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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sewing Room Part 2: Planning

Hi Everyone,

I realized that a blog post about my new sewing room would be gigantic, as there is lots of thoughts and photos that I want to share, so I'm going to break it down into three separate posts:

The second one about planning

At the conclusion of my "Choosing" post, I had decided to take over the purple and pink nursery for my sewing room.

Now it was time to plan.  I began with a fairly clean slate.  The one item I knew I wanted to keep in my sewing room, if possible, was my big cutting island.  My previous sewing table/desk had consisted of a counter top sitting on some closet organizing shelves.  It was six feet long, which gave me plenty of space for one machine.  I had a fairly large piece of furniture--primarily designed for scrapbooking, which I decided could go.  I had a standard ironing board and used two tall bookshelves that came (and stayed) with the house in Virginia.  The only other items were the Ikea Trofast toy storage units that I was using to store my fat quarters.

I had two of them in the closet of my sewing room in Virginia, but I'd bought another before we moved.

This is going to be our "forever house."  This sewing room would be the only opportunity for a "dream" room, so I wanted to make my dreams come true, as much as possible.  I've always done things on the "cheap" as much as possible since I knew nothing would be permanent.  Now, permanance is a factor, so I was prepared to up the budget a bit.  Not all the way to custom cabinetry and Horn cabinets, etc., but enough to get what I wanted most.

I had lots of ideas and lots of "dreams."  I have a huge Pinterest board covered with ideas for a sewing room.  I bought one of those "How to Design Your Sewing Space" books, and read through it. But before I went crazy, I decided to list what it was that was most important to me.  Number one by an easy margin is LIGHT.  I don't know if it's my age, or just how I'm "wired" but a bright, light space is essential.  My room in Virginia was huge and had two windows that let in so much morning light, but by late afternoon and after dark, it wasn't a fun place to be.  No matter the size, arrangement, contents, project:  if the room is dark and gloomy I'm not going to want to be in it.  

The second essential was also easy.  STORAGE.  In that huge room in Virginia, I didn't have much of it.  It seemed whenever I needed something, I was digging.  I had bins of fabric in the closet that I would have to haul out (because what I needed was always in the bottom of the stack of bins.)  I wanted all of my fabric and supplies to be available where I could see it, grab it, and use it.  I have lots of pretty things that have been gifts and I want to be able to display them.  

I wanted a cohesive color scheme.  I didn't want a hodge-podge of wood finishes.  I wanted a great color on the walls and an accent color.  The woodwork in the entire house is oak.  The baseboards and doors in the sewing room were oak and while I briefly considered painting it all, that didn't last long.  The trofast units and my island are white laminate.  I decide whatever furniture or cabinetry I chose would also be white laminate.  I also wanted a space for my great-grandmother's treadle machine, which is oak as well.  My favorite designer, Sarah Richardson, says that you can have different finishes in the same room as long is each is repeated, so I was good there.  For color, that was sort of easy, too.  Since I like bright, light rooms, I wanted the walls to be yellow.  

Have you seen this commercial for purple paint?

I love it!  It precisely describes my desire for the perfect yellow paint.  I want it light but not too bright.  I don't want a "goldy" yellow or a greenish yellow.  For me, the perfect color came down to Glidden's Early Morning Sun.

My accent color would be red, of course.  Maybe some of you are wondering, "What, not red, white, and blue?"  While that color scheme is everywhere else in my house, I decided that I would go with what speaks to my creativity in my sewing room.

Now that I knew my desires, it was time to start implementing them.  Now it was time to scour the ideas.  The lighting in the room comes from a ceiling fan mounted in the center of the room.  I considered having an electrician put recessed lights in the three corners of the room (not the corner with the door.)  I also am considering replacing the ceiling fan with track lighting, but decided to wait on all of those until the contents of the room were in place.

Having a bit of a budget and knowing I wanted white cabinetry, Ikea was an easy choice.  I browsed blogs descibing other sewing rooms and the Ikea website and finally decided that Billy was going to be my new best friend.  

