New sewing studio: the perfect space for practice research

With my PhD being research-led practice (unlike the practice-based research I had initially anticipated) a suitable studio space is nevertheless just as important. As a part-time PhD student who works full-time I do not have the option to occupy studio space at the School of Textiles & Design in Galashiels (Heriot-Watt University), but I do have my home which I have tailored to my needs and no longer has a guest room, but boasts a sewing studio. One could call it an IKEA sewing studio, I suppose. All square thumbnail photos enlarge to proper size.

I did everything myself except for the plastering of the ceiling: painting, wallpaper, furniture, soft furnishings, accessories, etc. For anyone interested in what I chose to create my perfect practice/research space – on a limited budget, here is a breakdown of what furniture I used and what I made myself and why. If it is helpful for anyone else, that would be great.

View from the door. I wanted the desk in front of the window for maximum light. The bulbs in the ceiling lamp are the brightest that IKEA does, with the coldest white light. Not cosy, but excellent for seeing details.
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The ironing station. I like my ironing board because it is taller than normal ones (lower ones give me back pain) and much wider, but it is quite old and the iron rest was rusting away. Metal table as hot iron stand which also houses ironing accessories. Iron rest on the side of the book shelf for neat storage when not in use. The book shelf also houses hams and a proper old non-steam iron that I got from my mum. This old is excellent for many tailoring techniques.

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Bookshelves to the right of the entrance door. I deliberately went for the narrower Billy ones, to avoid sagging shelves. Most of my research related books are very heavy. The two glass doors with panels on the lower half are perfect to hide away less fancy but very necessary items such as calico toile fabric and linen canvas. The baskets are all from a dear friend in Kent, they had been gift hampers and are perfect for storing quilt fabrics.

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The desk is a 2m long table top, which I secured with three additional legs to account for the weight of the sewing machine in the middle. Using drawer units on each side, I made sure to fix the table top very securely to the drawers with metal brackets. IKEA’s table combinations using the drawer unit are not fixed and that would not work for use as a sewing machine table. I can report that there is no rattling. The net curtain panels are linen woven in stripes.

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To the right and left of the window, in front of the desk, are painted spice racks filled with spice jars for buttons. The magazine rack on the left is used for sewing patterns that are in current use. The door to a built-in wardrobe got a rail to hang ironed pieces of fabric which I used to hang over the door.

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Of course, I could not go with a simple curtain solution, but chose to make curtains that echo the striped wallpaper. Time consuming but worth it. The curtain solution is one I had used in the another room before, I like the IKEA system that gets rid of ugly curtain rods and rings.

The ironing station has an extra work light, as I’ve found over the years that good working light is absolutely essential.

I made the peg board from an MDF pegboard sheet and table legs from the dining table which I had lifted up last year to a cutting table height. Some paint, Polyfiller, more paint, and oodles of screws, and the pegboard was ready.

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One of the best things about a tailor-made sewing studio is the added storage space. The Alex drawers are quite roomy and can easily be kept neat thanks to customisable drawer insets.

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Opposite the desk and window is the big set of shelves that used to be on the wall where the ironing station is now. hence the black colour, it is an older Expedit, but all of the Kallax items work just fine with it. This is also the favourite snooze place of one of my cats, plus has on top my grandmother’s big Nuremberg Lebkuchen tin, and the wooden expanding sewing box my grandfather had made for her and my dad had spruced back up for me.

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I love tins. I can never walk past a lovely tin. Now my tins have their own shelf (which fit millimetre-perfectly in the gap) AKA the cats’ high-level walkway. I like tins (and boxes) so much, I sometimes decorate my own.

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Last but certainly not least some of my favourite decorative items. The Red Baron and his fellow flight aces’ model planes as mementos from a dear old friend; Forest Friends crockery that I could not walk past (who could?) and of course, the core and heart of my research: the Brothers’ Grimm’s fairy tales, guarded by a Queen and her family.

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I hope you enjoyed this pictorial excursion, and that it might have been useful – if not, at least entertaining. Oh, and I love colour, did you notice?

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