Crafty Wednesday : Organisation

Artfully blurred fabric shelf.
I admit, I don't often think carefully about organising a room or craft area until I'm in the thick of it. Then I realise I can't find anything and it actually looks quite messy, and something must be done about it. Immediately. Then I often have a cup of tea and forget about it. Until I need to find something, then it's an immediate nightmare.

Enter my Craft Room. It's actually the dining room, but we don't dine in there often (ever). When I began sewing more often Mr S suggested it would be a great room for sewing in. We set up some bookshelves for fabric and Mr S created a nook for my sewing machine and overlocker to live in.

Admittedly, I'd already started pulling everything out to tidy...
but it wasn't far from this in the beginning. Eek!
As I began to sew more the fabric expanded. And expanded. And I realised I had a fabric problem. 'Hi, my name is Amy, and I cannot leave any bolt of fabric unfondled.'

I started looking around for lovely ways to store ones fabric. I found a few tutorials, but nothing was going to work for my little space.

I had seen Emily from Joyful Abode's fabric shelf, and asked her how she wound her fabric. She pointed me towards these comic book boards on Amazon, but the price and shipping to Australia was not worthwhile. I talked to my friends at Spicer's Paper, but to get the amount of board I needed shipped and trimmed was going to cost more than I was willing to pay.

I mentioned my project to my friend Wolfgang, who does his own framing for his jaw-droppingly beautiful photography. He ducked out to his studio and came back with an armful of foam core board offcuts. Exactly what I needed! Thankfully Wolfie's 'offcuts' are neatly trimmed, all same size long lengths of foam core board.

I started trimming the board to 12-12.5in lengths (30-31cm) and taking my larger pieces of fabric and winding them around. Angels sang. It looks so tidy and professional and is oh so easy to do. Given the placement of my bookshelf I'll need to make a curtain for the bookshelf to protect the fabric from the sun.

Winding... winding.
(Sadly, I really enjoyed this part!)
After I'd used all the board I realised that I still had a disgusting amount of fabric that needed winding, and a lot of really disorganised crates of fabric offcuts and smaller pieces.

I started being ruthless and throwing smaller odd shaped pieces out, which is hard for a 'One day I'll use that' packrat like myself. I also made a basket of Fat Quarters and Not Quite Fat Quarters. I emptied my Sewing Book basket, only to find seven notebooks and three sewing books. That was easy to organise! I also had a stash of crochet and knitting books that I'm finding new homes for.

I had to find new homes in our one storage cupboard in the house for my letterpress kit and Epic Six die cutting machine. I felt like I was on fire, for usually by the time objects need rehoming I begin to hyperventilate and need a good lie down. Once this was completed I fist pumped the air, removed Millie from the linen cupboard and thought about eating some biscuits.

It is by no means completed - there's another basket of fabric to be wound and pinned, which will lead to reorganising the shelves again in order to fit the wound fabric boards on.

Top shelf:
Towelling for bibs and wound fabric.
Second shelf: tub of fabric to be wound, basket of fat quarters and not quite fat quarters, and basket of wadding and interfacing.
Third shelf: machine pedals, basket of projects on the go and completed projects.
Bottom shelf: a bag of stuffing, my nail kit, my Music Memories box and my Family Memories Box. You can see they've been Millie'd.
Left: Ironing board.
Right: Thick wadding for dolly quilts, my mending pile (oh my) and my overlocker box.

I'm somewhat ashamed to say I really enjoyed cleaning up my area. It makes me want to spend more time in there, crafting and sewing. Or just writing lists.

How do you organise your craft area? Sewing, paper crafts, crochet or knitting - tell me about it!

Mrs Smyth... crafts at a painfully slow rate.

So... I got the sewing bug again. Which I find strange because I wouldn't actually call myself a sewer at all. In late pregnancy I got the itch to borrow a sewing machine and sew a doona cover. And pillowcases. Laydeepants helped me measure things out and I went on my merry way.

