KonMari Your Sewing Space

Konmari your Sewing Room

So much is being said about Marie Kondo and her Konmari method these days. Haven’t heard of it? It is a decluttering/home organization philosophy. What makes it different from most - at least as far I see it from reading the book and doing my own clean up efforts - is the breakdown into categories of items, as opposed to by room, and the whole notion of sparking joy. She says you shouldn’t keep an item unless it sparks joy. It isn’t really about getting rid of all your stuff and living as a minimalist, but about keeping what truly makes you happy.

We are sewers and quilters, arguably everything we have for creating sparks joy - eventually. That being said, the amount of stuff many of us accumulate in the pursuit of a joyful hobby can indeed be overwhelming. That applies whether you have a dedicated room (s) in your house for sewing or a corner of the bedroom. It is easy enough to say to put your stash on a bookshelf or store projects in the bins under the bed, but like the Konmari method espouses, it is worth asking yourself whether it is worth keeping.

Cheryl Arkison Konmari Studio Space

To organize your sewing space inspired by KonMari I make the following suggestions:

  • Breakdown your stuff into categories.

  • Say goodbye to things that no longer hold your attention or appeal to your current taste.

  • Embrace the space you have and work with its limitations.

Let’s talk categories first. Under Konmari our sewing supplies would fall under one broad category called Komono. It is a really broad category. For sewing supplies we are giving them their own categories. These are the ones I recommend and some tips for sorting/purging.

Thread storage
  • Stash Fabric - go through every bin/shelf, stack, pile. Remove what you don’t like anymore, even if you think you might use it one day. Chances are there will be another purple fabric you will buy down the line. Trim any dangly bits. Fold or refold. Go with what works for your own storage, just be consistent in how you do it. Also, do it in a way that makes sense to you. If you don’t you will not maintain the system.

  • Scraps - I am a firm believer in storing scraps by colour, with some discretion for size. Then again, I did write a whole book on just that (with Amanda Jean Nyberg - Sunday Morning Quilts). If you’ve never sorted your scraps just doing this can open up potential. If you’ve always sorted scraps and never used them, consider passing them along.

  • Thread - Sort by fiber content and use. For example, I have some poly/cottons or poly for garment sewing and all my cotton for all my quilting work. I may have a pretty rack that shows them by colour, but that is only for my all cottons. And my Valdani and thick ones for hand stitching are all together as well.

  • Notions - As a quilter I don’t have much this way myself, but garment sewers are likely to have zippers, buttons, bias tape, and much more. Or applique quilters might have a collection os fusibles. Whatever it is, bring it all together. Bought a big role of Wonder Under and used it once? Pass it on, you can always buy more if you start a different project. Some of these lose their viability too. I like zipper pouches for smaller notions grouped together and a drawer in my cutting table for rolls of paper and such.

  • Tools (including machines) - Rulers, oh the rulers! And the templates and the sewing machine feet, and 4 rotary cutters. Unless you are a minimalist or beginner you probably have far more than you need in this department. Look at them all together and pick out the top 3 rulers you use. The rest you can probably pass along. Same for rotary cutters and scissors. One for daily use and maybe a travel/back up set. Sewing machines and their accessories are expensive. Personally, I have 3 machines. That is really 2 too many. One will do the job. But I will keep them all - one I use when I travel/teach and the other is technically my mom’s. Ask if the collection all gives you joy and decide for yourself.

  • Patterns and Books - Even I, the improv quilter, have a collection of patterns and books to rival most. I love my books so much, and the built in bookshelf my husband made me. Go through and decide if they are something you have or will ever pull down again, otherwise donate them to the guild library. As for patterns, let it go! Made it once already and loved it, fine, but will you make it again? Think you might make it? Is that going to be this year or ‘sometime’? If the latter, let it go. As for storing, I suggest finding a drawer or bin or bankers box that will hold them all together. No more looking for a lost pattern. And those PDF sewing patterns you printed? Roll them up and put them in poster tubes or even paper towel rolls.

