Friday, October 26, 2012

I'm exhausted but at least I'm organized!

Phew!  Operation Organization turned out to be a bigger project than I realized!  The smartest thing I did for the project was enlist the help of my sister, Valerie.  Thanks for your help, sister!

The project was great on many levels.  One, I now have a clean and organized studio that I am itching to get back to work in.  Two, I learned a lot about my creative journey as I sorted through projects I made years ago.  Wow, has my work evolved (and am I ever grateful that it has).  Three, I no longer have stale supplies or books.  Four, I found a lot of things I had forgotten about.

My studio space is about 25' long by 13' wide  I've divided it up into several work areas so it is tough to get a good "overall" photo so I'll show it to you in sections.

My fabric stash is directly opposite the entrance and is a beautiful introduction to my wonderful space.  As part of the re-org project, I went through all of the fabric and culled out all the fabric that no longer "spoke" to me - about EIGHTY POUNDS of it!  Yikes!  Some went to my sister, some to friends and some to my Goddaughter to take on her next mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  I cleaned out my stash and made a bunch of people happy - how fun is that???  I still have more fabric than I can use in a lifetime.... in some circles that would be considered strange but I know that you all understand, LOL.

Opposite the fabric area is my worktable for collage, handmade books, stenciling, etc.  There used to be a sofa bed in this area but nobody ever slept in it or sat on it because it was covered in piles of fabric and art supplies.  So, out went the sofa bed and in came three Ikea bookcase units that Val and I assembled.  I moved all my mixed media supplies and some equipment, like my Cricut, into the shelves.  Colorful baskets help it look neat and I love having everything at arms length.  The tall skinny cabinets on the left came from Home Decorators Collection and hold much of my collage stash, sorted by subject.
Under the window I have my bead cart (from Dick Blick).  I love the rainbow colored drawers and have sorted my bead stash by color in the coordinating drawer.  It is SO easy to find the right color beads quickly.  There are four more drawers on the bottom (they are purple).  The drawers pull out easily so I can take the whole drawer to my work table and keep things under control.  Love this! 

Next is my desk which houses my computer, laser and ink jet printers and related supplies.  We re-arranged this space and added a two book case units (one tall, one short) to house my journals, stationary and office supplies. It is a wonderful to have it all organized instead of in toppling piles!  Two organizational items in that area that I especially love are the wooden rack for my re-inkers (a tag sale find) and the lucite cubes I found at Office Max to organize my markers (which I wanted to store flat to extend the life of the markers).  
The other side of the room is where my cabinets start - what a find they were!  We got them nine years ago when we originally renovated my studio space.  A contractor friend of ours was doing a kitchen expansion not far from our home.  His client wanted to sell the original cabinets and we got them for just $500.  We paid him another $500 to install them and the pre-made Home Depot countertops we picked up for under $500.  For $1,500 I wound up with great storage and twenty-one feet of countertop. All we did in the re-org project in this area was to sort, sift and toss.  Much better!
This is the area I use for rubber stamping, card making, collage & journaling.  The gray shelves on the left were a tag sale find - pre-made & painted wooden trays that I made into a rack to hold my rubber stamps.  On the wall to the right is an old cassette rack which is perfect for holding stamp pads.  The shelf to the right of that is another tag sale find - I know it was meant to be mine because the shelves are exactly the right height for bottles of Lumiere paint.  The cabinets hold collage and assemblage items, envelopes, paper and countless doo dads and gee gaws. 

 I'm skipping pictures of the next section because it is just more cabinets.  The only thing of interest there is a small shelf unit I built to hold the countless bottles of glue, mediums, and other liquid stuff in bottles.  At one time I was going to put a sink in the countertop below this unit but I've decided I like the countertop better.  I have a laundry sink in the next room so I can live without another sink in here. 

This cart is another new addition, from Ikea.  It has wheels so I can roll it to my easel or to my work table.  Three shelves hold paint, meduims, water jars & paintbrushes.  Love this!

My sewing table is on the other side of the room (behind the desk area).  My table is a large closet door that sits on top of a short book case and a couple of file cabinets.  I love having a large area to work on and can clear it all off if I have someting big to cut.  I covered the door with peel-n-stick tiles so it would be smooth and easy to cleaan.  My ironing board is nearby so I just spin in my chair, iron, and return to sewing.  What you can't see is the stuff UNDER the table.  I've got a couple of large scrap bins & boxes of vintage linens under there - have to use all available space!  This area was a mess, covered in piles of fabric and works-in-progress. Extra things have been put away and this area is ready to work in again.


