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Quilt Storage

Way back in 2011 I posted about a wonderful feature in my studio I call my “Magic Box”. This is where I keep my art quilts that shouldn’t be folded – since I don’t have an unused bed to stack them on. I recently had an oops moment with the box, and thought it would be a good time to share this creative idea, especially since many more quilters are viewing my posts now. This was my intro back then:

“There are many options for storing finished quilts. Wallhangings which contain fusibles can be particularly difficult because folding can leave virtually permanent creases. When I was blessed with the opportunity to have my new studio built, I wanted to come up with a workable solution that wouldn’t take up a lot of space. After a bit of brainstorming my husband came up with the winning idea – the Magic Box! Think “Murphy Bed” hidden behind the design wall.”


My design wall is made of two fabric covered styrofoam insulation boards. They lean against the Magic Box when it’s closed (yes, there is always at least that much stuff hanging on it – no matter how hard I try to stop myself).


To open it, I pull the boards to the side,



unhook the hooks:


And gently allow the box to drop down to the floor:



There are weights (pvc pipes filled with concrete and covered with quilted tubes), connected with ropes through pulleys, that counterbalance the weight of the box/quilts, so I can lift the weight.


The quilts are held in place by batting covered boards, that clamp at the top and middle.


It has all worked wonderfully well for almost a dozen years, until a recent small snafu. I’ve been twisting the clamps gently because I didn’t want to put any undue strain on the quilts, but I think I was under-doing it. This was my most recent opening:


The center board held, but the top was too loose and all the quilts slid out from under it. No big deal. I simply removed the top boards and re-stacked the quilts. This system has worked very well for me. It takes up very little space and holds a lot of quilts! It’s too small for bed quilts (65″ x 65″), and it’s too cumbersome for small projects, but for large wall hangings it’s the perfect solution.

How do you store your quilts?


Treasured Quilts of Wisconsin

I’m very excited to share that Wendy and I will be featured in the upcoming PBS special “Treasured Quilts of Wisconsin”. It will be hosted by Nancy Zieman and will air twice: Tuesday, November 29, at 7pm-9pm and Saturday, December 3, at 10:30am. To read more about this special go to:

A Monday morning added note: One of my readers emailed me to ask if this program will be aired in Milwaukee, since she couldn’t find it on their schedule. I contacted the originators of the program and here is their answer:

“Unfortunately at this point, Milwaukee Public Television hasn’t picked it up. We are hoping it pledges well and the station will pick it up for March pledge. So you will be able to see this program anywhere in the state except for Milwaukee. But if viewers in that market have access to Wisconsin Public Television in their cable or satellite package, they should be able to watch it.”

November 13, 2016, sewing space/studio
Closet Clean-up

Two years ago I wrote a blog post entitled “Magazine Issues” in which I shared my frustration with my “collection” of old quilting magazines. My system was to put them in boxes and shove them in the bottom of the closet. From there I started just stacking them on the boxes:


(to read that post click here!). Many quilters responded to that post with great suggestions on how to organize my mess, but as of 3 days ago it still looked like this photo, plus 2 more year’s accumulation! Ugh!

A few months ago we had a professional organizer speak to our guild. She helped me face the fact that I hadn’t looked at a single one of these magazines after they found a dark home in the closet. Obviously I don’t need them. What I do need is space! I’ve cleaned and organized most areas of my sewing room a time or two in the 11 years we’ve lived here, but THAT closet had not been cleaned, in fact, it just kept getting more and more stuff shoved into it. I finally reached the point that no more would fit, and I had new stuff piling up in the rest of the studio with no place to put it. Since I just finished my 5 month long competition quilt, and the room was closing in on me, I decided enough was enough. Now what did that professional say I should do???

Oh yeah! Pull everything out of the area you want to organize (that way you can’t quit half way 🙂 )

cleaning my sewing room closet

I didn’t think to take the picture until after I had folded my medium/large quilts and re-filled a shelf with them – progress already!

I emptied the closet during the kid’s naps last Thursday. When Trey woke up I went upstairs to get him, that’s when Mike came home – looked at my studio – and asked me who I was mad at (it was a fast and furious mess). I guess the answer would be me, for letting it get so out of hand.

Since I hadn’t looked at a single old magazine, I decided it was time to “release” them. Most of my friends already have a lot of magazines of their own, so I “bit the bullet” and dumped them in the recycle bin. Actually, there were so many, and they were so heavy, that half will have to wait until next recycle day (the boxes in front of the bin).

closet clean mags gone

The recycling doesn’t get picked up until Thursday. If anyone wants them, let me know and I’d be happy to pull them out for you to pick up.

