Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day


This will be my last post on this blog and it seems fitting that it’s a “here’s what I learned” post, given that the blog was started in 2012 to chronicle my quest to learn something new every day. If you follow me on my other blog, A Diva Moment, you’ll have read the news about my recent breast cancer diagnosis. As a result of the diagnosis, I am looking to simplify my life. While I have enjoyed blogging here for two years, the first year filled with learning and this past year filled with my quest to have a more organized house, keeping up two blogs isn’t really going to be practical. I will be keeping up my other blog which is where I am keeping friends and family updated on the cancer and its treatment. If you’d like to keep following me, please hop on over there and subscribe.

So this project started at the beginning of September when I decided I wanted to make another mei tai baby carrier for The Little Boss. I’ve made soooo many mei tais in the past 6 years, I was kinda getting bored with the same ol’ same ol’. To change things up, I decided to try my hand at dyeing fabric using natural dyes. I spent about a month collecting all sorts of scraps from the kitchen: onion peels, watermelon rinds, carrot peels, beet greens, celery greens. Pretty much, anything that had color, I stuck it in the color-coded bag and dumped it in the freezer.

Once I had enough raw materials, I set out to make the “dye stuff”. You have to have a ratio of 1:2 of dye stuff to water. So I had about 4 oz of red onion skins, which means I added roughly 8 ounces of water to a pot. Sometimes I had to add more water so that the raw materials were covered by water. Once covered by water, I turned on the burner, brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer for about an hour. At one point, I had all five burners going with dye stuff.

getting the dye stuff ready

I was quite surprised at some of the colors that I got. Regular onion skins produced a very orangish color. Watermelon rinds produced nothing but a major stink! Sweet potatoes were also a giant flop. The red onions, beets and apple peels all made varying shades of pink and red. All of the greens produced a brownish-greenish color. I stored all of the dye in mason jars in the fridge so that they wouldn’t spoil while I got the fabric ready.

Preparing the fabric ended up taking several weeks rather than several days just because I didn’t have as much time as I had anticipated. I was going to be dyeing cotton fabric, which is a plant fiber (as opposed to an animal fiber like wool). Animal fibers accept dye beautifully with no preparation necessary. Plant fibers, on the other hand, need some coaxing in order to be dyed. You have to pre-mordant the fabric, which means you are treating it with something so that it will accept the dye. I chose to use tannin, which is found in acorns. As luck would have it, I happened to be working on this project in the fall, just as the oak trees were shedding acorns like crazy. I initially used the tiny acorns in my yard, but then found another tree in town that was dropping giant acorns that hadn’t yet been picked over by the squirrels. On a very windy day, the babes and I went out gathering acorns. We picked and then shelled 7 pounds of acorns!


In order to get the tannin out of the acorns, you have to boil them and then let them simmer for awhile. I couldn’t find any info on how much water to use, so I just got the biggest pot I had (a 12 qt stock pot), filled it with 2/3 of the acorns and then filled it up with water. The water turned a nice brown color. tannin colored water Theoretically, the acorns still had more tannin in them which could be accessed by boiling them again in water. As such, I bagged them all and dumped them in the freezer for the next dyeing project.

Now that the tannin was ready, I was ready to add my fabric.

Pattern pieces cut, ready to be prepared for dyeing

Pattern pieces cut, ready to be prepared for dyeing

I had the precut pieces for the baby carrier that I had washed in a pH neutral detergent, (at least I think it was pH neutral) and had soaked it in cold water overnight. I removed the fabric from the water and placed it in the cold tannin. This is important. . . you don’t want to shock the fiber by moving it from cold water to hot or vice versa. I brought the pot to a simmer, then let it simmer for about an hour, at which point I turned off the flame and allowed the fiber to cool down in the water. tannin soaked fibre The fiber was removed and washed by hand in the pH neutral soap, then I dumped it into a bowl of cool water while I prepared the next mordant: alum.

Why alum? Well, the tannin helps to prepare the fabric, while the alum helps to make sure the fabric will really accept the dye, thus giving you a more vivid color. The process with the alum was similar to that with the tannin. For 4 ounces of fiber, I used:

4t (20% of the fiber weight) of alum
1 ½ t (6% of the fiber weight) of washing soda
just enough water to cover up the fiber

Again, I brought the water up to a simmer then turned off the heat and let it steep for about 8 hours. The fiber was then rinsed and washed, and mordanted again with alum, rinsed, washed and then hung out to dry.

