Small-Space Embroidery Solutions

With careful planning, you can economically make room for your embroidery business without taking up a lot of space.

By Connie R. Smith, Contributing Writer

After downsizing from a house to an apartment, this 5′ x 8′ storage room became my new workspace.

August 2, 2013

Having been a consultant in the decorated apparel industry for more than 25 years, I have seen areas of every shape and size used as workspaces. Being a business owner with a store front of 3,000 square feet and also working from home out of a spare bedroom, I know that it doesn’t take a ton of space to “make it work.” I have since retired and downsized from a house to an apartment, and I found myself in need of a new workspace. My only option was a small 5′ x 8′ storage room in my apartment.

The first thing I did was make a “to-size” diagram of the area I would be transforming into a work space. I measured my embroidery machine, stands and table, then cut pieces of colored paper to size and placed them on the floor until I found the right fit. This way, there was no moving and removing equipment and supplies after I put them into my workspace.

My biggest problem was finding enough space for all my cones of thread. I thought about the removable shelves that hang on the back of my pantry door and hold my spices. I took some cones to the kitchen to see how they might work and they fit great. Each shelf holds 12 cones.

When I went to get another set of this type of shelving, I found a number of different kinds at my local home improvement store. Some of them attach to the door; others have a bracket that allows the shelves to just hang from the door and be easily removed.

Pegboard also is great for hanging cones of thread, and any home improvement store sells pegboard in different sizes.
The best place to buy the hooks for your pegboard is a store that specializes in store/window displays. I bought a box of more than 150 used hooks for $15. There were four different kinds, so I got a great deal. Stores like this have all kinds of tables, lights, slat board, shelves and anything else you need to set up a workspace.

Thrift stores also are good places for finding small tables, cabinets and even lighting. Never pay full retail price, and always attempt to get a price reduction by buying used goods.

Look for any place that will help you organize your supplies. I was lucky that the room had a long wire shelf over the area I had picked to house my hooping table. I had stock T-shirts and sweat shirts, so this gave me a place to keep them out and see what I had at all times.

To store my hoops, I bought some 3-inch “S” hooks and hung them from the wire shelf. This configuration means my hoops are right above my hooping table, making them very easy to reach and hang back
up after use. For the larger hoops, I used removable hooks and hung them on the wall.

Remember to use every nook and cranny when you are in a small space. For example, I had several 24-inch rolls of backing and found just the right place for them at the end of my hooping table, where I placed a cardboard box that I had taped closed, making a “table” for the rolls of backing. By doing this, I can see all the rolls and how much is on each one.

Because I don’t have a large table to roll the backing out on when I need to cut it, I needed something that would hold the roll upright, so I had a friend make a backing cutter for me. I don’t like to waste
anything, so I had him make a groove in the dowel rod to place the metal end of a tape measure. Now I just pull the backing out even with the tape measure and cut to the size needed. I keep this handy item under my hooping table.

If you work at it, there’s a space for everything. Under the embroidery machine is a great out-of-the-way spot for a trash box. I use a small trash bag as a liner and reuse the box for months.

Beside the machine was just enough space for a rolling utility cabinet, which contains supplies such as needles, tools, markers, tape, rulers, etc. On top of the cabinet, there is just the right amount of space for a stack of precut tearaway and cutaway backing. And behind that cabinet I have a box containing my long rolls of appliqué fabric.

Just inside the door, I placed a small stand that holds more thread, bobbins, cans of spray adhesive, Magic Sizing, machine oil and attachments for my hooper.

There still is enough room to move around and I can even bring in a desk chair if I want. I also have room under the hooping table for storage.

The outside wall of the room makes a great place to hang some bags or other items. Again, I used removable hooks so there would be no holes in the walls.

If you are using this room for a small in-home business, you may have customers coming in to place orders. Having some items on display will show the diversity of products you offer.

Lighting is very important to the embroidery process, and in my case, this small area was not well lit. You need good light not only for threading the machine, but also for making sure you have the right thread colors and even that your garments are separated correctly. For instance, navy and black shirts can look the same in certain lighting.

I found a very inexpensive light that clips right onto the embroidery machine that is great for seeing how to thread needles, and it adds lots of light to the room. Clip-on lights are great because you can move them around and place them where you need them at the time. I also replaced the milk glass from the ceiling light with a clear globe that is much better for the light I needed.

Safety still is first. Remember not to overload outlets and never install light bulbs of a higher wattage than what is recommended by the manufacturer. Ventilation also is important. I have a small fan on the back of my machine and keep it on a low setting when I’m working.

Finally, by placing the hooper on the floor, I can use the table to fold garments, or even bring in my sewing machine and work on sewing or small quilting projects.

If you are using a bedroom for your workspace, the closet will be your new best friend. By dividing it into different spaces, you can have your rolls of backing hanging and out of the way. On the shelves, place boxes separated into “orders to do” and “orders ready for delivery.” You can have space for thread, precut backing, catalogs — and even a space to store a heat press and boxes of letters and numbers for heat application on garments.

The best thing is you can take the doors off the closet and have a great open space. Alternatively, you can leave the doors on and close them so everything is out of sight if you want to leave the door to the room open.
If you take the time and think everything through, you can make any room into the perfect embroidery workspace and it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money.

Connie R. Smith has been in the embroidery industry for more than 30 years and has been an industry speaker and consultant. She also is an award-winning digitizer. For more information or to comment on this article, email Connie at lickatstitch@yahoo.com.