Articles Q&A

My Sewing Studio

Which Machines?

added November 2003

hello leanna

first time to your website, i am so glad i found you! I love your workshop photos! i like them because they are down to earth and i can understand why you organized it the way you did, and also on a budget, which is where i need the inspiration. I liked how you created your spool holder, how you use the legal file cabinet, how you made your work table from your old kitchen cabinets! great solutions!! the best one of all was your idea of the new work station, with the shadow box, and on wheels!!! love it. you should really consider copyrighting this table and selling it to a sewing cabinet manufacturer. in fact, i believe home sewing is coming back for us mid life crises women who sewed way back when and now want to come back, but have no idea how to start and end up paying a fortune for bad advice and for things more complicated that need to be.

i have some questions for you about your sewing machines and sergers. i felt very professional when i saw you had a viking 990. i have the same machine. i never had it serviced and took it to a viking dealer in a store for service. i felt i had the wrong machine when i talked with the salesladies. they all had the designer 1. off course i felt outdated and immediately wanted one. but when i saw you still use your 990, i felt better.

i hope you can help me out.

Do you still use your 990? Do you have the Designer 1? i think i saw it in one of your photos. What do you like about the 990 that you don't get on other machines? what do you use the Singer 20U33 for? What sergers do you use? Why

Do you use industrial sewing machines? which ones and why? have you used other sewing machines? what do you think about any of the Pfaff models?

i hope you can answer my questions, it would really help me decide if i buy another sewing machine

i really enjoy your website, really inspirational and fun!! i bookmarked and will visit frequently.

happy sewing, heidi

HI Heidi,
You hit me on a day I don't have much sewing to do. Glad you like the site. I've been working on it for 10 years now and it's gotten to be quite a collection!

Let me start off by saying I have not sewn on many different brands of machines and the reasons I have the ones I do are a bit untechnical. I fell in love with the Viking machinery at a sewing convention when I was still in collage. A group of the sewing student were sponsored to attend this convention to work. I was assigned to a Viking Dealer in the exhibition hall and spent 3 days demonstrating the 6690, the new top-of-the-line model that year. A machine I had never seen before. It was a hoot. I was given about 10 minutes to digest the owner's manual before the room opened up. I winged it as best I could for the first day and studied the manual that evening. I also became familiar with the Sergers. By the end of the 3rd day I was sold on the Viking way. My Father bought me a 6690 as a graduation gift and I've bought 2 sergers (431, 3 thread & 440, 4 thread) since. I upgraded once to the 990 when the 990s came out because I got a good deal, but have not seen the need to upgrade again. The 6690 is still working and is my back-up machine.

I bought the Singer 20U because I used one at a bridal job I did for a short time and fell in love with it too. It was a good idea because the Viking home models really are not designed to take the hours of use I put them to. I have had to replace the computer panels on both Vikings several times because of burnout. An expensive task, but not as much as buying a new machine. I figured I would use the 20U as my main workhorse and the Vikings for special jobs, but I find that I use the 20U only for heavy duty items and long tasks that need the speed to get them done in any reasonable amount of time. I love the big sewing counter I have the 990 on. The little Singer 20U bed just does not make sewing an wedding gowns easy.

I have sewn on Juki industrials and can't say I like it much. I helped out a friend for a few month's at her store and luckily she also had Vikings. I hate New Home - also from an experience with a different friend's machine. Can't say much about Pfaff. The only experience I have is a teacher said she liked my Singer Featherweight more than her $2,000 Pfaff one day at a workshop I brought my Featherweight to because they ran out of school machines to use. I used to sell EuroPro machines and would not have one if you paid me to take it. I don't sell them any more. I only had them because I sold the pressing equipment which I no longer endorse either. I now have a Hi-Steam MVP-35 which I love.

Sewing Machines are like cars. They are basically the same but certain models are more fun to drive just because you like them. Not for any real tangible/mechanical reason.

I see no need to buy a Designer 1 or a Rose because all the differences are cosmetic. I have no need for Embroidery either. I have often said that the next upgrade I do will be when the Machines actually speak like cameras and cars do. "Door ajar" and "Load film" would be "Foot is up" and "Bobbin low". I know the Designer 1 gives you warning messages on the display, but that's not speaking.

Hope this all helps!

hello leanna!
i can't tell you how much inspiration you have given me. i just read your bio about your 'new' basement and hope everything has gone well for you since then.

i have a question about your layout table, if you don't mind. what is
the top made of?