At this point, the fiber was ready to by dyed . . . finally, the fun could begin. I really had no idea how the colors were going to turn out. Just because the dye looked red, didn’t mean that’s what the final color would look like. I had a very hard time with red dyes, actually. NONE of the dyes I had took well at all. The fabric would look nice and pink, and then when I rinsed it, the color would rinse right out.

Apple dye that didn't take

Apple dye that didn’t take

I even tried heat setting the color by throwing the fabric in the dryer immediately after removing it from the dye pot. . . . .still, no luck. Even the beets yielded nothing! Weird, right? So I had to abandon my idea of red.

The actually dyeing of the fiber was quite similar to the pre-mordanting. The ratio of dye to fiber is 1:1. Again, placing the already soaking fiber in the dye when it was cool, bringing it up to a boil, then letting it simmer for an hour and letting it cool down in the pot overnight.

I did use two more dyes that didn’t come from kitchen scraps: black beans and tumeric. For the black beans, I just saved the water from soaking the beans overnight prior to cooking them. It was kind of a purple-ish color. For the tumeric, I used 2 oz of dried tumeric for every 4 oz of fiber, then added a bunch of water. Wow! That was STRONG smelling, but the color turned out gorgeous!

The final thing that I learned to do was to dye 3 different colors on one piece. It was actually not too hard. I just strung a clothes hanger over the pot, clipped the fabric that was not to be dyed onto the hanger using clothes pins, and let the appropriate amount of fabric dip into the dye. tumeric dye All in all, I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Top to bottom:  onion peel dye, tannin, tumeric dye

Top to bottom: onion peel dye, tannin, tumeric dye

Here are a few pictures of the meitai. I’m totally in love with how this turned out. Not only is it crazy comfortable, the Little Boss likes it and the colors are just what I had in mind. I was going for something fall-like, and I think it worked.

(Shown with a 5 year old (hood down) on the left and a 1 year old (hood up) on the right.)

The two sides of the body dyed slightly differently

The two sides of the body dyed slightly differently

Working on this dyeing project was really fun. Now I’m thinking about other things that I could dye. I’m planning on gathering plant materials in the spring to see how those differ from the food materials. Our yard has a gazillion flowers in it. From April through August, there is always something blooming. I’m thinking that many of the flowers would produce really amazing colors. I’m also planning on trying to use the solar oven again. It sort of flopped because the sun was just lower in the sky by the time I got it built. But, this summer, the babes and I plan on doing all sorts of fun experiments, dyeing included, in the oven!

And thus concludes my final post on this blog. Thank you all for coming along with me on my educational journey. I have learned all sorts of fun, interesting and sometimes useless bits of info, and my house is now much more organized that before. All in all, a winning situation.

The final tally for the organizing:

Total time: 92 hours
Total cost: $200

Blessings to you all!


The final organization

I have no idea why a centrally located desk/office area is called a command center. I think it’s sort of silly. It makes me want to don my superhero cape, punch my fist in the air and yell, “To the command center!” I mean, really, it’s not like I’m in charge of rocket launches or anything. I’m running a household, not an army base! But, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, I guess. So, command center it is!

It’s taken me over two years to get my command center to a place of complete organization. Now that it’s finished, I couldn’t be happier. It started back in November of 2011 when I made little boxes to organize all of the detritus on my desk. Then we moved to a new house and the little boxes ended up inside the desk,


Little by little, I added elements to the command center. I started with repainting the desk.

command center desk after

You’ll notice in the first picture that the boxes don’t match the desk at all. I wasn’t about to redo all of the boxes to match the new desk colors. I guess my perfectionist tendencies are slipping a bit! 😉

Next came a series of boards: a schedule board,
new schedule

a memo board,
memo board closeup

and a recipe board.
Menu board

The schedule board is basically now defunct. It ended up that I was the only person making an effort to be on a schedule, so I gave up. Actually, I got miffed one morning, erased everything on the board and scrawled “Whatever the heck you want!” across the board. Admittedly, that wasn’t exactly my finest hour! We still aren’t using the schedule board, but for some reason, I haven’t taken it down. I’m probably hoping that someday we’ll have use for it! =)

Next came the hanging file folders, which have been the best addition, aside from the little organizational boxes.
file hangers

The final organization was to organize the little bits of randomness that were in one of the corners of my desk. These little boxes from The Dollar Tree fit the bill.
little desk boxes

And the finished product.
command center

I just noticed there is one more thing I didn’t mention: my desk chair. I painted the metal parts to match the desk. I forgot until just his moment that I wanted to re-upholster the chair. Hmmm . . . guess that won’t be happening!

