17 May 2010

Lifestyles of the Stitchin' Famous

Quilter extraordinaire Ethel in her studio, a former garage.

On Saturday, May 16, from 1-5 pm, I took part in the first-ever Quilters' Connection Studio Hop. Following a print-out with annotated directions to eight quilter's work spaces in the Greater Boston area, my wonderful husband drove me to five of the studios.

Didn't get lost, thank to the Highlander's GPS system.

Planning involved post-its on our handy hall map.

Betsy's studio was the master bedroom of her 18th century home.
Design wall - also used to photograph quilts -

is flannel or felt clamped to shelves with giant binder clips.

While I'm sure all the studios were worth a visit, it would have been difficult to get to all of them, so I chose the studios whose descriptions sounded most relevant to my immediate needs. The first stop was Betsy's antique home north of Boston. This is a challenging space, as antique homes typically lack overhead lighting and there is only one hard-wired wall sconce in the space. Betsy supplements this with a variety of Luxo table lamps and, of course, that quilter's staple, the Ott light, in portable and floor models. Using these lights, Betsy has found that she can photograph quilts in available light - no flash - and compensate for the slow shutter speed by using her ironing board as a tripod.

The brightly-colored flower shapes are foam swimming pool noodles,
an intriguing solution for rolled storage of quilts.

Betsy's computer station, next to her sewing table.

Sewing furniture, clamp-on Ott light and adjustable chair.

The only disadvantage to sewing furniture is that the knee hole for the chair is centered on the machine, making it tricky to maneuver the chair so that the quilt-maker is in front of the needle.

Cases on floor hold thread collection.

Like all the quilters whose studios I visited, Betsy has multiple organizing strategies for fabric. The bulk of the stash is sorted on open shelves by hue, but subsets, such as themed fabrics, batiks, etc., are stored in bins.

Ethel's custom-made sewing table.

My next stop was Ethel's studio, a converted garage north of Boston. The centerpiece of her spacious work area is her custom-made sewing and cutting surface. A portion of the surface is a Teflon-type laminate, for extra ease in manuvering fabric. Hooks on the outer edge hold rulers. The gray surface is a Fiskar's cutting mat.

Close-up of machine mount in the custom table.
That's a supplemental light adhered to the sewing machine head.

Ethel can remove part of the table to access the bobbin.

The other main horizontal surface in the studio is a flat, hollow-core door. It has a padded surface onto which fabric can be pinned for silk-screen work.

Ethel's main design wall is sheets of 1 1/2" thick tongue-and-groove rigid foam insulation, covered with fabric.

The back of the design wall.

Fabric stored in cubby holes.

Lots of wall-mounted storage - go vertical.

Magnetic strips holds wire-cutters, pliers, anything metal.

Expandable rack holds hoops.

C-clamps attach closet pole to the structural I-beam, for more storage and display.

Ethel is an active computer-user but the computer lives in an adjacent space in the basement of her home, leaving the entire studio space dedicated to fiber.

Like every quilter on the tour, Ethel had delicious edible treats, particularly appreciated by my husband/chauffeur.

The next studio we visited was over a garage.

The central table in Bea's studio.

Bea works and teaches at a large horizontal table top she placed over a dining table. This makes a comfortable height for sitting, and permits plastic storage bins, all labelled, underneath.

Great track lighting.

Beatriz "inherited" a shelf-lined space from the previous owner of her home, a writer, but of course there was no design wall.

Bea's design wall, felt-covered homasote.

Bea added three homasote panels, covered in the same high-quality felt as that used for billiard tables.

Back of design wall.

The reverse side of the design wall is unpainted pegboard - a very flexible storage idea.

Another, smaller pin-up wall, again made of felt-covered homasote.

Another look at the shelves beneath the windows.

Sewing station with extension table.

Another look at the sewing set-up.

One advantage to an all-purpose table for sewing, as opposed to specialized sewing furniture, is that the chair can be positioned in front of the needle, where the action is, instead of in front of the throat of the machine.

Very organized shelves.

Binders of slides and show info.

Old wooden flat files hold paper for various projects.

Dresser drawers hold special fabrics, projects in progress and finished work. Wonderful fabric baskets are displayed on top.

Baskets hold zip-lock bags of scraps, sorted by color, for use by students.

Refreshed by great brownies and flavored seltzer, we drove onto the next studio.

Gail's bright, compact studio, with furry attendant.

The next studio was in a charming bungalow whose decor reflected its proximity to the harbor. This was the smallest studio I visited, but some wonderful quilts, of all sizes, are made here.

Sewing station adjacent to cutting and layout table. Friendly cat.

Fabric storage in drawers, a place for everything on top.

Wall for pin-up.

Design wall.

A very clever alternative to the extension table - phonebooks covered with adhesive paper.

Unfinished cubbies were given a delightful paint job by local artist.

Treats on a quilt beautifully machine-quilted by Gail.

Although I didn't take photos, alas, Gail's home is notable for all the quilts on display, and the quilts are very well integrated into the interior design. Perhaps Gail can post some photos on our guild's Yahoo site.

Computer station, in the finished basement (computer is off to the left.)

Gail's compact studio doesn't really allow space for a computer station, so the electronics are in the basement, in an area with more wonderful quilts on display. After refueling with mini-eclairs and red-velvet cupcakes, off to our last stop.

Another spacious studio over a garage.

Our last stop was Jayne's studio in a western suburb, and a work space over a garage. There seems to be a garage theme here in the studio hop, and it's true that, with their large, open spans, garages and spaces over garages tend to make good work areas.

Thread storage.

For each project Jayne will often use a separate, small spool holder. With this sytem, she can return to a project after a lapse, but all the special threads are still together in one place. Hence the assortment of spool holders of multiple sizes in the photo.

File cabinets hold pattern, quilt guild info, etc.

Design wall is felt suspended by fabric loops from ceiling hooks.

Stash and books share shelves.

Another quilt taking shape on a small piece of felt.

Thanks so much to all of the hosts for letting us have a look at their work spaces. I hope the guild does this again, keeping in mind that the time from Mother's Day until Father's Day is quite a busy season in the social calendar.

04 May 2010

Summer Dance quilt

Kaffe Fassett's Floral Dance fabric.

I'm testing out my new Janome portable sewing machine by piecing a new quilt top, using a fabric and pattern I've utilized before.

2008 nine-patch quilt featuring Floral Dance fabric in another colorway.
The name of this quilt is "Carnival."

Detail of Carnival.

Another detail of quilt.
It was expertly machine quilted by Laurena McDermott.

Her website:

Fabric is aligned under my old parallel rule on my drafting board.
Pieces are marked using drafting triangles.

High-quality masking tape holds fabric in place.

I still prefer scissors, not the rotary cutter, for large pieces.

Handy table for fast layout of triangles.

For measuring the size of the triangles on the edges and corners, I use an old article from Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, called "Taking the Math Out". All the calculations involving the square root of two and adding a seam allowance are already done. I like math, and can certainly do the arithmetic myself, but it's quick and handy to use the table. For example, the size of the finished block in this quilt is 9". The corner triangles are created by drafting a 14" inch square and then cutting along the diagonals. When stitched, this will give a finished size, along the hypotenuse, of 9".

Quilt in progress.
Solid squares are handy on the ironing board.

I've combined the lush floral print with eleven of Fassett's shot cottons, and will move the pieces around on the felt until the colors work, then start stitching. Working title is "Summer Dance".