Thursday, January 31, 2013

The universe knows what I need and it is sending donations. (part 2)

Setting up a studio with a tight budget

Well, as promised, here is part two of the “setting up a studio with a tight budget series". Today, I am going to tell you about the wood beams that I mounted to the walls.

I came up with the idea (read requirement) of having both a dry erase board and a cork board hanging on one of the walls of the room. While talking to people about it, a friend of a friend who happens to be a carpenter, suggested I screw wood beams to the wall and then screw things as I saw fit onto those beams. He said that this is often done to hang cabinets among other things. The idea is that you get three beams of the same length. One goes at the bottom (i.e. at the lowest point required by your plan) and the other two go on top. Now, what is special about this set up is that the beams that get set higher on the wall, are cut with a 45 degree angle longwise. Then, one of the beams does get screwed to the wall with the angled edge up and facing the wall. The other top beam just sits above it, getting the two angled edges to fit nicely with each other.

This set up is great if you want to keep heavy things hanging on the wall with the thought of perhaps moving them or replacing them at a later time. The only thing required is to “unhook” the top most beam (the one to which you have affixed the heavy thing you want to replace) and make changes to that beam. It is great as a way to limit the amount of drilled and hammered holes on your wall.

So, the carpenter's suggestion became a favour. He purchased a sheet of wood and cut the beams and the top for my work table. It all came to about $60 including the labour. When I went to get the pieces, I found he had already sanded them for me and even rounded the corners of the work table. The base for my work table is from an industrial sewing machine table that I found on corner not far from my apartment. It is all steel, sturdy and strong. I will tell you more about it and show it to you on part three of this series.

After measuring the beams and looking at what I wanted to use them for I decided that the “two beams with angled 
edges” were not necessary. The plan changed a little and I ended up removing the hanging top beam and cutting it in half to set it on the opposite wall. After quite a bit of measuring and planning, I am happy to now have beams on the north and south walls of the studio. On the north wall, right above my computer desk, I have the cork board that I made and the dry erase board. Opposite that, on the south wall, I have the baskets for projects and the shelf for my tools right above my work table.

Note: Places such as ReBuilding Exchange are good for finding reclaimed wood and for getting help cutting them to your needed measurements. The sheet used for the beams and table top that I have in my studio was not reclaimed and believe me, that is a story for another blog post. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sometimes Life Happens

I realized today that instead of trying to put on a happy front and show you pretty pictures of lovingly made things that today I would be honest.

Sometimes I try to do too much and sometimes I crash and burn. That would be what happened last Saturday evening when a friend asked me to come over and watch Downton Abbey on Sunday. That, right there, the watching of Downton Abbey was too much and I started sobbing. Thankfully my friend understood and was not at all insulted that I could not come over and lay on their couch and watch Downton Abbey on a Sunday afternoon. Ok, when something as delightful as laying on a couch and watching Downton Abbey becomes too hard, then there is a serious problem.

My calendar is stuffed. It is overfull and it is not allowing me time to play. This is going to sound oxymoronic but I need to schedule time to play. I need to schedule space into my overflowing calendar to just breath. The person I was last week who was rushing from place to place, who walked into what should have been a fun party and broke out in hives and had to leave, who is having asthma attacks from stress and can't stop her head from spinning, that person needs to chill.

Here are the steps I am taking to regroup.

  • Declared Sundays are mine and I do not plan one single thing on a Sunday. If something unexpected happens, then that is delightful, but I refuse to plan anything on a Sunday.  
  • Sundays are also internet and text message free. If you call me I will gladly answer the phone. I will not be texting because that means my focus is split between doing something and waiting for your response. I will not be on the computer. I am allowed to watch some tv though while I sew. 
  • I started a pencil to paper list. I divided my to do list of impossible things over three days so I was not horrendously overwhelmed. I always carry a Moleskin with me and so I put my list in there. I also bought a Moleskin pencil the other day and I love it. It has a cap. Yes, I do carry a pencil sharpener with me.
  • I made a committment to work out at least twice a week. For today, if that is only 45 minutes, that is fine. My focus right now will be on yoga so that I can manage my stress level and start feeling better about myself physically. 
  • This is a continuation of what I had already started, but I am eating healthy once again. I am also focusing on getting a bit more protein in my diet because I think that will help as well.
  • I will acknowledge my feelings and process them (I have a years worth of grief that was packed away in a box and let's just say that box fell off the shelf recently and opened up).
  • I will spend more of my time living in the moment instead of thinking about what needs to be done next. I sometimes think so hard about what needs to be done that I end up going to the wrong place or missing out on what is right in front of me.
I would also like to have a 'retreat' someplace near. I am thinking some place where I can do some yoga and have a massage... If anyone has any suggestions please send them my way.

