Divine Bird

I believe in a high-fiber diet…like wool, alpaca, cashmere…

April 20, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
3 Comments

Moving to Maine: A New Plan

My husband and I have been talking about our future.

His job went to 100% telecommuting a few years ago, but it wasn’t until the last year or so that they finally worked out the kinks and got comfortable with having his whole team work from home.  Now he never goes into the office except in dire emergencies – and only because we happen to live in the same town as his office.  Even his boss is now in a call center in another state.  This means that we have extreme flexibility about where we live.  We can go pretty much anywhere in the lower 48 states, so long as we have a high-speed cable Internet connection and a private office for him to work in.  That, coupled with the news that our condo fees are going up yet again, sparked the thought: could we save money if we moved?

I’ve been thinking about finding a new place, not because I don’t like our condo, but because it’s just too expensive.  Our mortgage by itself is quite reasonable, but the condo fees push it up to our limit.  To rent a place that meets our needs would actually cost MORE than our current place, fees included, so that’s out. Then I started looking further afield.  We currently live in Connecticut, which is one of the most expensive markets in the USA.  I love New England, though, so I kept looking north.  Massachusetts is similar to CT in prices, but the market shifts as you move north even more.  Vermont and New Hampshire started to have houses in our price range, but when I crossed the border into Maine, suddenly I found a jump in quality for our money.

We have some dear friends in Northeastern Maine, and it turns out my parents have been planning to move up there as well when my mom retires.  Angie, another dear friend, has lived and worked up there and wanted to go back someday.  We invited her to come with us if we could find a place with an in-law apartment, something to help us pay the mortgage and give her some cheap rent.

When we bought the condo in 2009, we made the decision to move in February and we closed on the place in July; it was that fast.  We had to act fast, otherwise, our apartment lease would expire and we’d be subject to paying rent month to month.  We had no time to save up, and we had no time to really hunt for the perfect place.  If we had, as much as I loved this condo, we might not have taken it due to the fees.  But of course, we wanted our own home and the fees were much lower, which blinded us to the fact that we’d be almost at our budget’s limit. I don’t want that to happen again.

Unfortunately, it’s not something we can do right away.  We need to save money for a down payment and an emergency fund.  I’m probably not going to be able to work from home at my current job, so I need to build up a client base and make sure I have income.  We also have some specific needs that must be met by our new house and community.  I want to take some time to study the market and to find the perfect place.  I think we can be ready to move in two years, just after the school year ends in 2016.  We could be ready sooner, but I’d like to leave a cushion of time in case anything comes up.

Our new place is going to be planned as much as possible. I’m casting a pretty wide net right now, but narrowing the search to several communities, which I’ll talk about in a future post.  We have certain things we must have and a bunch of things we’d like to have.  As we search, we’re going to sock away every penny we can.  This year, I’m paying off all our debts except the mortgage and my student loan.  It’s going to be difficult at times but I know we can do it.  We are really good about money when we have a specific goal and a timeline in which to make that goal happen.  Wish us luck in this new endeavour!

…And I guess it’s time to finish all that cleaning I started, huh? :)

Butterfly in the Sky

March 24, 2014 by Jenny Bannock | 0 comments

The Ides of March involved five friends heading up to Magic Wings, the butterfly conservatory in Deerfield, MA.  We piled into the car – five people in a Prius is what we call “cozy” – and made our way up to see the pretty fluttery things.  I’m still working through all my pics, but here’s a sample of what we saw.  I’d love to go up again to spend more time there.

Finally got a pic of the necklace that Sandra made for me; it’s a huge labradorite cabochon with two pearls wrapped in copper wire. My new favorite combination!

I love this combination!

It makes me feel like a princess

This gallery contains 12 photos

March 23, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
0 comments

A Bit of a Reset

We joke at work that our motto is “BE FLEXIBLE” because in the world of Adult Education, nothing is ever certain.  Funding can change, administrators can adjust things at the last minute, and then there’s the unpredictable student body to consider.  So it goes with life, really.  All the good intentions in the world are for naught if you can’t follow through on them.

