A Plastic-Free Quilt-In-Progress Storage System

I need to come clean: I haven’t been sewing much lately. I’ve been telling myself it’s because I’m too busy with computer stuff, or the studio is too cold, but I can’t deny the truth any longer: my quilting studio has finally gotten so messy, that my brain totally goes offline when I’m in there.

Earlier this week, I tried to do a quick fabric pull for a new quilt project, and I couldn’t do it. I tried to pick up an old WIP (that’s Work In Progress) and couldn’t do it. I tried to tidy, and even that was just super overwhelming. I managed to put 2 spools of thread away before I had to just GET OUT of the studio.

Thankfully (???) I had committed to do some quilt studio spring cleaning as part of the Spring Clean your Studio blog hop! As I said in last year’s Spring Cleaning post, nothing gets my butt in gear like a deadline. After a year of pandemic, my sewing room was soooo much worse.

The Before

How bad was it, you ask?

I shared these Before pics on Instagram with a double-bagged warning, and still, some viewers were shocked. Use the little arrow thingy on the side to scroll AT YOUR OWN RISK!

There was literally one square foot of floor space available to slide the chair out or stand and cut fabric. Every horizontal surface was so stacked with stuff that there was no place to work, and no place to shove stuff aside to make space to work.

Once I realized that, I knew exactly what the root cause was and how to solve it.

When I moved my studio into this room, I didn’t have a system for storing Works in Progress.

I wanted to avoid plastic bins, if possible. I also wanted a large, flat surface to lay out quilt blocks blocks, fabric strips, quilt patterns, etc in whatever state they were when I paused the project. Industrial baking trays seemed like a good choice, and were a great fit for the size of my shelving unit, but they’re expensive, open to dust, and would require adding a whole lot of new shelves.

That’s when I remembered this:

My comment on Kate’s post: Wait, what???? Did you just get like a case of pizza boxes to store your UFOs in???? Because that’s some plastic-free awesomeness right there!!

(Small world moment: not only is Kate also participating in this blog hop, but her genius post up there was part of my own weird creation UFOvember! Gotta love quilty insta!)

I didn’t end up ordering pizza boxes, but I ended up with something even better!

These corrugated literature mailers from Staples are about the size of my cutting medium cutting mat, which makes them big enough to lay out most blocks, and I can pin the pattern or foundation papers to the lid for display.

They’re also the perfect size to fit my Ikea wardrobe (once I add a shelf above the printer) side by side. And while they don’t have the adorable “hot fresh pizza” printed on them, I can get a little creative with my markers and label each project with a bit of pizzazz. (yup, I wrote that. I kind of hate myself for it!)

The After

WIPs stored, I was able to throw on the Hamilton soundtrack and start working through everything else that had accumulated.

Once there was a bit of clear space, I decided to move things around a bit to see if a new setup would work better for Zoom workshops. (All that bright sunlight from the window was backlighting the sewing machine. I hated sitting at my computer desk because it felt like a dark cave.)

The initial cleaning took about one-and-a-half Hamiltons (in 4-song bursts), and then the sweeping, vacuuming, and finishing touches were about 40 minutes with Mr. Bobbin leading the charge.

Which is really surprising to me! Because it always feels like cleaning the studio is going to take a full week of excruciating effort, which just makes me resist it even more. There’s still a lot of mess hiding under the longarm, a lot of fabric to fold and put away. But I’m so in love with the pizza box system, and now that I know how much of a change some showtunes can make, hopefully I can tidy up more often!

Don’t forget to check out the other blog hoppers for more before-and-afters!

Please follow the rest of the blog hop here:

March 29 – Raylee Bielenberg – sunflowerstitcheries.com
March 30 – Jen Frost – faithandfabricdesign.com
March 31 – Tara Gebhardt – quiltspluslove.com/quilt-stories
April 1 – Becca Fenstermaker – prettypiney.com/blog
April 2 – Leanne Parsons – devotedquilter.com
April 3 – Rebecca Lidstrom – studiorquilts.com/blog
April 4 – Amy Bradley – purplepineapplestudio.com
April 5 – Sue Griffiths – duckcreekmountainquilting.com
April 6 – Kate Starcher – katiemaequilts.com/blog
April 7 – Tammy Silvers – tamarinis.typepad.com/
April 8 – Jessica Caldwell – desertbloomquilting.com
April 9 – Monika Fritschi Henry – pennyspoolquilts.com/blogs/news
April 10 – Sara D Flynn – offbeatquilts.com/blog
April 11 – Bobbie Gentili – geekybobbin.com <<< YOU ARE HERE!
April 12 – Cheryl Sleboda – blog.Muppin.com

7 thoughts on “A Plastic-Free Quilt-In-Progress Storage System

      1. Oh that looks so cheerful and clean! Nicely done, and the world appreciates your effort to reduce your use of plastic in the process!

  1. I loved your post. You were very funny and brave to show an honest picture of your room. I like the storage box idea but can’t always remember what the actual pattern looks like so I would probably attach a thumbnail picture on the outside.
    I agree that I overestimate how long it takes to do a chore I hate. Putting music or a recorded book on while washing dishes or folding and putting away laundry is the only way it gets done. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great ideas! I recently moved, and finally have a little space to stretch out and sew. Everything was in moving boxes, so I wanted something more organized and accessible, but I was leaning towards more natural materials and not tons of plastic…but I didn’t want to blow my whole fabric budget on simply plastic bins to hold my fabric. It was getting to be a dilemma! I’ll have to see if I can find similar boxes here and where they could stack.

  3. I love your results but I just can’t go plastic free. The last cardboard box that I stored my fabric in and a box that I had towels to be embroidered both in a cupboard in my work area, became homes for mice. Since I live in the hills and woods of KY mice are a daily battle. With out plastic containers to store both fabric and such none of my fabric would survive.

  4. I feel much less guilty about my studio now. I think I will have go back and read those spring cleaning blog hops.

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