First Friday Studio Tour – Janet Hartje

This month we travel to Woodbury, Minnesota to visit with Janet Hartje.

Do you call it a studio or sewing room?  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?

I used to call it my craft space because I tend to do more than sew.  The past few years I have begun to think of myself as a professional. Visualize what you want and it will happen, right? Subconsciously you will work toward your goals. Think it. Be it. Have it.

My studio was originally the formal dining and living room space. Shortly after we moved in the dining room became my space (almost 25 years ago!).  When I purchased a longarm quilting machine three years ago the living space was added to my studio.

In recent years I’ve joined several organizations and through them I have learned a great deal about Fiber Art. I didn’t realize Fiber Art involved such a wide range of activities and was such fun or I’m sure I would have joined these groups sooner. My passion right now is the Art Quilt. I enjoy everything from visualizing the design, to controlling the color and pattern of the fabric, to the tiny embellishments that finish it. When I create my Fiber Art quilts, or postcards, I work in my studio to have access to as many materials and pieces of equipment as possible.

What do you have in the room?

A Bernina 185E is my primary sewing machine. It replaced a Kenmore that I loved — a gift from my husband on our first anniversary.  He knew even then, some of my favorite gifts involve sewing and craft items.  I still have that machine but after being dropped by a repairman it has never worked quite the same.  For our 25th anniversary my sweetie gave me a Bernina.  I know most women want jewels but to me a new sewing machine was much better than jewelry.

My cutting table is two back-to-back IKEA cabinets with a covered board on the top. These cabinets hold plain white and black fabric which I hand dye, bleach or print. I also store tools for making rubbings, prints or sun dyeing fabric, specialty fabrics I use with my embellisher, interfacing, Misty fuse, peltex and some specialty papers for mixed media projects.

I have cabinets tucked in here and there in places that are most useful such as near my sewing machine, cutting table, by — and even under — my longarm.

Wall shelves hold paints, inks, paint sticks, metal pieces, adhesives and related items. The old wooden cabinet (from my childhood home) houses beads and other embellishment items.

I have two design spaces for visualizing and piecing together ideas for new projects.  The small portable one above my Bernina has a butterfly quilt on it right now. A larger flannel-backed tablecloth — secured by an IKEA hanging system — works for larger designs.  I have a quilt designed by Nancy Rink hanging there now. I’m considering how to quilt it.

Last year I hung 3M Command hooks in strategic spots to keep small tools handy. No more digging through drawers for them!

I have bookshelves for books, some of my class notebooks, finished quilt tops and my button collection.  I have the most recent postcard art I’ve received on display for inspiration — the remainder are in my postcard box so they are portable to take out to share with others.

Most of my fabric is in the fabric boxes on the shelves under my inspiration board and thimble collection.  I try not to keep too much fabric on hand.  Most of the time, I buy small amounts of fabrics.  It is all I normally need for an Art Quilt.  When I make a larger quilt, I usually buy only what I need, all at once.

Two units are devoted to my longarm: a bookshelf houses supplies, rulers, bobbins,and tools and thread is in the drawers of a small cabinet with the bobbin winder on top.

My desktop computer is quite old but it works well with the embroidery feature on my sewing machine.  I can connect my sewing machine to my computer and download a pattern to embroider. I don’t use this a lot, but it’s fun!  I would need to update my Bernina in order to use it with my new computer, so I keep my dinosaur around.  There is always something to spend money on in the world of sewing and we have to pick and choose!

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

I do have some of my messier supplies stored in the basement such as art supplies, dyeing supplies and polymer clay.  I also have a room upstairs with some scrapbooking supplies. Many of these materials have multiple functions. There are more class notebooks in a cupboard in the family room.

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

I don’t think quilters can ever have enough horizontal surfaces.  For instance, the small cutting table on top of my IKEA cabinets works great for small projects but for large quilts I usually put a protective surface on the dining table or other large surface to work.

Do you have to move piles of stuff to cut anything bigger than a fat quarter? Do you straighten/organize as you go, putting each fabric away as you cut, or do you clean up after a project?                               

I answered this partially by admitting I move to another room to cut anything very large.  I tend to pile as I work and keep everything out for a project until the project is finished, then I might put it away before I start the next project.  Neatness, is not something I am known for in my family.

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

I am usually working on 4 – 5 projects at once.  For instance, I made Art Postcards, simultaneously, for two separate groups recently.  I worked on both at once because they each had stages where they needed to dry for a day or two.  At the same time, I made the pattern for the quilt I am preparing for Minnesota Contemporary Quilters, gathered the supplies to make a quilt for SAQA and started the butterfly quilt which is a challenge project for Minnesota Quilters.

I need to keep moving throughout the day. Sitting in one position too long creates problems for my back and neck which I injured in a car accident or I experience swelling in my left leg and foot where I have lymphedema.  So, working on multiple projects helps to keep me moving.  It also creates more mess!

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

I like to get together with my friends to share ideas and learn new techniques.  I also enjoy seeing how other people work and often adopt new techniques or organizational ideas for my own use.  However, when it is time to make a project, I prefer to work alone.  This helps me to focus on the task at hand and gives me some time to visualize new designs with a minimum of distractions.

Visit Janet’s blog

Next Month: Evie Harris

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