I had planned to do a 5-day blog schedule including a day for crafting, three for cleaning, and one for writing.  However, I stalled when drafting the second writing post.  I felt like what I had intended to say didn’t hold much value.  Not that my advice wasn’t worth it, but the way I chose to approach it wasn’t working.  I’ve decided to postpone the writing series until I have at least half of it drafted and organized.  Don’t worry, I’ll come back to it soon!

Cleaning has mostly involved maintenance, though even that has slipped a little.  Once I got out of my all-day-every-day cleaning mode, I let myself relax a little too much.  On the good side, I’ve kept up with the laundry and dishes, both of which were big problems for me before, so I count those as victories.  I also sorted some random bags of craft supplies that I seem to keep finding around the house.  One of them held a second roll of the celestial wallpaper border, so I’m really happy about that. This means I have twice as much as I thought, and I can do something cool with it!

On the crafting front, I finished a really cute pillow for the Studio!

pillow 1

So cute and celestial! <3

I had this yellow Malabrigo yarn in my stash for a couple of years, always intending to do something fun with it.  When I saw the pattern called “Shining Around” (Ravelry link), I knew I had the perfect project.  I wouldn’t have done this a few months ago out of fear that it would be attacked by carpet beetles, but now that the studio has been cleaned, I think it’s safe.  The project took me about a week of sporadic work from start to finish, though I could have probably made it in two days if I’d focused on it.  My extensive edits to the pattern are noted on my Ravelry project page.

It looks like my new goal for blogging will be to just get a post up five times a week.  I’m not going to worry about specific topics because that actually limited me; I didn’t blog after that failed writing post because I felt guilty about missing it, which just meant I didn’t write at all.  That defeats the purpose of blogging in the first place!

So watch for some fun things this week.  I’ve been some cool places and done some fun things, so there’s a lot to talk about.  I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you!

March 12, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
0 comments

Illuminated

Today’s “work” was actually a lot of fun.  Lilith came over in the morning to help me sort through my ribbon and trim collection.  Interestingly, I had only three boxes, not four as I’d thought.  That was a nice surprise!  Going through them only took a couple of hours from start to finish, if not less.  I managed to get rid of a basket full of them (which I’ll share with my friends before I actually get rid of anything) and the rest fit into a single bin.  The bin is only a temporary home, though.  After we put a bunch of them on spools, I found that I could make a two-tier ribbon holder and contain the entire collection!  Until I take an afternoon to build one, I am keeping the spools in the bin on the closet shelf.  They are protected and accessible in the meantime.

ribbons in bin

And of course now I want to make something that uses ribbon…

I’m only pointing this out because it’s an issue I know I have.  I will intend to do a project and get everything set up…then something happens so I can’t do the project.  But then I have all this stuff waiting to be put together or organized or hung up, and then I have to work around it.  Pieces get lost, or trampled, or forgotten.  My first instinct was to just put the ribbon into an open bin “just until” I made the ribbon rack, which I would do “soon”.  But we know how “soon” can turn into “eventually” or even “never”.  So in case I can’t make it to my dad’s wood shop next week, at least I know that the ribbon is safe, clean, and most importantly, out of the way until I need it.  And when I am ready to make the rack, I know exactly where all the ribbons can be found.

The other task I completed was to set up my adorable Vietnamese lanterns!  I got them through the Animal Rescue Site‘s shop several years ago.  I have always wanted to hang them up but couldn’t find the right lights. That is, until Angie spotted them in Pier One!  These lights are LEDs, battery operated, and best of all, they have a universal remote so I can turn them on and off.   There’s even a 2- or 4-hour timer!  I wasn’t sure if I’d like the amber LEDs but they look warm and inviting in the lanterns.

lanterns

Ignore the hideous ceiling seam…look how cute the lanterns are!

