12 Days of Design Challenge

12 Days of Design Spoonchallenge

Hello hello, I’ve been ill ever since Wednesday last week and yesterday was the first productive day again. Feels great to be back :) Hope things have been going better at your end!

To my excitement, I read yesterday that Spoonflower is arranging a challenge called 12 Days of Design starting on 1 December and anyone can sign up to learn how to design fabric from idea to final product. Click on the link for more information on their blog.

You probably guess from the huge picture above that I signed up to receive these emails. I’ve been looking at fabrics for quite some time now and feel there is a distinct gap to fill in the tone-on-tone section of a fabric stash, so I’m hoping to design something within this category.

Speaking of Spoonflower, in case someone’s curiosity has been awakened, yes, I do have a profile there. It’s still totally newbie and needs to be streamlined with this blog. All of that is cooking behind the scenes right now, I can assure you.

Are you harbouring secret dreams of becoming a fabric designer one day? If yes, join me and we can share the experience! I’m sure it will be both fun and educational :)

Updating Pages

Flickr justinroy - The sun and its flowers 640

Flickr justinroy

Hello and happy Monday to you! I’ve been cleaning up the Pages structure a bit and thought I’d let you know what’s in the making.

The About page includes a blurb about me as well as links to where I am to be found in the social media, not only as NWF but Solsken Design, too (website with shop and blog). I don’t like overlap, so you might find useful things on those accounts as well.

I’ve added a Contact section with a contact form page and a page for the media kit that I’ve just started working on.

My projects got their own section. This includes works in progress, finished projects, and projects that are in the queue right now.

You can find tips on how to organise your craft room and your calendar in the Organising section.

Once I’ve written patterns to publish, I’ll make a page for those, too. In the meantime, I’m pondering how to best present all these, including tutorials that I’ll write.

I hope you think of these changes as improvements and enjoy them!

In case you’re wondering what is up with the sunflowers, I can tell you that the length of the day is shorter than eight hours here now and we rarely see the sun, so it has to be artificially added in one way or the other :)

Placemats have backings

NWF Placemat backings 2014-11-12

My placemats have been in the making for quite some time, partly due to not having had a walking foot until late last year, and then stuff sort of happened, just like it does. Today I’ve dug out a piece of a flat sheet for a bed and cut it up. The size was perfect for this project and the colour fits quite nicely, too, don’t you think?

While it looks like there’s enough material for only one placemat, I cut and pressed all six backings. Honest :) The kitchen table, which you’ve been introduced to already, is white and obviously you won’t see the un-bleached cotton once the placemats are in use, but it’s nice to know that top and bottom suit one another. I’m silly like that.

Another thing that is clear to me today is the reason for my saving just about any piece of fabric one can think of. When I’m still learning new techniques, I don’t want to use the precious materials, but repurposed bedlinen or an old curtain will do perfectly. I’d love to bind these like quilts, but there’s so much in my inherited hoard that I’ll make a dent in the section of the brown, beige, and black bias tapes.

What else has been going on? I finished the Sound Wave block for the Skill Builder BOM 2013 quilt on Monday, but will make the Magnum block before writing a post. There will be another post about the quilt-as-you-go free-motion quilting phase, too, so I want to keep the amount of individual posts to a minimum.

Anyway, it’s been a long day and I’m not up for cutting the batting anymore, so that will be covered when I have something quilted to show. Happy Hump Day!

Spray starch made at home

NWF Homemade starch 2014-11-10

Spray starch is a new thing for me and it isn’t readily available here in Finland either, so it was with joy that I stumbled upon a tutorial by Kati of from the blue chair how to make it at home. Since she uses American volumes, I’ve adapted the recipe to the metric system:

  • 1-2 tablespoons or 15-30 ml corn starch, often sold as Maizena
  • 500 ml water

I have omitted the essential oil, but a drop or two should be fine if you like this addition. As you can see from the photo, corn starch clumps easily, so don’t pour too much at once into the funnel.

The more starch you add, the stiffer the fabric will become, and the original recipe is with 1-2 tablespoons per 1 pint (473 ml), so 15 ml corn starch might not be enough in your opinion. Start with less and add as you go.

As Kati said, test it on scraps first. Isn’t it great how something so basic can be made at home in no time and in such an inexpensive way, too?

And how does one use spray starch, one might wonder? Alyssa of Pile O’ Fabric has a great tutorial with Youtube videos included. She covers everything you can think of, from amount of starch to iron settings to how to move the iron (pressing or ironing).

What is your experience with spray starch? Do you make it yourself? If you don’t, would you consider making it based on this information?

