Ideas You Can Use

I love having friends come for dinner. This evening we’ll host another couple, share some good laughs, a few good rants, dinner, and a bottle of wine.

I also love old-fashioned cakes, made from scratch. I think of them as “homely,” as they aren’t highly decorated. I wouldn’t win the Great British Baking Show with my skills, but we’ll enjoy this applesauce bundt cake with brown sugar glaze, with a little ice cream for dessert!

I’m also trying to finish quilting my urn-with-flowers project. It’s been on the frame for several days, and I get a bit done at a time. Each day I think “it might be done today!”

It’s worth mentioning my take on quilting medallion-format quilts. For machine-quilting, you can choose to do an all-over design; quilting that is custom, or different in each segment or border; or some combination. Usually I do an all-over design.

I’ve custom-quilted a few for which, after the fact, it seemed like a waste of effort. There was so much going on with the piecing that the quilting didn’t add much, and I could have done something much simpler. And there are others for which I simply couldn’t have chosen an all-over design. Because this one has a fair amount of appliqué, I decided to do custom. That makes it a much slower process, but it’s coming along and will be done soon!

While I waited for the longarm to warm up this morning, I took a few photos in my studio. They have some ideas you might find useful.

  • I usually sew (piece) with So Fine 50wt. polyester thread on cones. The cones don’t fit my domestic machine, so I keep the cone in a cup next to the machine, and run the thread through the loop of a safety pin.
  • I have a lot of storage in my studio. (Click any picture to open the gallery and see detail.) My fabric stash is in the TV armoire. Almost all of it is in the plastic bins in the top. Other things (scraps, current projects, bags, etc.) are stored under my cutting table in rolling drawer sets. The table is a basic folding table, available at any big box store. It is on “stilts” made of PVC pipes cut to length. The third picture is of an open cabinet we got at a garage sale 100 years ago. The new addition is the wire under-shelf bin that holds my overflow of thread cones. On top of the cabinet is my bobbin winder for the longarm.
  • For a few years I’ve used Fiskars blunt-tipped school scissors when I quilt. They will keep me from punching a hole in a quilt top by accidentally dropping pointy scissors on it. But I never had a good place to put them and found reaching for them (where are they now??) awkward. For Christmas Santa brought me a package of lightweight 3M Command hooks. I applied one to the side of my longarm and now I know exactly where the scissors will be. Next I’ll put one on the side of my domestic machine for the small scissors I use there.

  • At the back of my cutting table is a rack to hold my cutting rulers. Yes, that’s all of them! I had a plastic letter holder for years, foraged from work during a long-ago closet-cleaning. Last summer I purchased a prettier one, and every time I see it, I’m glad I bought it. I also keep a yogurt cup with lid on the table. In it go all my dead needles, bent pins, and dull rotary blades. I’ve used the same one for years. If it ever fills up, I’ll tape it shut with duct tape before putting it in the trash. The other item you see is my pin magnet, for long pins I use on the longarm. It sits in a paper bowl. The bowl keeps the pins corralled just a bit better than the magnet by itself. I keep another bowl-and-magnet of fine straight pins next to my domestic machine for piecing duty.

  • Last but not least is a photo of some of my studio lighting. On either side of the room I have a LED utility light. This one can be removed from the wall above the window, and used for extra light when we photograph finished quilts. The LED strips are inexpensive and give great quality of light.

I hope the start of your new year has been happy and productive, or at least happy. 🙂


35 thoughts on “Ideas You Can Use

  1. customprintedjerseyfabric

    Your quilting my urn-with-flowers project is simply beautiful and wonderful.
    Your hard work pays off very well
    Thanks for sharing this amazing art and tips that you gave in this post 🙂

  2. Pingback: Creative Juice #123 | ARHtistic License

  3. Jo Vandermey

    Great tips! I use a free credit card holder on the front of my machine to put my scissors in. Got it in a promo. They are sharp and now I know where they are and don’t lose them on the machine table.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That idea isn’t original to me. I think I read it on Sam Hunter’s blog several years ago, but I’ve seen it other places. Thanks for reading and commenting today!

  4. KerryCan

    Some of theses specific hints are really helpful but, more, I like the creativity you’ve shown in problem-solving. It reminds us we can figure this out and make our lives easier!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That’s right, we usually can! And one of the things I find interesting is how many fixes or aids there are for quilters in the hardware or grocery store. They get rebranded for the quilt shop and cost 3x as much!

  5. snarkyquilter

    Cake and sewing room tips are great, but I’m looking forward to seeing the quilt on your longarm done. I’m glad you’re going the custom quilting route as it’s such a special quilt.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Joanna. I finished quilting it this afternoon. Now to pick a binding. It is HOT. The red, pink, orange, gold are so strong, they even lead the purples and greens to read warm, not cool. I like it, but HOT!

  6. jim fetig

    I’ve shared this with my wife. Good tips. We share a bedroom as a combination sewing room/office. As for cake, I’m just a total putz. I’ll stick to bread.

  7. katechiconi

    I like your idea for the scissors. Generally, my small snips live on the table edge in front of the sewing machine, but they fall off. I was just thinking that I need a sort of ‘holster’ for them on the front of the sewing machine, but of course, a hook would do the job perfectly 🙂 I like your ruler arrangement too, clever idea, but I think I prefer my pegboard ruler storage because it gets them up off the table surface.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Pegboard would work well and has the added advantage that the rulers aren’t standing on their edges. I suspect that over a long time, a longer ruler could warp slightly out of line.

      1. katechiconi

        I think you’re right. Add to that the fact that most rulers seem to have a handy hole drilled in them of exactly the right size, and it does make things pretty easy.

  8. knitnkwilt

    Luckily my rulers also take minimal space. I had an early quilt instructor who talked about the few rulers she found essential, and I have followed her advice.

  9. Kerry

    I like the idea of the pot for the spent needles, pins and blades. The quilting group I used to belong to (and still join them on retreats) collect the pins and needles for someone – not sure how they are recycled but better than being thrown away. Mine are saved up in an old sponge pin cushion so I can hand them over when I go on retreat again. Pity the blades aren’t collected too.

  10. Isabella

    I really like your use of the command hooks and the letter holder. I think I will have to utilize several of your ideas to help me get organized. Thank you for sharing your tips.


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