Thursday, June 23, 2016

My New & Improved Craft Room


In March of 2013, I was shopping with my then-4 year-old son. He saw some Thomas the Train fabric and asked if I would make him quilt. I had no idea how to sew, but I would do anything for my boy! I bought a $10 sewing machine from Big Lots to go with the Thomas fabric and after learning to sew by making un-paper towels, I made my very first quilt. At the time, Marissa, our Dutch exchange student was living with us, so I made her a quilt, too.  

Sometime toward the end of the first quilt, I decided I liked quilting, so I upgraded to a Singer Curvy


Like a lot of quilters, I used our dining table for my sewing area. We eat together every night, so I quickly tired of moving my things every day. I started storing my supplies and stash in deep Sterilite clip boxes, which made moving and storing easier, but I discovered I needed more and more boxes...and a dedicated craft space. 


By the time Marissa returned to the Netherlands, I had finished my third quilt and was nearly done with my fourth! We were all pretty sad to see her go. My only consolation was that her room would be empty and I called dibs!


The day we dropped Marissa off at the airport, we went immediately to IKEA to pick up supplies for an IKEA hack idea I had. Our DIY craft table tutorial is our most popular post in the history of de Jong Dream House!


Since moving in to my craft room 3 years ago, I have made 64 quilts and have made countless tweaks to my craft room as I learned new techniques, discovered new tools and notions, and of course, built up my stash! About a month ago, I bought a free motion extension table to expand my quilting beyond straight lines. So I bought a table to go with it. Which meant my big comfy chair needed to go. Which meant I needed to re-organize everything. 

Are you ready? Welcome to my happy place!


Hanging on the outside of the door I have my small design wall, inspired by my friend Nicole. I took glass out of frame, cut a piece of batting the size of the glass, sprayed adhesive to the back of the frame and smoothed the batting over it. For the time being, I use this one to hold my scrappy yo yos...which I will make into a quilt...someday.


View from the door. The room itself is 12' x 12', so a typical bedroom size. I still drool along with everyone else when I see the big beautiful studios and She Sheds. As I mentioned already, I wrote a tutorial for the craft table a few years back. If you read that post, you'll see how the room has changed in the last three years! 

The quick summary is that the table is made of 3 IKEA Expedits (now Kallax). It has a solid, unfinished, unbored door (36"x 80") from Home Depot on top. I use deep Sterilite clip boxes for the storage The craft table is about 32" tall, which is perfect for me at 5'4". LOTS of people have made their own version of this hack in the last few years, and I love when we get emails with photos. Some people put the whole thing on casters if they are taller and to move it easier. (It was too high for me with casters). Other people use only the 2x2 shelves so they can put a chair under the table to sit. I have two places to sit, so I stand here and take advantage of all the glorious storage. Moving on...


Behind the door I have re-purposed a crib as a magazine holder. I have more books and magazines in the closet, but these are either new issues or have a specific pattern I want to find quickly.


The metal bars are a IKEA Grundtal towel holder. In the early days I used to hang fabric and rows of pieced fabric. I still use it for that sometimes, but I also use it to hang things like my son's new lab coat that needs patches put on before Space Camp and completed applique shirts

Moving down, this is what I call my Trofast towers. The middle three hold fabric scraps sorted by color. On the sides I have things like Command products, rick rack, laminating products, Silhouette supplies, writing utensils, etc. The bins on top were found on clearance at Target and include terry, t-shirts, batting, and baby items ready for applique. The purple baskets include patterns. On the wall by the curtain are two Vurm wine racks from IKEA (of course) that hold my Heat N Bond Lite, quilting paper, stabilizer, freezer paper, printable fabric,  etc.



The white board lists my current projects, to do queue, and other craft projects. This post reminded me to update it. Much prettier!


Moving to the craft table, on the Trofast side, I keep all of my tonal prints in deep Sterilite clip boxes. I put purple duct tape along the unfinished sides of the table top so I won't snag fabric on it. It's held up pretty great for three years, but I'm thinking about putting something new on it and then marking inches with my Sharpie. 


Between the craft table and the window, I have a Sterilite Touch Can to hold my teeny tiny scraps. I keep a garbage bag in the can so when it fills up, I can easily keep everything together. I use the scraps for stuffing and occasionally, for tiny applique pieces.


On the other end of the craft table, I have clip boxes for my neutrals, muslin, and solids.


On the sewing side of my craft table, I have my UFOs. Each clip box includes a laminated project label with the recipient and description of the project. When I start think of a project, I get a bin and start putting in pattern (or patterns, if I'm not sure yet), fabric from my stash, and anything else that might go along with it. 


