Quick Tips for Your Art Quilting & Studio

I may have mentioned a few weeks back that I found the perfect studio worktable. I scored a good price for it online and it looks great in our Colorado home. It's just the right height and width for spreading out and slicing up fabric.

Just one problem: it's our dining table.

dining room tableActually, that's not the problem. I'm perfectly happy to spread out my stash and work there. The problem is that my husband seems to think we should continue to use it for dining, and I should keep fabric and rotary cutters upstairs in my designated studio space. Seems he has an aversion to steak with a side of fusible. Also, he likes the downstairs to look presentable.

So, now I'm on the hunt for another studio worktable. (Unfortunately, it's not practical to just buy a copy of the dining table.) As I consider my options, I'm keeping the Winter issue of Cloth Paper Scissors Studios close by. There's an entire article in this issue on how to find the worktable that suits your physical, functional, and aesthetic needs. It includes these helpful shopping tips.

Tips on Table Choice

  • Will you typically be sitting or standing to work? Or, will you sometimes sit and other times stand?
  • How much time will you spend at your worktable?
  • Do you need to be able to move the table?
  • Do you want to be able to adjust the height?
  • What kind of surface(s) work best for the kind of art you create?

I have a make-do table in my studio right now, because I'm stitching up gifts and ornaments to put under the tree and deck our new halls with this year. I have been looking for easy tips and tricks to move the creative process along.

ruched ribbon embellishmentsWhen I saw these instructions from Melody Ferris and Jill Russell on how to make a ruched flower in Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts, I immediately stuck it on my design board. You can whip up a bunch of these beauties in no time and use them as embellishments on an art quilt, as an accent on an accessory (such as a clutch or plain ballet flats), or just put a pin back on one and call it a brooch.

How to make a ruched ribbon flower

Pick a ribbon that is not too stiff. You don't need to cut a specific length as you will gather the ribbon as you go.

1. Using a needle and thread, start at one end of the ribbon and begin to stitch back and forth in a zigzag fashion, using small stitches. After you have sewn several inches, pull the thread to gather the ribbon.

2. Continue stitching along the length of the ribbon, gathering as you go. Use a matching thread if you don't want the stitching to show or a contrasting thread to add a little pizzazz to the flower.

3. Cut the ruched ribbon to the desired length and gather the ribbon into a flower.

4. Conceal the ribbon end and any loose threads within the flower and stitch to hold the shape. 

I could even see a display of ruched ribbon ornaments hanging from the tree or in the window. I definitely need some new holiday home dec to make our new abode feel homey and festive over the holidays.

Ever since I was forced to wear uniforms throughout my school years, I've had an aversion to plaid. However, looking at all the new ways you can "do" plaid–especially in quilting–has me rethinking my tartan ban. I especially like the "Plaid Curves" patchwork table runner in the most recent issue of Quilting Arts Stitch. Stitching plaids together is one time you want to be matchy-matchy, so I was thankful to see several tips like these in the magazine.

Tips for Stitching Plaids

  • Buy extra yardage for flexibility in matching plaids across seamlines. As a rule of thumb, purchase at least ¼ yard more than the pattern requirements.
  • The larger the plaid, the more difficult it will be to match at the seams.
  • A walking foot will keep the layers from shifting as the seams are sewn, for better matches across the seamline.

Come to think of it, that runner will look lovely on the new dining room table.

What are some of your quick stitching and studio tips? Share them in the comments section below!

Other topics you may enjoy:


Art Quilt, Quilting Daily Blog

9 thoughts on “Quick Tips for Your Art Quilting & Studio

  1. Here is how I handled the table problem. I have my studio in my shed. It’s not very big so I didn’t want a stationary table taking up all the floor space. I purchased a piece of heavy plywood (the kind with a very smooth finish, not the kind with wood chunks sticking out) at my Home Depot. It cost 25.00. I then purchased 2-3ft. pieces of piano hinge, 3 small hinges and 3 screw on table legs. You could substitute porch spindles or plain boards for this. I then attached the plywood to the wall using the piano hinge, attached the 3 legs, one on each side and one in the exact middle of the plywood . Add the hook part of an eye hook to each end of the plywood and the coordinating eye parts to the wall. When table is not in use simply fold the hinged legs in and push the hinged plywood up and hook the hooks. Kind of the same concept as a Murphy bed. I also added a strip of velcro to the legs so they would stay in place while the table was in the closed position.. Don’t know if that was clear but I can send you an illustration if not.

