To Market!

We interrupt the regular postings about process to go to Houston! I’m here at quilt market, ready to see all the pretties and soak up knowledge and inspiration!

I’m also doing a little work for Kim Kight of the blog fame… There’s so much new and groovy fabric out there that she asked for volunteers to help catch pictures of it all. So me and my ever trusty Nikon will be heading into the fray shortly!

Watch this space for pix!


Process – storage ideas, part 2

In the last post, I got halfway through describing some of the storage goodies in my studio… here’s some more stuff that lives on the big bookshelf:

Machine needles and spare blades live in their own little sectioned box, something I found at the hardware store. Always check the hardware store for storage options for small things – chances are you’ll get more choices for a cheaper price. I keep a good stash of spares on hand so I don’t need to run to the store mid project (or after hours).

On the center of the shelf in the above image is a sectioned plastic thingy that I got from a Tupperware clearance sale years ago. It used to live on my cutting table and hold my cutters, but now it’s over here filled with scissors, pliers, screw drivers, machine oil, etc. The wire rack on the left once held shampoo and bath goodies, but now holds all the little bits of paper that are reference materials I use often, along with my calculator. Pens and brushes go in mugs – I would guess that most of the pretty mugs in my world are holding pens! And on the left, underneath snacks and tissues is my binding box, which holds the scraps of all the binding I make. I frequently can collage these together into a fun scrappy binding so they are worth holding on to. The shelf below hold containers of pins, clips, thumbtacks, etc., along with my favorite tea.

And next to all of that is the fabric! I used to store my fabric in filing boxes (I know, the horror of all the acid of paper pulp next to my fabric!) but a job bonus a few years back allowed me to tool up with these “drawer in a box” units. I like how I can just pull a drawer out and not collapse my stacks, or have to move 5 boxes on top to get to the bottom one. Because what you need is ALWAYS in the bottom one.

The drawers are sorted by families (batik, modern, etc) and further by color family for the most part, with a few of them serving hybrid duty as needed. One drawer is all notions like ribbon and zippers. Another is full of patterns. I label each with an index card slipped in front of the first piece of fabric. More on my affinity for index cards in a later post…

On top of this row of drawers is another piece of cheapy particle board that I used to level off the top surface to make it more usable. The stuff I need quick or easy access to lives up here… current projects, radio, box of sewing machine feet (this is right behind me as I sew so all I have to do is swivel to get to it), and so on – including things that just don’t fit anywhere else like my old overhead projector. It’s also a catch-all for anything that has not yet been put away, so if there is going to be a mess explosion, it starts here.

And speaking of mess explosions… this is where the big stuff gets stored – all on a rolling rack. Crates of stuff for shows. Bolts of various stabilizers. Old pillow forms. Boxes of fine art that I don’t want out in the garage in case they get damp. A gumball machine(!). A few art garments. Quilts ready for layering and quilting. Batting up on top. The cases and covers for tripods and sewing tables. And anything else that fits… Like the last drawer in the kitchen that has all the odds and ends in it, this is final shuffling place for large scale mess in the studio. I really need to have a go at this and sort it out a bit!

Process – storage ideas – part 1

And so, back to the studio and the conversation of process. In this post, I’m going to show you some of my storage set-ups, and tell you a little about why I use what I use. I’m going to go counter-clockwise from the cutting table…

In the last post I talked about using office tools to hold my rulers, and here’s a close up of one of them. It’s about 3 inches deep with 3 sections, and works pretty well for almost all of my rulers. I organize them loosely from widest and weirdest (big squares and various triangles) at the back to narrowest and most used at the front. There are some other beautifully crafted wood widgets with grooves that I have seen at various shows, but I’ve never bought one because each groove holds only one ruler which makes them significantly deeper than my little rack. Deeper takes up table area, which is a party foul in a space as small as mine. Peg board might also work here, but I find it easier to grab the rulers from the rack than from the wall, and if I layer on peg board, you can bet the ruler I need is the one underneath – which means I have to move two rulers to get to one – not efficient!

Between the crates that hold up my cutting surface is a plastic unit of drawers. These are full of small things that I want to keep free of the ubiquitous dust that fiber studios create. The top drawer is full of marking pencils, chalk and such – things that I use at the cutting table. Lower drawers have small tools, special fibers, inks, paints, stamps and so on. They are organized by frequency of use with the most used at the top.

Moving left from the cutting table is a door (which has my to-do-list white board on it), and a pile of file-type boxes and crates in the corner, all carefully labeled, the contents of which I won’t describe as they mostly relate to the fine art side of my world. I have a dressmaker’s form squeezed between these boxes and my book case. There are two of them in the studio (because they don’t fit anywhere else in my life at the moment) and they seem to have turned into hangers for bags and other stuff, just like a treadmill in a bedroom becomes an expensive towel rack! I usually work with this door open so it’s fine that all of this stuff disappears behind it.