All in all, I’m very pleased with how the command center came together. Having everything in one organized place has made it easier to run the household. When chaos is reigning supreme, I can count on knowing what’s for dinner, what groceries need to be bought, and what bills need to be paid, among other things. It’s a lovely feeling!

Total time: 10 minutes
Total cost: $3

Hanging file folders

The final piece of my desk reorganization is finally finished. It wasn’t a particularly difficult project, but it just so happened that other projects and things kept pushing this one to the back burner. My goal was to get almost everything off of my desk save for my computer, of course, and a few decorative items. I also wanted to create a system so that people wouldn’t just dump things on my desk. When the mail would come in, “Go put it on my desk.” When the babes would color a picture for me, “Go put it on mommy’s desk.” Whenever DH had receipts for me to post, “I put the receipts on your desk.” My poor desk was always a disaster!

Enter, hanging file folders. I found this tutorial HERE and thought “Yes! This is exactly what I need.” The only problem with this tute was that I was unable to print the pattern. The website hosting the pattern required that you join and then post a pattern of your own in order to have printing privileges. That seemed like more work than it was worth. So, I just looked at the pattern and reverse engineered it based on the finished measurements.

The next task was to find sturdy cardboard. We have a big stash of cereal boxes, but no way was that cardboard going to be sturdy enough, let alone big enough. As it happened, the next day was recycle pick up day, so I went cruising around the neighborhood in search of boxes. I found a goodly amount of TV and other appliance boxes.

While it was easy to find the cardboard, cutting it was a whole ‘nother story! What a giant pain! Because it was so thick, scissors were definitely not up to the task. Even box cutters were insufficient. Long story short, I ended up with a few blisters, and it took forever and a day, but I got all of the pieces cut. I cut enough to make two sets: one would hold three folders and the other would hold just one folder.

Once the cardboard was cut, I set out to choose the fabric (this is always where the battle is won or lost for me!) and get it cut out. As it turned out, cutting the cardboard was the most difficult, followed closely by choosing the fabric. Putting it all together was actually a snap. It was simply a matter of using spray glue to attach the fabric to the folders and the base and then using a glue gun to secure the back edges of the fabric. I had some assistance from the babes on this part of the project. (I have no idea what it is about glue guns that makes them come running from all over the house . . . . “Me me me me! I wanna help!”)

The final step was to make little labels and label holders for each folder. DH had saved his name badges from various conferences for me, and they came in handy here. I simply cut them to the appropriate size, glued them on, and VOILA . . . .instant label holder. I though about trying to get fancy with the labels and either writing in calligraphy or printing them out. But, let’s be honest, I really didn’t care all that much!

Anyway, I’m really pleased with the final product. No, it’s not perfect. Some of the fabric wasn’t quite the right size and some of the edges look rough, but I’m totally okay with that because my desk is no longer cluttered! Hooray!

(Please excuse the horrid lighting. My desk is basically in the center of the house in a room with one north facing window that has a big tree in front of it. Even on the brightest day, the lighting is horrid!)

folder close-up

In this next pic you can see in the folder to the left that the fabric isn’t perfectly tucked in. But I hardly notice it because my type A personality is too busy noticing and loving all of the little folders for everything! I have no idea why didn’t do this sooner! Ahhhhh! I love organization!

file hangers

Stay tuned for the next post to see how the hanging folders fit in to the rest of the desk organization!

Total Time: 5 hours
Total Cost: $5

Getting sidetracked

Whoa! Has it really almost been a month since my last project was completed! Well, I DID say the next project was a biggie. It’s the final stage of my desk organization, and really, it’s going quite well. Ostensibly, that’s what this post is supposed to be about. Alas, I got sidetracked organizing the school room. So really, this post is about the school room. Although, I could really say that it’s about mice. Yeah, you read that right, mice. Confused yet?

