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2014 UFO roundup

Happy New Year!

So, we finally made it to 2015. How many of you are asking for a hoverboard for your birthday this year?

Before I dive into a new year of posting, I thought I’d take a look at my unfinished objects from last year. For those who weren’t around this time last year, I wrote down on separate slips of paper the names of projects I had begun and abandoned at some point with the goal of pulling one new slip each month through 2014 and then completing that project. Some I finished, others never saw the light of day.

UFOs doneThis should be a familiar little collage. We’ll go row by row.

1. The rag rug — slip wasn’t pulled

2. The crochet gingerbread house — Finished! Well… more or less. It got a brief mention on my December 14 photo post. This little gingerbread house pattern was featured in the Crochet Today “Crochet Gift List” special edition from winter 2011 (presumably, since this is a “best of” collection, it was published in a previous issue at some point). The photo in the magazine shows the little house with about 500 more “candies” on it than mine.

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Aside from being an overall better photograph, theirs is about 1000x more ornate than my sad little house. I do have intentions [suppress your snickering] of adorning it with all the additional candies, but it just wasn’t happening this year. However, I’m still counting this in the “finished” column because it is, technically, put together. For those who wondered, the four walls of the house were crocheted together at the edges. Then I had to slip them over a cardboard frame made-to-measure (I used an old oatmeal box). The roof — also glued to cardboard — is then placed on top. The icicles do the double duty of looking purty and hiding where the pieces meet. For now, the gingerbread house is packed away with the rest of the Christmas decorations, so it’s as done as it’s going to get until after Thanksgiving. And, whenever I do stick on the rest of the candies, I promise to take a better picture.

Ok, back to the UFO graphic.

3. Peasant top blouse — It gets an X because it was a major failure. I pulled the slip, I tried to make it work, but I could have fit myself and two of my children inside this thing. Onto the scrap heap!

4. Rainbow afghan — Well, I worked on it, so I’m giving it a yellow check. Sort of a provisional check mark. I made more granny squares, but I ran out of yarn for the green (and final) round of squares. I wasn’t in a position to buy more yarn for this project, so it is stuck in limbo for the time being.

5. Wheat sweater — never pulled the slip. This is one I actually want to get finished before this winter is over. It sure would be nice to have another sweater to wear.

6. Axl doll — never pulled the slip.

7. Purple sock — never pulled the slip. I am really, really tempted to just pull the whole thing off the loom and start over (there wasn’t that much on there) because I don’t remember what I was doing when I stopped working on it two (or three?) years ago.

8. Stuffed animal dress — Finished! And blogged!

9. Embroidered wool baby booties — Finished! And blogged!

So, five out of nine projects were addressed in some way or another. That’s not a terrible showing, I guess, but I was hoping for better from myself. I think my crafting goal for this year will be stashbusting, mostly in the fabric realm. I have yards and yards of fabric that was purchased with garments in mind and have just never gotten around to sewing them. I could have a pretty nice wardrobe if I’d just sit down and do it! My yarn stash needs busting of some sort, but most of what I have there is a leftover hodge-podge that doesn’t readily lend itself to much of anything. I could populate an amigurumi jungle, I guess. I dunno. We’ll see what I do with that.

January is already looking swamped, project-wise, so I’m predicting that it won’t be until at least the end of February before I pull another UFO slip. How do I get swamped? A few different things — I have a couple of “commissions” that I need to tackle; needs within my own family arise (e.g. Konik needs new mittens; I promised a new skirt to Granota months ago, etc, etc.); also, there are always things to be repaired (and frankly, I’m not so good about getting to those). The good news is, I should have plenty of things to write about! The standing question is, will I find the time? Stay tuned to find out.

December 5: Ornament

There are so many ornaments to choose from that, at first, I thought it would be difficult to decide which one to use for today. But once I went out and looked at the tree again, I knew exactly which one to show.

This summer, my grandpa passed away. It was both unexpected and not. His mind and spirit were fully intact, but his physical body took a rapid decline in health, frighteningly so in the last week. Of course, we all know that our time here on earth doesn’t last forever, but it was hard to imagine that someone as strong, stubborn, and ornery as my Gpa could ever succumb. He was a fixture, the patriarch. A man like that doesn’t just… leave. While we know he is with his Savior in heaven, we still feel the hole of his absence here as we continue in life.