The line of Billy Bookcases at Ikea have different heights and two widths, and standard and a narrow.  This corner configuration has three standard widths and one narrow.  I wanted to have 2 of these "L" shaped units (one like this and one reversed)  having their short ends framing the window, and the long sides wrapping around to the side walls.   I was concerned that there wouldn't be enough wall space on each side of the window, so I made up a floor plan out of graph paper and cut out the pieces of furniture to scale.  I wish I still had them to show you, but I think I may have thrown them out.  Anyway, based on the measurements on the website, they would fit!  That meant I would have 6 wide shelves and 2 narrow ones to fill with fabric and other things.  They were available in the standard height of 79.5" or you could add an extension shelf to the top to make them 93" high.  I decided to do that.  

The rest of the plan was  to place my cutting table/island in the middle of the room with one short end 4 feet or so in front of the window. In front of the window, I would place the treadle machine.   I planned to tuck the Trofast fat quarter storage units underneath the island on one side.   That would leave plenty of clearance between each long side of the island and the long side walls of the room.  Each side wall would have the long part of the "L" shaped Billy unit.  The rest of the long wall that ended at the closet would have my sewing table/desk and the rest of the long wall that ended at the doorway was going to have a design wall with a rolling, ironing table in front of it.  Pinterest is full of ideas to make them.  This is one example.

The only other decision was what to do for a sewing surface.  I really wanted a place for 2 machines.  Since I got my Juki to do machine quilting, I like to have it set up so that I don't have to move my Bernina out of the way because if things are difficult, I'm not going to do them.  It would also be nice to have a place for a friend to come and sew.  Between the end of the Billy shelves and the corner of the wall, I had about 79 inches to play with.  Ikea has lots of desk options:  many table tops that can be placed on top of different types of bases.  Again with storage in mind, my other new friend was Alex.

These are Alex bases.  Both are available in white.  I wanted three total:  one each of the drawer units on the end and the cabinet version in the middle.  They had a table top that measured 78 3/4" by 23 5/8 wide. 

When we finally closed on the house, we had a couple weeks before our household goods arrived.  I spent most of that painting.  Once I finally had access to the room, I remeasured and checked everything over.  Then I painted all of the rooms that I needed to before the stuff arrived.  I finished on a Thursday and we were expecting the shipment on the following Tuesday, so on Friday, I picked up my daughter in Indianapolis with my husband's truck and we headed to Ikea in Cincinatti.  My plan was to get all of the pieces I needed and we could spend the weekend putting them together so when the stuff came, I would have a place to put everything when I unpacked.   Partway to Ikea, though, my phone rang.  It was my husband calling to inform me that they were delivering on Sunday!  That meant Friday was already committed and Saturday we would need to move out of the apartment, and Sunday deal with the movers!!!  There was nothing to do, though, but continue.  

It was my daughter's first Ikea experience so we had lots of fun looking.  She fell in love with some of the stuff.  I had my list.  When we finally got to the end, where you get everything, I'm not sure just how we managed, but we got all of those heavy Billy boxes, the Alex boxes, a red office chair for me, a different chair for her, plus other stuff.  It took both of us to move the cart and to pay and get it outside and loaded, but we managed.  I'm an Army wife and she's an Army kid and so we know how to get things done!  I dropped her back off in Indy and met my husband at our house where he helped me lug all of those same heavy boxes off the truck and upstairs.  It was only 7 PM so we started assembling.  We got one of the wide Billy bookcased together and put it next to the window.  We did a narrow one next and used the brackets to situate it diagonally, which makes the right angle.  BIG PROBLEM!!   

The measurements for this unit on the Ikea website are wrong!  They give one side measurement as one wide bookcase and the other side as two wide bookcases.  They discount the angled narrow bookcase all together.  Neither of these "L" shaped units would fit.  I was so tired and upset that I wanted to cry.  We thought things over and did some big-time problem solving.   We realized we could pull out the narrow bookcase and just butt the wide bookcases together.  This worked perfectly on the corner of the wall which would also have the design wall, but in the case of the wall that also had the sewing desk, it was going to be about 2 inches too long for the sewing desk to fit. Grr!  It was already a bit on the short side for me to have two machines, so I wasn't too happy.  We decided to switch out the second wide bookcase for the narrow one that we already had together.  They are no longer symmetrical units, but at least I have maximized my storage.  So you can visualize it:  each side of the window has one wide bookcase.  One one side of the room, there are two wide bookcases forming the "L" and on the other side of the room, it is one wide and one narrow bookcase forming the "L."  We had one wide bookcase and one narrow one to return, so we shoved them aside.  It was after midnight so all of the rest of the assembly would have to wait until we were on the other side of the move and unpacking.