  • Quilts Under Construction - This is the time to really ask the question about whether the project sparks joy. Every few months when I visit my list I ask myself the question. Sure, there are a mountain of projects on the list, but I am keen to get my hands on all that stay on the list. The rest I have passed on to guild members or repurposed the fabrics. It’s totally okay to admit you don’t love the fabric, the process, the project anymore. Free yourself from that creative baggage.

  • Finished Quilts - I realize that not everyone has a stack of quilts to worry about. Being in this game for as long as I have (20 years!) the stack of finished quilts has really grown. So many have sentimental value or are gifts for my immediate family. Many are ones I made for publications in books or magazines. All get used at some point - whether on a bed/couch or in a trunk show. But the time comes when the racks are full and I need to say goodbye. It is purely a sentimental decision at this point, but I do have a stack for giving away. Friends and family first then some charity donations.

Quilt Book storage

Our sewing supplies hold the potential for joy more than the joy itself. That is completely valid. No one, even a Konmari expert (of which I am not) is telling you to get rid of all your stuff, to buy only for the project at hand. (Although I saw a thread on Reddit that said exactly this!) All of this is about getting a handle on what you have and being able to access it - as well as the joy it can bring in the process of sewing - easily.

While I have a dedicated sewing space now for the longest time I did not. Taking over the dining room table, kitchen counter, and any spot of storage in an old house was how I built my quilting career. And the second, the absolute second I was given any more space I filled it. Sewing supplies are like any liquid - they will fill the available container. If you find your stuff overflowing what you have then it is a good time to empty the glass and start over, before you are flooded entirely.

Honest craft room

What about the things you decide you don’t want or need anymore? What are you supposed to do with them? Unless it is the tiniest of scraps (which I often leave out for the birds and squirrels) you can donate or sell most of what you are getting rid of.

  • Try your own destash sale on line or have a quilting garage sale. Join forces with a friend or two to make it even bigger.

  • Look to local charities for donations or larger organizations like Victoria Quilts, Quilts of Valour, or Project Linus. Always check with each organization first to see what they want or need.

  • Have a supply swap at guild. Give it away to someone who is interested.

  • Donate to a Home Ec program.

  • Ask around online for beginner or low income quilters to share your wealth.

Whatever you do, don’t get hung on how much you paid for it originally. If you goal is to clean up your supplies and keep what gives you joy then your goal is also to get rid of what doesn’t help in that matter. Besides, you aren’t throwing it in the garbage, you are finding it a new home with someone who will likely find joy in it.

Sewing Room Cutting Table Scrap Storage

A friend recently sent me this article on minimalism and creativity. It is me to a T. Is it you? Ultimately, I believe that clutter is the killer of creativity. I realize that some folks love the piles and the messy desk and will claim that kind of space their favourite. To each their own. But I am a firm believer in empty spaces providing opportunity. It is why I don’t have an inspiration wall, why I store my fabric behind closet doors and not on open shelves, why I like bins and baskets contained, and why I like large furniture wherever possible over small carts and shelves standing next to each other. When we have space to create, space to breathe, then we have the space for creativity to blossom.

Don’t think of Konmari in the sewing room as a tragic event, that you are saying goodbye to creativity along with your stuff. Hanging on to a million things that you might use isn’t feeding your creativity at all. It’s actually weighing you down, maybe even causing you stress. Why do you think people are always shocked when I talk about my Quilts Under Construction list, it stresses people out entirely. And when we are heavy creativity has no room to breathe, there is no space for the imagination to soar.

At the heart of Marie Kondo’s message is that we should only keep what sparks joy. Ultimately, it is your space, your sewing. Do whatever works for you, what brings you joy.

