Sunday, January 17, 2016

From guest stateroom to quilting studio

(This post was edited in September 2016 to link up with the Studio Hop over on Melva Loves Scraps: Hi, Studio Hoppers! I originally wrote this post to show some non-quilting friends how I convert our boat's second bedroom into my quilting studio. So there's lots of blah blah blah about that in the beginning. You can scroll down about halfway to start seeing fabric storage and more quilty goodies. Thanks for stopping by!)

Living in a small space poses some interesting logistical challenges. Like how to create room for my quilting hobby without making costly structural changes to the boat while maintaining all previous functionality. In other words, how can the quilt room be used to house guests comfortably? (Sean would argue that the question is really, "How can the guest stateroom be used to sew quilts," but let's keep our priorities straight here.)

Ben and Karen's recent visit gave me an opportunity to take some photos of the process of transforming the room, and a much needed incentive to clean up and organize my fabric. The results are two-fold: this blog post, and the rather embarrassing realization that in just 20 short months of sewing I have accumulated enough fabric to create scores, if not hundreds, of quilts. Ahem. 

Vector has two staterooms. The master stateroom is amidships, directly under the pilothouse and galley. This is the most stable place on the boat, low in the water and near the centerlines for both pitch and roll. It makes for a very comfortable place to sleep both at anchor and underway. The room is relatively cubic, with fairly vertical walls and a mostly flat floor. There is one small, approximately 2" high step between the floor around the bed and the area in front of our shoe cupboard. Moving around to make the bed, get dressed, or visit the head in the night runs a low risk of tripping or toe-stubbing.

The guest stateroom is jauntily nautical. Like the real estate term "quaint," this means it's small, oddly shaped and impractical.

Positioned under the foredeck, up in the pointy part of the boat, the walls slope noticeably away from vertical to follow the rake of the bow. There's no extra room for a closet, just a couple of cubby shelves up near the ceiling to hold necessities. The shower is en-suite and entered directly from this room, so there's a towel bar along the sloping wall and a few strategically placed hooks.

The keel also curves upwards rather aggressively, so the floor around each side of the bed consists of three carpeted steps. Here are the starboard side steps, looking aft at the shower entrance.

Here are the port side steps, looking aft into the other half of the head with potty and sink. And why yes, the steps do have big, non-symmetric, angled cut-outs to maximize midnight tripping on the way to visit that vital little room. The good news is that the space is so small that if you stumble, your head will hit a wall well before you can fall all the way to the floor.

In other words, it's an ADA nightmare. And before you even enter the room you've had to negotiate the steep, uneven, and curved stairway down from the pilothouse. It's a wonder I didn't sprain my ankle before last week, frankly.

But this odd little room offers a comfortable double bed for our guests, two opening windows for light and fresh air, and a private bath. And with just a little folding of the space-time continuum, I can quilt there.

First step: Flatten out the starboard steps to create a stable surface for a table and chair. 

A couple of pieces of 3/4" plywood supported by a sturdy folding step stool fills in the cut out first step. The plywood is stored in the engine room when not in use.

Then a small plastic folding table is placed on the next step up. Only one set of table legs are deployed; the other half of the table is supported by the mattress. This table is stored up on the flybridge when we have guests, and can be used as a dining table up there.

Also sitting on top of the mattress is a thinner piece of luan plywood and a self-healing cutting mat. Both of these thin items slide under the mattress for out of sight storage. In this photo you can see four large drawers at the foot of the bed. In theory, we keep two of them empty for guests to use. That just means that the stuff in the drawers can be easily stuffed elsewhere when needed. 

This adjustable height swiveling mechanic's stool allows me to shift myself as needed to sew comfortably. The control pedal for the sewing machine sits on the higher step with the table legs, which is weird, but being able to make minor height adjustments keeps it ergonomic enough for hobby sewing. It certainly isn't OSHA compliant.

Just aft of the stool, I have several totes that hang from hooks. They hold most of my quilting tools: rulers, cutters and scissors, thread, etc. All within easy reach. Those tote bags get crammed into the closets in the master bedroom when we have guests.

The sewing machine and cordless iron both fit nicely on the portable table. The mattress is firm enough that there is minimal wobbling while I sew. I'm a very slow sewist; this set up probably wouldn't work as well for someone who likes to run their machine a mile a minute. There's non-skid padding under the Little Kenmore That Could, too. It will stay put in mild to moderate sea conditions, but I set the machine on the floor when the going gets rough.

The clear plastic doo hickey surrounding the sewing machine is called an extension table. It makes a large surface flush with the throat plate so the quilts are more evenly supported. Usually I have more miscellaneous junk under the extension table...scissors, scraps of extra material, paperwork.

To iron, I move a small table-top ironing board onto the luan sheet. The surface of the bed is about counter top height from the floor here, so this is a great set up for both cutting and ironing fabric. The ironing board lives in the engine room, behind the washing machine, when we have guests. Getting a cordless iron was a huge improvement for this set up. You can see the charging base with its cord running off to the right. There are only two outlets in this room, both up near the head of the bed, so wrangling the iron cord at the foot of the bed got old, fast. I'm clumsy enough without tangling with a garrote attached to a red hot slug of metal.

The rest of the bed hosts a couple of storage boxes up near the pillows. These hold fabric for the current project, scraps to be sorted and filed, finished quilts to be shipped, and various messy bits of the creative process. (This photo was carefully staged to hide exactly how chaotic my process is.) The quilt on the wall is draped over a spring loaded curtain rod that stretches between two cabinets; this keeps larger in-progress pieces out of the way.

Those two cabinets on the port side wall, plus one other on the starboard side, hold most of my fabric. 

The fabric is folded into uniformly sized rectangles, sorted by either color or theme, and stored in clear, covered plastic bins. Since each cubby shelf is a different depth, width and height, there was a lot of trial and error to find boxes that efficiently fit those spaces. They are rather small in order to squeeze past the fiddles that keep them from falling out in heavy seas. 

I love color and variety, which is a good fit for creating children's quilts. It also works well in this small space, since I typically buy fairly small pieces of fabric. Most of my fabric is "fat quarters," which are about 18" x 22" each and fold up to around the size of a pack of playing cards. 

Larger pieces of fabric are useful for quilt backings, but more unwieldy to store. I keep them in one much larger plastic bin that sits on the floor on the port side of the bed. I find that bin frustrating since I can't seem to keep it neatly organized for very long. A better storage solution will manifest itself at some point.