Sewing Studio Up-Do

(originally posted August 23, 2011)
It’s not really a redo, that was done last year, but this month, it got a definite up-do, or upgrade, anyway, with two great projects!

Today: Project #1, Making a Recessed Sewing Table (a Project ANYONE could do!)

I started with this, my Ikea bookcase and table that I’ve used for sewing for almost two years.

A shot of my studio in June 2010

But when I needed to do any quilting, especially free-motion quilting, I would pull out a little drop center table from JoAnn’s to put my machine in.  However, the Janome was too large to fit into the table from JoAnn’s.  And quilting with the machine too high was just too hard on my neck and shoulders to quilt for very long.  So… I traced the footprint of my Janome onto the table top, and my sweetie got a jigsaw and drill out,

and cut a big hole in the table.  We figured the worse that could happen is that we would ruin a $55 Ikea table, and have to replace it.  The core of the table was a paper cardboard honeycomb core, with two 1x3s running lengthwise for added support…

Sweetie added some more 1×3 strips to enclose the exposed core, added wood filler, sanded, primed, painted and eventually we added this shelf, attached with 4″ L-brackets to the table.  Here it is without the machine sitting in it:

and voila– A recessed sewing table, custom fit for my Janome Horizon! As you can see, there is extra space to the right of machine, that I allowed for access to the power cord, feed dog switch and power switch.  Remember to take that into consideration when determining the footprint of your own machine:

I removed the feet from the plexiglas table that came with my machine and made sure the machine would sit just high enough above the surface of the Ikea table to accommodate it–a perfect fit! If your machine doesn’t have a plexiglas insert, you can have one custom cut at a local hardware store, or glass shop.  Just make sure they have a very accuratetracing of the bed of your machine.

We finished this project on Saturday afternoon, and I spent much of Sunday sewing, it was such a pleasure to have the machine at the correct height for a change!  I think I could sew an entire day without feeling any strain in my shoulders.  A very nice UPGRADE, indeed.

Of course, once we finished I needed to clean the shelves and rearrange everything (sawdust everywhere!) but they needed cleaning and reorganizing anyway.

DIY Tutorials for the other parts of my sewing studio:

Project #2; a sassy new cutting table with storage!

DIY Design Wall anyone can make!

Big Board Ironing Board Tutorial

Fabric Storage (Stash Management)

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Blogtoberfest Day VI–Necktie Social

So, I learned from my friend Shelly’s website that a Necktie Social was a Old West cowboy term for a public execution by hanging (gulp.). But it could also be used literally, referring to a social event where neckties were donated to be auctioned off for charity. Shelly hosted a modern necktie social, you can read more about it here.

When I made the Suits Me Just Fine Quilt as a commission this summer, my client and I discussed making a quilt from her father-in-law’s ties as well. Even though she decided to hold off on the necktie project for right now, I thought I’d share some of the inspiration quilts I found online. It’s amazing what quilter’s have created with these discarded, or left behind, items of clothing. I say left behind, because many times these are created in memory of the loved one who used to wear them.

This first one has the most creative border… more about it here, including the source for the pattern she used:

This fan quilt is a clever way of taking advantage of the natural shape of a necktie. Made by Pat of Bird Nest on the Ground. She added some great details to it, and the quilt honors a generous friend who is no longer here.

The one above, with the stars, is called Memories of David, and the one below is His Ties, both made in memory of someone special, and found here. She fussy cut two ties with special meaning, which form the two dark stars. What a great tribute:

The patchwork pillows were also made by Terry, of Quilted With TLC–what a great idea to use up the extra neckties or make a smaller project with fewer ties!

And look at this one, with such a modern feel… (from here)

Have you seen other clever ideas for re-using neckties? I’d love to hear your ideas…

and…there is still time to get in on my Aurifil Giveaway!

Sewing Studio Up-Do, Part II

Today’s Studio Upgrade: A New (Inexpensive, Custom) Cutting Table with Storage

I’m known for screeching to a halt to pick up someone’s “trash” from the curb, because I firmly believe that one man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure.  (Don’t worry, I’m NOT a hoarder, I either finish the project I envisioned within a year or two, or I find a new home for what I hauled home).

