Friday, July 31, 2009

The many, many faces of Itso cubes

I hadn’t planned on this being the next stop on my sewing room series, but Itso storage cubes and the bins, casters, and other bits are on sale at Target through tomorrow, so the time is now! I’ve fallen hard for the system—it’s well suited for quilting stuff, and it’s quite customizable even beyond the officially offered accessories. Read on!

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I do a lot of appliqué, felt sewing, and other handwork in front of the tube, so this first little number is actually a satellite to my actual sewing room. To corral all the threads and notions that were accumulating next to the chair Felis Domesticus and I fight over, I wanted a Sonne taboret-ish thing from Ikea—quite useful for sewing, it seems—but alas it’s been discontinued. So I built a similar something from the Itso cubes, with bins for felt, flosses, and such. The hooks with the scissors, embroidery hoop, and, mysteriously, a feather duster are part of a towel bar attached with pegboard hooks through the predrilled holes of the cube. A spice rack was attached the same way to add a few small shelves (mostly obscured by the chair), as was a wall file bin on the back, great for the patterns, magazines, and books that always pile up. But the whole thing was a little too tall to be practical, so I consolidated…

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The green box on the middle shelf is a vintage Wil-Hold thread box (one of many I’ve scavenged) that holds my hand-appliqué thread; I was delighted that it slid into the cube so smashingly. The big bin on the bottom still holds felt for when that urge strikes, but it can be easily swapped out for other project boxes.

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The tray wedged into the orange bin on the left holds my main handwork tools and threads pulled for projects in progress; when I’m taking hand-sewing on the go, the tray goes back into the Wil-Hold box sewing box from whence it came. Embroidery flosses are in the other orange bin.

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Packs of Anordna cosmetic trays were deeply discounted on our last Ikea trip; while they’re too wide as-is to slide into the cubes, this one nestles nicely on top with places for a pincushion, marking tools, and anything I need at hand. Eventually perhaps I’ll come up with something impossibly clever to do with the lipstick holders. (Take up drag and fill it with lipsticks? Too pedestrian.)

Now, moving into the sewing room proper…

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When the Handwork Trolley Mark I came apart, this is where the top cube went—under my cutting table (more on that in a future post). The square Itso bins, as on the bottom here, are perfect for 12-inch quilt blocks, with ample room even with seam allowances included. So each quilt gets a block box; this one is the one I’m working on now, handy for reference at the cutting table (raw fabric for projects in progress are in the wire bins at the edge of the photo). The file box holds patterns printed from the PC and templates in folders, while the orange bin is perfectly sized for commercial quilt patterns. It’s a slightly tighter fit for sewing-pattern envelopes or oversized quilting patterns, but the 6-by-9-inch ziplock baggies work great. I don’t keep all my project files here, but I love being able to pull the file or pattern I’m working on without leaving the cutting table. The Orla Kiely box on top holds spray adhesives, interfacings, and small rolls of fusible web, also handy to have accessible at the cutting station.

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A 12-inch cork square fits right into any side of the cubes, so there’s a small bulletin board on the cutting table cube, too. I’ve infected the Other with this Itso sickness; he likes putting the cork on the top of the cubes to make a nonskid surface.

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This final arrangement of cubes is next to my desk, hence the messy stack of files. One cube holds reference binders for quilting, sewing, and my sewing machine; the bins and boxes hold more felt and office junk. The two thread boxes are—gasp!—empty, so they can’t really justify the space they’re taking and may have to move along. Also not fully used are the two green bins up top, but that’s because they’re waiting for inventory for my forthcoming pattern line! I haven’t felt compelled to make any dry-erase notes on the cupboard door, though Target assures me that’s what it’s for.

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Behind the door are more block boxes. The shelves, at $4.99 each without a sale, are the hidden killer in the cost of all this Itso stuff, so take note that an empty cube, or one with a single shelf, will hold six block boxes, while putting the max of three shelves in will hold only four boxes and cost a lot more! That is, as long as you don’t mind them nestling into one another.