Before entering my studio, I pass through a foyer area that leads to the back door.  Years ago, I had custom book cases built and they house my huge book collection.  It had gotten pretty messy so we took all the books off the shelves, culled out the ones I no longer wanted and re-organized them into more meaningful "departments".  I took out hundreds of magazines that I have been saving and I'm in the process of going through them and tearing out only the articles that I want.  It seems silly to save the whole magazine when I only want five pages.  For now I will keep them in binders but eventually I envision scanning them and keeping them as electronic files.  "Operation Organization" extended into what I call the "Studio Annex" which is the unfinished portion of our basement.  We cleaned, sorted, threw out and organized.  We installed four sets of steel shelves and added narrow shelves to them to house my paper collection (a great alternative to spending a lot of money on flat files).  My canvases, paper, and equipment are all nicely organized now.  What a relief it is to have this all done!  Time for me to get back to studio work - having my hands on all these supplies leaves me longing to do something with them.   Stay tuned for posts about what I'm up to.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Me and my big ideas!

We have been hard at work for more than a week on "Operation Organization" - we had a good plan in place and were off and running.  I needed some new shelving so we made two trips to Ikea (New Haven, CT and Paramus, NJ - good thing I live in the middle) and two to Home Depot.  I love the value of "self-assembled" furniture & shelving but that stuff is HEAVY! 

Supplies in place, Valerie began the process of clearing out the areas that the new shelves were going to.  And that led us to my first photo, the "Omigod what have I started???" stage.....

Which led to the "Who brought all this stuff into the house??? stage....

First, I know three solid reasons for my rediculous stash of art supplies.  Reason 1: When I was a kid, I had to have the "big" box of Crayola 64.  I wasn't happy with the little box of 8, or 16 crayons.  I had to have ALL of the colors (my favorite crayon was, and still is "Midnight Blue").  Reason 2: I managed my Mom's flower shop for fourteen years.  Fourteen years of having a fully stocked work room with supplies in every size and color at my fingertips led to me replicating the same thing at home (minus the flowers, that is).   And, Reason 3: My art supplies make me happy - some women want shoes & clothes, I want tubes of paint and fat quarters of fabric.  Call me crazy, I consider it a compliment :)

Here's another shot of the crazy mess...

I should mention that this is only the STUDIO part of the space we are working on.  We're also working on the basement area (also known as the Studio Annex since half of it is full of my overflow art supplies and equipment), and the "Library" area (basically a back foyer with built in bookcases), and the Utility Room (also known as Studio Annex Two since half of it if full of the rest of my overflow supplies). 

Here's a shot of the mess in the "Library"... I will be sorting through the books & selling the ones I don't want in our tag sale.  The leftovers will be going to our local library for their book sale. 

Sorting through these mountains of supplies, fabric and UFO's has been and interesting reminder of how much my interests and style have changed through the years.  Purging the things that no longer interest or inspire me is very freeing - I can already feel the clearer "air" in my studio.  I am anxious to be done with this project so I can get back to creative work!
Val and I have assembled four large Ikea bookcases, two "cube" cabinets, two "bin" cabinets and a great little rolling cart.  The white shelves in these photos are among the ones we assembled.  They went together pretty easily - by the time we got to the third one we barely looked at the assembly instructions and didn't even look at them for the fourth. 

We are now in the process of of sorting supplies and deciding what should be where. 

Here is the new cube we assembled for my larger pieces of fabric. I already had the one to the left, an old post office sorting cabinet that I purchased at auction.  That holds my fat quarters.  The new cabinet is for cuts of one yard or more.  It is all pretty yummy looking, don't you agree?

If  I live to be a hundred, and don't buy another inch of fabric between now and then, I could never use all the fabric I have.  The same goes for ribbon, art paper and beads.  It really is sort of like having my own personal store.

We also assembled four sets of steel shelves from Home Depot, for the "Studio Annex", AKA, the basement.  My studio is in the finished half of the basement, the "Annex" is in the unfinished portion.  It is a great place to store things like stretched canvases, tools and bulky supplies. 

We are making great progress - it is a ton of work but it will be SO worth it in the end.  Come back next week to see how far we've gotten!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Operation Organization begins!