Well, yesterday I had an entire rainy, “non-babysitting” day, and this is what my studio looked like after one trip to the store for bins, and before Mike took me out to dinner to celebrate a hard day’s work:

cleaning my sewing room closet

And here’s the pile of stuff that’s going to my guild’s rummage sale:

cleaning my sewing room closet

There are still a few odds and ends to be put away, but many of my closet bins now have breathing room in them. Ahh! Next, I need to clean up the rest of the room once again. I think I’ll take a week off. And, oh yeah, there’s another challenge quilt I was thinking of making  😀 !

Cleaning does make one feel virtuous, but a person can only clean so much before they deserve a reward!

PS I still love quilting magazines. So, for a short while now, I’ve been much better about what I do with my new issues. I read them, copy anything I want out of them, and place the issue on the “share” table at my next guild meeting. This way I don’t have to “clean it up” later, and my friends benefit.

November 1, 2015, sewing space/studio
Fresh Start

While working on my Christmas projects, I could hear my machine start to grumble. I was making the microwave hot pads which required stitching with the batting against the feed dogs. This means lint! Time for a bit of cleaning and oiling – and even a new needle! It hadn’t been that long ago – really! (Why do we put this off?)

So I opened things up and … ugh:

lint1I learned years ago to clean these areas with a cotton swab that has a drop or two of sewing machine oil on it. This will collect the lint and leave a thin coat of lubrication:

lint2So I swabbed around and:

lint3This is actually a bit embarrassing – it’s amazing how quickly that link can build up, but I’m hoping it will encourage some of you to check things out in your bobbin area.

Now my machine is humming and I got all my projects done in plenty of time. Perhaps its time for you to give your machine a little tender loving care so that it’s fresh and ready for a new year of quiltmaking.

Have a safe and Happy New Year’s celebration!


My upcoming classes at WCTC – for those of you who live in Southeastern Wisconsin, here are some of my upcoming classes at Waukesha County Technical College. I’d love to have you join me and Wendy has some great classes scheduled also!

Quilting-Lacy-Hearts-webLacy Hearts – January 21; 9-2:30: In this hands-on class, learn to buttonhole stitch nine delicate hearts and then embellish them with lace, beads, buttons and treasures to create a lovely wall quilt (the on-line schedule has Wendy as the instructor, but it’s me).

spin star quilt

Spin Star Runner – February 14; 9-2:30: Create a four block table runner by combining a large print, multicolor fabric with creative cutting techniques resulting in star blocks that visually appear to “spin”.

quilting replique your home

Repliqué Your Home – February 21; 9-2:30: By using this technique from Chris Kirsch’s first book, learn to recreate any photograph into an accurate fabric replica using machine appliqué. No fusibles, templates or degree in art required! In the first half of class, learn to Repliqué on a sample block; in the second half, complete blocks while the instructor works one-on-one with individual quilters to determine fabric placement and appliqué order for specific pictures.

quilt quick card trick

A Quick Card Trick – April 11; 9-2:30: Learn this strip piecing twist on the traditional card trick block. A background fabric and four contrasting “card” fabrics are required to make 13 ten-inch blocks set on point in this eye-catching quilt.

To sign up for a class on-line: go to, click on “Course Search” in the top bar, type “quilting” in the “Subject/Title” box near the bottom and click on “Submit”. Click on the class you’re interested in and then click on “Sign up for a class” under “Getting started” in the sidebar on the right.



December 29, 2013, sewing space/studio

After last week’s post about Mary’s well organized sewing room, Lorraine Bahr sent me this email message:

“Chris, Just read your blog about how your friend Mary organized the closets in her quilt studio.  Thought you would enjoy seeing how I resurrected an outdated cabinet, gave it new life and now use it to organize my studio.

card catalog repurposed

Several years ago the high school in the district where I taught was going “digital” and was sending the old card catalog cabinet to the dump.  I asked to have it delivered to my house instead.  I gave it a fresh coat of paint, labeled the drawers, and now have it as a conversation (as well as an organizational) piece in my quilt studio.  Enjoy the photos below.”

card catalog repurposed

Here’s a detail shot. Lorraine is not only organized, but has an exciting color sense! Thanks for sending the pictures Lorraine!

Lorraine Bahr cabinet close up

Mike and I love to go antiquing and have done a bit of repurposing of our own. We came up with my favorite quilt related project prior to my new studio being built. When I wrote my first book our desk top computer sat atop a big, old desk and the keyboarding was so awkward that I ended up with a pinched nerve in my neck and a mid-evil looking traction device for a few weeks (it attached to a door and no – I’m not including pictures :-)). We knew we needed a computer desk, but didn’t like any of the modern ones available. So we decided to go antiquing and see what we could find. At the Columbus Antique Mall we found a pretty 1940’s enamel table in good condition. It had 2 leaves attached to the inside of the table that pulled out and into position with an ingenious use of springs. I asked Mike if he could remove one of the leaves and permanently attach it at the right level to make an ergonomically correct keyboard platform. He figured it out and I’ve been pleased with it ever since.
repurpose old table new computer desk

Have you had any quilt related adventures in re-purposing?

