Worse Before Better

You know how cleaning projects often have to get worse before they get better, well, that’s where my sewing room is.  It’s on the worse stage.

A blog reader asked if I’d show pictures of my progress.  Seriously, I about laid on the floor and laughed and laughed.  My room actually looks way worse than it did when I started.  But…I know I’m making lots of progress.

I have cleaned some totes out and have some empty.

I have the hallway lined up with things that need to be taken away or passed on.

I have another flimsy quilt top on the frame.
But I still have this mess….


and this mess….

The cutting table was covered with fabric that needs to be cut into strips and put in my scrap users system.


But I’ve been doing a lot of cutting…

I always get asked how I do cut my fabric into the scrap users system and how I decide on strip size.  Well here’s what I do.  I stack fabric on top of each other like this.  These are all folded in half.  I stack in graduated layers with the largest on the bottom.


I line them up and trim off the edge to even them up.
From experience I know I most often use 2″ strips and 2 1/2″ strips so I want to cut predominantly that size.  The top red and black piece you see in the above picture was a little bigger than 5″.  I cut two 2 1/2″ strips off of it.

Then I had this left.  The top piece was a little more than 2″ so I cut a 2″ strip.
From there I cut a couple more 2″ strips until I was close to the edge.  To best use the remaining fabric, I cut another 2 1/2″ strip.  I didn’t cut any 1 1/2″ strips or 3″ strips this time around.  
No worries though…I cut them in different sets.  Here’s what I got cut so far….The tote at the bottom of the photo below is full of 2 1/2″ strips.


I have piles and piles of strips in batiks and Civil War type prints too.

But all that cutting has left a mess around the garbage can….


bits and pieces that have missed their mark.

I have so much more to do…I unearthed another bag of yellow and blue shirts that I have plans for.


I had the white garbage bag full but found the green reusable bag full.  Rosie then dug them apart.  I need to get them deboned.  UGH.

So that’s my progress.  It’s looking MUCH worse rather than better but I know it actually is getting better.

My goal is completely caught up.  My goal is projects that are unfinished to get finished…not all the UFOs but the little projects…the patch this, fix that projects and the flimsies have to get finished for me to consider this room clean.  I have two more boxes of scraps to sort through.  That’s what I’m planning to get to this week…among other things.

I ordered a bunch of new totes for the shelving in the closet.  I got it all sorted and ready.  I just need the new totes which should be coming at the end of the week.  I can’t wait.  Things for so long have been in mismatched totes or totes that are to small.  Now, everything should fit.  The calicos found a tote.  The Kaffe prints have two totes.  I really had no idea I had so many.

I have a stack of things I’ve doodled out on paper hoping to make and submit to magazines one day.  I’m trying really hard to not start anything.  I really want to get to a point I feel like my sewing room is a fresh start.  I was hoping to finish by the end of May and seriously, I think I’m going to need that long!!

Those of you who jumped on the bandwagon with me to clean your sewing room, how are you doing??  I’d love to hear.

27 thoughts on “Worse Before Better

  1. Joyce in Washington

    Jo, I’m right there with you. For me, it was more of a “finish this flimsy and be done with it” so I could empty a tote, make a binding, and get everything prepped for quilting. I got very tired of starting and stopping the Bonnie Hunter Frolic mystery. Still no idea what to do with the load of extra pieces, so they went into an orphan block tub. I’m happy to say I can move around my room better and the projects are moving along. Keep up the great work!

  2. Sherry Whalen

    I ‘finished’ cleaning my room today, I’ve been working on it all week. I re-homed a few things and vacuumed which desperately needed to be done. I think the best thing I did was sort things and get all the like items together so when I am looking for something, they are all in one place. I still have a box of fabric that needs to be cut into strips, but it is so much better and I will keep working on cutting, and the list that I made of boxes that still need some decisions made about the contents. I do better making decisions if I break it into smaller portions. And you are right – it usually gets worse before it gets better, but the better is so great!

  3. The Joyful Quilter

    Cutting up boxes of fabric is one way to clean up. I’ve been on a mini quilt kick. Sorry, Jo! No time to clean and organize right now. Unless, of course, you count using up a bunch of scraps and some FQs to be cleaning. :P

  4. Pauline

    Thank you, Jo! I was so pleased when you wrote that you were going to do a big cleanup, and I decided to jump in too. I’ve finished two quilt tops, but I can’t quilt them yet: I don’t have a long arm, so I have to use my cutting table to pin up the three layers, and because our group isn’t meeting, I can’t have help. The arthritis in my hands limits me. So right now my table is covered in boxes and baskets for colour sorting my scraps. The 2” and 2 1/2” bits are all done, but I’m so pleased to see your worse-before-it-gets-better photo – that’s exactly where I’m at, so now I’m encouraged to keep going!
    Cheers, Pauline in South Australia

  5. Joan Parker

    You go, girl! You’ve accomplished so much. I have written to you before about Decluttering at the Speed of Life in our sewing rooms. You’ve inspired me. But I have a much more important question now. Which direction are your African violet plants facing? Are they south-facing windows? North? Please relieve my curiosity. I have one in 3 different locations. None of them are thriving. Their only activity seems to be losing bottom leaves one at a time, and I’ve never had an AV rebloom. Please help my fuzzy-leaved friends. Any advice is appreciated.

