Workflow and Space Evaluation & Another Finish!

My Creative Space has been under a workflow evaluation. So not much happened during the month of December. I spent a lot of time moving things about. I have one finish from a bit earlier in 2020, while I was testing out how well the working triangle was arranged.

What does ‘Workflow’ mean?

Testing as in how well does the ‘workflow’ work. Is it awkward to move around the “working triangle”? Just like the kitchen our creative spaces often have a triangle. In the kitchen, the main triangle is the sink, stove, and refrigerator. For sewing, it is usually direct access to and from; the cutting/work table – sewing machine – the ironing station or design area, in any combination. Just as in a kitchen the triangle has supporting elements, such as counter space, storage, and ingredients. The same is true in your working space, you need, fabric, thread, tools, and places to keep tools conveniently at hand.

Where do I Start?

I was recently online in a Facebook Group, ‘Just Wanna Quilt’, a group with more than 3500 members. A quilter shared a picture of her soon to be sewing room and asked ‘Where do I Begin’? There was a photo of a large space, sort of finished (similar to mine). The photograph showed her supplies haphazardly about the room in boxes and piles. There were many comments about what would be nice. But not too many outlining a plan of attack, which is what she was asking for. Something along the lines of- “I have this huge space and I don’t know where to begin.”

I Need Some Help
A plea by a quilter getting ready for a new space

I commented:

” Looks like you have some great space to fill! You may be better served to take your set up a bit slower. You need to consider all kinds of things before you move stuff around 8 times!!! As suggested drawing a floor plan to-scale; with fixtures, sewing machines, shelves, cutting table, etc, proportions for testing ideas is a good way to go! Some questions, do you create well in chaos, or do you do better in a neater space? Do you have “HSS” (horizontal surface syndrome), if it’s flat and unused do you stack on it? Those cheap plastic shelves are not a good idea for fabric. They will be too wide and too deep to make good use of the space. The fabric will get messed up way too fast and the stacks will tip/fall over. In the end, they will frustrate you. Is your fabric all quilting cotton or are there other types in the mix? And how large are the cuts? 1/2 to 2 yards or larger cuts of 3 to 10 yards. They will take up a different amount of space when folded. The shelf depth shouldn’t really be more than 10″. You might also want to look at your creative working triangle and the workflow; sewing machine(s), cutting table, an ironing station. Also, your design wall needs to allow you to get far enough back to take in the whole thing. Also determine, which items need to face the TV from the sewing machine and ironing board, cutting table, desk, or computer? Not everything can face the TV, although in a corner is a good place! You may also want to consider creating a closed/hidden storage area. All the little stuff can be unsightly. Or you may want to use some cabinets with doors…

What I didn’t like about my ‘working triangle’

In my space, I discovered while working on the UFO’s, the workflow was not flowing. I determined that the physical “working triangle” was okay, but the twists and turns from station to station were strange. The TV was also in a very odd place. For me, while the major work stations were close together they wasted too much space.

The old room arrangement
This arrangement was not working.

I reassessed the space. I have a few limitations in the space; a water main that needs to have access and is also a hazard; 2 walkways to the other side of the basement, and cabinets that need to be set along walls. I mentioned in the last post, I had planned on sliding design walls. I have a new solution for them, but it will wait a bit. So I need wall space for the design walls too. The last issue is, of course, the all-important electrical outlets. As I suggested above, I drew up a diagram with real measurements. Marked the important features, (outlets, windows, water main, and doorways). Cut the important piece shapes from cardstock to scale; of the sewing machine(s), tables, and cabinets. I then arranged them on the diagram… and I rearranged them…. A working triangle may look good on paper, but in real life, it may not work well.

What Seems to be a better ‘workflow’

To address the water main, I put a piece of clear vinyl up to direct any leak to the floor. The floor is concrete with a drain so nothing to really worry about there. This allowed me to relocate the TV to a better corner, (near the water main), where it would not block or hinder the hall to the other side of the basement.