Through Lilith’s suggestion, I hung them from the ceiling using tiny Command adhesive hooks.  I’ll see if they stick, but the adhesive seems to be holding up pretty well despite the popcorn ceiling.  I was going to do them at different heights but at the last minute I remembered the pretty Christmas ornament hooks I found at Target last year.  I think they’re super cute!  And when Dashing saw them, he said that I have the perfect napping spot now that I have a cozy chair and such gentle lighting.  I might have to get some of these for the rest of the house! ;)

I am SO happy to have these two small projects done.  I’m getting closer to finishing the room every day.

March 11, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
0 comments

Shining Around

Tuesdays are for crafting, y’all, though I don’t have much on the needles.  The Noro flower scarf has gained a few blooms, though I’m still finishing up the first of four sections.  Though I’m starting to wonder if I should make this scarf three rows or four.  I don’t tend to wear very wide scarves, and once blocked, I think this will be quite wide enough at three.  Originally I’d planned to make it a wrap, but I don’t know that I would wear it as such.  I’m going to finish this half, then do the other half, and decide on how many more rows to add later.

Here’s a bit of a mock up of how the scarf would be laid out, simplified for color.

scarf mockup jpg

 

The other project I’m actively working on is a sweet little knitted sun-shaped pillow called “Shining Around” (Ravelry link).  The pattern is written for bulky yarn and size US13 needles, and it has 9 rays.  I am only doing 8 rays in a worsted weight yarn, on size US7 needles.  I’ve had to alter how many rows and stitches each ray needs, and I’m going to do the decreases differently, too.  But the pattern is still really useful.  So far, I have 1 1/2 rays done.  I’m thinking about doing four of the rays in the main yellow – Malabrigo in a deep gold – and the other four rays in some brighter yellow Brown Sheep Co. worsted that I used in another project.  The pillow is for my studio, so I’m sticking with the sun theme.

I’m really, REALLY getting inspired to work on my sewing projects.  I found a whole bunch of them when I went through my fabric stash.  I’m looking forward to getting the machine set up so I can finish them!  The sewing list so far:

  • two pairs of cotton pajama pants that just need hems, a casing, and elastic
  • two brand-new swimsuits that need to be taken in (I got them a couple of years ago but never wore them!)
  • three skirts that need simple mending
  • a cardi that needs mending
  • the purple & pink houndstooth cape, which needs a hem, buttons, arm holes, and a belt
  • a blanket for Lilith
  • a special project for someone who will remain nameless until they receive it
  • and a bunch of small projects for the studio, such as sewing machine covers, scrap bags, and reupholstering a damaged ottoman

There were a few other sewing projects that I need to think about, then decide whether I’m going to finish them or not.  I got rid of a few that had been hanging over my head for some time.  It stung at first, but getting them off my plate for good was very freeing.  There’s still a wool suit that cannot possibly fit me by now, though I loved the pattern when I started it.  I also adored the fabric, a more sedate camel/cream/dark grey wool.  Maybe I can still do something with the fabric.  We’ll see.

I’ve also got some spinning projects that need to be finished.  I‘m back down to three permanent and one babysitting wheel now, which works for me.  There’s a nice balance in what they spin most efficiently.  On the spinning docket are…

Projects on Violette (the purple CPW):

  • laceweight Wensleydale that’s about halfway done (I want to finish it before I take her to another event so I can move on to something less persnickety)

Projects on Charlotte (the Lendrum):

  • pink/white/brown wool/mohair blend to sell
  • beetle-green silk project that has taken me FOREVER to do like 1/4 of the fiber…my goal is to finish that this year.  It would be absolutely stunning in competition, and though I wouldn’t finish it in time for the spring fiber festivals, I could totally get it done by the Fall
  • the second skein of gradient from Fiber Optic (I think I’ve done one ply already and just need to finish the second half, then ply)

Projects on Rosette (the red Ashford Traditional):

  • nothing planned, so I’ll probably grab some undyed wools to spin worsted and bulky yarn to sell.

Can my Studio be finished already?? I am jonesing for a craft!!

