The Free Motion Quilting Project: I LOVE IKEA!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Hello. My name is Leah and I am an addict.

I am hopelessly, utterly, completely addicted to IKEA!

Just in case you've never heard of this place / business / phenomenon / restaurant / way of life, allow me to take a day to digress into a monologue of my deep love and affection for this Swedish furniture store.

Yes, that is indeed what it is: just a furniture store.

But at the same time, it's not just a furniture store because it's so much more! This place is a mecca of extreme organization, a place where a person like me (organization queen supreme) can go a little insane.

The first time I went to IKEA in Charlotte, I had both Josh and James with me, which limited my ability to truly take in the top floor which is basically a huge open area filled with organized living spaces. Living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, kid rooms, offices, and whole 570 sq foot apartments are all set up to wander through and droll over.

All of the spaces you see are small, but maximized to the hilt with hidden shelving, sleek organizers, awesome lighting, and gorgeous design. It's hard to truly describe exactly how it feels to wander through these areas - both overwhelming, exciting, stimulating, and also frustrating because there's no way you can see everything all in one day.

As I walked through this vast store, holding tight to James's unwilling hand (this is definitely a store you can lose a child in easily), I could feel myself falling in love. In truth, I'm not a huge fan of modern art or architecture, but I sure was falling in love with it that day!

This is probably because I could already see how IKEA was going to change my sewing room. To say it simply: Over the last 7 years, I've collected way too much fabric, batting, notions, buttons, beads, ribbons, etc. While I certainly enjoy this collection, I've run into a problem in recent years of never being able to FIND what I need when I need it.

But I have a theory - if everything has a place, a home, within my sewing room, and I always put away my toys where they belong, then I will always be able to find what I need, AND I will have a clean studio all the time!

And guess who is going to help me organize my studio to the hilt? IKEA!

The most wonderful thing about this store is it's CHEAP. This might be nice Swedish (I have been corrected!) furniture, but because the company focuses on letting you DIY (do it yourself), they also cut a lot of costs out of selling fully built furniture.

This means you can buy a set of drawers for $50 and put them together yourself with a screwdriver and a hammer, instead of buying the piece already put together for $100.

And unlike Walmart and Kmart's cheap plasticy bins which warp under weight, IKEA offers sturdy, dependable furniture that will hold a ton of stuff without breaking a sweat. So far one of my favorites is this pull out drawer system:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is the Antonius Basket set with 4 baskets.

Not only can you see what projects, batting, or fabric you're storing, you can access them easily as well!

Another favorite are their kitchen rail systems. This might not sound very exciting, but they've designed a set of rails, hooks, cups, dish drainers, and spice holders that all fit together in a universal way.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is the Bygel rail system with cups,
wire basket and many hooks to hold rulers.
Also that's an iron holder above - my #1 favorite!

I've managed to take the giant mess of nails and hooks down from this wall and hang double the number of rotary rulers, store my rotary cutter, pens, starch, and miscellaneous tools needed next to my ironing / cutting area all on the wall.

I LOVE this setup because for the first time in 5 years, I've managed to cut and press fabric multiple times without losing either my rotary cutter, ruler, or iron!

Back in the sewing room, I've also replaced the folding tables that used to go behind and beside my sewing machine with these Vika tables:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is two Vika Amon tables (59 inches - one was cut down a bit)
with Vika Kaj adjustable legs - note the Antonius baskets are actually under this table!

Using adjustable legs, the tables are exactly the height they need to be, and the slick white surface means my quilts are moving even easier than before.

Why bother replacing folding tables that already worked fine? Folding tables always have those bars below that hook into the middle of the table for stability. These bars prevent you from using the full space below the table properly for storage.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is a normal folding table - it works,
but look at all this wasted storage space! Ugh!

Case in point is our office table where Josh packs orders. We used to use folding tables here too and it was always a mess below of plastic binds and drawers that never fit all the things he needed to pack efficiently.

A quick trip to IKEA later, and I optimized this setup 100% so there's plenty of room below and awesome storage above for labels, bags, and box cutter, the tool that was always needed, but always lost before.

free motion quilting | Leah DayMore Vika Amon tables (longest 78 inch version here) with more adjustable legs.

I can't tell you how much these small improvements have made a difference in our lives. I'm no longer wandering around trying to find tools I've set somewhere random, Josh and I can pack together without stepping on one another, and there's now a place and home for most of the junk that previously created a cluttered mess before.