P.S. The universe is listening because someone canceled for this evening, which is o.k.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Loving Imperfection

Today I am going to talk a little bit about my quest for imperfection. I have come to (grudgingly) accept imperfection.

I have been sewing for as long as I can remember. I have always had something in my hands whether it was mending, embroidery, or crochet. When I shattered my leg in a car accident I was unable to sit like a normal person for long periods of time because it was too uncomfortable, yet I really wanted to sew. I set the sewing machine up on the floor and stuck my broke leg out at an angle and used my right knee on the push pedal. Sewing is my creative outlet.

I am drawn to vintage and many times friends have commented that I was born in the wrong era. I adore things that have a history and a story to tell. My mother and I cannot walk out of an antique store without a doily in our hands because we both know some woman put the time and thought and effort into making something so exquisite that it breaks our hearts to see them languishing unloved. When I shop I tend to pick out things that are just a little odd and I try to inject them with a dose of modern to make them relevent to the way we live today.

Both Sheska and I were inspired in different ways by the interview with Danielle Henderson on Design*Sponge. Danielle states-
I’m actually really bothered by this recent turn towards perfection in design/craft. I overheard someone in a craft store recently say that she didn’t know how to sew but was saving up for a $1300 machine so that she could make the perfect projects when she learned. What in the what? Just buy the $100 machine and learn how to sew, figure out what you like. Stop trying to curate and just develop your own aesthetic.
When I started making things for Meandering Design I was very conscious of my audience. In the past I was sewing for myself or for friends and family. I am very good at what I do, but I am not perfect. I have had to let go of that notion of perfection and it has been very difficult. I now 'practice my craft', which means every time I make something I get a little bit better and a little bit smarter in how I make it.

My favorite phrase in Arabic is 'wahida wahida' which means little by little. Sometimes I just have to stop and remind myself wahida wahida and I can continue doing what makes me happy.

P.S. In my head I was going to take a gorgeous photo of doilies and share it with you, but I let that perfect idea go and found this fantastic photo of doilies on Pinterest. 


Friday, January 25, 2013

Day Dreaming Friday

Some day I will have a space big enough and this lovely cow will come and spend its days lolling about in flowers with me.

Or this one will come and we will spend our days with our heads in the clouds....

I wish I could remember where I stumbled across Angus McDonald, but I'm so grateful I did. Images via

This Sunday I am going to unplug the computer and day dream. 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The universe knows what I need and it is sending in donations. -part 1

Setting up a studio with a tight budget.

I recently read a great interview in in which crafter Danielle Henderson said that, "[b]eing poor is a great creative motivator."

That statement pretty much sums up my approach to how I am putting together my work/make/craft studio.  Reusing, recycling and upcycling is a major theme and I want to share with you the development process.

This first part is about the baskets that I found on the alley behind my apartment and the rack that I found by the dumpster of a storage unit.

I wanted to take advantage of the wall space above my work table and came up with the idea of setting baskets or boxes on the wall so I could put my on going projects and materials at hands' reach.  A couple of days later, I found two big wire baskets on the alley.  The white plastic coating was a bit chipped but it was nothing major.

While thinking about how to hang them, I realized that I did not have any hooks at home but I had a set of four metal "L"... the kind that are used to join boards of wood to make boxes.  I bended the "L"s and shaped them like hooks, screwed them to the wood beams that I installed on the wall (more on those coming up on part 2) and the baskets went up.

hand-shaped hook
the tool shelf to be

Then I wanted a way to put my most used tools on some sort of rack also above my work table and remembered that a couple of years ago I had found a wire rack (of the same style as the baskets mentioned above) and that the rack was in our work storage unit.  Now figuring out how to use the rack for my need took a bit of what I like to call "brain modeling."

"Brain modeling" for me is when I close my eyes (or stare at the materials for a project) and visualize how to move/reshape/cut/build/etc., things to come up with potential outcomes.  That way I usually come up with an idea not just of the project but also of which tools I will need.

I had to bend the rack to shape it like a shelf.  It took some muscle and the help of a pair of pliers. The final product was pretty much exactly what I wanted and it is now on the wall.