So, do I seem nuts yet? I think of organizing as a hobby, which is why my sewing room is always messier than these tidy storage units make it look. If you suffer from a similar dysfunction, I hope you’ve picked up a few ideas. And if you’ve read this far, I thank you with a gratuitous photo of Miss Fluffenstuff.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

How to make a portable ironing station

Spring cleaning season may be over, but organizing is a year-long battle. I’m finally starting to get my sewing room/office into a shape I like, so this post is the first in a series on furniture hacks, storage ideas, vintage sewing space eye candy, and other stuff on creating a craft space. I love seeing these types of posts on other people’s blogs, so I hope you’ll get some ideas here too!

portable ironing station

When I started quilting, an iron and a board to use it on (now deceased) were all I needed. But the tools quickly accumulated—spray starch, pressing cloths, water bottles, iron cleaner, and so on. Never mind that I now use three different irons for distinct purposes. The sensible place to store such things is near where one irons, but one doesn’t always iron in a place with ample storage. This book points out that a conventional ironing board wastes space compared to, say, some cupboards with a pressing surface on top. Agreed, but the layout of my sewing room necessitates that the ironing board live in front of the design wall, so I want it portable enough to move easily when I’m laying out a big quilt on the wall. An Ikea hack keeps all my pressing accoutrements near my iron—and lets me easily move them to a secondary pressing surface near my sewing machine.

The base of my ironing trolley is Ikea’s Antonius laundry bag with stand, with casters added. The baskets on the stand fit spray bottles and other bits and bobs, and fabric waiting to be pressed goes in the laundry bag rather than into a big heap on my floor. I’m looking for a water bottle with some sort of nozzle that would fit in one of the baskets so I wouldn’t have to run to the sink so often when the iron runs out of steam.

iron plugs into power strip for easy access

Using a couple cable ties from Montera (a set of various cable clips and ties from Ikea; can’t find it on their site), I attached a power strip to one of the uprights so I can turn the iron on and off with a flick of a (lighted) switch rather than reaching awkwardly round furniture to unplug it. A couple self-stick nonslip pads on the back of the strip help keep it from sliding down. Someday I may come up with some more permanent hardware to mount the power strip, but this works for now. It helps to use a strip with a reasonably long cord so you can mount it on the front of the cart and still run the cord to the back.

ironing-board holder houses iron and pressing sheet

My primary iron lives in the in the iron rest on the ironing board, and the board is rarely put away, so this door-mounted rack for both iron and board wasn’t getting much use. I hung it from the end of the Antonius cart using a couple Bygel S-hooks, and now I keep my fusible-only iron there, along with a Teflon pressing sheet rolled up in the hooks meant to hold the ironing board. A cup (meant to hang on a rail; also apparently not on the Ikea site) facing the other way keeps the hooks from sliding together and gives a place for smaller stuff, like bias-tape makers and tubes of iron cleaner.

with removable pressing surface

As I mentioned, the whole thing unplugs, rolls over to my sewing machine, and becomes a secondary pressing surface at (more or less) sitting height by topping the unit with a mini ironing board. The corners of Antonius have holes for screws; after much fiddling about at the hardware store, I determined that they take size 10-32 screws. I put one in each hole, letting them stick out about ½" (you can see them sticking out two photos up). Then I measured the center-to-center distances between them (a 52.5cm × 23cm rectangle—it’s Ikea, so metric gives prettier numbers!) and made corresponding marks on the bottom of the ironing board. Mine was made from particle board, so I drilled holes big enough for the screw heads at each mark, about ¼" deep. Shake the sawdust out, line up the screw heads with the holes, and set it on the Antonius frame—it’s secure enough to iron on (using the mini iron I keep in the bottom basket) but still lifts off easily when it’s time to roll the trolley back to the main ironing board. I’m thinking about rigging up some hooks on the back of the unit to hang the mini ironing board from when it’s not in use; for now, I just stick it behind my sewing table.

I didn’t have any of this in mind when I bought the laundry stand, but now I use it with the mini board almost more than my real ironing board, since it means I can just swivel my chair from sewing to pressing.

Stay tuned for more sewing-oriented Ikea hacks!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Round the web with EQ

I was thrilled when Kim Kight of the incomparable True Up asked me to review the latest edition of the Electric Quilt Company’s fabric-swatch software Stash—call it a perk of using an overheating HP instead of a shiny Mac! Playing with the software and figuring out if I would shell out the cash for a future edition was a lot of fun. Check out the review on True Up.

Over at the EQ blog, I was asked to write a bit about how I designed my most recent project for American Patchwork & Quilting, Dot to Dot, using EQ6. Head over to the EQ Blog to read about the design and see a few Random Recolor experiments.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Ransom Note No. 4: Flag Burning (work in progress)

Ransom Note No. 4 partially embroidered and glued up, ready for appliquéing

While celebrating the Fourth of July, take a moment to note that this supposedly superior land of ours actually falls quite far down quality-of-life indexes, we pay more than anywhere in the world for substandard for-profit healthcare, and civil rights can be stripped from minorities at the whim of a thin majority. Happy birthday, Hot Dog Land!