'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Saturday 28 June 2014

Back to Basics

After last week's maundering, back to needlework - although none of it is very exciting. 

There's a sock and a half. I'm expecting to get a bit further up the other leg during 'Inspector Montalbano' tonight. Or, as I think of it, 'Midsomer Murders with Mafiosi'. They are supposed to be wellie socks but it's been so cold here I may end up waering them around the house.

There are three little books. (One of them is stitched, so it's needlework.) I had to miss the practical session of Visual Marks the other week, but yesterday I got round to the challenge, which was to make a concertina book with pockets. Making little books is like eating Pringles, so I recycled some brown paper and made three. They all have pockets, just that some of them are more secretive than others.

And, returning to the subject of organisation, I invested in a new sewing basket. I'm not a fan of those fancy ones with flaps and compartments, and for a while I've been using a small shopping basket, which I think came as a gift with tea and biscuits in it. But it really was too small, and kept tipping over, so Google came to the rescue and I bought a bigger one.

Life is never simple. I hadn't realised quite how big it was. Things were going to get lost in the bottom. I decided to make a lining, with pockets, to keep the contents under control. There must be some suitable fabric in my stash...

Life is never simple. I realised I was going to need quite a big piece of fabric, but most of my bigger pieces were too big - dress or skirt lengths, which I am keeping in case I decide I want to dressmake again, unlikely as that is. If they weren't too big they were the wrong colour - too bright, too hand dyed or too dark - the wrong weight - too thick or too thin. 

I finally found a piece of coarse Broderie Anglaise I'd bought because it was cheap but never used because it looked it. But life is never simple. It was white and just didn't look right. I really wanted a nice light blue. Fortunately, it's cotton, so I bought some dye. 

That was the easy bit. Life is never simple, but I'll spare you all the tribulations of actually making the lining, nor will I show you close-ups of the stitching. After frequent unpicking, muttering and cursing, it is finished. And I am amazed how much I can get into it, including the varied notebooks I wittered on about last week and. those essential needlework tools, pliers and a screw driver, and it still looks half empty. I could undoubtedly get my hammer in there too, but I think that might be a step too far.

Life is never simple. I like my sewing accessories to match, and the bits and bobs I'd made for the smaller basket didn't go with the pale blue - you can see in the photo that that orange needle boob cushion has got to go. (I wonder if I can find a blue handled screw driver?)

The little plastic canvas box for oddments I made years ago was the wrong colour, and it had never been big enough, and making another one would use up most of my stash of plastic canvas and several hanks of my vintage tapestry wool, and this year is all about using up stash... 

So, I have made a bigger box, which you can see in the photo, and I'm working on a sort of matching (because I used up most of the lighter blue tapestry wool on the box) plastic canvas needle book, which may or may not replace the orange needle boob.

Procrastinating about getting back to my tree knitting? Me?

Saturday 21 June 2014

On organisation: more than you wanted to know. Probably.

I was reading my last ever subscription copy of Quilting Arts a couple of days ago. (It and I seem to be moving in opposite directions these days - one of us likes representational, naturalistic art quilts, and one of us doesn't much. If you feel the same, I recommend 'Fiber Art Now' which is much more wide ranging and goes from strength to strength.)

But I digress. When I first glanced at QA, I found one interesting article - on Melinda Lin's organza pieces - but then I realised that Lynn Krawzyck's item, which is superficially about making a little pouch, contains some good suggestions about organisation. She distinguishes between two types of creative ideas, which she calls 'Fun' and 'Big Goals': she says fun ideas are necessary to stretch our creativity, but big goals are the more involved, artistically important, and goal oriented ideas. She gives criteria for picking your big goals, and describes how she uses index cards to break down big goals into smaller steps, and prioritise organise, and monitor the steps.

For some reason I can't remember, I have a lot of small pink index cards (plus a few blue ones). I had been thinking of using them for ICAD, but they are really too small and too pink. Krawzyck's idea seemed a better use, especially as I will need to be more focussed when I become a university student again.

Krawzyck uses pouches to hold her cards, but I remembered seeing an index card 'book' - you can guess the rest. Some scrap card, a recycled painting, Bondaweb, double sided tape, some elastic and two book rings, and I have two books. The worst bit was punching the holes, and I was very relieved when I realised I didn't have to do them all at once.

