Prepare Your Studio for Holiday Success

4 Nov 2010

Streamline Your Handmade Holidays

Recently I decided to make fabric scrap pumpkin softies for everyone in our office. I made the first two or three individually from start to finish. But I quickly realized this was inefficient, and it this rate, I would be giving my coworkers pumpkins for Christmas. Not cool.  

So, I decided to work on all of the pumpkins at once, in stages. I pulled out my stash and selected the fabrics for all the pumpkins and stems, then cut all the pieces and did all the machine stitching. Then I filled a lightweight, shallow tub with the fabric, a bag of poly, and a zipper bag containing a book of various needles, two colors of thread, several skeins of floss, and scissors. I set the tub down next to my favorite chair and completed the pumpkins as I watched "Dancing with the Stars," "Mad Men," etc.

If I wanted to work somewhere else, all I had to do was pick up the bin and take the entire project with me.

I'm going to take a similar approach to creating my holiday gifts, and offer these tips to you.

1. Keep it simple. Instead of making a dozen completely different projects for 12 people, consider making one pattern for the teen girls in your life, another for all the women, etc. Try to limit it to 3-4 patterns max. Be realistic about what you can get done in the time you have, and scale back, if necessary.

2. Make a list, check it twice. Referring to your materials lists, take an inventory of what you have in your studio and what supplies you need to shop for. Then do one big shopping trip (or shop online) so you don't have to stop in the middle of a project to rush out and buy something.

3. Make use of stations. If you don't already have a sewing area, a separate cutting area, etc., now is a good time to set that up, even if it's just temporary for the season. Then, do all your cutting for the project at once, then all of the ironing, all of the stitching, etc.

4. Or, create a station for each project. If your projects involve a lot of hand work, or involve mixed media, you might want to set up one station for each project with all your supplies for that project close at hand. If it can be portable, put all the supplies needed for the project, or for a phase of the project, in one bin or basket.

5. Don't clean up. Though you'll want to rinse brushes or sweep up spilled beads, etc., for the most part, don't clean up until the project is complete. That way, you can dive right back in when you have the time. Close the door to your studio if you want to hide the mess. If you don't have a separate studio, fashion a temporary screen or just cover your work-in-progress with a colorful drop cloth.

6. That's a wrap. Set up a table out of the way where you can set your finished projects to await wrapping.  Keep all of your wrapping supplies (like novelty yarn, paper, fabric, embellishments, and handmade tag materials) nearby, to give your handmade gifts the presentation they deserve.

Do you have tips for getting, and keeping, your handmade holiday act together? Leave them in the comments section below. Also, be sure to check out the Winter 2010 issue of Studios, where we feature three artists who revel in holiday glitter all year long, plus more cute and clever quilting and mixed-media studios.


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