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Good habit of the month: Put tools away

Here’s a list of tools I feel like I spend half my sewing time looking for: a seam ripper, scissors and shears of all sorts, rulers (especially see-through ones!), point turner.

Even though we’ve gotten the workspace pretty organized, it’s still far too easy to misplace these things. The only thing I never lose is my thread nippers, and that’s only because I wear them around my neck.

So this month, I’m working on putting my tools back where they belong.

To make this easier on myself, these are the things I’ll try:

  • Make sure everything has a place. First of all, all my tools should have a proper home to go to. Mostly they do, but I’m going to figure out which ones don’t. I may also label some of those places, just to make it crystal clear.
  • Keep things visible. One problem I find is putting tools where they can’t be seen, like a seam ripper inside a cup. It’s hard to know if everything is put away if I can’t see it.
  • Clean up tools at the end of every day. I think this is the big one. It’s not always possible to put everything away at the end of the day (like fabric you’re working with), but tools usually can be put where they belong. It’s not a big deal to take them out again the next day, and will probably actually save time.

Have any of you successfully developed this habit? Any tips for me?

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On , Lisa said:

When I work on a project, I have a teacup with a magnet in the bottom for pins and a matching footed serving bowl for thread snips, seam rippers, chalk, drafting pens, hem gauge and whatever. The bowl is big enough to accommodate zippers and buttons, too, so I’m ready when I need them. Everything goes back to the bowl as soon as I am done using it, and when a project is complete, it’s part of my transitional cleanup to empty the bowl, as well as the trash can full of snipped threads I keep by my knee. Then I clean my machine if it needs it, and remove the old needle if it looks like it’s time for that. So I start fresh with every project, and it really clears my mind! No pink lint from yesterday’s skirt on today’s black tunic!
Of course, I have only one sewing machine, so I only work on one project at a time, I’m not sure if this works for a designer. But perhaps the readership might find this useful.

On , Sara said:

Thank you. I’m about to redo my sewing corner and your keep visible rule is definitely something I will keep in mind. In fact, I think I am going to put up some hooks like you did. We spend too much money (and time) on these things to not have them easily accessible! Now if I only had more ROOM to store my fabric……!

On , Lynn said: | americanagefashion.com

Even though it is pretty ugly, I’ve embraced the Ott Light with a caddy around the base.
http://www.ottlite.com/p-350-craft-caddy-lamp.aspx. In the bottom container, I put scissors, marking tools, and point turners. I have my seam ripper in a special little bowl. It usually works!

On , Rachel W. said: | darling-autodidact.blogspot.com

YES. I used to lose my tools after ever seam! A friend then gave me a magnetic pin cushion. I found myself using it to keep track of my seam ripper and machine brush as well. Then it clicked in my brain: magnets for everything!

I now use incredibly strong magnet strips from Harbor Freight (only $4 a piece!) to hold ALL my metal tools. One holds four pairs of shears, my thread nipper, seam ripper, lint brush, and extra presser feet. The other holds filled bobbins (they’ll never unspool themselves again!). It’s a good combination of keeping things visible, giving everything a place, and making cleaning at the end of the day fun. I mean, who WOULDN’T get some small enjoyment out of tossing an empty bobbin at a magnet and having it stick? :D

I still lose my see-through ruler and chalk. In theory, they have homes… but I’m tempted to glue magnets to them and stick ‘em to the metal shelves in my sewing room. Magnets! It’s obviously an obsession. :)

On , Corinne said: | sewtopia.blogspot.com

Maintaining the workspace is always a challenge. I solved part of my problems by having “tool boxes” at each key work area. IKEA had these little wooden divided boxes and a larger version of the same. At my cutting area I have a large one with everything I need, at the sergers there is one with what I would use there and and the sewing machine, yet another. The ironing board has its own “keeper.” Mostly these duplicate items are inexpensive: a seam ripper, a small pair of scissors, a seam gauge and a magnetic pincushion. I also keep a tomato-style cushion with needles threaded with dark and light threads. I keep a divided basket with handle (like those used for picnic service) for my rotary cutters and scissors. There are cut up foam rubber pads in the bottom to cushion points where necessary. (I cut up an old mouse pad) Each work surface also has an olfa mat, since I do a lot of quilting, a lot of cutting is required. At the end of its larger life I cut one mat into three smaller ones for smaller areas. Perfect. Since I have this already set up, maintaining it is relatively a simple habit. To set up the three areas I spent around $30.00, worth every penny.