In the slot between the craft table and the IKEA Micke drawer unit re-purposed from an old desk, I keep my rotating cutting mat, pressing mat, some poster board and any oversized things I need to tuck away. 


I love IKEA Bygel containers for storing little things. They're only 99 cents each! I keep my cutters, scissors, and tape measures on a this little file cabinet. The empty one is used for scraps when I'm cutting and trimming.

***IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE*** 
Do not leave your rotary cutter open when moving it to take a picture. This is not smart. 


In the top drawer of the cabinet has my blade sharpenerprecision cutterchenille cuttercircle cutter, press perfect, and other cutting supplies. Other drawers (not pictured) have fat quarter cardboard and my hexie punch, and decorative scissors.


Turning around, here's the sewing area. The table in the corner is my free motion area (or friend area, when I have a sewing date!). 


I am just starting to learn how to free motion. I've been eyeing a sit down quilting machine for awhile now, but when I saw the Sew Steady Free Motion table, I knew that it was just what I needed. I can use my regular Pfaff for free motion. I bought a Norden Gateleg table from IKEA to support it. And I love my purple saddle chair. It's super comfortable! The nice think about the table is that if I move things around, I can use it to sandwich my quilts. 


Tucked in the back is my Rubbermaid EZ Step Folding Stool.  My Pfaff sits in a Janome Universal Table I bought used from a local Amish shop. I bought the bungee chair from the Container Store before our house was even finished! In between the two tables is a Honeywell QuietSet fan that I LOVE in the summer when my iron heats up the room!


Above the sewing table I have two Ribba picture ledges (the Ribba has been discontinued and replaced with the Mosslanda line). I use the Bygel containers to hold little things like safety pins, straight pins, clover clips, T-pins, quilting gloves, cheater glasses, seam rippers etc. On the closet doors I have two medium design walls made the same way as the one on my main door.


When I converted the bedroom into my craft room, I removed the closet shelf and installed it on the wall outside the closet. I use it to store rarely-used things. What I use more is the rod with clip hooks to display finished tops and quilts.


Looking inside the closet. Ribbon storage on the left door. Ruler storage on the right door. More IKEA Expedit/Kallax inside to hold my prints, books, magazines, batting scraps (in the large purple bins), fat quarters (in the black & white boxes), and extra binding (in the purple basket). 


I tried a LOT of different ways to store ribbon.I wanted something neat, where I could see everything at once. I also wanted to be able to put individual rolls out, so that ruled out options where the rolls were hung on a holder. I used more Bygel bins for loose ribbon, sorted by color. The racks themselves are Style Selections coated wire shelves from Lowe's. I have two stacked and hung with Command hooks. 



And finally, I have my rulers hanging on the inside of the closet door, once again using Command hooks. In my dream world, IKEA, Command, and Sterilite would ask me to be a product tester! The bin that sticks out from the door is actually a $1.64 ice bin from Walmart. I tried all sorts of much more expensive options for my smaller templates and rulers, but this worked the best. If I had a lot of patterns, I could see using these to store them. Can't beat the price. 

Whew! That's the tour, folks! I hope you enjoyed looking around and found some ideas you can use. I tried to cover everything, but if I missed something or if you have questions, leave a note in the comments. Thanks!


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Quilt #63: Charlie's Choo Choo Train


Two years ago, my son switched preschools several weeks into the school year. He was nervous about making friends and fitting in because the school he had been attending wasn't a great match for him. I walked in with him that first day to find that his new teacher, Miss Anne, had gone to great lengths to make sure that our little guy was already part of the class. His name was already displayed around the room in various places: on the birthday list, on his new locker, included in the job chart. There was a big white board announcing that today was the day that the class's new friend was joining them. Miss Anne assigned two friends to join him during each activity so he never had a chance to feel left out all day. My sweet boy took it all in, dropped my hand and ran into his new adventure. When I picked him up that first day and asked how it went, he said, "Mommy! I have friends!!!" My mama heart swooned.


He had a fantastic year. We have a very smart boy, but as is common in boys like ours, social skills take a little more time. Miss Anne "got" him. She marveled at this academic milestones, but celebrated his social growth. When his last day was done, our little boy clung to Miss Anne, sobbing at the thought of no longer having her as his advocate and friend.


Our son is at the same school today, starting his last week of first grade. Miss Anne's classroom is just down the hall from his, so he sees her many times a day. After many years of delighting the parents of everyone blessed to have their child in her class, and just as many years longing for a child of her own, Miss Anne will soon welcome her first child, a boy named Charlie.