While I was making the books I was pondering on my love of organisational techniques - nicking adapting other people's, and developing my own. And now, for my benefit (clarifying my ideas) more than yours, you are going to suffer a diatribe on the subject, so you may wish to switch off now, or at least scroll down to this week's obligatory textile content.*

I am not always organised, but I can be if I need to be. I had to be at work - young people's progress, and part of the college's finances depended on it. I was reliant on other people keeping good records, so I had to develop systems that were simple for others to use, and which allowed me, and others, to extract the relevant information easily. Other people, including auditors, told me I succeeded.

One of the things I learned at work was that if something isn't staring them in the face, preferably leaping out and biting them, people will miss it. (Like the auditor who told me that a student's assessment record was missing, when the top piece of paper in the file was headed 'Assessment Record'. It wasn't the type we usually used, so he missed it.)

When I started the Foundation Degree, on a couple of occasions I lost marks because the marker thought I hadn't done something when I had. I got all bureaucratic and made some forms, to record things like time management and planning. I don't suppose anyone ever read them through, but they were bright green, clearly labelled and collated, so they were hard to miss, and my marks improved. Plus I knew where I was with my work, and what I needed to do to keep to schedule.

Of course once I finished the FDA I stopped all that, but I still keep records - of ideas, of what I've done, what I could do, and what I want to do, of materials and techniques I've used, etc. etc. etc. For a long time this was mostly scribbled notes in sketchbooks, printouts in folders, and lists on scrappy bits of paper, but it just wasn't organised enough for me. So over the last year or so, long before I thought of going back to Uni, I've begun to try to sort it out.

A few months ago I discovered Bullet Journalling. I don't use it to the extent that its creator seems to - although I might if I was still working. Nor do I use the recommended Moleskin notebooks with squared paper - I did track some down in Paperchase but jibbed at the price. Guess what, I make my own with squared file paper. (The squared paper really is better, I've tried lined and it's not as good.) 

I use the technique in a monthly journal, where I summarise what I've done and what I want to do, in real and textile lives. I use it in two disposable notebooks, substitutes for the scrappy bits of paper. I have one upstairs and one downstairs. In those I record ideas from books, and flashes of inspiration (!). And I also use the technique in themed sketchbooks, where I collate relevant ideas from the notebooks at the back of the sketchbook. Notes on the techniques and materials I've used also go in the sketchbook, on the relevant pages.

The system does involve quite a lot of rewriting, when I transfer uncompleted activities from one month to another, or from the notebooks to the sketchbook, but I like that because it makes me evaluate the ideas or activities and weed out the dross.

I've recently discovered 'Sticky', an iDevice app which sticks virtual Post-It notes in virtual notebooks. I like it because I can make notes when I'm web surfing, when I have my phone, but not my upstairs/downstairs notebooks. I can add hyperlinks, websites, or photos from the Camera Roll, and, I realised this week, I can use the camera phone within the app to add photos direct. I can save notebooks as images, which means I can print them and add them to the sketch book.. I like it so much I paid for an upgrade to allow unlimited notebooks.


I realised that I had folders and scrapbooks full of printouts and images, which I never looked at. Now I save articles to Pocket (where I do occasionally look at them) and images into a digital journal on the desktop (where I don't look at them).

But the gap in this system, which I was unaware of until I came across Lynn Krawcyck's article, was that I didn't have a system for planning and monitoring Works In Progress. Possibly because since I finished the FDA I haven't really had any serious WIPs to plan and monitor.  I do make To Do lists, far too long and on scrappy bits of paper that get lost. (The aforementioned green forms had a space for a To Do list, never longer than three items and carefully monitored.) As I see major WIPs in my future, I also see a need for a structured system for their planning. I have no idea if task management will be on the marking criteria at Uni - I rather suspect not - but, as I think I have made clear, I like having structured organisational methods - plus an excuse reason to make books...

Don't be fooled into thinking that I am one of those people who is completely organised, and lives in a neat and tidy house. I am not. Neither my house nor my workroom is tidy. I have too much stuff in too small a space and although I try to keep it under control, in the throes of creation everything comes out and ends up draped and dropped everywhere. It does get put back again when I've finished - and the next lot comes out. Nor am I so organised that I keep records of what fabrics, yarns and threads I have. That would require a major audit, plus keeping on top of what I import - although recently there has probably been net emigration, rather than immigration, of books and materials from Cheese Acres - a lot has gone to charity shops and the National Needlework Archive at Greenham. I've still got too much though. 