Regular Kitchen Countertop Formica, same as the other counters in the room.

did you consider putting a cutting mat on top, or do you use one as needed?
There is one now. I hadn't moved it over to the new room when I took the pictures. I take it off when I need to use the light window.

is the 1' extension on both sides or just one?
Just one, on the back side where the shelves are. It would not work to put on on the drawer side.

about how much did it cost to construct?
The contractor charged me $1400. I don't know the exact cost of materials alone.

would you make any changes if you had to do it over again?
Yes, I would make sure the contractors did exactly as I asked. They did not make it 4' X 8', it's only 3' X 8' and the lights they used were not what I asked for either.

Is the table you use for sewing and sergers a kitchen countertop?
Yes, but it's 3' deep instead of the normal 2'.

Do you have a special ironing board that you use with the hi steam iron?
Yes, it's got a vacuum in it. You can get them at places that sell equipment for Dry Cleaners. Most bigger cities have them. Try looking in the yellow pages.

my suggestion for a new hobby is internet sewing mentor.

thanks, heidi
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Leanna, I have questions regarding machines to be able to do clothing alterations. I'm at lost what to look for. but I wanted  to first to tell you what kind of machines I have. I have singer inguenity 7436 that has pressure feet, singer serger 14sh654 3-4 threads. and bought these at local walmart. I have been learning how to sew clothing alterations for friends and family to practices. i'm starting to get phone calls from neighbors now they wanted me to do alterations for them. which I am ready to do so. but i'm not sure what kind of sewing machine  or workhorse machines to buy before I do anything. there is a local viking machines that sell viking and singer sewing machines. I do know that my singer ingenuity does not to the heavy duty jobs as sewing wedding gowns, jackets. there is a lady that wants me to take in her jackets next month. which she has the type of fabrics of suede, velvet, acrylic/polyester, silk/satin, polyester linen/nylon. I don't have the machines to sew this type of jackets. and don't have the clue which machines will do these jobs. I have practices sewing my daughter's jeans and my jeans. and have find it very hard to hemmed it because the singer inguenity don't have pressure feet adjustments to go from thin to thinkness of the fabrics. I have been searching online for over two months to figure out which machines would suit best.  than I found your webiste and thougth to ask you for information. the only thing I will not do is sew any kind of leather. I seen that you mention singer 90U, and looked it up online. it didn't say how much it cost. my husband wants to buy me a new machine next month as a christmas gift. so hopefully you can be of help.  and one more questions. how can I keep the streachable pants from slipping as I sew of it to hemmed i. everytime I tried to sew it it moves? thanks in advance. Mrs. Hartman

Sewing machines are like cars. The one that is right for you has little to do with the machine's ability. Any machine, including the one you now have, will sew alterations. It matters more what you like in a machine. My main machine is a Viking 990. It was about $1,000.00 when I got it. I use it for most things including wedding gowns. My Singer 20U I use mostly for jeans and other heavy things. It was about $1,000.00 also. 

Appartment Workspace

added September 2003

Thank you so much for your write-up on bridal store policies. I work for one major retail bridal chains as an alteration manager. Yesterday I had an altercation with the stores district manager and apparently we have different views about customer service like what you described in your article. I am so happy to know that I'm not the alone in understanding a brides need on an individual basis, while running a profitable workroom but the only thing management is concerned with is running a profitable workroom. I have 20 years professional sewing experience and also hold a A.A.S. degree in fashion design I've worked for major retailers of bridal and specialty stores as alteration specialist and on management level. After pondering over the idea of starting my own alterations business I am ready to take that plunge. Thank you again for your wonderful and inspiring web sight. Please e-mail me with any suggestions you might have. I live in an apartment so I'm a little reluctant about having strangers coming in and out.

I hated the time I had to use an apartment, but it can be done professionally. Did you see the pictures? Go to: and
I kept the room looking neat and tidy and folks seemed to get the impression that I was serious about my work. It's hard in such a small space. Just keep an "attitude" about you that this is normal and the customers will follow your lead. If you get to move to a house it will get easier, but I found that after a year it wasn't so bad. I spent 3 years in apartments and did ok for myself.

Next thing, don't underprice yourself because you are in an apartment. Your work is still your work no matter where it's done. If you set the right atmosphere like I said, they will pay what the work is worth.

Lastly, I think it's important to have a room set aside for the business - or at least look like it is. In the first link above the whole room was for sewing, but in the second set of pictures it is also my bedroom. I don't think anyone ever figured it out because I kept it business like.

I wish you all the best. Drop me a note from time to time to tell me how you are doing, OK? I think you will do just fine. You have a great attitude and good values.
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Dust & and Other Topics

added May 2003

Leanna, I have to tell you I had a ball visiting your site. You have really put a lot into it, and I can't wait to share it with friends.