March 10, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
0 comments

Choosing What to Keep and What to Toss

treasure yay

Treasure

Last week, I was asked about how to determine which items to keep and how to get rid of craft and sewing supplies.  My method is pretty simple, actually, but like the rest of this project, it happens in stages.

1.  Identify your crafts

I am multi-craftual, which means LOTS of supplies for diverse hobbies.  I spin yarn, knit, crochet, sew, weave, draw, do calligraphy, make jewelry, and embroider.  As I went through all my bins and bags of stuff, I separated everything into one of these categories so I could get a really good idea of how much I had.  This part took me several hours over the course of a few days, so don’t feel like you have to accomplish everything at once.  I actually suggest doing it an hour at a time with breaks in between; it’s exhausting!

hall during studio uf

This may look like a mess, but you’re looking at five category zones during the initial craft room sort

Because some crafts use the same tools (such as tape measures or niddy-noddies), I just sorted them into the category in which I use them primarily.  For instance, I put all my tape measures together in the sewing category, even though I use them in knitting, spinning, and art.

2.  Work on one section at a time

Once you have your categories, move everything out of the way and just focus on one category at a time.  In the case of my sewing supplies, after the initial sort, I had several big, jumbled boxes of seemingly random sewing-related items.  I set up a few plastic shoeboxes and used them to corral the different items by type: Pins/Needles (including pincushions); Cutting (seam rippers, thread snips, etc.); Marking (chalk, disappearing ink pens, white pencils); Buttons/Closures; Elastic; and Trim/Ribbons.  This is tedious work!  Don’t give up.  Put on some music and pour yourself a beverage and then buckle down.  This is not the time to have a “junk” box.  Go through everything.  When I got to my pincushions, I made sure to take every single needle out of the cushion and put them with the other needles.  When I found spare buttons from clothes I’d bought, I took each one out of the tiny plastic bag – which I set aside – and put only the button into the button box.  You wouldn’t believe how such small steps made a difference.  The required size of my button box went down by almost a third when I got rid of those bags.

sorting sewing

Early in the sorting process: pins/needles, elastic, buttons (in the bag), and trim.

3.  Pare down

Focusing only on sewing supplies allowed me to work in one spot and to really hone in on what I did and didn’t want to keep.  When I found out I owned at least eight thread snips, a thread cutting pendant, and two pairs of embroidery scissors, I knew at once that there was no reason to keep that many items that all did one task.  I kept the pendant and the embroidery scissors (both of which were the elegant antique type), then chose two of the thread snips and got rid of the rest.  Sure, I could eventually use the other snips.  I could even put one in every project bag.  But the idea here is to cut back on things I don’t need, and I really don’t need eight thread snips.  The six discarded ones, still useful, went to my mom for a charity project being done by her church.

For another example, I owned a huge wall-mounted thread rack that held upwards of 75 spools of thread.  I also received a smaller, more decorative one (seen in the previous image) from a friend, and my sewing table has a thread rack mounted right inside one of the doors.  Between the pretty rack and the one in my sewing table, I could hold 60 spools of thread.  I chose my 60 and got rid of the rest.  When my mom heard I kept even that much, she asked, “You kept 60 spools of thread?  Did you need that many??”  I probably don’t, but at least what I own doesn’t overflow my capacity to store it.  As I buy other thread for certain projects, I will probably swap out spools I don’t end up using.

I really don't need much more than this, seriously

For the record, I got rid of about 100 spools of thread. Just sayin’.

4.  Re-categorize things that don’t quite belong

Even as soon as the initial sort when you’re creating your categories, feel free to pull out the things you know you won’t use right away.   You can designate a single box or bin to hold all the discarded supplies as you work.  If you can’t decide whether something should stay or go, ask yourself if you have used it in the last 6 months or definitely plan to use it within the next 6 months.  With rare exception, you should be safe to get rid of things that you use less than once per year.  Those exceptions are things like specialized equipment or expensive tools (like a Serger or a special pressing board).  However, those things should have a safe and dedicated home where they can stay when you aren’t using them.