Yet, we find ways to remember him.

IMG_6302I am the first grandchild, the firstborn of a firstborn. I had the privilege (unbeknownst to me at the time, of course) of transforming my Gpa and Gma from parents to grandparents. That’s pretty exciting stuff. My Gpa loved to tinker and create and try new things. He cut out this heart-shaped ornament from some kind of plastic resin stuff and etched in my name and birthdate and then made a hook to hang it with twisted wire. I know he made ones for my next two siblings; I’m not sure if he still had the supplies once my cousins began entering the world (anyone?). Hanging this ornament was extra special this year. I’m thankful that he made it for me and thankful that he passed on his love of creating and experimenting to me.

I love you, Gpa!

More homemade Halloween

When I was but a wee tot, I came up with my own vocabulary for the world around me, as children are wont to do, whether through mispronunciation, misunderstanding, or just the notion that I had a better term than the one that was already in place. Thus, the jack-o-monster was born. Growing up, my parents shied away from Halloweeny things, but they did allow us to carve pumpkins. I remember that being so fun, so of course I would want my children to share in that experience, too.

Well, somewhere between when I was a kid and the births of my own children, jack-o-monsters gave way to all manner of detailed and artsy pumpkin carving. The pros of that are that 1) it’s amazing to see what can be done with a large squash and 2) it allows for greater personal and artistic expression. I’m all for those things. (And for a prime example of both of those reasons, check out my friend Elle’s pumpkin display!) But the con, Good Gourd, is that the kids can’t do it themselves anymore.

In previous years, we let the kids choose any design they wanted and then Mr. Gren and I would painstakingly cut out their picture of choice. The kids were always thrilled with the results, but the only part of the whole process in which they could participate was the pumpkin gutting. And if you have a kid with texture issues who would rather die a fiery death than touch slimy pumpkin guts, then that means that you, the parent, are doing that part, too, while the child sits by hounding you to just finish already so that they can please light it patiently, offering up encouraging words like, “Ewww! Dear God, what is that thing?!” “It’s looking really good, Maman.” So, if you had any hope of doing a pumpkin for yourself or even getting done before the kids’ bedtime, that just went right out the window. And really, just the thought of spending the whole evening carving pumpkins made me tired. It had ceased to be fun.

This year, Rana insisted that she be allowed to carve her My Little Pony pumpkin all by herself. She is 9, you know. And I thought, “Yeah! She is 9! I know I was carving my own jack-o-monsters when I was 9. But, the knives, oh gosh, the knives… I’m going to be picking up fingers off the floor and those reattachment surgeries don’t always go so well, plus if we have to go to the ER, who’s going to watch the other kids? Oh, no… they’ll probably be with us. I just hope we can tell their fingers apart…”

Then I came to my senses: when I was 9, I was not carving cartoon equines; I was carving triangle eyes and toothy grins. And I sho nuff did that all by myself. But there was still the question of knives. Granota had given herself a pretty good slice a couple of months ago trying to cut potatoes (her idea, not mine) and I couldn’t believe that her manual dexterity had improved all that much. Rana, being older, of course is a little better, but still… Then Mr. Gren picked up one of those pumpkin carving kits with the little spade-shaped gut scoopers and the chintzy little carving tools that seem like they’ll snap the instant you look at them wrong. The little tools are sharp enough to cut through pumpkin, but the ends are rounded and they’re tiny; they just don’t have the deadly aura that knives do. So I broached the subject with the girls (because, Granota, having heard Rana’s plea, had chimed in with one of her own): I would allow them to carve their own pumpkins, but, because this was their first time (their first time? At 7 and 9?! Shameful), they needed to do something simple. Say, a face. With triangle eyes. And a toothy grin.

“Oh, yes, Maman! Yes, yes! That’s what we’ll do!” And if angels sing at Halloween, they did at that moment. I was freed from the oppression of intricate pumpkin carving! My soul rebounded, there was joy and light in my life again! I still managed to keep myself sufficiently busy cooking dinner that I couldn’t be called upon for assistance. I was present, just not “available.”