On , Lauren said: | lladybird.wordpress.com

I’m pretty good at keeping my tools organized – I have dedicated spots for mostly everything that I use, and pincushions scattered all over the place. My scissors & clear rulers are hung on the wall in a clearly visible area, and I’ve made a good habit of hanging everything up when I’m done with it. Except for my seam rippers – I ALWAYS misplace those! Which is really dumb because I own 4… I have no idea where they wander off to (at last clean-up, I managed to located 2 of them), I’m going to just say I have a ghost that hides them :)

On , nothy lane said: | aftagley.blogspot.ca

I have a magnetic metal bar that I bought at the dollar store. I use it for picking up stray pins. It works like magic! One tip though- I have a vintage machine so this isn’t a problem for me, but you have to keep magnets aways from computerized machines or you’ll really mess them up. I also have open shelving so that I can see my things rather than having to hunt for them and I bought tons of little boxes at the dollar store which I turn open-side looking out so I can see into them too. Otherwise I label everything!

On , Stephanie said: | star-spangledheart.blogspot.com

I recently made myself a hanging fabric organizer for all of my sewing tools and it’s help my organization loads! Now I can find things!! And it was super easy to make. My husband is happy he doesn’t have to navigate through a floor covered in sewing clutter any more.

http://star-spangledheart.blogspot.com/2012/09/some-small-projects.html

On , Jo said: | jo-sews-etc.blogspot.com

Agree with others – yes everything needs its place, and for the most frequently used tools the place needs to be visible and within easy reach. I have a (very) small tray that lives next to my machine and is the permanent home of my thread snippers, seam ripper, box of pins and point turner. Next to that is a flower pot containing pens, chalk pencils and a clear ruler. Even while sewing I now gravitate towards putting things back on the tray, because I can just reach out an arm and grab them mid-flow. Getting it all set up revolutionised my sewing – it got so much easier not having to look for everything!

On , Kelli said: | smalltownstitcher.blogspot.com

I SOOOO need to do this…

On , Anthea said: | anthea-retrovintage.blogspot.com

I put everything back in place when I finish sewing. But during the day it’s still difficult for me to keep everything where it belongs. I have small baskets at my cutting table, my desk, iron corner where I (try) to put everything in when I’m sewing. Now I have just a couple of places to look at when I miss anything.

On , Kelly said:

I used to constantly lose my clear rulers, but I punched a hole in one end and hung a bright colored tassel from them, and now it’s much easier to find them (I seem to always drop them on the floor). For my other tools, I use a large pegboard that I painted glossy black. I circled the outlines of my tools in bright gold, so the board matches my sewing machine, and I don’t have to wonder which hook my sewing shears go on, and which the thread nips go on, even when I’m tired.

I love Rachel W’s idea of a magnetic strip for my bobbins. I think I’m going to have to do that.

On , anne said:

hi, everybody!
my biggest breakththrough for organization came when i got a sewing box with spool pins for thread! i did a spectrum arrangement of colors so i could easily match my fabric. when i want a tool, the top tray lifts out and i can see what’s in there–probably wouldn’t satisfy a neatnik but fine for li’l ole me.–anne

On , anne said:

btw, i continued my “alter and restyle” quest in october for three more garments. november’s ‘good habit’ will be to complete my christmas sewing/crafting.

On , Rebecca said: | rebeccashelly.com

I agree with everything having a place. Since my studio is in a vintage trailer, there is not much room. Everything needs to have a home or is it way too complicated. Cleaning everything up makes it easier to come in later and start working again. Most of the time it is working on something different anyway.

On , Annie said: | tulleandtweed

My sanity depends on all tools going back in their place each evening (like a clear desk policy) only sewing is allowed to remain in situ. I keep all my cutting, measuring , weights and marking tools in boxes at my cutting table, all press cloths, press ham, water spray on the windowsil at the ironing board and small snip scissors threads, bobbins, seam rippers etc are at sewing machine table. Pin cushions are at all three stations. Its not quite the ergonomic priciple of the work triangle (all the best kitchens adopt this), but nearly. After finishing a project I clean the floor, and do a general tidy up.
I’ve just read this back and I clearly need help!

On , Cathie Sue Andersen said:

i found a couple of plastic silverware sorters as the thrift store. one is in my sewing drawer and holds stuff related to the machine. the other i use on the big table and it holds almost everything else. when i finish a project i clean it out of everything but the basics and put all those things away so i can clutter it up with new project items.

