Many people have craft rooms that must work for several purposes, or don’t have a separate craft room at all. I’m sharing some of my best tips and strategies for tackling multi-purpose craft room challenges.
A Dedicated Craft Room – a Luxury
Having a dedicated craft room is a luxury that many people do not have. I do realize how fortunate I am that I have a room of the house to call my own and to work and experiment in. But it wasn’t always that way.
When I first bought a sewing machine and re-learned how to sew (after learning in Home Economics), I sewed in the living room of our apartment. In fact, I used the same vintage table that I use now as my sewing table.
Our following apartment was even smaller, and I sewed at our drop-leaf table in the kitchen. In our next apartment after that (yes, we moved a lot . . .), I again sewed at our drop-leaf table in the dining room. However, I was so excited to buy a narrow Billy bookcase with a half-height door and finally have a place to put some of my tools and supplies.
When we moved yet again, this time we had much more space and multiple bedrooms. I got the second largest bedroom for my craft room, which also doubled as a guest room with a sofa-bed. I had so much room to play with. There was a good size closet, and I swapped out my half-width Billy bookcase for a full width bookcase.
I loved having my own craft room. And happily, one of the biggest benefits of not working on the kitchen table is being able to leave your projects all over the place.
A Multi-Purpose Craft Room
Finally, we moved into our first house, and once again I had a bedroom to call my own. It was smaller than the last one, but would do nicely for sewing. There were two closets originally, but we removed a wonky one and fixed up the remaining one. (You can read more about that process and see before and after photos here.) I couldn’t wait to set up my sewing room.
However, we moved into our house in the summer of 2019. And we hadn’t even lived here for a full year before the pandemic hit. Where once I was only sewing in my craft room, over time my requirements for the room changed.
First, in the summer of 2020 I learned to oil paint. I wanted a dedicated workspace for painting rather than using my sewing table. We happened to have a small desk in the basement and brought it up to my craft room.
By fall, I had also decided to pursue my dreams of starting a blog and business. Once I got going in earnest after Christmas, working on my laptop on the couch was not good ergononmically. And so I moved to work full-time at the same small desk I was using to paint.
Along with writing for my blog, I was also doing many other craft projects and tutorials, as well as photography. Suddenly, my little craft room was no longer just for sewing and quilting. It was also an art studio, office, photography studio, and general crafting space.
Multi-Purpose Craft Room Challenges
I don’t think my situation is that unique. During the pandemic, we’ve all had to adjust to spending more time at home, including working from home for some of us. Many people also have partners and children that have had to work or learn at home at various times. Finding quiet space for each family member can sometimes be a challenge.
Perhaps you’ve had to share your creative space with a family member, or give it up entirely and work on the dining room table again. Or perhaps you’ve had to add more purposes to your craft room such as work, or other hobbies that you’ve picked up over the pandemic.
Using a shared space for crafting or having to fit multiple needs into one space is difficult and can lead to several multi-purpose craft room challenges. I still struggle with my small space and its diverse needs, and I often find it awkward to switch back and forth between projects and purposes. A lack of storage is often a problem as well.
But I have found some tips and tricks that help me in tackling those multi-purpose craft room challenges. I’ll be sharing those tips and examples of my own, and I hope that they inspire you to make a few changes if you’re struggling with our own creative space.
11 Tips for Tackling Multi-Purpose Craft Room Challenges
1. Tame the clutter
I recently did a clean-out of the closet and drawers in my craft room, and the first question I asked myself was, “Does this need to be in here?”
Sometimes the answer was no. I was storing many items that had nothing to do with any of the purposes my room is used for – things from my previous job, photo frames not yet hung on the wall in the house, office supplies, and mailing supplies, etc.
I decided to keep the office and mailing supplies in my craft room for now (because they’re more handy there than in the basement). But I was able to move a couple bins of items downstairs and free up some room on my closet shelves. I also moved my sewing machine cover up into the top of our bedroom wardrobe because I only use it when I take my machine out of the house.
Sometimes you won’t have any other option for storage of unrelated items, and that’s ok. But in order to free up as much space for your crafting tools and supplies, it’s important to consider any available alternative storage places in your home.
