Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Spring Cleaning-- Notions, Rulers, and Thread

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Spring Cleaning series!  Today's topic is notions, rulers, and thread--all the little essentials which end up everywhere but you can never find when you need them.

Whether you have too little or too much, come on along and let's see if we can get organized together. For this step, you're going to need a bag for trash and some organizing aids for the things you keep, plus a box or two for things you want to give away.  Read on to see what those containers and such could be.

Is it possible to make notions look glamorous?

**As always, there are no rules except the ones you make for yourself.  You can throw it all out and start from scratch or keep every single thing if you want--it's up to you!**

Lots to talk about today!  For this topic, I'm just going to go through each component one at a time, and then talk about what to do with the things you don't want at the end of the post.  Also, I want to say right up front that I found this to be the most difficult aspect of the whole clean out project.  So many little things, in so many different places!  It took me several weeks to get all the way through, so take your time and don't get too frustrated.  I also recommend keeping some chocolate nearby to lift your spirits. Somehow the mess always seems to wait for you!

Ready?  Let's start here. . .


This is a good place to start on the notions because it's colorful and fun to look at, and it's easy to make progress.  Not surprisingly, this starts with grabbing all your thread and putting it out on a table or counter.  Dig through everything and try to find every spool you own.  Grab the bobbins, too. Get it all out there at once.

The first step is to separate the different types of thread.  Separate the thread by its use--quilting thread, garment thread, silk thread, serger thread, embroidery thread, etc.   Then take one type of thread and sort it.  Will you use this spool again?  Is it hopelessly tangled?  Is it one you abandoned because it kept breaking in your machine?  Is it day-glo orange that hurts your eyes? If you won't use it or you've tried it and it doesn't work well for you, toss it.  Just throw it in the bin and forget about it.  Yes, thread can be expensive, but bad thread is not worth any price.   Don't forget to check your bobbins, too.

I would toss any thread that is discolored or faded, any spools that are broken, and even some where there is very little thread left.  Plastic spools can be recycled.  I would keep wooden spools as a decoration, but I would hesitate to use the thread on them. If you have usable thread that you just don't like--maybe you stopped using that brand-- go ahead and put them in a box for donation later on.

What about old thread?  I've never really tried to use old thread, but I'm hesitant.  I generally aim for high turnover in thread, buying only a few spools at a time. HERE is a post defending old thread, and HERE is another take on it.  I guess I would test it to see if it breaks.  If not, keep it.  Ultimately, you have to do what makes you comfortable.

Once you've got your thread sorted out, the key to storing thread (and any notion) is to keep like types together, and to keep the thread you use most often easily accessible.  Thread racks work well, and many bobbins can also be stored on thread racks if they will fit on the spool.  But you don't have to buy something new!  Boxes and trays also work for thread storage.  Deep boxes will hold large thread cones, and boxes of all types can be stored on shelves.  Bobbins can be stored in smaller boxes, baskets, or even bags or jars, or in boxes or storage containers made just for them.  Just remember that you want to be able to find things when you need them , and to keep like things together. If you have several places where you use thread, it wouldn't hurt to find a storage area near where it will be used.  For example, keep the longarm thread all together near the longarm. 

CDs, DVDs, and cutting dies:

The key here is the same as for all other notions--like goes with like.  That is, keep all of one type of thing together.  It's probably a good idea to go through these and make sure you want to keep what you have.  Separate the CDs from the DVDs, and keep each of these in a box or basket or on a shelf near where you use them.  The same goes for computer memory cards and jump drives, if you keep a computer in your sewing area-- keep all of these together in one basket or box near the computer.

Dies for cutting systems (like Accuquilt) should also be kept together.  I don't have one of these, but a decorative box or crate seems like a good bet, or a drawer if you have one in your sewing area.  You could also try one of the many types of storage made for plates or other cooking implements.  A lot depends on the size of your dies and how many you have.  If you're buying something new, take your largest die with you to make sure it will fit.  Be sure to keep whatever storage you choose in your cutting area so that you can get to your dies when you want them.