Cheryl Arkison Sewing Room

Tag Collection Makers Panel Plus Free Craft and Play Apron Pattern

Tag Collection Makers Panel from Connecting Threads

It feels like all I am doing here lately is hustling. Buy my fabric! Look what I made that you can make too! I promise, I am more than that. There is creating for the sake of creating happening. Just not much to report on yet. In the meantime... look what I made that you can buy!

As a partner to my Tag fabric collection I created a couple of fun panels. These are actually the colours I'd intended for the entire collection, but we made the switch to black and white during the process. Despite that, this panel was still destined for printing. I am so happy about that.

The message on the big panel is open to interpretation.

Make, Every Single Day

Make Every Single Day... Count... Beautiful... Funny

Make. Every. Single. Day

Whatever you like, however you want to use it. The coloured section is almost 20'' square. I've made it a pillow here, I've sewn it into a quilt that I still need to share with you. It would make an excellent tote bag (on my list). But wait, there is more!

Makers Panel Tag Collection from Connecting Threads

This is the rest of the panel. Four smaller versions with some fundamental quilting terms and two of my favourites - alliteration and Play! These panels come in close to 8'' square, bigger if you include some white space. I see these are small wrapped canvasses, the centers of improv log cabins, pockets... endless possibilities.

Speaking of pockets, I used a few of these on a new apron pattern. 

Craft and Play Apron

The pattern for the Craft and Play Apron is free! Something fun, super easy to make, and it takes advantage of those cool panels. But really, you could use any fabric you like. My beautiful friend G is modelling for me here, but I've been wearing my own apron while sewing. It keeps things rather close by. And for those of you that do craft shows, it would be perfect!

Download the pattern for free from Connecting Threads or Craftsy. Not everything is for sale. This is my treat for you!

It's Totally Okay. Honest

Hugs and Kisses and Swimming in the Pacific

Looking back on my 2016 goals these days, I see that I failed miserably. 

And I'm totally okay with that. Surprisingly okay with that. 

I am a goal oriented person. I like to tick things off and say that I succeeded. Setting clear goals, as I did last year, gave me something very tangible to work towards. And work, I did. What I did not account for was all the other stuff I wanted or had to do. Nor did I account for new opportunities. So yes, if I look at my list I didn't have a successful year. But if I look at all the things off the list I have absolutely nothing but election results to complain about.

2016 Goals and The Results:


  1. Secure contract and write 4th quilting book - Nope. The reality of a family schedule and knowing what it takes for me to finish a book made this an impossibility. Honestly, I am a bit bummed about it, but that doesn't mean the idea is gone...
  2. Finish and launch new website and blog - Done!! I'm so happy that I sat down and did the work on this. I hope you are too!
  3. Teach at least one 3-day workshop - Actually, I taught a few. This was a goal because I find these immensely rewarding for the students. They get so much done and they get a lot of me. And I get inspiration in return.
  4. Sell more local classes, potentially self hosted - Nope. I had some, but no more than usual. Again, that family schedule made it hard to plan this out. But it remains a 2017 priority. 


  1. Try climbing and Crossfit and maybe Muay Thai again - None of these things happened. But I tried ballet (which I love) and got back to skiing. I joined a gym in the fall and have been going fairly consistently. So, in my head, physical gains made regardless.
  2. Leash train our dog, Roo - The damn black dog remains a challenge. He is getting better. And after many different leashes and harnesses we've settled on a system that works for us (very short leash for a walk then some off leash time). But he stills escapes and barks like the world is ended. Sigh.
  3. Remember and celebrate friends' birthdays - At the beginning of the year I made a big birthday calendar. I can't say I wrote on every FB wall or at least sent a text on each birthday, but I was infinitely better than I'd been in the past. Still room for improvement.
  4. Relearn bread making - I've been working hard at this one. I can do a yeasted bread fairly well. Sourdough? Not so much. It is a new skill for me and I haven't given up yet. The cold of winter seems like a good time to keep experimenting. At least the kitchen is warm.


