A Sunny Space to Exercise the Imagination and Create

“Life exists for the love of music or beautiful things.”  G.K. Chesterton

Perhaps it has been too long since I really set time and space aside for the purpose of creating.  I suppose as a part of living out a practical vocation, one can become so much a part of living out the practical and pragmatic that one simply begins to overlook the need to not spend every ounce of time working.   To give ample time to rest and leisure.  To refresh.  To create.  I found within this realization a great void for me: the lack of purposeful time to imagine, renew, create, consider, make, re-make.  

“So God created man in His own image.” Genesis 1:27

Made in the image of our Creator man cannot help but seek to create.  This need to create is a part of the essence and makeup of man in such a way that no philosophy can squelch or redefine it.  It is when we destroy, strip and tear down that we become less like Him.  In creating – in creating anything as an expression of the imagination – we become in small ways more and more as God created us to be, an image of Himself, the Creator.  
There is a rich and varied potential within the expression of creating something new – some knit, others take amazing and expressive photographs, while others sketch or paint.  I set out to create a little sewing corner, and as I did so it grew (not the space so much as the idea.)  And so the corner became a space full of small niches which each hold a place in the order of imagination.  It defies a specific name – like just a sewing corner, or just a sketch area.  It simply is a sunny space for creating.  And I must say, I could not have planned or considered that it could be so lovely in my own eyes, so inviting a space for me.  So, come in and sit with me in my little space for a bit!
My little space is cobbled together, mostly from collections of things I already had, and I certainly did not have a big budget to carve out this little space.  A budget and ones own space is a constraint much as a frame is to a piece of art.  To quote Chesterton again, “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”  It would be wrong to get hung up and trip over the frame, over the limitations in budget and space.  But they do act as lovely points for us, challenging us to create within them, within the frame.
My sunny space for creating is carved out of what I consider to be a delicious waste of space (enter the practical side of me) in my bedroom.  Oh how I have wistfully considered how I might use this space elsewhere…in my laundry room….or in the learning room…or in the kitchen.  But no, the builder of our home chose to create a master bedroom the size of a gymnasium.  I’m not kidding either.  It is a glorious and gluttonous waste of space – but there it is.  The bedroom area itself is quite large already, and attached to it (as part of one big room) is a sort of sitting room.  The large space has been nice since babies stay in our room with us for their first two years, but even with my work table and additions, there is still plenty of room to accommodate another little one (should that be in God’s plan!).  Only in the last couple of years (after living in our home for 9 years now!!) have we started to furnish this space.  Almost everything in this space was either found through Craigslist, a flea market, or a thrift store.
So…let’s take a turn about this part of the room, shall we?
Tucked between two big, sunny windows is my modest little work table.  When I say modest, I do mean it!  It’s a plastic folding table…in the order of portable functions, Bar-B-Q cook-offs and lunchrooms.
See.  Ugly, nondescript, plastic folding table underneath there.  And in the center of the table is a big melted spot from this past spring (2011) when we had the tornado outbreak and were out of power for a week and this little table functioned wonderfully as part of my outside kitchen, holding my little propane camp cooktop.  Apparently, the underside of the camp cooktop gets hot (ya think?) and…it melted a spot on my table.  sigh.  Not very pretty.  SO……
I found a little etsy shop that makes custom sized oilcloth tablecloths, and decided to order one that fits the little folding work table for when it is employed in more feminine, creative pursuits (thusly covering the big-ugly-gray-melty-hole-in-the-middle-plastic-of-it-all table) in exactly the size I needed.  And in the loveliest brown toile that is so pretty and yet so perfectly functional for a creating space!  Goodness, I am so pleased, and now that I have it I can see how easy it would be to make and I’m considering sewing a similar cover for my other larger folding plastic table which works as a cutting/crafting table (and lives under my bed).
Everyone needs something inspiring and lovely to look at.  Above my work table I decided to decorate by hanging some vintage sewing patterns.  I took the patterns out of the paper envelopes and stashed them in ziploc bags with the rest of my patterns.  (Interested in collecting vintage patterns?  Check out your Granny’s attic, Mom’s stash, flea markets, thrift stores, or etsy shops.)
I bought some really inexpensive acrylic 8 x 10 box frames and then made a folded paper box to fit inside the acrylic frame using 12 x 12 scrapbook paper.  (I just measured, folded, scored, and cut notches out of the paper so that it would fit in an inverted way inside the acrylic box…forming a sort of matting background for the vintage patterns.)  I just used acid free tape to secure the pattern to the center of the scrapbook paper, placed the acrylic frame on top of it all, and then grouped them on the wall.
You could use a collection of thrifted frames from the thrift store for this project (paint them all a pretty uniform color – I think that would be so pretty!) but I looked for several weeks and couldn’t find anything but retro plastic 80’s nonsense…so I went with the acrylic box frames.  Pretty.
Below my framed vintage pattern art, I have an old shelf which I found sitting under my bed.  It’s so shallow it’s really only useful for displaying pictures….but….I found it works great to hold little 4 oz jelly jars which are fantastic for collecting little groups of things like sewing notions.
I just love that darling jade green thimble.  Isn’t it pretty sitting there?