Ponderings from a kitchen table

NWF Kitchen table sewing studio

You know, things aren’t always optimal in life. My kitchen table is a small and modest thing (see how almost all of it fits into the photograph), but it has four legs and a functional tabletop. It is rectangular, which allows me to keep both cutting mat and sewing machine on it simultaneously. And my pressing station (doesn’t it sound fancy?) is in the corner of the L-shaped kitchen, when I place my pressing board on the countertop in the only available place.

My craft stuff is stored in a walk-in closet and if I want to avoid visual chaos, I need to be extremely mindful of how, when, and what I make. Everything needs to have its own storage box and I can’t work on more than one project at a time unless I want a whole studio apartment upside down.

Not all of us are blessed with houses with extra rooms to make into gorgeous craft rooms. What I have, though, are mad organising skills and I know where I have almost anything you can wish for. My fabrics are in colour order, and tools and notions have their designated spaces. If I want to create something, it has to happen on a total of a few square metres, including storage space, which have multiple functions constantly.

I’d love to have one of those spacious and light-filled rooms with candy-coloured walls and pretty stuff everywhere, but when push comes to shove, I do enjoy the restrictions a great deal right now. It’s almost like a challenge; can I make it work within the narrow limits that are my everyday life currently? Of course I can!

So this evening I’ve sorted through my WIP box and located some projects. There are four on the table currently, which translates to three too many. Next up is the Sound Wave block for the Skill Builder 2013 quilt, because it’s almost completely cut and I need a small project to get started on again. I watched some of the tutorial videos by Alyssa on Youtube and am ready to start sewing tomorrow.

Speaking of Alyssa, there’s yet another small project in my near future. I have this notebook for sketching and today I found out why I bought it a while ago. Alyssa talks about practicing free-motion quilting through doodling and that’s what I’ll use it for. The cover is ugly and in sore need of some fabric to cheer it up, so once my journal cover is done, I’ll be a pro practically :)

Do you have space restrictions of some kind that you need to work with when crafting? I already flaunted those mad organising skills, so please drop a line if you’re in need of inspiration to work a mess out.

November 2014 Projects – Challenge

Flickr doug88888 - Flower sparkle

Flickr doug88888

It’s been a while since my previous monthly challenge post and because it’s a new month, the timing is perfect for one to appear again. In November, I would love to get my projects moving in the following ways.

I would like to finish the following projects:

  • Journal cover – Deadline 30.11.
  • Pin cushion – Deadline 30.11. (provided I find the filling I have in mind)
  • Placemats – Deadline 30.11.
  • Zabuton - Deadline 30.11.

These projects I’d like to make progress on in the following way:

  • breathe quilt – Cut top, back, and batting, baste, draw letters, start quilting
  • Mug rug for Scandibee swap – Once inspiration mosaic is available, see whether pattern I have in mind is suitable, and pick fabrics, start working on it (since it is a secret project, there won’t be photos but until after the recipient has her hands on it)
  • Skill Builder 2013 quilt – Make the Sound Wave and Magnum blocks
  • Teapot cover – Finish pattern
  • Zafu – Investigate filling options

It’s interesting how projects can get stalled due to yak shaving. In this instance I’m thinking of the journal cover with a foundation paper pieced block on its front. I have extra fine pins for quilting, but lo and behold, the glass tip creates such a wobbly surface to press over that I had to buy pins with flat heads. That took some time due to my budget being restricted and once the pins finally arrived, I had other things going on in my life.

It is November after all and it might also be a good idea to ponder possible holiday gifts. I’ll see what will become of that, but suffice to say they would be on a small scale such as a quickly sewn pillow or a pencil case.

Do you plan your projects like this? Has it been helpful? Have you found a balance regarding the amount of projects that are realistic to hope to get done?

Vertical stranding, oh my!

Would you just look at these simple but stunning vertical lines across your knitting project!?

I receive the weekly review newsletter from Knitting Daily, Interweave, and a photo of the blue-grey swatch with four lines across it caught my eye. There’s a blog article Learn Something New: Vertical Stranding to go with the video and while it is a sneak peek of a workshop, I thought I’d post it. Even I could do this and it’s huge bang for the buck, wouldn’t you say?

Fabric palette #8

NinaWithFreckles - Hawthorn Threads palette 8

It’s been quite some time since my last fabric palette, so here’s one in blues and greens. This time I’m featuring some fabrics from Hawthorne Threads.