It all starts out so innocently.  You bring one bag of stuff into the house.  Then another, and another.  You buy a new lamp but don't get rid of the old one.  You save clothes that don't fit in case you lose weight.  Lots of "stuff" coming into the house and nothing going OUT!

After nine years, our sweet little house is bursting at the seams - time to reorganize!  I started writing lists of things I wanted to do and by the time I got to number forty-two, I was overwhelmed.  And that was just the lower floor!  Realizing that I needed help, I called my sister, Valerie, asking if she would come out to help me.  "Come out", by the way, means flying 3,000 miles across the country.  Val is a great organizer and a real "nudge" about getting things done so I knew it would be worth the price of the plane ticket.  Val arrived just yesterday and we have already mapped our our plans for the lower floor & she is going to get started tomorrow (I have to go to work). 

Though it is embarrassing to show you these photos of my studio, the "after" pictures will have much more impact if I show you the "before".  My studio is the room that will be undergoing the most changes with new shelving & some re-arranging (and LOTS of purging!).

This pile of ribbon is out of control!  Remember, I was in the flower business for twenty years so I'm used to having a lot of ribbon around.  The funny thing is, no matter how much ribbon I have, it always seems that I need it wider, narrower, shinier, a different color, whatever...  and this is the result of that!

This area is going to undergo the most significant change.  The pull out sofa is going and I'm getting new shelving from Ikea.  The worktable will be moved and all the supplies covering it will live on the new shelves.  I can't wait for this section to be re-worked.  It is going to make my studio a MUCH more productive place in the long run. 
This area behind my desk is a nightmare!  A new shelving unit is going to make this area much more usable and I'm going to be able to organize my journals and inspiration books.  Holy moly, I can't believe I'm showing this to you.
My messy sewing table, covered in UFO's and way too crowded to encourage productivity.  Not much is going to change regarding set-up of the table but I'm going to find new homes for all the stuff that is taking up space.
Operation Organization begins tomorrow.  It is going to be a process that I predict will take about a month (we're re-organizing the whole house, after all!).  I'll post some "after" pictures when I have something to share. I'm looking forward to workiing through this project, I'm glad that Val is here to help me - I'm feeling energized about tackling this! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Two new quilts

I had a lot of fun making both of these quilts, mostly because I was just following the styles of the two books I'm writing about, not a specific pattern - that means no measuring!  I just cut & sewed, squared things up on the cutting mat as I went along. 

Here's the quilt I made from the book "Quilt Modern".  It pretty closely follows one of the quilts in the book, I just loved the colors and look of it.  I added the skinny bars of color to break up all the gray.  I love pebble quilting so that's how I stitched the gray area, as it was in the book. 


I also made a quilt after reading "Inspired Art Quilting" by Jean Wells'.  A photo I took in Bermuda (see last post) was the idea source for this quilt.  I loved the orange berries against the blue ocean and the neutral grays of the branches.  I really enjoyed making this quilt and know that I will make more photo inspired abstract quilts in the future.  Again, no measuring! 
This weekend I am beginning a huge project - reorganizing my whole house!  I'm flying in my sister, Valerie, to help me for a few weeks (yes, it will take that long).  I'm also going to rework part of my studio and go through ALL of my supplies and get rid of a lot of things that are clogging up my life.  I'm going to squeeze in some time to sew and blog so look back to see what I'm up to! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A great studio weekend

It has been a while since I have had a free weekend.  On Friday, I decided that this weekend would be all studio time - something I've been missing!  It has been a great weekend, on Saturday I worked on a writing project, made some progress on unfinished projects and worked on the quilts inspired by the books in my last post.  Sunday was spent outside, sunprinting fabric with Setacolor.  I wanted to take advantage of the sunshine & comfortable temperature.  After I cleaned up from that, I headed back to my sewing machine.  It's been a fun weekend!

I decided on the photo for the quilt inspired by Jean Wells' book, "Journey to Inspired Art Quilting". I took this picture in Bermuda, while my sister, Leslie, and I were walking to the "sea glass" beach in St. George's. 

I stopped to take a scenery picture and the color of the berries against the color of the sea caught my eye.  I love these colors so much that I'm working on using them as my logo colors.  Persimmon, Apple Green, Turquoise & Slate.  Yummy colors!

Here is the scenic shot I stopped to take:

The quilt is a work in progress, as is the quilt from the book "Quilting Modern".  I should have them both finished by the end of the week.