  1. Learn to English Paper Piece - Yes! I played and figured it out. I'm rather excited to get going on my big project, hopefully later this winter.
  2. Finish 10 quilts from the Quilts Under Construction List - Hmm, I just counted, and I finished 7 from that list. Not too bad, actually. A few moved around the list. And I finished 19 quilts in total last year so there is nothing to complain about there!
  3. Keep a weekly writing date - Well, it wasn't every week, but creative writing did make a fairly regular appearance in my schedule. Enough so that I am expanding on that for this year.
  4. Label all the quilts - Does it count if I made a lot of labels? I have a stack of them in a drawer in the sewing room ready to attach. But I did stay fairly on top of things as I went. Sort of. 
Bike Riding
Hopscotch Quilt

The good thing about a goals list is that it did keep me focused. If I found myself straying or struggling to focus the goals list gave me the direction. But I did find it restrictive a bit and totally ignored it. I ignored it because I had other work come up, because my family's needs were more than I anticipated, because other opportunities shone brighter. And all of those are good reasons and why I don't care that I didn't meet my goals. I don't have shareholders or a board of directors to answer to, only myself. Plus, if I look at what I did accomplish on top of this list, I'm pretty happy.

  • Finished 19 quilts. There is a lot of secret sewing in there (soon, I promise!) and some things I still haven't blogged about.
  • I played, explored, and committed to a Morning Make and my life is not the same
  • My first fabric line comes out any day now.
  • Published about 20 articles in magazines and blogs, not counting my own.
  • Judged QuiltCon and lived to tell the tale.
  • Travelled to Australia, Red, Deer, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, and Leduc to teach. Oh boy, memorable trips, all of them! Bonus: a sunrise swim in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Participated in the Mighty Lucky Quilt Club and The Splendid Sampler.
  • Filmed The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Timms and brought my daughter along with me to make it extra special.
  • Made it through the heavy family schedule of school and competitive sports with the kids without snapping. Possibly even thrived through it, I think. Bonus: watching my kids become fiercely competitive and proud of themselves.
  • Finally figured out how to take out and put back my slider windows so I can wash them myself.
  • Made new friends and built stronger relationships with the dear people in my community. 
  • Committed to and planned out one of the 4 novel ideas I've sat on for a few years.
  • Every week sent out a handle of queries to try to publish at least one of my children's picture book stories. A lot of rejection there, but I won't stop trying, refining, and writing more.
  • Did not sit on the sidelines with my kids. With the exception of trampolines, I go out and do the things with them now. Bought a fancy brace for my knee and that has me back on skis. Not to mention hiking and biking more. Plus nightly frisbee in the park in the summer and bringing them into my Morning Make.
Sentinel Pass
Picnic in Fish Creek

So yeah, 2016 was a pretty good year. It wasn't perfect, I was far from perfect. There were ugly moments, sleepless nights, arguments, and a stress too. A lot of it. But I do believe life is the sum of all our moments. You can add and subtract along the way, but as long as the overall equation results in a positive you are doing okay. 

This look back on the year has me rethinking my goal setting process for 2017. Some people do the Word of the Year thing too. There is also a more business minded approach that gets me thinking about mission and vision statements. I usually get that thinking done over the holidays but we did not have much downtime there. So look for more in my newsletter (are you subscribed?) and here. There is a lot to look forward to this year, again, election results aside.

Champagne Rose
I am Love

Friday Favourites - I'll Cut You Pillow

Isn't this an awesome pillow. So cheeky. (But also a deeply held sentiment by any a sewer who's had their scissors taken and, gasp! had paper cut with them.)

It was my first decorative purchase when I moved into my little basement studio. Frankly, it's one of the only decorative purchases. I think it was my sister-in-law who saw it first and sent me a link. I had to have it. Such a little treat!

Earth Cadets

is the name of the Etsy store where I purchased the pillow. They have a lot of sweet items, but this is definitely my favourite. Did I mention it comes in other colours?