In addition, sort through your tools and supplies and cull any multiples of things that you don’t need, or things that you can’t see yourself using anymore. I did the same thing and gave away several bundles of items through our local Buy Nothing Group. You can also try to sell items, or donate them.
2. Group like objects
Another important step is grouping like objects together. Assemble all your yarn together, and do the same with paint, ribbon, paper, and so on. You want to know exactly where to go when you’re looking for supplies for a project. This will save you time and you’ll know that you’re looking at all your options on hand, instead of hunting for bits stored all over.
When similar objects are grouped, give them a container to live in. Plastic containers with lids are excellent choices, especially for stacking on shelves or in closets. But don’t be afraid to get creative with containers, including vintage ones. I shared in a previous post that I like to use vintage wood boxes and drawers.
In addition, you can also repurpose household items such as jars and cans, or even use mugs to hold writing and drawing supplies. Try covering them in paper or fabric if you want to pretty them up.
Over time, you may find that you acquire more of a tool or supply and need to create a new container or storage solution to tame the mess. This is especially true for me with paper. I’ve had binders of quilt and knitting patterns for years. But I have just recently created more binders for my printed painting inspiration photos, and all my sketches and notes for surface pattern design.
Hole punching papers to put in a binder, or filing them in files instantly tames paper clutter than can very quickly overwhelm any work surface or drawer.
3. Give everything a home
The next step is to give everything a home, or some place for all the containers to live when they are “put away”. You want to maximize the work surfaces that you have by keeping them clear.
If you’re using a shared space like the dining room, it will be more challenging. Look at the space that you have to work with for storage. If it’s not enough, can you create more storage? Can you add a cupboard or bookshelf? If you still don’t have enough storage in a shared space, prioritize storing the items that you use most often in that space.
Then figure out where you can store the remainder of the items so that you can still access them when you need to. If it’s too arduous to get to your supplies, it will turn you off of using them.
Even within my craft closet, I often have to remove several tubs or containers to get to the one I need. Short of having triple the space, there’s nothing much to be done about that. At least having containers with lids makes it quick and easy to move many small items around at a time.
4. Create zones
One of the main multi-purpose craft room challenges is dealing with different projects and uses at the same time, or switching back and forth from one to the other. Marian Parsons, a successful creative entrepreneur and blogger, also known as Miss Mustard Seed, has 3 separate rooms to work with – a sewing room, an office, and an art studio. This allows her to really separate her different types of work.
Marian is exceptionally lucky. For the rest of us however, we can still make an attempt at creating different zones within our space. If you need to create in a shared space, is there anywhere with enough space to add a desk or table just for you? Even creating one single, small zone that’s yours can help, rather than using the dining table. Or if you’ve been working from home at a desk, is there a way you can clear it occasionally for creative work?
If you have one room that’s your multi-purpose craft room (even if it’s shared with office work), try to think about whether there’s room to create multiple zones for each purpose/hobby. Can you fit in more than one work surface?
As much as it’s possible, try to separate tools and supplies for your different hobbies into different zones, close to where you will use them. For example, most of my sewing supplies are on the shelves beside my sewing table, though I also keep them in the drawers of my cutting table and have fabric bins in my closet.
To see how I transformed the unfinished birch IKEA MOPPE drawers on my shelf after these photos were taken, check out Painting an IKEA MOPPE.
In contrast, most of my art supplies are on the opposite side of the room near the desk I use for painting. It saves time when items are close at hand to where you will do the work, and it helps to shift focus from one purpose to the other when things are not stored all together.
However, some items may need to be stored outside their zone out of necessity, and that’s ok. For example, my very large canvas pad for painting is stored flat in the closet with my assembled paper sewing patterns, as that’s the only space that’s large enough for it.
5. Use furniture and storage items that are modular, mobile, or can do double duty
When space is at a premium, and you need to do different tasks that require different light, space, or set-up, it can often require flexibility.
It’s easy to be more flexible when you choose furniture or storage items that are modular or mobile. Of course, having furniture on wheels is more useful when you have hard flooring, rather than carpet.