5.  Give your things a home

Once you are certain you’ve gone through everything in the category, choose a container that fits. I was really startled to find that all my buttons fit into a much smaller box than I thought they would need.   I encountered the same thing with my art supplies.  Once my pencils and markers had their spot on my desk, the remaining supplies fit into a single shoebox.  You probably have less than you imagined, especially once you cull the things you don’t need.

If you have lots of little items, a divided box might be your best bet.  However, don’t discount an undivided box if the items can stay reasonably organized.  A plastic shoebox is a good starting point.  Make sure everything fits, but if you have a little room to grow, that’s okay.  If you can’t fit everything into the shoebox, check to see that you aren’t keeping too much stuff or else try a slightly larger container.  Then give the box a place to live when it’s not in use.  I put all my sewing supplies into my sewing table, while other crafts each got their own spot in the cube wall.  Now, when I need to access one, the box is available and I don’t have to dig for it.  When I’m done, the box goes back into its spot.

craft storage

Remember this from a few days ago?

You don’t need a fancy piece of furniture, either.  It can be a shelf, a closet, even a spot on the floor against the wall.  Just make sure you give the box a home where it won’t be trampled or broken.

One last thing – you might find something in one category that really belongs in another.  That’s fine!  I found several packs of tapestry needles in my sewing supplies.  Even though they were technically hand sewing, I would only use them for cross-stitch and embroidery, so it made no sense to put them with the needles I’d use for mending or sewing on a button.  This not only meant that I would find them in the same bin as the rest of my needleworking supplies, but that I also wouldn’t have to hunt around them when looking for a sharp needle for mending.  Decluttering isn’t just about getting rid of stuff; it’s also about putting things where they are most useful.

6.  Label everything

With my plastic boxes, I like hand-written adhesive labels.  You can use tags, labels, or even just write on an index card and stick it into the bin so it shows through the side.  However you do it, labels help you focus what should be in which box.  Try to be consistent and use one or two methods of labeling.  You’ll find things much faster because you won’t have to process many different designs.  Choose a method you find attractive – the more you like it, the more you’ll be inclined to follow it.

shoeboxes

I get more mileage out of this picture…

7.  Put things away when you’re done

The last step is to make sure you put your supplies back when you’re finished using them.  It seems like a ridiculous step but this is how you prevent yourself from buying multiple items that you don’t need.  Avoid the needless expense of time and money.  Any crafter knows that it’s hard to delineate when you’re “done” with a project, so get into the habit of cleaning up as much as possible every day.  When you get up from the sewing machine for the day, sweep up all the thread scraps, return pins to their pincushion, fold pattern pieces and extra fabric neatly, and hang up the ironing board.  If you’re knitting, put the project and yarn into a bin or basket, make sure there are no loose needles in the seat cushions, and make sure your stitch markers are all accounted for.

These are all quick tasks that will help you stay organized, so when you’re ready to start again, your supplies and space will be ready, too.

***

If you’re trying to figure out what supplies you really need for a particular craft, I’ve created a page here.  At this writing, I have sewing and knitting set up, along with a detailed info sheet about choosing knitting needles and crochet hooks.  Watch for drawing, calligraphy, embroidery, and other “starter” lists to join them!

March 10, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
1 Comment

The Fabrics Of My Life

First week of the new blog post schedule and I managed to skip a day!  Oops.  Today you get two posts to make up for the one I missed on Friday. :)  I’d like to point out that everything I mention in the Studio update has been done in the last four days…I have been incredibly busy in this room!

Studio Reorganization Update

Craft room work continues!  I know, it seems like all I’m doing is the Studio but that room REALLY needs the attention.  Now that the walls have been painted and the furniture has been set up, it’s been nothing but sorting and putting things away, day after day.  I don’t think even I had any clue just how much stuff was in that room to begin with.