Unfortunately here's where my addiction has gone a bit...overboard. Every inch of our house has been subject to inspection and I find myself always asking "How can I optimize that? What does Ikea have for that space?"

This lead to me rearranging our guest bedroom and noticing just how inefficient our books are stored. I kept my quilting books downstairs, but was constantly bringing them upstairs to read and enjoy. They'd then pile up and make a cluttered mess.

It made sense to set up a new set of bookshelves with ALL the books in the house all organized in one room:

free motion quilting | Leah DayCombination of Billy and Benno bookcases

I couldn't believe that all our fiction books, plus all my quilting / crafting books didn't even fill up all the shelves! This is so much more efficient, I was able to push the futon back against the window and open up a space on the floor for my yoga mat.

The amazing thing about IKEA is just how successful it is by one rule: Keep It Simple. Simple furniture in simple boxes for fair prices. Even the construction of the book shelves and drawers I've put together was extremely simple!

It's amazing when simple ideas, functional organization, and nice design all come together to make a big difference. Now if I could just optimize the rest of my house, there would be no more messes, clutter, or missing tools ever again!

Or maybe that's just wishful thinking...I'm really not the neatest person in the world!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. I love IKEA also, I am going to Dallas next week and I can't wait to go. This time it will be a weekday, weekends it is impossible.

  2. I'm with you... organizing our spaces optimizes our time. Ikea is paradise!

  3. I praise IKEA every time someone mentions sewing room organization. My sewing closet (which I've pictured on my blog here )is an IKEA wardrobe which I've customized to work for my sewing. I can pull the bins out to go through them and even have lids for them to transport if I want to. Even their cardboard boxes are so pretty for my bookshelves - I have some older Lingo designs but they have fabric-covered ones like Kvarnvik which I have in other areas of my house.

    I used to live across the street from an IKEA and while there's not one near me, there's one within a reasonable distance from my dad's house, so I still pop in relatively often. I don't personally care for their modern furniture design, but I LOVE them for organization, lighting, candles, frames, and other household items.

  4. Leah - I have the Antonius baskets and love them a lot. Of course, I also have folding adjustable height tables so I have the storage problem under them. What is the name of the tables you bought at Ikea that gave you the proper height and no interfering hardware?

  5. I also love Ikea! Sadly the closest one is 4 hours away! Internet shopping is not my cup of tea (but I have to order my favorite tea that way now too!). I used to live just 10 minutes away from Ikea and Container store and Teavana, and so it pains me that they are so far away now. I did make a day trip to Atlanta to Ikea for the sole purpose of outfitting my craft room and I got it all in one trip. So I am feeling your LOVE :0)

  6. Do you longarm? I am looking for some type of drawer storage configuration that might work under the long arm quilt table? Ikea might be just the source.

  7. This made me smile.... I think there is something about us fabric artists which also loves storage!! I bought a set of 15 boxes last week.... because. When we meet others often the drooling over the various containers is as intense as that given to the work. As much as it can be hard to walk past fabric or thread... I also manage to ignore the voice which says "step away from the plastic boxes".

  8. I have been anticipating a trip to IKEA! They just opened up one about one hour away. AND, the best part was you saying what you did about the folding table, I was headed to Home Depot this weekend to buy 2 of those. Thank you so much!!
    I know I will be an IKEA addict too.
    I spend more time arranging things in my sewing room, then actually sewing.

  9. I too love IKEA. I bought these awesome trestle legs that are height adjustable and even tilt-able to make a drafting table. They sell some awesome tops for them, including one with a clear insert to make a lightbox, but I already had a top to use. They were simple to put together, had a shelf on them for extra storage and the hardware included so I could use my own top. They are sturdy, nice, practical and easy to move. I also love their clip lamps for under $10. They provide tons of light where ever you need it since they have adjustable necks. And they have the most reasonably priced kitchen gadgets! I remember not being able to find an ice cream scoop for under $5 but found the exact one I wanted there for $1.50. That was a while ago so they are probably more by now but I still have mine.

    You can sing the praises of IKEA all you want, I'll join you. I would go all the time except they're an hour away from my house. I look through their catalog and make up a list to plan an expedition every once and a while.