We gave the girls Sharpies and told them to draw on their jack-o-monster faces first before just diving in all willy-nilly. A little planning never hurt anyone. Mr. Gren cut off the tops of their pumpkins and the girls set to work scooping guts — yes, even Granota, with only a few whimpers. Their first carving experience was not without a few bumps in the road — Mr. Gren had to help them (at their request) even out a few cuts that had gone awry , but overall, it was so much more fun. The girls enjoyed it and they were so proud of their very own honest-to-goodness jack-o-monsters.

Rana's vampire pumpkin

Rana’s vampire pumpkin

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Granota's true jack-o-monster

Granota’s true jack-o-monster

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Now, Konik in all of this had decided that he was not ready to carve his own pumpkin, nor was he ready to give up the enticing thought of seeing Lightning McQueen glowing by candlelight. Props to Mr. Gren for patiently and carefully making his little son’s dream come true.

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Next, Mr. Gren carved his own pumpkin — an homage to former Mariner right fielder, Jay Buhner.

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This year’s carving party was a success! We had a nice family evening, the kids were thrilled with the outcome, none of the little tools broke, and all fingers remained intact. Who knows? Next year, I might even be persuaded to carve one of my own again.

A family of pumpkins, minus Rana's which must have been out sucking the blood of an acorn squash.

A family of pumpkins, minus Rana’s which must have been out sucking the blood of an acorn squash.

More or less homemade Halloween

WordPress tried to get fancy on me and switched me over to the “improved posting experience.” Well… the improved experience ate my post last Wednesday and I was too disgusted to start over again. But, I suppose it’s time to stop pouting and get back on the horse. Problem is, I don’t even remember what I was going to write about. How about we take a look at our Halloween costumes?

There wasn’t a whole lot of crafting involved in our costumes, but there was a considerable amount of DIY.

First is Rana. She wanted to be Cleopatra, which is actually what she had intended to be last year before Joan Jett swayed her. The Joan Jett wig was hardly suitable for Cleopatra, so I looked and looked and the best I could find was a Snow White wig. Rana doesn’t know that I cut the red ribbon off. This wig had seen better days and I tried to tame it by soaking it in water and conditioner, but that really didn’t do a thing. To make it look appropriately royal and Egyptian, we needed some kind of headdress. I didn’t really have time to make something elaborate; I found this crochet headband pattern which turns out looking pretty good in gold crochet thread. The beauty of this pattern is that you can make it up in any weight yarn (well, within reason), just use the appropriate sized hook. One thing to note is that this was written with UK crochet terms, so for Americans — when she says “slip stitch,” she means single crochet. It will turn out to be kind of a lumpy mess if you actually slip stitch.

Rana’s Egyptian “dress” is actually a chemise I made from Simplicity 5726 (The Fashion Historian pattern by Martha McCain) which I’ve already talked about here . A gold and silver belt and some canning rings for bracelets finish off the costume. Rana was convinced that she was the spitting image of Cleopatra and we’ll just let her think that because she had fun, and isn’t that what dressing up is all about?

She wouldn't walk like an Egyptian for me.

She wouldn’t walk like an Egyptian for me.

Granota was a kitty cat. With purchased ears and tail, a painted face, and black clothes, her outfit was pretty easy to put together.

Meow!

Meow!

Beaten only by… Konik’s pumpkin suit. I crocheted the little stem & berries hat he is wearing, but apparently never blogged about it? I can’t find a post about it. I made it when he was just 1 year old and so now, it is technically Sprinkaan’s hat, but Sprinkaan is a kind and understanding baby and let his big brother borrow it for just one night.

Sugar punkin

Sugar punkin

So that leaves Mr. Gren, Sprinkaan, and me. Can you guess?

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Yes, we were Doc, Marty, and Jennifer from “Back to the Future.” We outfitted Baby McFly’s stroller like a little cardboard Delorean, complete with glow-stick flux capacitor. It all started because Sprinkaan already had that little red vest and we went from there. If we had had more time between when we thought of the costumes and when we wore the costumes, we probably could have made a better Delorean. But that’s what you get for one rushed afternoon of work. Also, there was that little issue of making it baby-safe. Rather than being an exact replica, we’ll just say it embodies the essence of the real Delorean.

