Spring Clean Your Studio 2018

Sometimes it takes a bit of motivation for me to get my workspace cleaned up. Frankly, I’d rather be stitching than cleaning! Many thanks to Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com who put together the #SpringCleanYourStudio2018 blog hop – and for inviting me to join in!


A Bit About Me

If this is your first time visiting Meaning Of Life Designs, I’m happy that you’ve found your way here. I am Sarah, mother to Heather (16) and Jasmine (12), human to Ruthie (5lb Chihuahua), incredibly fortunate to work out of my home, previously a software engineer (I have a PhD in Computer Science – which might explain some of what I do now!), in love with my embroidery machines and what I can make them do for me as a quilter. The last part is probably why you’re here!

My speciality is machine embroidered appliqué. Not just appliqué that is a shape with an edge stitch to hold it in place, but appliqué that has all kinds of wonderful threadwork and stitching on it – stitched by my embroidery machine. The best thing about it is – if you have an embroidery machine (any brand), you can do it too.

More recently, I’ve been playing with quilting in the hoop – quilting done with my embroidery machine. And I’m loving the results!

My goal – to provide designs and instruction to people who want to experience the joy of creating beautiful things using their embroidery machine, and more often than not think they can’t (they’re not good enough, aren’t creative, don’t have talent, … put your own secret fear in here).

Before the Spring Clean

I’ve had a few studios and workspaces over the last 9 years that I’ve been in business. They started out small (a corner of the living room in a one bedroom apartment) and gradually got more spacious. For 3 years, when the girls were both in elementary school, I had a studio in an office space. 800 sq ft of wonderful! As the girls got older, working outside of the home got harder, so I moved everything back into my home again. 2 years ago I was blessed to find my dream home – which contains the work-in-progress of my dream studio, and that’s the space that I’m sharing with you here. I’ve learned to be much more organized in this new space, so it’s not in a great big mess, but there is room for improvement!

Click on any of the photos to see a larger version.

My studio is 3 rooms knocked into one.

There’s the embroidery machine end – where in an ideal world I would spend most of my time…

Main Studio View

There’s the middle, my sit and sew space…

Sit and Sew

And there’s the “office” end where I usually find myself spending way too much time doing computer stuff…

The Other End of the Studio

The embroidery machine end is the part that is most in need of a Spring Clean, so that’s what I’ll focus on in this blog. However, before we go there, I want to show you my quilt storage closet that I’m really quite proud of.

This is the closet to the right as I’m sitting in front of my computer. It’s fitted out with shelves and rods from IKEA’s ALGOT system. (There’s an IKEA store 8.5 miles down the road from my house – that road’s been travelled many times since moving in!) At the top I have 4 hanging rods that have been staggered using the different positions on the ALGOT brackets. Down below I have shelves that go all the way across the inside of the closet. These shelves are home to a bunch of quilts that have been rolled up instead of folded – so no ugly creases to be found.

Quilt Storage

Back to the embroidery machine end…

I went fabric shopping a few weeks ago, came home and started auditioning threads, and here on this table it all stayed. Jasmine spent a couple of hours in the studio with me a week or so ago, making flower pictures, and there they stayed too. There are cut-offs from a project I was working on; you can just about see the end of a roll of heat transfer material sticking out from under some fabric; there’s a bag with 2 t-shirts in it on there somewhere – waiting to have a heat transfer design applied to them. This table top definitely needs to be cleared up.

Dump Table

My cutting table is an IKEA work of art. It’s a 2×4 KALLAX shelf unit on it’s side with 3 sets of casters to make it easy to move. There’s a GALANT table top sitting on the shelf unit, with two adjustable legs supporting the overhang. I love being able to cut fabric from either side – instead of moving the fabric for the next cut, I walk around the table! The shelves underneath are the perfect place to stash the fabric I use most of the time – along with in-progress projects. And abandoned projects, but I’m sure I’m the only person who abandons projects!!!

Under the Cutting Table

My embroidery machines sit on top of IKEA free standing kitchen units. These things weigh a TON, so once they’re in place there’s no moving them. And that makes them perfect for machine embroidery because there’s no way the machines are going to start jiggling – if you’ve ever seen an embroidery machine stitching on a trestle table in a classroom, you’ll know what I’m talking about! Wherever there’s an embroidery machine, there’s usually thread. This thread is left over from the last project I was working on – which has been finished for over a week. Hoops usually hang on the wall. Rulers usually hang on the wall too, although I have to say that the ruler in the photo below is doing very well as a thread rest.

Thread Mess

This is where thread should be. I found these KUGGIS boxes at IKEA and they are perfect to store my AURIfil thread. I used to store my thread in an ALEX draw unit (from IKEA!) but it was impossible to keep it organized. Every time I opened or closed a draw, the thread would shift around in the draw. It always ended up at the back of the draw and so I was always sweeping it to the front so I could see it. I love having my thread visible – and color coordinated. These boxes turned out to be a great solution.

