A Look at (Parts of My) Craft Room/Office

This post could be subtitled “the art of selective photography” or “how to make your office look somewhat clean when your toddler’s home for spring break.” Because I’ve got to admit, parts of this place are pretty rough. But that’s life, and I really work in here many, many hours a day.

It’s not pretty, but it’s where the work gets done. And most of the work gets done here, at my desk.desk wide view

This giant L-shaped glass-topped beauty is a great place to spread out projects. As you can see, my computer is on one side and there’s a crafty workspace on the other. The desk holds some of my office essentials like pens, clips, a stapler, my dictionary and stylebook (journalism training never quite goes away) and a box of old business cards that I use constantly for writing down notes, making lists, etc. I do wish it had drawers, but other than that I love it.

One thing I’ve done recently is to give my cutting mat semi-permanent residence on the long side of the table. That way the surface is a little protected if I have a quick cutting or gluing job to do (I still break out newspaper for painting jobs) and I can measure things easily when I need to.baskets of inspiration

Here it’s helping me to show off a couple of my favorite “storage ideas”: little baskets to hold scraps and stuff. I call these my baskets of inspiration.

The little blue basket holds scraps of fabric and ribbon, which I often grab for mixed-media projects. The bigger basket is a lot of stuff I’ve been working with recently or want to use again soon, so there’s little bits of yarn and embroidery floss, findings and charms. Some yarn needles and sewing pins live here, too, so they’re always easy to find.upper shelf desk

The desk has this little upper shelf that I’m sure is supposed to be for a monitor, but I use it to hold things I like to keep accessible. My mug rack with scissors on it is up here, as well as my fancy pens (for now; I keep waffling on where they belong), my grandma’s button jar (the pom-pom is just sitting on top for whimsy) and a little box I bought recently that holds sewing needles and a bit of thread.yarn winder swift

Over there you’ll also find my ball winder and yarn swift, which is that crazy wooden thing. I am a professional knitter and I need to wind a lot of yarn balls, and I love having them out all the time, even if they are in kind of a strange place.bookshelves

Next to my desk, mounted on the wall, are some overburdened bookshelves full of knitting books. Underneath you can see a vintage thread ad; this is where my sewing table is going to go as soon as I find one.paint box

On the opposite wall sits my printer (this is an office, after all) on top of a wooden filing cabinet. Next to the printer is an obnoxiously green file drawer I picked up at a local vintage shop; it holds my paint. On top of that is a blue tray from Hobby Lobby with some yarn I want to use soon. It’s really inspirational to have a little of it on view aside from what’s in my shoe hangers on the doors.

What I’m not showing you is the back wall, which is lined with bookshelves full of crafty books. They’re lovely shelves, but there are also books in front of the shelves, a pile of fabric here, a basket of plastic Easter eggs there. It’s would be kind of like a crafty staging area if it weren’t such a horrific mess. Let’s just pretend that part doesn’t exist, why don’t we? At least I can admit I have a problem.


Viewtainer Storage Review

Crafting naturally involves a lot of small things that need to be contained in some way so that our craft rooms don’t become crazy places covered with little bits and scraps.

Yes, you can make your own adorable storage, and I’m really going to do that someday, but I was looking for something a little more sturdy to hold some things in my mixed media storage area, which has been sitting on the floor under my desk.

Translation: I wanted a way to keep the three-year-old from using my good pens.

I found the Viewtainer spill-proof containers at my local Home Depot. They come in a variety of sizes from 2 by 4 inches to 2.75 by 12 inches and 13 colors, though you’ll find fewer choices at the hardware store (I think they had black, gray, blue and red at my store). They normally come with split lids for easy access to whatever’s inside, but you can also get full lids or hanging lids, neither of which I saw at my store, but you can order them online.

I picked a couple of black ones to try. viewtainer storage containers

They’re Not Kidding about the Lids

My first impression of these containers is that they are very sturdy, made of thick but flexible plastic with rubbery tops and bottoms. You squeeze the top to get the slit to open up to put things in and take them out. With a solid lid, the container becomes air- and water-tight.