The Saga Continues

It seems Quiltilly’s story hasn’t quite reached it’s end.

A short while after Evelyn and Quiltilly’s reunion, Chris received this message and some pictures from Evelyn:

“Poor Quiltilly was quite traumatized from her kidnapping ordeal, so we invited a new quiltsissy, Quiltimae, to keep her company.  They wanted to play with Blue Bunny, but she wasn’t in a playful mood.

May 3

So they went out into the sunshine, climbed the lilac bush, and listened to the birds sing.


They sat in the violet garden until Quiltilly felt much better.  She needs to stay here to make regular visits to her psychiatrist, so she won’t be going on the cruise to the Baltic.

Instead, Quiltimae will accompany Evelyn on her first traveling adventure.


She is very excited to be going to all the capitols of Scandinavia as well as stops in Germany, Estonia, and St. Petersburg, Russia. She will be keeping a journal and will have lots of pictures to share with Quiltilly when she returns.

Bon Voyage Quiltymae! Since this is a similar cruise to the one Wendy and Chris are leading next May, we will be very interested to learn all about Quiltymae’s first travel adventure.


June 2, 2013, sewing space/studio
Ladies of the Lake

I met Mary Van Grinsvin at a PTO meeting when our sons were in middle school and we decided to volunteer to be co-presidents. We soon discovered that we both were quilters. We enjoyed some fun times together, but then our sons headed off to different high schools after which Mary and her family moved away. She and her husband recently retired to a beautiful home on a lake in northern Wisconsin and she became connected to a quilt guild in Minocqua. As fate would have it she volunteered to co-chair the program committee with Glennes Youngbauer, another quilter I had known years ago through a guild in the Milwaukee area. I’ve run into both Mary and Glennes at quilt shows over the years and was so pleased when they invited me to teach for the Ladies of the Lake quilt guild last weekend. It is a very talented and friendly guild and both workshops were a lot of fun (at least for me they were :-)). Silly me, I forgot to get my camera out during the classes, but Mary did send me a picture of some of ladies and the Mariner’s Compasses they made in class.

Mariners Compass quilt classNot only were the classes a blessing, but I had a wonderful time staying with Mary and Greg. Their home is lovely, but what blew me away was her studio.

quilt studio

What wonderful natural light and everything is so neat (she did admit to picking up a little before I arrived). Mary is an organizational genius and after seeing her storage closet, I knew I had a blog topic to share.

quilt studio

She had her shelves built with 8″ between them and she places each of her projects in a bin. She found these bins through a medical supply company and had to order 100 of them. She has used 64 so far and sent one home with me. Doesn’t this inspire you to get organized? It certainly has given me the organizing bug.

After class each night we had a bit of time on the lake. A ride in Greg’s new boat was a joy on Saturday and on Sunday Mary and I chased a loon while kayaking. What fun!

kayaking quilters

kayaking quilterThanks Mary for a delightful weekend!


The Quiltilly Conclusion

To refresh your memory – last week Quiltilly ran away and got into some mischief. Upon her return she decided to hide because she knew Chris wasn’t too happy about her nose ring!

While Chris looked high and low for that naughty Quiltilly, Quiltanna felt it her responsibility to expose her hiding place (the fishbowl of scraps):

KK-P13q-fishbowlAfter climbing out everyone talked it through and the Quiltsissies were back to having fun. So much so that they were found hanging from the rafters.

L P13q-rafter-hangingIt was at this point Chris realized how much Tilly’s missing hand hindered her and she decided to do something about it – a cup hook fit the bill handily!

M P13q-new-handAll too soon this little adventure was reaching a conclusion. Evelyn was heading to the Baltics for an exciting cruise and she really wanted to take Quiltilly along. Chris invited her to lunch (Wendy wasn’t able to be there) and Evelyn arrived with the ransom in hand. She was a bit reticent to hand it over, but Chris was happy to take it:

R-P13-paying-ransomOoooh! Diamonds!


Joy only a Mom can display!


But Evelyn wasn’t too sure about the hook!

V-P13-a-hookThe Quiltsissies served a yummy lunch and afterwards Chris sent this note to Wendy:

“Diamonds! And they’re batiks! We’re rich! Evelyn and Quiltilly were happily reunited and excited about their trip to the Baltics next week. Only wish you and Quiltina could’ve been here. All’s well that ends well!”

and they all lived happily ever after.

