Friday, December 28, 2012

My Sewing Studio Has GPS: Giant Purse Syndrome!

According to The Daily Mail, the average woman's purse now weighs a whopping 5.2 pounds, and it's causing quite the increase in related back and shoulder injuries.  Why would women want to schlep around such heavy bags?  It's partly a fasion-driven phenomenon, but I think we naturally trend towards larger and larger bags over time.  You start out with a small handbag in your teens, which you pack full of makeup and a hairbrush, maybe a travel-sized can of hairspray.  Then you move up to a medium-sized bag as a young adult, so you can fit your cell phone and your planner, your keys and maybe even a novel.  Once kids come along and you get used to having a monster diaper bag to fit bottles, toys, iPads/iPods/kindles, Cheerios, water bottle etc., you get hooked on the capacity of the big bag and you pack it so full the seams are nearly splitting and tell yourself "If I got a bag just a little bigger than this one, I could fit EVERYTHING I need..."  The reality is that, the bigger the bag, the more crap you will fill it with, the less often you will clean it out, and the more difficult it will be to FIND what you're looking for when you need something!
This is my Sewing Studio when we first moved in, before we'd finished unpacking
Which brings me to the current disaster of my sewing studio.  When we bought this house with a 21'6" x 15'6" bonus room to completely dedicate to my sewing, I thought I had died and gone to heaven and I was sure I would never again feel cramped for space to create.  The previous homeowners even had a full-size pool table in this room.  My sewing room has a high vaulted ceiling, is flooded with natural daylight from the beautiful windows, and is located at the end of a narrow hallway on the second floor of our home, so no one traipses through my space on the way to some other part of the house, and I can leave in-progress projects out while I'm working on them.  Perfect, right?
This is what my sewing studio looked like a week before Christmas!
Welcome to my Chaos...
Unfortunately, just like the stuff you "need" in your purse expands to fill your handbag, the stuff I "need" in my sewing room has expanded to fill my room to the point where I don't even have room to work anymore.  My cutting table is overflowing with several in-progress projects, new rulers and other tools that I haven't found homes for, and new fabric not yet pre-washed and added to my stash.  My bulletin boards are overflowing with project ideas and inspiration ripped from various magazines.  My sewing cabinet and several folding utility tables surrounding it are similarly loaded down, and all of my storage pieces are overflowing.  It's time for a change, don't you think?  Since January is all about resolutions, renewal and reorganization, I'm planning a complete overhaul of my sewing studio for the New Year!
Step One: The Painful Purge! 
I've already started the first step, going through everything to figure out what to keep, what to throw away, and what to donate or sell.  I have accumulated quite an assortment of high-end drapery fabric and trim remnants from my interior design business, for instance, things that I couldn't bear to toss in the trash because they were so expensive, but they are mostly in pieces that are less than one yard, that don't coordinate with anything else in my own home, and they are all wrapped around tall cardboard fabric tubes so they take up a lot of real estate.  What am I REALLY going to do with these?  I remember a professional organizer once telling me that you have to consider the cost of storing items that you aren't using -- is that item worth giving up space that you could be using for something else?  Well, right now all those bolts of fancy drapery remnants are costing me the ability to run a vacuum over the carpet, preventing me from seeing or accessing everything that is buried behind them, making me feel claustrophobic and overwhelmed, and making it impossible to even consider bringing a comfortable chair or two into my room so my husband and kids could hang out with me while I'm sewing.  It's time for them to go!
Step Two: Redesign Furniture & New Floorplan

Next, I'm going to redesign my existing custom sewing cabinet, cutting table, and storage furniture to improve their function, ergonomics, and use of space. 

Santa Baby did not bring me a new sewing machine for Christmas -- but Bernie and the boys did!  My new Bernina 750QE is a bit heavier and has a larger footprint than my previous Artista 200E/730E machine, so it won't fit into the opening of my existing custom-built sewing cabinet without modifications anyway. This is a great time to make changes to the size, shape, and storage options of the sewing cabinet as well.  I'm toying with the idea of designing a larger table with two lifts on opposite sides, one for the main sewbaby and the other for the serger, which currently sits on a table top full time, taking up valuable surface space.