The lids are quite secure and it’s actually kind of difficult to take them off (if you squeeze on the clear part really hard you can get under the lid and nudge it off), which is a good thing if you’re trying to keep materials away from children. It’s a little inconvenient when you’re loading something big like that spool of twine that couldn’t go through the lid hole.

But if you’re putting something small in there, the lid can be formed into a funnel-like device that makes it easy to load and unload.

Using the Containers

I like these containers for things like twine and ribbon that can get messy when left to their own devices. You could also use one for a small ball of yarn if you were working with a novelty yarn that just wants to fall apart in the ball. It would also keep the yarn clean and away from cats while you worked with it.

It was awkward to try to get a single pen out of the container when I wanted to work with it, so that’s definitely one application where having a solid lid might be better. Either way you can just take it off while you’re working and put it back on when you’re done.

These containers range in price from $2.89 to $6.98 (except for the 26-inch long one; it’s $9.79). Replacement caps are available, with or without tethers, so you can alter your bottle in whatever way you need (hanging lids are not available for individual purchase).

Of course these would be great for things like buttons and beads if you didn’t mind having a bunch mixed up together. You could also store paint brushes, markers or crayons, pipe cleaners and other kids’ supplies in them, especially if you have younger kids and only want those things to be accessible when you’re around to help open the containers.

I’m not sure I’m making the best use out of mine right now, so I’d love to hear what you would use them for.


A Great Craft Room/Office/Guest Room from Damask Love

My craft space is also my office, so I get really inspired by craft rooms that do double duty, that might look like an office but are also really just well-organized creative spaces.

I’m kind of in love with the pretty space that Amber from Damask Love works in, which once again makes me weep a little inside that I live in a state without an IKEA.

That’s where all this lovely furniture came from: the tables, chairs, drawers and even the big tower storage units. So streamlined, and you get a lot of storage in a little space, which is great.craft room office damask love

I love the idea of using traditional “office” supplies in a crafty way, which she does with her rolling file cart turned storage for card stock, acrylic stamping blocks, paper trimmer and more supplies that a card maker needs to have always at hand. damask love rolling cart

This room also has a fold-out couch for guests, which makes a comfy spot for reading, brainstorming and doing work that doesn’t require the desk. You can see from the overhead shot that it’s not a huge space, but it’s really well planned and looks cozy, not cluttered. damask love craft room

Which is exactly the kind of inspiration I need for my office/craft area.

Another thing I love in this space is the little floating shelf on which she displays her magazine covers and current favorite creations. You can bet if I ever get any magazine covers I’m installing a shelf to show them off!favorites wall damask love

You can check out the rest of Amber’s craft room on her site and get all the details.

Just One Tip: Organizing with Mug Racks

When I was working on my book last fall (did I tell you I was writing a book? It should be out this fall!) I went on an outing looking for different props that I could use in some of the pictures. At a local vintage shop I picked up a sweet pea green mug rack that I thought would be cute to hang a little baby cardigan from in one of the pictures.

I’m not sure I actually ended up using that picture in the book, but I still have the mug rack. At first I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but then I realized it was the perfect little stand to hold some things that I like to keep close at hand but don’t want just lying on my desk. mug rack supply organizer

In my case, that’s sewing and paper scissors, packing tape and a flexible tape measure. It sits on my desk, within easy reach from my computer or the project portion of the space.

I love it. It’s perfect to have a place for all these essentials to go so they’re “put away” but still always within reach, not making clutter but always accessible, too.

It’s no surprise I’m not the only person to have come up with this idea.

Jenny at Allsorts took the scissors idea to the extreme, loading up a tall red mug holder with a ton of scissors.

scissor caddy allsorts

She also has a smaller one she uses for ribbon. So cute!

ribbon mug rack allsorts

I also love this idea from Better Homes and Gardens, in which a mug rack with mugs still on it is used to hold pens and markers. What a great way to keep things accessible and organized. You could probably do this with a wall-mounted mug rack, too.

mug rack markers

Have you taken any accessories out of the kitchen to use in your craft room? I’d love to hear about it!