Longarm Rulers and templates:

At the risk of repeating myself, keep like things together in the area where you will use them.  Baskets and decorative boxes or plastic bins can hold a lot of things in your longarm area.  If the templates are the right size, you can store them together in plastic page pockets in binders (see last post) just like paper templates.  Just remember that you want to find a storage area near the longarm so you can find everything when you need it.


Oh, rulers!  So many kinds, so much money for them!  This could be a hard one, folks, because there are so many choices to be made.  It seems that every new pattern demands a new kind of ruler, and those pieces of plastic can be really pricey.  (I think $25 is a lot to pay for a specialty ruler.  That's two yards of designer fabric!)  This means we end up with a lot of plastic! Some end up in a drawer or box because they're only good for making one pattern or a very limited set of patterns, but we don't want to get rid of them because they cost so much or because we might need them someday.  Still, they clutter things up and drag us down.

Talk about ruler creep!  

Sort rulers the same way you did the books:  get everything out and put it all on a table to sort. Don't forget the small ones by the machine! Start with the ones you use every day (or at least every month or so) and put those aside as "must keep."  For me, this was a 12 x 6 and 2 6-1/2 inch square rulers.  Next, consider each one and decide whether it's useful or not.  Is it duplicated by another ruler?  For example, do you need an 8-1/2 inch square and a 9-1/2 inch square?  Maybe so--which is fine!  Save the ones you really need.  If you can't decide, make a "maybe" pile and think about it.

It should go without saying that anything that's broken or too worn to use should be tossed out.

If you just can't get rid of any rulers (which is fine!) at least you can open up some useful space in the sewing area by storing the specialty rulers in a box or tote bag away from the main space.  Put them in a closet in another room, under a bed, or in your home's storage area.  When you want to make a pattern with them, you'll still have them but you won't have to move them around to get to the rulers you actually use every day.

Rulers are most useful if you keep them near where you actually use them to cut things.  If you have the space and a bunch of rulers,  a pegboard could work really well. (A very clear pegboard tutorial is HERE.)  Command hooks are also really good for hanging rulers on the wall above the cutting area.  You could also hang them on the back of a door or the side of a table.  Drawers are nice, too, as long as they are accessible in the cutting area.

Small notions:

I said that the rulers were hard, but this one is really hard because there are *tons* of small things floating around everywhere.  It's best to start sorting through these notions when you're in a good mood and are feeling just a bit ruthless.  You know how to start--get it all out and on the table.  Find every seam ripper, seam guide, pin, thimble, doohickey, and gadget that you have.  Throw in all the different kinds of marking tools you have, all the needles, all the different glues and adhesives, and all the cleaning brushes you can find.  Just get it all out there.

Now comes the sorting.  The central principles are very simple--does it work? and do I use it?  If the answer to either of these questions is no, it should go.  You can donate it, but if it won't be used, there's no need for it to be in your sewing room.  Does the seam ripper rip seams, or is it dull?  Are the pins still straight and sharp?  That gadget designed by a really famous quilter that some of your friends absolutely swear by but you could never figure out?  Out it goes.  If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work.  Toss the item and the guilt and use the things that do work for you.

Once you have everything sorted, there are a lot of ways to store these little things, none of which have to cost a lot. The important thing to remember when storing these is that "like goes with like"-- similar items should be kept together.  For example, all of the sizes of bias tape makers should be stored in the same box, and all of the needles should be in the same place. Small baskets, boxes, or bins work, as do jars of all types and even decorative coffee cups.  Save spaghetti sauce or fruit jars for storing some items (run them through the dishwasher or wash them in hot water first), or the plastic containers from some drink mixes, which are perfect for storing marking pens or colored pencils.  Any of the small, cheap plastic food storage containers with lids can also work well.  They're really inexpensive and come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

Many useful containers don't have to be expensive.

Try to keep the items that you use most near the place where you use them and put others into a "deeper storage," which can just be a box at the back of a shelf.  You'd want to keep seam rippers close, for example, but use bias tape makers less frequently, so they could be stored a bit further away.

