So, I've had an official workspace just for sewing + quilting for about six months. I'm about to tell you about the things that have made my studio a productive, happy place. I'm also talking about the love of my life: my Juki sewing machine! I'm bringing in testimonials from other talented sewists who are Juki fanatics like myself, and never going back.
You'll notice that I don't talk about some of the basics like a cutting mat + rotary blade or thread. I'm going to talk about my favorite fabrics, notions, and other supplies in upcoming posts, so sign up for my mailing list to be instantly notified of those releases. In the mean time, read on to see what I've found contributes to productivity, day in and day out. I'll be separating my recommendations into three categories: Organization, productivity + efficiency, and self-care.
Note: You do not need any of these things to start sewing. Got a needle and thread and feel inspired? Great. Start there, and stay there if that's your jam. It's all about what works for you. This is what worked for me!
**this post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small percentage if you end up purchasing any of my recommendations. I am ONLY recommending products that are relevant. Obviously you can just scroll past them if you're not in the market for some cool studio duds. Affiliate links allow me to keep bringing you awesome content for free. I also link to non-affiliate items**
Staying organized often means that you're able to also be super productive and avoid feeling frazzled, simply by saving time looking for the scissors you know are around here somewhere. Yeah, ok. I bring my toddler to work with me at least five days a week, so my studio is a tornado disaster zone. I'm describing a scene worse than the movie Twister. Okay maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but you get the point. The following five items will help you stay neat and organized-- or at least provide some sort of baseline for where things should go. In my opinion, organization is the least fun part of being a responsible human, so I'm just going to get this section over with first so we can move on to the fun bits!
I do three things with my scraps- if they are large enough to use but I don't want them, I package them up for Gallery Boom's "art parts" section. If they're large enough to save and I think I'll actually use them, I put them into a 3-drawer organizer sorted by color volume. I have a drawer for pastels, a drawer for neutrals, and a drawer for vibrants. This helps me easily find what I need when starting a new project.
Depending on the size of your supply and inventory stash, you may need a few. I find that for an visual based work studio, open shelving is the most efficient. If I can see what I have, I'm more likely to actually use it. I recommend keeping your favorite supplies at eye level, and again, color coordinate your fabric and thread! It really does save time when working on projects.
I use old orphaned mason jars missing their lids and pesto sauce containers, and a few mugs that have lost their handles. You can go this route, or if you're looking for a more cohesive look there's a TON of really cool ceramicists on Etsy. My favorites are QUIET CLEMENTINE and PEACHES THE STUDIO. Catch-all bowls are important for your pins, sewing machine feet, needles, scissor collection, random notions, and scraps of thread (so they don't go on the floor and clog your vacuum). Generally these containers are pretty small, so you can set them on the windowsill or a small area like that, out of the way. When all of your small items are in a designated container, they are easy to find, and easy to move them to wherever you need to.
It's like a catch-all bowl, but for your wall. Pin up inspirational pictures, your receipts that need filing, and patterns you're working on. This frees up valuable real estate on your flat workspaces.
I recommend a hand-held one like this super cute Black & Decker model. I love the pink shade, of course. When I brought it home my husband commented how "me" it was. He's right! I use the vacuum to dust off my cutting mat and tabletop. It makes a difference and only takes a second.
Productivity + Efficiency
These tips will help you get the actual work done, the meat of your profession.
SOMETHING to write on
Notebooks, sketch books, grid paper, sticky notes, whatever. You need something to get your ideas on paper. No, the notes app on your phone doesn't count. I bet you every time you unlock your phone to write something down you wind up on social media, and THAT isn't good for your productivity. I would know, I'm the WORST at getting distracted by my phone when I should be working. I like to keep a grid paper notebook, lined sticky notes, and my planner easily accessible. I don't know about you, but when I can get an idea out on paper, or commit a task to my to-do list, I'm able to focus a lot easier on the task at hand.
Currently, I'm using these two grid notebooks: The "For When Inspiration Strikes" by Fancy Tiger Co. from Compass Rose in Olympia, and a small notebook by Kelly Creates from Michael's Craft store. For my planner, I'm using a Day Designer spiral planner that I found on clearance at Target, but last year I was using a Passion Planner and I definitely recommend it for anyone who needs a little boost to make their dreams become tangible goals.
Ironing Board & Reliable Iron
I have a stand-up ironing board from an estate sale, and the "professional" series Black & Decker iron. I think it's really important to have a consistent ironing station if you're working with textiles, because it makes all the difference in the finished product.
