First Friday Studio Tour – Kay Laboda

This month Kay Laboda of San Diego, CA, answers my questions about her studio.

Do you call it a studio or sewing room?

Sometimes I just say “my room,” but I’ve been saying “my studio” more and more.  This is the space I love to be in more than any other room in the house.  It’s very roomy, but I keep thinking I really do need more room. It’s where I like to create whatever the next experiment or project I have in my head.  Sewing is only one of the things I do.  I also make coiled pine needle baskets, and I like to crochet and paint.  I love working on projects and usually have more than three or four projects going at the same time.  There is a very large window that overlooks my garden, and I love sitting at my machine and watching the hummingbirds eat at their feeder.  It’s a very relaxing room for me to be in.

Why do you think this is so?  Difference in starting point between quilting and art?  Thinking of this as a business rather than a hobby?

Sewing is really just part of the equation.  The overall project can be a combination of designing, planning it out, painting, and overall letting the project talk to you through the process.

My quilting has always been about art with me.  It’s an expression of my thoughts and feelings, so it’s an art.  The fabric and quilting is the medium.  It’s my art outlet and I love working with the fabrics.  I started quilting five years ago when I was going through breast cancer.  I wanted something new and exciting to learn to do.  I also had been given a prayer quilt and wanted to learn to make them so I could give to others going through a tough time. It’s been an adventure for the past five years and I am continuously learning new things and techniques.

This is my hobby.  My family and friends are always saying I should sell my quilts.  But when it’s a business it’s not fun anymore.  There are always deadlines, and maybe not quite so happy customers.  I’d rather just do it for me, for gifts, just for fun.

What do you have in the room?

I have my main friend, my “Baby Lock” sitting in front of a large window overlooking my garden.  She actually can do just about anything I need, but I do have a larger dedicated quilting machine next to her that I use for larger quilts.  Then I have a new/used serger that I recently found at a garage sale for $25, then had to spend $145.00 to have it repaired.  So much for deals huh?  Now I just need to use it.  My TV and ironing board are to the left of my Baby Lock, along with my wall of thread.  Then behind the iron I have my bookcase of quilting and other craft books.

My laptop is next to the bookcase, sitting on a desk piled high with “projects I want to do next.” If only I were a cat with nine lives.

Then going on around to the left is my “stash.”  At the top of my stash bookcase is my favorite teddy bear I got for Christmas 50 years ago.  For some reason known only to that little girl at the time, I named him “Mouth.”  I’m still trying to figure that one out.

My small design wall is to the right of this which usually will have something up on it, even if it’s orphan blocks hoping to have some friends one day.  On around the corner still traveling counter-clock-wise is my closet which houses my bins of much loved scraps separated by color.  Next to the bins still in the closet is my much loved and traveled “Feather weight” friend.  I love that old machine.  The closet is also where I store some finished quilts and bolt of batting.

Around the next and final corner is another bookcase with a few of my giraffe friends, books listed on Amazon, and  bottom drawer of paints and dyes.  My main design wall is next to this.  In the middle of all this mayhem is my cutting and project table.  I designed and built it myself about four years ago.

How is your “stuff” organized?  How do you organize your fabric?

I mostly like to organize by color, in twelve large baskets, but also have a couple of bins of both asian fabric and seasonal fabrics. It works for me as I can pull out the bin of reds and see what I have, or the bin of blues, etc.  It helps keep them from fading and from the constant dust.  I do have groups of strips folded on the top shelf.  I love using them for borders and binding. I also have two plastic bins in the closets that I put all my scraps in by color.

How do you organize your thread (color, weight)?

I really try to keep it organized by color, and then I have my quilting threads on the two bottom rows by number.  I really like the Superior “King Tut” thread in variegated colors. Then I have a glass bowl of specialty threads looking pretty on top of the TV.

Do you have anything, supplies, more machines, etc. tucked away in any other rooms of the house?

I do have another larger ironing board in the laundry room which is just across the hallway from my studio. Much to my husband’s dislike, I now have my embroidery machine on a table in our bedroom.  I ran out of room in my studio and had to put it on a table in a corner of our bedroom.  I promised not to take over the bedroom with my projects.  I suggested that we switch our bedroom for my studio, but he drew the line on that one.

How much horizontal surface do you have, and is it ever enough?

My worktable is 42” x 60” with a cutting mat on top that is 39” x 59”.  When I need a little bit larger space ,I extend the drawers out and move the mat on top over to cover the drawers.  It helps when pinning a quilt together.  When that’s not big enough, I do go to the garage and put out my two folding tables together. The are four cabinets for storage underneath the work table.  There are a total of six drawers and two cabinets with shelves and I have ran out of space.  The top of my table is always covered with fabric, books, bills that I forgot to put in the pay file.  I think everyone has a table like this.

Do you have to move piles of stuff to cut anything bigger than a fat quarter?

I have to move things to even cut a fat quarter.  Then when I want to actually lay out a quilt  to layer I find all kinds of things that I was looking for the past month or more. The problem with any table I have is I start a pile of “the next project” I have raging through my head.  The Road to California is coming up in a couple of weeks and now I have to start my two piles for the classes I will be taking on Friday and Saturday.  Both classes are with Karen Eckmeir; “Happy Villages” and “Scrappy Layered Log Cabin”.

Do you straighten/organize as you go, putting each fabric away as you cut, or do you clean up after a project?

I try really hard to put fabric away as I am done with it, but that doesn’t always work out for me when I work on four projects at a time. I am pretty good about putting the scraps in the bins as I go.  But then I will look at my table and there will be piles of fabric sitting there.  Then I will stop and put things away.  Otherwise, it makes me crazy.

How many projects do you work on at once and how do you keep them organized?

I have three to four projects on the wall at any given time.  The larger projects go on the large area behind my table, and sometimes I can squeeze in something else to one side of it.  Then I have another smaller area on another wall and one that hangs on a board covering the closet.

I counted one time that I was working on ten different projects at one time.  Sometimes you just get stuck on something, or bored.  Right now I have a Christmas project that I didn’t finish in time that I’m still sewing on the binding.  I have a Block of the Month project that I’m about five months behind with.  Then there’s the prayer quilt that I still need to find a backing for.  Oh, and how about the postcards I need to finish up from two years ago.  It goes on and on.  But this past year I did finish up about ten projects that I had started.  This year I am resolved to finish up the other ones I have in the hopper.

Anything more you want to add about your studio, organization, working methods, etc., please do.

I love being able to see everyone’s studio/working space.  Sometimes I see something that might work for me and make a change and love it.  So thanks for visiting my room.  Hope you see something that inspires you.

Visit Kay’s Blog

Next month: Janet Hartje

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