How to Manage your Works in Progress (WIPs)

How to Manage your Works in Progress (WIPs)

I currently have at least a dozen WIPs in one stage or another.

I currently have at least a dozen WIPs in one stage or another.

If you are like me and many other creative people, you have a long list of projects you are working on, planning, and just getting started. In the quilting community the term for these are WIPs, or ‘works in progress.’ I currently have at least a dozen WIPs in one stage or another (and not just quilts, but other sewing projects as well). Here’s how I manage the materials for each one.


Remember that fabric is beautiful. Don’t hesitate to post photos of your ideas on a design board, or, like I’ve done here, with fabric samples that not only keep me motivated to work on my project, but look beautiful on my wall too.

Remember that fabric is beautiful.

Remember that fabric is beautiful.

Front and Center

Sometimes it’s best to keep your current WIP exactly front and center. I make a point of only keeping one project at a time on my work table. My mental message with this is that the only thing I’m working on is the project in front of me. This keeps me focused on the task at hand. If I truly want to work on something else, I put away the other project first.

Sometimes it’s best to keep your current WIP exactly front & center.

Sometimes it’s best to keep your current WIP exactly front & center.

Next Up

The small shelf to the left of my work table is where I keep my iron and my ‘next up’ project. This way I know what I have in my pipeline and can easily get to it once I’ve cleaned up the main table WIP.

I know what I have in my pipeline & can easily get to it.

I know what I have in my pipeline & can easily get to it.

Special Sections

Some projects are so large that I keep them in their own shelves, away from my main fabric stash. The assortment you see here is allotted for my 2017 Temperature Quilt, which will feature 26 different fabrics to map out the daily high temperatures of my city.

The assortment you see here is allotted for my 2017 Temperature Quilt.

The assortment you see here is allotted for my 2017 Temperature Quilt.

Keep it Hidden

This is the view under my work table. Unless you pull out my chair, you can’t see these large pieces of batting, quilt tops, and backing fabrics I have sitting in wait. Sometimes your WIPs are big. Finding a place to tuck them away until you get to them will help keep your workspace clean and ready to use.

This is the view under my work table.

This is the view under my work table.

Fabric Stash

Sometimes my WIPs are tucked directly into my fabric stash. The top bin on the right is fabric I have pegged to become new bedding for the full-sized mattress in my room. It folded neatly and fit right in with the rest of the stash and no one is any more the wiser that I have it in my list of WIPs.

Sometimes my WIPs are tucked directly into my fabric stash.

Sometimes my WIPs are tucked directly into my fabric stash.

Deep Storage

Sometimes you see a screaming deal on a quilt kit (or two) or you have WIPs that you know you won’t be able to get to for months or even years. I tuck these away in deep storage in my closet. I have a friend who stores them in bins under her guest bed.

I tuck these away in deep storage in my closet.

I tuck these away in deep storage in my closet.

Computer Files and Pinterest

Don’t forget that some WIPs are still just dreams and plans. Keep these twinkles in your eye safely organized in a documents folders on your computer that has patterns you plan to make or designs you want to pursue. Likewise, Pinterest is a great visual repository for storing images that link to websites with projects you are currently working on or plan to.

How do you manage your works in progress? Let us know what works for you.

Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at
Sewing Room Organizing: The Rules

Sewing Room Organizing: The Rules

Sewing Room Organizing: The Rules

Sewing room organizing can be a constant battle. That’s because creative folks make lots of things, including what my dear calls “creative explosions.” I just call these big messes. You know what I mean: quilt trimmings & other scraps on the floor, piles of fabric or other supplies on the table, idea books scattered about, bins & boxes pulled out with their contents askew and similar messes.

I battled this kind of mess for years. But I seem to have finally developed the skill of keeping order in my creative room. For example, the days between Christmas and New Year have historically been sewing room organizing time for me. But last year after Christmas, I was surprised when I realized I didn’t have any sewing room organizing to do. In years past, I have worked busily making gifts, moving from one project to the next, and letting messes pile up around me until the holiday passed.

I can’t stand to do that anymore. Instead, I clean up thoroughly after every project, before moving to the next. Since learning to do this, and by vigilantly following a few other rules that I have discovered which help to ensure order, I have enjoyed my creative pursuits more than ever before. I think these sewing room organizing rules will help you, too, if you haven’t discovered them for yourself yet.

Whether you need to clean up after your own creative explosions or you want to prevent their occurrence in the first place, keep these rules in mind.

Sewing room organizing rule one: machines first

It might not sound like sewing room organizing, but the very first thing to do is to give all of your machines a thorough cleaning. This is the most important task in cleaning up messes in the sewing room.

