The Free Motion Quilting Project: Redesigning the Studio...Again!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Redesigning the Studio...Again!

It's been about six months since I realized the house was no longer big enough and built the Crafty Cottage in the back yard. Installing and renovating this little barn has made such an enormous difference for filming videos easily without interruption.

But my space issues haven't gone away inside the house. Dad and I still work together a huge amount in the basement sewing rooms and lately they've been feeling overwhelmingly cluttered and chaotic.

We've also been focusing more on machine embroidery, but both embroidery machines were set up in Josh's office. Between the embroidery machines running, Josh trying to pack orders, and Dad and I trying to talk over design edits, these rooms are feeling positively claustrophobic.

One of the first steps I take in a remodel is Identify the Problem.

What is the main problem with the basement rooms? Why does it feel like it's not working, and how can it be better arranged for everyone to work easier and more efficiently?

Running through this question, I came up with three things that needed to change:

1. Embroidery machines need to move - They're badly positioned in Josh's packing office and we're constantly in Josh's way. We also can't run the machines while Josh is editing videos because they're too loud to hear over.

2. Less clutter, more peace of mind - I went overboard a few years ago with shelves. It seems like every flat wall that would stand still long enough got a shelf screwed to it and piled with boxes and bins of quilting stuff. How much do I use this stuff? Hardly ever! The things I'm not using daily need to be put away in another room. Less shelves and clutter on the walls automatically make the rooms feel larger and more peaceful.

3. Repurpose unused spaces - When analyzing my space I found two areas that were relatively unused - the table mounted longarm and a large desk in my upstairs office. Why weren't these spaces being used? Could they be repurposed or combined and become more useful again?

Quilty Table specifically designed for sit down longarms
With the longarm, I finally admitted that I hated the table it came in. No matter how many modifications I made to it, the table never felt right and quilting always felt awkward with the head of the machine facing me.

So I did some research and found a new table! Arrow Sewing Cabinets has just created a new Quilty table that's designed for table mounted longarms like my Juki 2200, but it sets the machine up like a domestic, which feels much more comfortable to me. Yes, we will be carrying this new table in our store soon because I absolutely LOVE it!

I also decided to move the longarm to my upstairs office. The large desk that was not being used (except to hold piles of clutter) was dismantled and the new Quilty table fit perfectly into this space.

What I love most about having the longarm upstairs is it's so easy to jump on the machine and stitch a bit at any odd time of the day. Last night while James got ready for bed, I quilted another hexagon star panel with rulers.

One move leads to another

So now with the longarm table out of the basement sewing room, I have the space to move both embroidery machines! Moving that one big machine out of the room, and removing the cluttered shelves has made a huge difference for how the sewing room looks and feels.

Of course, all the random shelves, lights, and camera mounts I've screwed to the walls have left their mark. I've decided to patch and paint these walls before the machines move so the room really will feel brand new.

While I wish I could say there is a one time fix for studio space, I've come to realize that there isn't. This is always going to be an evolving process.

If you've been struggling with space issues too, try identifying the problem. What is the area that bugs you the most? Do you have a guest room that's not really being used for guests? What is the #1 thing taking up your space? Is it worth that space or can it be moved or repositioned so your quilting area is more efficient?

Yes, it may take some work and planning, but taking control over your space and building the quilting area of your dreams doesn't have to be expensive or outrageous. It starts with identifying what you want, and taking one step at a time to make it happen!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. You're so right. Sometimes we spend so much time making do when identifying and fixing a simple problem can make all the difference. It is also an evolving process as your needs, processes, and life changes over time.

  2. We've been playing a version of musical chairs in our cottage, but with entire rooms. Every few years we seem to switch things around to accomodate our family and my studio place. We may be at the point where we need a bigger house or addition for the next move though.

    I've felt the same way about the sit down long arms. I prefer that they are oriented like a sewing machine. Sitting at the head end was disorienting.

    Kudos to you for adapting and changing!

  3. Forgive my ignorance, but the machine you got the nex desk for, are you moving the fabric like you would on a small sewing machine or moving the head? I asking because I'm want a quilting machine and I would have the room for something like this. I going to the quilting show in Paducah this year hoping to get some ideas. I would like some idea as what to look for.

    1. This is a table mounted longarm, so the machine is stationary and you move the quilt under the needle. The other type of longarm where the machine moves is called a Rail Mounted Longarm.

  4. My problem is one 10x10 foot room and 5 different medias that I work in. Fabric, glass, polymer clay, paint and Lino hand carved print blocks. Trying to clear the room of the rest of all the maybe art supplies has been a problem for me. I love my Babylock tempo and the table I sits on makes it the right height, but I have it wedged between a tall dresser on the left and part of another work table and a worthless corner on the right. I need to do something. Maybe just throw a grenade and give up.

  5. Thank you for sharing your adventure with your house. Keeping quilting from taking over your house is quite challenging. We usually have more "stuff" than we really need!

  6. I don't want to be nosy, however I would love a post following you thru a day. Or Josh. Or your dad. You are all working together and being creative - it's fascinating. I cannot even imagine how many projects you have working right this very moment :)

    1. That's actually a great idea Heidi! We always have around 5 projects in the works and it's an effort to keep everything straight and moving smoothly. It's also taken a few years to find a balance between work and family life and lately I'm feeling like we have finally gotten this just right. I've caught a cold so I'm not filming for the rest of the week, but I'll definitely keep this idea in mind for a video soon!

  7. Good information Leah. Thanks.


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