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need "roads."

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need “roads.”

The Delorean Motor Company probably didn't use cardboard and duct tape.

The Delorean Motor Company probably didn’t use cardboard and duct tape.

Outatime

Outatime

1.21 gigawatts!

1.21 gigawatts!

 

Great Scott!

Great Scott!

There you have it: Halloween 2014!

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I heart craigslist, part 2

You probably thought I had forgotten about this, too, huh? Never fear! It was just waiting in the wings.

In part 1, I showed you our table’s amazing transformation and noted at the end the hodge-podge of chairs around it. I like the hodge-podge. One little nugget of wisdom that I took from years of watching “What Not to Wear” was “It doesn’t have to match, it just has to go.” And that suits me just fine. Too much matchy-matchy and it begins to feel a little sterile, a little cold, whether that be outfits or furniture. So in that spirit of “going” versus “matching,” Mr. Gren and I have been keeping our eyes peeled for old wooden chairs on craigslist. Our entire criteria consists of: must be wood, preferably unfinished, $10 or less. There are certain styles I just don’t like, so I’m not falling all over myself for every wood chair that hits the ads. This chair set the tone for our hunt:

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This chair has been a part of my life for 26 years. It had been left in the shed of the house my family moved to when I was in 3rd grade, and, other than the gouge mark I made in it when using it as a sawhorse at the age of 12, it has always looked like this, even down to the paint flecks on the leather seat. I don’t know what its history was before it became part of our family, but I’m glad it was forgotten so that I could adopt it.

Chairs number 2 and 3, each found on craigslist for ten bucks, are as follows:

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The first one obviously needs a new seat cover. I haven’t decided yet what I want to do about that. See, there’s this issue of children. Either I choose something indestructible, or else I have to make peace with the kids putting their own, ahem, “special touch” on it. Having to re-upholster it more than once is a distinct possibility in that scenario.

Chair number 3 garnered a lot of love from the kids who dubbed it The Potty Seat and pretended to flush each other down the gaping hole in the center of the seat. (C’mon, if you fit through that hole, you totally would have done the same thing). When we first saw this chair on craigslist, I hadn’t noticed the groove about 1/2″ all the way around the hole. I was thinking of upholstering a small board to fit and nailing it all together. When we got it home, I realized that the hole had previously been covered by caning. You know the type — I think everybody’s grandma has at least one item of caned furniture.

But where does one get replacement caning? What a silly question. Amazon, of course! Amazon has everything. For $25, we got a complete kit with easy-to-follow instructions. Slightly annoyed that we could have bought another two and a half chairs for that, but weighing that with the option of having a worthless chair on hand is what made us decide to go for it. Besides, I watched YouTube videos on the process, so I’m an expert now.

This isn’t going to be a real how-to or tutorial because the videos (of which there are many) do a good job of explaining how this works. I’m just going to show our work. No need to reinvent the wheel here!

To start with, we lucked out that someone had already removed the old caning and spline; from what I learned, that is the hardest part of the job.

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I guess I skipped the part where we painted the chair. Look, we painted the chair!

After soaking the sheet of caning and the spline in the bathtub for a half hour or so, it was time to start applying it to the chair. This is definitely a two person job, so if you foresee caning in your future, grab a buddy. And if you need to photograph the process, a 6 year old will do.

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First, I laid the sheet of caning over the hole, trying to keep the grain as straight as possible.

 

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Then, using those little wooden wedges pictured above (they are included in the kit), Mr. Gren pounded the caning into the groove. That sounds easy, and really, it’s not difficult, but it was a little bit fiddly. The caning had a tendency to pop out on the side opposite of where Mr. Gren was pounding it in. That’s why it’s good to have two sets of hands working on this to help hold things down that don’t want to stay down.

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Once the caning was pounded in sufficiently enough that it wouldn’t pop out, we removed the wedges. Now it was time to carefully lay the spline (a long, flexible whip of wood). We chose a center point at the back of the seat to begin and end the spline. Putting the spline in involved more wedges and pounding and popping out and pounding. Granota got bored and found another subject to photograph.