I just retired from teaching and really want to get back into some of my fiber hobbies, but mainly sewing. (Besides sewing, I've been in hand and machine knitting, bobbin lace making, crocheting, cross stitch, and paper making, which is actually a fiber art. The kenaf, a kind of hemp, was a lot of work, so I find I really enjoy paper castings now.) I am taking a year to make up for years of neglect at home, and to think about shaping my goals for the future. I had been thinking about a dress form, and will certainly give the DTD some thought. I laughed so hard my cheeks cramped and the tears ran, and I promptly emailed my sister a cut and paste of your Gotta Laugh section.

Since I am in the middle of reorganizing our little (serves 2 people with six different functional areas) 15x20 home office space, I am impressed with your organization. I do have a couple small questions, but a Christmas answer will do or whenever you get the urge to reply, or perhaps these could be part of a larger article for Threads someday on organization.

How did you deal with dust, or did your activity just keep it from settling? My sewing room seems to get dusty; granted I haven't used it regularly while teaching. I also seem to have a problem with the lint my serger creates. I have tried an air cleaner, but I wonder about daily regular use. I am also looking toward an embroidery machine and know this may also make much lint.

Also, are there any good, current guides that would help with how/what to charge for services, how much local population is needed to get "enough" business, what normal turnaround time for services would be, and how to prioritize for special/emergency requests?

I would like to read an article on what a normal day or week would look like. Perhaps one already exists that I don't know of. I had taken one year of Threads more than 10 years ago, but teaching kept me too busy, so I let it drop. I just renewed and ordered many back issues and am having a wonderful time getting educated.

Thanks for taking your time. I hope to visit your site often as I shape my goals and get ready to start working about 7 months into the future. I suspect you yourself are now are a mentor to many unknowns!

Suggestions for a new hobby? How about writing more about aspects of your sewing business? You have a great talent for organizing and using every space available. I would love a peek into the closets, drawers, and other spaces to see and hear you explain how you did it. (The exercise bike was ingenius.) I bet there would be many other readers interested as well.

I trust the time in your new home with your father is rewarding. As challenging as they were at times for me, the last three years of my mother's life in my home more than a decade ago was something I would not have wanted to miss.

By the way, I couldn't get the picture links to work for the 2002 update, but I did see them by clicking on links at the bottom of other pages.

Atoka, OK

Wow, thanks for writing. I fixed the bad link you found, thanks for that too.

Dust, it's rather inevitable where fabric arts are done, but I have just switched my brand of thread and am noticing a marked reduction in the dust. I vacuum at least once a week. That helps, but I'm amazed at the difference the thread has made.

I've written a lot about money at: You should be able to find something to help you on that topic there. Bottom line is, I charge what I want to. If the competition is charging less, than so be it, I'm worth more. I have all the work I need. I usually give myself a raise at the beginning of the year, but I have been thinking about taking one again soon in midsummer too.

My normal turn around time is one week. For special frequent clients I may do something sooner, even on the spot, but usually I just say no if any request doesn't fit in comfortably with my present workload.

I think I did a normal day article, but can't think of where I put it right now. hummm . . . it's gotta be somewhere in the HomePro section. It's gotten so big I can't keep it straight.

I'd like to have time to write more, but I've been so busy keeping up with my son's growing activities. I post more e-mail correspondences like this one because of that. Plus I'm going into instructional Videos too, so that's going to take up tons of time.

I am very organized, sometimes I think too much so. I just hate working in clutter. Sewing rooms get cluttered so easily. I thought about taking picture of my studio with the cabinets open, but I have reorganized then a couple times already and am not totally satisfied yet. Stuff is still cluttering because it doesn't have a home. Mom is thinking of moving her craft items out of my studio soon, so maybe I'll be able to use the extra cabinet space to give homes to things I haven't found good spaces for yet.

There is so much more I want to do to the site too. I just added a page for Bridal bustling and another for customer pictures. They aren't finished yet, but done enough for putting up. Like everything else, I'll be adding to them as I have things to add.

Well, I gotta get off to rehearsal. Write whenever you like. I'll answer sooner or later, but I do my best to answer everyone.
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Employees or Subcontractors?

added November 2002

I have been working alone since I moved to Ohio about 11 years ago. I decided it was best to take on only as much work as I can accomplish at the quality I want. It's a whole nother world to have people doing work under you no matter how payment is made. I was very lucky to have really competent ladies working for me for the most part. I think it was a direct result of how I set things up, but it is very much also a matter of luck in the pool of people you have to choose from. When all is said and done, you and only you, are responsible for the quality of work that goes out of your business. It's a very difficult thing to get other people to do work at your standards, no matter what their skill level. ("If you want things done right, do it yourself")

That said, I'll share how I set things up when I did have employees. I used an interesting combination of employee/subcontractor. The ladies worked in my shop using my equipment. They each kept a book of the work they finished. ("finished" meaning it passed inspection or was redone) At the end of the week I added the items up and paid them 50% of the
total, minus all the regular deductions.

