Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Feast #184

Appetizer: Given the choice, would you prefer to live in the country or in the city?
The suburbs. I am such a suburban girl - I like having my own parking space, I like not having people right on top of me all the time. Don't get me wrong - I love visiting the city, especially New York City, but I'd need a ridiculous amount of money to live in a city the way I want to live. So for me, it's definitely the suburbs

Soup: Who is the cutest kid you know?
Tough one. I have three VERY cute nieces and a nephew. My 5 year old niece is the most interactive, and says some hilarious stuff, but my 4 year old niece is catching up very fast. (She's the one that calls me "The Wrong Aunt Jenn" because her other aunt's name is Jennifer too, and she confuses me with her, so her mom says, "No, that's the wrong Aunt Jenn". My 3 year old nephew is going through a not so cute phase now, but I still love him to bits, and my 2 year old niece is just coming into her own - adorable, but not as interactive.

Salad: Fill in the blank: I couldn’t believe it when I heard ___________.
Heath Ledger died. I was utterly shocked by that.

Main Course: If you could star in a commercial for one of your favorite products, which one would you want to advertise?
Oh, I'd probably want to be in an NFL commercial with Troy Aikman. Maybe Peyton Manning.

Dessert: What type(s) of vitamins and/or supplements do you take on a regular basis?
None, really. I have a bunch I should be taking, including a multivitamin, B vitamins, iron, and folic acid, but taking a lot of pills makes me queasy and I've been neglecting them. I really need to start taking them again.

A thank you and some progress

I've been bad about blogging - I'm spending most of my time stalking the real estate websites looking for a house. (Yes, I have an excel spreadsheet for it. Shut up). It's not nearly as much fun as I thought it would be, and my eyes are starting to glaze over at the mere thought of looking at a computer screen. I have been trying to keep up with reading blogs, though. It's a welcome break from real estate listings.

I've also been bad about sharing something I got in the mail a little while back. Sweet Dianne sent me these two lovely ATCs (artist trading cards). She also sent me a Cape May Lighthouse chart - Thank you, Dianne!

Aren't these so cool? Dianne knows my fondness for lighthouses, so she featured one, along with the cutest sandpiper, on a card for me. And for my husband, she did one with goldfinches from an antique book! Goldfinches are his favorite birds, and he was really touched by Dianne's gift. She even included a "certificate of authenticity" to sign the cards.

And in keeping with a somewhat nautical theme, check out my new friend, the Blue Crab.

I picked up the kit for this one maybe last year or the year before at Sea Needles in Bethany Beach. All the DMC threads and Aida fabric were included, but I switched out the white Aida for a more sand colored lambswool Jobelean (I love, love, love this fabric) He's coming along quite nicely, especially since the chart and I have long since made peace. The pattern is done by a local artist, Judy Greer Carmean, and the chart is handwritten. I struggled to read it for a while, until I got smart and made a copy of the chart, which I proceeded to mark up with highlighters and colored pencils. Ahhhh! MUCH better. If you've never tried this and you're struggling with a chart, I urge you to try making a copy and use colored pencils to separate the various symbols. I picked up a pack of pencils and a sharpener that will have a permanent home with my other stitching tools.

This has been stitching up quite nicely and makes for a very relaxing evening. I have an attachment to crabs - both the crab motif and eating them. Hardshell crabs were popular with my family and we had them every so often - a big pile dumped on a paper covered table with a hole in the middle (and a bucket underneath for the shells). A little Old Bay seasoning and maybe some vinegar for dipping, and we were set. I got very good at picking the meat out of the crab, something that frustrates my husband to this day (he doesn't enjoy hardshells quite as much as I do). And I do like the crab motif - we have 2-3 crab ornaments for our tree, and I've been eying up a crab chip and dip plate at several beach gift shops.

Okay, I've fooled around long enough. Time to do my Friday Feast and get back to those listings!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Feasts #182 & 183

Yes indeed. Two for the price of one. I didn't do a Friday Feast last week, so I'll do two this week. And I apologize for my lack of stitching content. I am currently obsessed with house hunting - DH and I are moving this spring and it's my sole focus these days to find a suitable house. I'm not even all that picky. I want 4 brs (one of which will accommodate a king size bed), 2 - 2.5 bathrooms, a 2 car garage (attached or detached - doesn't matter), a basement, and a decent sized, updated kitchen. And central air. Everything else is negotiable. Grrrr..... As soon as I finish this, it is back to the salt mines... errr... I mean real estate pages.

Appetizer: If you could be any current celebrity for one whole week, who would you want to be?
Probably Julia Roberts. I've always liked her.