We have alot of little people in our family, and as such, hand-me-downs are a major player in the wardrobe game. In order to not lose my mind, I came up with a system about 3 years ago to organize all of the hand-me-downs. We have 4 dressers and each drawer is labeled. Now that fall is upon us, all I have to do is go to the appropriate drawer (i.e. 3T long-sleeved) and pull out the clothing. I got inspired a week ago to start figuring out what clothing the babes had and what would need to be purchased/sewn. The first thing I pulled out was a really nice Ralph Lauren sweater I had bought at a yard sale. Parts of the sweater looked shredded and I thought, “Oh no! Did this get messed up in the wash and I never noticed?” Then my next thought was, “Shoot! Did an animal eat the sweater?” The drawer was filled with other sweaters and I quickly checked them all. Most of them were fine. There was, however, one that was most certainly not. A hole the size of a large grapefruit had been chewed out. At that point, I knew it was the work of a mouse and I was NOT pleased. Then, panic set in. The next drawer over was filled with all of the recycled wool longies I had made. I opened the drawer and pulled out a pair of pants, and sure enough, a big clump of fluff fell out . . . the mouse had been scavenging materials to make a nest. That wasn’t the only thing I found. My nose was met with an unpleasant odor which caused me to be suspicious of what I would find, which in turn sent me in search of a pair of gloves. Long story short, after going through the drawer, I found that the damage to the pants was minimal and they were all still usable. I also found four, small, dried up and practically mummified baby mice. It was gross and sad all at once. The ruined clothing was all for naught. . . .none of the baby mice made it.

Anyway, so all of the clothing got washed, and then I needed a plan for storing the clothing as I didn’t want a repeat of this in the spring or next fall. Rubbermaid totes to the rescue! Anything that is knit or crocheted now lives happily in a sealed tote.

But what does this have to do with the school room? Right. I’m getting there. The totes are great, but they don’t fit inside the dressers, so I had to find another location for them. Enter, the school room closet. The problem here was that the closet space was a catch all for all of the school supplies. I went into the school room, which also doubles as DH’s office, and this is site that met my eyes.

rick's office b4

I don’t know about you, but I find that I can ignore chaos for a time. Then, suddenly, I’ll see it as if for the first time and I get a bee in my bonnet that says, “Must. clean. this. NOW.” Well, that bee was buzzing overhead. My plan was to:
– find a place to DH’s running clothing
– have a central location for all of the school supplies/books/etc.
– get rid of the unused table in the office
– make space in the closet for the totes
– move the toy library out of the office

This was one of those projects where one project created another and another. But, in the end, I had a nicely organized school room/office, the CD/stereo area in the kitchen got reorganized, and the living room toys got moved around. Anyway, this really wasn’t a complicated project, it just took time moving everything around.

Here’s the after picture of the school room.

rick's office after

What’s that?  Oh, yes, there WERE desks in there before, you just couldn’t see them behind all of the mayhem.  This is a vastly improved learning environment, don’t you think?

Total cost: $39
Total time: 5 hours

Memo Board

I’ve been on a board-making kick for the past few weeks. DH asked me where I got the idea to use picture frames as boards, rather than buying them premade. Honestly, I”m not sure that the idea came from one source. I’ve seen quite a few pics of picture frames being painted. I’ve seen other pics of frames being used for artwork or used to display nice fabric. I’m not sure that I’ve seen anyone using the actual glass from the frame as a writing surface. Maybe that was my innovation, maybe not. In any case, it’s working out really well.

The project for today was the memo board. I wanted a place where we could have an ongoing shopping list, a place to post general notes, a place to leave “hey, I went to XYZ place” notes for each other, and a place to hang my keys and wallet. Since the picture frame idea had been working so well, I decided to not mess up a good thing. Actually, truth be told, I did mess up. When I bought the frame for the menu board, I didn’t realize that the back had been stapled on in such a way that there was no way I was getting it off. I bought a different frame for the menu. Not wanting to waste the frame I’d already purchased, I then found another use for it, the memo board.