In May, the University I work for was trashing a bunch of old oak cabinets and slate counter tops as  they installed the new chemistry lab.  I happened to drive by that side of campus, the day they were carrying everything out to the curb and setting it near a big sign that said “Free”.  I immediately stopped, pulled two cabinets and some shelves aside with a sign on them that they were claimed and would be picked up later.  I then called my sweetie and arranged for him to swing by on his way home from work that afternoon to retrieve them.  We reluctantly passed on the “too large” slate counter tops.  I brought these home:

My sweetie and I got to work removing vinyl toe kicks, adhesive, sticky messes, etc., then washing,  sanding, priming and painting MANY layers of white paint on these, in addition to cutting new shelves and making minor wood filler repairs.  It’s been an all summer job out in the garage–which sweetie stuck to through our terrible heat and humidity!  (I wimped out once the heat index went over 95 degrees, I was willing to wait until Autumn for my “new” cabinets).

A few weeks later, this old counter top was slated for the trash at the building I work in.  Naturally, I hauled that home, too.  It happened to be just the size I needed to top off the oak cabinets. (Lucky, huh?)

I wasn’t crazy about the 1980s country blue formica, so when I was at Grubers in July, I picked up some fabulous laminated cotton to cover it (Oil Cloth would have been a little more durable, since it’s heavier, but I adored this bicycle/tricycle print by Michael Miller, and since I am the primary user of this tabletop, I know it will be used carefully).  If you are making a similar table covering that will be used by kids, or multiple family members, I’d recommend oilcloth.

How to cover a tabletop:

1.  Cut your oilcloth/laminated cotton larger enough to allow for folding over all four sides, with an overlap to the bottom side of your plywood or tabletop, and extra fold under of raw edge–in this case, about 5-6 inches on all sides.  It doesn’t show in this pic, but I trimmed a triangle  (about a 3″ triangle) off all four corners to make easing your corners in in step #5 go smoothly.

2.  Starting at the center of long sides of board, wrap fabric tightly around back, tucking about 1/2″ of raw edge under and securing with a staple gun.  I usually do the center, and about 3″ on each side of center spot along one side, then move to opposite side of the board and repeat by pulling fabric tightly around the back at the center of that side, turning under 1/2″ raw edge again, and securing it with a staple gun.  

3.  Proceed outward along sides of your board, alternating from side to side every so often, until you  reach the end at all four corners. 

4.  Moving to center of your short ends, repeat step #2, until you get to this point:

5.  This is where the fact that you trimmed a triangle of bulk out of your corners in step #1 becomes important.  Fold your long side excess length in closely to the edge of the table top, and fold the end side excess in over the top of it, just like you would if you were wrapping a gift with paper (sometimes it helps to have an extra set of hands at this point-one to wrap and hold, the other person to staple):

6.  Once you have it where your want it, laying nice and flat, secure it with your staple gun.  Add extra staples to bottom side fabric edges as needed.  You can use this same method to re-upholster chair seat covers, ottoman covers, you name it.

We installed the cabinets and the tabletop in my sewing studio just before we went on vacation…

There is an open area under the table that is exactly the width I need for storing my vintage Bernina 830 Record.  The door on the left cabinet hides a multitude of WIP sins… and the open shelves on the smaller cabinet provide storage for books and tools facing the door to the studio…

We also added that nifty towel rod and buckets from Ikea for holding rotary cutters, scissors, seam rippers, pencils, etc.  All at the ready, all off my work surface.  The drawer on the cabinet to the left still needs the drawer facing and pull added to it (This weekend’s project),  but it’s completely functional at this point.  And it’s a HUGE drawer-great storage!

Total Cost for My New Custom Cutting Table/Work Station:

Cabinets & shelving    $0
Formica Tabletop                $0
Laminated Cotton               $17.99 (It took less than a yard so I have pieces left over!)
Primer                                 $10 (we’re giving the rest of the gallon to someone for a second project)
Woodfiller                           $5
Paint                                    $12
TOTAL                              $44.99

I’ve used the cutting top once so far, and it is already worth it’s weight in gold.  A shot of the entire sewing set-up:

Add the ironing board off the left side of the photo there and I have myself a great work-triangle!  

That Suits Me Just Fine

I set a goal of Father’s Day to finish this commission project, made from the suit jackets and pants of my customer’s father-in-law.  I finished it Saturday, the day before Father’s Day and delivered it to the happy customer the following day.