Beautiful Thread

This little “storage” area makes the best of a very strange space in front of a door that goes nowhere! In an ideal world, I’d love for this stuff to not be visible, but haven’t figured out how to make that happen yet.

The Other Pile Thats Been there for months

This pile of stuff has been there for ages – and stuff keeps getting added to it. Dare I say it’s laziness that keeps it there?

The Pile Thats Been there for months

This is my “rarely used fabric” stash and it was neatly stacked until the last time I went in there a week or so ago. Hopefully, all it needs is a little straightening out – and I might leave that job for one of the girls to do!

The Fabric Stash

After the Spring Clean

How I love having a clean studio!

I’m the type of person that works so much better when life is organized… kids, homework, after school activities, meals, my desk, my studio. This is what occurred to me after I finished my little Spring Clean: it took me less than 1 hour once I got started. Maybe if I took just 10 minutes every Sunday evening to give my space a mini Spring Clean, I could start the week in a great space – both literally and figuratively!

Here’s the newly clean embroidery machine end of my studio…

Clean Studio

I turned the cutting table by 90° because I’m getting ready to film a video class. That’s another thing that I’ve been procrastinating about – for months (and months!). Now that I’ve told you I’m going to do it, I have to actually do it. Right?

Isn’t this clean table gorgeous to look at? The question now is, who’s going to be the first person to put something on it – and leave it there without putting it away when they’re done with it? But… if I’m going to do a mini Spring Clean each week, it won’t be there for long 🙂

Totally Clean Table

The cubbies under the cutting table now contains 2 stacks of neatly folded fabric – Moda’s Grunge by BasicGrey on the left and Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost on the right. Two trash cans await all the scraps that inevitably appear during the course of working on a project.

Neatly Folded Fabric

Beside each of my embroidery machines (I have a bunch of them – 3 BERNINA 830‘s, 1 BERNINA 880 and, new to my studio, a Brother Dream Machine 2. Did I tell you I love embroidery machines?)  I keep a little box containing “machine embroidery essentials”. The oil stick, the mirror, the multi-purpose tool and the needle screw remover are for the BERNINA machines (the Brother machine has its own set of these things). Then there’s a soft bristle paint brush for removing all the lint that accumulates in the bobbin area and by the feed-dogs. Lastly, there’s a pair of thread scissors and a pair of tweezers. I used to have one pair of each in the studio – and then would spend so much time wondering where I had put them I decided to put a pair of each by each machine. Much better!

Machine Accessories

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into my studio. It’s been fun to look at it with new eyes. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been inspired in any way – leave me a comment below.

Thanks again to Cheryl for organizing the #SpringCleanYourStudio2018 blog hop. Be sure to check out the other studios in the tour:

April 23 – Lori Crawley Kennedy –http://theinboxjaunt.com
April 24 – Jennifer Thomas – http://curlicuecreations.blogspot.com
April 25 – Robin Koehler –http://nestlingsbyrobin.blogspot.com 
April 26 – Andi Barney-https://www.andibarney.com/
April 27 – Misty Cole –http://www.mistycole.com/blog
April 28 – Carolina Moore-http://alwaysexpectmoore.com/
April 29 – Heather Pregger –https://heatherquilts.blogspot.com/
April 30 – Linda Bratten –https://lindabcreative.blogspot.com/
May 1 – Lisa Reber – https://www.dippydye.blogspot.com/
May 2 – Teresa Coates –http://www.crinkledreams.com
May 3 – Lisa Chin – http://www.lisachinartist.com/
May 4 – Jamie Fingal –http://www.jamiefingaldesigns.com/
May 5 – Sam Hunter – www.huntersdesignstudio.com 
May 6 – Jessee Maloney –www.artschooldropout.net/blog
May 7 – Randa Parrish –http://www.sewartsyfartsy.com/
May 8 – Sarah Vedeler-https://meaningoflifedesigns.com/
May 9 – Jessica Darling – https://jessicakdarling.com/
May 10 – Melody Crust –http://www.melodycrust.com/
May 11 – Debby Brown –http://higheredhands.blogspot.com
May 12 – Cheryl Sleboda – http://blog.muppin.com


  1. Love your sewing room and I am so envious. I have a small room for my sewing but would love it to be larger. Unfortunately I don’t get a lot of time to sew but hopefully one day things will change. I just love your designs and all the information that you put out for us to follow. Thank you Sarah.