  6. Robin

    I jumped on your bandwagon and got my room cleaned. I’m trying really hard to tidy up every night when I leave the room but tonight I ripped the same seam twice, turned off the light, and came to bed. Tomorrow is a new day. You are doing great with your cleanup and once it’s done you will feel such a weight lifted from your shoulders. Corona Quarantine has been very productive for you. You go girl!

  7. Connie

    I too am cutting strips…..thanks for the layering idea! It will go much faster now! Can’t believe I didn’t think of that.

  8. Donna T

    Well my sewing room looks about like yours!!! I’ve got lots of scraps that need to be cut; stuff in piles on the floor and cutting table! I will get there but I am giving myself another week or two! It’s slow going!

  9. Stearns Carol

    I’m been cleaning my room and have a box for you. But seeing what you have, do you really want it?

  10. suzanne

    I have the same issue with scraps and getting them cut and sorted into bins. I wait so long to tackle them that the cutting takes DAYS. I don’t know how you do it Jo as you have a lot a fabric scraps just show up at your door. So I would have to say yes, you are getting things in order. Soon. So glad you got to see some of your grandkids. I hadn’t seen our 4 month old grandson since early mid March and did on Sunday.
    God bless, stay well and keep sorting.

  11. Brenda in SC

    Jo, I am right there with you. I have only a baby quilt to finish, it is actually just a panel quilt that has to be free motion quilted, so that is not to bad. I am hoping to free motion the baby’s name and birth date on it when he is born in the next couple of weeks.
    I want to cut my material up like you are and Bonnie Hunter does, but don’t know where to start. I have shelves and shelves of material. Bits and pieces and big pieces and fat quarters and yardages; what do I cut into strips and how do I categorize it. I have the clear totes and I have lots of those wire racks like they use in restaurants to store the totes, just don’t know where to begin…….I stand in the middle of my sewing room and look at the material and just get disgusted and walk out and close the door. The room has gotten to be a catch all for everything, and I want that to stop….Please help!!!

  12. Ruth

    May I say something about how to organize? Brenda in SC is stuck and wants to make changes.
    TRUTH: No One Else can tell you how to organize your own space. Why? Because you are unique and only you know how you work, what fabrics you like, what colors you like, what pieces of quilts you most enjoy sewing, what parts of sewing you don’t like to do, etc. So it takes more thought to organize your own space.
    Here are a few ideas:
    1) Stop bringing in any more fabric to your home. Just Stop. You don’t know what you have anyway, so stop bringing in more. Unless it is for a specific project that you have to finish completely right away.
    2) Think about what you like to do, what you prefer to work on, what projects you like to finish (not just start.) Get a notebook and write these discoveries down so they are right in front of you anytime you need a reminder of your methods of working. This notebook is a record of your sewing choices on your journey to a better space.
    3) Write down your chosen goals. Let them simmer for a few days to see if they are really what you see yourself doing in your future. New ideas may pop up. Write them down too. After thinking about these things for a while, create a new set of goals if you need to. There’s always room for a change-up!
    4) Now take a look at your fabric, at your totes, at your sewing area, at your machines. Is there a better way to set up your room? Does the flow of work move smoothly from area to area? Walk around and imagine yourself working at each needed station. Is it comfortable for you? Are the necessary tools right there to hand? Make the changes that you feel necessary for yourself and the way you work.
    5) Time to touch your fabric! Start wherever you feel like starting. Look at the large pieces for quilt backings, the two and three yard pieces, the one yards, the fat quarters, the strips, the bits and pieces of left over projects. The UFOs/WIPS will probably need their own totes!
    I found that I search by color for the fabric I want, so all but my backings are in color coded totes. I have very few large backings, as I tend to make scrappy backs.
    6) And now for cutting! Cut whatever you want however you like, because no one else knows how you like to work. I tried Bonnie Hunter’s method and found that I only like 4″ squares, 2 1/2″ strips and the matching triangles to go with. I simply don’t like working with teeny pieces. So I keep working on strip squares and 9 patches and some triangle settings. But I am not a prolific quilter at all, and I tend to work on one quilt at a time.
    As you organize, remember that you are the only one living your life. You are a child of God, and He wants you to be happy.
    And that is our ultimate goal in our sewing areas, to be in a place that makes us happy to work in.
    Even if it gets really messy at times!

