My Modern Domestic Life: Michelle’s Sewing Room

When Lupine, Gina and I first opened Modern Domestic, our main goal was to provide the ultimate sewing room for Portland. Everyone deserves a well-lit, organized and beautiful space to stir up their creative juices. It was so exciting to set up MD. When I first peeked in the window and saw the potential of the space, my mind was building it out already. The cutting tables, the lighting, defined sewing and serging stations! Oh my! Lupine and I worked day and night with hammers, drills, sanders, coffee, a bottle of wine or two and then finally… our dream was realized! It was all worth it now that we can see your smiling faces sewing away.

I absolutely love sewing at MD. One of my favorite evening activities is to come into MD, forget about the work I normally do here and just SEW! Unfortunately I don’t always have the option to come into MD so I also have my own creative space at home that is my private refuge from the rest of the world.

I have always insisted on having some resemblance of a sewing room in every house I’ve lived in. Some have been absolutely enormous (since I insisted that the master bedroom be my craft space) and some have been as miniscule as 8′ by 8′; but every sewing room I’ve set up has been well loved and well used.

My current sewing room is not very large, but it’s probably one of my all-time favorites. I had a love-hate relationship established when I first set it up. I loved the fact that it was extremely well lit during the day, having two whole walls of windows. I also hated the fact that it had two whole walls of windows!

Pale powder blue walls with orange and white accents fits perfectly.

The size of the room is only 8′ x 14′ and my sewing room also doubles as my office. The massive amount of windows presented the obvious storage / shelving problem. Having been in the crafting industry for the last 5 years and an avid sewist for the last 20 has really built up my supplies! Modern Domestic certainly helped scale down my collection of lovely sewing gems that I couldn’t possibly pass up at estate sales or bric-a-brac shoppes when I lived in London, but I still have quite the stash.

I took advantage of my 9' ceilings.

I felt rather urban when my only solution was to build up. I have 9′ ceilings so I got myself a step stool and have become great pals with it. I scoured the web for stylish and reasonably priced shelving that was flexible in each of the shelves height adjustments. My friend suggested that I take a look at Rakks Store for wall mounted shelving brackets and standards. I liked what I saw and they worked perfectly on my main wall AND they carry wonderful desk brackets that fit into the same standards. To install, all you need is a level, a stud finder (always makes me giggle when I say it), a drill and the appropriate fasteners for your wall types. Like many Portlanders, I have a 100 year Old PDX style home with lath and plastered walls, so my preferred is definitely a toggle anchor. It is EXTREMELY important that you securely attach any shelves you put up so ask your local hardware store which would work best for your walls. Once the hardware was installed, I measured the length I wanted each shelf to be, went to Crosscut Hardwoods (amazing resource!), picked some 3/4″ plywood in Maple and had them cut it to size. Thanks guys! This system is so easy, versatile, inexpensive and I love the way it looks, so much that we put the same system, covered in burlap, in the retail area at MD.

On the adjoining wall, I decided to use a vintage 1950’s HON metal office cabinet I had purchased from a yard sale years back. These old cabinets are super sturdy and I have a thing for metal cabinets, just saying. It houses my favorite books, Kona solids, fabric scraps, rulers, tailor board and my Lazy Susan filled with tools. Where did that saying come from anyway?

I love canned food with pretty labels and they work great for free storage!

I built my cutting table years ago when I was first practicing at being a carpenter. I was so proud of it! It was the simplest thing. I constructed a table top out of 3/4″ plywood, cut to 38″ x 56″ (you can get low grade ply on this) and cut some 1″ x 4″ lumber which I framed on the flat underneath to make it sturdier. I bought some folding legs from Home Depot and screwed them into the framing. Easy.

I gathered up a bunch of wool blankets that I found at various thrift stores and cut them about 2″ longer and wider than the table, laid 3 of them over the table and then bought the extremely wonderful Sureblock Blocking Cloth. I stretched this over the blankets and used a staple gun to fasten underneath, like you would for upholstery. So now I have a blocking / pinning board AND a cutting table all in one! You can iron directly on it, you can pin your patterns onto your fabric for easy cutting with no needed weights. Plus you have a gridded ruler built right in.