  2. Thanks for sharing your sewing studio, warts and all!! It looks great, even before being cleaned up.
    If you love the Dream 2, like I do, you will really, really love the 10 needle from either Brother or Babylock. Since they are little nosier than flat bed machines, it is nice if they can be put somewhere that won’t bother your peace in the studio.
    I also have IKEA systems for my machines and storage. I have the Kallax system that has the table top attached either lengthwise or crosswise. It is supported with the Alex drawer system for accessory storage, feet, bobbins, etc. In my main sewing room I have two 8 foot tables that attach to the cubby Kallax section. That gives me an area under the table to have the rolling plastic units from Target for thread storage and such. I have my Studio cutter on this as well, and the dies are stored in the cubbies behind the table top.
    I love working in an organized space, at least it is organized to me. Others might disagree since I usually have about 6 projects going at once.
    I can’t wait to start on my next project of yours, the Alphabet quilt. I can see making a custom quilt for friends and family!!

  3. Maybe Cheryl will like to make some rounds around Sacramento.
    She did a wonderful job in your studio, for sure your creative juices
    will flow like Niagara Falls. Good plan to do a mini cleaning every
    week. Thanks for your postings that encourages the less talented.
    Love all your work.

  4. Hi Sarah……….your workspace looks lovely. I have been living in a 10 x 12 sq ft bedroom for over 5 years now and it is my everything room, i.e. living, dining, bedroom, sewing room. I have to move things from a table to my bed when I want to sew and move everything back again at night. Knowing the time that takes…………..10 minutes for you every Sunday in only a craft room should be enough. I am moving in to a granny flat in my daughter’s back yard soon and can’t wait to have a little more space. I am not a reliant granny; I work full time and look after myself. It is just in this day and age, I can’t afford my own property. I will be shopping at IKEA as well and already have some squashed in my bedroom for my sewing bench and shelves. I am having a small mezzanine floor for sewing only and can’t wait to make my first Sarah Vedeler project (I have a Brother Dream but nowhere to put the scan’n’cut yet).

    I love your work!!!

  5. What terrific ideas. I’m glad you left Ikea names. That makes it so much easier to find them for myself. Again you inspire me.

  6. I thank you for sharing the “real studio” too! Can’t always look like a magazine but I must say you cleaned up nicely.

  7. Hi Sarah,
    I love your sewing space….it is so spacious and bright! My favorite spot is your closet with the Ikea Algot System! I love it! Thanks for the tour. Betsy

  8. Thanks, Sarah! I love seeing other prople’s creating spaces – there are always so many good ideas. I especially like that you said the names of the IKEA products as the first IKEA in my state opens next week – just across town from me 😊

  9. Wow, I would love to have your space. My area is so cramped for space. I have no room on my table for my scan and cut machine or my serger machine. I really have no more room for tables, so I just have to try and keep picking up.
    Lots of great ideas for us all. Thank you.

  10. Thank you for sharing I got several Great ideas to add to my new sewing room

  11. Sarah, no wonder your work if so exceptional! Having the space to actually “think” as you work is a huge bonus. I love your ideas and I, too, like to do mini cleanups about once a week…mainly because my space is just a bedroom…it would be a disaster if I were to leave it longer!! Mess just grows, doesn’t it? Your God-given creativity is released when you’re not in the middle of clutter…God is a God of order, not chaos. Be blessed in all you do. You certainly bless all of us by your designs and encouraging posts.

  12. Judy steenblik

    Loved your cleanup. Inspiring. I want to do the same.

  13. Love getting a sneak peak into your studio. Interesting how you used Ikea products. Great ideas!

  14. Jan Dunlap Pittman

    Enjoyed the before and after! Won’t feel so bad when my space looks like your before. I usually clean up after each project so the before look can stay for awhile. We are moving to a retirement place so I had to give away a lot of my stash, but decided to keep to using your designs as I love 💕 embroidered appliqué! I will not give up my Bernina 830!

  15. This was fun😃. I enjoyed the tour. You have a wonderful space to unleash your creativity. I love your designs and am currently collecting the necessary Accuquilt dies for your collections. I admire your patterns but have not been brave enough to take the plunge….but I will…

  16. Love seeing your studio! I am in the process of setting up my “studio” (waiting to close on a new home) which will have two adjoining rooms, with a double door between. Not as much space as you have, but thinking of having a defined sewing area and an embroidery area. Our closest Ikea is several hours away, but you have given me some good ideas to consider. Thanks for sharing!

  17. I love it. I have a Container Store near me, so that is the one I run to for organization. I have put up their shelving, use their drawer/baskets on wheels (or stationary). My ‘studio’ is in a large laundry room and works well for me. This way, I can be near the kitchen & family room and not off in a bedroom removed from the rest of the house. Do like your ideas though, and love your designs. Thanks for the tour!

  18. Those cool shelf systems on either side of your sewing area are Fantastic!!!!

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