Friday, August 14, 2015

Welcome to My Studio!

My Studio Today
Amy of Free Motion Quilting Adventures has been reorganizing her sewing workspace lately, and today she is hosting a linky party for everyone to show off their quilting studios.  I realized that although I had been posting bits and pieces about my studio remodel throughout the process, I didn't have one post that showed off the whole room.  I apologize in advance, because I did not clean up for you before I started taking pictures.  This is my studio in action, the way it looks when I am actually working in here.  It used to be much, MUCH worse.

About three years ago, before I bought my Bernina 750 QE, my sewing room looked like this:
My Former Sewing Dungeon
Yikes, right?  It's a wonder I ever finished ANYTHING in that dump!  The new sewing machine inspired me to revamp my studio, making it more attractive and more functional.  My biggest issues were:
  • Insufficient Lighting.  My workspace is a bonus room above our garage, and I have a vaulted ceiling that had NO lights except for four dinky light bulbs on a ceiling fan. 
  • Insufficient Power Supply.  I did not have enough outlets, and when my iron cycled on and off, all of the lights dimmed.
  • Serious Fabric Hoarding.  I'm an interior designer, and over the years I had amassed way too many remnants of beautiful fabrics that I was never going to use, but couldn't bear to throw away.  These bolts of fabric were leaning against every wall and threatening to crowd me out of my own room.
  • No Design Wall.  I couldn't tell whether I liked a quilt until AFTER I had sewn all of the blocks together because I had nowhere to lay them out.
  • Inadequate, Barely Functional HV/AC.  My studio is in a second-story bonus room above our garage, which is great because it's out of the way, but it was freezing cold in the winter and too hot to use the iron in the summer.
  • No Storage for Quilting Stash, Embroidery Threads, Rulers, Embroidery Hoops, and Other Tools.
It's actually a decent sized room:
My Studio

...And here's what it looked like when I emptied it of most of the clutter so it could be painted:
Ready for Remodel!
Our sons were a lot younger when we bought this house, and I was originally thinking that this room would be their playroom.  The previous owners had a pool table in here.  I love my husband for insisting that the kids take the other bonus room on the third floor so that I could have this space for my sewing room!

When we remodeled the room, the first thing I did was to have an HV/AC company redo the duct work of the entire second floor of our home, splitting it into two zones, and moving the thermostat from our master bedroom at the back of the house to the hallway adjacent to my studio.  Now the heat or air conditioning, as the season dictates, cuts on more frequently and there is adequate airflow coming into the studio to actually heat and cool the room.

Next, my talented husband addressed my lighting and electrical issues for me.  We ditched the ceiling fan (which just blew my fabric all over the place anyway) in favor of a customized Goth 6-light chandelier that was left over from remodeling my dining room.  I spray painted it, changed out the amber crystals for smooth clear ones, and put on new white candle sleeves.  Bernie installed four new can lights, a dedicated outlet for my iron, and in-ceiling speakers so I can rock out to whatever music tickles my fancy while I sew.  All of the light bulbs in my studio are LEDs, by the way, for truer color, savings on electricity, and best of all, they don't create any additional heat when I'm working in here during the hot summer months.  We painted the walls and ceiling a neutral ivory, a subtle but significant improvement over the builder's flat pinkish-ivory paint, and I had custom arched plantation shutters installed. 

I donated most of my hoarded interior design fabric remnants to the costume department of our local community theatre, which freed up a lot of space in the room.

Then I started working on how to organize the tools and fabrics that I kept:
Cutting and Planning Worktable with Maple Butcher Block Top
I LOVE my cutting table.  Because I am an interior designer when I'm not busy quilting, and mine is an occupation that corrupts common sense when it comes to home improvement projects, I ordered a custom maple butcher block counter top for my cutting table.  If I recall correctly, the surface of my cutting table weighs 700 pounds.  Only through a feat of engineering rivaling the pyramids did we manage to get the countertop up to the second floor of the house.  Seriously, though -- it's not a slick surface, so my cutting mat and fabrics don't slide around.  I can cut and pin against this surface without worrying about marring it.  Any little dings can just be sanded out, because it's basically a giant cutting board.  It's a light colored surface that reflects light, easy on the eyes especially when sewing at night.  It will last forever, and it's gorgeous.  We installed a barn light pendant over my cutting table to ensure adequate lighting for cutting precision (and to reduce the possibility of slicing off fingers in the dark).
Room for Multi-Tasking
What I really love about this table is its size, 42" x 97."  So I have room to cut on one side of the table, and plenty of room for staging and organizing on the rest of the table.  It's great for multitasking.  I have my quilting stash fabrics folded more or less neatly in wire bins below the cutting table, and the red drawer base you see is a KraftMaid kitchen cabinet drawer base that I ordered for use in my sewing room in our last home.  I painted it red and added the bronze drawer pulls accented with Swarovski crystals.  A girl's gotta have some bling. 
I keep my scissors, rotary cutters, applique templates and marking supplies in those drawers. 