At the other end of the shallow little ledge shelf (you’ll have to scroll back up to one of the first pics which shows the entire wall – you’ll see the vase of scissors on the far left of the ledge shelf), I placed a favorite white vase.  It’s a vintage vase that my Mom gave me for a birthday gift one year and it’s just so pretty!  It’s perfect for holding my favorite scissors!  Isn’t a pretty vase a useful thing? They can contain so many collections besides flowers!
Remember my treasured spools of velvet and grosgrain ribbon?  I used to have them hanging in the learning room, which is not an altogether strange place for them to live considering how much time I spend there!  But, it made sense to bring them in here.
I just put a cup hook at either end of the shallow little ledge shelf and used another cup hook and a pair of pliers (to make the cup hook into an eye hook) which was screwed into the ends of a dowel rod.  I added some useful ” “S” hooks to my dowel rod to hold other needed tools (like a tape measure).  If you do not have a cache of cup hooks and S hooks in a cupboard or drawer somewhere, you really should.  Really.
Here you can see my little sewing machine.  Humble as it is, it has been a workhorse for me.  It is not a fantastic or professional machine by any stretch of the imagination; rather, it’s just a simple and hardworking Kenmore sewing machine.  Rob bought it for me shortly after we had our oldest daughter (I didn’t even know how to sew at that time, by the way!  I just knew I really wanted to!) and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
My Kenmore sewing machine performs only the basics, but it does them well, never flinching (ok, maybe it flinches just a little) when I ask it to sew through denim or thick canvas or even thicker sherpa fleece (Oh, how I imagine my poor machine must groan when I feed the thick material through it time after time.  It really isn’t meant to sew such materials, but it does so with a little patience and coaxing on my part.)   My machine offers basic stitches and a free arm which is an absolute necessity in my book.
Looking down my work table off to the left is my little organizing area.  A landing zone for a little bit of fabric and the other tools and supplies one uses in imaginative and creative pursuits…
The shelf units are the only two purchases I made for my space.  I bought them from Target when they went on sale – pictured are (2) 8 cube ClosetMaid organizers in a dark brown espresso.  At the time, they were $40 each.  They fit my little wall perfectly.  I keep (some) fabric, ribbons, sketch books, all the pretty materials from my stationery basket, a delightful collection of buttons, favorite botany books on flowers, and other special treasures.
There is a happy mix of practical…
….and pretty here.
Words could not hope to express how treasured some of these items are to me.  Above is a collection of pretty papers and calligraphy inks with a glass pen that my brother gave me.  He was a talented and imaginative creator and builder, and loved to encourage my sister and I toward pursuits that were expressions of our own creativity.  This is just the place for such items – to inspire, to find opportunities for use, and to remind me of Chris in ways that make me smile, both interiorly and exteriorly.
A few favorite books – Flora’s Lexicon, Gardener’s Latin, 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names, (not pictured:) The Ways of Flowers (Victoria magazine), The Country Diary Book of Flowers.  All bring beauty to my little space and a touch of my favorite thing.  Atop my books is a little glass vase with a bit of lace my Granny made.  I treasure the creative talents my Granny had; they act as an inspiration to me.  There are touches of her all over this space.  Another reason to smile.
Now, I suppose I really shouldn’t share with you this little bit of jarring electronic ugliness which I worked so hard to hide, but I know we’ve all got to deal with cords and electric boxes and bits that do important things.  My, but how they are a visual juxtaposition against vintage white gloves and lace though!  Still, sometimes it is abundantly clear that the only place these necessary tools can live and function (because the DSL modem must be plugged into the phone jack which lives behind my shelves) is in the midst of your carefully considered prettiness.  sigh.  What’s a girl to do?  I’ll tell you what – drape them with something….pretty!  (Scroll back up a few pictures and see if you can spot the DSL modem hiding behind the white gloves…..crafty, no?)
More vintage prettiness: Handicraft For Girls (a simply delightful and very useful book – free for your ereader here and look it over chapter-by-chapter here.), a smallish collection of Granny’s buttons, old thread…
…and lace that was on my mom’s wedding dress as well as on my wedding dress.  I hope one day it will somehow be incorporated into my girls’ wedding dresses.
Favorite glass jar containing ribbons, the lid to which was rendered useless after someone (ahem) consistently mis-threaded it, forever warping the lid, and thus rendering the jar useless for holding things like sugar and flour.  The jar finds a new purpose as a container for all my ribbons.
And there you have it!  A sunny and inspiring space for creating.  Whatever limitations your spaces and budget may afford, whatever the frame is around your ability to create, I pray you will find space and time to create.  Lovely spaces.  Inventive uses of objects.  Inspiring images and tools.  A place set aside in which to image God, and create.
A Little Note: I cannot post this without mentioning a favorite book of mine on the topic – The Christian Imagination: G.K. Chesterton on the Arts.  If you’re looking for some inspiration and solid reasons to begin exercising the imagination, this would be an excellent place to start.
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  1. What a wonderful space. I treasure my space too. You have decorated it so beautifully! Love all the vintage touches. Your machine looks just like my old one. It was truly a reliable workhorse. I made MANY quilts on it in 7 years. I sold it to a young girl and upgraded a bit to another Kenmore with a few more features for my quilting needs. I will buy a Kenmore again and again. Enjoy your space!

