Operation clean studio | tapes

I’ve talked a lot about multi-purpose storage. Finding things that work in multiple ways and can be used in different ways as your crafting habits change. Well today I have to share something I found out by accident – I was rearranging some things and noting I wasn’t happy with my tape storage and…

Well, I’ll be darned. My thread holder (which was only 1/4 full anyhow) is PERFECT. I moved some stuff around – reorganization really IS like a jigsaw puzzle in here – and it’s in a spot that lets it be seen easily, but isn’t right on top of my work space so it’s not taking up valuable room there.

My tip is this: you need a large spool organizer. Take in your largest tape with you, make sure it fits and room will still be around it. You’ve got to have enough space. This is important. I have a little thread spool organizer – it does NOT work. This one – each dowel is about 3″ high.

Could you make your own? Oh yes, absolutely. Do you want to? I guess that depends. The local sewing store – or a spot like Joann Fabric – has them inexpensive and for me – it was on sale for less than $10.

I have shared a lot of my cleaning, my general thoughts, and now you’ll be finding (sometimes) more specific clean studio posts. Now I’m getting down and into more finessing of this space. More fine tuning.

If you have a great way that you like to store your tapes – I’d love to hear it!


Note: I just saw that Studio Calico has a new class up – and it is all about washi tapes! I’m sure the ideas used will cover any/all washi, tissue, or paper tapes you’ve got.

 Looks interesting – you can check it out here.

operation clean studio | shopping tips

above: something I grabbed on clearance in Target’s kitchen section

So you’re looking for storage containers, things that will help you store your craft things – but more importantly – things that will prove useful for the long term and be a good investment. My top suggestions for where to look are:

  • Your own house! (garage, kids rooms, kitchen, containers you’re not using, things that could be containers such as jars….)
  • Small hardware store
  • container store
  • home improvement store
  • target/walmart/etc.
  • kitchen store
  • bed & bath store
  • home decor store
  • antique, second hand, thrift stores

You’ll notice nowhere on my list are places like craft stores, or even places like Ikea. The reason is that while those places might be good for a very specific thing – a desk, a large book shelf, or cabinets (Ikea) or paper storage (craft store) – they’re not the best for most smaller scale inexpensive items.

Before you go anywhere, know your exact (and I do mean EXACT) measurements of the areas that you have. I went in with a scale drawing of my room including existing pieces, and height, width, and depth availability of all possible spaces. I’m talking right down to how much space/maximum size of something I could put on existing shelves.


It minimizes the risk of impulse buys, it helps you resist bad choices, and it confirms for you what you can (and can not) accomodate. I will note that during the shopping period I kept a tape measure in my bag at all times with that sheet of paper with all kinds of notes & measurements only I could understand.

The results were WELL worth it. When at Ikea, I found that they had absolutely nothing that fit my exact needs (except a kitchen cart which I can’t seem to get and their service for purchasing an item not in the store is non existent… don’t even get me started) – so I walked out of there without one thing.

On the other hand, I had great success at Lowes with some clearance kitchen cabinetry that they had as well as a cheap (sturdy) big shelf unit for my closet. I eventually want to do that big closet up nicely – but $20 for a fix today that will last at least a few years? That is more in my budget at the moment.

Planning ahead. Not forcing myself into all long-term solutions at once. Letting things play out and be flexible. All good things.

A place I found all kinds of cool options, but was pricey was Bed Bath & Beyond. Some of the kitchen storage had me going nuts! Loved it! But $25 for a container meant for a fridge wasn’t happening.

Another tip I have is that I am not afraid of cardboard boxes and plastic totes. You shouldn’t be either. Better to store things in something you have in your house while you wait for the right solution than to jump into something prematurely.

I’d love to re-do this place in vintage finery, make it a shabby chic haven of fabulous… but then I’d mist and splatter on stuff and break everything.

So what do I do? I look for something that is a VALUE.

I didn’t say cheap. I’m looking for the combo of price is right + will last me long enough and remain useful that I won’t regret the purchase. Some things are worth more cash than others to me.