This system worked well because I kept the pricing for the jobs high enough so that any competent sewist could make a decent wage. Twice a year I would sit down with the ladies and we would discuss the pricing. If a certain item was being consistently underpriced for the time the ladies needed to do it, I would adjust it. If I felt they were off base on a pricing question we would have a challenge. The next item of that task that came up I did while the ladies timed me. Usually it became a learning experience for all. We would trade how-to's. I never dictated how they had to do any task just because my way was efficient for me. As long as the work was up to standard (basically, I insisted the item look like it was not sewn on when done) I didn't mind them doing things their way.

The 50% rate was great because it gave the workers a sense that they were sharing in the success of the business. It just seemed fair. And my best ladies made really good money. It's the system I worked under when I worked at an Alteration Shop in South Carolina. It felt right then and I made a good wage, so I decided to use it when I set up my own business.

A side benefit was that I never had to fire anyone. If they could not make a decent wage under the system they would quit. No hard feelings on either side.

Now, finding talented ladies (or gentleman) to be employees is another story.

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Workroom Floorplan

added October 2001

I plan to turn a bedroom into a sewing room since my three children have now moved away from home. Do you have any suggestions that would benefit me in planning such a project, or can you tell me where I would find ideas? Thank You, Janet

The best place to find ideas is where you would find stuff for kitchen design. It's basically the same idea. In kitchen design they plan the 4 basic areas of refrigerator, sink, stove and prepping surfaces. For sewing it's sewing machine, serger, pressing, and prep surfaces.

It also takes a lot of thinking on your part of how you work. Do you prefer the sergers to be to the right or left of the sewing machine? That could annoy you if it's in the wrong place for your work style.

My best advice is just set it up as best you can, work in that set-up and then make changes as you see ways it would make you working easier.

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What's that Ironing Surface?

added October 2001

I too do wedding attire and suits I was interested in your pressing surface. It looks like the suction board? How do you like it. Any suggestions on where to purchase one?
Thank you for your time.

My board is a Euro-Pro. I love it, but I can't recommend it to everyone. It takes special care and is not for everyone. If you want more info on it call Euro-Pro at 1-800-798-7395. Give them your zip code and they will give you the location of a dealer near you.

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Time Saving Machines?

added September 2000

I was wondering about your industrial machine and blind hemmer--do you still use them or did they lose their place when you moved upstairs? Maybe they're someplace else? One reason I appreciate your web site is that it gives me a chance to be in someone elses work room and escape my own for a while. A blind hemmer and industrial machine are still on my wish list and I'm interested to know if they were valuable time savers for you? Most of my work is bridal, but my total work load is a mixture of alterations, tailoring, garment construction and varied work for local churches, with that occasional"odd duck" project we all run into somewhere during the year.

I still have the 2 machines. I just don't have room for them. I left them both at my husband's house when I moved out. He does not mind me leaving them and coming by occasionally when I do need to use one.

I do find times I need the blind hemmer more than the straight stitcher. Most of the alterations I do are lined and I do them encased so there is no blindstitching, or the fabric is so fine that it simply has to be stitched by hand. I would love to sell the blind hemmer I have and get a small desktop model that I could take out only when I need it.

I haven't found a lot of need for the Singer 20U only because I often need things it can't do- like free arm stitching. I bought it originally because I was making hundreds of capes to sell to costumers at shows. I have stopped doing that and would like to also sell it but both machines are very heavy and would cost a lot to ship, so I have to find some one within a reasonable driving distance to buy it.

I love both machines and if I had the space would keep them. They last longer than regular household models and are built to take the daily workload of professional sewing business needs. I think it's worth it for you to look into them. The best part is they are easy and inexpensive to find second hand. And because they are so durable, buying second hand is really no different than getting a new one.

I hope to get picture of my new room up on the site soon. I'm almost finished arranging things. I hope to not have to move again in the near future. This one makes 5 in 10 years.

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Workroom Pictures

added October 2008

As luck would have it I just came across your website this morning. I am trying to design a home sewing studio and your descriptions and pictures are a great help. What a talented lady you are!! I truly am impressed. I can't wait to get "my little studio" together and start creating. Thanks for the inspiration and ideas.
I do have one question. You said the table you designed was not to your specifications when completed. What would you change about the table? It was not clear from your description. It is a great idea, especially to have it on wheels.  
Again, I want to thank you for a wonderful website. When I get this projected completed I think I will explore ballroom dancing.
Best wishes and keep dancing,
Pamela McCrae
I, too, have had back surgery and thanks for the virtual hug. Right back to you!!