And on to the bookcase, where most of the things I use a lot are readily at hand. The things that get the most use here are the threads, needles, pens, paper, and snack food! And they are all in the middle which makes them easy to get at. This bookcase is piled to the ceiling, but I seldom need to get to the stuff that’s up high… which is why it’s up there!

I have several different types of thread storage going, each purchased to fit the size of threads they hold. I would much rather have one type of box, but I have yet to find one that serves all purposes without wasting space. I prefer the slightly soft, slightly opaque plastic cases (3rd image) because if I smack one on a corner or in the car trunk, it’s less likely to crack than the clear hard cases. But I have a bunch of those too because they work, and if I have to transport them to a retreat I pop them into totes to keep them safe. I don’t like having the thread out on decorative racks (as visually delicious and inspiring as it would be) because I don’t want them getting dusty. The only threads I keep out are cones of piecing threads.

Next to the threads are my bobbin boxes… I have a lot of bobbins so that I don’t have to unwind something to start a project (efficiency!). I like this style of box because they have a foamy insert that stops the bobbins from rattling around and unwinding. I keep the bobbins sorted by type of thread first, and after that color family. I periodically wind up whole boxes of the piecing threads, usually when I’m procrastinating other things (and more on that part of the process in a later post)

More storage to come…

Process – how’s your space?

I’ve been musing a lot about PROCESS of late. How I work, how I navigate my space, how I navigate my time.

While I was in graduate school (MFA in Fiber) I was “encouraged” to work in processes that were unfamiliar or uncomfortable… in essence my favorite toys and tricks were forbidden so that I would get out of my comfort zone. It was at times painful and frustrating, but the game afoot was to make me try this other stuff out so that I could either adapt some of it into my process, or return to my process without any of it and at least understand why I do things the way I do them. I’m sure my professors would be happy to hear I kept a few things in the improved toolbox!

Thus, I’m going to describe some bits and pieces of my process (over the course of various posts) to offer some insight into why I work the way I work, and perhaps there will be a gem or two amongst the scraps that could end up in your toolbox too…

One of the things I look at a lot is how efficiently I’m working. Efficiency is important to me, but not in the “I need to finish first” kind of way. It’s important because I have so, so many things I want to work on, so if I can increase my efficiency, I might actually get to more of them! And so, along this vein, this post is about how I have my workspace set up.

I am lucky to have a studio. Now, before you imagine one of those light dappled spaces in the glossy studio magazines, mine isn’t like that! It is a narrow space that was once a storage room in a friend’s studio, and I’ve puzzled it out into something that is working well (and just so you know, I used a similar set up when I kept most of this in the dining room). Here are two panoramic shots (how I love the Pano app on my phone!), one taken from each end of the space. It’s 18′ long by 8.5′ wide, or as a friend remarked, somewhat of a glorified hallway!

There are two principles afoot in this space… on one side is the stuff that doesn’t move – shelves, drawers, racks (the rack does have wheels but there is nowhere to roll it!); and on the other side stuff that can be moved and collapsed to accommodate what I’m doing – the design walls, the tables, my sewing table (I use a Sew-Ezi and love it). The non-moving side has been built to go UP – everything is shelved, modular, stackable, etc. And any surface on top of those is flat for more storage area.

My cutting table is a chunk of particle board across two shipping crates that my friend needed to leave in the space, and in that wonderful happy accident way, they are the perfect height for me for cutting. I made the board on top bigger than my mat so that I had room around it to store tools (I will get into my tool choices in another post), and I taped off the edges of the board to avoid snagging fabrics. The plastic drawer box fit between the crates perfectly, and I keep all my marking tools, pens and pencils in the top drawer.

For tool storage, I have a hybrid mix of things designed for sewists, and things appropriated from the Tupperware cabinet and office supply aisles. Full disclosure here… organizing widgets draw me in like a magpie to shiny. I love me some little boxes! But I would also rather save my pennies than have a full matchy-matchy array of plastic, so I scrounge and re-purpose. My rulers are stacked in a little metal filing thingy; weights in half a plastic box from the dollar store. Cutters, pens and scissors in metal pots from the craft store. The rule at this table is that everything I need to cut is right where I can grab it without having to dig or fuss. Also… I’m right handed, so notice that cutters are on the right and rulers to the left, which is how I actually use them. It might seem a little OCD, but it’s not… it’s just efficient… grab the cutter in one motion (notice the handles are up and ready just like a relay baton) and the ruler in another and I’m cutting.

And in the last shot for this post…. my bookshelf. What would we do without Ikea? This guy holds stacks of things that don’t fit easily into drawers, or that need to be visible (thread) or grabbable (more scissors, pens, note pads, snacks!). I keep most of my thread organized by type, then color, but I keep it in boxes so that it doesn’t get dusty. Only cones of my piecing threads are out, mostly because I use them so much. Next to the book shelf are box/drawers of fabric… more about those in another post!