How to Organize your Studio - Lesson 1 Tools, rulers and templates

As a Process and Organization expert, I organize without really thinking about it, but I know a lot of quilters struggle with it, therefore I thought it might be fun to run a series on Organizing your Studio.  By the way, don't think for a moment, that I don't fall into disorganization.  Just like the rest of you, in the heat of creativity and deadlines, my studio looks like something blew up in it.  However, for the most part I remain organized.  The key is to have a system, so when you've complete your work of art or meet that deadline, you can restore your studio back to a state of organization (SOO).

The first step in preparing to organize your studio, or to create a new space for your sewing,   is to assess what you "use".   Lets start with your essential quilting tools.  I consider my essential quilt tools to be my rulers, templates, and anything else I need and use to get my fabric ready for piecing.  

I don't know about the rest of you, but I haven't meet a quilting tool, ruler or template that I haven't had to have!  Of course, I'm partial to Deb Tucker's Studio 180 Design Tools, but I have tons of other tools that I use regularly.  The key to keeping track of your tools and more importantly "using" your tools is organization.

Prep Work:  

  • First let's focus on the word "use".  That is the key word when you are getting ready to organize or create a space for anything, but especially your tools.  You need to think about what you use, how often you use it, etc.  Don't forget to think about what you have, that you haven't used as much as you would like --  maybe you haven't always been able to find it.
  • The next word, that you need to focus on is "how"; how do you want to access your tools?  Determine how easily you want to access them, are you willing to have them exposed or do you want to have concealed storage?
I'm fortunate that I have dedicated sewing space and I'm in the process of redoing my studio, with my recycled kitchen cabinets.  We will talk more about that in further posts.  However, since I have the dedicated space, I elected to go with exposed storage, using (3) 24" x 48" peg boards, to hang my tools.  This will make them easy to access and easy for me to use.  


Let me walk you through how I planned and executed my Quilter's Tool Pegboard.

1.  Hang the peg boards, using a support bar, to allow the peg boards to float off the the wall and allow for the hooks.  I elected a corner for mine.  I felt it made the best use of my space.

2. Sort your tools, first by "use", then purpose, similar shape and hang style.  I have so many tools, that I need to hang multiple tools on the hooks, but I still want to be able to find them easily.   I grouped all my Tucker Tools separately, I use them daily.  Then I grouped my long rulers, triangles, squares, funky shape tools, etc.

2. Sort your hanging hooks.  You are going to want to hang certain tools on particular hooks to allow for easy handling and use.  Don't forgot those black little braces, you need them for the hooks that don't have a built in mechanism for keep them hooked when you pull things off.  I use the hook with the built in mechanism for the often used tools that I will be reaching to get - like my long cutting rulers.

3.  Start planning how you want to hang your groupings.  I'm putting a counter in front of one of the boards, so I need to take that into consideration.  Plus, the boards are hung all the way up to the crown molding, with me being 5'1", I need the rulers I use the least or can pull off without pulling out a stool, to be at the top.  So that is where I started.  We will save the middle (most used) and lower areas for later.

I put my Dresden Tools, long angle tools, long curve tools, in the corner.  I love these tools, but I only use them for special projects.  They are longer, so I can reach the bottom of them and pull them off.  Since I will be reaching, I used one of the sturdy long hooks.  

4. Next, I started hanging my other groupings of tools that I use less, at the top.  I try to use the space well, fitting the odd shape tools like a puzzle.

5. Analyze, evaluate and shuffle.  Yes, even best laid plans will require you to shuffle a bit.  Don't be afraid to make changes as you go.  Better now than later.  I ran into 2 pending issues with my above layout.  I figure this out by walking through using the tools.  Yes, you read correctly,  I would think about using a tool, and see how easy it was for me to get.  What I noticed was that I had a lot of smaller, less used tools at the top, which made for a lot of tools, that would require me to have to pull out a stool to get, so I moved them around, and worked in larger mid-use tools at the top.  However since those mid-term tools are longer, I will be able to reach them just as easily as if they were hunhg lower.

6. Now once you are happy and comfortable with the upper third of your pegboard,  lets focus on the lower portion.    I hung 2 of my boards so that I would be able to hang items at the bottom.   I reserve this space for things that will not mark up my beautiful green walls, but that take up a good amount of space.  Typically things that I use a lot, like the cutting bar for my Alto mat.  

7.  Next, grab your Reference Material and Ironing tools.  My ironing station will also occupy this corner of the room, so I placed wire baskets at the bottom of my pegboard.  The basket will hang to the left of the area that will become my ironing station.  I'm left handed, so this makes sense for me, you may want to place yours to the right, if you are right handed.  

I have all my quick reference guides clipped and hung for easy reference.  I know these items can be found on my phone, but I like to have the physical guides easily available.  I also hang my True grips, masking tape, etc.  Items that I use in conjunction with my rulers, templates, etc. 

8. Now, for the middle -the maximum use space.  Grab those regularly used tools.  This is where I place my Deb Tucker's Studio 180 Design tools and my main cutting rulers.  I arrange them by their shape, the space they need and function.  Apologies, I noticed my Corner Pop wasn't hung in the picture - - I was using it :). 

9. Do a final evaluate and shuffle.  Make sure you are comfortable.  Ta-da! 

10. Never, never forget to REVISE as needed.  If you you feel like you are fighting any part of keeping this organized or finding things, etc.  You need to reevaluate and shuffle.  One thing is for sure, if you are fighting it, you will not keep it organized. 

Organization should not be hard, it should make your life easier and allow you more time to do what you love.

I hope this helped.  Next, I will walk you through design wall options, displaying your works of art, and basically making the best use of your wall space in your studio.


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