If your floor is littered with threads and clippings, I guarantee your machines have similar build-up inside. And continuing to sew with a dirty machine will cause it to break! So get your chosen brush and sweep and clean every machine in your room really well.

It's easy to miss a spot.

It’s easy to miss a spot.

Keeping machines clean

For sewing machines, remove the bobbin casings and take particular care in cleaning out inside and behind these. For sergers, sweep out every nook and cranny. When you think you’ve gotten it clean, sweep it out again. It’s easy to miss multiple spots. You can spend a lot of time sweeping out a serger repeatedly, and still not get it completely clean. Unless you have a magic tool, that is. The best thing you can buy to ensure a longer life for your machines is a tiny vacuum attachment to help get them really clean.

Always cover your machines to prevent unnecessary build up of dirt or dust when these are not in use. If your machine did not come with a hardcover, you can sew a pretty one yourself.

After cleaning, oil your mechanical-only machines according to their user manuals.  Don’t oil your computerized or electronic machines at home; take them to Sewing Machines Plus or your local repair shop for yearly maintenance.  Go ahead and take them in now so this will be done. If you cannot be without them right now, schedule this on your calendar to be handled as soon as possible. If you neglect your machine maintenance you will regret it. For future reference, a good plan to avoid being without your machines when you need them is to send them out for maintenance while you are on vacation.

Sewing room organizing rules 2 & 3:

Have ample workspaces

Keep them clear

After your machines, the most important things to consider in sewing room organizing are your workspaces. It is not possible to work efficiently without ample space.  If you are using more than one machine, such as a sewing machine, a serger and a coverstitch or embroidery machine, you need enough space to have them all set up. You also need table space for cutting and layout.

It is best to have the largest table that will comfortably fit in your room in order to provide ample space for working. I have a kitchen table in my room that I keep clear for cutting, and separate desks for my machines. I reconfigure machine placement depending on the project, however. When I am working on a bed sized quilt, I place my machine on the big table, so it can support the quilt. Having multiple workstations enables flexibility.

If your sewing room lacks enough space to house such a large table, Sewing Machines Plus has an excellent option for you to consider. The Arrow Pixie cutting table doesn’t take up much space when folded compactly, but opens to provide table space for both cutting and sewing. It even has measurement guides and comes with a cutting board. It’s super cute, too.

Keep tables clear!

Ample work space will do you no good if they are covered with unfinished projects, supplies, or irrelevant items. My favorite rule for making sure that my creative space stays organized and is always ready for working is to keep all work spaces clear. I do not allow myself to store any items on top of my table top or desks, other than machines, of course. But because I reconfigure my machine placement according to what I am working on, I prefer to store most of them, covered, on shelves.

This way, you can keep your table and desks clean and shining, waiting for you to make something new whenever it suits you.

Other rules to remember

There are several other rules that have helped me to keep my sewing room neat and organized. Following these rules will help to keep your room working well for you, too.

  • You can’t organize clutter; keep unnecessary items out of your room.
  • Be creative with storage. For example, to maximize working space in my sewing room, I use an antique wardrobe and chest of drawers in the next room. The beauty of these storage pieces blends nicely with my family room décor. These happily hold my fabric, trims and notions, and other less often used items, such as my looms. Here are some DIY projects for creative storage solutions which will work inside the sewing room.
  • Keep like things together. Rather than storing tools all over the place, use a bin or other storage solution to keep these neatly together. The same goes for thread, notions, and etc.
  • Let the fabric live at the store. I am no longer tempted by fabric clearance sales and refuse to buy fabric to stash. I have learned that stashed fabric steals time, space, and money, so I do not buy any without a particular project in mind. Pretty quilter cottons are the only exception I make to this rule, as I know for sure that I will put these to use. Be a savvy shopper and take advantage of sales for stocking items you must have and will use. For example, I only buy white and neutral thread, and also cotton batting, when it is on sale.
  • Finish what you start. It is easy to get excited about new projects, but for keeping order, it is much more sensible to complete each project before starting another.

Do you have any other useful rules for keeping order in your sewing room? If you do, please add a comment and share it with us.

Sewing Room Organization Tips and Projects

Sewing Room Organization Tips and Projects

Organization and layout are important factors for any sewing room. In my own small room, I have tried many things that didn’t work well, and I have found many things that do.

What are the most important factors to consider in any sewing room?

I think it boils down to these major factors:

  • Machines
  • Workspaces
  • Storage- of tools, instructional materials, and the “stash.”

Sewing Room Machines

We must keep our machines at the top of this list because neglecting to consider them can be disastrous.

