Friday, January 10, 2020

Organization - January 2020 Aurifil Artisan Challenge

It's hard to believe it's January again, but here we are nonetheless!

The start of a new year is often a time that people make resolutions, and one that is fairly common is to get more organized.  I love organizing, so our January 2020 Aurifil Artisan Challenge is right up my alley.

When I first started sewing, I didn't have a cabinet that held my machine and supplies, so I pulled out my machine, supplies, and cutting mat every time I wanted to sew...and then put it back immediately after I was done.  I still do not have a dedicated sewing room, but I do have space in our 2nd bedroom/office where I can have my sewing machine cabinet set up all the time (and my husband has been gracious in his acceptance of my sewing stuff encroaching onto his side).

I'm going to approach this from a few different directions, so hopefully one (or more) will apply to your situation.  Please keep in mind that this is what works best for ME, and one solution will NOT work for everybody.  It's also important to note that I'm pretty obsessive about organization, but it may not be for the reason you think.  I use organization as a way to manage some of the chaos in my head.  If I can go to a place/room/container/location and find what I need, that hugely reduces my stress and frustration.  For me, it's worth taking an extra minute or two at the end of each project to put my thread back into its proper location.  That way it's easy to find the next time I need it.

My philosophy on organization in general
I used to work for a beloved organization company, and the thing that I would consistently tell customers is that they need to figure out what works for them, especially as it pertains to storage of personal stuff.

As an example, let's say you wanted to alphabetize your movie collection.  You've got The Avengers.  Do you put it under T for "The" or A for "Avengers"?  This is YOUR movie collection, so if you're more likely to look for Avengers, put it as an A.  If you always refer to the movie by its full title, put it under T for The Avengers.  

The same thing goes for storing fabric.  Do you store by color, collection, designer, manufacturer, or something entirely different?  It's your stuff, so thinking about how YOU work really does matter.  Struggling with something that just isn't working can make things feel even worse and more out of control which isn't any fun.

With that out of the way, let's get into it!

Storing and organizing thread (AKA where I keep my Aurifil)
When I first started sewing, I was told that thread is best stored away from light, heat, and dust, so my primary thread storage area is a narrow 10-drawer cabinet that I purchased from The Container Store.

My thread cabinet
This solution also works well for me because it's on wheels so I can move it around, and the labels on the drawers make it easy to find what I'm looking for.  Here's how I came up with my system - when I am going to pull thread for a project, I think about what I will be making which, in turn, determines the weight of thread that I want/need to use.  I primarily use 50 weight thread (it comes on an orange spool) for all of my quilt piecing, 40 weight thread (on the green spool) for quilting, binding a quilt, and bag making, and floss (on a wooden spool - note that 80 weight also comes on a wooden spool) for cross stitch.

With that said, this was a good place to start for me.  Once I know which thread weight will be appropriate for my project (if you are unsure which weight is best suited to your project, I suggest checking out this handy guide from Aurifil), it's time to look for the perfect color of thread.  Like many people, I have certain colors to which I gravitate.  I put those colors right up front because I use them frequently.  From there, I grouped similar colors together and worked that way down the line.

A peek inside the top 2 drawers
For storing bobbins, I take a slightly different approach.  My primary sewing machine uses different bobbins than my travel/backup machine, so I store the bobbins separately from my thread.  The large bobbins for my main machine live by my sewing cabinet while the bobbins for my travel machine live in the bag with that machine.

Like my spools, I store bobbins by thread weight, but I have them split up by neutrals, warm colors, and cool colors.  I added labels to each of the boxes to make them easy to identify.

I've tried other styles of bobbin storage, but this is what I always come back to using.
The exception to all of this is my Aurifloss.  I really like to have my floss be super portable, and I found a storage box on Amazon that holds ~100 small spools of thread and snaps closed.  

This Slimline Storage Box is great for helping me keep my Aurifloss tidy and accessible

Organizing my sewing space (AKA things to hold stuff that I've made with Aurifil**)
This is a constant battle for me because I like to make quilts, bags, and occasionally some sort of garment (mostly PJ pants) or home dec item (mostly pillowcases).  I also became hooked on cross stitch last year, so that's another thing to manage!  The solution that seems to work the best for me is to keep what I need within arm's reach.  Without further ado, let's get into this!

