Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Creative Spaces: Creating on a Budget

Welcome to the third installment in the Creative Spaces Link-up series! You can find the rest of the series here.

The primary reason most of us don't have our dream crafting spaces is probably very simple. Money. I'm sure each of us can think of something on our crafty wishlist that's out of reach financially -- whether it's a better sewing machine, prettier storage containers, or even a home addition to provide more space! I don't have any brilliant ideas to increase your capital (and in my experience, more money and more stuff rarely brings us the happiness we anticipate). But perhaps we can share some thrifty ideas for making our spaces work on a budget.

1. Cull the Excess
We've already talked about Taming the Stuff. It follows that the less you have, the less time/money you need to spend storing it. I'm not talking about offloading valuable, frequently used tools and supplies. I'm talking about all the "just in case" stuff that I hoard because I "know" as soon as I get rid of it, I'll need it. Some of you are really good about only keeping what you really need or want, so you can skip this step!

2. Organize Keepers
Once the excess is gone, it's time to find "housing" for what's left. I'd recommend grouping like things together, so that you have a better feel for the best size and shape of storage container that you need. Maybe you need a photo box for your buttons, or maybe you just need a mason jar. Grouping will help you figure that out.

3. Evaluate Your Workspace Needs
For some, a large cutting/crafting workspace is a must. I personally don't have the room for that, so I tend to cut out my fabric and large projects on the floor. If I ever have the room, something like this would be great! Though I just realized the other day that we have a ginormous ping pong table in our garage. Why have I not been using that as a cutting table? Anyways... I do need a surface for my sewing machine -- for one thing, it's too heavy to lug out of a cabinet each time I use it. For another, I use it almost daily, so it pays off to have it accessible all the time. I also like having a permanent space for my serger, though that would be more negotiable (it's lighter and less used). 

4. Determine Your Budget
This is important! It's easy to overspend when you're browsing the aisles at JoAnn, Target, T.J. Maxx, etc. Since most of my craft room spending comes out of my monthly allowance, my overhaul has been very gradual. Most of us just don't have the funds for everything we want right now. Which is probably good for me, because I've had more of a chance to figure things out one step at a time. That equals fewer unnecessary or regretted purchases in the long run. 

5. Be Content
Really, this is the most important step. I don't think that being content means you don't buy anything and just leave your fabric and thread in a puddle on the floor. But there's also nothing wrong with a creative space that's in the works. It doesn't have to be perfect right now -- or ever, for that matter. Who cares if your creative space would never be featured by Better Homes and Gardens? It's your space, so it should work for you without stressing your budget. When I'm grateful for what I have, rather than eyeing what I don't have, I'm happier (and more creative!). 

6. Think Outside the Box
Don't assume that you need to buy brand-new, purpose-made craft storage. Some of my favorite craft room elements were also the least expensive (and weren't even designed for their current jobs). This is the step that I'll elaborate on below, and is really the heart of this post. Getting more for less is the best way to create a functional, attractive craft space.

Here are a few ways I've gotten the look and function I want without breaking the bank -- some of these supplies I've had for years, and others were purchased within the past year:

Bookshelf. Source: Walmart. Cost: $25. Is this the bookshelf I would have picked if I had all the money in the world? No. But for $25 I obtained an extremely functional piece of furniture. I originally wanted a cabinet with doors, but there's a huge cost difference between a simple bookshelf and a cabinet (even for a cheap fiberboard cabinet). It means I need to keep it tidy, but in the end I actually prefer this to a cabinet.

Fabric sorting baskets. Source: Dollar tree. Total cost: $8 for eight. They're not gorgeous, but no one but me (and you) sees them. 

Mini fabric bolts. Source: Dollar Tree foam board (cut into 8 pieces). Total cost: $2 for sixteen. It's cheaper per bolt to buy comic book boards, but I only needed a few (and I already had foamboard on hand).

Mini Candy Jars. Source: Dollar Tree. Total cost: $8 for eight. This was more for decor than storage, but I just love them! I added chalkboard contact paper labels to the lids. Dollar Tree is sometimes surprising with its glass offerings; comparable jars from other stores would have cost much more (IKEA has a set of 4 Rajtan spice jars for $3.99, but the Dollar Tree jars are larger).

Locker Bins. Source: Dollar Tree. Total cost: $6 for six. They're not heavy duty, but surprisingly sturdy for just $1 each. I use six of these on my bookshelf to sort projects that are currently under construction. I love that they cost much less than baskets or many plastic bins, while still looking nicer than your average $1 plastic storage bin.

Chalkboard Labels. Source: Various. Total Cost: $2 for six. Using scrapbook paper from my stash and some chalkboard contact paper, I constructed thse labels for my locker bins. Since the contents of the bins are constantly changing, the chalkboard feature allows me to re-label the bins easily. The mini clothespins (via Walmart, in the office supplies department) are a fun decorative touch.

Craft Paper Photo Boxes. Source: Various. Cost: $16 for seven. I covered my assorted photo boxes (some white, some patterned) with Dollar Tree's Mailing paper ($1 for a generous roll -- love that stuff). I used spray adhesive to apply the paper. The labels are just cardstock with hand lettering and washi tape (which Dollar Tree now carries! Woohoo!). Now my boxes look uniform and blend better with the rest of the room.

Baby Food Jars. Source: Little Man. Cost: Free. I don't like using baby food jars with lids (they never stay on well for me), but as "open" stoarge they're fair game.

Paper-covered Cardboard Boxes. Source: The garage. Cost: $0.10-$0.25 each. One of my favorite temporary storage containers are good ol' shipping/diaper/whatever boxes. I used these extensively as my craft space came together, and still have some in my crafting closet. I cover the outside of the box with paper (usually the pattern brown craft paper available in Dollar Tree's wrapping paper section), and end up with a tolerably attractive storage solution. You could also use fabric, burlap, spray adhesive, etc., if you wanted to make a more permanent storage box.

The best part of making a creative space on a dime (or two) is that it usually means I get to use the very creativity that I'm trying to facilitate!

Now I'd like to know your ideas and solutions for creating a craft space on a budget! Please feel free to use the link-up below, or leave a comment.

Creative Spaces: Creating on a Budget


  1. Such wise advice Shannon. I have to write mine up, because I have learned quite a bit since moving to this small cottage and I just refused to stop using my creativity while living here :D

    1. Maria,

      Thanks for your kind words, and I'd love to hear your tips! And kudos to you for continuing to use your creativity!


  2. OK, you've convinced me to visit Dollar Tree! We actually have one in our town, I've just never checked it out. Also, if there were an award for Frugal Yet Pretty Sewing Organization, I'd nominate you! Way to go!

  3. Laura,

    Aww, thanks! :-)

    Yes, clearly I'm a fan of the Dollar Tree -- if you're willing to wade through the cheapo stuff, you can find some great deals. I especially recommend their kraft paper (sold with mailing supplies), printed brown gift wrap paper, ribbon (I've scored 5/8" grosgrain and organza ribbons in gorgeous colors -- and they're five yard spools!), and storage containers. Oh, and I love to buy their plastic food containers when I'm taking a meal to a family with a new baby -- it's cheap for me, and there are no dishes to be returned.

    Some of the stuff is so disgustingly CHEAP -- but for certain things it's a gold mine! And I may or may not indulge in a box of Junior Mints on almost every visit... *wink*



I'd love to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much for stopping by!