On , Amanda said: | symondezyn.wordpress.com

I have a place for everything and I’m pretty good about tidying up each day. My seam ripper and thread scissors go under my sewing machine, my pins, needles, and bobbins to the right, but most of my tools go in a small black ikea box near my work station and i often have to dig through it to find stuff…. i love the idea of hooks; maybe if i can find a way to do it without adding too many more holes to the wall, i’ll implement this very handy idea! ^__^

On , maddie said: | madalynne.com

I am pretty good at keeping my tools and sewing space organized mostly because my sewing space is my home and I can’t stand a messy home. My tip to you is to consider your sewing space as if it was your bedroom. Would you want things strewn about in your bedroom?

On , Ros said: | theoldshed.me

You clearly haven’t seen the state of my bedroom…

Seam rippers are the thing which I can never, ever find. I have at least three. Somewhere.

On , Rachel said: | houseofpinheiro.blogspot.com

I am working on tiding up my sewing space and I made sure everything was practical and had its place..

http://houseofpinheiro.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/wordless-post-my-sewing-room-progress.html

On , Jilly Be said: | blogspot.com

You SO inspired me to start shifting habits 4 months ago, and I continue to be successful, so a BIG “Thank You” to you. :)

My biggest tip is to keep it small. In order to really change a habit, take it to its simplest element. I wouldn’t even think of trying to keep ALL of my tools put away as a start, because I know myself, and I know it would just be too much.

Two months ago my goal was to put my scissors away – which involved moving the scissors hook to a more accessible location. I’m still putting them away; they’re always where they should be when I want them, and here’s the secret….. that one shift motivated me to keep my other tools more organized as well!

On , Jane said: | SewingAtLarge.blogspot.com

My sewing room is very organized. Someday I’ll have to put pictures up on my blog. The sewing machine is in front of me, the serger is to the left, and behind me is a wall full of shelves with my immediate needs, while to the right is the ironing board with a wall of hanging stuff, like scissors and other tools. It all works very well and takes up a big corner in my living room.

On , Sewing Sveta said: | sewingsveta.blogspot.com

I need this good habit because today I was looking for my ruler for seam allowance and didn’t find it! %(

On , Sara said:

I’ve gotten into the habit of not just putting things away, but prepping them for the next step/project before I do.

When I’m doing with a project, I’ll pick the next one out before putting my machine up. If I have the thread I’ll be using, I’ll wind off a bobbin and put it in my sewing machine. I’ll take the fabric, and put it at the top of the pile, etc. That way when I pull everything out the next time, I feel like I’ve already started the project, and am committed to working on it (at least a little bit).

On , Richard said:

Collecting all the ‘bits’ of a project into one location is a MUST for me.
Because I do period costuming, it is much easier to exhibt my talents on dolls than full scale. When I find a doll that is a likely ‘candidate’ for a particular ‘look’, it goes into a clear bin proportional to the project… the larger the doll and the size of the costume, the larger the bin. That way, as I come across bits and pieces that are correct for the project, into the bin it goes, as well. Mind you, I am fortunate enough to have TWO bedrooms in my house to ‘enable’ this ‘addiction’. The bins range from shoebox size to three large, lidded tubs store just fabric. When the bin is moved into my studio, everything from thread to beads to yards of fabric are in one spot.
In one situation, a collection of small, body feathers from my cockatiel and sun conure and a three inch strip of white fur gave birth to the millinery of a hat that grew into a 32″ tall, fully panniered, 1740′s era French Mantura gown. This doll is as tall as she is wide! Concentration and creative flow are not hampered by, “…where is that small piece of…”. :?)

On , Richard said:

I have been a period costumer from 20+ years and have to agree that my time WAS eaten up by the same sort of frustrated search. Working at the ironing board and my pins are on the cutting table… Setting in a hem and my measureing tape is on the ironing board. So, I learned from my younger years assisting my uncle and dad doing carpentry and made my self a nailers apron out of scrap, cotton, mattress ticking. I even incorporated a 2×2″ magnetic section to, temporarily, settle pins.
Works like a charm because you don’t even have to reach for anything… a pocket and place for everything to be sure.
Thanks.
Richard.

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Fabulous tip, Richard. An apron like this would be a great project for the blog, too. I love the idea of the magnetic strip!