Soup: On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest), how much do you enjoy talking on the phone?
On the house phone or in the house? About a -6. Seriously, I hate it. I only like to talk to my very close friends on the phone. And most of them hate talking on the phone as well. In the car, however, especially on the highway when I am by myself, I like talking on the phone. (Yes, I use a hands free) It passes the time.

Salad: Name a charitable organization to which you have donated (or would like to).
I donate to animal related causes, though I prefer to donate directly to the shelters so they're the ones getting the money and the fundraisers are not taking a cut. I also prefer to donate necessary goods like food, blankets, etc.

Main Course: What is a food you like so much you could eat it every single day for a month?
Hands down, lobster. Seafood in general, but lobster specifically. I never get tired of it.

Dessert: Have you or anyone in your family had the flu this year?
{knock wood} No.


Appetizer: On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 as highest), how much do you like your own handwriting?
Probably an 8 or 9. I have pretty nice handwriting. Printing too.

Soup: Do you prefer baths or showers?
Usually showers, unless it is a very large, deep bath tub. I don't really see the point in taking a bath in a small tub, especially since I am 5'10". I cannot stretch out in a regular bath tub

Salad: What was the last bad movie you watched?
I can't really remember. I'd probably have to go look at my Netflix queue. Usually I shut them off - I've learned that life is too short to watch crappy movies. I will say that I watched Napoleon Dynamite all the way through against my better judgement. Everyone LOVED that movie, but I thought it was terrible. Other notable stinkers I've sat through are Addicted to Love (Meg Ryan - I HATE her.), Snow Falling on Cedars (something like 3 hours I'm never getting back), Portrait of a Lady (with Nicole Kidman, whom I usually like), Eyes Wide Shut (also with Nicole....), and Being John Malkovich.

Main Course: Name something you are addicted to and describe how it affects your life.
I wouldn't say I am addicted to anything really, though I am very connected to the Internet. I check email several times a day, I read a ton of blogs, I get most of my news and information on line and I keep in touch with friends and family mostly through email and IM. I probably don't socialize as much in person as I normally would.

Dessert: Which instrument is your favorite to listen to?
I would have to say the cello

So there you have it. Two Friday Feasts for the price of one. I wonder how much longer I can put off looking at real estate?
Thursday, March 6, 2008

SBQ: Recycling Questions

This week's question was originally posted on January 4, 2005. Renee, who does a great job with the SBQs, has started recycling questions, and with good reason, which you can read about here.

After you stitch a pattern or kit, what do you do with it?

Usually, I file it away in one of my 3 ring binders. I use sheet protectors with my charts when I stitch, which helps keep them clean and neat and makes the transfer to the binder super easy. If the chart is particularly cumbersome or in a book or magazine, I use sheet protectors and photocopies so I don't damage the original chart.

When I'm done, I file the chart and any unique paperwork that might have accompanied it (usually in kits) such as cover sheets and color photos, right in the page protector sleeve. I do not keep generic "how to cross stitch" diagrams. Sometimes I will write on the back of the color illustration the date or the occasion for the piece. If the chart is from a kit, I put the extra threads in the sleeve as well.

I'll trade or sell most charts I've already stitched, though there are a small handful I will keep for no good reason other that I am sentimentally attached, even though I will never stitch them again. There are also a few small charts for baby, housewarming and wedding presents that I won't trade off because I will probably stitch them again.

The charts I am willing to part with are in the link in my sidebar.

Check out this super-impressive database!

And I thought I was organized and on the ball! I have nothing on Allison when it comes to stash inventory software.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thread Storage

Part two in a series exploring the depths of my maniacal organization.

This time we will discuss thread storage, but first let me share one more chart picture. These are my very small charts which are stored in their own little ziploc bag so I can find them easily without digging. They're of mixed subjects - mostly a few Christmas charts and 2 small birth samplers. I only have a couple of these, so obviously this solution works for now, but may need to be modified should I start acquiring more small charts.

Now, onto thread storage. This is the bulk of my threads - 3 plastic bobbin boxes and a larger plastic container (the next size up from the plastic shoebox size. I have several of these - you'll see why. They're very handy)

The bobbin boxes contain an almost complete set of DMC threads in numerical order wound on cardboard bobbins. I've tried several different bobbins and come back to the DMC cardboards ones as the sturdiest - the cheaper ones just don't hold up as well. Some of the numbers are handwritten on the bobbins, but most of them have the tiny little DMC stickers on them.