So now I have both baskets for materials and a shelf for my tools above my work table that cost me zero dollars.

Next week, I will tell you about my work table and the wood beams on the walls of my studio.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Environmentally Friendly Methods to Use During Menstruation

From the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health
I was getting ready for work the other morning and I grabbed a couple of OB's to stuff in my purse and I was struck by how small they are and how very little packaging they use. I had not thought about how the choices that I make regarding how I control my flow can impact the environment as well.

Growing up I used pads, which were big and bulky, but it was all I knew how to use. In college I tried to use tampons my junior year and then I was convinced I had toxic shock syndrom (which I highly doubt I had) and I did not try to use a tampon for another couple of years. Even then I just never could quite get on board with using them because they were so uncomfortable. Fast forward, oh, about fifteen years and a friend introduced me to Tampax Pearl Compak. Finally, I found something I could use without discomfort. Sheska introduced me to OB's and since they don't have an applicator they do take a little getting used to, but they are easy to use too. I should note that neither of these companies are paying me to endorse their product.

Tampon vs pad probably carries the same arguments as cloth diapers vs plastic or paper grocery bags vs plastic, but I can't help but think that the tampons do not take up nearly as much space in a landfill. I've also been intrigued by some of the more radical options available like the menstrual cup or sponge, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to use one. There are also washable cloth pads that are available. You can even find them on Etsy. Has anyone tried these?

I stumbled across the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health and found myself lost in the history and mytholgy surrounding women's menstruation.I am very grateful that we no longer have to wear suspenders like they did in the late 1800's to hold a pad or a bag.

Image from the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health

If you have tried any other methods for managing  your period please share in the comments. I'm interested in how they worked.


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Boudoir Part 2

In which our fair heroine creates a mood board using photoshop for the first time

For a recap visit part one.

I have always loved the movie Amelie. Sigh. When looking for inspiration for redesigning my bedroom I immediately looked to Amelie. I want to create a space that is luxe, quirky and cosy. 

Looking through images of the film I noticed that while the red/orange/golden color was the predominant color, there were also these moments of blue.

My next step was to go to the Fabric Warehouse in Pilsen (oh how I love you so) and see what I could find. While the Fabric Warehouse is huge you always have to go with an open mind. Since I cannot paint or wallpaper the walls (which kind of sucks) I need to add color through fabrics. I had painted one wall of my studio space in my old apartment Moroccan Red and I loved it.

Oh Moroccan Red how I love you so!

So, I brought the paint chip with me as the jumping off point for fabric colors. My mood board below gives you an idea of what I found. Now I need to get sewing.

Mood Board

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Day Dreaming

When I was a kid I was often yelled at to "get my head out of the clouds". I was a bit of a daydreamer. I also read a lot. I read so much that I got grounded once from reading. I remember in eighth grade reading Gone With the Wind during math class and my teacher caught me, took my book from me, slammed it on the desk and said "Frankly my dear- I don't give a damn".

I still read and I still day dream, but not nearly enough. When I saw this blanket on Muita Ihania's blog all I could think of was curling up with a good book and a hot cup of tea and whiling away the afternoon. I think Wuthering Heights is calling my name. Either that or I should watch Wuthering Heights and figure out how to make this gorgeous blanket. Have you read any good books lately? I could use some recommendations.

Thursday, January 17, 2013



hand stitched notebook / hand stitched on custom made slippers

While watching the documentary titled "The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters" early this week, I heard one of the knitters say that her grandmother did not teach her to knit.  She said that her grandmother told her to watch because that is how people learn.  So, she would sit by her grandmother, and would spend time just watching her grandmother knit sweaters.

That statement really resonated with me, because now I realize that that is how I learned to hand stitch; by watching my mom and grandmother.  Both of them also used sewing machines so quite early in life, I was presented with what felt like weekly visual tutorials.  My mom used sewing patterns quite often and I had the opportunity to watch her reading patterns, editing them, cutting the fabrics with the patterns, and on and on.  I remember telling her using patterns and pieces of fabric was like playing with Legos because later on she was going to put the pieces together to build something.