I asked for a 4'X8' table with a 1' drop leaf on the 8' side. What they did was a 3'X8' table with a 1' drop leaf. I wanted the table to be 5'X8' when the leaf was up but it is only 4'X8' and the shelves on that side are only 1' deep instead of 2'. I just had another contractor fix it. I decided to give up the drop leaf idea and it is now a simple 4'X8' table.

added September 2007

Hello Leanna,
Yes, I am looking to convert a bedroom into a sewing room/office space. I'm so confused. I have a sewing machine and a serger and would like for them both to be up and accessible at all times. I actually purchased at an auction an oak kitchen island with counter top (for $7.50 mind you - feeling very proud) and thought I'd put wheels (with brakes) on it to use as a cutting island. One side has a hangover for bar stools. Thought about putting the machines on this. The floor is a painted hardwood at the present time. When I purchased it my thought was that one of our two girls might just have a kitchen in a house one day that could use it and it was SO CHEAP, and we had the room to store it. I of course mentioned that to them both at the time. So now, it appears that's where that is headed, so I'm back to re-thinking. I can actually use my kitchen counter for cutting, it would just be nice to be able to leave the mess out at times (if it was in the sewing room). Sorry, I'm rambling. What's wrong with the sewing table? I remember seeing it in the pictures - the one that one side drops down with tons of storage underneath - right?
Have a good weekend.

Yes, the table looks beautiful and at first I was awed by it and didn't see what was wrong.
I asked for a 4'X8' table with a 1' drop leaf on the 8' side. I wanted this so that when I did most of my work I would use the 4' table, but on occasion when I need to use 60" wide fabric I could add the leaf and I would have 5' of table to cut 60" fabric folded long-wise. I drew sketches of the table with meticulous measurement labels and gave it to the contractor and he worked up a price. I agreed to the price ($1500) and he made the table in his shop, brought it to my home (on a day I was out running my stores and seeing clients) and assembled it. They finished before I got home and my Father, thinking it was lovely, paid them and they left.
When I got home and saw the table I was very happy at first, but the more I looked at it the more I noticed something was wrong. I finally measured it. It was not 4'X8'. It was 3'X8'. The contractor had made the drop leaf inside the 4' instead of adding a foot. The shelves on the backside, that were supposed to be 2' deep, were only 1' deep. Making them too short to hold the 2' baskets I had to organize my projects. They hang off the shelf and looks really bad. Also, the light inset is all wrong. It was supposed to be 3'x2', he made it 2'6"x2' because 3' I asked for wouldn't fit in the 3' top. AND he used a spot light. I clearly asked for tube type lighting. I was very upset. 
Dad was so proud of the table he had provided for me that it was hard for me to complain about it. In a few days I finally called the contractor to complain. He said I got the table I paid for and if he did it by the other measurements it would have cost me much more. Idiot "man" logic! I know what he did. He figured he could save money buying only one piece of 4'x8' Formica top instead of 2 and that I'd be happy with what he did. Well I am not happy. The table is mostly useless to me. It just collects clutter and I end up cutting out stuff on the floor.
Some day I will get it fixed if I can find a man who will do as I ask. I know it might mean starting over, but I do have the nice cabinets that I won't have to pay for. It's just so frustrating. I didn't mind paying for the special table I have wanted for many years and now I have a $1500 table I can't use.

added September 2000

Hi Leanna, I am very impressed with your pix of your work area.

Funny you should write about my workroom pictures. I just got them up a week ago, AND I have just decided to move again - - - So I'll be setting up another room in a few weeks! It will be a little bit bigger than the one I have now with more closet space too. I'll get pictures up as soon as I can.

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Thread Rack

added September 2007

I am converting a room into a sewing studio. I noticed on one of your pictures a wall board for your threads and spools. Where can I find one like yours or was it hand crafted? Oh, by the way, love your site.

My husband made the boards for me. It was pretty simple. We measured the spools I was using and cut 1/4" dowels to fit both the spool and a bobbin. Then he drilled holes on a slight angle so the spools hung up a little, glued the dowels in the holes and I painted the board. It took both of us to hang the boards on the wall. They are quite heavy.  
There are racks available but the large ones hold only 50 or so spools. You could get several of them, but the pegs are too short to hold a bobbin with the spool. I have 300 colors that I stock. You just never know what color item will come in the door. Of course I have 10 pegs for white and black and several for shades of ivory because I do so much bridal.
Thanks for visiting my site,

added September 2000

Your sewing room is definitely every sewer's dream. I especially love the thread rack you have on the wall. Can you tell me how you made it so I can try to convince my DH that I really need one made too.