Once the crafting supplies had been put away, I had five major areas to work on:  Yarn, Fiber/Fleece*, Fabric, Patterns, and Trim.

*For the non-yarny people, “fleece” here means wool shorn from a sheep, usually washed but otherwise unprocessed.  ”Prepared fiber” has been combed, carded, dyed, and otherwise prepped for spinning.  Fleeces are often large and fluffy while prepared fiber is more compact and easy to organize.  This is not to be confused with Polar fleece, which is a synthetic fabric used to make jackets and blankets.  I mention both below.

Yarn

I started sorting through yarn first.  After I lost a lot of my stash to the carpet beetles, I feared what I would find.  It seems more yarn escaped damage than I thought; the commercial yarn was badly dented but my handspun now makes up about 60% of my total yarn stash.  Of the still-questionable yarn, I think I’m going to just trash any fiber or commercial yarn and try to save the handspun.  That’s a whole process in and of itself, so I’ll go into that later.

With the stash divided into handspun and commercial yarns, I made piles of color families.  The handspun has five: Warms, Cools (Blues & Purples), Greens, Neutrals, and Multicolor.  The commercial yarn has four: Warms, Cools, Neutrals, and Sock Yarn.  (I know Sock Yarn isn’t a color, but work with me here.)  I like this system; I tend to plan my projects organically, so having like colors together is very inspiring.

yarn storage

Love how this wall is progressing!

All of the yarn fit into the cube wall.  Since the medium bins I used only filled the cubes about 2/3 of the way, I found some discontinued scrapbooking bins that fit perfectly into the extra space.  Small skeins and remnant balls of yarn went into these.

Fiber

Sorting through my prepared fiber was a lot faster and easier than I expected.  I did the same kind of separation of Warms, Cools, Neutrals, and Multicolor.  I ended up with only four tall bins, all of which now live in my closet.  I have these nice staggered shelves that take advantage of the angled wall, as the closet is positioned above the stairwell.  The shelves are exactly as deep as the bins, making them a perfect fit.

While the fiber situation is looking great, on the fleece side…things aren’t so fab.  I have WAY more fleece than I thought I did.  I was caught between a little bit of laughing and crying as I emptied the closet the other day.  Bag after bag of fleece came out – Lilith and Angie called it my “clown car closet”.  I still won’t count how many bags it was because it was crazy.  I already know that I’m going to get rid of some once I’ve inventoried them.  I also want to card some into spinning batts for sale.  Until then, I’m hanging up the smaller ones on hangers just to get them off the floor.

I think I have the equivalent of seven or eight sheep in there, if I put all the half- and quarter-fleeces together.

Fabric

Long before I was a spinner or a knitter, I was a seamstress.  At one time, I needed a storage unit to hold my fabric collection because the tiny apartment we lived in couldn’t contain it.  I also worked at several fabric stores over the years, so it was easy to come home with more than I ever needed.  When we moved into this condo, I finally emptied the storage unit and brought everything here.  I held a huge fabric destashing day, during which I culled 2/3 of my total stash.  The remaining third was still more stock than I’ve seen at some shops.  Yesterday, I cut out half of what was left.  A giant bag of smaller pieces and a big box of Polar fleece will be leaving for new homes.  Some medium-sized bins hold specific project fabrics and scraps.  The rest of the stash fit into five tall bins: Warms, two bins of Cools, Neutrals, and a larger bin for velveteen, which needs to be stored unfolded and therefore needed more space.

fabric storage

Everything fits so neatly!

Patterns

I’m seriously proud of how this ended up!  I had a highly impractical storage system for my patterns involving baskets, a pot lid rack from the kitchen, Ziploc bags, and big yellow envelopes.  Many of my patterns were holdovers from my fabric store days…some were from 1991 and had never been used.  I’ve changed dress sizes a dozen times since then!  Everything outdated went into a bag for listing on Etsy.  The rest fit into a single tall bin, which you can see as the first bin on the top shelf in the picture above.  It contains everything, including my costume, home dec, and vintage patterns.  It’s a bit stuffed, but at least now I know where everything is.