The one value item of storage I’d beg you to stay away from are the large scale plastic drawers. I have little ones – they’re great. But for BIG drawers you’re better off paying for some wood or particle board shelving vs the plastic drawer sets. Why? They do NOT do well with weights that are heavy over time. Trust me – I had 3 different sets that had to be sent to the dump. They don’t pull out well, they get warped easily… I can’t recommend them. They don’t last long enough AND they aren’t useful enough (so big you need to put heavy stuff in them, then heavy stuff warps them!) to make it worth the price break. Go thrift store, go cheap hardware store solution, something else.

What do I think about when out shopping?

  • What would I be putting in this?
  • Why am I so attracted to it? (useful, or just pretty?)
  • What else could I do with this aside from initial idea?
  • Which spaces does it fit in my creative space? Is it specific, or does it fit a number of places?
  • What is it made of? Will it stand up to my heavy handed crafting style?
  • Could it be put to use elsewhere in my house?

That last one is a GREAT thing to think about. Heck, one of my work spaces in here right now is the very table I changed both of my kids diapers on. The diaper table I picked out when pregnant for Elizabeth. The one I pointed at and asked for (thanks in-laws!) because I could see that it was a design that would allow it to become a useful dresser for my crafting when it was done being a changing station. (it is, too)

Likewise, my kids have taken on drawers that used to be in here, and I still have my very first (corner) bookshelf from when I was 19 and moved out here in my studio, holding my favorite paperbacks.

The bottom line I’ve found is patience, being true to you, and not getting hasty about wanting the project done.

  • Know how you craft
  • Imagine how you’ll use stuff
  • Picture where it will go, AND how it will work with other stuff
  • Stay true to yourself, not what someone else likes.

Operation Clean Studio | specific is overrated

As a rule, I believe products created for specific crafting product storage are entirely overrated, many are borderline useless. There are very few exceptions in my mind, the main one being paper.

It is really hard to find storage made perfect for 12×12 paper that isn’t made by a scrapbook company. The Cropper Hopper vertical storage that I use, I’ve had since I was a manager at my local store. Some of these are 8, maybe 9 years old! It is easy to use, lets me get to and see my papers quickly, and is easy to rearrange at will. I can’t recommend them enough.

I will tell you that I’ve purchased a few cubes over the years at Michaels, as well as other craft storage items which we’ll get to in a moment. First the (useful) cubes: 

I’ve had and use the one on the bottom for cardstock for at least 4 years I believe. I don’t need to see patterns – just the color so this works well. it would NOT work for me for patterns as i’d have to be pulling stuff out to see.

Next up is one that has both paper-sized thin and more narrow cubbies. this is BRAND NEW. I’m using it for stickers, over-sized sheets of rub-ons, specialty paper, things like 12×12 stencils, and so on. right now it’s also overflow for cardstock (I keep a LOT of kraft on hand. heh) I will tell you that I both really like it, and am very glad that I bought it. When shopping the chain craft store – don’t buy anything storage for less than about 40% off. Michael’s is forever putting this stuff on 40-50% off and of course there are the weekly coupons. Be patient, watch the ads.

Moving on!

At the top, this I think I found at Target and while it’s useful, it’s made of paper-board material that means I can never put any real weight on top of it which makes it kind of a pain. But the drawer is perfect for my doilies (yes, I have a doily drawer) and right now above that is a slot I’m using for “isn’t just a sheet of paper, needs to find a home” items that are too big to fit elsewhere.

Now let’s talk about the “taking up more space than it’s worth” stuff.

First up, the spinner I was sucked into (a few yrs ago) when it was on 50% off and I had additional 20% off my entire purchase at Michael’s. This thing is awful. First of all, the angles and depths mean that most of my things can’t get stored in here and still be seen. Some are deeper than others, as you can see above by the difference in the area my distress markers are in vs the one my copics are in.