  2. Perfect timing this post is for me. I am trying to create a space for my sewing in our bedroom…which like yours is huge! (in fact our walk in closet serves as a nursery for the baby!!). It's all so lovely. I love that you share your decorating ideas with us!

  3. Ooooh!!! You've just sent my nesting mind aflutter with ideas. I'm fixing a few things in the house tonight. My husband, Lester, thanks you as well. I'll need his strength to move a few things, lol!!

  4. Ladies,
    Thank you all for your very kind words! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post!

    I hadn't thought of the sun fading issue. Hmmmm…..may have to consider that a bit more! I used to have my fabric stashed in the large cabinet which is to the right of my sewing/work table…but I found that whole out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing meant I didn't think of or remember the fabric stash I had. So, I do like having it out and visible…but the sun fading may have to be considered! That side of the room doesn't get direct sun since those windows actually look out onto the large front porch, so they get diffused light. Wonder if that makes a difference?

  5. Thanks for sharing your pictures, they are inspiring! I've been setting up an area too, but I haven't gotten beyond an utilitarian table for my machine, a shelf on a nearby bookshelf for work in progress, and a small plastic organizer for sewing notions. My fabric, unfortunately, is stored in boxes in the closet – talk about hard to see and get into! and of course I can barely remember what I have… But it is at least a start! I am definitely trying to figure out how to improve the situation!

    BTW, what do you do for ironing – do you have a spot to store your ironing board? Mine is currently on a different floor of the house – most inconvenient, but I can't figure out where to store it upstairs!

  6. You have such beautiful spaces!! We have such a small house right now and I keep praying for some grace to see how to organize a school room when we have stuff for school stored in three different rooms with no space for a room itself. I read your other post about the gal with the apartment and the boys which was a little helpful but there isn't even space for shelves for toys. Less stuff maybe? 😉 LOVE your blog and so glad to find it! (came from Catholicicing's linky)

  7. Hi CeAnne,
    I'm so glad you found your way here, and even happier that you may have found some ideas you can work with. Your question about small space organization is such a good one!!! I have some ideas, but as I started typing them out I realized it was less of a comment and more of a post all by itself. Check back soon, and I'll answer you in detail!

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