I'll do a new floorplan in my design software to come up with the best layout for the room (borrowing some basic principles of kitchen and bath design), and once I know where the main furniture and workstations are going, I can design a new lighting plan for the room.  Although this space has great natural light during the day, it's currently lit by a measly four bulbs on a ceiling fan that was mounted way too high to begin with and a few inadequate lamps and task lights scattered around the room.  The whole room is on a single electrical circuit as well, and every time I plug my iron in, the lights dim.  I keep my computerized sewing machines plugged into a UPS at all times to prevent damage from power fluctuations, but the truth of the matter is that the existing wiring is inadequate for the way I'm using this room. 
Step Three: Structural Upgrades, Electrical & Lighting
"Largo Chandelier" from Currey & Co.
So I'm planning to add two additional electrical circuits, one just for the iron, one for the lighting, and one for everything else.  I'm going to replace the ugly ceiling fan, which I can't turn on when I'm sewing anyway because it blows things all over the place, and maybe replace it with a fun chandelier (I have this Currey & Co. Largo Chandelier in my garage that used to be in my dining room, and I'm already thinking about repainting it in Oil Rubbed Bronze and changing out the amber crystal drops for clear ones).  Then we'll have to add additional can or track lighting around the perimeter of the room to provide even lighting without shadows -- maybe the new LED cans, which run much cooler than traditional bulbs and provide truer color rendering.  I love the red paint on my sewing cabinet, but I think the wall color and surfaces need to stay light, bright and neutral so I can focus on the colors of my project fabrics.

Step Four: Rebuild Sewing Furniture & Built-In Storage

Koala DualMate Plus IV: Pricey, Very Little Storage, and Inadequate Support for Large Quilts
The goal here will be to maximize efficiency and space.  I've looked at commercial sewing furniture from Koala, Horn, and other big name manufacturers, but they all seem to sacrifice storage capacity for the ability to fold up when not in use, and the prices are outrageous for what they are made of.  I'd like to design one large sewing cabinet for my sewing machine and serger to share, with the ability for both machines to completely lower and hide within the cabinet when not in use and no wasted storage space beneath the cabinet.  The cutting table needs to be large enough for basting a large quilt or cutting 54" wide home dec fabrics when needed, but perhaps it can have drop down leafs so that it doesn't eat up so much floor space all the time.  Storage solutions for fabric, thread and notions needs to be sized to fit contents.  Who knows -- hopefully I can even fit a small seating area and a wall-mounted flat screen TV in the redesigned room, to entice my husband to hang out with me more often while I'm sewing?  Right now he sits on the floor with his iPad and both of our hundred-pound Rottweiler puppies pile onto his lap. 

I've ordered a couple of books on sewing room design and organization tips for quilters from Amazon, and I've also been scouring Pinterest and the blogosphere, looking for suggestions and best practices from others.  If you know of any resources I may have overlooked, please share them with me in the comments!  I'm hoping that, if we can start this project in January, we can wrap it up by the end of March so I can get back to sewing again.  Not that I don't plan to commandeer the dining room as a sewing space while my room transformation is in progress...  ;-) 

So, that's what I'm planning for the new year, once the trees and decorations are all taken down and packed away.  Wish me luck!


Jenny K. Lyon said...

I am so completely totally unabashedly jealous of your problem! But problem it is and you have some clever solutions. I'll be very interested in the progress of your solution to GPS!

Lane said...

Please review the books on organization you ordered. Heaven knows that my poor organizational skills can barely keep up with what I have going on in my sewing room. I'm tweaking my last floorplan and furniture move and that's going well, especially as I use things up and move them along. Be well. Lane

Carolyn B said...

Congrats on selling your Bernina 200/730. Your wonderful eBay listing directed me to your blog & gave me the Bernina bug! Since I wasn't ready to invest $3500 on your awesome machine with so many goodies, I found a 200e without upgrade at our local dealer and LOVE it!
Could you tell me about the 'M' monogram featured in you listing? Is that something I could do with my more basic set-up?
Thank you for all the information you share!
Happy New Year!
Carolyn B.

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Carolyn B, and congrats on YOUR new Artista 200E! I would have replied to you directly but you are a "no reply" blogger -- check your profile settings if you want to change that. Yes, you can do a monogram like that "M" I showed in my listing. I got that design from, a site that specializes in monograms and has tons of exquisite, historically inspired monogram styles that you can purchase either as individual letters or as entire alphabet sets. Just choose the .ART or .PES format when you download your design and your machine will sew it out beautifully. Good luck and have fun with your new sewbaby!

Carolyn B said...

Thank you so much! I found it :)