Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quilt Studio Evolution

Before I begin the story of our quilt studio transformation, I want to go back further in time, to the days when my children were small and I did all my sewing in a corner of our dining room. Back then, I sewed with my children all around me, not just during their nap times. I discovered that children get used to your sewing equipment and tools and are less likely to get into things they shouldn't when they see them being used all the time. I have six children, and I never had any significant issues or problems with my children playing with my stuff (not that you shouldn't take precautions with things that are dangerous, because you definitely should!)

In fact, what happened instead is that most of my children grew up with an interest and a love for sewing--my two oldest girls sew (and quilt) very well, Laura (whom you've met) loves to do whatever I'm doing, and even one of my sons learned how to sew his own boxers when those were the rage. And now my grandchildren are continuing the tradition--including two of my grandSONS who are sewing regularly!

So, if you don't have a separate room in which to sew, just sew wherever you can and whenever you can and I think you'll find that your children or grandchildren will become interested in what you're doing and want to start doing it too!

The photo above is the room where I first did my quilting in this house. It isn't very small (12x18 feet) but it's down in the basement area with an outside wall and it gets COLD in the winter. We've even used it as an extra refrigerator when we've had large family dinners and needed extra space to store food! On the right side of the picture is a window that's been covered with an old quilt--you could feel a draft if you got too near it!

Here's the other side of that room. It also has French doors (probably part of the reason it's so cold) and my son had built a closet that wrapped one of the corners. I put wire shelving in there and that's where I stored my fabric.

Then I got my long arm quilt frame. The room I was sewing in was too small for it, since it's 12 feet wide, so we set it up in part of the basement family room, just inside the house from my quilt room. Behind the fridge on the left, you can just barely see the door that led into my sewing room. The long arm frame is on the right. Because I got so cold, I slowly began moving all my sewing furniture into the family room. It was certainly big enough. I think it's about 50 feet long!

It actually worked very well when I had friends from church over to sew, because we had lots of room to spread out and work on our quilts. I'm sitting over on the left and the window you see looks right into my former sewing room--it was actually an addition on the back of our house, long before we ever moved here.

The family room has baseboard heat and it became more and more expensive to keep it warm. But there were other problems in using it for a quilt studio, such as:

(My daughter is on the far left and my son is on the far right, Laura is in red in the middle.)
...young people needing a place to hang out. My kids and their friends tend to gather here, playing games, baking, playing Guitar Hero, etc. since we've got so much space and the family room is where it all happens.

...And family gatherings happen here too! We celebrate Christmas, birthdays, other holidays and hold regular family dinners--right in the middle of all my quilting stuff! We even used my cutting table as a food buffet! So, as you can see, I REALLY needed a different space to sew!

My husband (whom I dearly love) has only one major fault--he's a pack rat! He's also an Amateur Radio Operator or "Ham" and at one time he had set up some equipment in the workshop. Eventually he moved to a different room in the house, but a LOT of his stuff stayed behind...and he brought in more stuff...and MORE stuff! This room was so bad at one time that you couldn't easily walk from the door on one side to the door on the other! I had gradually been decluttering this room, setting a timer for 15 minutes a couple of days a week. I just wanted it cleaned up and useable; I didn't have a specific plan for it. I had been doing this for a year or two before these pictures were taken.

Then one day it just HIT me--this room would work as a QUILT STUDIO!!! I immediately went and got the tape measure and started taking measurements. I found out that my long arm frame would fit, along with all my other sewing furniture! Boy, was I excited! BUT...and this was a HUGE "but," I knew I would somehow have to sell Charles on the idea and I knew that it wouldn't be easy.

However, before I talked to my husband, I did what all the goal-setting programs out there tell you to do--I stood in that workshop, looking like you see it here, and I VISUALIZED it as my quilt studio. I looked at the floors, walls, doors, ceilings and pictured them in my mind the way I wanted them to be. I IMAGINED how it would look with all my quilting furniture and equipment in there. (And I have to admit, I PRAYED a lot too!) And it all worked--Charles came around and we began working together on this project--it actually ended up being a great bonding experience for the two of us!

One of the biggest hurdles was doing something about all the junk in there. Somehow (I'm still not quite sure how I did it!) I was able to find other places to put things. A LOT of stuff went to the dump (Charles knows, but we don't talk about it!) There are still some things just sitting out back of the house, but the room was cleared, and that I did mostly by myself.

We did much of the work ourselves, with Charles being the one with the skills and me assisting as his helper. Our first task was to replace the old wooden window with a new one.