It’s adorable… but I wish I’d not purchased it. As it stands now I will give it away within the year. I dislike how much space it takes vs things it holds USEFULLY for me. It’s too big to be on my desk – takes up too much space if I want it to spin. Which takes me to my other regret…

The lesson learned on this one is that it’d be cute for someone just starting out, someone with very few supplies… but for me it becomes a catch-all of randomness which doesn’t help me stay clean or organized. I am turning mine into my ephemera/things I want to use right now and I’ll keep it here right at my desk… I think. We’ll see. I believe I can turn this into something a bit more useful.

So what do I suggest?

A few things. First of all, make more general choices. Pick containers, shelves, and storage that could be used for a multitude of items. Don’t pick odd shaped or extra bulky things that are going to take up more space than they’re worth.

Secondly, when shopping think about what you’ll use, how you’ll be using it. For example I want my patterned paper visible (easily) and I don’t want to have to remove all the paper to see it.

Third, think outside the craft store – and outside intended use.

Unfortunately I don’t have space for the workbench you see above – but isn’t it sweet? Ok, so I probably wouldn’t have purchased it anyhow due to my anti-door stance, but still. Super solid, great work surface, made to take abuse, adjustable shelves inside… it’s great – and less than $200 is better than you’ll find for a proper work table with storage that is for sure.

Of course you’d have to be looking at a home improvement store for garage storage to see it. Are you looking outside your normal realm? I keep all my tiny things in a container (tackle box/nails/screws box thing? – more on it later. It gets a whole post). Hardware, kitchen, office, general home stuff – often you can get more variety, and find something more suitable for you if you expand your search.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with shopping tips, suggestions, and to share my own strategy on incorporating new + old stuff.

Operation Clean Studio | Depth

Today we’re going to talk shallow and deep. Wide and narrow.

I’m talking about what I store my supplies in, and the why of it. The bottom line, is this:

Whatever I have my supplies in has to be logical. It has to fit my space, budget, and my needs as a crafter. But most importantly, it has to be simple. If I am storing something too far out of sight, make it difficult to find something or to put it back, the place and my organizational system won’t work. I won’t use it. Chaos will take over.

For each person this is going to be different. Depending on what you have, what you use, and how you craft your choices will be different than mine. But for the sake of sharing my own experience and offering tips for what is working here in my studio, here are some actual examples.

Punches. Oh punches. You aren’t ever easy to store – but I am ok with having a box or bin of punches. However – if I have to dig, if I have to dump my punches out just to find the one I want, this is no good. It is for this reason that my paper punches have relocated to a shallow drawer where they are no more than 2 punches deep.

I’m not including border punches in that – they’re on a shelf in a small plastic bin. Why? Because if I’m wanting a circle or a butterfly or a star, I’m not grabbing my border punches. While they both do the same job, shape punches and border punches serve entirely separate functions and as such can be separated.

You can split stuff up based on how you use it.

The key reason that my hardware store purchased set of drawers has always worked for me is NOT because the little drawers are perfect sizes for storing small embellishments.

No. The reason they work is that they’re shallow enough, AND they come completely out. I can pop a drawer out so that I have the purple buttons right at my desk as needed. I can pull the entire drawer of brads out and find what I need. More importantly – I can put them back in less than a second – just pop it back in.

Quick. Easy to use. Intuitive.

The five-cubbies long little shelf you see above I purchased on clearance at a home improvement store. Meant as a kitchen cabinet add on- it reminded me to look outside of the crafting realm for ideas. We’ll talk more about shopping another day. I want to say that I noted that it’s deep enough for any sticker sheet, and while it’s not tall enough for all of them, all my more narrow stickers, border strips, and rub-ons fit perfectly and are easy to flip through stored here.

Continue reading “Operation Clean Studio | Depth”

4.3 desk view

First of all: congrats beth w for being the final dcwv winner!

Well I’m gearing up for a massive improvement in both my studio and the girls playroom.

Ikea time is nearly upon us and today locally I purchased a proper desk chair, cheap shelves for the closet, and a few other items.

The downside to all this cleaning is a total lack of creating. So, here’s a view of my desk at the moment as it waits for my return:


I’ve got a lot of posting of both creative and organization to do… Soon as I do more of both!