If you are still reading, what do you think? Do you share my need for bureaucracy or do you think I'm completely nuts? Do you have any organisational tips to share?

*Obligatory textile content.

After my last post, I pulled back the too long sock, and started again. It may still look too long, but I have tried it on and it is OK. The ribbing pulls it in, so it looks long and thin, but on my foot it is short and fat. Just like the rest of me, really.

Sunday 15 June 2014

This week has been like the curate's egg...

 parts of it were excellent.

The worst bits were, worst to least worst;

1. Getting a (fortunately mild and brief) stomach bug.

2. This sock - designed to fill out and warm up my recently acquired yellow wellies, but too long in the foot. I think this wool is a bit of my hand dyeing - whoever did it, the dye comes off on my hands. Hope it will be better when washed.

3. The book of the week - a roughly similar design to last week's, but involving duck tape rather than gummed brown paper. Duck tape is very good at sticking to things - fingers, scissors, itself... This, plus the slightly different design and my innate clumsiness, produced a less than satisfactory outcome, somewhat rectified by neatening it drastically with a Stanley knife.

The good, but exhausting, part of the week was extra grandparenting duties. Fun, but hard work. Which meant that my 5 hours a night, insomnia busting, sleep deprivation only happened on a couple of nights. Believe me, I have not been insomniac this week.

The excellent bit was also the scariest. Ever since I finished the Foundation Degree, I've been thinking about trying to convert it into a full honours degree. My fellow FDA graduate, C, mentioned that she had applied to Chichester University to do the third year of their BA in Fine Art. My first reaction was that I couldn't possibly do that, but the more I thought about it, the better idea it seemed.

So, I applied, I had an interview on Tuesday, and I was lucky enough to be offered a place. It's part time, so it will take two years, but won't interfere with the grandparenting. Of course, now I'm torn between excited anticipation and sheer terror... Me, an art student? 

To finish off the day, on the way back from Chichester we went into Uppark, (I'm ashamed to say we've never been before) to get some lunch, and discovered there was an exhibition of contemporary art in the house. So we ate sandwiches in the sunshine, then admired the art and the house and came home. Another night when insomnia did not strike!

Sunday 8 June 2014

Things of the week

Book of the week - a work in progress, when I've decided what to do with it. I'm torn between trees and shoes. The inspiring tutorial is here

Note to self (again): measure twice, cut once. On the other hand, the brown paper tape idea worked well, even in my clumsy hands.

Knitting of the week(s) - also works in progress. I have been playing around with adding stitch to some of them, and knitted a few more. Both the tall one  and the inky one are knitted in 2ply, but one was felted following N's advice and one wasn't. I still like the texture of the inky one, but if you want tall things to stand up you've got to felt them harder.

Double entendre? What double entendre?

The Oddjob hat is short because getting it that tall took all the super-bulky I had. No idea why the photo has come out yellow, they are  the same colour as all the other and photographed at the same time.

Squirrel of the week. That is a 'squirrel-proof bird feeder' he is feeding from, but as the little guys helped us refill it yesterday, it is just possible that the lid had not been put back properly.

It has now.

Busy week next week, with an extra grandparental day. However I am expecting to have extra time for doing relaxing stuff. I've mentioned my insomnia on this blog - I've been living with it for about 30 years but just after Christmas it got much worse, so when I spotted a poster about insomnia counselling in the doctors' surgery I followed it up. 

I've found it quite helpful so far - well structured and with a sound psychological basis, as far as this long retired psychologist can tell! I have started a sleep diary, and as a result of the challenging maths involved in that (well, challenging if you are sleep-deprived and don't do spread sheets) I have been advised to restrict my time in bed to 5 hours a night! Asleep or awake. So I stay up till 1a.m, get up at 6, and do relaxing things before bed - knitting or embroidery are fine, but no computer games. :(

As a result, I'm knackered (no daytime napping allowed, not that I ever did before starting this), and finding it difficult to wake up in the mornings - but I do seem to be falling asleep reasonably quickly. And I get so much done when I get up at 6 - some of which is worth doing!