 Miscellaneous other notions:

Sort everything the same way.  If it doesn't work or you don't use it, it should go in the trash or a donation box.  Buttons can be stored in jars, boxes, or tins, and are sometimes decorative in the sewing area.  (Probably best to have a lid for the buttons in case they get knocked over.) Zippers can be stored in similar ways.  Freezer paper, fusibles, and interfacing can be rolled up and stored in a basket or box.  You may want to roll these on empty paper towel or wrapping paper tubes first.  Starches and pressing agents should be stored in their original bottles near the pressing area. (Keep these out of the reach of children!)

Like goes with like.

I know I haven't thought of everything, but the general ideas apply to any notion you find: if it isn't useful to you, it needs to go, and store like items together near the areas where they'll be used. 

What to do with the things you don't want:

Anything that is broken or badly used should be thrown out.  You may be able to sell some things if they are new in their original packages and have never been used.  This includes rulers, and specialty rulers should also have directions with them.  There is some secondary market for notions, especially specialty ones, and selling through your blog, Etsy, or Ebay is a good bet.  I know there are also Facebook groups just for selling sewing items, but I don't belong to any of them so I can't vouch for them.

If you have usable notions that are not new but gently used, or full spools of thread that you don't want, they can be donated and used by others at the the same places you would donate fabric.  Otherwise, they can be given away to friends who will use them, on guild tables, or to some thrift shops or organizations.

Wow, this is long!  There was a lot to sort through!  I hope you made some progress and are feeling better about things!

Thanks for coming this far! Next week we tackle the fabric, which seems to be the post everyone has been waiting for.  I'll have some sorting and organizational suggestions for fabric and batting, along with places to donate some of the pieces you want to give away.  See you back here then!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.


Jo said...

I have been using up my full box of my mums threads. There were so many but ever so useful when it came to scrap quilts.... all the empty spools/ reels went to the kinder/school/childcare for there art class. The wooden reels , a friend uses for the 'antique look kits in a tin'.... Let's all use them up

Quiltdivajulie said...

Another easy way to store rulers and dies is to use an office file sorter. I have three along the back edge of the countertop in my cutting area and it has been that way for several years now. As far as old thread, I use it for decoration only (on the original spools). IF anyone has old bobbins that no longer fit their machine, find a local artist or craftsperson - there are a LOT of ways they can use your no longer useful bits. Another great post - your studio must be looking quite a lot better after doing all this!

KaHolly said...

i don't have the space to be too organized!

Kate said...

Lots of good hints and tips. I've invested in appropriate storage containers for my thread, it was a great investment! Are you going to show off your clean and organized sewing room?

Lorna McMahon said...

Another great post. You now have me wondering.... If thread has a shelf life, does fabric?

JanineMarie said...

I love reading about all the different ways there are to store sewing paraphernalia. I think our sewing spaces do a really good job of reflecting our personalities. My notion solution is a small four-drawer chest that we bought for my daughter at a thrift store when she was very young. I keep it in a closet and use fabric drawer dividers to keep like things separated. I take out whatever's needed for a project, which happily messes up my sewing space until the project is done, and then I put it all away and pull out what's needed for the next project. It's a combination of neatness and mess I can live with. I keep my spools in an antique spool chest and my cones in an antique medicine cabinet because they feed my love of using antiques. I'm looking forward to seeing your space at the end of this series.

Lisa J. said...

Great post. I have plaster walls in my sewing room so I might just get me a pegboard or two to hand rulers and mini quilts on...hmmm.

Kate @ Smiles From Kate said...

I like the idea of a pegboard but I haven't a lot of wall space. I have a ruler rack, but it's at the back of my large table and I keep knocking it somehow, it's just not working for me so maybe I should look at a different storage solution for them. You made me realise I could do with some shelves, but where? Lots to think about, great post.

Unknown said...

Donating to a local high school home economics class is also an excellent option, especially with some local school budgets being cut recently. Also, adult training and education programs accept donations to teach sewing and garment making. Great series of posts!