Reliable, Fool-proof, Semi-Industrial Sewing Machine
I recommend nothing less than the Juki TL2010Qi or similar Juki models. It's an absolute dream, a workhorse, almost a friend. The model I use, the TL2010Q has a separate spool holder for the bobbin thread, so you don't have to unthread the needle to wind a bobbin. There's a knee lift. The throat space is huge-- I had no problem working a queen size quilt recently. My favorite feature is the automatic thread cutter on the foot pedal. I am never, ever going to use another sewing machine, even if it means I'm limited to straight stitch forever. I don't care!
This is an amazing machine. It will change your life. You'll get so much more done in a day, without skipped stitches, without crooked seams, without thread nests. I've owned this Juki machine for three months and I can't BELIEVE I waited so long to trade in my domestic machine. I'm in a good mood just telling you about my dear Julia the Juki.
Look, you don't have to take my word for it. Scroll down past the rest of this list of 20 Sewing Studio Must-Haves to read (pin-able!!) testimonies from other talented quilters.
And if you give a pal a Juki, you should have some extra bobbins to go with it. I find a good balance of colors with about 10 bobbins on hand. Here's an extra tip-- If you're doing a large project, like quilting a pieced top, wind all the bobbins that you think you'll need at once, so you don't have to stop and go through the process of winding a bobbin every 20 minutes. I'm all about anything that makes a sewing session go by seamlessly (har har).
Yes, you need to take care of yourself while working. Creative endeavors take an immense amount of energy, and you don't want to burn out. This is a lesson I'm still learning every day. I truly believe that if you are going to turn out your best work, you need to work on being your best self. And that means being organized, doing the annoying things like paying bills on time (trust me, it feels so good!), and treating yourself to some sun and water as if you were a plant. You're worth it. Also... if you're spending dozens of hours a week in this workspace, don't you want it to be a place that you enjoy going to? Creative burn-out is real. Avoid it. This is YOUR space, and if you have a sewing studio, you are your own boss. Act like it, your employee (you) is your priority.
Sturdy standing desk
For me, this is non-negotiable. I work best when I can move around. I was not made for a desk job, and when I'm sitting at my cutting table or sitting in front of my sewing machine, it starts to feel like a desk job and I'd rather be doing literally anything else. Sound familiar? Get a standing desk or work on a counter-top. Also, check the reviews before you buy a standing desk, make sure it can withstand the vibration of a sewing machine.
This can be something you make (obvs), something your kid draws for you, some high end painting from a gallery, whatever. Does it make you happy to look at? Does it inspire you? Put it on your wall. Look at it when you're stuck in a rut.
I actually haven't decorated my studio space much. I have a few drawings from some kids whose parents work in the office next door, some of my quilted wall hangings and embroideries, and a few prints. And my business license is thumb-tacked to the wall, does that count?
A new company by Sarah Watts came out recently with art specifically for the crafty homebody, called Crafted Moon. She debuted her new products at QuiltCon last month and it is all so cute! My fingers are crossed that Crafted Moon will come out with a quilt-themed grid notebook. So far, I've collected these two pieces:
(click on them to go straight to the listing)
I also have some cool decals from Fern and Moss Shop that I stuck on my sewing machine. They're so cute! They remind me of my love of nature, even when I can't make it outdoors.
Here's a few more things that fall under self-care that I love having in my workspace:
Plants I have 7 potted plants in my studio now! My babies! They bring me joy and inspiration every time I see them grow.
distilled/filtered water For you, your iron, and your plants.
Extra phone charger
Bluetooth speakers or headphones
Snacks and a "nice" drink. Water is great and all, but make sure you have some LaCroix or Cold Brew Instant Coffee on hand. Bonus if your workspace has a kitchenette area. I share a mini-fridge and microwave with 11 other offices, and we make do.
Natural light. For you, your plants, and more instagram-worthy photos. If you can spring for it, opt for a gentle UV light if your workspace doesn't have a lot of light, or you work at night. I use an Ottlite and I think it helps me. If nothing else, good lighting reduces eye strain. Since I've had to start wearing glasses full time, I'm becoming more aware of eye health.
A comfy chair. Do I really even need to tell you why?!
Anti-Fatigue Mat. Especially if you have a standing desk! This is something I still need to invest in, but I compromise by wearing super comfy shoes, like clogs or sneakers.
Two of these quilters, known on instagram as QuiltKween and MaechenMarie, were the ones that convinced me to enter the Juki family. Their work is phenomenal. I actually talked with several more quilters than I had the room to feature here. If you click on each photo it will take you to the quilter's website!
If you're interested in purchasing a Juki, you can find my amazon affiliate link here. If you're local to Washington state, however, I sincerely recommend you go talk to the reps at Sewing Machine Service in Renton. That's where I found my machine, and I was able to trade in my hand-me-down super frilly Bernina B830 for an even trade. They're great people passionate about sewing machines and will find the Juki (or Bernina) that is right for you, with none of that car salesman type BS.
Thanks for reading!