13 in 2013: Clean Up Your Stash and Help Others with Craft Cart Projects

This is the time of year when a lot of crafters are going through their stashes and clearing out things they are sure they will never use. There are lots of things you can do with that excess stuff, from selling it to giving it to a friend or donating it to a senior center.craft cart destash

Another great way to use parts of your stash and feel good while you’re doing it is to create projects for a hospital craft cart.

These carts are usually for children who are spending a lot of time at the hospital. The little crafts give them something to do to take their mind off their treatment.

As Penny Tramontozzi of the Volunteer Services Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Center put it, “Craft projects have a significant impact on both our inpatients and outpatients as they are a most welcome distraction to their daily treatments.”

Different hospitals will have different criteria for the projects they accept, but basically you put together a bag of supplies with instructions for a craft that a child can complete without a lot of supervision. There are specific guidelines about some items that should not be included in the projects (latex balloons, small objects, food items, etc.). They also ask that projects be religion and culturally neutral.

As with any crafty charitable donation, check in with the place you want to donate to find out what their needs and requirements are before you make any plans.

What Can You Make?

Looking at your stash of craft supplies, it may be difficult to come up with a project that would suit a craft cart, particularly since items need to be new. But there are probably lots of potential projects in your collection if you think small and get creative.

• Scraps of paper can be used to make beads or be bound together into a small book.
• A single gift tag or blank bookmark could be the basis for a craft project.
• A handful of beads is enough to make a necklace or bracelet with a length of yarn or twine.
• Extra felt can be cut into a variety of shapes to make puppets when attached to a craft stick.
• Lengths of ribbon can be combined with buttons, beads or other materials to make jewelry.
• You can always supplement your stash if need be with small packs of crayons or paints, glue sticks, etc.

More Ideas to Get You Started

I first learned about the craft cart at St. Jude from my friend Paige, who suggested making the craft kits for a project called DIY Date, found at Laid-Off Mom.

You can see all the projects created for that particular event on her site, but here are a couple of my favorites.button caterpillar craft cart

Stephanie at Pretty and Delectable took chenille stems, buttons and googly eyes (who doesn’t have a bunch of all of those things?) and made these cute little button caterpillars.cupcake friend craft cart

Louise of Laid-Off Mom used cupcake liners, craft sticks and other little bits to make cupcake friends, proof that even little bits of leftovers can make an adorable project.

They also started a Pinterest board full of great ideas. I looked through my Pinterest boards and found a few other likely candidates:

• A craft stick, a pen and some washi tape makes and adorable Lolly Dolly, from Teawagon Tales.
• Sparkly pom-poms and feathers combine for a pretty dragonfly at Caution, Twins at Play. (You’d have to use regular glue, of course, not a glue gun!)
• Combine pom-poms and chenille stems for adorable finger puppets courtesy of Craft Jr.
• Not all of these would be appropriate, but using craft sticks, clothespins and other basics leads to lots of crafty goodness over at Parents.

Have you ever donated supplies to a craft cart? I’d love to hear how it went and what you made!

13 in 2013: Yarn Storage Solutions

I am a knitter, first and foremost. I dabble in other crafts, but a look around my craft room office reveals mostly lots – and lots – of yarn. I’m always looking for new and creative ways to store it, but before we get to that, we need to take a moment to talk about organization.

Organizing Your Stash

Whether you’re a new yarn crafter or have been going at it for years like me, odds are you’ve probably got a collection of yarn hanging about, otherwise known as a stash. The very word stash connotes something that’s hidden, possibly stuffed in a dark corner where one hopes it will go unnoticed.

But the random nature of stashing makes it easy for things to get disorganized, even if your stash is a lot smaller than mine.

The first step, then, is to gather all your yarn from its various hidey holes into one place. This can, admittedly, be difficult if your stash is huge, in which case you might need to take it one section of your home at a time.