Fast forward to now, I've sewed a headscarf for my first week back at work and little else. Then, I started actually reading the Spotlight catalogues that get sent to me every week. There were these sweet sewing-for-dummies panels for Christmas stockings. I still have my Christmas sack (a big plastic printed one with my name on it, but never fear safety standards of the 1980's, there's holes punched in it.) as does Mr S (a fancy handmade one...)

I wanted to make Millie a handmade Christmas stocking. Oh god.

I purchased the necessary materials, looking blankly at the sales assistants when they asked 'Do you want to line it with poplin or straight drill?' and saying things like 'Seam a-what-ance?'

Then I looked at all the materials for about a month. I'd pull them out, look intently at the instructions, hear the baby crying and put it all away again. After this time I decided I could do this. Laydeepants talked me through interfacing, so I went and bought Vlisofix (the only craft product I know the name of, thank you days of quilting.) Turns out, that's not what I needed.

I went back again and said 'Laydeepants uses that grey stuff there. What does that do?'
Spotlight lady: 'How stiff do you want it to be?'
Me: 'How stiff are stockings usually?'
Spotlight lady: 'Other Spotlight lady, how stiff would a stocking be? This lady is making one.'
Other Spotlight lady: 'You don't want stiff do you? Just to bulk it up a bit?'
Me: 'Um... yes?'
Other Spotlight lady: 'You want this.'
Me: 'Ok?'

Sewing it all together.
So I wound up with wadding interfacing. I started assembling and cutting and ironing. And recutting and reironing. (What do you mean stockings have two sides that aren't the same shape? What?)

Rick-Rack assembly.
Now, because I'm difficult like that, I decided my lack of experience was no barrier and that I'd like to add that giant rick-rack along the edges of the stocking. I thought this would work. And blow me down, it did.

The entire time I had a little helper sitting on the floor next to me. This is a rare moment of her not attempting to eat the sewing machine power cord.

 I was then mostly finished apart from the pesky top seams. The instructions on the panel said something... but I just didn't read them closely enough. I thought about it for a good long while, and wound up deciding to add a 'sock' style of band top to it.

Almost done!
In the midst of all of this Millie decided to start waking up every 60-90 minutes at night, so there's no photos of this next little bit because my eyes were bleeding and I was lucky I didn't sew my hands together.

I made the sock, and sewed the hanging tag on the wrong side. So I unpicked it and promptly resewed. With the tag on the right side but on the wrong end. So I unpicked it and resewed it. Properly. Finally.

I decided that the best course of events would be to add the sock to the lining, and I looked at it and thought about it and did lots of pinning. After a few goes at pinning the sock to the lining I sewed. And it wasn't right. So I unpicked and repinned and sewed. Still not right. Unpicked, got a chocolate, walked around, thought about it, had another chocolate. Repinned. Sewed. Still inside out.

More chocolate. Another walk. Then I tried something so ridiculous because I was Out. Of. Ideas. And it worked.

All that was left was the hand stitch the sock facing to the stocking as it was only affixed with the lining.

Does any of this make sense without pictures?


Ok, here's the ending.

It worked. And looks ace. I'm really proud of myself. All that's left to be done is for a friend to hand stitch a felt panel for the front with Millie's name on it, and she's got her own home made stocking for her first Christmas!

Almost done!

Mrs Smyth... can't read. But she can bake.

On Saturday Mel from Honey, You Baked, her husband Ash1, our friends Ash2 & Erika got together to celebrate Mel's birthday with a Brownie Bake-Off. After a relatively disorganised morning where Millie couldn't sleep, the dishes needed doing, I hadn't baked my brownie offering yet, the fire went out and aliens crashed in the front yard*, I was ready for our guests to turn up. Millie finally asleep, I checked my phone to find a message from Mel with directions to Ash2's house. Oh...

It turns out that checking Twitter at 2am perhaps requires a) more attention that I was giving it and b) one to wear one's glasses. Oops.

Luckily my friends are wonderful and all happily relocated to the Huon Valley where they knocked on the door and I was lying on the couch with Millie halfway through a nap. 'Hi, welcome! Err... I'll be up soon.'