One thing I did notice right off was that those tall, white, Billy bookcases really helped reflect light and the room was brighter with them in!  I'm really glad I went with the white finish.  Once the house was unpacked and I had a chance to work in my sewing room, I first did as much unpacking as possible.  Luckily, I could take things out of boxes and put them on the shelves.  Once the majority of the boxes were out of the room, we had space to work in again, so we next assembled the Alex bases and set them into place.  I took the table top that I'd purchased and put in on top.  I wasn't happy.  The first issue was that there was now a gap of almost a foot between the sewing table and the edge of the Billy bookcase.  I don't like gaps--they accumulate "piles" of stuff that should otherwise be put away.  The other issue was that there wasn't much room for a person's knees between the Alex base cabinets.  If I could have a longer table top, it would solve both problems:  extending the table to fill in the gap, and giving more space at each machine.  Another major drawback was that the table was narrow--not even 2 feet wide.  I had almost 30 inches of clearance between the wall and the closet molding, so the table could be wider.  I'm all about maximizing available space.  A quick check of Ikea's website  showed no table top that would work.  I put the original on the pile of things to be returned and thought about solutions. 

With the gap, I now had 108" of available space for the table.  I wanted it 28"-29" wide. 

This is the end by the closet so you can see how 28" fits between the wall and the closet door molding.

 I considered getting sheets of plywood cut, but wasn't keen on having the edge showing.  I also considered MDF, but both ply and MDF are thinner than I wanted.  I considered countertop again, but I'm not crazy on the backsplash "lip" that comes standard.  Finally I decided on unfinished, undrilled core doors.  You can't get a core door that is 108" tall, but 28" wide is a standard width, so we bought two and cut them down to 54" each.  They would meet in the middle of the desk, where the Alex cabinet is, so that would work out okay.
See you them meet in the middle but are still fully supported?

  The challenge was cutting down the hollow core doors, because, well, they are hollow!  The right saw blade and a few instructional Youtube videos later, though, we had them ready.  I painted them with a gloss white paint.  Once they were dry, they fit perfectly!  One additional thing that we did was to drill large holes through each door for cords.  I bought cord hole grommets to give them a finished look.

See how "Professional" the grommets make the hole look?

Now I have a 28" wide table top, but the Alex bases are only 23" wide.  That was no big deal, I brought them forward so that they are flush with the front of the Alex bases.  Meanwhile, we screwed 1x2 boards into the wall for the back of the table top to rest on--to give more support.

The 1x2 is the unfinished board right under the table.  

Because the Alex units are pulled forward, there is almost 5 inches of space behind them.  I'm keeping my power strip and all the cord mess tucked behind them.  Here I pulled it into view for the picture, but I shoved it back to the right so all of that mess is hidden, but easily accessed!  I love that--I hate cord messes!

Okay, then.  I thought I had all the kinks worked out, but now that the table was all in place, it was time to reassemble the cutting island.  We managed that just fine.  My plan was to slide the Trofast units underneath.  Another big problem!!!  They were too tall.  I had them in the closet in Virginia, so I tried to put them here, but the closet is full of organizers, so they wouldn't fit.  Grrr!  Why am I always running into these problems?!!  The only alternative was to put them against the other long wall opposite the sewing desk--where I was going to have a full-length design wall and my neato ironing board/cart.  I thought I could find another place for a design wall, but where would I have my iron?

