Make Your Quilt Studio Unique

While I'm gearing up for Quilt Market, I asked Studios Editor Cate Prato to update us on what's going on in the latest issue of Studios. Cate spent a day last week hunting for fabulous studio finds at the Brimfield flea market last week, so I know she's ready to show you some clever ways to help make your quilt and fiber studio uniquely yours.

Art quilters are used to going against the grain. They don't make their quilts to cover beds, they don't stitch endless ¼" seams. They sometimes use glue instead of thread. So why should their studios look strictly functional? No reason at all!

Sure, you need certain elements in order to function efficiently and safely in your studio. A cutting table at counter height; a comfortable, supportive chair; a sewing table or cabinet; and thread, fabric, and tool storage are the basics. A dye and paint station is helpful too.

But the art quilt and fiber art studios in the Summer 2010 issue of Studios show that you can put the fun in functional with some clever re-use of vintage (and vintage modern) pieces, a right-brain re-thinking of how to use new pieces, and the creative application of paint and elbow grease. I've pulled a few examples from the new issue and also have some ideas from my jaunt to Brimfield to get you thinking about creative options.

First up are these amazing worktables in Caryn Duncan's studio. Caryn is a paint and mixed-media artist, but her custom-made table could easily work in a quilt studio. Her boyfriend made it from reclaimed wood, pine trim, and turned legs purchased at a lumberyard. They painted the table a bold turquoise that vibrates with creative energy and pulls the entire room together visually.

When you're working in a small space, every inch counts, according to Jacqueline Sava of Soak, Inc. In her offices, she put up a chair rail of wine corks that's not only decorative (and green), but serves as an idea or memo board. She has some other great tips for maximizing a small work space in the current Studios.

I myself am on a "use what you have" kick, so when I saw the way Sharon Tomlinson punched up the energy quotient on her sewing studio walls with Asian kites, I sat up and took notice.

Sharon had made the kites years ago for a civic event and they had just been sitting in a closet. Her friend who helped orchestrate Sharon's two-studio makeover (detailed in this issue), encouraged her to bring the kites out of hiding to bring life to what was previously a sedate bedroom setting. Unexpectedly, the bold, graphic kites created a fun vibe with the antique quilts Sharon has in the room.

If you don't have a stash of wine corks or a closet full of kites, you might want to head to your local flea market to get some storage and decorative items to personalize your studio. At the thrice-yearly Brimfield flea market in Massachusetts (actually, a cluster of flea markets running simultaneously over several days), you can find all sorts of unique items at a variety of prices. Even if you don't buy anything, you can get ideas for how to store, organize, and display. Not to mention all the cool textiles, beads, buttons, and found objects you can score for your art.

On my trip to Brimfield last week, I discovered some terrific objects and ideas to incorporate in a studio, such as this octagonal cylinder of drawers, at right. I have no idea what it was originally intended for, but what an amazing way it is to store small things like buttons, found objects, and so on. And the color! Organization with a touch of whimsy.

And this unusual stainless steel cart (from a doctor's office?) would make a great device for keeping dyeing or paint supplies handy. The wheels make it portable, perfect for a studio that doesn't have a dedicated wet area or for an artist who only dyes or paints occasionally.

So, how do you make your art quilting studio unique? Leave a comment below or send a picture and brief description to me at

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3 thoughts on “Make Your Quilt Studio Unique

  1. The stainless steel cart in the photo is from a hospital nursery. The plastic bassinet is placed on the top shelf. The drawer on the bottom holds diapers, ointment, blankets and bathing supplies. Then you wheel the baby down the hall to see Mom!

  2. When businesses have gone out of business and are selling everything including fixtures, I’ve bought some great stuff for organizing. My favorite is a 4 sided tall white wire rack that has heavy duty clips all up and down it. I put all sorts of things in large zip bags and clip it on to easily see what’s there, and it easily turns. It looks pretty with all the fabrics and ribbons in it. And I can see it to get inspirtion. 2 bucks–how great is that. 5 bucks got me some shelves from a closing store that was really different looking and a really cool display.

  3. Cate – the “unusual stainless steel cart appears to be a relic from a hospital nursery. I recognized it immediately since I worked in one many years ago. They would prop the clear plastic baby bed (or bin) on the end bar so baby could be seen at the viewing window – then put it flat on the top surface for sleep time. Diapers were stacked on top of the lower drawer. Nice find!