Rubber Drawer Liner Keeps Scissors, Rotary Cutters from Sliding Around

As with good kitchen design, my goal is to store tools as close as possible to where I use them.  That's just cheap rubber padding that goes under area rugs that I've used as drawer liners.  It keeps my scissors and rotary cutting tools from sliding around, crashing together and getting nicked blades when I pull the drawers open and closed.  The drawer base is several inches shorter than my cutting table, which gives me a handy place to store my smaller rotary cutting mat and my sewing machine's slide-on extension bed.

Pegboard Storage for Rulers and Pattern Weights
We used ordinary peg board from Home Depot for my rulers and embroidery hoops, on the walls at either side of my cutting table.  The peg board was painted with the same color paint as the walls, which helps reduce the visual clutter and keeps my studio feeling spacious and open despite the astronomical amount of stuff in the room.

As you can see, I have additional wire bins at the back of my cutting table.  On this side of the table, the bottom bin is full of embroidery stabilizers, bobbin thread, and other items I use for machine embroidery.

Design Wall (Outlined in Blue)
Again, maximizing efficiency while reducing visual clutter, my design wall is almost exactly the same color as my wall paint, so I've outlined it in blue in the photo above.  We used two sheets of insulating foam from Home Depot and wrapped them in English Bump drapery interlining, because I had some left over from a design job.  As you can see, we had to cut away the corner of one of the sheets of insulating foam in order to fit against the sloped ceiling, but this is the only possible wall I could have used.  The opposite wall is full of windows and the two side walls are too short due to the sloped ceiling.  English Bump is basically a very thick, napped cotton flannel, and I specify it for high end silk drapery panels, but you could just as easily use regular drapery interlining or quilt batting for a design wall. 

Another Shot of the Design Wall

Let's see -- what haven't I shown you yet?  This is my current custom sewing cabinet, soon (hopefully!) to be rebuilt:

Current Sewing Machine Cabinet, 28 1/2" x 73"
I like the size, but I don't like the surface and it would be more comfortable for me for free-motion quilting if the surface was a bit higher.  It's actually the upside-down top of the kids' old Thomas the Train table, believe it or not, and it's not really strong enough or stable enough for this purpose.  It's starting to bow in the middle, it's not perfectly level for machine embroidery.  It's made of a particle board that has a bit of drag, which is also not the best for FMQ because I have to work that much harder to move the quilt around beneath the needle.  I haven't decided what the new top should be -- I'm thinking either a sealed maple butcher block so that it matches the cutting table but is slippery for quilting, or else a pretty polished granite remnant if I can find one that isn't too dark.  Carrera marble would be gorgeous, but it's probably not going to happen! 

The most important thing about the sewing cabinet, for me, is the large surface to support heavy quilts, and the ability to sink the machine into the cabinet:

Machine Recessed into Sewing Cabinet
My sewing machine is almost always in this recessed position, unless I need to use the free arm or I'm doing machine embroidery.

I have another KraftMaid kitchen drawer base unit on the right side of my sewing machine cabinet that matches the one beneath my cutting table, and it houses my collection of needles, presser feet, and machine attachments:

Presser Feet, Needles, Bobbins etc. Stored Within Easy Reach of the Sewing Machine
I keep my presser feet in numerical order as well.  On the left side of my sewing machine cabinet I have open shelving to accommodate my most often used sewing threads in ArtBin containers.  That's my spiral bound sewing machine manual on top of the top thread bin, so I can grab it whenever I have a question or I want to try a technique I haven't done in awhile.

Sewing Thread Stored in the Sewing Machine Cabinet
 Borrowing from kitchen design concepts again, I have a nice little work triangle (or work rectangle, really) between my sewing machine, cutting table, ironing board and design wall that no one needs to walk through:

My Primary Work Triangle: Sewing, Cutting, and Pressing
I have another desk pushed up against the back side of my sewing cabinet.  I clear that off to use the entire surface of both units when I'm quilting a big, heavy quilt.  Other times I use the desk as a secondary sewing station for projects I might be sewing on one of my Featherweights or with my serger.  I can't decide whether my redesigned sewing cabinet should be designed like a partners' desk, one mammoth surface with sewing workstations on either side.  Having them separate is definitely more versatile in case I ever want to rearrange things, but one large cabinet with a single surface would look cleaner and less of a hodge-podge.  And yes, it does bug me that I have one red sewing chair and one teal one.  ;-)

Then on the other side of the room I have a TV (front corner of the room, wall mounted, not pictured), my computer, and other supplies that I use only occasionally:

Anders at Mom's Computer Workstation
The bean bag chair is for kiddos who like to hang out in my sewing room with me and watch Tom and Jerry reruns. 

I'm a pretty infrequent machine embroiderer, so I keep my embroidery threads stored in a shelving unit against the far wall, in clear plastic storage bins to keep the dust off, all in numerical order so I can quickly locate the exact shade I'm looking for:

Isacord Machine Embroidery Thread, Organized in Numerical Order
Here's the rest of that shelving unit, which was also painted to blend into the walls for a less cluttered look:

The binders on the top shelf are collections of magazine articles, patterns, and class notes on different topics: Quilting Projects and Techniques, Free-Motion Quilting, Machine Embroidery, etc.  I also keep my machine and software mastery workbooks in binders on that shelf, back issues of magazines in the cardboard magazine holders, and supplies for hand embroidery and beadwork.  WIPs (Works In Progress) occupy the remaining shelves.