  13. Jo Post author

    Joan-My windows are facing south which isn’t really recommended. My neighbor’s tree blocks some of the sun though so I think that’s why they do well there. Self watering plants are something I will recommend again and again…also AV ferilizer.

  14. Kim LeMere

    It sounds like you are making great progress in your sewing room. It must feel strange to have so many hours of the day to get things done with the day care non existent right now. Keep going the end is in sight. I have been working on UFO’s and so far 7 are done and need to be long armed (I send mine out) and 3 more to go. I wanted to participate in a few of the Quilt a Longs that were happening but decided that wouldn’t be the best use of my time right now. I have been cleaning and sorting my space as I go and I also have boxes in the hallway to move on out. I’m enjoying the slower pace of our lives right now and lots of projects are getting done, like shredding old papers, cleaning the closets, etc.

  15. Joan Parker

    Thanks for the AV help Jo. I will give your advice a shot. I just received a lovely pink AV from my secret sister at church. It came in a self-watering pot. Wish me luck!

  16. Whitney

    I did awesome at this when we moved three years ago, but with the addition of a third boy (18 months ago) and now homeschooling, it’s left my shared space (the older two have their legos in my sewing room) a mess all over again! Maybe I’ll steal some time in there over the weekend! Keep us updated on your progress—it’s motivating me!

  17. Karrin Hurd

    Yesterday I drug all my containers out that had RWB in them (4) to work on a comfort quilt. They are still in the middle of the room because I’m still working on it. I drug the 3 containers out that have crazy quilting fabrics for another project. I did put those back away. I took out the one that has blue and yellow for another comfort quilt, and left it out. Those are in my sewing room. I have a stack of fabric to be cut up on my dining room table, and I’m sewing on the kitchen table

  18. DebMac

    I ran the vacuum today. I found a large load of black yardage and pre-washed it to use some for masks but most of it needs to be ironed and put into “the vault”. I need to get the rest of the rejected fabric for masks back into “the vault” and the “in case I need more face masks fabric” and assorted supplies in one place. Grandson played in sewing room while I was sewing on face masks; he goes for his first visitation in 6 weeks this weekend so will sort and clean. Hopefully, I will find all the things I had to hide or put up out of reach. I may even have a chance to put rows into a flimsy and get it sandwiched for quilting.

  19. mpv61

    I’m going to add one thing to Ruth’s excellent advice to “Brenda in SC,” which is: have a box or bag set up for donation. If you find a piece of fabric or a notion that you don’t like or can’t realistically see using, throw it into that box or bag. There’s no reason to organize and keep something you don’t want! Once things open back up, you can take the unneeded boxes/bags to a quilt guild, to your church, or to a donation site.

    I’ve only made a little progress in my sewing room. My work table had been a big mess and I could only work on teeny parts of it. I cleaned that off so it’s more useful in my current projects. At some point, I’ll be able to take a week or two to really clean up the sewing room, and then my bigger goal is to keep it that way by picking up after myself as I go!

  20. Judith Fairchild

    Enjoyed the whole blog letters and all. To av lady try not watering your plants for a couple of weeks then start watering them. They should bloom shortly after that. That’s the way mom did it. Worked every time.

  21. Loy

    I love the tip about layering fabric to cut strips. What a brilliant idea and so timesaving. I will definitely try this.

  22. Judy Brundage

    Would you please share what totes you ordered and from where? I’m looking for some new ones.

  23. Terri

    Oh, I am so happy to see that I am not the only one who seems to make a mess when cleaning up the mess. I have been unearthing bins of scraps I did not even know I had, and even found one that I knew I had, but could not find. I have been using my Accuquilt to cut strips because I have decided to tame my scraps by sewing my way through Bonnie’s Adventures with Leaders and Enders, but I like the way you are cutting based on what you see on top. I will definitely be using that method some in the future. Right now I am only cutting the colors I need for the current quilt I am working on because I do not know how I want to store my strips. This causes me to put back my scraps if they are not for a quilt and I feel like I am never getting that part taken care of. I want to get to a point that I am only touching that scrap once before I put it where it will do the best. I see your tote. Is it large?

  24. Angie in SoCal

    I wanted to – I really did. So time has passed and I haven’t. I’ve decided to work on the 4 projects I selected to get done before I really get into clearing my studio. I have a question. How do you decide what is going to be cut up into scraps? That is probably worth a post of its own – lol.

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