For some reason, this photo wouldn't come through upright, even after I edited it, so you'll have to look at it sideways! Charles is very knowledgeable about electrical work and he rewired every outlet in the room, moving those that I wanted moved and adding extras where I wanted them. All the old insulation made breathing really difficult for him, so he had to wear a mask whenever he was working in there.

All of the electrical and phone panels are on the wall in this room and I had wondered how we would cover them up. Charles came up with the great idea to build a closet around that section of wall. At first I wasn't too thrilled about it, but now I'm so glad we did--it's wonderful to have a closet to store stuff, like rolls of batting and extra supplies! (Now I just need to get it organized!) He and a friend were able to quickly frame the closet one morning.

We hired the son of a friend who does great drywall work, to do the walls and ceiling. We used "green board" on the bottom of the room because we've occasionally had water on the floor in there during very heavy rains (but we think/hope we've fixed that problem!)

After the drywall work was done, I got busy doing all the painting in the room--two coats of primer on walls and ceiling, followed by two coats of regular paint. We thought it might be a while before we got the flooring, so I started moving in--I was anxious to start using my new space! But I wasn't there for long before I had to move everything back out again.

For lighting, we looked at fluorescent light fixtures at Home Depot and Lowes and the quality we wanted just wasn't there. So we ended up going to an electrical supply business where we bought six commercial grade fluorescent light fixtures. We have a set of three on each side of the room and Charles wired them so that I can switch on the ones on the long arm side of the room separately from the ones on the sewing side of the room. He also suggested adding a ceiling fan/light fixture for the center of the room and we did that too. It's been wonderful having such a handy husband!

We paid our two sons to come and lay the flooring for us--we're both getting a bit too old to do all that heavy knee-work and getting up and down is really tough. We kept supplying the planks while the boys put them in place. We used a kind of wood laminate flooring that's resistant to moisture. It wasn't difficult to install and they had it done in an evening, even with taking time out to eat some pizza!

After the flooring, all that was left was to finish trimming around the floor and the doors. Then I was able to move in and start sewing!
That brings us to where we are today--sewing and quilting in a lovely finished studio!
In another post I'll give you a tour of


  1. I love it! Congrats on your sewing area! I agree, prayer along with a lot of hard work helps it all turn out. Looks awesome!

  2. At our old house, I did my sewing on the dining room table. Luckily we also had an eating area in the kitchen, so I only cleared my sewing stuff when we were having guests over. Unfortunately, though, none of my 3 children is interested in sewing. I love to see before and after pictures of houses! Thanks for sharing yours.

  3. What a wonderful area! I have a room of my own where I sew, but I also work on the dining room table. The grandsons who live with us, sit with me in my sewing room, and in the dining room. They are very good about not touching Grandma's stuff, but they do make me laugh. The 5 year old thinks that my featherweight machine is a toy and since I have a couple he should get to play with one. The four year old likes my "tiny scissors" and needs a pair for his birthday.

  4. Oh my! Your new sewing area is beautiful! That was a lot of hard work.

  5. You have a fabulous sewing space! My husband is renovating our basement and it has been going on for quite some time. There have been some delays because of health issues but it is slowly moving forward. The toughest part is that we have basement 'stuff' all over the rest of the house waiting to go back down there once the reno is finished.

  6. Oh how lovely, you have certainly been rewarded for all your work!

  7. I enjoyed "being with you" through the process. I enjoy seeing how people put together their sewing and quilting places.

  8. Beautiful, i love it. What a transformation! Half of my basement is the hang out place for my son and his friends, I'm happy with that I know they're safe. Some day when he's older I'll have a larger space. Enjoy! ;-> Toni Anne

  9. Hi! What a beautiful sewing area!
    Just so neat! Thank you for sharing!

  10. THANK YOU !
    What a Surprise this morning to hear "I AM A WINNER"! So appreciate your Blog+a Sweet Giveaway!

  11. Congrats to the winners! Love this post. We bought this little rancher in Nov and are renovating the former owner's ham radio workshop to a quilt room. Can relate so much with you. Currently have all the old paneling and "mice condo" insulation removed (did I mention the cables, and cables :). What a mess. I think we are keeping the walls exposed and using the minimalistic approach through this next year, to see if we have any water issues, and then go from there! If only I could get as much as you (and Laura) get done in a day! Have a great Monday!!

  12. I found your blog through one of the linky parties, and I must say I love your quilt room! I sew on my dining room table and all my things are stored in one corner, one day I hope to get a sewing room to myself. :o)