On the road to studio reality

The road to building my dream studio has been a long and involved one. I've talked about it here and here.

Now that the stove is cranking and patterns have been sent to the testers, I'm starting on some much-needed studio organization and, to a lesser degree, decoration. It can be hard to be timely with studio organization and remodeling when you're constantly working in the space as well.

Two sewing desks, 2 of 5 vintage straight stitch/zig zaggers pictured. We still need to frame out the windows...right now they're still covered in winterizing plastic.

Two sewing desks, 2 of 5 vintage straight stitch/zig zaggers pictured. We still need to frame out the windows...right now they're still covered in winterizing plastic.

I've wanted to teach sewing classes in the barn since the day we came to check it out with our realtor. Not just that, but provide a craft space to the community for knitting, sewing, you name it. I'm slowly getting closer to that goal. And I hope that offering this space to the community will help bring us into the fold. Right now we have approximately 4 friends in town: A couple whom we've known since before the move, and our friendly carpenter neighbor and his wife.

This week, my mom brought down an old desk I remember from my childhood that she no longer has space for in her 500 sq ft studio apartment. This will be sewing table #2. I'm hoping to pick up another fun table at my favorite local auction house. A lovely student in one of my Cabin Workshops offered me her 1970's sewing machine since she had just upgraded, which I will add to my 'classroom'. Slowly but surely, I hope to build a little team of lovingly restored vintage machines for people to learn on.

The little white thing in the outlet is a remote controlled outlet. This way I can use a remote to switch on all my plugged in pendants.

The little white thing in the outlet is a remote controlled outlet. This way I can use a remote to switch on all my plugged in pendants.

Lighting is key. I wanted to maintain the old-barn-iness, so I figured aluminum wearhouse pendants were the way to go. These paris green enamel babes are from ikea. I still have the old Xmas lights up and need to grab the ladder and take them down. They provide great ambient light but use a ton of electricity (new lamps use LED's) and recently stopped working mysteriously, so they're on the way out. I plan to pick up a few more of these drop pendants next ikea trip. I'm also going to mount some clip floodlights aimed at the cieling for ambient/fill light since the ceiling is white.

What a mess! I need to do a studio sidewalk sale or organize a fabric swap. Some bins just have unpacked stuff from my former studio that still needs a home (or needs to go?). I'd also like to set up my stereo and turntable at some point...

What a mess! I need to do a studio sidewalk sale or organize a fabric swap. Some bins just have unpacked stuff from my former studio that still needs a home (or needs to go?). I'd also like to set up my stereo and turntable at some point...

I also lucked out on craigslist and picked up some used industrial shelving! I've always liked the look of these and they were super affordable. I need to consolidate/have a fabric swap. Nearly all bins pictured contain fabric or WIPs! Talk about a stash...I'd love to get the boxes of Cabin inventory up on these shelves too. Right now they're stacked neatly next to the loom. The rug pictures will migrate over to in front of the pellet stove where I'm setting up a social area.

This week I'm also working on a prom dress for my youngest cousin. I know it's cliche to say it, but I feel like she was just a baby! She's going bright red!

I hope to give you guys a nice studio tour once everything is somewhat 'finished'...I suppose this will be when I start holding classes in the barn. But honestly, are work spaces ever really 'finished'? Where do you sew? What is your dream sewing space?


February and March

Today's blog post is a brief and scattered one, but hopefully fun. I've been hard at work on the new BFS pattern which has taken up quite a lot of my mental energy.

This month I decided to try something new that's been a long time coming. If you guys can believe it, I've basically never done any quilting! Last summer I made up a patchwork bag sample for JP Knit & Stitch with some of their newly arrived fabric and it undeniably piqued my interest.