It wasn't anything really complicated. I just got a board and decided how many spools I wanted to have on it, drilled holes and stuck dowels in the holes with wood glue. Than I painted the board so it would look nice. That's about it.

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Machines are Like Friends

An article written for the January 1998 issue of Tangled Threads

I believe irons and sewing machines have a kind of machine personality.   Some machines are good quality and would perform will, but they just don't work for your sewing style for some unknown reason. I see it as a clash of your human personality and the machine's.  In choosing what is right for you it is much like making a friend.  Just like there are many nice people in the world, but you don't get along with all of them like you do your closest friend.

This may be sounding odd to you all, but just ask several friends about how they like their iron. Some will praise one brand while others will call it no good.

It's a hard decision to make when so much money could be wasted if you choose wrong.  I tried some of the others with less enthusiasm before I found what works for me.  If you try to see it as a learning process (much like making a new friend) more than wasting money it will be easier.  Even if  the first iron or sewing machine  you try doesn't meet all of your expectations, when it got rave reviews from a friend.  It's not as bad as you may feel it is.  You can evaluate it with your own style of sewing in mind and make a better choice the next time.

Not all good people get along, so it is with machines. Choosing that special one can be difficult, but when you've found it, you know it.
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Setting Up a Workshop

added July 2009

Good Morning,
I am very excited to have found you! I am about to begin the process
of making a sewing studio in my garage, and I need some advice! I like
how you know exactly how to arrange everything...I don't even know
where to begin!
Would you be kind enough to be send some of your expertise my way? If
you have any other pictures or suggestions, I am most interested. Your
site in the best one that I have found!
I do not sew professionally, but I would like to sew in an organized
fashion, as that is not the case right now!
I am presently cleaning out my garage, where there is an accumulation
of decades of junk, and the only light at the end of the tunnel, is
this sewing space!
Thank you so much!



Hi Eleanor,

All the pictures I have are on the site. The only advise I have it to position your workstations where it best suits the way you work. I have moved the placement of things around much as I moved from one space to another and found a good combination that works for me. It depends on many things including the type of sewing you do. A work room that does mostly home decor would look very different than my alteration set-up. You just have to put thing where you think you will like them and try that way. You can always move things to better suit you needs. 

added October 2007

In your home quilting studio, what do you wish you had planned for
(and forgot) when designing.
For our anniversary my husband is going to build a 34 x 16 foot
quilting studio with a 12 x 12
separate storage space at the end for fabric.  One long side of the
studio(facing the pool like a cabana) is going
to have sliding doors the full length.  I've been planning and
planning, but wonder what special
  things I should think about at the design stage that haven't been
What do you wish you had done different?
       What about lighting?  Do you prefer regular bulbs or long
tubes?  Do either distort color?
I have found many books on room layout but am not too trustful of
these people.  They have fabric
right out in the open where even dumb and I am know that the colors
fade fast in the light.  If they
are so dumb about that, what do they know about the rest?
I have included a hydraulic drafting table(for designing & cutting),
space for sitting and hand
sewing, and a wall TV for my husband when he visits.
       I've included space for setting up a ping pong table for
laying out a large quilt, and space for 6 work
tables where  6 or more of our friends can come and sew on
philanthropy projects.
I have dark storage room for fabric (separate 12 x 12 room).  A small
sink, fridge, & coffee pot.
I have an old hoosier cabinet for display + 2 quilt ladders.  I have
7 bookcases for reference,
magazines, etc. plus 4 filing cabinets. I have even figured out how
to color code all my
reference books by subject. The only thing I can't have is a bathroom
- no way for the plumbing.
Any hints or suggestions and last minute ideas would be greatly
Santa Ana, CA.