memo board

I did my usual trick of painting and then polyurethaning the frame. I bought some cork squares and glued two together. I wanted it to be thick enough that I could put a push pin in without it crashing into the glass. I centered that on the frame, then attached three command hooks along the bottom for my keys and such. The labels were made from . .. wait for it . . . . cereal boxes. I cut them up, then glued on some fabric. I used a glue stick, and then set it with an iron. Finally, I took a Sharpie and wrote the words. To be honest, I’m not thrilled with how the writing turned out. The Sharpie didn’t provide sharp lines, some of them sort of bled. But, it didn’t bother me enough to fix it, and the labels were easy enough to make that I can always redo them at a later time, if the spirit moves.

memo board closeup

Anyway, the board worked out really well, until the cork fell off of the glass. Apparently the sticky squares just weren’t sticky enough. No problem . . . I just hit the squares with some mega strong adhesive: E6000 (that is some seriously strong adhesive!). I’ll be surprised if the cork falls down again.

Another project crossed off of my list. The next one is a biggie, and I imagine it’s going to take me the better part of a week. Better get started, right?

Total time: 1.5 hours
Total cost: $15

Menu Planning

Years ago, I started writing out weekly menus before going to the grocery store. I was actually at a friend’s house for lunch and saw a dry erase board on her fridge with what she was having for lunch and dinner the whole week. I thought it was a very clever idea. I generally only planned dinner, and lunch would just happen. Now that DH is working from home all the time, I have to make more food for lunch, (rather than just eating leftovers or mac n’ cheese or PB &J) so it’s easier to plan out lunch and dinner. I’d been using a dry erase board for quite a few years. It worked fine, but didn’t look nice and it was small so the writing was crowded. After creating a schedule board, I got inspired to do something similar for my menus. The process was the same: fine a picture frame, paint the frame yellow, draw lines on the underside of the glass, cover the cardboard with pretty fabric . . . voila, menu board.

Menu board

It is sooo much neater than what I had going on before! And, I have extra space on the side for the extras I like to make: special breads, granola, dessert, etc. I opted to number the days of the week rather than using the actual names. This way, I don’t feel like I”m tied to having beans on rice on Monday just because it says Monday on the board. So far, it’s working like a charm. I’m not squinting to try and read the tiny writing, I have space to write out all parts of the meal (entree, veggie, dessert), and everyone else can easily see what’s on the menu. This is good for the babes, because they can go and either request a particular meal for that day, or they can prepare themselves to not like the meal! =)

This came together so quickly: from start to finish, it only took me about 30 minutes!

Next up: the message board.

Total time: 30 minutes
Total cost: $6

Schedule revisited

Back in January, the babes and I came up with a new daily schedule and posted it on the fridge. The schedule worked really well . . . .until we moved at the beginning of March . . . and then it all went to pot. By the time we got all settled, it was May, and DH went on two business trips. Then it was June and I was busy planning a birthday party. Then it was July and we were gone for the whole month. After 5 months of complete disorder, I was ready to get back on schedule. But it wasn’t as simple as just using the old schedule. We made a few changes in the schedule and then made a whole new schedule board. The old one was fine, but it didn’t allow for changes, and it certainly isn’t going to match the command center setup. Sooo, of course, I had to make a new one.

I found an old picture frame at Goodwill and sponged the frame itself with yellow paint. I didn’t bother to prime the frame, so I did a quick coat of polyurethane. I’m pretty sure that’s not what polyurethane is for, but it worked! We glued fabric onto the cardboard backing to provide a nice background for the schedule. Then, the fun began, trying to find a permanent marker whose color matched the color scheme AND would show up on the glass. I settled on purple for the lines and a dark blue for the words. I had a small stroke of genius and drew the lines and wrote the headings on the underside of the glass. That way, when I want to change something, I don’t end up erasing the lines. (Erasing entails using a damp paper towel and a wee bit of elbow grease.) The frame had more space than I needed for the actual schedule, so I included a section at the bottom for “Things to do today”.

new schedule

A close up of the painting detail, since you can’t really see much in the terrible picture above. The house is so dark, with the kitchen having very little natural light, it’s nigh unto impossible to get a decent shot!
detail of schedule

This is actually the second week of doing the new schedule, but I can say that it went MUCH better yesterday (the first day that the schedule was posted). Even though not everyone in our family knows how to read yet, there’s something about having a tangible schedule to look at and refer to that really helped us stay on track. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m already feeling more organized in the day.