  10. I have never been to Ikea. I live in the Houston area and we have one right off of I10, that I have driven by once. My next door neighbor has many items in her home from there. I coment on an item and she says she bought it at Ikea. I am in need of storage as well for my sewing room. What I am thinking of is an island type cutting table with storage below. Do they sell items like this that you might know of? Thanks :-)

  11. How I wish we had an Ikea store in New Zealand - I grew up with Ikea furniture in Germany, my parents would take us three kids at least once a year to the one a few hours away, and when a store was built about half an hour from home we were there a lot more often! Envy you!!!

  12. Just had to chip in and say that I agree about IKEA being quite marvelous...but I may be partial as I am Swedish:) But seriously, if you need to store something, it is guaranteed that IKEA has a clever solution. And I agree that the quality is very good. The amount of cheap furniture we have got from cheap stores that have lasted no more than weeks...while the bargain priced IKEA furniture we got 10 years ago still last and are as sturdy as the day we got them:) Us Swedes are practical and we like things to be solid and lasting...:)

    Oh, by the way, THANK YOU for your free motion quilting videos and soon as we have our furniture back from storage I will experiment with some of them:) X Ylva

  13. Me too! I could wander the aisles in IKEA for hours. Going there next weekend in Houston.

  14. So, you use the wire drawers also. My DH and DD's went to our IKEA in SLC, UT and they were having a sale! Regularly, a four drawer set was $69 were now -- guess? $20!!! OMG! The DH and DD's brought home 16 sets! Yes, I have enough fabric for that many sets of drawers, I admit it. We hurried and put together two sets with the drawers in them and started. Now, I just have to move all the other fabric left behind in the basement to my new sewing room upstairs (newly built during last summer), and I'll be DONE!!! YAY!!! I was amazed at how much less these were than at Home Depot or Lowe's (who both wanted $89 for a 4 drawer set that essentially was the exact same thing that IKEA sold). I have a hard time getting around (rheumatoid & psoriatic arthritis), but my DD's are always looking for things to help me in my quilting and storage of supplies for quilting. My DH is wonderful to help in putting things together in a jiffy, too. I, too love IKEA, and I haven't ever been there! (LOL!!)

  15. Oh....I am soooooo green with envy! I would go look through my stash to find the exact shade but I'm so disorganized I don't have all my greens in one place! Once again you've inspired us. Thanks for IKEA close to me, though! Hmmmmmm...time for an internet search!

  16. I love Ikea too. Our friends thought we were odd getting couches from Ikea, but after almost 13 years of heavy use they are still holding strong.

    I love what you've done with your craft room! Isn't there something satisfying when everything has its own place?

    ps Ikea is Swedish not Swiss.

  17. I agree I love idea they have the most marvelous things and there meatballs are

  18. Hi Leah,

    When I put togehter my new quilting studio I bought the drawer system you have from Ikea too. I LOVE IT! So reasonably priced. I great product. I keep my in the closet & love the fact that the drawers come all the way out so I can pull out a drawer I need and easily place it on top of a table or anywhere I wish.

    Chester, NY

  19. thanks for this post. I've been struggling with the bar and table issue. I really want more of those wire racks from Ikea so I'm going to check out the Vika tables!

  20. Did you replace your Gidgit II sewing table or is the table the same height as the Gidget II - I just ordered a Gidget II and it should be here in the next few days. You have some wonderful ideas

  21. I'm looking forward to my trip soon, to get a bookcase for CD's = perfect for fat quarters! They're going to look so pretty!!

  22. I have never been to IKEA and have been asking my husband to take me there for many years. The one near us is 75 miles away and it never seems to be important to go there :-).
    Leah I loved reading your IKEA visit and would love to setup my own sewing room someday with lots of shelves from IKEA.
    Good luck to you!

  23. If you love IKEA (I do) then you LOVE this cool site:


  24. *happy sigh*

    I love Ikea. We are currently making over the guest room into a room for my 2 year old. We bought most of his stuff from ikea. im not as organized as you- but we got some great pieces that will grow with him.

    Before I moved here to NC, I was in Brampton, Ontario. from my apartment I could get to 3 different ikeas within 45 min drive (one west, one south and one east.)

    When we moved to NC I was disappointed there wasnt an ikea anywhere near here!
    I then heard of the rumour of the ikea in Charlotte opening up (about 1 hour 45 min from my house).... I had a list ready and was there the second weekend they were open!
    I have been there many, many times (including this past sat) and have most of my house outfitted by them- including the nursery.

    Im glad to see someone else loving it as well.