The End

PS Chris received this note a few hours later:

“We had to drive thru almost  blinding rain but Quiltillie and I are safe at home.  Quiltillie cried all the way.  She has been thru such an ordeal.  I was so glad to rescue her from the clutches of her kidnappers.  I’ll probably have to take her to a psychiatrist.”

Perhaps not everyone lived happily ever after :-(.






May 26, 2013, sewing space/studio Travel
A Future Quilter

My granddaughter, Sommer, is almost a year old and growing fast. She is a joy and a very easy baby to care for, which is a blessing since Mike and I still watch her 5 days a week! About a month ago she was playing with toys in the middle of the studio and I was choosing fabrics for a quilt. When I had settled on just the right ones I left them in a pile near my stash and went to answer the phone. Sommer was just starting to do a bit of crawling at this time and when I turned around she had crawled over to the fabrics and was reverently petting them one by one as if to say “great choices grandma”!

Well, she caught onto the crawling thing quite quickly and a few days later I just happened to have the camera nearby when she decided to do some exploring. She’s really into “open” and “close”. I hope you’ll indulge me:

“Sommer, whatcha doin?”

Future Quilter

“Grandma, I think there’s fabric in there!”

Future Quilter

“Oooooh pretty!”

Future Quilter“Just look at it all”!

Future Quilter“Gotta touch it …………….. and there’s more over there!”

Future Quilter“Flannel and fleece!”

Future Quilter“It’s so soft. Wanna feel it Grandma?”

Future QuilterAnd I did, so the photo shoot was over. Do you have any pictures of your kids or grandkids enjoying fabric that you’d like to share? Please email them to me at I’d love to see them and it might be fun to share them on a future blog.


February 24, 2013, sewing space/studio
Quilt Floating 2

Last week’s post explained what quilt floating is and the supplies required. This week’s post is about putting it all together so quilting the quilt can be as much fun as making the top! (for those who missed last week’s post, just scroll down to read all about it)

There are 2 different ways to construct the frame, depending upon your machine/table set up. Both are described here.

Side Mount: If your table/cabinet is less than 6’ wide and more than 1½’ deep you’ll want to place the clamps on the sides. To do this clamp the Slide Clamps to the table/cabinet on each side about 1½’ behind the sewing machine.

Attach the aluminum slat to the holes in the clamps with bolts and wing nuts.


Back Mount: If your table/cabinet is more than 60” wide and less than 2 feet deep, you’ll want to place the clamps along the back. To do this clamp the Slide Clamps to the table/cabinet along the back – about   3 1/2’ apart.

Then slide the metal rod through the holes in the clamps (this is shown 2 pictures down).

Attach one chain to each Spring Clamp by opening an end link, inserting it through the hole in the clamp and closing the link.

Place the end of one chain over the top bar and Bull Nose clip the chain to itself so the Spring Clamp is at a good height (this can be easily adjusted depending on the size of the project). Repeat for the other chain/clamp.

Place the quilt under the sewing machine needle in the area you want to begin quilting.  Be sure that you have the bulk of the quilt behind the machine.

Grab a bunch of the quilt even with the right side of the machine and about 3’ back on the quilt, raise it up and grab it with the right clamp.

Repeat behind the left side of the machine with the left clamp and you’re ready to begin quilting. As you progress across your quilt simply unclamp and reclamp as seems necessary.

I hope many of you will find this helpful and will let me know how it works for you. Please feel free to share this information and/or forward my blog to your quilting friends!

Quilt Floating

Free Motion machine quilting a large quilt on a home sewing machine can be a bit daunting. A few years ago I developed a system that makes free motioning a bit easier. I’ve been sharing it with my classes, but decided now to share it on my blog so that more quilters might benefit. I call the process Quilt Floating and it’s my way of suspending the weight of the quilt instead of fighting it!

There’s quite a bit of information to share, so I’d like to do it in two installments. This week I’ll be sharing the concept, supplies and basic information. Next week’s post will include the specific set up instructions for all who are interested.

Here’s a picture to give you an idea of what Quilt Floating looks like:

Before we get to the actual frame, there’s a few tips I’d like to share. If your sewing machine is in a cabinet – great. It is also helpful to have some support to the left of the machine. If you don’t have any, placing an adjustable ironing board there is a good solution.

If you don’t have a cabinet you will want to find a way to avoid “sewing on a mountain”, ie: with the machine perched on top of a table or desk. Even table extenders don’t solve this problem with a large quilt because pins and folds of quilt get caught on the edges. My best suggestion is to place a card table in an “L” against your kitchen table or a banquet table. Then set the machine on a tv tray in the inside corner with enough magazines to make the bed of the machine flush with the tables.