Next up, a menu planning board.

Total time: 1 hour
Total cost: $3

Laundry, dishes and paint

It’s been almost two months of silence here on my little blog. Have no fear, I have been busily working on organizational projects. If you recall from my last post, eons ago, I’m now to the “Man, this project is going to take FOREVER!” stage. The last week of June saw me feverishly working on repainting my desk. It was just a plain, old, ugly and cheapo desk. It needed help.

command center desk before

Not only that, since we are renting, I can’t paint the wall or the uninteresing cream-colored cabinets. So, painting the desk was the only option. I knew this would be a big project, but I don’t think I really had any idea how long it would take. I think I painted every day for an entire week! Fortunately, the weather mostly cooperated and the babes had fun hanging out in the front yard while I painted away.

The first step was to prime the desk. I used Zinsser oil-based primer, which claimed to stick to anything without needing sanding . . . .my kind of primer. The next step was to actually paint. I think I ended up doing 3 coats. Since the primer was white and the paint was dark, the white just kept showing through. So, three coats later, I was finally satisfied. The final step was to apply polyurethane to protect the finish. I managed to get six coats on before running out stamina and time. But, I met my goal of finishing before going on our trip. I wanted the polyurethane to cure for a good long time before putting it into use.

command center desk after

I’m not head over heels about how it turned out, but I do quite like it. I love the purple, the teal is only so-so. But, I was working with whatever mistint colors were available, and it’s much better than before. I think once the other pieces of the desk area get put in place, it’ll all come together . . .at least I hope it will!

ETA: I can’t believe I forgot to give a shoutout to my friend Deb! She had all sorts of great tips for how to re-paint furniture and let me ask her a billion questions! Thanks, Deb!!

Total cost: $36
Total time: 24 hours (not including drying time)

My other project sort of happened by accident . . it wasn’t something that I thought needed organizing. We just returned from a month long trip where we rented a 1000 sq foot two bedroom apartment that was 1.5 times smaller than the house we currently live in. It was a good exercise in figuring out what we do and don’t actually need and in being very efficient in how we used the space. Upon our return, the babes and I went through all of their toys and books and got rid of a box of books and two large trash bags of toys. (Yes, that is me that you see jumping up and down for joy!) I also managed to survive and entire month with no dishwasher. The last time I didn’t have a dishwasher, I thought I was going to lose my mind. It seemed like I was spending all of my time doing dishes. This time around, it seemed to work much better, and I think the reason is twofold: 1) the sink was small, so only a certain amount of dishes would fit 2)I washed dishes as they got dirty, so things didn’t seem to pile up as much. So what’s the take away lesson here? Do the dishes more often. My new plan is to not let the sink get full of dishes and to wash as I go. We’ll see if works out!

The other thing about the apartment was that the washer and dryer were down the hall. Generally when I do laundry, I have two baskets that I fill: one for DH and me, and one for the babes, with each babe getting one corner for their stuff. In my head, it makes it easier for DH when he’s putting things away. (I don’t actually know whether or not it makes a difference.) The hanging clothes get hung up on a rolling rack, organized by person. This wasn’t at all an option while in the apartment. So I ended up folding the clothing in the laundry room, and then carrying the hang-up stuff to the apartment and hanging it there. After about three weeks, I had an epiphany. Hanging the clothing in the apartment and putting it away right away took no more time than hanging it up and putting it on the clothing rack. This may seem totally obvious to all of you, but it just didn’t occur to me. I was quite sure that it would be an inefficient use of time to have to carry each load of laundry upstairs to hang it up rather than staying in one place.

Anyway, so I’ve revamped my laundry system. I’m still hanging things up on the rolling rack. But, instead of folding everything in the laundry room, I take it upstairs and fold it in one of the rooms and then put it away from there. It works like a dandy! Not only do I get to sit down while I’m folding the laundry, I can work with the babes to teach them how to put their laundry away neatly and the laundry gets put away in a timely fashion. (It’s hard for DH to find the time to put away 10 loads of laundry . . . if the babes are away, he’s playing with them, if they are asleep, well, then they are sleeping and their rooms aren’t available for laundry-put-awayage. It usually would take 2-4 days for the laundry to get put away, and I’d end up digging through baskets trying to find things.) This is a win-win for everyone.

