I recently attended a local quilt show & conference and spent two glorious days viewing amazing quilts, shopping vendor booths, and taking classes. I learned so much and was so inspired!
In one of my classes, the instructor brought out a pressing bar for us to use when pressing the seams open of the quilt we were making. I had vaguely heard of these before, but hadn’t seen one in person. Pressing seams open has always been a very awkward process to me, as I would try to push the iron to open the seam and use my fingers (close to the iron!) to help open it up and inadvertently press other nearby seams that got in the way in the wrong direction. It would be a battle to repress seams and keep the open seams open!
When I tried out the pressing bar I was amazed! The seam easily opened and I could do it one-handed! Following that, I purchased the Seams-Flat Pressing Bar by Maywood Studio from Fat Quarter Shop. It is a 17.75″ curved wooden core bar with 100% wool on top.
To use it, you simply place the quilt block on the bar, wrong side up. You then press the iron in the middle of the seam and glide it to the end, opening it up as you go. Because the seam is resting on this curved surface, it more naturally opens up and the other seams are not in the way. It’s quick and it works wonderfully with no extra fiddling!
I was using it today on my latest project: a Dear Jane quilt. This quilt has 225 different quilt blocks and since the majority are only 4.5 inches finished, pressing seams open becomes necessary! I’m going to get a lot of use out of this pressing bar.
I wasn’t in the market for another sewing machine, but my latest just appeared and I couldn’t pass it up! It all started when my mom was trying to decide what to do with her old sewing desk. It was in rough shape and had been sitting unused for a long time. It was an extra piece of furniture that was moved a few times over the years, had somehow lost all of its varnish and looked so weathered. It had originally been her mother’s.
We proceeded to take a closer look at the desk to see what exactly was inside of it. The most we were expecting was perhaps some old items in the drawers, but much to our surprise, she opened the top and there was a sewing machine inside! She had no idea it was hidden in the desk these past 30+ years.
This vintage White brand machine, model number 2134, was her machine and dates back to somewhere around the mid-1960’s to 1970. When we lifted it up from inside the desk, it was understandably dirty and covered in flakes of varnish. I plugged it in and the motor worked! It was a bit difficult to move the needle at first, but I later oiled it up and got it moving great again. It can sew a straight stitch and a zig zag. The exterior cleaned up well, too! Luckily with just a bit of Dawn soap and water, it now looks nearly pristine! Spending so much time out of the daylight probably helped to keep it looking so good.
The machine weighs a lot with its metal body and all metal insides. This also makes it an awesome heavy-duty machine. Once I had it running smoothly, I put it to the test with multiple layers of fabric and foam stabailizer that I use for making bags to see if it could handle it. The layers quickly and easily glided through with a great stitch!
Since it was clear I needed to keep this machine and give it a new sewing life, I had to do something about its cabinet. The cabinet originally held a Singer machine (which is long gone) and after some research I found it is called the Singer Art Deco Cabinet #42. I looked up pictures to see what it once might have looked like and came across some copies of orignal advertisements for the desk.
I have never been interested in refinishing furniture, but I thought I’d give this a shot. I stripped off what little stain remained and got to work re-staining it. These pictures show how much of a difference adding one coat of stain was next to the bare wood it had become.
After a week of work, I absolutely love how it turned out! It definitely has new life and looks so fancy with its glossy finish. It actually makes the machine look even better! The desk now resides in my living room because there is no room left in my sewing room. Oh well. It is such a fine piece of furniture that it looks better there anyway! I will just have to make a point to sew out there sometimes.
I also stained and re-covered the stool to complete the makeover. My piano bench was overdue to be reupholstered and I had already purchased some home decor fabric for it months ago. I took the measurements and realized I had exactly enough fabric to cover both pieces! Since they are right next to each other in my living room, they now tie together so well.
From this experience, I can see why some like to rescue and restore vintage machines. I enjoyed taking apart the machine and analyzing how the gears work to get it back to working order. It’s such a great machine it deserves to be used again! With this resoration complete I better get sewing!
Welcome to my sewing room! This 11-foot x 14-foot space is obviously my favorite room of the house! It started as an office and as my love of sewing grew over the years, my sewing supplies took over the whole room. 🙂 Let me show you the different areas of my room, how I organize them and what products I use. I’ve included a lot of details because I know how inspiring and helpful it is to see how someone else organizes their room!
My layout has changed over the years (most recently when I brought the longarm in last year) but the way it is currently set up is working well. You’ll see I use every inch of space available!
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Sewing & Computer Area
The first area you see when you walk in the room is my Juki sewing station and computer desk. The Juki TL-2010Q is my main machine which I use for quilt piecing, bag making, and free-motion quilting. It’s a very popular machine in the quilting and bag-making worlds! I’ve owned it for three years and have loved it from day one! This semi-industrial machine is fast and can plow through as many layers as I throw at it.