I knew I wanted to make a quilt for Miss Anne to show how much her kindness has meant to our family. After learning the name and that she had a train theme, I started looking at train patterns. I am often asked how I come up with my quilt designs. Since I took lots of pictures of this one, I thought it would be a good opportunity to illustrate how this particular quilter gets her inspiration.

My original plan was to model a quilt after this adorable one by Amanda of  Sticks on a Plane. She modeled it after a quilt featured on Live Steam and Outdoor Railroading's website, but since the site has been taken down, I can't see what initially inspired her.

Please don't pin this quilt from here. Pin from the source.
I really liked the the strip of fabric on the rail cars and the way the flatbed carried the letters, but I made my own engine, drawing on my son's three-year train obsession. I also added a caboose, inspired by this quilt by Sindy Rodenmayer.

Please don't pin this quilt from here. Pin from the source.
Using this two quilts as inspiration, I came up with my own take, using the colors of the rainbow out of my scrap bins, and simple black circles for the wheels. But I wasn't happy with the look because Charlie's long name was cumbersome.


So the next idea was to put Charlie's name on one line. I know a lot of quilters create their patterns with Electric Quilt 7, but since I haven't made the splurge yet, I create my patterns in PowerPoint. I moved my cars around a bit until I landed on this design. 


At this point, I started the quilt. I made each block with a white 4.5" x 6.5" background. Leaving a 1/4" seam around the edge, I built the cars by cutting out squares and rectangles, trimming as needed to get the scale I wanted. 


My Silhouette Cameo was a godsend for this quilt, as I needed a lot of black circles. 


One of the most fun aspects of making this particular quilt is that I recently joined Instagram (follow me @dejongdreamhouse!) so I shared photos of my progress. I also posted photos to one of my Facebook quilting groups, and loved the feedback I received as I worked. 


When I posted the photo above, a woman named Cheryl suggested that I add tankers. I was on my way to church and thinking about how I wanted to finish the quilt before school let out for summer. I was nearly done with my trains, but couldn't stop thinking about those tankers..and log cars. My apologies to Jesus, I was distracted that morning.


Thanks to Snapdragon Snippets, I figured out how to cut the pieces for my two new cars. 


The piecing went by quickly compared to the time it took to applique. I thought I would be stitching wheels forever! 


Once I finally had all my cars complete, it didn't take much time at all to stitch the rows together. I added a 1/2" strip under the cars for the train track. But then, I made yet another edit to my template. I had originally planned to use striped fabric in between the rows of trains, but then I thought white would look better. 


At this point, I started getting requests my quilting friends for a pattern. I've never written a quilt pattern before, but I always take lots of notes as I work.


 And I take pictures of each step. It will be fun to have my own pattern available on Craftsy for other quilters to make their own personalized Choo Choos.


The last thing I needed to do to the main part of the quilt was add Charlie's name. Again, I relied on my Silhouette to cut out the letters. I used the font Flange BQ, which is the same font from Thomas the Train, a little nod to my little engineer's former obsession.


I added an exclamation point to the end of Charlie's name so there would be two letters per flatbed. I lined each letter up with the tire. My original idea was to have a black inner border and a blue outer border. I spent a ridiculous amount of time finalizing the border. In addition to my original idea, I considered just a thick black border, just a thick blue border, and what I landed on, a blue inner border and a black outer border. Honestly, I can't remember why I veered from my original, because I think any of the options would have looked good. This is where I landed before removing the black inner border and replacing it with blue.


And finally, Charlie's Choo Choo is complete!


For the back, I cut up a striped sheet that I found shortly after I started quilting. The stripes feature the colors of the rainbow and I've kept it thinking it would be a perfect backing for a baby. This was actually the first fabric I picked when starting this quilt. I thought I would use it on the front, but more often than not, my design process has a mind of its own.


Close up of the label, which also includes my son's school name and the current staff.


I hope Miss Anne's little engineer finds many years of joy with his new quilt. 


I have since gifted the quilt and it was enthusiastically received. Because my health is unreliable, I didn't promise the quilt after my initial conversation with our principal. I told her about it a few days before I finished, but for most of the teachers, it was a big surprise to see the quilt, as well as their names on the label. 

I've started working on the pattern, and will add a link when it is complete. Since I don't use a lot of patterns, and this quilt was mostly applique made from scraps and stash, it's been a bit more challenging to write up the process, but it's getting there. Here's a sneak peak!


Updated: Jen's comment below prompted me to add a link to the first quilt I ever made, a Thomas the Train rag quilt for my then-4 year old, who was on year 3 of his train obsession. I've learned quite a bit about quilting in the last three years!!


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