Elizabeth Hartman is a self-taught quilter. She has been making things her entire life but, when she tried quilting for the first time, she fell in love and hasn’t been able to stop. Elizabeth is the author of The Practical Guide to Patchwork, Modern Patchwork, and the popular blog,

One of the most important parts of my creative process is maintaining a clean and organized space in which to work. I’ve been lucky enough to have a designated sewing room for just over 7 years now, and I’ve learned through trial and error the things that work best for me. I want to talk a little about my favorite parts of my sewing room and how they help me to be more productive.

Fabric organization

Since the process of making a quilt always involves pulling out and auditioning a bunch of different fabrics, it doesn’t take long before every surface in the room is covered. To keep things simple (both for finding fabrics and for putting them away!) I like to keep my fabric organized by color, with print and solid fabrics stored separately.

I keep my folded fabric in clear plastic drawers that fit under my sewing room counters. The drawers make it easy to put away extra fabric, or to pull out an entire drawer if I want to, say, go through all the yellow prints I have. Since I’m not always able to stop and put things away as I’m working, I also keep a “to be filed” basket on the counter.

Another thing that I find hugely helpful in keeping my fabric stash organized is editing. I routinely go through my entire stash and pull fabrics that have sat unused for too long, or that I’m just not as crazy about as I once was. This process was painful at first, but the benefits of having a smaller and less-cluttered fabric stash have made it worthwhile. I also feel better about giving my unused fabric to other quilters who will actually use it.

Design wall

My design wall has become such an important part of my process that it seems crazy to me that I quilted for so many years without one! A “design wall” may sound like something super-fancy, but the one I’m using now is, literally, just a giant piece of cotton batting tacked to the wall. (Some people use flannel, but I find that batting works much better.) Fabric sticks to the batting, making it possible to temporarily place fabric and piecing on the wall, step back, and consider the arrangement.

In order to make my design wall a full 8’ x 8’, I had to work around a few light switches and electrical outlets. To do that, I started by removing all the outlet covers. Once the batting was tacked up on the wall, I carefully cut away the batting from around the switches and outlets. Then I replaced the covers, which hid the raw edges of the batting I had cut away.

If you don’t have the space for a permanent design wall, it’s quite easy to make a smaller, portable one by wrapping sheets of lightweight foam insulation from a hardware store. The portable wall can be stored under a bed or in a closet when you’re not using it.

Pressing board

As a quilter, I almost never use a conventional ironing board. Instead, I have a counter-height pressing table that’s about 29” x 39”. To make it, I simply had a piece of plywood cut to match the top of my IKEA countertop. I wrapped the plywood in three layers of cotton batting and one layer of cotton fabric, and used my staple gun to tack the excess batting and fabric to the underside of the board. Simple!

My countertop pressing board stays in one place, but it’s easy to make more portable versions. I have a smaller version that I made by wrapping the top of a wooden TV tray. The smaller version can be set up and used right next to my machine and is portable enough to bring to sewing circle.

Keep things simple

When I was setting up my first sewing room, I approached it as I would approach setting up any other room. I picked regular furniture, I painted the walls red (really!) and I hung up lots of pictures and things on the walls. As a room, it was lovely. As a creative workspace, it was a nightmare. The red walls permeated everything I worked on, and having so many decorative elements around was distracting.

Today, my sewing room is painted a very light gray and I’ve made a point to choose white countertops, shelving, and other elements. The space is so much brighter and cleaner – like a blank canvas for my projects!


Seat sack tutorial by Liz Noonan

Liz Noonan is an artist and crafter working north of Boston.  You can read about her on her blog, and see what she’s crafting lately in her Etsy Shop, here [Liz is offering readers a 10% discount off their total purchase in her shop use this discount coupon code: WhipUp10

Thank you for having me over on Whip Up today! My second graders classroom has very little space, so we came up with this idea for making a bag that hangs over the chair, for each student. Each “Seat Sack” has a large pocket for notebooks and other large items, as well as a smaller pocket, on the front, for pens, pencils, markers or other smaller supplies. I made about 50 of these total, since I made some for my other daughters’ kindergarten class as well.  The tricky part was figuring out how to do this in as few steps as possible. I’m offering this tutorial today to show others how to make them as well.

Supplies needed for each “Seat Sack”:

  • 1/2 yard (45 cm) heavy weight fabric, cotton twill or canvas
  • 9–11 inch (22–29 cm) piece of heavy fabric for a pen pocket on the front, optional.
  • Thread
  • Each finished sack will be approx 15 inches wide by 14 inches long (38 x 35 cm)
What you need to do:
  1. Start with your 1/2 yard of fabric, press and finish top and bottom edges.
  2. Stitch your front pocket about 2 inches (5 cm) from the top of the front pocket, and center it.
  3. Press your 1/2 yard into approx thirds: the pen pocket section should be about 12 inches (30 cm), and the other two thirds will be about 14 inches (35 cm) each, these measurements will vary depending on the width of the fabric you buy and includes a half inch seam allowance.
  4. Fold your front pocket up, so that it measures 12 inches (30 cm) and press the bottom.
  5. For the rest of the fabric, the middle is half the distance of the rest of the fabric, so measure up halfway (about 14 inches) and press so that the end of the fabric covers the front pocket. It will look like a kind of sandwich – it should cover the pocket.
  6. Sew this side seam with a small straight stitch or serge so that it is strong. I reinforced the bottom seams for good measure.
  7. Turn your “Seat Sack” inside out and you’re finished!


I love this method of getting really neat piles of folded fabric. Doesn’t this look gorgeous.

folded fabric


Good Housekeeping Clutter Rescue!: Just Minutes a Day to Get Organized – Forever!
by C. J. Petersen at good housekeeping. Hearst; Spi edition (January 6, 2009).

Just the book I need before getting stuck into re-organising my crafty space. With a handy spiral binding and neat small take-anywhere size this book will hopefully save you.

I love the quick tips and ideas – although some require a bit more handyman skills than you average person might have – like turning a broom cupboard into a pantry complete with sliding doors and pull out swinging shelving system. There are lots of space saving and storage tips as well as that 15 minutes per day de-clutter rule. Lots of nifty storage solutions for tools, sports equipment, clothes, the study, mud room etc. All this is all very well in an ideal world – but if you have more stuff than places to put it you are already in trouble.

The One-Minute Organizer: A to Z Storage Solutions: 500 Tips for Storing Every Item in Your Home by Donna Smallin. Storey Publishing, LLC (December 10, 2008).

Another handy little book – full of one minute solutions – using common item as alternative storage devices – in this book there is a place for everything in your life.

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tidy up your fabric stash with these two ways to fold a fat quarter of fabric from badskirt.

[via hollabee]

fat quarter folding