One idea that popped into my head was to have a padded cutting table like Lori Holt of Bee in My Bonnet.  You can see her tutorial here.  I mentioned this idea to my friend, Janice, but she wondered if cutting on a padded surface would cause problems with accuracy.  I read the tutorial and realized with just a thin layer of batting, it wouldn't be too cusy, so I decided to try it.  My next problem was that the top of my cutting island was comprised of a laminate countertop and I considered replacing it with plywood, but instead I went ahead with using the countertop.  If I have a problem down the road, I'll re-think but for now it's working.  I followed her tutorial exactly, only I used Insul-Bright batting instead of Warm and Natural.  For the top fabric, I wanted a durable duck cloth weight fabric and looked in the home dec area.  I found nothing in a pretty red color.  Grrr.   I scoped out the home dec remnant/clearance section and found something.  It was still a bit high, so I asked if I could use a coupon for it.  The answer was "no."  However, they would have a 20% off your total purchase coupon over the weekend for Veteran's Day, so I waited a few days.  Not only could I use the coupon, but those home dec remnants were marked 50% off.  I was so glad I waited.  I also got the batting and the silver ironing board fabric at the same time and saved a ton of money.  Then I spent an afternoon with the staple gun, crawling around on the floor, upholstering the cutting island in three different layers.  The finished surface looks great and so far I'm thrilled with how it is working.   

I came up with a solution to the design wall issue which I blogged about in January.  I put the design wall on the closet doors.  So far it is working out great!  The panels are easy to move if I need to get into the closet.  The next undertaking was to rethink the fabric storage on the shelves.  In Virginia, I folded fabric around my ruler and stacked in on the bookcase, but the Billy shelves are a bit narrower, and having the overhang at the front of the shelves was bugging me, so I decided to try wrapping the fabric around comic book insert boards to make little bolts of fabric and then stand them up on the shelves.  

I love the way the look!  More importantly though, I've had a chance to pull them out and cut off them and put them away again, and it is really easy.  I started out getting 3 packs of 100 boards, thinking that would be plenty.  Then I got another 100.  And then 2 more.  Yikes!  I still have an unopened package, though, and I think I'm done for now.  Anything over a fat quarter gets wrapped around the board and pinned.  If there is quite a bit of yardage, I use two of the cardboards.  If you are interested in how this works, just search for "comic book board fabric storage" and you will find lots of information and videos.  

Next time will be the big reveal!  You can see how it all looks, and I'll show some other projects from the room.  I can't wait to show it to you.  Until then, here is a peek inside from the hallway.

Have a great day!


  1. WOW is all I can say.
    It sounds like you put a lot of thought into the layout and workings of the room. I'm sure you're happy with your choices and i for one can't wait to see how it all looks.
    What's nice is having all the room you want/need for successful sewing.


  2. I can't wait to see the big reveal! When I did my studio with Billy units last June, I wanted the angled corners also, but it didn't work out. I love that the units are just made for fabric, with not much wasted space hanging out in the front! Enjoy your space!

  3. I can hardly wait for the reveal tomorrow!!!Love the sharing of the thought process and boo boos and the fixes!

  4. Very creative thinking for making it all work. It must be so satisfying to finally have your dream space in your forever home.

  5. This is so awesome...I think we are sisters from another mother...the Billy and Alex Ikea units are on my "dream room" list. :) Can't wait for tomorrow!

  6. Boy, you know how to keep a girl in suspense. Sounds beautiful and can't wait for the "reveal" ... excited!! Linda

  7. I love that you are walking us through every detail of your design process for this room - can't wait to see the big reveal!

  8. Wow, that was a lot of work! I can't wait for the big reveal. You've given us all such great ideas. I'll be sure to check the post again when I get my sewing room. Just a side note, I wandered in to a Goodwill one day and what did I find? Five Billy bookcases for $20 a piece! Score!!!

  9. I am so happy for you! I have a Pinterest board for my dream sewing room too. I'm excited and can't wait to see the big reveal. Enjoy your new room and may you have many years of creating bliss.

  10. This is getting exciting! I wish I had 1/10 of your energy...I'm afraid I would have given up.

  11. Hi! I found your post through Pinterest, as I'm planning a quilting studio, and I love the way yours is laid out and organized. I have a question about the hollow doors... do you hear the "hollow-ness" of the door when you're sewing?? Just wondering how solid it is, and I'm curious how it's working out for you. If you're happy with it, then I may consider doing the exact setup as you have. Otherwise, I will look into Ikea's desk top options. Thank you! Your room looks great!