Hope you have had a wonderful weekend, spent doing something that you love!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'm back to blogging!

I've found some new books that I have been enjoying and have decided to revive posting to my blog and making projects inspired by those books. 

The first book is "Quilting Modern" by Jacquie Gering & Katie Pedersen (Interweave).  I love this book for reminding me that less is often more.  The quilts in this book are clean and crisp in design - a refreshing change from quilts that sometimes attempt to include every technique known.  One of the things I've taken note of is how the machine stitching is showcased in these "modern" quilts.  I've got a wonderful selection of Cherrywood hand dyed fabrics & some great prints to play with.  Come back for a look at what this book has inspired me to make!

While I'm on the subect of inspiration... the second book I'm in love with is the newest title by Jean Wells, "Journey to Inspired Art Quilting" (C&T).  This book is completely opposite of Quilting Modern in that the quilts are made of many different fabrics, fifteen, twenty or more, per quilt.  I love the rich combinations of color and pattern. 

Another thing I love about this book is the in depth discussion about sources of inspiration, design principles, and color theory.  There are great examples of using photos to inspire quilts and color choices.  This book is a "must have" in my opinion.

So, there you have it.  Two books, equally interesting to me yet about as different as you can get, from a design persepective.  They are both great books!

Time to get busy making my projects - they should be posted in about a week.  Come back for a peek!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


At long last, here are images of some of the quilts I made with the fabrics I stenciled back when the weather was warm.
The quilts were made as trade show samples for my friend, Jaime, who is the design mastermind behind the great stencils from The Crafter's Workshop ( She comes up with new designs several times a year and I have a lot of fun figuring out new ways of working with them. I've employed a long list of techniques and materials with the stencils through the past few years. These samples use three of them, Setacolor fabric paints/sunshine, acrylic paint, and discharging. I love to layer the techniques - for example, the background of the center square in the first quilt was dyed with Setacolor, then I placed the stencil on the wet fabric and left it in the sun to dry. I later added the weed & butterfly design using that stencil with black acrylic paint.
I started the tree silhouette quilt with Setacolor & leaving it out in the sun with the stencil, as above. I wanted to have the look of a sunset in the background so I added some orange and yellow Setacolor before the fabric was totally dry. Later, I used a dot stencil with orange acrylic paint to add the dots. The harlequin edge is also a fabric I altered with stencil techniques. I got just the effect I was looking for.
"Stencil" is a word that brings up images of the bunny rabbit & flower stencils used in home dec projects in the 1980's or of the stencil designs of colonial times. It is clear to see that has changed, a lot! Updated designs combined with imagination and easy to learn techniques have revitalized interest in stenciling, both for textiles and paper art projects, like scrapbooking & journaling.
This quilt in shades of purples & blues measures about 24" square. The idea was to showcase a variety of stencils and combine them with commercial fabric, Kaffe Fassett in this case. These fabrics were done with a combination of discharging, Setacolor/sunshine and acrylic paint.
Most of the fabrics in this red-orange quilt were discharged using Clorox Bleach Pen or Soft Scrub with Bleach, then overpainted with acrylic paint. Be careful when discharging, work in a well ventilated place & be sure to use a neutralizing agent on your fabrics or the bleach residue with eventually eat away at your fabric.
This last quilt, "Trust Your Heart", is about 12" square. Setacolor/sunshine and acrylic paint were all I used with the stencils. I really love the flower stencil & plan to make a small pile of fabric using that one.
The fabric I begin with is important to the success of each method. When using the Setacolor/sunshine method, I start with prepared for dying cotton, in white. I tear it into manageable squares, about 16" or so. The stencils are 12" and 6" squares. I like to use slightly larger fabric so I have matching dyed fabric, in case I need some solids. Sometimes I sprinkle kosher salt on the edges to get a starburst effect in the borders. For discharging, I like the hand dyed fabrics from Cherrywood the best. Optimal results are achieved by working with fabrics in rich colors.
If you haven't played with stencils for a while, I encourage you to do so. The Crafter's Workshop stencils are available in Michael's stores and from . I'm spending my Sunday working on a stenciled quilt for an exhibition for a quilt group I'm a member of - I'll post a photo when it's ready for show and tell.
Finally, I took this picture of my sweet husband, Steve, over the summer & am posting it as my little thank you to him for his never ending support of my creative journey. He's a wonderful husband and I am one lucky girl.