Now you’re ready to float the quilt. All of the supplies can be purchased at your local hardware store *.

2 Lengths of Chain (approximately 18” long – links should be 1 ½” long)

2 Bull Nose Clips (3/4”)  These can be found with office supplies. They are inexpensive and will clip and unclip the chain together very easily (not in the picture).

2 Slide Clamps (36” long)  Both the old fashioned “C” clamps that screw to tighten or the deluxe new ones that pump tight will work. Choose the best quality clamps you can afford. I took my husband shopping and thus I own the Cadillac of clamps, but at least I waited until they were on sale. They are very easy to use! It’s important to have a hole in the bar at the non-clamp end for a rod or bolt to go through.

2 Spring Clamps (6” long) These are plastic, fairly inexpensive and have holes in the handle ends. They squeeze to open.

1 Top bar 6’ long or long enough to fit the width of your table/cabinet. You’ll want the “Quilt Float” positioned about 1 ½ feet behind the sewing machine. Depending upon your space, you’ll need to choose a “top bar” option:

1. If your table/cabinet is less than 6’ wide and more than 1½’ deep you’ll want to place the clamps on the sides. For this arrangement you’ll need: 2 bolts and 2 wing nuts that will fit through the holes at the ends of the Slide Clamps and a 6’ piece of aluminum slat with holes at even intervals along the length.

2. If your table/cabinet is more than 60” wide and less than 2 feet deep, you’ll want to place the clamps along the back. For this arrangement you’ll need to buy a ¼” diameter Steel Rod (4’ long)

*If you quilt in a basement with exposed rafters you will only need the chains,  bull nose clips, spring clamps and a couple of nails!

Next week we’ll put it all together!

Window View Challenge Deadline Extension!

On another note – I’m having a lot of fun playing with new techniques on my “Window View” challenge. I’m thinking it would be a good idea to have an extra week or 2 to “get ‘er done” and so I’m changing the deadline from April 1st to  April 15th. I’d appreciate getting a picture of your finished project by then for posting on that week’s blog.

If you haven’t checked out the pictures of the current views, please click here. If you were thinking of participating, but needed more time, send me a picture of your view and jump on in!

Magic Box

There are many options for storing finished quilts. Wallhangings which contain fusibles can be particularily difficult because folding can leave virtually permanent creases. When I was blessed with the opportunity to have my new studio built, I wanted to come up with a workable solution that wouldn’t take up a lot of space. After a bit of brainstorming my husband came up with the winning idea – the Magic Box! Think “Murphy Bed” hidden behind the design wall.

If you’ve been reading my blogs from the beginning, you may remember an early post about photographing quilts on June 23, 2010. In it I explained that my design wall is portable so I can take it outside for photography. This also frees up that wall space for the Magic Box (this is a narrow side view of design wall/magic box/wall).

The Magic Box is 6′ square and 7″ deep. Here’s how it works. When it is closed two large hooks on both sides at the top, hold the box against the wall. The bottom is held along the wall by a continuous hinge that isn’t visable. The design walls (2 large sheets of styrofoam covered with fabric) lean against it.

To lower the Magic Box I lean one design wall against the actual wall and perpendicular to it, on the right.

The other design wall leans against the closets to the left (and off the picture). Now the Magic Box is exposed and ready to be lowered.

To lower the Magic Box, I unhook the upper corners and let it down slowly until it rests on the floor.

My handy husband added the weights (pvc pipe filled with concrete and covered with free-motion quilting samples :-), ropes and eye bolts to make it easier to raise and lower.

The quilts are secured between two pairs of 1″ x 4″ boards, covered with batting. One pair is at the top of the box and the other half way down. One board of each pair is secured to the back of the box and has a large bolt sticking out at each end. Once the quilts are layered in the box, the other boards are placed over the bolts and screwed semi-tight with “handle-nuts”.

I can now unscrew the handles, remove the top boards, retrieve or add quilts, reattach the boards and then hook the Magic Box back into place against the wall.

It really works and I love it! Now to put a little time into clearing off all the junk hanging on my design wall – ugh – it’s always something :-)! 

November 13, 2011, sewing space/studio
Post Tripping

It took me most of Monday and Tuesday last week to unpack all the stuff I had taken to Paducah, do some laundry and catch up on mail, etc.. At that point I was left with the pile of new stuff I bought at the AQS show. It got me to thinking about quilters and shopping. I’m not sure if this will sound familiar, but there have been many years when I start packing for my annual pilgrimage to Paducah and unearth the complete, and untouched, pile of stuff I had bought there the previous year (a bit embarassing to admit to, but I bet I’m not alone :-).