Decide if there’s anything you can part with and make plans to donate it to a knitting club or senior center.

Then decide how you want to organize your yarn. There are many possible options: by color, by yarn content, by weight, stuff you love and want to knit with right away versus stuff that can go into deeper storage and so on.

I have some things stored in all these ways, truth be told. I have a giant box of cotton yarn and another of acrylic. I have sock yarn all in one place. Some inspiring yarns I want to work with soon are in a basket on a bookshelf (others, I’ll admit, are just sitting on my desk).

The main thing is that whatever system you choose will work for you and make it possible for you to find what you need when you need it.

(As an aside, if you really want to organize your stash, consider some sort of database or system for logging what yarn you have, how much of it there is and where it’s located in your house. I always dream of putting my whole stash on Ravelry, but I’m just not ready for that kind of radical honesty.)

Storing Your Stash

Once you have an idea of how you want your stash to be organized in storage, it’s time to figure out how to store it. As much as I love having things visible and accessible, I just can’t do that with all my yarn, so I’m really making an effort to only keep things close that I intend to use soon or just find really pretty.closet yarn storage

For deep storage I have giant bins that live in the master bedroom closet. I should not admit it, but there’s some really deep storage in my attic, which I really need to take care of soon, since that’s a pretty awful place to keep yarn.

Things I’m thinking about using soon or that I’ve gotten from yarn companies are in one shoe organizer on the closet door; a bunch of plain wool in different colors is hanging on the other door.yarn basket

That aforementioned basket is heaped with things to review and recent yarn purchases that I really want to knit with soon. For reasons unknown to me, there’s also an aromatherapy ball in there. I guess it’s pretty, too.

More Good Advice

I love the idea of using an old shelf or cabinet for yarn storage. I have a giant bookshelf that used to house yarn, and may again someday if I ever pare down my book stash.yarn storage cabinet

This gorgeous storage unit was meant to house DVDs, but I like its current use a lot better (via the Loopy Ewe).

yarn storage cabinet

Or there’s this lovely drawered unit that I guess must have been part of a desk at some point and is now home to a lot of yarn (Sunset Cat Designs).yarn storage cabinet

Ravelry user lesliehsimon has another beautiful cabinet with pull-out drawers that is a colorful inspiration.yarn rack wine rack

Or how about a “yarn rack” instead of a wine rack, like this one from Prudent Baby?

Make Your Own

Finally, baskets, bowls and cute little storage pieces are a great way to show off little special bits of yarn or contain current projects. But why not get double craft bang for your buck and make the containers, too?sew sweet knitting tote

There are great instructions at Sew Sweet for a knitter’s tote that holds yarn on the inside and has space for needles on the outside. It even has a handle so you can carry it wherever you’re working.sewn yarn baskets

I also like the Sewn Stash Baskets from Purl Bee, which are great for holding a small amount of yarn in a lovely way.

If you have other ideas for storing yarn I’d love to hear them. Goodness knows I need all the help I can get!

Just One Tip: Using Crates for Storage

I’ve told you before about my obsession with hanging things on the wall for storage, and in that post I touched on hanging crates on the wall to make shelves or display cases.

I recently became the proud owner of a wooden crate that I bought as a photography prop, but while I’m not using it for photos I need to use it for something, so I decided I’d take a closer look at different ways to use crates to store crafty items.

Hang Crates as Shelvespastel crates in mudroom

Yes, I already talked about hanging crates on the wall, but I had to bring it up again because I just came across these lovely pastel painted crates from Thea’s Mania (which is not in English; you can also find them on Apartment Therapy).

She used them in an entryway to store shoes off the floor, which is completely adorable, but wouldn’t they look awesome stacked high with fabric or yarn, too?

Stack as Shelvesbookshelf made of crates

The Rusty Hinges Blog has a great roundup of ways to use crates as shelving when stacked together. I love this look for a collection of arts and crafts books with a few pretty, inspirational items mixed in.

