First Friday Studio Tour – Evie Harris

This month we are traveling to New Zealand to visit with Evie Harris. In addition to giving us a tour, Evie has shared her story of creating a lovely studio from what was once an aviary.

Evie’s studio project

We bought our property two years ago, and twenty years before that the building that would become my studio was the breeding aviary for canaries!

This is what I first saw prior to buying the property

Unused for at least 10 years, it was a disgusting mess, with cages lining the walls and unmentionable stuff lining the floor.

Not my first view..on that day there was an even bigger mess. By now the previous owners had removed some of their junk. Taken from the doorway
Taken from the other end of the room
Finally a blank canvas awaiting cladding… those doors to the outside aviary are about to be covered

The outside aviary is gone

It’s taken a lot of work to get it where it is today. A few things still need doing, like painting the recycled door and covering the hole in the wall where we had to put in a new power box (I also love how many power sockets we could put in, and the fact they are at an easy reach height). The floor was covered with linoleum and grime. Hours of work scraping inch by inch revealed a lovely wood floor with all the marks of time …I don’t want to cover it.

Do you call it a studio or sewing room?  To yourself, to friends and family?  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 have always called it a studio. In the transition from sewing on the kitchen table to a career as theatrical costumer, I went from table to room to Studio. I do enjoy saying “I’m going to my room now!” My family and friends call it a studio. Costuming was my business. I have never been a ‘Quilter’ and my art was in the Performing Arts area. Small fabric art is just as much of a joy.

Moving in…

I love that my studio is in my back garden.

What do you have in the room?  machines, supplies, fabrics, paints, etc.  Anything that might surprise the rest of us?

My most loved piece is my cutting table — built for my height and that purpose.

I have two overlockers, three sewing machines and all the usual suspects of fabrics, paints, embellishments etc., and an abundance of “could be useful.”

First project was to make a quilt for the cream studio chair

Running along the exterior wall of my studio is a storage area which houses tiers of containers of fabric, mainly the left overs from costuming.

This is where the bulk of my fabric is stored, out of the sunlight.

To fellow stitchers I am known as a treasure trove for free rummaging for that unusual bit. My little cupboard under the sink (I love having a sink) houses all the odd handyman type things and my favourite tool….a tagging gun.

How is your “stuff” organized?  How do you organize your fabric? By color?  Amount? Any separate categories (batiks, hand dyes)?  How do you organize your thread (color, weight)?

Baskets, boxes, tins, jars, bags, drawers, a cupboard and a large area under the cutting table hidden from view and camera! I know where everything is ….99% of the time.

 A drawback of my studio is how much sunlight it gets. Nearly everything needs to be put away and I consider carefully what I have on the walls. Things can quickly fade and rot. I don’t colour coordinate anything. Fabrics are stored together by type and amount —  large or small amounts. Everything is labeled.

Do you have anything, supplies, more machines, etc. tucked away in any other rooms of the house.  How many other rooms? (My husband likes to talk about that one.) Has a family member or significant other ever accused you of “taking over” the entire house? If you have a separate building, we want lots of pictures.

I have one basket in the lounge with current hand sewing.  My magazines and books are in various places, and I like that non-stitching friends have a flick through them which, I think, perfectly justifies having them being spread about!

How much horizontal surface do you have, and is it ever enough?  Do you have to move piles of stuff to cut anything bigger than a fat quarter?

I have enough space. My cutting table can manage several small projects at the same time and easily handles larger projects. I’ve cut thousands of meters of tulle on it for tutus. Though heavy, I can pull it away from the wall for easier access for cutting or when people come to play. When I made a queen size quilt pin basting on it was easy.

Do you straighten/organize as you go, putting each fabric away as you cut, or do you clean up after a project?  How many projects do you work on at a time and how do you keep them organized?

I make quite a mess when I am working and do not stop to put things away — happily,  things drop on the floor. Once a project is finished — or at least at a stage it can be put away (to be rested, not as a UFO) — then I will tidy up. I do use labels on some containers which makes for a speedy ‘tidy up.’ Everything does have a place. I generally stand back, look at the gaps and know where things should go.

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

Stepping outside, three sides of the studio look like a tin shack. The fourth side is the storage area and a wooden deck where the attached rusting aviary once was. This is still a work in progress, but already it has been successful for a dyeing workshop. I love my studio!

This was once that rusted old aviary. The storage area is behind the yellow wall. This area is still a work in progress….the blank wall is yet to have it’s finishing touches and I need to find more unwanted chairs to be upcycled …..the two there haven’t really been fixed, I stabilized lots of loose wicker with masking tape just for the photos!

This shot shows the test pot canopy….any one of these colours could have been the interior colour of the studio! Thank goodness for test pots given how I thought some of those colours would work!


The white trolley/table is the former wooden surround for our worn-out barbecue. Cleaned up and painted white, I use it to load sewing projects and wheel them to the deck where I can sit and sew with everything on hand. Might have to move the wine though!!

Thank you Evie for a fascinating makeover story.  What an amazing transformation, and the result is a beautiful result of all your hard work.

Visit Hearts for Christchurch, Evie’s response to the 2011 New Zealand earthquakes.

Next month:  Diana Mains Welte

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