The floor lamp next to the sewing desk is the OttLite Dual Shade LED Floor Lamp. It has a handy stand to rest my pattern books or it could be used as a tablet holder with its USB charging outlet.
The desk my Juki sits in is an Arrow Mod Squad Model 2011 Modular Sewing Cabinet. I researched many desks before purchasing this one and chose it because the table the machine sits on has a hydraulic lift to adjust it in three different positions: flat bed (pictured), free arm (bottom of machine is flush with the desk top so you can utilize the machine’s free arm) and storage (lowered to the floor inside the desk). It also has an option for a custom acrylic insert to make the machine flush with the table top for easier free-motion quilting (pictured). Arrow Cabinets has an entire line of “Mod Squad” cabinets that can be used together: Mod Squad System.
The desk is very sturdy, yet is easy to move around the room if needed since it is on wheels. When the machine table is lowered to the floor for storage, you can put the included white wood insert over the opening to use the desk for another purpose, making it very versatile. The desk also has a door that can be pulled closed when not in use. When open, the door tucks into the right side of the desk (pictured). The majority of the time mine is open!
The storage shelves in the desk are just the right size to hold my sewing machine supplies and a mini machine for my daughter. I have a Sterilite Small Clip Box for each of my machines (shown on the top shelf) which contains all the tools that came with the machine and the feet. The box fits great on the top shelf and is easy to grab and take with to retreats without having to worry if I forgot anything!
I have a handy Ikea Gladom Tray Table next to my machine with all the supplies I need close at hand while sewing. I pull the table right next to me when I’m sewing. I hooked Ikea SUNNERSTA containers on the rim of the table to hold my starter fabric scraps for chain piecing and I also use a couple as convenient trash cans for my thread clippings.
Above the desks are peg boards filled with all of my miscellaneous tools and small rulers. I chose to use the Ikea peg board system because I love all the accessories you can attach to it! There’s another peg board near my computer desk with supplies for my Cricut Maker cutting machine. I use it to cut fabric, which is a real time-saver!
After finding a love of doing free-motion quilting and realizing wrestling a large quilt on my Juki sewing machine was getting tiring, I set out to buy a longarm. Already a big Juki fan, I chose the Juki Miyabi J-350QVP Longarm with an 18-inch throat space on a 7-foot table. Seven feet is definitely the largest frame I could fit with my current furniture configuration, but so far it’s been the perfect size for the throw-sized quilts, wall hangings, and table runners I make.
The DIY light bar above my longarm was made by my husband. He used aluminum poles, brackets, and LED strip lights from Menards. I was in charge of spray painting the poles white. 🙂 It provides awesome light for my late-night quilting!
I have found having tools within easy reach while quilting is very important. I’m always needing to snip a thread or (unfortunately) sometimes rip some stitching out. I put these tools along with some marking pencils in magnetic cups on both ends of the frame, utilizing the magnetic frame to my advantage. This called for getting duplicates of the tools so I can reach them from both sides, but it’s so much more convenient and helps me go faster!
The other smart storage solution I came up with is hanging good ol’ Ikea SUNNERSTA containers on the side of my frame. It has the perfect lip to do so! These cups are a perfect place to store my quilting rulers and keep them easy to grab!
My cutting and pressing table is located opposite of the longarm. When I first got the Studio Designs Sew Ready Hobby and Craft Table, I quickly realized how great it is to be able to cut and iron at a standing height. I previously was leaning down on a regular desk or on the floor! This table not only is height adjustable, but also has the ability to fold down each side of the table leaving a small center section to reduce its footprint. I have to admit my table is fully extended most of the time, but it is a nice feature if you are in a small space! I also love the bottom ruler storage shelf and sliding metal baskets for ironing supplies under the table.
The tan anti-fatigue standing mat in front of the table is a recent purchase and I’m not sure how I lived without it. I got an extra long Kangaroo Original Standing Mat (60″ x 20″) which conveniently spans the entire table length and also can cover most of the longarm length! I push it to whichever area I’m using and it really makes standing for long periods more comfortable!
I have designated an ironing and cutting side to the table, but at times if I have something large to cut out I can remove the ironing board to add a second 24″ x 36″ cutting mat. My ironing board is a DIY creation using plywood covered with batting and a decorator-weight fabric. The best way for a custom-sized ironing surface!
The iron I use is a Panasonic NI-WL600 Cordless Iron. Using a cordless iron is a dream in a tight space! No cord to fight with! When I need to fuse big pieces of interfacing for a bag or press quilt blocks flat, I pull out my Singer 26″ Intelligent Steam Press which sits on top of the table for lack of a better location. This is another dream machine. It really cuts down on my ironing time and provides a much better fuse/press than a regular-sized iron!