In a previous post, I wrote about how we did a hack of an IKEA Norden gate-leg dining table to raise it to counter height and put it on castors. This Norden table helps me tackle many of my multi-purpose craft room challenges by being incredibly versatile.
I can leave it with both ends down and tuck it out of the way. Opening just one end is versatile as a cutting table or a base for photography. Or I can open up both ends and move it into the centre of the room for larger projects and cutting out sewing pattern pieces. Hardly a day goes by when I’m not moving it around, reconfiguring it, and covering it with one or more projects.
Another useful and mobile piece is the wheeled Raskog cart from IKEA. I keep it beside my desk with art and office supplies in it. And when I need the blank wall space for photos, I can wheel the cart out of the way.
As well, you can also think about pieces that can do double duty. I have a chair that I use at both my desk and my sewing table, which I just move back and forth. Sure, it’s a bit of pain to constantly have to move it, but a second chair would just be in the way.
In addition to using the gate-leg table for a wide variety of uses, I’m able to use the small desk for both painting and my blogging/computer work. Again, it takes time to move my office supplies off when it’s time to paint. But since I don’t have room for another work surface, I’ve made it as painless as possible by keeping minimal supplies for both and storing them nearby.
6. Modify furniture and storage so it works for you
Don’t settle for things that don’t work for your storage needs. If you don’t find a closet with a clothing rod useful, add in a shelving unit. That can be simpler and less permanent than installing shelves in the wall.
If a table or desk is not the right height for your needs, shorten the legs. (Or alternatively, change the height of your chair first). Or raise a piece up to counter height if it’s a better height for certain activities like cutting fabric.
Change the heights of your bookcase shelves to fit your needs, add doors, or remove doors. There are lots of ways to make changes to what you already have. As I changed what’s stored within it, I’m constantly moving the shelves of my Billy bookcase.
7. Create places for projects in progress
One of the things I was struggling with recently was how to work on different projects at a time. I felt I was always shuffling things from one work surface to another. I’d dump things on my desk while I sewed, only to have to move them to my sewing table a few minutes later when I need to write at my desk. The movement of items from place to place was terribly inefficient.
While there will always be some element of constant reorganization in a small multi-purpose craft room, I realized the problem was that there was nowhere to put projects in progress except on top of work surfaces. All of my work surfaces were always covered.
Therefore, in my recent clean out, I managed to make two different spots for projects in progress. This will hopefully help to keep my work surfaces clear. One is the middle tray of my IKEA Raskog cart. That will be especially helpful for all the notepads, sketches and scribbles I’ve always got on the go.
And the other is a good size section behind the doors of my Billy bookcase. I have an aqua file box of sorts that I often use to corral quilt blocks or felt embroidery projects. This allows me to tuck a partially completed project away and free up my work surface.
I also made a DIY art drying rack to help keep my work surfaces uncluttered from drying paintings.
8. Use wasted space
When you’re trying to maximize the storage potential in a multi-purpose craft room or shared space craft room, look for creative ways to use wasted space.
Think vertically – above and below
Can you add baskets on top of any cupboards or bookshelves? What about below pieces of furniture such as under a dresser that has legs? I have repurposed some vintage locker baskets that we were using in the entry to hold fabric for projects. They now sit above our vintage lockers in my craft room. And as long as they are kept tidy, they can also add a pop of colour.
Make the most of the top shelf in a closet
The top shelf in my closet has quite a bit of room. But because of the header above the closet door, the opening to access the top shelf is quite narrow. I recently realized that I wasn’t making the best use of the space up there because it was awkward to access.
So I got a stool and climbed up there and rearranged quite a bit. I was able to fit many more items that I won’t need to access very often. That helped me clear more accessible shelf space below.
Hang items inside doors
You can store some awkwardly shaped items by hanging them from hooks inside cupboard or closet doors. Command Adhesive hooks work well to prevent permanent damage to any paint or surfaces or for where there’s not enough thickness for screws.
I like to hang my rotary cutter, quilting rulers, and other rulers for pattern making inside the doors of my Billy Bookcase. Though the doors don’t close absolutely perfectly, it’s a great solution for those long and awkward shapes.
Make use of wall space
What items can you store on the walls? Think shelves, peg boards, bulletin/white/memo boards, a rail with hooks, thread racks, etc. These can also function as art in the space.