Using the DMC stickers serves another purpose other than just identifying the threads. I keep the unused stickers on their sheets and store them in a little ziploc bag (like the kind you get beads in, but a small snack size will work as well.) Whenever I go stash shopping, I take the stickers with me and I have a handy list of the colors I do not have on bobbins, so I can fill in my collection.

Also in this box, you can see the few spools of Kreinik threads that I have. There's only a couple, so they don't really need their own storage solution.

This is another box, the one where I keep my thread winder. If you're going to do floss bobbins, I HIGHLY recommend getting the thread winder. They're super cheap and SO helpful. I can clip it right to the edge of the floss box and wind onto the bobbins pretty quick. I did notice that the winder wobbles a little, so I wedge the plastic sample bobbin that came with the winder between the box and the winder legs and it makes for a tighter fit (and a less wobbly winder). I keep the winder in the box so I know where it is.

This is my skein storage solution - the ever present ziploc bags and a plastic storage container. After making a HUGE haul of DMC at Wal-Mart, I realized I couldn't wind over 400 skeins onto bobbins without losing my mind. Also, my DH prefers to use skeins and not bobbins for his threads, so this works for us.

The floss is sorted into bags by number: 100s, 200s, 300s, etc., and the bags are numbered accordingly. I find that if you squish all the air out of the bag before completely closing it, it forms something of a vaccum pack and takes up less room. Then the bags are stored in numberical order until the floss is needed.

Now, you may ask yourself - "How does she know what's in there? Does she dig through it looking for what she needs?" And the answer, my friends, is "Oh, I know. I have the Magic Excel Inventory Spreadsheet". Yes, you heard me. The Magic Excel Inventory Spreadsheet. Okay, not entirely magic as it does not accomodate for human error / laziness, which occasionally happens, but for the most part it's a good system. One of the tabs on the sheet contains the complete list of DMC colors by number and description, and I have columns for bobbins and skeins which list the number I have of each. If new thread comes in, I add to the spreadsheet. If a bobbin or skein is removed from storage, the number on the spreadsheet is reduced appropriately. (This is where the human factor comes in as I am usually a little more lax about taking off than I am adding to). When I am kitting up a project, I need only to consult the Magic Spreadsheet to see what threads I have and what threads I need. It's about 95% accurate, depending on how much kitting up I've done and how recently I've pitched a hissy and re-inventoried everything.

There are lots of other goodies on the excel spreadsheet which is really the subject for another post. (If you would like a copy of a blank spreadsheet to do your own inventory, let me know. Probably I'll share.)

Seeing as how I have probably overwhelmed a lot of people, I will leave you with one last photo and let you begin the recovery process. This is our Ort Jar, born before we even knew what an Ort was. (For those of you that don't know, "ort" stands for old ragged thread, or the snippets of leftover threads). It's a candy jar we enlisted as a place to throw our snips of thread, and it contains pretty much every single snippet since we started stitching in 2002-2003, minus some threads I put out for the birds for nest building and the threads from our wedding sampler, which live in a glass Christmas ornament. Sometimes I squish down the threads to make more room, and no, I have no idea what I'm going to do with it once I can't squish them down any more.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A peek inside my stash storage

The other day, Michele asked how I stored my stash. Michele is a relatively new stitcher and she's been trying to figure out the best way to store her rapidly accumulating stitching stash. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but how much are a bunch of pictures AND a thousand words worth? Seriously. I talk a lot. I have degrees in English. I'm pretty sure I am supposed to.

Anyway, I told Michele I was thinking about doing a post like this anyway, so I dragged out a bunch of my stuff and take some pictures so she could see for herself what works best for me. I also thought it would be interesting to see how other people store and organize their stash, so if you've got pictures or done a post on this, let us know. I love seeing what other people do, and many times, I can adapt their ideas to my own needs.

Okay, here we have the bulk of my stash storage - my underbed storage boxes. As you can see, these are labeled on the top and on the front so I know what's in them by just pulling them out a few inches.

In case you weren't aware, I LOVE underbed storage boxes. I can get 6 under the double bed in our guest room, and at least 8, possibly 10 under the king size bed in our room. (And 3 fit nicely under a twin size bed.) I love these boxes because they make otherwise wasted space useful, and they're not so deep you have to go digging through them to find things. I have 2 for my stitching stash, and 2 for photo album / scrapbooking stuff. I also keep my bed sheets in them, as well as a whole bunch of other stuff. The plastic keeps them clean and dust free, and the lids snap on tight.