The studio I have now is almost perfect. It was 20 years in planning. Whenever I moved I discovered more things that I wanted when I got the "perfect" place. A space that would let me put in everything I wanted. I did plan well for the designing of the space. The only thing I did not foresee was the lack of cooperation of the contractor. He did so many things that were not in my plan or did my plan just wrong. I have fixed many of his "mistakes" already, but am still waiting to find a person who can fix the biggest one - my layout table. I asked for a 4'X8' table with a 1' drop leaf on the 8' side. I wanted the drop leaf so when I have to deal with 60" wide fabric the table would expand to 5' wide. Well . . . I got a 3'X8' table. The $^*(&%$@ contractor put the leaf inside the 4', not outside it! I was very upset because I had paid him $1400 for the table. He would not change it saying I got what I paid for. If he had made the table the way I asked it was going to be more expensive and I should be happy he saved me that money. What a total idiot!. Men, ough!
You seem to have thought of everything important. Don't worry too much about the little stuff. You may change your mind about the space or your work may change so you'll need to move things around.

added July 2005

I am children's clothes designer on ebay.  I am finally getting my own studio space but I am having a hard time setting up.  How high should machine be, how high cutting area, good chair.  Up until now I have kind of used what I had.  But, this has gotten to be big business, for me at least, and I am baffled.  I have been sewing for 40 yrs. but never this long at one time.  Any suggestions?  M.

My counters are a normal 34", like regular kitchen counters. I like it that way. This may be high for you.  

I'm really curious where other professional sewers put their studio- and of course without spending their life savings to do so!

My studio is in my basement. It would be nice to have a separate entrance, but it was the only suitable room in size and privacy. Many of the ladies in the PSA have workrooms their basements. I have 3 cats and a dog in my house and do not want them in my workroom, especially when I have a wedding gown to work on. So I have a closing hinge on the door so people don't forget to close it and have an animal sneak in.

Some of our ladies have side rooms in the house that they have made into the sewing a studio. It doesn't cost much if you don't go ordering things like custom cabinets. All you really need is a large table for cutting (mine is made from the kitchen cabinets that were going to be thrown out when we redid the kitchen), a table for each machine (my main table is a piece of ply wood 6' X 2' that sits on the serger desk and a cheep end table), a pressing area, a desk for book keeping and some space for doing fittings.

I started out in a 10' X 6' room. My sewing table/ply wood board on one wall supported by 2 barrels I kept scrapes in. In the closet on the facing wall I hung work and kept supplies on the shelf. I put plain shelves on the walls for notions, used the kitchen floor for cutting out and setting up the ironing board for pressing. It worked well until I moved and took what I have, reconfigured it for a slightly larger space, and added a few nicer things. It went through 7 moves until I came to my present house and setup.

I now have 1 industrial machine, 1 computerized machine, 2 sergers, 1 industrial blind hemmer, the Euro-Pro system, my nice big table with cabinets under, several tables, plenty of shelving, and a computer desk with my newest addition - - a 3 drawer legal sized filing cabinet.

There aren't many who have the nice setup I do. I've worked at it for 15 years. If I had to buy everything at once, it would cost me $10,000 easy.

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I Have A Theory - "Wall Signs"

An article written for the February 1995 issue of Tangled Threads

On the walls of my sawing room I have various sayings. Some are profound, and some are silly. The strange thing is, even though I put them there, I can't say that I always agree with them. For instance, Mrs. Fields' famous saying, "Good enough, never is". I put this one an my wall to encourage myself to always do my best job. Even so there have been too many times when I wish I could have done something better, but good enough had to do. So why did I put it there if it wasn't always true? I guess it's because I want it to be true.

Here's another one. "Of course I can do it ... The question is, do I want to?!?" This one is an inside joke I have with myself. I believe it's a good thing to know one's limitations and to be able to honestly say, "I don't have the training to do that." I also try my best not to let my limitations limit me. It gets even more complicated when you throw in the customer who is willing to pay a good price for a project that is way outside your experience. Do you say I can't do that to her or use the old excuse, "I'm booked up right now, here's a name of some one you can call"?

"NOTICE: Lack of planning an your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." How many times have I wanted to actually say that to someone? Again, this one is not true either. Let's face it SERVICE is the name of our business. So, why is this saying still an my wall? Because it makes me smile when that inconsiderate customer calls.

Many of you know I also have a collection of sayings on buttons. Now and then I wear one to a meeting because the irony if it may make someone chuckle. Our profession demands so much seriousness from us that we sometimes loose our balance. So, my theory this time is that truths, beliefs, and high standards are good things, but they need to be tempered with everything else in life that is important. Like spending time with family and friends, even if it means watching TV with your hubby while you do some hand sawing. One end of my sewing room is a play area for my son. I can easily take a few minutes in between hems to give him attention.

We are in business for ourselves. We set the standards and write the rules. When doing this for yourself don't just think of your customers, consider your own needs too.

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I Have A Theory - "What's in a Name?"

An article written for the September 1995 issue of Tangled Threads

Is it just me, or has making your own clothing gone out of style? In the past year or two there have been seven fabric stores close in our town. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'll bet there are more ladies in the PSA that either do alterations or home dec than total construction. Even those who do both I'm willing to bet have more alteration work. That's the way my scheduling has been going for some time now.