One of my favorite ways to organize is with the handy multiple spool holder that attaches to the back of my sewing machine.  This particular one is made by Bernina, but I also have one that I used on my old Pfaff. It's also super handy because it is capable of holding thread on cones when you use the adapter. If you look closely, you can see part of the cone adapter on the far right.  When I don't have this many spools on the rack, I usually keep a cone of my favorite piecing thread - 50wt Aurifil in color 2600 (Dove Grey).  While the spool holder is really marketed toward people who do machine embroidery, but I love it as a place to stage the thread and bobbins that I will need for a project/series of projects.  After each project, I put all of the thread and bobbins back into their proper locations for storage.

My Bernina Multiple Spool Holder keeps my thread easy to grab as I need to change colors

Other than thread, I keep my MVPs (the things I use very frequently or are likely to get misplaced) next to my machine in a In Control caddy (pattern from ByAnnie*) that was a gift from a friend.  It's the perfect size to sit on the windowsill next to my machine (the blinds and window shade are always closed on that part of the window).  I keep tools like my favorite air-soluble and water-soluble marking pens, a stiletto (plus a backup), the oil for my machine, my bobbins, my 8" dressmakers shears for cutting fabric (plus a pair for paper), an old pill bottle that I use for holding bent pins and old needles, my magnetic pincushion, and a few 1" x 6" rulers.  It's also a great convenient place to keep a backup pair of eyeglasses that is fairly close to my current prescription, a small notepad, and some sticky note pads.

All the pockets of In Control keep the supplies managed so they are super easy to access.
I also have a "go bag" that is always ready for a class or a day spent sewing with a friend.  Who hasn't been to a class and forgotten something essential?  Maybe it's something simple like pins, a rotary cutter, or a marking pen, but I'm pretty sure we've all done at it some point.  I'm also pretty notorious for being the person who has the thing that somebody else has forgotten.  Maybe it's a something like a bandage or maybe it's different size or type of machine needle, I'm usually the person that has the item.  I've tried to pare it down so it will fit in to a smaller bag, and that seems to work for now...until it doesn't. ;)

My Running With Scissors "go bag"
At present, I'm using a Running With Scissors bag (pattern from ByAnnie*), but one of my all-time favorite bags is Annie's A Place for Everything bag (not pictured).  Running With Scissors is significantly smaller, but maybe that's not a bad thing!  The nice thing about having a second set of supplies ready to go is that I know where I can quickly find a spare if I've temporarily misplaced an item!

When I'm working on a cross stitch project, I keep the floss I will need and a few essentials (mini scissors, a needle threader, and some extra needles) in this small case from Thread Dispenser/Sewing Case 2.0 pattern from ByAnnie*.  It makes it easy to keep what I need ready for when I want to sit on the couch or in a doctor's waiting room.

I love this little Sewing Case for holding my essentials when I am cross stitching. 
This is probably a good place to stop because I could go on for days about storage and organization, so don't tempt me! ;)

Before I end, I want to reiterate that there is no single solution that will work for every person.  It's just not realistic.  I also want to acknowledge that yes, I do have a lot of thread, but I've been building my collection since I first discovered Aurifil in 2013. Here's the blog post I wrote about it back in 2018!


*If you think you've spotted a trend with a certain pattern designer, you'd be right.  With that said, I want to be clear that I am NOT paid to make or promote her patterns, but I do some independent contracting work for her as a technical editor.  In short, I try to find errors in the patterns and try to ensure that terms and verbiage are consistent and correct from pattern to pattern.  The first pattern that I made of hers was the A Place for Everything bag back in 2013!  I started doing editing work for Annie several YEARS after I was already making many of her patterns because they are sturdy, well-designed items that suit my needs.

**When I make bags, my thread of choice is 40wt Aurifil.  If you actually scroll back through my Instagram feed, you will find posts with information about the bags I make including specific thread colors and fabrics used.