Friday, June 17, 2011

My Studio and My Tools

My studio is a little less than 8 feet wide, set up so I can move between sewing, cutting, pressing and designing stations by simply rolling and rotating in my chair. I have felt-covered Styrofoam boards nailed to the walls, and a couple of free-standing design boards. Fabric pieces easily cling to the felt surface and I can stick a pin through the Styrofoam if needed. These design walls are usually covered with works-in-progress, and sections of strip pieced fabrics from which I construct my art quilts.

I sort and store my fabric in clear plastic boxes - the size made to fit under a bed. Every piece of fabric, whatever the length or width, is wrapped around a 6" acrylic ruler - and then I slip the ruler out so I have a flat roll of fabric. I stack the fabric on end in the boxes, so I can see the skinny edge of every piece in the box. Each box contains a color collection of fabrics - mixing prints, solid and hand-dyed fabrics, in pieces ranging from a few inches wide to a yard or two.

I cut strips of fabric using a rotary cutter, but no ruler, As I cut, I toss the strips in piles like fabric fettuccini. I will cut a variety of widths, in a range of values, hues and visual textures. The greater the number of different fabrics, the better they seem to work together. I organize these loose strips in large plastic baggies - hanging from a clothesline that stretches across the room above my head.

My sewing machine is a Juki TL 98Q with a quarter inch presser foot, knee lift and foot-operated thread cutter, which allows me to sew at breakneck speed. I also have a lot of control at slow speeds, and can set the needle to stay in the down position every time I stop. It only does a straight stitch, but it does it perfectly, and very fast. It is also fabulous for free-motion machine quilting.

Another essential tool is my steam iron: I press each seam as soon as they are sewn - usually pressing seam allowances open to reduce bulky intersections. I press at each step of the cutting-sewing process, so a piece will be perfectly flat when finished. I made a large, rectangular ironing surface. from an aluminum shelf covered with a cotton towel and silver ironing board fabric.

My studio is one of my favorite places to be. I have good light and lots of design walls, and everything is organized so I can find exactly what I want without hunting. I love being able to sew, press, cut and design without getting out of my one rolling chair!