Use as Drawerscrates as baskets

Of course you can also go the other way and use the crates as drawers or “baskets” on an existing shelf. This picture from Imperfect Homemaking actually uses crates to contain items in a laundry room, but you could use the same concept in your crafting area.

I particularly like this one because of the labels made with chalkboard paint so you know what’s inside since you can’t see through the crate. Bonus: making the labels is crafty!

What I’m Doing, For Nowsingle crate bookshelf

It’s a happy coincidence that my crate fits exactly in the space between my filing cabinet and the door of my office, so for now I have it stacked with some books that I intend to review soon. This keeps them all corralled and visible so I remember what I have, which is a big help when I’m trying to review a bunch of books in the same genre or with the same theme.

Do you use crates for storage in your crafty space? I’d love to know how you use them!

Making Time for Craft Organization

I love writing for Craft Storage Ideas. Probably more importantly, I love reading Craft Storage Ideas, because I need more help than I’m giving. One of these days Rebecca is going to ask me to take you good people on a tour of my creative space, and then I’m going to be in trouble, for sure.

Because as much as I can offer advice on what to store where and how to make it look pretty, I have problems getting my space to look the way I want it (organized, functional, serene, inspiring) and keeping it that way.

It’s not a matter of motivation or not knowing what to do. It’s completely a matter of time.

I don’t take the time to focus the attention that’s needed in my space, so it remains piled up with boxes of yarn, stacks of books and random bits of projects.

I’m trying to do better. I have to do better if I’m going to invite you all to take a peek. So as I give myself the organization pep talk, I thought maybe you could use it, too.

dirty desk
My "before" desk.

Decide What You Want

Some organizational guru – maybe Peter Walsh, I don’t remember – always has clients give him three words that they want to use when describing the space they’re organizing. My list is in the second paragraph above and it’s actually four words (organized, functional, serene, inspiring) , but I was never very good at following directions.

The point of that exercise is that it gives you a vision for what you’re heading toward, which can be highly motivating.

It also gives you a way to evaluate what’s in the space, what needs to stay and what needs to go. If it doesn’t help me to be organized, if it isn’t functional, serene or inspiring, it needs to go. That’s tough, especially since my “studio” is my office, but it’s a good goal to have.

Set Aside Time

The timer is your friend.

Like any dreadful appointment, you need to pencil in (or type in, if you’re more modern than me) time to work on organizational projects. Start small, with maybe 10 or 15 minutes and a specific goal in mind: clearing off your desk, dealing with that stack of mail, emptying a box.

Set a timer if you need to, either to stay motivated or to keep yourself from getting sucked in to taking all day to sort through your scrapbook paper stash. It’s best to do this first thing when you hit the studio, because you’ll feel good about having gotten started and you won’t be pulling yourself away from something more fun to work on organization.

Set Small Goals

Just like you should start by working on organizing projects in short increments, you should also have small goals to start with. Don’t think you can reorganize your whole studio space in a weekend unless you’re some kind of super woman who doesn’t have children or need sleep or your space is the size of a shoebox.

Instead, look around the room and decide what bothers you the most. What is most in need of organization? What would make you feel the best if it were in better shape? Start there.

If that project feels like too much and you aren’t sure how to break it down, start at the door. Work your way around the room, one surface or pile at a time.

Or do what I almost always do, and start with your desk or work table. It’s probably the part of your space you look at the most, the most easily cluttered but often pretty easily fixed because a lot of the things that are out on your desk probably have a home elsewhere. If they don’t, make one.

Celebrate your small victory, then go make another one. You’ll have a more organized space in no time.

I think I’ll go clean off my desk now.

Review: Martha Stewart Living Stackable 9 Cube Organizer

It’s a curse of parenthood that sometimes out kids have nicer things than we do. In my house, my office is in a perpetual state of crazy, while my daughter’s playroom — well, it’s still pretty crazy but there are at least pockets of good organization and one of these is her art area.