Recently, I was feeling limited by my small desk surface for office work. I wanted to have certain resources close at hand, but not actually on my desktop. So I found an old picture ledge from IKEA that we’d used in a previous apartment bathroom. I hung it on the wall to the right of my desk and now it’s the perfect place to put my planner and some charts I need handy. (IKEA has a new and improved picture ledge that’s similar)
9. Reorganize as priorities change
Even if you manage to tackle all your multi-purpose craft room challenges, realize that it’s always a work in progress. Over time, your needs may change. Maybe you need to start working from home, or you decide to begin another new hobby. Perhaps you start collecting a lot more yarn, or do another hobby less than you used. Or maybe you want to make space for your children to join you in arts and crafts.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to realize that you can always make changes. Mobile, modular storage solutions can help. So can starting over at the beginning again and conquering clutter, redefining zones, and finding homes for everything, etc.
For example, part of my recent craft room clean-out was also brought about by starting a new type of art. Lately, I’ve been learning how to create surface pattern designs for fabric, etc. I had a whole bunch of loose sketches and class notes, which I put in a new binder. But I also bought a few supplies – watercolour paint and paper, fineliner pens, and a Wacom tablet. Now I needed a home for all of these new supplies to live.
By removing some clutter and donating it, rehoming a few items to other parts of the house, consolidating items into bins, and making better use of existing space, I created a fair bit of empty space for these new supplies in my Billy bookcase.
10. When you need to be productive, do a quick tidy
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The final two tips are related to one another. When you need to be productive in your workspace, a few minutes spent tidying can help to clear your mind. Not only that, putting things back in their homes, or making sure that you can find all of your tools will allow you to more easily do whatever tasks need doing.
However, I was recently reading a book called “Keep Going” by Austin Kleon. It’s part of a related series, and the first book “Steal Like an Artist” is full of great tips! (I really recommend reading them if you’re involved in any kind of creative hobby or business, and they are a quick read.)
In “Keep Going”, Kleon says, “its a mistake to equate productivity and creativity. They are not the same. In fact, they’re frequently at odds with each other. You’re often the most creative when you’re least productive. There is, of course, such a thing as too much clutter. It’s hard to work if you can’t find the things you need when you need them.”
Because my two workstations (sewing table and computer/art desk) face away from each other, I can sometimes block out whatever chaos is behind me. Other times, I need to tidy my space in order to also tidy up my mind and better focus on my work.
11. Don’t be afraid to allow some mess when you’re being creative
On the flip side to tidying for productivity, it’s ok to be in the middle of a project with bins and materials out everywhere. It also may look like chaos to someone else, but be perfectly functional for what you need at that moment. I often get creative ideas for another project when my craft room is in disarray. Conversely, I’m also not sure that my best creative inspiration strikes when everything is in its place.
Another quote I like from “Keep Going” says, “There’s a balance in a workspace between chaos and order. My friend John T. Unger has the perfect rule: Keep your tools organized and your materials messy. “Keep your tools very organized so you have find them,” he says. “Let the materials cross-pollinate in a mess.””
I think that the mixing and blending of different materials, hobbies and purposes can lead to inspiration at times. Occasional chaos might even be unavoidable in a multi-purpose craft room or shared space craft room. Don’t be afraid of it when you know you have a system and a home for everything to go back to. Then when it begins to feel less inspiring and more stressful, you can simply tidy it all back up again and put things in their place.
Solving Multi-Purpose Craft Room Challenges
My own multi-purpose craft room challenges occasionally seem daunting. The number of uses I have for the small space and the number of different projects I usually have on the go at the same time can be a big logistical problem. By taming the clutter, finding creative storage solutions, creating zones, and reorganizing as priorities shift, I can tackle most challenges and create a functional and beautiful space to work and craft in.
And so can you! I hope you’ve found some of these tips and examples helpful and can apply them to solve some of your own multi-purpose craft room challenges.
I want to hear from you. Where do you do your crafting? Do you use a shared space such as the dining room table? Or do you have a room that has to function for multiple uses? Do you have any tips that have worked for you to make your space function at its best? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,