My first quilting/piecing project. Not actually 'quilted', just patchwork made into a bag. Here's the process (can't find image of the finished piece) but the pattern is great and you can find it here:  http://blog.misusu.co/p/archive/diy-projects-quilted-diamond-tote-bag/

My first quilting/piecing project. Not actually 'quilted', just patchwork made into a bag. Here's the process (can't find image of the finished piece) but the pattern is great and you can find it here: http://blog.misusu.co/p/archive/diy-projects-quilted-diamond-tote-bag/

I've been very inspired lately by Carolyn Friedlander's house quilts, as well as her general philosophy about sewing (savor each stitch!) Plus the domestic architecture connection is undeniable.

I've always been into house portraits and so I thought I'd try out some quilting with that in mind. At first, I was set to plan out a very elaborate paper pieced project, but the precision of it had me a bit turned off (I love overly technical things, but I needed a respite from pattern making at the time). A friend suggested I go the 'improvisational piecing' route, using my pattern as a guide. Though it's not finished yet, I'm pretty pleased with the result and I LOVED the process! Not sure what the final product will be, but I'm enjoying every bit!

Here's my house about 50% complete (still have some yard, a 2nd chimney, driveway, and garden to complete). I used a combo of new FQ's and scraps, including some prints from Friedlander's Doe line and the Denise Schmidt 'goth feedsack' leftover from my refashion rescue! I love using up scraps! The plan was to also do a portrait of our former condo and make throw pillows, but the improv method resulted in a much bigger panel than what would work for a pillow, so I'll have to go back to the drawing board. Lap quilt? Wall hanging? Eurosham? Table runner?

I'm excited to continue on this path and show you all the result. Any maybe even do some actual quilting to go with my patchwork!

I've also been teaching like mad! This month had me teaching a workshop for sewing Cabin, a few 1 day learn-to-sew crash courses, 2 sections of a long form clothing construction open workshop, an intro to clothing design class, and a shorter intermediate sewing open workshop. Next month I'm excited to teach a Learn to Sew with Knits workshop, where students will be making a sweatshirt using the greatly admired Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studios.

Here's a sample I made up in some french terry, aka the comfiest vintage-feeling sweatshirt material ever. I like the grainline pattern, though in the next one I make for myself, I'm omitting the bottom band in favor of a twin-needle hem, shortening the sleeves, and using a wider neck band.

Here's a sample I made up in some french terry, aka the comfiest vintage-feeling sweatshirt material ever. I like the grainline pattern, though in the next one I make for myself, I'm omitting the bottom band in favor of a twin-needle hem, shortening the sleeves, and using a wider neck band.

I love teaching and every time I work with students I learn more about how sewing works for different people, how different clothes fit different bodies, and how to prioritize time and skill when working with a range of student skill levels. My students are definitely my most valuable resource in building my skills and developing my business and I appreciate them tremendously.

I'm not ready to reveal the new pattern quite yet, but I'll let you in on the nitty gritty details of putting it together. I'm also excited work with a broader cross-section of pattern testers this time around. (Want to test a future blueprints pattern? Sign up for our mailing list...it's where I put out the call for testers!)

Flat fellin' on a Cabin sample!

Flat fellin' on a Cabin sample!

Nitty is the fact that the pattern has a lot of pieces, since it features two variations on the same item but without sharing pieces (the original intention, but the technical end of that didn't work too well). Gritty is the work that goes into grading patterns without special software. In fact, after grading two patterns on the computer, I think I may hand grade the next pattern and have digitizing be nearly the last step. I'm by and far very computer literate, but keeping track of layers and versions and if I deleted something by accident is a drag. I think hand grading may make more sense in the long run...

I'm pretty pleased with how Cabin turned out, but as my first pattern, there was a big learning curve. There are definitely some things I wish I would have done differently and tiny errors I wish I could go back and tweak. I have to remind myself that there's always room for improvement. I had to build my whole process and make decisions about all aspects of the pattern.

Cabin is sort of like my very wearable muslin of how I want my patterns to be. It's not perfect - though I doubt any pattern can be perfect - but it works and has been fun for many people to sew. I've already decided on some small changes to layout and format for the next pattern, though it will still have the same feeling as the first.

Any suggestions or things you'd like to see in the next pattern?

Have you every done any improv piecing?