Now we remove the lids and see what's inside. This is my first box - mostly fabric storage. Most of the stuff on top are rolls of fabric I picked up at Wal-Mart when it was clearancing out the needlework supplies. I also have a few of those plastic "envelopes" underneath, and another roll folded over on itself.

I also found that I can get at least 2 cuts of fabric rolled up inside the plastic tubes or boxes, so I doubled up some of the rolls I had, which takes up less space. I also keep the extra pieces of the same count rolled up in those tubes. Keeping the fabric rolled is a good way to store it without worrying about wrinkles. But those boxes do take up a lot of space, so doubling up helps.

Also in the box are my scroll frames that are not in use. The largest one takes up the most room, but I do take all of them apart before storing them. The smaller frame ends will fit across the width of the box, but usually the scroll rods need to be put in the long way.

You can also see a book under the scroll rod, and underneath that are more printed items - mostly books and magazines. I confess to having some non-needlework related items in there, such as a few craft and beading magazines, mostly because I don't have anywhere else to keep them and I don't mind keeping craft related things together even if they're not the exact same thing.

Here's a close up on the ends of the scroll frames, some plastic DMC Envelopes and some small bags of fabric cuts from my LNS. The LNS labels them, so I keep them in their original bags until I use them so I know exactly what they are.

I'm not quite as fabric obsessed as I've seen some stitchers, though I am not saying this isn't subject to change. I've been known to become obsessed about things - who knows what could happen? But since my fabric stash is relatively small and simple, this solution works for me. I think the key is labeling, and putting things back where they belong. Because fabric count can really screw up a project in ways you don't even know until you're too far into it, it's important to know what count your fabric is and to keep it labeled. I also like keeping pieces in their own individual bags - I don't worry about it because I don't have any hand dyeds, but I would imagine bleeding might be a problem, especially in humid climates, if they weren't kept seperate from each other.

Probably I should also be concerned about using plastic to store my stash, but to be honest, I'm not all that worried about it. I don't stitch on or with super expensive fibers and fabrics, and I rotate through what I have pretty frequently so that things are not sitting in plastic for years on end. And since the boxes are stored under beds in our main living area and not in a garage or attic where extreme temperatures, humidity, bugs, etc. are an issue, I think I'm okay with these boxes. (Temperature and humidity control are another reason I love underbed storage).

On to Box #2 - Chart, Kit and WIP Storage

In this are most of my unstitched charts, kits and a few books, as well as some WIPs I got tired of working on. (My more active WIPs are in my stitching box in my stitching area.) I also have a few reference books in here, the ones that don't fit in the other box.

Speaking of reference books, one I highly recommend is 2001 Cross Stitch Designs by Better Homes and Gardens. I don't think it ever hurts to have a few good stitching reference books, not only for small motif type patterns, but for basic stitching and finishing techniques. My recommendation is to hit up your local library and see what they have, and more importantly, what appeals to you, then purchase the ones you like the best for your own collection. You can go the bookstore route, but don't forget about, which is where I got my copy of the book (after checking it out at the library). You don't need to go crazy with reference books, but it's nice to have them on hand. At some point, my reference books are going to need to move to an actual bookshelf because they're taking up valuable stash storage space.

Also in Storage Box #2 is my collection of unstitched, unkitted charts and a few stitching magazines. The charts are grouped by subject / occasion, as in all the wedding charts are together, all the lighthouse charts are together, etc. These are all charts that I haven't stitched, or will stitch again at some point. If I think I'll need it, it stays in the box. If I don't think I'll ever stitch it, or a portion of it, again, the chart gets moved into one of my binders which is the subject of another post.

Also, because I don't have a lot of magazines to worry about, I just keep them in with my other charts. For people with a lot of magazines, I'd probably recommend looking into a magazine specific storage solution, especially if your magazines are rare and/or expensive.

You can also see my small kits, mostly Dimensions kits, in the box. They're all removed from their plastic store packaging and put in quart size ziploc bags, which take up MUCH less room and are easier to store.

I do confess that some of these charts have been in there a while as I don't stitch much from kits anymore. Eventually I will probably make myself complete the kits as part of a stash clean out challenge, but I don't think that will be for a while yet.

On top of the magazines and unstitched charts, I put kitted up charts, each of which gets their own plastic gallon size storage bag that contains the chart, the fabric, and the necessary fibers for the project. You can also see I fill in the space between the two piles with my extra scroll frames.

So there was your little sneak peek into my stash storage solutions. Next time, I will post pictures of my thread storage and my active stitching boxes.

UPDATE: Check out blogs by Cathey (Pumpkin Patch & Co.) and Teejay (The Passion of my Needle) for their storage solutions.