Trim

This is the one big area that has yet to be done.  Of all the above supplies, the trim and ribbon category has been the most well-curated.  The collection currently resides in four bins, and once I’ve gone through them, I plan to set up a ribbon holder on the wall to contain and display the spools.  Maybe I’ll actually use some of them instead of just thinking about possibilities!

Cool Stuff

I was out a lot this weekend and picked up some things that I really needed.  The bins you see in the pics above were on sale at Target.  I’ve been grabbing a few at a time over the past couple of months but on Saturday I found out they were being discontinued.  I got an extra deal because one store was out of lids, so they discounted the bases…and then I found out I could get lids from another store when I stopped by to get the last few of their stock.  I’m so glad I did this. The sizes are just right for me.  I can fit them on shelves, lift them over my head, and stack them just about anywhere.  It may seem picky to want bins that are all the same, but as a very visual person, it makes a huge difference in my ability to organize.  It also means that the lids and bases are interchangeable, so if one breaks, I can swap them out as needed.  That’s something that has been an issue many times over the past 10 years.  In fact, it was an issue just recently when I learned that the bins I wanted to use – the ones that fit perfectly in my cube wall – have been replaced by Rubbermaid with a design that is now a full half-inch too big for the cubes.  Honestly, too, I love having the opportunity to plan instead of dealing with a hodgepodge of storage containers.

Speaking of visuals…I have this set of Vietnamese silk lanterns that I have wanted to put up for years.  However, it’s been difficult to find the right kind of lights to go in them.  Plus, every time I found the right type, it was part of a string of 12 or 24 and usually way too extensive for my needs.  On top of that, I hadn’t found anything battery operated, which meant I was limited as to where and how I could hang the lanterns.  This cool LED set, however, is utterly awesome.  It’s a set of 3 with a remote, and once you have that initial set, you can get individual ones that also respond to the same remote!  I can’t wait to show you how they look when I hang them up.  At last I can display my beautiful lanterns safely, and add a bit of cozy lighting to the room.

I think I’ve caught you up on the cleaning progress now!  Every day it improves.  The house gets closer and closer to what I want it to be.  Step by step, guys…step by step.

March 6, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
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Writing Advice: An Introduction

In November of 2012, I put together a series of writing advice posts as I worked on a novel.  In my sidebar, you’ll often see a banner for Nanowrimo, aka National Novel Writing Month.  The idea in a nutshell:  We all say we’ll write a book ‘someday’.  Well, someday has arrived.  Sit down and write 50,000 words toward your novel.  Turn off your inner editor and give yourself free reign to get the story out of your head and onto the page.

reynard writing Though the event proper occurs in November, the group that runs it also hosts several other events in the meantime.  One is Camp Nanowrimo, held in April and July.  This less-intense version also encourages writers to choose their own projects and goals.  To that end, I’m reposting my old advice series here.  Every Thursday, you’ll get a post about how to focus so you, too, can get that story out of your head and down on paper.  When April arrives, I hope you’ll join me in working on the project that you’ve been putting of

Writing like this is incredibly freeing.  I have participated in Nano for over to ten years, starting in 2003.  I took a couple of years off due to illness or other big life events, but I always get excited to write whenever one of the events rolls around.  I use the time to hammer out the basic story that’s in my head, then edit it after the frenzy has died down.  Through organization of my ideas ahead of time, and the use of a few truly excellent PC apps (which I’ll talk about soon), I have on more than one occasion managed to blow all my own expectations out of the water.  Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share some of my success tips here.  Most of them are things you’ve probably heard a million times, but that’s because they really do work–if you let yourself go.

So…pens up!  Hands at home row!  Voice recorder at the ready!  We’re going to write!