Featherweights, Hand Quilting Supplies, and Reference Books
Last but not least, my vintage Singer Featherweights live on this bookshelf, directly opposite the entrance to the room, so they are the first things I see when I come down the hallway.  This shelving unit also contains my sewing box full of hand quilting thread, needles, and my quilting thimble, my Featherweight manuals and attachments, and all of my sewing and quilting reference books.  Since my ironing board is just to the left of this unit, I keep my spray starch and sizing here as well.

Well, I didn't mean to go on and on like this forever, but I think I did a decent job of showing you my studio setup.  I still consider it a work in progress rather than a done deal, but I kind of got bored of it and wanted to start sewing again!  I know that I am very fortunate to have a large studio dedicated to my sewing and quilting projects.  It's wonderful to be able to leave everything out and know that even if I only have ten minutes to spare, I can come in here and pick up right where I left off and sew for ten minutes. 

I'm linking up with Amy's studio linky party.  Have a great weekend, everyone!


Anonymous said...

Lovely studio. I think they are always a work in progress as we acquire new stuff and change our interests and priorities.

Lois K

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

looks wonderful, big room would like to have more space for myself!

P11otter said...

Whaww! I am jealous! Wat a beautiful working space! I have one tabel 75x175 and a ironing board. And a few cuberts and draws. Which you a good sewing time in your new sewing studio!

Jenny K. Lyon said...

What a great post, full of clever and practical ideas. I wish you could help me with my space! Only an interior designer would chose such wonderful surfaces: granite, maple, etc and have chandelier lighting! What a joyful, beautiful space.

Unknown said...

I am sew jealous!

Rebecca Grace said...

Karen, Marie, and Jenny -- The irony, of course, is that you all produce many more quilts, all of them much, MUCH better than mine, in your workspaces! Maybe if I spent more time quilting instead of decorating my studio... Hah! 


Amy @ Amy's FMQ Adventures said...

Fabulous! Look at all that space! I'm glad you got the electrical and hv/AC issues straightened out since what good is a great space if it's uncomfortable. Plenty of room for visitors too.

Rose in VT said...

Wow! Great space, wonderful layout. I prefer studio spaces being used, not so cleaned up you can't tell what the main interest is.

Lara B. said...

Holy Mackerel - what a huge difference between the before and after! Rebecca your studio is a dream space! I love so many things you've thought out in such a well organized way. Right off the bat, I'm going to line my drawers so things don't slide around. Simple and effective - I love that. My favorite part is the all the glorious light in your space, both the natural kind and the electric. I also love that there are places for your kiddos to hang out. A beautiful tour - thank you for sharing!

Debbie said...

Very nice space...enjoyed getting to see it!

Katie said...

Love it! I have the bonus room heating and cooling issues too. I wonder why builders don’t think they need insulation??? Yeesh. Next project is to repaint the pale green walls (what was I thinking!) to white. :-)

Rose Prairie Quilts and Farm said...

Oh my what great space now. What freedom to be creative in. Love it

Karen said...

Such a large space. The chandelier makes it look very elegant.

Gina said...

What a fabulous creative space. I love how you apologise for the mess, you can't even see the carpet in mine at the moment. I really need a good day in there to clean it up

wrighax said...

Drooling. --Say what do you think about the cost/benefit of having someone make a custom sewing cabinet vs. buying a Horn or Koala?

Rebecca Grace said...

wrighax, it depends on whether you have a dedicated studio space where you can have everything out at once, like I do, or whether your studio shares space with some other function in your home, like if it's a corner of the family room or in a guest bedroom. The primary benefit of Horn, Koala, etc. is how they fold up completely when you want to put your hobby away and use the room for a different purpose. However, in order for those cabinets to fold up, they have a lot of wasted space beneath the sewing surface. If you know you will have your sewing cabinet set up all the time, and you get a Koala or a Horn, you could always slide your own storage bins behind and beneath the sewing cabinet to use some of that wasted space. But cost-wise, you can probably get something MUCH nicer for the same money or less if you have it custom made for you. Consider: you get order two kitchen base cabinets in stock sizes for $500 each. Then you really splurge and add a granite countertop for $1000 and a lift mechanism for a couple hundred dollars. You now have a SPECTACULAR custom sewing cabinet for less than $2500. I think the Koalas are going for around $2800 now, and they are not made of wood that is as solid or as nice as kitchen cabinets are. Of course if you use a laminate countertop material and base units that are in stock at Home Depot or from Ikea or something like that, you could probably come up with a great sewing cabinet for a third of what the name brand sewing cabinets cost.

Pedal Sew Lightly said...

Looks great. I love the pops of red.

Pony Driver said...

Rebecca, you are such a kind, helpful and wise leader of our Bernina 7 group that you DESERVE this beautiful sewing room!!!!