You’ll also see I have another ironing board hidden behind my thread shelves on the wall! This DIY solution was created by my husband using wood, thin dowels (to hold the spools), piano hinges to swing the shelves out, and an “over the door” ironing board mounted to the wall. I use this when I’m sewing garments and need to put the garment around the board to iron a certain area.
Another shelf holds all of my fat quarter sets organized in IRIS Modular Supply Case Size Large clear cases. There is also a shelf for office paper and scrapbook paper. The drawers hold other office supplies and bag making supplies.
On the upper right side of the closet is my quilting cotton yardage wrapped around Ultra Pro Magazine Size Boards (8.5″ x 11″) to keep them neat and tidy. This allows me to see just enough of the fabric so I know what I have, but efficiently store them so they don’t take up too much space. Knit yardage for garments is bulkier so it is folded on the bottom shelves.
I have a second sewing area next to the cutting/pressing table because any seasoned seamstress seems to collect multiple machines! In my case, the Juki is a straight-stitch-only machine, so I need a second machine with zig zag and other utility stitches used for garment making. I use an older model Bernina 1020 for that!
The sewing desk is the same Arrow Mod Squad Model 2011 Modular Sewing Cabinet as I use for my Juki, however I don’t have an acrylic insert around the machine. Instead it fits pretty nicely in the open space with its own table extension. I adjusted the height of the platform the machine sits on to line it up flush with the table top.
I also have serger and coverstitch machines for garment making. These don’t get used as often, so they are stored on a shelf under my cutting/pressing table and are taken out when needed. I just need to remove the Bernina from the table to use them.
The longarm may take up a lot of space in the room, but it does offer a lot of space for storage underneath! I store baskets of batting and interfacing and use a set of drawers to store other supplies such as zippers and paper patterns. The basket I keep my interfacing in is a 26L Wave Design Curved Basket from Target.
I got this Hefty 40 Quart Storage Container at Target and found it was perfect to store my fabric scraps. These are each around a fat quarter in size. I don’t usually keep anything smaller than that.
I have to thank YouTube for a lot of the sewing tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years. Whenever I’m stuck on a pattern, I can usually find someone with a video tutorial on how to do the technique — or better yet, someone making the exact pattern I’m using. I also turn to YouTube when I just want to listen to someone chat about sewing and see what they are working on. Check out the channels I subscribe to and you may find something new!
All-Around Tutorials The Crafty Gemini Quilting, garments, bags, and so much more: Vanessa at The Crafty Gemini sews it all! She has great tutorials aimed at beginners and many are free! She also has live Q&A chats twice weekly.
Bag Making Sew Sweetness I once picked up a Sew Sweetness bag pattern at a quilt shop thinking I might like trying to make a bag someday. I later searched Sew Sweetness online and found Sara’s YouTube channel and became an official “bag lady”! Sara holds weekly live shows to answer questions about her patterns, give tutorials, review products she likes, and show her latest fabric finds. She’s so knowledgeable and fun to watch! ByAnnie ByAnnie’s quilted bags rival Vera Bradley’s, and better yet you get to create your own! ByAnnie has a large collection of patterns for all types of bags. Her YouTube channel contains introduction videos showing examples of all her newest offerings, zipper tutorials, and she’s recently started posting weekly live demos.
Quilting Chats Pat Sloan Pat Sloan is a quilt pattern & fabric designer, as well as an author. Her daily videos cover a different quilty topic each day and she always has a sew-along going on. Power Tools with Thread Becky posts chat videos about what she’s working on and also covers tutorials for embroidery machines and the Brother Scan and Cut. Neither of which I have, but I still find it interesting! 🙂 Fat Quarter Shop Kimberly Jolly, the owner of Fat Quarter Shop, hosts a weekly livestream that usually lasts 2 hours! She covers new products and fabrics, sew alongs, free patterns, and Q&A from viewers. There are also many great quick tutorials on their channel. Just Get it Done Quilts Karen Brown has a ton of tips, tricks, and hacks videos, along with live Q&A’s from Facebook. More recently she has started a “Karen’s Quilt Circle” series where she interviews a wide variety of people in the quilting industry about really interesting topics!
Quilting Tutorials Angela Walters Angela’s free-motion quilting challenges are excellent! I’ve completed two of them and have learned so much. She has also started doing weekly live chats. Natalia Bonner Natalia shows free-motion quilt designs on her longarm. Handi Quilter Handi Quilter is a brand of longarms, but they also post video tutorials that could apply to any longarm. Helen Godden Quilts I came across Helen from a Handi Quilter video because she is a Handi Quilter ambassador. I’m amazed at her unique technique of painting on fabric and then free-motion quilting over it using her sitdown machine. Sugaridoo The name “Sugaridoo” is a perfect match for Irene’s colorful, bright, happy style and cheery demeaner. I feel happier just watching her videos! She focuses on foundation paper piecing, quilt patterns, and quilting.