Also, I've noticed that the mean age of a sewing professional is around 40. It seems very few young people are learning either in school or at home. I was told by a Home Ec teacher years ago that the trend in elementary and high school Home Ec curriculum was shifting from cooking and sewing skills training to parenting and other social topics. Now to learn sewing you have to either find a personal trainer or wait till you get to college.

I was speaking with this teacher because I was looking to hire another employee to my business. After coming up dry with news paper ads, I thought to ask my local high school teacher if she could recommend one of her students who had shown same skill at using a sewing machine and to whom I could teach alterations techniques. She floored me when she told me that out of her second year students she had no one who could make anything more complicated that an apron. Seams to me that is the first thing I was taught in the 6th grade! And here were teenagers barely able to sew on buttons...

I think that part of the problem here is that young people thinking of their future careers don't find it alluring to be labeled a "Seamstress" or even "Tailor". "Sewer" is definitely a mistake and writing it "Sew-er" looks silly.

I've often gotten tongue tied when someone asks me what I do for a living. And what about the people who make wearable art or home dec? Calling them a "Seamstress" just doesn't seem fitting. "Sewing Professional" is nice too, but not very exciting.

So how about "Needle Magician", "Clothing Architect", "Wardrobe Wizard", "Dress Diva!", "Garment Goddess", "Threads Technician", or "Seam Smith". Any one of these can be interchanged to give you a title worthy of your skill and expertise. Or..maybe the PSA needs a new name. How about the "Greater Cincinnati Association of Fabric Engineers"?

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Workrooms and Storage

A posting to, May 25, 1997

Well, I wasn't going to get into this one because I have a dream sewing room and I didn't want to make anyone feel like their small spaces were inadequate. But the point is that any space can be made workable with a little imagination. Shelving or cabinets help and there are lots of small plastic organizers on the market to store notions in.

My sewing room space is 14' X 25' with a 15' hall way I use to hang projects and a closet for crafty items. I have organized it into work areas: cutting/design, sewing, pressing, fitting, and office/computing. My cutting table is in the center of the room and is made from old kitchen cabinets that hold lots of equipment under the 8' X 4' space. There are shelves all around the room with a variety of those plastic organizers, depending on the area's notions needs.

Some time ago my Hubby helped me make 2 thread boards where I keep 300 colors of thread organized by their numbers so I can easily buy replacements as needed. It's wonderful to always have the right color for those impromptu projects and not have to run out to the fabric store.

The main thing you want to consider when planning the layout for your space is making it easier for you to accomplish your tasks so that your pleasurable hobby doesn't turn into a chore. The best advice on this subject I got from a friend of mine who used to be a kitchen designer. In kitchen design, you set up a work triangle with sink, stove, and refrigerator. To design an efficient sewing room, change these elements to sewing machine, cutting table, and iron. When you set these elements make sure the distance to walk between the three is no more than 15'. For instance, mine is: sewing machine area to pressing area = 7', pressing area to cutting/design area = 4', cutting/design area to sewing area = 4'. That totals 15'. It makes great sense when you think about it this way.

I too have an exercise bike that is usually set up in front of my computer so I can get some exercise while I chat on the IRC. Since sewing is such a sedentary activity this helps me keep in shape. I also wear ankle weights when I'm sewing to give the little time I am walking around the room more exercise value.

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Storage Cases

But what were the clear white lid things on the upper shelf for?

Those are the plastic storage cases I was talking about. I got the white ones at WalMart. They are modular units with various sized drawers depending on the unit you get, but they are all 15" X10" and stackable. I have 8 of them on that shelf over my Viking machine. Several hold interfacing scraps and others hold all kinds of notions from seam tapes to ribbon bits, fabric paint, elastic yardage, velcro strips, bonings, and various cordings. I have others I got at hardware stores. The kind men keep nuts and screws in. I have one case for buttons, another for snaps, hooks, pins, etc., and another for various beads.

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Basement Lighting

I told my Husband about your web page and the basement studio you made and he replied, "We could do something like that in the basement for you, no problem."

Wow, How nice of you Hubby to volunteer! One thing to think about if you do go ahead with the basement idea-- lighting is a key element for a basement workroom because the windows are so small and positioned where they really don't help at all. I spent $500 getting my special lights put up on the ceiling. There are 3 high intensity 8" fixtures that you can sort of see in one of my web site pictures. We tried to keep them out of the shots because they glare in the photos.

I nearly went crazy with the poor lighting before I decided that spending that money would make my work easier. AND BOY DOES IT! I don't regret a penny, and I'd have paid more too. It's that much of a difference!
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