I’m a quilt and textile artist, a fabric and pattern designer, author and teacher of my artform.
I am constantly inspired by color, shape, line and everything else possible. Hundreds of ideas a day come to mind, so I must focus hard on what I want to produce or put my time into. I need my spaces somewhat organized — slightly messy to keep the pressure of keeping it tidy off my shoulders yet clean enough to think straight.
I grew up on a farm in Minnesota among a family of creators in their own rights. Besides farming and making and growing and fixing everything in sight, my father had an upholstery business on the farm, and for a time, my mother worked for Fingerhut sewing garments and made most of our clothing. I was a creative child, obsessed with learning every creative form there was. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting, and as a textile artist, I work on my design walls with swatches of color the same way I push paint around on a canvas.
I have a fondness for time spent with my maternal grandparents, growing up in a small southern Minnesota Mississippi River town. It was a safe and joyful space for me to soak in the beauty of the area and be influenced by my grandmother, who made gorgeous double-knit polyester quilts that we slept under at the farm. The colors of those fabrics influence my work to this day.
I’m all over the place, literally. I work that way on my designs, working on multiple pieces at once, and in my different workspaces in my home now. During COVID, I closed my NYC quilt shop, my large separate NYC design studio AND my apartment, and moved everything out to our house on Long Island, where I’m secluded in the trees away from others. Working from home was normal for many of us, and it was the same for myself at that point. But I struggled to make it all fit in my home.
For the first 2.5 years, several rooms and a guest room were used to store everything I needed. The disarray was overwhelming. But now, my workspaces (along with one off-site storage unit to help ease the sorting of items I don’t necessarily use each day) help give me breathing room to find the right fit for all I needed.
I took one half of the basement to make my “store” for filling online orders. On the other side, a small 10-by-15 room became my workspace. It was packed, messy and I had one design wall to work with. I’m used to working on 10 to 12 projects at a time, and that was just not possible. Slowing down to produce less was extremely difficult for me. I think it still is, but I am getting closer to finally feeling settled in my new layout, with the addition of converting an outdoor shed into a sewing studio — with three large design walls!
So now that I have finally found a way to make three separate spaces work, I’d like to share the things that have worked well for me, making my home both a work and creative space.
First off, my “store space” for filling online orders: This space holds all the inventory of my own product — from fabric collections to patterns, templates and thread — and my books. Most of my store fixtures came here, and I made do for the first two years, until I finally broke down and ordered IVAR shelves from Ikea to really maximize the usable space. This changed my life so much! From making do to having the exact shelving I needed was a life-changing switch, and as a result, such a relief of stress from constantly making it work (making note that often the IVAR shelf pieces themselves are out of stock, so I used 9-inch-long boards to make my shelves, which also makes them incredibly stable).
I use every inch of my space here. Under my cutting table, which is raised on bed risers to make it the right height for me to be standing at, I have the space I need to store shipping materials. I have a comfortable mat to stand on for long periods of time, as I fill orders daily. I keep items that inspire me hanging in front of this table — some made by myself, some by friends. I think it’s very important to always keep beautiful things in your line of vision to help enjoy the things you are doing throughout the day. And finding the one thing that will fit correctly to make your working space just perfect is so worth it. I wish I had made the change to proper shelving earlier!
Stacks of quilts are all around me, as are gorgeous fabrics, which, I admit, can sidetrack my focus in a heartbeat. Filling other people’s orders can inspire ideas, as their fabric choices are not mine. I learn something by looking at the orders every day!
I have three furry companions with me daily. Agatha and Edith are my mini goldendoodles, and the puppy, Cleo, a Cardigan Welsh corgi, is my daughter’s dog. Having them with me keeps me entertained and on my toes … and often on their toes — as they are always under my feet! They follow me like shadows, and I’d not have it any other way. I love their company, and yes, I talk to them like coworkers throughout the day.
The next space, my garden shed, is my new working studio. Here, I design and sew on projects that are the most important at the moment or have a fast-approaching deadline. I try to not “store” extra fabric or items here, as this is purely a working design space. I have one vintage cabinet to store the next projects on the list. Otherwise, it’s all about my wall space.
My working tables are my sewing table, cutting table and my ironing station; and, of course, there are three dog beds, which get me my 10,000 steps in each day as they are always in the way. Keeping this space clean is the most important, and I tend to make my real messes in my OLD small space on the other side of the house.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
— Georgia O’Keeffe
This old small space is now my office and the room that holds a bolt of each of the fabric collections I’ve created over the years. I do most of my cutting for projects here. My extra sewing machine and sewing items that I may need also stay here. I work from my high desk for fabric designing and writing. I have several small cubbies that hold all the not-so-pretty items I need daily, tucked away out of sight. My supplies for other crafts I enjoy doing — like my twined rug loom and yarn for tufting rugs — also have a space here, so when I want to cheat on my quilt obsession, I can make some rugs.
This room feels more like the “possibilities room” for me. … Not that I’m creating here but preparing here. I find this to be a relaxed, exciting headspace to be in. A room that doesn’t feel like “work,” but a space to be curious and wonder about all the possibilities that could be! I wrote a book, 15 Minutes of Play, and this space is often used to just sit for 15 minutes and wonder and dream up fun new ideas!
Besides storing future projects that need to be finished here, I also have dog beds and toys strewn about. Having the sliding door and windows makes this a great room to work and bring the outside in. This room gets the messiest, and it’s the room I wish I had constant cleaning fairies for. Keeping the fabric from multiple projects clean and tidy can take a lot of time. But I have found that now giving each of these spaces a specific purpose to be the most helpful in my daily creativity.
At a time when the anxiety of the unknown was debilitating, I found being hidden in the trees with the things that bring me the most joy — my family, my dogs, my quilts and textiles — allowed me to build a balance between the outdoors and my work and family life.
Taking the time to make each space purposeful was key for me to get my creative juices flowing, like they were before the pandemic. Change has been a huge challenge to my process and well-being, and I’m happy to say I think I’ve now settled in with just the smallest of changes to keep me focused going forward.
You can tell when things are as they should be in my life: My design walls are packed with textiles on top of textiles, color is everywhere, and projects and dogs are in motion!