Nestled in the back corner of the room, next to the window, is an oasis of creativity I can only dream of for myself. Supplies are (relatively) well organized and accessible, making it easy for us to create together or even for her to do some things by herself at a moment’s notice. playroom art corner

The reason this is such a happy place is simple: Martha Stewart.

Or, more specifically, the Martha Stewart Living Stackable 9 Cube Organizer. I got mine, along with six canvas baskets that perfectly fit the shelves, at Home Depot, where the shelf currently runs $49.98 and the baskets are $6.98 a piece (we found two-packs in the clearance section that I think were about $10).

The shelf is made of particle board and seemed to weigh a ton (OK, almost 42 pounds) in the box but is easily scootable when assembled. Assembly is pretty quick and easy, even with a toddler trying to help, and only requires a screwdriver, and a hammer if you want to install the paperboard backings that are available for five of the cubbies (I opted against them). There’s also a mounting bracket you can use to mount the unit to the wall; we ended up using a hook and chain instead because our baseboards are so deep the enclosed bracket wouldn’t work.

martha stewart organizer shelf

Using the Shelf

There’s not much to say about this shelf, other than the it helpfully contains a lot of stuff. I stacked our baskets on one side of the shelf, leaving three open cubbies on one side. That allowed me to store extra paper that was to big to go into a basket and some other fun crafty things like modeling clay and the crayons and colored pencils that didn’t fit in the basket with the markers and other coloring supplies.

I tried to organize like things together, as you’re supposed to do, so there are baskets for:

  • paint and paintbrushes
  • stickers and stamps
  • beads and pipe cleaners
  • markers, pencils and crayons
  • random project materials like paper towel tubes and bubble wrap

marker basket

The final basket has some random busy box type items like tanagram shapes, and I’m planning to put projects from her Kiwi Crate subscription in there, thinking that if she comes across them on her own she might be more willing to do them than when I suggest it.

The durable canvas baskets have slip-in places for tags, which are still blank on mine because my daughter is a pre-reader. She has a really good memory, though, so as long as we put the baskets back where we got them she can find what she needs.

The shelf is 36 inches tall, and she’s taller than that, so I can store stuff on top and she can still get to it. Up there is a little tin with her scissors and tape, a box full of “clippings,” some more rubber stamps that happen to still be in the box they came in and a bit of sensory stuff I wasn’t quite sure what to do with.


All in all, I think this shelf was a great purchase. If I showed you the before picture, you would understand. We had stuff on and around a microwave cart, which came nowhere close to holding everything. Paint was somewhere else because I didn’t want her to be able to get into it by herself. (Now she potentially could, but she can’t see it, so that might slow her down a bit.)

Now everything is in the same area where it is used and there isn’t all the visual and actual clutter there was before. It’s a lot more fun to be in that space, and I think we’ve both been making more since we got the shelf organized than we were before. It’s easier to both get things out and to put them away, though you can see we still leave projects out on the table a lot!

Do you have a storage solution you can’t live without? We’d love to hear about it!

A Masterful Repurposing {Sew Can Do}

I love craft rooms that don’t look all matchy-matchy. It’s great if you have the ability and the means to build up a dream craft space from scratch (and I’d sure love to get the chance to, someday!), but most of us need to work with what we have, both in terms of space and storage supplies.

So I love to see a room like Cheryl’s at Sew Can Do. She converted a catch-all room into a craft oasis with items she already had around the house and a budget of $85. So cool.

One of the great things about this space is the sewing nook that used to be a closet:sewing nook sew can do

She also has a kitchen area — wouldn’t it be awesome to have a dedicated stove for crafty activities? — but found she wasn’t using the sink so she had her husband build a cover to go over the hole where the sink used to be. The cover is actually a giant ironing board. Way cool. sew can do built in ironing area

Another clever trick I learned in this studio tour is using shoe laces to string up ribbon. You can easily see and get to whatever spool you need, and it adds color to the room.sew can do ribbon storage

Check out the whole tour over at Sew Can Do. What repurposed gems do you have in your crafting area? I’d love to hear about them!