This is rather guilt inducing and I truly dislike feeling guilty, so I’ve come up with a plan. Actually, my friend Laura and I brainstormed this idea 2 summers ago when we attended the Milwaukee Bead and Button Show. We walked out embracing our treasures and decided we couldn’t go back the next year unless we did something with 3 of our purchases! It ended up being a good challenge and we both were up to it. We used our 3 items in a short amount of time and felt quite virtuous.

So, here’s a photo of my Paducah 2011 “had to haves”:

You might notice a bit of fabric. Who can resist? There’s a few books and a bunch of embellishments, along with 1 tool I’ve already used. I’ll tell you about it in a future blog.

I believe this type of personal challenge will help you to not only alleviate the guilt, but inspire you to use that great stuff. One additional recommendation is to assimilate the stuff you don’t use into the stash so you avoid finding those pesky piles next year.

So………………..have you ever? What do you think of the 3 item challenge? Any additional suggestions?

Project Creep

After posting the pictures on Monday I pulled everything off the shelves/counters and decided to really clean and organize. In class yesterday at WCTC, Cindy shared the expression “Project Creep” (referred to as PC from now on :-). She said this is when you begin doing something small (fix sewing table) and it escalates step by step into lots of work and, usually, a fair amount of unplanned expense. BINGO! She hit the nail on the head. Then Jean added that the good part is we feel so virtuous once it’s done. I’m almost there :-)!

Mike did a wonderful job repairing my table. We took the old tv to the recylcing center and in it’s place I now have a 19″ flat screen that weighs almost nothing and has a great picture, but it needed to be elevated. So Mike and I had to go antiquing (one of our favorite pastimes) and we found a great “explosives” crate with dovetail joints. It was only $25. Do I hear “project creep”? Its a handy place to keep all the essentials close at hand and provides space under the tv I didn’t have before.

But the tv was still too low, so I raised it up on an old wood case my dad (a retired dentist) inherited with his first practice. It was meant to hold the plastic teeth used to make dentures, but I discovered its a perfect place to keep my button collection! Now the tv is at the right level and I’m much more organized!


My threads had been in “Matchbox Car” cases and I used to love the organization they provided, but I found I was always opening, closing and flipping boxes to find what I needed. Thus, I had to hit the store for a plastic drawer unit that went where the microwave had been. I love the ease of finding threads now! More “PC” expense, but that virtuous feeling is making it all worthwhile.

The microwave is now at the end of the counter, the counter and shelves are dusted and organized and I’ve only got that small (relative term) pile of stuff left in the middle of the room I really don’t know what to do with.

I plan to have that gone by lunch. I wonder if it’s going to cost me any more “PC” cash??? 

Thanks to Cindy and Jean for their input. Anyone else have a great organizing/storage tip they’d like to share?

(a 2pm addition to the original post)

Eureeka!!! The pile’s gone, the carpet’s vacuumed and it’s only 2 hours past lunch. Talk about feeling virtuous. I think I need a cup of tea and a piece of dark chocolate :-)!

January 14, 2011, sewing space/studio

While taking the photograph of my “3 Pin” technique for last week’s blog, I broke the gate leg on my sewing machine cabinet. My dear husband was kind enough to attempt a repair, but that required pulling everything out and flipping it over in the middle of the room.

This allowed me to view all the dust bunnies that were hiding behind the machine and a new adventure began. Here’s the way my studio looks now:

And another angle with Mike hard at work :-)!

Now don’t you feel better about the condition of your space?

The problem with projects like this is that one thing leads to another and there are some cleaning/reorganizing things that just need to be done. Like…………….


The tv that sits next to my machine is old, big and still has a dial that clicks when you change channels. It has to go! So now I need a new, small flat screen tv and I’ll have to find some sort of extra storage to go beneath it (reorganizing always seems to have a price tag attached). While purchasing the tv I was informed that the microwave (just to the right of the tv) shouldn’t sit next to it, so I’m pulling everything off the counters and shelves and hope to come up with some great new studio set up ideas. Hopefully Thursday’s post will prove quite interesting.

Any suggestions while I’m at it???

 PS This really isn’t helping the fact that the latest Milwaukee Art Quilter’s challenge deadline was moved up and I’m only at the designing stage. That’s what keeps life interesting :-)!

January 9, 2011, sewing space/studio
Sewing On a Mountain II

Years ago I wanted to quilt a king sized quilt and I didn’t have a large sewing table so I improvised. This works quite well when you only need to set it up occassionally. I used a portable banquet table, a card table and a tv tray. The 2 tables are placed in an “L” with the tv tray in the inside corner. Place the machine on the tv tray with enough magazines under it to bring the bed level with the tables. Voila! It’s that easy!

Beth G shared a website for another slick way to create an inexpensive and  more permanent arrangement at: Thanks Beth!