Sooo, we are now a week bit more organized and efficient in the homemaking department! Hip hip hooray!

Low-hanging fruit

Whoa! It’s been ahwile since I’ve posted. This has happened before, but this time, I don’t have a partially complete post waiting in the wings. I haven’t even been working on any organization! I realized that’s because I’ve now hit the procrastination stage. I’ve gotten the low-hanging fruit out of the way. You know, the easy projects that take just a few hours. The remaining projects are huge . . I mean, HUGE! Organizing instruction manuals, organizing our filing system (DH hasn’t filed anything in like 2 years, a clear sign that our current system isn’t working!), getting my kitchen desk area organized, updating our home inventory. Just looking at this list makes me want to go back to wasting time on FB rather than getting my home more organized. Blech! Maybe I’ll start with the kitchen desk area. I’ve already bought the paint and a few other supplies, I just need to actually get painting. Motivation . . where art thou? Anyone think I can get the desk organized by the end of the month. Yeah, I know, that’s really optimistic! We’ll see if I get there!

DIY thread rack

Almost exactly three years ago, I made a thread rack and blogged about it on my other blog, A Diva Moment, here. It was a great thread rack and it served me well, until I had waaay more thread than space. I kept wanting to make another one to accomodate the extra thread. But then I had a baby, and life happened and then we moved . . . . the thread rack did not get made.

I recently finished organizing my new sewing room, and was ready to tackle the thread dilema. The new room is only a bit smaller, but it has LOTS of shelving, which is amazing! That also means that there exists a shortage of free wall space, which was cramping my “where shall I put my thread” style. I decided to scrap the old thread rack and make a totally new one. My inspiration came from the blog The Creative Homemaker You can see Heather’s version here.

This ended up being a rather big project, involving a bit of carpentry and learning how to use a new power tool. I bought a 4 x 2 sheet of peg board. We had a whole slew of 1 x 2 furring strips laying around, so I put them to good use. I cut two pieces that were 4 feet long and screwed those vertically onto the pegboard. I then cut 13 pieces that were 22 1/2 inches long and screwed those in horizontally at even intervals. (I factored in 2 inches for each spool, plus a 1/2 inch head space, plus 5/8 inch for the board. So from the top, I measured and marked 2.5 inches, and then another 5/8 inch from there. Then another 2.5 inches, and so on and so forth.) Because of the nature of the wood, it was necessary to predrill the holes. Sure, the drywall screws could have taken the board, but then the board would have split . . .not really what I was looking for.

Anyway, so once that was done, the real fun began . . . pounding in 195 nails. Oy! That took forever! Oh, I forgot one important piece. The thread rack is going up over a light switch, so I had to cut out a piece of the pegboard. Here’s where I used a new power tool . . . a jigsaw. It’s now my new favorite tool! I had no idea how to use it and we didn’t have a blade, so I took it in to Lowes’ and said, “Can you tell me what kind of a blade I need for this saw? And could you show me how to use it?” I’ll admit that the hole is not very precise, but there is a hole in the general area where it was needed, so I consider that a successful first attempt!
thread rack, empty

And so, the thread rack is done . . . . . and HEAVY! It’s anchored into a studs in about 4 places, so it’s definitely not going ot come crashing down. It will hold 195 spools of thread with their corresponding bobbins on the front! I’m glad I added the extra rows. I had NO IDEA I had so much thread! Almost every single spot is filled! Now that I’ve filled it up, I’ve realized that I should have done two things differently.
1) The rows should’ve been a bit further apart. Everything fits, but you have to be very careful when removing thread so as to not knock anything off of another shelf
2) The nails I used were too short, or I hammered them in too far or both. They just aren’t long enough to securely hold the bobbin. Don’t get me wrong, the bobbins fit, but there isn’t much wiggle room . . .one little bump and they go sailing.
Oh well. I’m not a carpenter and given that this was one of my first biggish carpentry projects, I’m okay with how it turned out.

Here’s the thread rack full, to the brim!
thread rack full

thread rack bobbins

And what became of the old one? Well, did I mention that I have alot of thread? Yeah, that thread rack is now filled with what I call random thread. Spools that are almost empty, or have 2 or 3 colors on them or are wound all crazy. I’m keeping it so that the babes can use it.

old thread rack

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