First Friday Studio Tour – Sandy Wagner

This month we travel to California to visit with Sandy Wagner.

I live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern CA on a ridge above the Mokelumne River canyon with a big area for inspiration.  I work on deadlines most of the time. I do try to change that process, but still find myself pushing most time limits.

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 do call it a studio, for I am an artist who works in fabric. If I did not call it a studio, I would have to call it “a catch all”.  I joined the quilting world in 1978, though I have sewn for many years.  I always dreamed of an addition to the house for a studio but the design of our house wouldn’t allow that. I don’t want to rent space outside of our home because I know I would not get there as often as I should. When my 3 daughters lived at home the room was set up as a Jack and Jill so they would have private space.  As soon as the last girl was out, out came the divider and in moved the artist with sewing machine and all.  The studio has had to accommodate daughters and 4 grandchildren under 4 on occasion.  When the quilts became wall pieces instead of on the bed, they no longer lived in a traditional quilt world.  I was never happy making repeated blocks, and the lure of the freehand drawing was pulling hard on my creative self.  I am an artist with work hanging and selling in galleries.

Sandy Wagner Studio 6

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

The normal things: 32-year-old Bernina 930; Sweet 16 Ultra Quilter, Felting Machine, Baby Lock Serger, Juki and a Janome Gem for travel.  I have the general sewing supplies, and, since I am also a Wearable Arts designer, I have dress forms and some interesting snaps, hooks and eyes etc… Sandy Wagner studio

I have a 3M Thermofax machine for cutting stencils, an antique set of drawers from an apothecary shop for storing beads and I found an old card file from our local library — my husband cut it in half and stacked it, putting the removed legs on the back of the cut area.  It is great for storing large cones of thread plus much more. Sandy Wagner Studio 5

For cotton fabric I have 2 upright garage cabinets from Costco – they are painted white and they fit perfectly behind the door to the room. There never seems to be enough closet space, but after the cubbies were put in, there was a space between the cubbies and the wall that made a great double-decker closet space.  Short garments on the top and long ones on the bottom.  I also store silks and velvets that need to hang on the bottom rod. Sandy Wagner Studio 2

Under the cutting board there are 2 blueprint drawer cabinets from IKEA which hold silk that I can fold.  I have several irons and my favorite is the Rowenta steam iron with the large reservoir that will steam in an upright position.  I have a large cutting surface that I also use to pin pieces on.

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)?

Small cuts of fabric are by color in one cabinet and the larger pieces are just folded and put away. Some threads are stored by brand and type, the rest are put on hooks or in long drawers.  I have tried many ways but this seems to work best for me.  I have a large thread stand (behind my machine) that stores threads for the current project.  Also have small spools in Hot Wheel boxes.Sandy Wagner Studio 4

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?

We have an over-sized garage which we divided, creating a space for a pool table and a Ben Franklin wood stove. (Living in the mountains in the 70’s left us without power a lot.) Later it became a workshop, and I moved my dye studio to the area where the washer and dryer are.  I got a sink from my daughter when she remodeled her kitchen, installed it and hooked into the water from the washer.  It is so nice not to have to watch the drips in this area!  We added shelves and a large work table.

Sandy Wagner dye 2 Sandy Wagner dye 3

The storage containers for the fabric (silk, cotton, rayon, bamboo, soy and pineapple, to mention a few) to be dyed fit between the washer and dryer and support the microwave.

Sandy Wagner dye 1

All my Batik, Shibori painting and general dye supplies are stored in this area.

Sandy Wagner dye

I store poles, stencils, stamps and other supplies in an old dresser.

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 a cutting table that measures 60”. I keep it fairly uncluttered. The design wall is a piece of insulation board cut to fit the space.

Sandy Wagner Studio 1

Sandy Wagner Studio 3

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?

After I cut fabric for a project I fold and store in nearby. Too often I find that I need some of the left-over fabric and I don’t want to waste time searching for it. I generally work on 3 projects at a time – I get bored working on 1 project at a time.  I also mix garment making with the wall pieces.

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

I have turned down requests to take on an office job with a big “NO”.  I will also retire from my 44-year commitment to the 8-part harmony singing group and women’s quartet that I belong to in 2013.  It’s time to do what I want to do.

Thank you Sandy for the delightful tour.  Sandy’s website is

Next month: Dian Stanley

2 thoughts on “First Friday Studio Tour – Sandy Wagner

  1. Thank you for sharing. I don’t think there ever is enough room.. I use the white storage cabinets also, and love them. If I set out a horizontal surface for 10 min. I am in trouble, because everything gets set on it..and then it does not come down… goal for the new year again… clear some surfaces! Thanks again.. enjoyed seeing your space.

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