The new arrangement of the space
The new arrangement feels lighter and less crowded

Originally the plan had the sewing machines set up as an island at one end of the space well away from the walls. The same with the cutting/work table. Two islands in the center of the room was an awkward arrangement and wasted valuable space and did not facilitate the workflow. So I moved the sewing island up against a wall which helped with moving around and the triangle. The sewing machine I use the most and the cutting/work table face the TV. The cutting table has not moved, I have plans to enlarge it. I still use an ironing board and can move the ironing station, if I need to. Otherwise, it resides over by the closet. There are several smaller pieces that fit along the walls and under tables.

Test and Test Again

Every time I work in my “Creative Space” I find that I enjoy the new set up more and more. Sometimes it is the smallest things that make the biggest impact. This was one of the pieces I worked on while testing the workflow and allowed me to see how well things didn’t work.

A New Hibiscus Quilt
Another Hibiscus Free-motion flower

I have made several of these hibiscus flowers and once again, I should have taken a moment to assess what really needed doing before diving in. This one also started as a sample and as a value-step exercise, which almost succeeds. The flower had most of the stitching done when I picked it up again. I just added a bit more in places.

A New Hibisucs detail
Some detail of the free-motion stitching, quilting, and beading

Put a back on it and quilted it on the domestic in Free-motion. I had fun doing a modified feather, the only kind I can do.

A New Hibiscus Flower quilting
Showing a little of the free-motion quilting.

The finishing and binding was another poor choice. A small square of the fabric of the top was missing in one of the corners. I opted to add some curves. I also think it was a fail. Maybe one corner yes, but not two. The last step was adding some beads to the stamen. I was a little reserved with the beads and sparkly threads on this one.

What is your space like?

Is your creative space under constant review and rearrangement. Mine has been 9 months in the works… here. At some point, I will have to call it done and start making a creative mess!!! One of the reasons it is in the basement. The MESS! Next up, the new table I hope. I forgot to buy the edge moldings in town this week so it will have to wait until I go back to Etown… 10 days or so.

What is your biggest issue with your creative space or conversely what makes it your favorite space? Tell us in the comments, someone may learn something from your experience.


There is always more to do…

Not that I needed to find another task, especially at this time of year. But I did!

The Closet Area

I made a plan to complete the inside of the closet area. Bought all the stuff and moved all the miscellaneous boxes of stuff out of the closet space to hang the uprights. This closet is just shelves, with no space for a hanging rail. It needs some doors yet. Originally I had planned barn doors, a double-track system, so they could slide in front of each other. I may still do that… once I decide if I need flooring. In the meantime, if I keep it this neat, I might be able to stand looking at it!

New Closet Shelves
The new closet shelves were empty for about 5 minutes!

Kitchen Gifts

In the meantime, I am crafting ‘Friends’ gifts in the kitchen. I make biscotti every year and gift to friends and family. It’s not a surprise each year when I drop them off, as it has been my tradition for many years. I have a batch to drizzle with icing today and another to get into the oven. I think they are the last for the year. These are for the neighbors on our road, and this year for most of them, the first time.

Christmas Biscotti
Several Biscotti Gifts ready to to

Another UFO Finished

The photo used to create the Pink Water Lily Quilt
Water Lily photo was taken at the Morton Arboretum in Aurora IL 2017

On the UFO side, I finished another. ‘The Lily’. I took this picture of a water lily in September 2017 at the Morton Arboretum outside of Chicago. I wanted to play with a multi-step color gradation. Which failed. I did not separate the darkest pinks enough by value and it is muddy in the medium petal areas. From a distance, it looks ok. But up close the shading in the medium color petals is difficult to see.

Water Pink Lily Quilt finshed front
Done is good

I did have fun using every single shiny threat that fell into the color scheme that I had.

Detail of the pine water lily quilt
Shiny threads

When looking at the back you can see that from inception to finish I forgot what I was intending to do. I have worked on a couple of these where I have hidden much of the threadwork from view, but wished that it would have shown in the end. So this began with the intent of showing all the thread work on the back… which requires as much thought as the thread color for the front and paying attention. I did not remember or pay attention. Again, it can be used as a teaching tool. All the shiny threads, the value flaw, and the issues with the back.

The Lily back detail
I forgot the intention for the back of the quilt.