  2. Pokey-

    DH made my work table and I love it! I do work standing up and I’m taller than you, but this could be made to your specifications. The base is two kitchen cabinet base pot drawers (mine came from Ikea). They are individual units on heavy duty casters for easy moving in the studio (out of the way for photos of the work wall, etc), and they have a lot of storage (two deep and two shallow drawers each). On top is a formica countertop piece that came from Home Depot, with an edging trim added by DH. That is longer than the length of the two cabinets, and I have them set with a space between the cabinets. On the floor there I can put a waste basket or a rack with rotary rulers. On the back side I have peg board for scissors, cutters, etc.

    It would be possible to set up this system with a stool at the center gap for sit down work. When I need a sit down spot I can use my machine table with its drop leaf extended.

  3. Pokey
    I have always lived in small apts. with very little space to work in .Growing up in New York City large work space was always a day dream. As an artist with a family I have always had to be creative and flexible with time and space but somehow art gets made. About your table problem…..After many moves and many work spaces, I found that banquet tables work best for me. You can get them at office supply stores and they come in a variety of lengths and widths……and cheep. They also fold up and are light enough to be moved by one person. They are not good furniture so anything spilled on it or cut into it is OK.

    And just so you know, I took over the dining room and made it into studio space. We don’t have an open floor plan so it isn’t as awkward as that might seem. We use the the eat-in kitchen for all of our meals.

    If you want to know how to maximize small spaces ask a New Yorker…or someone from the tri-state area as we say (NY, New Jersey, CT ). Master Quilter
    Paula Nadelstern lives in NYC and said that until recently she quilted on the kitchen table and laughed when she told me that she couldn’t have a second child ” because my overflow fabric stash was in the chair at the table.Where would he sit ? ” Take a look at her intro in ” Kaleidoscope Quilts “.

    Jacqui Holmes

  4. I’m new to this site and am very excited to have found you! I think I may have a solution to your work table problem. My husband and I each have a door for our work tables, I sew & he builds Radio Control Airplanes. Go to your local home improvement center and get a blank door. They are inexpensive and you can get them is several widths. They also have kits for making saw horses, which when put together make the legs of your table. Just measure the hights you want your table to be, put the sawhorses together and paint it if you want and put it on the saw horses. The home improvement store will cut the legs for you so you don’t even need a saw. There you have it, a large flat workspace made to order!

  5. I have the PERFECT SOLUTION! At least in my case it is… 😉
    I purchased a kitchen “Pub”table at a major furniture store. It is 42″ square and 36” high…perfect for me! Now I don’t have to worry about my back hurting when cutting and stooping over a regular height kitchen table. It even has storage in the center of the base and it is set in so that you don’t kick it with your feet PLUS it has bar type stools with it that tuck under the table so that if I work on crafts on the table or have sewing buddies coming to sew…we all have a place to sit..LOVE IT! 🙂

  6. To make any table (such as the fold-up ones suggested) you can add one of two things: either the “dorm room bed raisers” (not sure what they’re called) that kids use so they can store stuff under their beds in a small dorm room) or, if the legs are small enough (this works on the fold-up tables) lengths of PVC pipe just enough larger in diameter than the legs that the legs fit snugly but don’t slide down.

    On the fold-up tables, you can also cut them long enough so they just slide up to the cross-pieces; that’s a lot more secure. Our guild does that for our workshops, retreats, etc.

    I have an old dining room table with straight legs that I use the cot-lifters for. I have an actual studio that’s about 22 x 12 so I have room for a permanent cutting/work station.

    You can get one at estate sales, tag sales, etc. for not too much money. The worse the top the cheaper it is 🙂 Either cover with stickyback paper or do what I did: cover it with several good green cutting mats. It’s always ready for me to measure and cut. And since I got one with leaves, my table is 90″ long: enough to do a lot of my sandwiching without having to get down on the floor to smooth the layers (which is very bad on my knees).

    My friend’s husband built her a permanent one with a large door (36″ or even 40″ wide) mounted on a pair of kitchen cabinet bases that he added casters to. He built shelves underneath the door-top and put a solid back on it.

  7. Go to your local home building supply place and buy a blank interior door and 2 replacement card table legs. Hinge one long side of the door horizontally to the wall; attach the card table legs to the other long side. Presto — fold up, drop down table surface on the cheap.
    Cathy in Volcano, CA

  8. I like the tips for getting a new worktable. What I need is the discipline to avoid leaving it piled full with WIP’s. One important point you left out on your ruched ribbon directions: At the end of each zig-zag, your thread should cross over the edge and enter the fabric again in the back of the ribbon. Otherwise it will not come out as pictured.