Fabrics in the palette:

  1. Calico in Forest by dear Stella.
  2. Confetti Dots in Mint by dear Stella.
  3. Botanics, Line Scratch in Blue by Carolyn Friedlander for Robert Kaufman.
  4. Oh Clementine, Crosshatch in Sky by Allison Harris for Windham Fabrics.
  5. Sunday Morning, Mosaic in Green by dear Stella.
  6. Painter’s Canvas in Green Tea by Laura Gunn for Michael Miller Fabrics.
  7. Oval Elements in Vintage Blue by Pat Bravo for Art Gallery Fabrics.
  8. Color Weave in Soft Light Green by P & B Textiles.
  9. Mika, Orb in Turquoise by dear Stella.

Next time I think something more in the season is in order, but this was such a bright palette to make. Enjoy!

My Bullet Journal – A tweaked version to fit GTD

NWF Bullet Journal 1 2014-10-28

While I seriously love getting rid of paper clutter, my attempts at going digital in managing my projects have been a struggle. There are many good aspects to having things syncronised across devices, available as backups, and also editing entered information is a breeze. What has made it less successful is the lack of overview in a sense, as there’s nothing one can flick through like when using a calendar in book format.

I also seem to remember things better when I write them down and an acquaintance in the U.S., who recently went back to university as a mature student, tells me they have banned electronic devices during lectures, because research shows that people learn better when they have to write by hand. I fully believe this, but I also recognise that there can be circumstances, which make paper very inconvenient as a tool, so in the end it can be quite a balance to strike.

A little over a month ago, the balance tipped over to my going back to a paper calendar. Then I recalled an intriguing concept that a friend of mine had found online whilst on her own quest to find (hopefully)  the holy grail of organising, just like I’ve been for so long (hi SK :) ). Enter Bullet Journal.

On my first glance at the system I dismissed it immediately as not being Getting Things Done friendly at all. I also found it problematic that there was no calendar “built-in”, because it isn’t unusual for me to want to enter information on dates far in the future.

In September, however, I looked at it again with a magnifying glass and realised its huge potential. One simply has to tweak it to one’s liking! Which is what I did :) You’ve been warned, there are lots of photos coming up, but it’s such a unique solution that someone used to GTD might benefit from it.

At first I do need to declare my eternal love for Moleskine and it makes my heart sing to use a notebook of theirs again. Oh, and I need to schedule regular photograph takings of the book, should things go down the drain really badly.

Let’s take a look at my Bullet Journal. Its covers are hard and the size is 13 x 21 cm (5 x 8.25 inches). I’ve read some comments online about the paper being thinner now and it seems right. About a decade ago I used a black pen of the kind that I still prefer, but I can’t recall text being as visible on the other side of a page. This is the only minus I have to say.

NWF Bullet Journal 2 2014-10-28

I was contemplating blank pages for a short while, but decided against it. I already have a ruled notebook as a diary, but the space between lines is slightly too large to my taste for this purpose. The grid structure of the squared version is perfect in my opinion.

The Index is a core part of the system, so I’ve kept it but tweaked it. As you can see the months are already plotted out with page numbers. I also don’t like at all the mess of having everything in a list when one might as well group according to context. So far there are months and yearly calendars, but I’ll add my project management contexts later this year once I’ve found my rhythm:

NWF Bullet Journal 3 2014-10-28

I added a second page for Index, because I have a hunch I might need it. The eight limbs of yoga are nice to have at hand:

NWF Bullet Journal 4 2014-10-28

Next up are the yearly calendars for 2014 and 2015 (because this one goes from October 2014 to December 2015). You might recognise them as screenshots made on the iPad. I printed them and think I didn’t have to resize them at all to have them fit on these pages:

NWF Bullet Journal 5 2014-10-28

NWF Bullet Journal 6 2014-10-28

Next up are important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries and other yearly recurring festivities:

NWF Bullet Journal 7 2014-10-28

Here’s the first touch of GTD waltzing in, the Inbox. I’ve dedicated four pages for this purpose and to find the section quickly, I’ve wrapped the corner in washi tape, which suits the black style. The purpose is to have a place whilst on-the-go where I can quickly scribble something without having to think too much nor flick through pages, like the notes and other signifiers of Bullet Journal:

NWF Bullet Journal 8 2014-10-28

I’ve already set up a huge bunch of weekly and monthly recurring day-specific actions (cleaning, bill payment, etc.) in iCal and refuse to type those over and over. Since I want a calendar to record something in advance and to see the overview, I’ve printed a pdf from iCal and resized it to 85% (A4 sized paper). That number I’ve then scribbled in the corner of the folded side (you might see it faintly), because time savers such as that is efficient.

