How to Design a Sewing Room

Thinking about how to design a sewing room? As an ex-architect, I’ll give you sewing room design ideas and a step-by-step design guide.

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I’m still pinching myself even just writing this, but after years and years of sewing on the dining room table (in a teeny tiny apartment with 2 kids running around), I am finally getting a real grown-up sewing/quilting room.

Actually, we are converting that very same teeny tiny apartment into a studio for Barbara and me to do all of our graphic design work, and of course – quilting.

We are beyond excited and since we both finished architecture school, designing rooms is something we should know a thing or two about.

So before we actually order any furniture (and have my husband bring out his carpeting skills) I thought I’d do a quick research into how to organize a sewing room and come up with some sewing room design ideas.

If you’re in the process of setting up your own sewing room, this guide will give you all the information you need to design a sewing room you will really enjoy.

Here we go!

UPDATED: We updated this article to add the Quilt Design Wall.

Step 1: Choose the Space for your Sewing Room

This is probably not something most of us have the luxury to do, but if you do happen to have more than one room to choose from, here are some tips.

First and foremost, look for a room that has plenty of natural light, meaning at least one big window. Even if you like to do most of your sewing and quilting at night, you’ll appreciate being able to open the window to get some fresh air in. And you’ll feel much better working in an open and bright environment.

Make sure the room has enough space. We’ll get into the layout in the next step, but basically, you’ll need at least room for your sewing machine(s), a cutting area, space for your ironing board, and somewhere to store your tools and fabric.

Step 2: Plan your Sewing Room Layout

Now that you’ve decided where you want your sewing room to be, it’s time to plan the layout.

Plan your Work Surfaces First

The work surfaces are the most important part of your sewing room, so this is where you should begin. There are three essential workspaces you absolutely must have:

Space for your sewing machine

This is pretty obvious but you’ll want to dedicate a large workspace for your sewing machine. If you’re planning to do a lot of quilting make sure the workspace is large enough to accommodate your quilt as you sew.

Some of you may have more than one sewing machine, so consider either adding another table to the design or plan a space to store your machine(s) if you plan on switching them up.

I have a serger that I use for garment sewing, so I’ll be adding a (smaller) table against a wall, so I can have the serger out at all times.

Cutting space

I can’t count the number of times I’ve cut garment pieces on the floor of my (again, tiny) living room. And while it may be a good workout, it’s not much fun.

Plan a dedicated space where you can cut your fabric, ideally somewhere close to the sewing area. I suggest buying a large self-healing cutting mat to place on the surface. I think this is a must for quilting but comes in handy for other sewing projects, as well.

An ironing space

One of the things they taught us in the first sewing class I ever took, is to press your fabric, press your seams, press, press, press. So an ironing space is truly a must. 

You can use a regular ironing board, which works best if you’re mostly sewing garments. If you sew quilts, the larger your ironing space, the better. You can make a large dedicated ironing station if you have the space for that.

If you don’t, however, you can use your cutting space to work double-duty by placing a pressing mat on your cutting area (but make sure you remove the self-healing mat first to prevent it from warping).

Quilting Design Wall

While a quilt design wall is not 100% necessary, it will make your quilting life 100% easier! If you have a large surface that you can dedicate to a permanent quilt design wall, it is definitely something you won’t regret doing.

Read our tutorial on how to make a quilt design wall in 3 steps. We discuss everything from what materials to use, how to attach the design wall to your chosen surface, and how to make it step by step. We even have some non-permanent options!

Technical aspects of sewing room workspace

There are some technical aspects of planning your workspaces, mainly the technical details of the sewing area:

What height should my sewing table be?

It is difficult to say exactly what height your sewing table should be because it all depends on how tall you are.

The best way to assess how high the sewing table should be is to make sure you have a 90 degree or slightly greater angle at your elbows and straight wrists when you work. You don’t want to be reaching up to sew, nor do you want to be hunching down.

With most dining tables being about 28-30 inches high, they are usually too high for comfortable sewing. That’s why I’d recommend planning for a dedicated sewing table even if you don’t have an actual sewing room.

Also, keep in mind that the base of the sewing machine is about 3 inches high. Take that into account when you plan the height of the table itself. If the sewing machine is recessed into the table, the table’s surface should be higher than with the machine placed on top of the table.

All of this of course also depends on the height of your chair, which brings me to the next question…

What is the best chair for sewing?

As with your sewing table, your sewing chair should enable you to sit comfortably when you work without leaning forward or reaching upwards.