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Meanwhile, Mr. Gren and I are still working in the background. So it’s not a completely gratuitous picture of my adorable baby.

Finally, the spline was in and nothing was popping out! Now came perhaps the hardest task of the whole process: cutting off the extra caning.

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We probably could have stood to replace the blade in our box cutter for one thing. I’m not sure that would have helped immensely, though. There’s just no way to make one long, clean slice through all the extra caning. Mr. Gren had to cut through each of those little strips all while trying not to nick the paint (we did end up having to do some touch-up afterwards, so anyone attempting this should probably just count on that). The uber-frustrating part of cutting the caning off was that, because of the angle of some of the woven strips, they would pull up and threaten to pull out the whole strip. Holding the little wooden wedge in helped with that and gave Mr. Gren something to cut against.

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We ran a bead of wood glue over the spline and trimmed any little stragglers poking up. A little wipe down and the job was done! You have to let the seat dry and tighten up for a day or so before using it. We were a little nervous when the time came for the inaugural sitting… but it has held Mr. Gren for the past four months, so I think it’s safe to say we did it right!

IMG_5782 Here’s where we’re at so far! Somehow, I don’t have a “before” picture of chair #4, so… surprise! We have four chairs! We’d like to get four more, plus we need to do the seats on chairs #1 and 2. You will see more chairs here eventually! And they won’t have to match; they just have to go.

Pad for the baby

This summer, we took a trip to Idaho for my family’s annual get-together (I hesitate to call it a “family reunion” because that always conjures up images of long-lost relatives that you’ve never met and this is just my parents, siblings, and their families). In an attempt to be organized this year, I had made up detailed packing lists for every member of the family and a to-do list calendar for the week leading up to the trip. Major item on the baby’s list was, of course, the playpen. This playpen is a workhorse: It was a shower gift when Rana was born. It has been schlepped around France, Switzerland, and Holland, and has seen its fair share of traveling the Western United States. During our cabin years, it was Konik’s bed because the ceiling in the loft was too low to set up the crib. So 3 kids and 8 years later — 2 of those with everyday use — the mattress had seen better days. Simply put: it was gross. We didn’t even leave the cabin with it when we moved.

Now the problem is, the playpen is European and doesn’t match the dimensions of any of the American ones on the market. We can’t just run out and buy a replacement mattress. Gosh, if only we knew someone crafty…

Who would want to disappoint this little face?

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Well, there just so happens to be a bright green Quonset hut in town labeled “Foam and Fabric Outlet.” I had never been in there before, but it sounded like the kind of place I’d want to visit. It’s deceptively small from the outside! I didn’t have the luxury of really browsing, but I did a quick scan to see all kinds of upholstering fabric, pillow forms, sewing gadgetry and hardware, and, of course, foam. I went in thinking that we’d be able to buy the exact amount of foam we needed. I was wrong. They will cut foam to any size you want, but you still pay for the entire slab. You get to take it all home, though, so now I have a 2′ x 2′ square of foam and a 5′ x 4″ strip that I don’t know what to do with. But hey, that’s good foam; I’ll find a use for it someday.

Anyways, back to the playpen-sized section of foam. Originally I had it cut in one long rectangle, but after lying in bed that night planning my project, I had Mr. Gren take it back the next day and have them cut the rectangle in half. You’ll see why in a minute. But first, let it be known that I had no intention of laying a baby on a bare piece of foam. Anyone with a child should be able to quickly list at least five ways that could go wrong. While we were out, we had hit the thrift store and bought an old sheet. Thrift store sheets = great source of cheap fabric. I wasn’t too particular about what was printed on the sheet; I was more concerned with the weight of the fabric — a worn, flimsy sheet would just be too thin. I left Mr. Gren in charge of the sheet selection and he came back with… some kind of weird army print. With all due respect to our Armed Forces, olive green Army helmets and camo stars just really don’t say “baby” to me. Alas, we were short on time and that particular sheet was the best option available, so Army sheet it is.

