Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Little Shop of (not) Horrors

So this weekend I decided to reorganize the craft room. I attempted to organize it when I first acquired it, but without as much success as I would have liked.

It's in the basement. The basement is technically unfinished, but one of the previous owners walled off a corner back in the '70s in order to create a darkroom where he played his 8-track cassettes and moaned about how gas had hit $1/gallon while he developed his archaic camera film.

The room has a door (which can be used to close out pesky family members and pets), a largish closet, and luscious overhead fluorescent lighting (old school, unflattering, dressing room fluorescent -- none of this full spectrum lighting business).

When I first set it up, I had a vision of a room like you see on Clean House, where a team of people come in and take everything out of the room in your house which has become a Pit of Despair and then talk to you about your particular psychological issues that led you to not let go of your crap.

My issue is not that I have a psychological problem or a history of emotional trauma I haven't recovered from which has haunted me so that I am compelled to collect things and never get rid of them, my issue is that I'm a slob who can easily ignore piles of crap for a really long time.

The best part of shows like Clean House is the reveal when they show the pack rats their new room(s), all freshly painted with new furniture and cool storage shelves and containers. I wanted a room like at the end of Clean House, where I could have all my crafty tools and materials right there at my fingertips. A place where my sewing machine would always be set up, where I could wind balls of yarn to my heart's content, and where all my yarn was stored in one place.

I had a couple of problems achieving my Clean House dream. First, you must understand that I am not a Type A person. I am not the kind of person who makes lists and then goes down the list, item by item, crossing each thing off as it's completed. I am the kind of person who makes lists, runs around doing all sorts of things she thinks are on the list, and then is stunned to find out that absolutely nothing she's done was on the list. (I have learned to add those finished tasks to the top of the list and cross them off.) I am driven by enthusiasm for something, not so much by duty. Once I get about 85% of the way through a project, it's usually done enough for me. My second problem was that I decided I had enough plastic drawers and bins and shelving in the house that I could achieve Rox's Dream Craft Room using only existing supplies, plus one new shelving unit from Costco.

So two years ago, we called 1-800 Got Junk and had them haul off the broken lawn mowers and various other useless items stored in the basement room, and I gathered all my craft stuff from around the house. I sorted through everything: patterns and pattern books, all my knitting needles, and my yarn. (I had a bit of sewing stuff, but really not much. I'm monogamous when it comes to sewing, and I tend to give the leftover fabric to the school art teacher.) This may not surprise you, but I had a lot of yarn. I wasn't surprised, myself, I was shocked. I don't think of myself as a yarn hoarder, but I guess after 20 years, yarn accumulates, as do UFO's.

Some of the yarn had to go, because it smelled musty. (We'd had a storm once where water came in through the window wells and some yarn got wet. I dried it out, but some of it didn't dry well enough or soon enough.) Two garbage bags full of yarn went to the dumpster. A large box of usable yarn went to the school's knitting club teacher. Most of that yarn was light blue and tan mohair (What was I thinking when I bought that? Oh, yeah, I was thinking, "It's the '80s! Mohair is in!")

The final (that is to say 85% done) results were disappointing. The shelving I had wasn't conducive to the way I wanted to store my yarn (The Costco unit was 6-shelf heavy duty wire number on wheels, which would have been great if I had fewer balls of yarn and each of them weighed approximately 50 pounds.) The yarn, which I had sorted by weight was left in cardboard boxes, or stuck in opaque plastic bins and drawers. Because I was using what I already had in the house, saving my money for more important purchases, like more yarn.

I set up a big folding banquet table where I clamped my swift and ball winder and where I have my sewing machine and serger set up. I had thought there'd be room to keep my knitting machine set up, so I could actually use it (once I remembered how to use it), but that was not to be. In the two years since then, the craft room became the Craft Pit of Despair. I used it to wind hanks of yarn into balls, and for the odd sewing project. I still couldn't remember what yarn I had, so if I needed something, I bought yarn, and then put it in in whatever box was closest to the door.

So Saturday afternoon I was in the craft room, sewing a seam up a length of sun dress fabric from Joann for Sophia and I looked around, wishing the room were more like my original vision when the urge to reorganize hit me. For one thing, we've been doing another major declutter in the house to convert the office into a media room, and a laminated bookshelf was empty and available. Two trips to Target to buy some canvas cubes (I got over the idea that I could "use what's in the house" to make this room work), and the rediscovery of some clear nylon zipper storage containers from American Science and Surplus, and my vision started to take shape.

Here's what I have so far:

This is the Costco Heavy Duty shelf. You can't see the top two shelves, but those have scrapbooking and sun painting supplies on them.

The next shelf has some of my pattern books (the rest are still upstairs), fabric swatches and some office supplies

Next we have the clear zipper bags full of sport weight cotton yarn on cones, from the days when I designed and sold baby sweaters using my knitting machine. I'd like to get my knitting machine set up again so I can use up some of that yarn. These used to be stored in huge semi-opaque plastic bins that took up several shelves. There's room now for me to stack them on top of each other if I need the space.