  25. I do have to say IKEA is an amazing place. I am lucky enough to have one in Southampton and at a push could probably walk there and back.
    I have been known to just go there for lunch sometimes.
    Our house definitly looks like an IKEA shwo room at times (although much messier) :p

  26. Thanks for the heads-up on this. I'm hoping to reorganise my sewing room later this year, and I hadn't realised that IKEA do adjustable table legs - you've just given me lots of ideas!

  27. another IKEA addict here :) I am typing at my IKEA furniture surrounded by 5 IDEA bookshelves, waiting (not so) patiently for dh to hang my new light that I bought at IKEA last week...and I have my list for my new sewing/quilting area (when we move in a couple of months).

    I used to park my son in Smaland and just wander...too bad he is 13 now and too big ;)

  28. Ikea originates from Sweden, Swedish not Swiss:-) Homes here in Northern Europe are much smaller than American homes. Thus IKEA makes furniture to maximize the small rooms.

  29. LOL...I was supposed to go to Ikea today with my youngest daughter...under the pretense that we would be re-doing her entire room and closet (but I had planned to get those wire baskets for my sewing area, as well as a couple new tables!)
    The trip got cancelled...and I'm so sad.

  30. Leah,
    I love your organization ideas. I have been looking for the perfect tables and was wondering what your sewing machine sits on. What is it? and Where can I get one?

  31. IKEA--my quilting lifesaver. Did you know that if you buy their CD units you are able to fold your fat quarters into nice piles. We bought 2 units that are the size of a CD and are 8 ft tall. Now I can see all my fat quarters and they are separated by color.

  32. Chris - My sewing machine is setting in a Gidget 2 Arrow Sewing table. I used to carry them, but have recently decided to simplify, but you can still get this table from many online retailers. Happy hunting!

  33. name is Erin and I am an Ikea addict. I also have NOT intention of changing this! I live in a suburb of Dallas and LOVE LOVE LOVE Ikea. I am in the process now of remodeling my sewing room. I have many things from Ikea. Hobby Lobby is in there too since I am making many things myself. I built my own cutting/pressing table using 2 9cube closetmaid shelves and a door. Best 80.00 I ever spent! My cutting/pressing table is at a height now that is PERFECT! No more bending over the table for hours with a backache to show for my effort! The other great part is all the under area is storage! Please come and check out my new blog. You can see the table I am talking about there. My blog address is

    I am blogging about my own sewing room remodel. I hope I do you proud Leah! I learned so much from YOU! Including how I set up my sewing area! One thing I learned from another sight and am planning to try once I get the insert for my cabinet is to spray some teflon spray over the table. It adds to the slickness of the area but is dry so no residue on your quilt. I bet that would really make your tables slick! You should try it!

    I have a sheet of heavy duty vinyl covering my table and that really helps keep it easy to move stuff around. I may have to go get a table from Ikea so I can ditch the vinyl sheeting! Just keep it for when I need to spray baste my quilt.

    Take care Leah,
    Erin aka nanasrcool

  34. LOVE LOVE LOVE Ikea. They also do fabric, 60" wide and great for backings!!!!

  35. Wish we had an IKEA on Oahu! I have just started quilting. Your site has been very helpful to me in learning what I will need for a workspace setup. I have an old IKEA dining table that I'm currently using for jewelry making. I think I will re-purpose it for quilting now.

  36. you tell me...! I know IKEA items by *name*... and size too...
    My friends always tease me about my addiction and, like you, my addiction is going to stay the way it is, thank you.
    I live 1hr away from the nearest Ikea shop, which I visit regularly once a month. My sewing room is almost 100% Ikea, and my house is like 30%... I think I'll make it a regular post or something... like "Ikea@home Friday", should be fun!

  37. Leah, I'm considering getting the ikea table and adjustable legs to make a table for my sewing room that is large enough to be able to keep out more than one sewing machine ready for sewing at time. Looking at the 59" and adjustable legs, it appears that would work very well. My only the table stable enough to sew on?

    Does the 59" table just need 4 legs? Or is there a way to add another set in the center for stability?

  38. Hi Lorig - Yes, I think the table itself is strong enough to sew on, but I would encourage you to look into a small Gidget 2 instead. Having the machine dropped down into a flatbed so the machine is on the same level surface with the table top will make such a huge difference for your sewing and quilting ability. If you're bothering to set up a machine for full time use so you can sit and sew anytime, definitely invest in a drop down table!


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