I have LOVED this table for years. The only thing I didn’t like was that it was table height and it hurt my back to work over it for too long. So hearing my complaint, my lovely Michael decided we should do something about it. After a quick trip to IKEA we came home with these super handy adjustable trestle bases shelves and some drawers on casters. Now look at my lovely table!

The fabulous Sureblock Grid Cloth!
The bases gave me more storage too.

I put my new drawers right next to my machine table so I can keep it open and access everything I need while I sew. I organize my tools and notions with pretty glass trays that I am fairly certain were originally ashtrays. Nice. I have my Bernina Accessory case, bobbin ring, and my wooden thread rack of my currently used threads. I also have two larger thread racks hung on the wall, but I like having some thread more accessible.

My machine table is home to my serger and my beloved  Bernina Aurora 430. It was really important to me that I didn’t have to move machines every time I wanted to serge or sew. I wanted them both set up permanently so I can wheel my chair back and forth. It’s a little tight due to my room size, but it has worked just fine. I even have enough space for my Bernina to have my plexi-glass extension table. These tables are incredibly handy and you can free-motion quilt so easily on them.

I love the under table storage.

I can REALLY geek out on design and organization of workspaces. I have designed and built a fair amount of kitchens, even Lupine’s! I love visualizing how a space should flow and function while looking beautiful. You don’t need a lot of space nor money to set up an organized and efficient sewing room. It will certainly become your favorite room in the house!

19 Responses to “My Modern Domestic Life: Michelle’s Sewing Room”

  1. Common Thread Studio

    Hi Michelle – I like the photos of your home studio, and I especially enjoyed reading about the start of Modern Domestic! I’m working at a small sewing studio in South Pasadena, CA, and the owner here is similarly enterprising and hard working. It’s an amazing place to work. My folks live in the Pacific NW; maybe I’ll get to visit you all in person sometime!

  2. Erika Sews

    Oh, I love, love, love your sewing room! Great table for ironing, and I also recognize a few Ikea accents from my own sewing room. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. michelle

    Yes, that table is so useful. Thank you so much Erika!

  4. michelle

    That would be lovely to meet you. How long have you guys been in business?

  5. Robin

    Thanks for sharing this, I just love your studio! I’m not the tidiest sewist, but this is very inspiring to get organized.

  6. shelly

    Is that a drawing of you in downward dog?

  7. autumn

    quick question – is the plexi-glass table i use for janome the same as the one above? and if not, does bernina sell/still sell that exact same extension table that you have?

    looks like such a great room! 🙂

  8. michelle

    Each sewing machine has a different table because the cut out is unique. They make them for most machines and we can order one for your Janome.

  9. michelle

    No. It’s a “naughty” embroidery piece that my friend Nicole got me. I think she got it at Crafty Wonderland. Funny. I love it.

  10. michelle

    Truth be told, I did really tidy up for the photo shoot. It is normally WAY more cluttered, but I have found that now that there is a place for everything, it usually makes it back after I am done with a project. Thanks!

  11. autumn

    i just wanted to verify – i DO have one for my janome (very much like the one you have above) and wondered if i can get a similar one for the bernina 430, rather than the smaller one extension tables i see at MD. (i was actually hoping mine would just fit on the 430!)

  12. michelle

    The Janome table will not fit on your future 430 since the cut out is different. We have them in stock though and you can use your discount!

  13. autumn

    oh yay! if you have those larger tables in stock for the 430, i’m all over it! thanks 🙂

  14. jaime

    What a great space! It is organized very well. I am super jealous of your cutting/ ironing table. I am going to do a presentation on sewing spaces at one of our upcoming Bernina clubs, can I share your space/ photos?

  15. michelle

    Of course you can! Thanks for asking.

  16. Anna Paris

    I love seeing what you did with your sewing room/office. I wish you could come help me with mine! I have a tiny space where I work from home and I try to hide my sewing/craft supplies under my desk. You have a great eye for what to do with a small space. Nice work!

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  19. Sue

    Please tell me more about your table….do the bases fold when not in use ?
    I need something I can store when not cutting fabric, as I do not have a lot of space.
    What does your table consist of…wood, batting, cloth? What size is it?
    Soooo many questions, been looking for a solution to cutting my fabric for a while now!
    Your room looks great!

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