One cannot sew without a trusty machine- and some sewing machines are anything but! You need reliable machines. Have both a trusty mechanical model for backup and an electronic or computerized model. If you want to sew like a pro, you need a serger as well.

You may also like to have a quality embroidery machine, a cover stitch machine, or a long arm quilter.

I listed machines at the top of the sewing room considerations based on my own experience. No mess is as important to clean up and take care of as the machine itself. Do not ever neglect to clean inside your machine! Your sewing machine will break if you do not clean under the bobbin case. And you must clean inside your serger often, for the same reason.

Avoid unnecessary repair bills by cleaning machines with a brush after every project. You must also oil your mechanical machines and sergers. Electronic machines will need oiling at Sewing Machines Plus or your local repair shop. Do not try to oil these at home. Your mechanical machine will serve you during these times.

Sewing Room Workspaces

You need ample workspaces for various tasks:

  • Machines and Sewing
  • Cutting
  • Pressing
  • Layout/ Design

You can save space by creating a design wall for layout, rather than relying on table space for this. Consider ease of moving between the workspaces to create an efficient room.

What I have found to work best in my space is to have both a large table and a counter-top style desk. These are both best kept clear. My machines are covered on shelves and it is easy to take them down and set up on the sewing desk or the table. Sewing Machines Plus has a huge selection of sewing desks and tables to choose from; click here to see these now.

I like to set up in a few different configurations, depending on what I am sewing. I place the sewing machine and serger both on the long desk when making patchwork or small projects. Or, for larger projects, I place one on the table and one on the desk, with my chair rolling back and forth between the two. If I am sewing a quilt, I set my machine on the edge of the table so that the entire table is able to support the quilt. Otherwise, I prefer the machine to be on the desk and to keep the table clear for cutting.

The iron and board or space for ironing needs to be nearby as well. I keep my large ironing board set up in the laundry room and have a folding board mounted on the wall in my sewing room.

Sewing Room Storage

You can break storage in your sewing studio down into a few categories:

  • Tools
  • Information- patterns, books
  • Stash- Fabric and supplies

    For tools, what is most important is that what you need is at hand when you need it.

    For tools, what is most important is that what you need is at hand when you need it.

Storage is where your options are endless and creativity comes into play.


For tools, what is most important is that what you need is at hand when you need it. This issue was problematic for me in the past because of grabby toddlers. So I designed this custom solution to keep my tools neat, in my reach, and away from kids.

You can also use drawers, boxes, or bins for storing tools.

Info – Patterns, Books, Magazines

This was made from a spare leftover patchwork block.

I store packets of patterns organized by type in banker boxes, some of these contained in Ziploc bags. I keep favorite and often used patterns in this oversized pocket for ease of reach. This was made from a spare leftover patchwork block.

I store books and magazines on shelves.

The “Stash”


Fabric storage has been covered before on this blog. I won’t repeat the excellent points made in that post. But, as she said, fabric left in the open collects dust. And in the case of my sunny sewing room, colors can fade. Design your space for utility rather than aesthetic considerations only. For example, I once experimented with a rainbow of sorted stacks of fabric on a shelf. This looked lovely, but I don’t recommend this method! Those stacks were not easy to pull from without making a mess.

So I have settled on storing my fabric in covered boxes. I store quilting cottons by color, and other fabrics according to type. Dress weights are together, and knits are in a box of their own, for example. Here is the most helpful tip I have with regard to fabric storage: for the most part, let the fabric live at the store! No longer do I browse sale tables or buy yards of fabric with no particular project in mind. Quilter cottons are the only exception. But I never buy more than a yard of any fabric except as needed for particular projects.

Notions and Other Supplies

Reduce visual clutter & beautify your creative space with a creative shelving cover!

Reduce visual clutter & beautify your creative space with a creative shelving cover!

I do find it helpful to keep a good stash other supplies. I use a chest of drawers and small bins. These sort and store elastics, trims, ribbons, bias bindings, lace, velcro, and buttons. I also keep serger threads and tools sorted in a smaller, plastic drawer unit in reach of that machine. Sewing spools hang on a wall mount rack with a clear dust cover for protection.

I hate having dust land on fabrics and supplies, so I made a cover for one of my shelving units. I have enjoyed having my books, magazines, and other items shielded by this. It is easy to pull the cover back and find needed supplies. And it reduces visual clutter and beautifies my creative space.

Trusty machines, ample workspaces, and easy storage contribute to a well-ordered sewing room. The most important factor in your sewing room, though, is you! Create a space that works and that you love and then go there and make stuff as often as you can!