I hope many of you found this helpful!

I’d like to squeeze  in one last note about my first Open Lab class this semester at Waukesha County Technical College. It’s a four week class that was scheduled to begin on September 9th. I’ll be teaching at Nancy’s Notions Quilting Expo in Madison, WI on that day and so the class has been changed and will begin on September 2nd. We’ll skip the 9th and continue the remaining 3 weeks after that. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do sew soon :-)!

August 12, 2010, sewing space/studio
Sewing On a Mountain

No, I’m not talking about stitching at your cabin in the woods, but a way to make quilting easier :-). My definition of “sewing on a mountain” is when your machine is perched atop a desk or table. This way of quilting is bad for many reasons:

First – its too high, so you need to either raise your chair (which, if you’re vertically challenged, makes it difficult to reach the foot pedal) or just grin and bear it. Ergonomically this is hard on your body. The desired position when machine quilting, is to have the bed of the machine at elbow level so that when your arms are bent at a right angle your forearms are parallel with the work surface.

Second – the flat, usable portion of your machine is small. This makes it hard to piece and even more difficult to quilt.

Third – when working on a larger quilt you are constantly fighting the weight of the quilt as it falls off the machine bed. Plus, it’s easy to get safety pins hooked on the corners of the machine bed when machine quilting.

So, what to do?

Often I’m told that an extension table that fits around the machine is the answer. These do improve conditions when piecing, but many of the same problems persist when machine quilting a larger quilt because there is still an edge where the weight of the quilt drops off and pins can get caught.

A sewing cabinet or custom made table is the ideal option. If you don’t have one, I’m giving you permission to get one, and soon! I own a Tracey’s Table. Mike Spangler, the son of my dear friend Diane, makes them. He is located in Wisconsin, but he sells his cabinets and tables throughout the US. I highly recommend them. The quality is excellent and the price reasonable!

If a table is out of the question at this time, I have some rather clever suggestions to share (if I do say so myself), but I think I’ll save them for my Thursday post. Stay tuned :-)!

August 9, 2010, sewing space/studio
Fabric Shortage II – Thanks Jeri!

Thanks for all the great comments!

I came up with this week’s topic because I’ve been dealing with this issue once again. Shortly before my Paducah pilgramage this past Spring I was working on a quilt for an upcoming class at Waukesha County Technical College. I made a bunch of blocks with a beautiful dragonfly fabric and realized I wasn’t going to have enough for a lap sized quilt. I searched for it all over the AQS show in Paducah to no avail. Then I showed the blocks to my students/friends in a class at Madison Area Technical College in Watertown, after which I shoved all the pieces in a pile in the corner of my studio and went on to something else. A few weeks later my dear friend, Jeri, handed me a floral print fabric in the same colors and asked if it would work. Praise the Lord for quilting friends!

It was a great match and actually made the quilt even more interesting! Quite often I don’t need the exact fabric and substituting makes a better quilt.

I remember Jinny Beyer saying that 3 fabrics make a lovely quilt, 10 will be more interesting and 100 will make it spectacular (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea). So don’t be afraid to substitute if you can’t find more and be sure to ask your friends. Quilting friends are priceless :-)! 

July 15, 2010, sewing space/studio
Fabric Shortage

“Oh no! I’m in the middle of a project and I’ve run out of one of the fabrics. I loved it, so I bought a whole yard! I thought it would be enough, but it isn’t.” Has this ever happened to you?

It happens to me quite often. Perhaps because I’m frugal and seldom buy more than a yard of anything when impulse/stash shopping. Then I’m forced to be creative.

I’ll share some of my fixes in Thursday’s post. What about you? Do you just shove the project in a pile and plan to deal with it later? Are you one of those people who knows how to search for a particular fabric on the web? Do you recommend any websites for this? Feel free to comment :-)!

July 12, 2010, sewing space/studio
Quilt Books II

Books are a great source of inspiration. A dear non-quilting friend once told me that people collect many things just for the joy of owning them. Stamps, thimbles, baseball cards, even cars.

They don’t have to “use” them to justify having them. That is how I look at my quilt library. Even if I never make a project from each book, if I’ve enjoyed looking at the pictures, reading about a new technique, or was inspired by color choices,  it was a worthwhile purchase. Being an author I hope you add to your quilting library often :-).

That being said – what great organizational fixes did I come up with? Well, your comments were a big help. I realized that many of the books I own I recognize by title or subject more often than author or publisher, so I decided to make piles by category: piecing, applique, artsy, history, etc. Then I put them on the shelf alphabetically by author’s last name within the category. I also made a list in the same order on my computer. That way I know at a glance what I have. I did go to “” and found it very interesting, but decided having my own list on my computer was sufficient. The amazing thing is the picture looks the same as in my last post(ha!ha!). Changing the order didn’t change the picture much!