So, fold paper in half, use glue on a strip to avoid wobbly paper wet from stick glue, and attach. This is the start of a monthly section, October in this case:

NWF Bullet Journal 10 2014-10-28

I have yet to print the November calendar and put it in place, but next to it is a grid for habit tracking. When the calendar is fully folded out, the whole dotted grid will be hidden, and I didn’t want to glue the paper onto both sides, because it will not fit perfectly ever, so instead I’m putting the empty page underneath to good use. I’ve listed stuff such as sleep, meditation, nutrition, movement, wellness, and more. Once I’ve done something, I draw a tiny bullet in the corresponding coordinate:

NWF Bullet Journal 11 2014-10-28

Next up is a monthly meal plan (I draw a star next to a date to indicate that something needs to be moved from the freezer to be defrosted in the fridge over night) and a blog planner, both 6×6 squares. It’s great for my perfectionism to show when I mess up, too, so here goes, with a 3-turned-heart in the Notes column:

NWF Bullet Journal 12 2014-10-28

NWF Bullet Journal 13 2014-10-28

Something wasn’t quite right in October, but it finally hit me the other day that I need to define what goes where. Time-specific actions go into the calendar at all times, since I don’t have that many “appointments” currently. Day-specific actions also go in the calendar when I know today that I need to do a particular task next week on Tuesday, because I do follow the Bullet Journal system in how I write day-specific actions on a given day for that particular day, like a traditional “to-do list for today”:

NWF Bullet Journal 9 2014-10-28

The only signifier I use is a circle, which represents a task. I like drawing circles and dislike drawing squares, plus a circle uses less colour to fill.

  • Once it is done, I fill it out to a solid black bullet, or dot if you like.
  • If it is cancelled completely, I don’t want to strike out the task text to make it less readable, so instead I draw an x through the circle.
  • If I postpone, I draw an arrow through the middle of the circle to the right (indicating into the future). Once the task is done, I add the weekday in the margin. You might see FR and LÖ for fredag, Friday, and lördag, Saturday. If it’s a day much later, there will be the full date such as 5.11. for 5 November.
  • In the calendar I sometimes also draw an arrow to the left to indicate that I already did something prior to that day. The same day or date system is in use as when postponed. In particular in bill payment, this might come in handy one day.

To keep track of delegated stuff, Waiting, I’ve decided to type W next to the dot in the margin. The margin is surprisingly powerful and informative visually, so I highly recommend creating one.

During this first month of testing the system, I’ve also found out that my project management section in the back of the notebook needs support on monthly level. In the back, I’ve divided projects according to five life contexts (will talk more in a bit), but not all are active at all times, so now, right after the blog planner, I’ve added for November a Project page where I’ll list in five groups their on-going projects and sub-projects.

I also realised I need to decide what to do about Next Actions that come to mind whenever, but which are in no way day- or time-specific, but simply tasks to do whenever there’s time. This is due to my plotting slightly too often things onto days, when they truly weren’t day-specific. I’ve ended up with postponed signifiers here and there, when they weren’t necessary to get done that day.

An example could be a blog post that I want to write, but if I’m to publish it on Sunday, it doesn’t matter whether I write it on Saturday or Wednesday, prior to scheduling it for Sunday. Next Actions got their own page, too, and that’s where “Write Sunday’s blog post on XYZ topic” will go from now on:

NWF Bullet Journal 14 2014-10-28

Next up, new for November, are the day-specific actions written on the same day in visually traditional Bullet Journal style, like in the thin photo of the margin above. I’ve already written Saturday 1 November with a first circle drawn for whatever task will get done that day:

NWF Bullet Journal 15 2014-10-28

And so it continues until December 2015, after which the “task section” will end with a 2016 calendar looking like the ones for 2014 and 2015. Then the fun begins, my project management section, easily found with a washi tape bookmark like earlier. Simply cut a piece and fold it in the middle to cover equally on both sides of the page. I’ve done the same five more times for the life areas I’ll discuss below.

NWF Bullet Journal 17 2014-10-28

The project management section starts with a list of five goals (private, haven’t entered them yet), but I’ll show the areas, each of which is tied to one of those goals. Personal balance is health and leisure, then there’s school/academia, then home, work, and last but not least family and friends. I’ve listed the SMART criteria for goals  at the bottom and written a great quote: “Saying “yes” to too many things becomes saying “no” to your priorities.”

NWF Bullet Journal 16 2014-10-28

On the page next to the goals is a broad overview of the areas within which I have scope outlined. It’s basically about breaking down something into logical entities within which you might want to make something happen.