The bottom two shelves are sewing supplies, in a location I like very much. I can just turn in my chair and grab a bobbin or spool of thread, or a different foot. I used to have to get up and walk across the room, which meant nothing ever got put back, because I'd have to get up and walk across the room to do so, right in the middle of whatever was way more important than getting up and walking across the room. (The zebra print thing is a dress I'm making for my older daughter because we have been to the mall three times looking for an 8th grade graduation dress. She likes this dress, but it's not really appropriate for 8th grade graduation, either. But I digress...)

Next to the Costco shelves is a stack of plastic drawers. I'm not fond of the plastic drawer system for my yarn because I can't see what I have. So I got out the label maker, which helps a little bit. On the top I have a pack of KnitPicks Palette to be used for Fair Isle projects without fear that the colors don't match. I have some color vision issues and trying to match more than a couple colors is very stressful to me. Probably why I like textured knitting so much.

The pink drawer contains more cone yarn, mostly acrylic, but some superwash wool, too. The white drawers are a few oddments -- fingering yarn destined to be dyed, some handspun samples from a friend, the four balls of laceweight yarn I own. That sort of thing.

This is the part where I can pretend I live in a yarn shop. This is the shelving unit I just acquired after we cleared all the kids' books off and stored them in boxes (destined for donation).

The top shelf is miscellaneous crap, because I have to put miscellaneous crap everywhere I walk. There's a needle felting kit, an Unoriginal Hat made with yarn I bought at Shepherd's Harvest, a small bag of 5 or 6 balls of Noro Kureyon in different colorways, and 3 cones of DK merino/cashmere from Colourmart UK.

Next, we have cotton worsted (I have no memory of buying Sugar N Cream cotton) in the middle are some cotton/synthetic blends and some wool/acrylic blends, with acrylic and acrylic/wool blends in the far right.

The next two shelves are worsted weight wool, and then there's a shelf of baby wool, mostly Dale Baby Ull, but quite a bit of Reynold's Superwash Baby Merino, too.

On the floor are some boxes with fabric scraps, and a semi-opaque plastic box of socks with no mate (and the yarn to make the second sock for each). There are various reasons why these socks have no mates, but so far none of the reasons are compelling enough for me to frog the socks or throw them away.

This is the original laminate shelving unit I had in the room. I used to keep my sewing stuff on here, but as I mentioned, it's all the way across the room from my sewing machine (that's at least three steps).

On the left is sock yarn. Self-striping in the left-most cubby, hand painted in the right, with solids on the shelf below.

On the right is DK weight. Synthetics and various blends are in the left cubby, and wool is in the right cubby and the two cubbies sitting on the plastic bins below. Between the top two cubbies is cotton DK.

On the bottom left is bulky weight yarn, and the two plastic bins on the right contain UFOs. One is all the pieces for a cardigan. When I sorted through all my patterns, I found an old Rowan (#6) pattern book and I flipped through it. There are a bunch of intarsia patters that look dated, but almost everything else is still great. I saw a cardigan in there I liked a lot, so you can imagine my surprise when I came across all the pieces of said cardigan in a bag, with no memory of having knit it. (Eventually, it came back to me, but I thought it was weird that I didn't recognize that I had knit that entire garment when I saw the photo.) So those pieces are in one bin, along with most of the body of a man's Norwegian sweater. I'm thinking of frogging it and repurposing the yarn. In the other bin is the back of a crazy multi-colored men's pullover and all 16 colors needed to complete it. Except that my husband wouldn't wear it, even if he were transported back 15 years onto the set of the Cosby Show, and I can't finish it and wear it, because it would be ridiculously huge. I'm thinking of frogging that one, too, and maybe designing a sweater for myself that uses the yarn and stitch pattern. Because I love the colors.

But wait, there's more.
On top of the unit are wire baskets with miscellaneous sewing notions I haven't found a new home for yet. This yarn, however, is a 150g hank of (I think) worsted weight in a variegated colorway that I seem to buy over and over from various yarn manufacturers in various weights. I have some 8 ply Checkheaton superwash that looks just like this, and the super bulky yarn I bought at Shepherd's Harvest looks just like it.

The only problem is that it is a complete tangled mess.

This is Charlie, my alpaca yarn pet. I bought him at Shepherd's Harvest and have promised to make Michael a pair of fingerless gloves for next winter. His office is kept at a very cold temperature in order to keep all the computers from melting. Luckily, there is a lot of Charlie, so he can go to the office, but stay at home with me, too. I think I ended up with three (maybe four) yarn cakes from the 650 yd hank.

This is my future Manon (Norah Gaughan design) cardi.

And this is some more sock yarn (mostly cotton/wool blends).

I love this version of my craft room. I will continue working on it through the weekend (at least until it's 85% there) and take more photos when my 6th grader gets back from her class trip to Washington, D.C. She has my camera. She better bring it back.