March 5, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
4 Comments

Clearer, Cleaner, Leaner

The Studio continues to become clearer and cleaner.  It may not seem like a huge deal, but culling even things like pins and seam rippers can make a difference.  When I got rid of all those pins and needles the other day, for instance, I felt like it must be silly to go through all that trouble for such tiny things.  But those tiny things added up.  When I collected all the discarded sewing supplies together, I discovered they filled two cardboard boxes.  Two!  I just removed two boxes’ worth of unneeded sewing supplies from my room, two boxes that once required storage space and a home, that I no longer need to move around.  Two boxes, just for one craft.  That doesn’t count the box of knitting and embroidery supplies, nor the bags of yarn and fiber that will also leave my house soon.

No wonder I felt so crowded.  No wonder why I couldn’t find anything!  I had to dig through two boxes’ worth of supplies I didn’t need every time I wanted to find something specific.  This new leaner system of organizing has also brought up an interesting situation.  I suddenly have too much storage.

Don’t get me wrong; storage can be used for many things.  The tall green latching bins I have are designed to work as file folder boxes, too, so they’re good.  But the other stuff – shoeboxes both cardboard and plastic; cute buckets; tins; baskets – these are piling up in my bedroom in some kind of crazy tower.  I always thought my problem was lack of storage.  Turns out it was simply too much stuff and a lack of organization.  I still can’t get over how my general crafting supplies all fit into a single cube.  Or how my art supplies – not counting my pencils and markers – fit into a single ordinary plastic shoebox.  I could have sworn I had so much more that I needed to keep, and yet…more stuff leaves every day.  More pens and markers leave, more knitting needles and pincushions leave.  These things took up space in my head and my room.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all this except…it’s still a work in progress.  I have so much left to do, though it’s getting easier to manage every day.

 

 

March 4, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
2 Comments

Crafting Update for March 2

Since today is Tuesday, that means it’s craft update day!  Believe it or not, I have actually done a bit of crafting, albeit easy projects that don’t take a lot of brain power.  I finished a garter stitch scarf for Dashing, first of all.  Back when I’d first learned how to make socks, I made him a pair of cozy socks out of this yarn.  It’s his favorite pair in the world.  He chose the yarn for them himself.  I had about half a ball of one skein left, so I just cast on a garter stitch thing so I’d have purse knitting.  I’d intended to sell it or give it as a gift, but he sort of claimed it as soon as he saw it.  He doesn’t do that often, so I am okay with letting him have it.  Can’t remember the name of the yarn, sadly, but it is extremely soft.  The color is a dark olive green with a heathery gold halo.

I also learned how to do Tunisian crochet this week, so I’m experimenting with making a scarflike object.  Come to think of it, all of my crafts have been scarves lately.  Hrm.  Anyway, I’m enjoying the process.  A friend linked me to an excellent video tutorial to get me started after I showed her how many Tunisian hooks I had inherited.  This craft has definite potential.  Yarn is Brown Sheep Co. Worsted in Caribbean Waves.

tunisian crochet WIP

Here’s the video tutorial I used; it’s quite easy to follow her and the images of her hands are very clear.

The last of my active projects is this flower scarf.  I’m using the technique from this pattern to make and join the flowers.  Though the colors aren’t my usual thing (love the purple & orange but there’s so much BROWN), I like the color transition throughout the skein.  Yarn is Noro Kureyon Sock.  I have two skeins so I’m thinking of how to use both in this.  I’m kind of forcing the color changes here.  The colorway repeats in the skein, but I wanted the scarf to be a palindrome, so I’m working two halves and stitching them together at the center.  I just hope the second skein matches up decently to the first!  I do have a lot of leeway, since each skein has at least 3 repeats, and each flower is worked individually.  I only need 4 repeats.  If the rows are wildly off, I can adjust flower by flower to accommodate them.

flower scarf WIP

And because I love it so much, here’s a pic of my project bag.  Is this not the most awesome fabric??

van gogh TARDIS

Van. Gogh. TARDIS. <3

Not the most exciting crafting week, but I do have a finished project to show for my time, as well as a new craft to explore!

Tomorrow, I’ll have some more progress pics on the studio.  See you then!

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