I also found a few books that no longer interest me. They are in the “donate to the guild library” pile. This made a little room :-). But the best part was I discovered 2 books that have inspired me on my next project. If I hadn’t gone through the library I wouldn’t have thought of them! Hooray!

Thank you all for your input and the inspiration to do something I’d been putting off for a long time. Hopefully many of you were inspired to organize too.

I’ll try to choose a topic next week that doesn’t require so much effort!

July 1, 2010, sewing space/studio
Quilt books

Last week, after reading my photography post, Claire sent me an email in which she brought up the topic of organizing our quilt book collections. This made me painfully aware that I don’t have all the answers (ha!ha!). My library system up until now is to put each book on the shelf wherever it will fit and then hunt through every title when looking for something I want. Now I have until my Thursday post to get my act together. I’m going to analyze my collection and see what miracle ideas I come up with.

I’m sure some of you have answers to this dilemma. If so, please share them with us by clicking on “comments” at the bottom of this post. I’d really love your insight and I’m sure others would too. Just to get things started, here’s a “before” picture of my bookshelf. Not too terribly messy and yet without organization!

June 27, 2010, sewing space/studio
Stash Storage
Thanks to everyone who commented about their stash. I found the responses very eye opening and I learned a lot. They helped me to see how different we are. Some collect by fabric line, some by style of fabric (ie: Asian), some by exactly what’s needed for the next project and some just buy what speaks to them in “that” store at “that” time. I would fall into the last category.

My philosophy is to have a well rounded stash with a good variety of colors and values so that I’m able to create my next project without having to go shopping (a good theory, even if it doesn’t always work). The majority of my fabrics are arranged by color and I developed a method of storing them when we moved into our current home 6 years ago. I was able to design my new quilt studio in our walk out basement with lots of light and a good amount of storage. I have quite a bit of space, but it’s not limitless, so I still have to be organized. 

Here’s what I’ve found works for me. I don’t like to dig in bins and I want my fabrics protected from light, so I keep them on wheeled carts. 

The carts have 3 flat shelves each and the shelves measure 15” x 20”. I purchased the carts to fit in a cupboard built under my counter and made the mistake of having the cupboard built first (duh!). Surprisingly, it only took a short bit of internet surfing to find them on a physical therapy supply website (of all places!). I’m sorry I don’t remember the site, but I’m sure the size you need can be located fairly easily.

Most of my fabric pieces are around a yard, but many are as small as a ¼ yard and some are as large as 2 yards. I fold each fabric to approximately 7” x 9” so they can be stacked 2 across and 2 deep on each shelf.  That way I only need to spin the cart to see other colors.
You may notice that I have bungee cords wrapped up the sides and over the top of the carts. This keeps the fabrics on the top shelf from flying off if I spin the cart too quickly :-).

 Now you may not have a cupboard such as mine, but I envision this working very well for the many quilters I know who make their studios in the empty nest rooms of their college age kids. These carts would fit beautifully into those abandoned bedroom closets and if the machine is in a different room, the wheels make it all very mobile. This would also be helpful for those who make their sewing space at the dining room table – the fabrics can easily be in whatever room you need them.

My main fabric stash fits on these carts and there’s still a little room to spare. My multicolor prints, hand dyes and batiks are not grouped by color, but category, and they fit on one of the carts also. I have to admit that the fabrics I use less frequently such as my holiday fabrics, children’s prints and flannels are still in a bin or two. Nothing is perfect. The only down side I’ve found to this system so far is that when I finish a project and there are fabrics left over they don’t magically reshelf themselves. Any suggestions?

           Kathleen’s comment about storing smaller scraps is a whole new topic. I have a large fish bowl on my counter that I fill with these “too small to fold” pieces and strips. When it gets full I dump them in a bin and when the bin gets full I make myself do a scrap quilt. My most recent one was from Sharon Rotz’s book: “Log Cabin Quilts With Attitude”.  That top used up most of my scraps and is awaiting borders. The trouble is I’ve already refilled my fish bowl. So many quilts, so little time. Here’s a true confession: Sometimes when my fishbowl gets full and I can’t deal with the guilt, I’ll dump it in a bag and donate it to my guild’s next white elephant auction. My friend, Laure Reuters, purchased my last “guilt dump bag” and made a delightful quilt with it!

I’ll watch for more comments and come up with a new topic on Monday :-)!



PS Here’s how I fold yardage to fit on the carts:

step 1: lay out fabric length with original fold

step 2: fold left edge over 9" (1/4 yard), repeat as needed

step 3: fold remainder into thirds

June 2, 2010, sewing space/studio