motivated enough to bottle water.

  83. Chialea

    You graduated somewhere in there? I missed that… congrats! Even if you didn’t, at least you’re not a grad student anymore and that deserves congratulations. PhDs are painful.

  84. Cathy

    Have you considered bringing your sewing machine in for a tuneup? For my analog sewing machine it was in the neighborhood of $60 and they snugged and synced everything back up. The vac&sew shop is adjacent to the fancy quilt shop (convenient!) Before, my zig-zag stitch was looking more like a Y than a Z, after, it’s all nice and pretty.

  85. Lara

    I live in an appartment as big as yours, but I am challenged by the fact that I share it with my four year old son. So, ever since he is around, all knitting and sewing gets put away for the day, and I take it out at night. I keep our dining table clear, so we can eat our meals at it, and so I can do the bill paying and sewing at it, at night, once little man is alseep.


    Sorry, not a miracle, it’s just about using the space you have and not keep putting stuff you love off, only because at the moment you don’t live in a palace.

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