The Home area is neutral enough for me to share, so the project areas I’m thinking of are cooking, cleaning (including laundry and textile care), organising (including bureaucratic stuff and such), interior decoration, and fixing stuff (maintenance as well as mending what’s broken). Parties are between Home and Friends & Family in a sense. Some scope/projects are about recurring tasks (weekly, monthly, half-yearly and yearly actions) whereas others are unique, maybe decluttering something permanently or sewing curtains for the living room.

The back cover includes a pocket into which I’ve tucked some pieces of paper, should I have to write something to give to someone else, or a shopping list maybe. That’s another thing I scratched from the signifiers; too messy to scan back and forth when you want a list to hold in your hand whilst walking around the store. Currently I’m still tweaking things a bit so the post-its come in handy when drafting new pages and so on. The pen holder is Leuchtturm1917 and from Amazon for a few pounds:

NWF Bullet Journal 18 2014-10-28

I had a heureka moment the other day when I thought of putting the elastic around the back cover rather than have it flap in every direction and possibly attach to the wrong things whilst in the wild. It’s the simple things, I’m telling you…

And since this is a place for crafts people, a final photograph especially for you to show how I keep an overview of projects with this system. Its home is in the Personal balance / Leisure section and it looks like this:

NWF Bullet Journal 19 2014-10-28

Up in the left corner there’s the category (Fabrics = P&Q or Sewing, Yarn = Embroidery or Knitting, and Other), the Project name, the dates (start and end), and, since there was enough room, also a broken-down division of P&Q into large quilts, small quilts, and small projects.

I have quite a list, but lots are nearly done at this point, so all is good. And apparently Cheryl Arkison has an astronomical number of works-in-progress so all truly is well as long as we enjoy ourselves. Right?

So, thoughts? Comments? Questions? I’m really, really happy about being back at pen and paper, and have been immensely productive ever since the beginning of the month. It’s incredibly satisfying to fill those small circles and I feel much more in control of everything already, even when I’m still finding notes of random scribbles here and there in the apartment.

I’d be glad to help you get started with your own Bullet Journal, if this seems like something for you, and remember, I’ve tweaked it quite a bit due to my GTD background, but what you see in the Youtube video can be just as great for you, as long as it works and is the tool you need.

Or you might tweak it in a completely new way to fit the unique life you lead. I find that while printables are fantastic, they rarely fulfill all my needs, so creating my own system really is the best.

breathe quilt letters are done

NWF breathe quilt letters 2014-10-27

My breathe quilt came to a halt for months for various reasons, but last night when yours truly was sleepless (I made a typo and wrote it with an h in place of the l; works quite nicely too to my astonishment), the letters were written using Eau Sans Black as planned. I filled an A4 page (like US letter size) in landscape format and printed it out. It looked like the picture on the left above.

Then a total brain fart happened. I frequently cut A4 copy paper into A5 with a metal ruler and scalpel, so since they are the usual tools, I grabbed them this time as well. Freehand scalpel cutting isn’t my thing, because for the life of me I can’t make it go straight. Add bad lighting and and an overly tired body as an extension of the scalpel, and you have a really bad mix. Half the letters were cut before I had that heureka moment we all were waiting for… Why not use a scissors? Good question. Once the penny had dropped, it was a breeze and the letters looked much nicer as a bonus. I never cease to impress myself in the dork department, though, and at least I know intricate paper crafting isn’t for me. At all.

The result is as nice as I had hoped for (minus the bad lighting of the photo on the right) and the next step in this process is to locate the white fabric, the batting, and the white backing. I’ll use up some inherited white thread in the process, which is even more pleasing as I’m really excited about the prospect of being able to buy some Aurifil for the first time.

NWF Modern Patchwork 2013-W screenshot

Screenshot of Urban Ombré wall quilt pattern

Yesterday I happened to flick through the Winter 2013 issue of Modern Patchwork and saw the Urban Ombrés wall quilt by Christine Barnes. I can’t figure out the construction technique because binding isn’t mentioned anywhere and the wide outermost strip seems to be a border. Regardless of the confusion, I have bookmarked a tutorial on how to tackle wider bindings by Lady Harvatine and am confident it’ll be a breeze.

Also, if you’re a frequent maker of quilts intended to hang on a wall, Rachel of Stitched in Color has an excellent tutorial on how to hang a mini quilt, which includes sewing a pocket for a dowel in place either prior to or after sewing the binding on.

I’m all set to make this mini quilt happen! Do you enjoy making these smaller types of quilts? They seem to be quite popular in swaps currently.