The borders and the binding are a batik, in steel grey, slate and rust colors… very masculine, and it set the suitings off just perfectly.  The center squares are two different alternating fabrics, one is a blue linen/poly blend and the other a synthetic blue suede.  On the reverse is a tweedy flannel, rust colored to pull out the browns in the quilt…

I considered many different options for quilting, but decided on a straight line grid, echoing the lines of the blocks themselves.  I used a grey/slate variegated Aurifil thread on top, that seems to compliment the colors of the quilt just enough.

When I delivered the quilt, the new owner immediately carried it into the formal dining room (that had served as her FIL’s bedroom before he passed away) and threw it over the back of a large, stuffed, rust leather chair–where it will live.  It looked like it had been made for that spot, and I’d never even laid eyes on the room before that moment.

Polyester Parade

 Well, not just polyester, but wool, rayon, suede…  It’s a quilt for a customer of mine, made from her father-in-law’s old pant suits.  He passed away two years ago and she saved his suits and ties to make quilts with.  This is the first one, now basted and ready to be quilted:

I mentioned the heat yesterday, there was no way I was going to have this baby laying across my lap when the outside temps were pushing 100 degrees.  Did I mention the backing is flannel?  Needless to say, it didn’t get finished last week as planned.  But I’m quilting it now, and hope to deliver it to my customer by Fathers Day, this weekend!

When I started sewing these blocks at a retreat this Spring, I kept referring to this as my “ugly quilt”.  But now that it is coming together, it’s really starting to grow on me…  I think it’s those flashbacks of the fabrics of my 1970s childhood that bothered me at first!

Going, Going…Gone!

My sewing room has been eerily quiet these days. I mentioned in my last post that I am moving over the next month, and while it will save us a good deal of money in the long run, and I’m getting a fresh and nicely furnished quilting studio out of the deal, I would so much rather be sewing and creating than packing and trying to sell extra things we don’t have room for! And, I’m still working two jobs while trying to get it all done!

Last night I did get a break. It was our guild meeting, and August is the fundraising meeting with a live auction and tag sale. Our guild raised over $12,000 for Breast Cancer Research last night in less than four hours!

I didn’t take anything home from the live auction, but I did find a few treasures in the Mall In The Hall, the tag sale/rummage sale component that took place before the auction. There are books, magazines, patterns, kits, fabric, quilt tops, completed quilts, fresh garden veggies, quilt racks, notions, batting, vintage blocks, new blocks, embroidery hoops, quilt frames, knick-knacks…you name it, it was probably for sale there.

All items are donated by members that cleaned out their stashes, their closets, basements, those neglected tubs that haven’t been opened in five years…

And the live auction included some gorgeous, beautifully quilted quilts, quilt tops with backing and binding included, bundles of quilty-goodness for wine lovers, chocolate lovers, batik lovers, fans of traditional quilts… There was a laundry bundle that included a tabletop ironing board, a Clover Mini Iron, Shout Color Catchers, Dryer balls, Orvis soap, Retayne, and many other quilt care products–clever! The creativity that went into some of these baskets was just amazing in itself! I wish you all could have been there…if you had, we might have been able to raise another $10,000!

I brought home four pieces of vintage fabric from the Mall In The Hall sale…about six yards of 1940-1960 fabric in amazing condition (a few stains that I need to remove) for only $4.00!

This floral piece is just lovely (even if it doesn’t show that in the photo!), it is a cotton chintz, a three yard piece that I think may become a dress or skirt for your’s truly with the scraps going into a quilt…

The leaf fabric is called “Spring Song” it appears to be from the early 1950s, it has the cutest little dragonflies and fruits and leaves…just great! It has a few stains, but I believe I can get them out.

And this one, with the little dutch boys and girls?! Adorable! You can click on the photos to enlarge them and see the deatils better. I’m sure if my mind hadn’t been focusing on downsizing and moving for the last two weeks, I would have brought home much, much more last night! I did pick up these two patterns, though:

I drove across part of Iowa this weekend, to see my Mom and attend the baptism of my grand-niece. I once showed you the barn quilts that you can find dotting the Iowa landscape. On our way home Sunday, we stopped at a BP Station (petrol station) to use the restroom and saw this hanging above the cash counter:

It’s a quilt that shows all of the blocks that adorn the barns throughout Grundy County, Iowa. You can see more here.

Happy sewing!