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The old mattress was split into two — as my foam was — and held together by the cover. There was a long piece of supple vinyl covering both squares on one side and then on the flip side, each square had its own individual cloth cover. What that did was enabled the mattress to be folded in half when not in use. I was going to attempt to construct the same type of cover (albeit all in Army sheet instead of vinyl and cloth).

It was a great idea, but the construction of it was maddening. Normally when you sew a cover for anything, you sew right sides facing so that all the stitching and seam allowances are on the wrong side. Then, you flip it right side out and it looks all smooth and polished from the outside, while the ugly stuff is hidden inside. Where things got tricky for me is when I decided that I wanted each square of foam individually encased in fabric, then joined together by the long piece, but still completely removable for washing. Geez, why do I make things so hard on myself? And with only two days until our trip…

Here is a crappy MS Paint cross-section diagram of what I wanted to do.

foam diagramThe blue is the foam. The dark green represents the individual square covers. See how they don’t join on the bottom corners? That’s where I can extract the foam again to wash the cover, if need be. The stripe of light green on the top is where the long piece covers the whole kit n’ kaboodle.

So back to that whole right-sides-together thing. That wouldn’t work here. I can’t really explain what I did in order to make all three layers come out right side up after the sewing and the flipping. There was something about a wrong side facing a right side, but I can’t remember which. Suffice it to say, it fried my brain. I gave it a test run as best I could with it all pinned together and then just dove in and sewed it all up. Miracle of miracles, it worked! I wrestled the foam into the cover and look!

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Ignore the bins of stuff under my table. Instead admire how that mattress cover fits like a glove.

The sense of satisfaction and relief once I flipped it all out and found it looking so clean and sharp… ahhhh. And the whole folding mechanism worked like a charm!

 

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Here the mattress demonstrates a partial fold where you can still see the two distinct squares.

I should have taken a photo of the baby sleeping like, well, a baby, on his new mattress, but I didn’t. So you don’t get to see it in use, but Sprinkaan did sleep quite well and this little mattress should last for many years to come. It had better, because I don’t ever want to do this again.

Ready, set, craft!

We’ve been in this house for five months and 14 days and today, I got my sewing room put together in a way that I can use it. It’s not perfect and my storage “solutions” are not Pinterest-worthy paragons of organization, but it’s functional. It started with a new cutting board. My kids have wreaked untold havoc on my old one. It’s dingy, torn up, bent up, adorned with marker drawings and globs of glue. In short, it’s hideous.

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I had been all excited to start sewing on my peasant blouse (aka UFO #2), but when I spread out the cutting board on my table, I couldn’t bring myself to lay any fabric on it. It really was that gross. But for an almost 8 year old sheet of cardboard that survived two moves, I’d say I got my money’s worth out of it. All ten bucks and then some. Today, I bought a new one.

A thing of beauty

A thing of beauty

Now, to be fair, I shouldn’t say that the cutting board started this process. Really, it’s more that the cutting board ended it. Ever since we moved in, my table has been covered in mounds of stuff, most of which had no business being in my sewing room in the first place. Slowly, but surely, I was able to get the table cleared off. All except for my computer. And so, the table morphed into a desk, which was really handy, but didn’t help me accomplish any sewing. So today, with a new cutting board, I vowed to keep my table clear so that it will be project-ready at a moment’s notice. I tried various configurations of boxes and bins to use as a makeshift desk for my computer and moved it around to three different places in my room to find the best location. If Goldilocks had a laptop, this would have been her story. This stack of bins was too high; that stack was too low. Where was that elusive sweet spot?

Mr. Gren came in to observe my progress and suggested, “Why don’t you just use the ironing board? It’s adjustable.”
“But what do I do when I need to iron? It will be just like the table was before.”
“Just set your computer on that stack of bins right next to it.”

Heeeey…

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Frog is looking at you

This just might work.

Eventually, I’d like to get my fabric and yarn out of bins and into some kind of dresser or cabinet, but I can be patient until a good deal comes along. I can get to everything I need, I can see most of it, and I have plenty of room to move around.

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Lots of natural light with South and West-facing windows

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See that little mound on the table? That’s the peasant blouse, waiting to be sewn.

The closet, however, is a different story. But, as Mr. Gren pointed out, “At least you have a closet.”

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I still need to write about that cape that’s hanging up in there!