I as usual have lots going on, the weather has turned cold. Icy cold, this morning 17°. All the water is iced over. The cows, the chickens, and the pond. A good day to stay inside. I need to plug in the cat water bowl too since the pond now has ice at the edges.

Christmas is fast approaching, only a week to go. I doubt I will get back here before so I will close by wishing you the Happiest of Holidays!!! and stay healthy, stay apart and wash your hands I want to see you here next year too!!!


Creative Space -and- A UFO

In the last post, I shared some of how I organize my ‘Creative Space’. Nothing has changed unless you count making a mess. I have a new project. A small ornament swap, I’ll share more about that later.

New Command Center

The table stays pretty clear because I use it for just about everything… cutting, planning, computing, and shipping. However, the table is going to change and I have a new layout I want to try as well. This means I need to find a block of time to clean up everything that is currently out or in use.

Lift Table
going to be the new work table

A few months ago I found some motorized lift desks. The current tabletop on this desk is about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide, and irregular. My plan is to attach a larger melamine on top of the current tabletop. I like a big table, in the neighborhood of 4 feet wide by 6-8 feet long. In addition to bigger, I will be able to raise and lower the table for whatever I need to do. I really like a higher table for cutting, and since I am short a lower table for sitting at. The problem with a regular height table or desk is either a chair won’t get me high enough for comfort or if it does, my feet don’t rest on the floor. There are still so many projects to do in the basement area… so the picture also includes other things waiting to move.

UFO Report

In the meantime, I have a completed project… a UFO.

When I first set up the ‘Creative Space’, I knew I wanted to make some creativity happen. But with what? Did I want to piece, applique, stitch, quilt? Make something new or finish something that had already been started, (aka UFO)? Making a new something seemed like such a big mess to make so I decided to see what was in the UFO box. While I going through them I reorganized them. Bonus!

UFO boxes
The newly sorted and labeled UFO storage boxes

After sorting the UFOs, I chose a little piece that started as a sample and designed to remain unfinished for a little while. I love bright happy flowers, and these certainly fit the bill. This was the beginning of the project, and as you can see as we move along, this was the initial concept.

Free Spirit Flowers start
This is the auditioning of the large flowers and some leaves.

And the concept changed. I added stems and a vase before starting the threadwork. I completed the threadplay, or so I thought. Also, originally, there was a quilting plan, marked in blue water-soluble marker, but I didn’t like it. I spritzed the blue marks off with water and a color ran. I thought it was from a flower fabric, and essentially a ruined project to that is where I left it with disappointment. However, I determined it might be a good teaching tool; the colorfastness of thread and fabric isn’t always guaranteed. It is difficult to see, but at the top of the large pink flower, you can see a bit of a color bleed, between the 2 yellow zinnias.

Free Spirit Flowers Stitched
Flowers Free-motion stitched and background quilting completed.

For the quilting, I decided on some regular wavy lines, (that mimick the vase shape), and quilted those. I then quilted the “table” in a free motion wood grain. Bound it and gave it a bath. To my surprise, the color bleed was from the thread. The thread dye rinsed right out even though I had pressed it several times during construction!

Free Spirit Flowers complete
Free Spirit Flowers all done

All done. I still like the flowers, but it is not my most favorite composition… or completion. One of the things I learned is that before you begin work on a boxed UFO project, is to take a few minutes or a day to reacquaint yourself with the project and where you left off; and assess everything that still needs to be done. I had missed some threadwork and discovered it while quilting, (flower centers), so I did that while quilting. It made the back very inconsistent.

Cute Cats

I promised cute cats, (this one is especially for Linda). Linda has virtually adopted the cats and sends them treats. She has kept them stocked with ‘Temptations’ since we moved out here and discovered that 7 cats came with the place. The cats are fed in the mornings, but I give them a few ‘auntie treats’ after I come back from feeding the cow in the evenings.

Cat Hug
Senior Uno and Tutone

That is not all of the completed projects … I’ll share another next time!!! and if you are still here. Thanks for reading.

Please stay well, wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay home as much as possible.

More Later- Beth