But brownies prevailed and I was in sugar shock for the rest of the evening. Millie had a great time talking to her future husband Oliver and I cherished having a houseful of friends. Friends who bake.

Mel wrote a great post about it all over here... so without further ado I'll leave you to go and bask in the glory that is several brownie recipes.

I baked these brownies again, with the addition of white chocolate, dark chocolate and dried cranberries. I also didn't undercook them this time, so they were just brownies. But still - yum!

*may or may not have happened. But you get the gravity of my situation.

Mrs Smyth... makes Double Baked Melted Centre Brownies.

On my list was 'Bake weekly.' It's no secret that in his house we are massive fans of anything home baked. Mr S bakes once a year - my birthday cake. I make his, he makes mine, it's how we've always rolled. Other than that, the baking's up to me.

I love baking brownies. So simple and so delicious. This recipe has taken me through many variations, my favourite still being additions of dried cranberries, white and dark chocolate. However, Casa Smyth was short on white chocolate and dried cranberries, so it was two kinds of dark chocolate instead. I know, dreadful.

I did a bit of a pictorial of my process for you. This also coincided with my '24 hours with' documentation for Sarah over at Dear Baby G.

We started with this...
I started after Millie self settled in the cot for the first time in weeks. EMPTY HANDS? WHAT NOW? I toddled around the kitchen getting everything out and measured in record time, because honestly? A baby that suddenly self settles again makes me uneasy and overjoyed. In equal measures. And makes me work at lightning speed in case she wakes up before her allotted 40 minutes.

I love learning about baking and I've always wondered why this recipe calls for eggs first. Can anyone enlighten me about this?

This is my best kitchen friend, my Willow Blue Kitchenaid. 
I love baking from a trusted recipe. This brownie recipe lives in my display book that I made when I moved out of home. It's full of family recipes and some that Mr S & I cut out and thought they'd be nice. I have an entire bookshelf of cookbooks and really, I mostly cook from this one. I've been baking these brownies since I was about 13 and Mum tells me that it's from a No Frills Cocoa packet. Way to give me glamorous designs on this Mum. I'd like to think it's at least from a Bourneville Cocoa packet...

64% & 72% chocolate. Choppity chop chop chop.
Ingredients together and I'm humming away, with one eye on the time. The kitchen and our bedroom are at opposite ends of the house, and it's very convenient when you lock yourself in the kitchen to get away from the screaming every now and then don't hear the baby wake up, but I kept an eagle ear out. Radio silence from the bedroom. Brilliant! 

I get the mix into the pans, and I hear the protests of a baby who hates waking up almost as much as she hates going to sleep. I go and retrieve her, we play a peek a boo game through the cot bars and I sing my version of 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do'... 'Waking Up Is Hard To Do'.

My baby is free range.
I give Millie the empty egg carton that the politely poses with but has no idea why I've given it to her. She's happy enough to sit in the Bumbo while I finish up.

Pans in the oven, timer on, we head to the lounge room. Millie knows just how to pass the time. Pushups anyone? (No. No thankyou.)

I did a thousand you know...

Then, we had these.*

Fancy Brownie Recipe
125g margarine (whatever, I don't do margarine. I used unsalted butter.)
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa (I'm pretty sure I always use more than this.)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts/chocolate/kitchen sink

  1. In a large bowl beat eggs.
  2. Add sugar and butter and beat until smooth.
  3. Add baking powder, salt, sifted cocoa and flour, beating thoroughly until all ingredients are mixed.
  4. Add vanilla and other additions. Mix should be firm, not runny.
  5. Spread mixture into a greased sandwich tray and bake at 1800C for 30-35 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool in the tray. After mix is cool, using a sharp knife cut into slices.
Mr S & I had a cup of tea and brownie as I was writing this. The brownies I baked for 20 minutes are not cooked. Gooey and delicious, yes, but not cooked enough. They're back in the oven and now they're extra fancy brownies... Double Baked Melted Centre Brownies.