Again, you can use the 90-degree rule to determine the height. Aim for a 90° angle at your hips and at your knees with your feet flat on the floor.

If you’re buying a new chair for sewing, I’d recommend getting one with an adjustable seat to get more leeway in getting the perfect fit.

What is the best lighting for a sewing room?

Lighting is an important part of your sewing room design. With all the small bits and pieces, sewing can be very eye-straining as it is, so you don’t want bad lighting to worsen the situation.

When you plan the lighting, think about it on two levels: general lighting and task lighting.

General lighting is made up of all the light sources in your sewing room. These are natural (the light coming from windows) and artificial. 

To avoid getting too technical, I simply suggest you plan your lighting so you get an even diffused light throughout your sewing space. This will prevent your eyes from straining every time they would have to adjust to different light levels.

Task lighting is the lighting you use when you perform specific tasks – cutting, sewing, unstitching, etc. 

Your sewing machine probably has a small integrated task light, which is great (especially with the newer machines with stronger LED lights). If the machine light is not bright enough, I suggest adding a simple table lamp to not only add brightness but also light the area around the sewing room.

Don’t forget to plan good lighting for your cutting area, too. What I find works best is a light mounted on the wall, if that’s an option. Otherwise, look for strong ceiling lights that light the work surface sufficiently.

Plan your Storage Space

With the workspaces out of the way, you can now begin planning the storage spaces. You will probably want as much storage as you can get. If you’re anything like me (and every other quilter/sewer out there), you’ll be drowning in fabric stash and fabric scraps if you don’t have anywhere to store them.

From what I could find from other quilt and sewing bloggers, vertical storage (i.e. shelves or ‘bookcases’) works best. It doesn’t use up too much floor space and you have a pretty good overview of what is where when it is all laid out on the shelves.

I recommend placing it in the darkest part of the room. Not because you need it to be dark, but because the natural light and open space should be used for your work areas and not be wasted on storage.

Step 3: Plan your Sewing Supplies Organization

As a quilter or a sewer you know, there are many supplies and accessories that come with the hobby. I suggest you plan how you’re going to organize them right from the start.

Storing Fabric

I’ve already touched upon storage in the previous step, where I recommended vertical shelving against empty walls. Now if you want you can simply fold your fabrics neatly and store them on the shelves.

If you’re like me, you might prefer to store them in closed boxes or bins. I just feel like they might get dusty if they just sit on the shelves. I would look for see-through plastic boxes, so you always see where everything is.

Storing Tools and Accessories

Tools you need regularly should be readily available close to where you are going to need them. This means keep them close to the sewing or cutting area. 

You can use an organizer that you put on the desk, or hang an organizer on the wall. You can make your own wall organizer using a pegboard. (You might want to check out Ikea’s SKADIS line if you’re an Ikea fan like we are.)

Whatever you opt for, make sure your most-used tools are always at hand. And also, make sure you put them in their place when you don’t need them.

Tools and accessories that you don’t use regularly can be put away in boxes and containers. I suggest you label them just to make sure you find everything when you need it.

Step 4: Decorate your Sewing Room

Now that we got the more technical stuff out of the way, we can start talking decoration. Of course, this is the most subjective of all the steps, so go with what feels right. I’ll just try to answer the most basic questions.

What is the best color for a sewing room?

When choosing a wall color for your sewing room, I think a lot comes from personal preference. If you want a calming feel, go for cool colors, like blues and greens. If you prefer a more vibrant and energizing feel, choose reds, yellows, or even pinks.

We are actually going to keep all of our walls white. We are pretty minimalistic when it comes to these things, so we prefer to keep them white. Also, all of the fabrics and tools that you have in your sewing room, bring in lots of colors anyway. We’re choosing to let them shine and become part of the decor. 

How do I decorate my sewing room?

There are so many fun ways you can decorate your sewing room. With everything that’s going on with the fabrics and tools already, you might want to keep it simple and choose minimalistic modern decor. You can add some framed inspirational quotes or some pretty prints.

If you’re a quilter you could also make some mini quilts to hang on your walls, like our Rainbow Quilt Wall Hanging.

What we’re thinking of doing is making an inspirational project wall. We’ll use a large white metal grid as the base and then hang any images, quotes, cutouts, etc. that inspire us there. We’ll definitely show you how it turns out!

I hope you liked this mini guide to designing your own sewing room. Depending on what you’re working with, there will be some differences in how to go about designing your space, but I think we’ve covered all the basics.

Do you have any other ideas or tips on how to plan the design of a sewing room? I would love to hear about them.

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