Admittedly, I did not want to learn to sew.  To me, it was one of those things expected of women and I did not want to be part of that stereotype.  However, I learned later on to appreciate the usefulness of the stitch... and of knowing even the basics of mending.  Sewing was an extra source of income for my grandmother and my mom did sew some of my clothes in order to save  some money.  Learning how to sew, mend and stitch, translated unconsciously into a step forward towards self-reliance.

my first hand stitched pouch

So one day self-reliance became my new approach... a practical approach separate from gender role debates!  All of a sudden I found myself playing with pieces of textiles as if they were pieces of Legos and the way to affix them was by stitching them together.  That is how I think about all projects, especially the ones that involve sewing.  To me they are like a game in which I plan,  build, and take apart, plan some more, and build again.  Perhaps that is where my fondness for upcycling comes into play.  My mom says that it is quite evident,  looking at the stuff that I sew and how I think, that I spent a lot of time playing with Legos.  Leave it to my mom to know better.

I am not really into sewing clothes, not yet at least.  So far my emphasis seems to be on sewing bags, binding books (a new adventure for me), and to sew random things that I need/want like my slippers.  The first bag that I hand sewed was a small pouch for a set of RPG dice that my friend Stephen gave me as a present.  From there, several years later, I went full speed ahead on a pretty elaborate project.  I decided to hand sew a bag for my yoga mat.  Of course, it had to be more than just a cylindrical bag for the mat.  The final product was a canvas bad with three outside pockets, a shoulder strap and so much "awesome."  I finished the bag in two weeks about seven years ago and it is still serving its purpose with out having required any mending.

yoga mat bag / messenger bag prototype

The projects continue and so do my stitching adventures.  There are a hand full of bags (messenger bars and some other styles) in the to do list and as I hand stitch parts of them and machine sew the rest, I cannot help but to smile while thinking about my mom.  It is always funny when I hear myself cursing out loud just like mom when I accidentally drop a bobbin and it starts to unwind while it rolls across the floor.  It seems like I have even learned the fun and common responses to the usual sewing-related mishaps.  Those I learned not just by watching but also by listening.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Boudoir- Part One

Designing a Colorful Bedroom-without painting the walls.

My favorite picture of my old bedroom. Oh the sunshine.
I adore my new apartment. My neighborhood is delightful and I have space to sew. Except for a few little things, my living room, sewing room (which is also the dining room), studio and kitchen are all set up. My bedroom though is just blah. In my old apartment my bedroom was this beautiful turqoise blue and the bedding and curtains were white. It was light and bright and airy. The shot below is the only picture I could find and unfortunately my bed wasn't made! Except you can see that it has color. 

Now take a look at the series of photos taken below. My bedroom is beige. The walls are beige, the carpet is beige and when I add in my white bedding and white curtain they take on a beige hue. Also, my bedroom is in the basement, which is great because I do not hear any noise from the neighbors, but the ceilings are a little low. What it does have going for it is that it is quite spacious and the closet is nice and big. Something a bit shocking to find in a Chicago apartment! 

Starting at the South facing wall I have my great-grandparents buffet standing in as my dresser. Since I have my cutting table in the dining room the buffet had to be moved elsewhere. On top of the buffet is a collection of old mirrors and a chandelier lamp that was a gift from a boyfriend.

South wall

The Southwest corner
On the West wall are two prints from The Black Apple. One is of a redhaired girl riding a seahorse and the other is a picture of a girl in a boat looking at a narwhale. The curtains are actually from West Elm and in my old bedroom, which had a huge window, the sun would shine through them beautifully. In this bedroom they are too long and since the window is a tiny cinder block square they look out of place.

West wall
Northwest corner
This is the North wall and on the left is an antique Singer sewing machine that my mother bought me for my birthday from Josie's in Dekalb many moons ago. The headboard, which I love, I bought on Etsy from Jacob Triche Designs. The problem is the wood of the headboard is competing with the buffet's wood. The nightstand is actually a bathroom cabinet from CB2 and as you can tell it is not the same size as the other nightstand and looks awkward. 

North wall

Northeast wall
East wall
You can see through the doorway part of the tiny spiral staircase that leads downstairs.

Quite uninspiring-eh? I'm thinking of a cross between the bedroom in the movie Amelie and a French Bordello. Next week we'll look at some inspiration to spice up this very freaking beige room.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Local Goods Chicago

I was at a Craft Mafia event (those ladies are seriously amazing) last October and I met Laura who was opening up a shop called Local Goods Chicago in Edgebrook. Edgebrook is a lovely neighborhood on the West Si-ide that was sadly lacking in handmade goodness. Laura and I both felt that Meandering Design would be a good fit for Local Goods Chicago and vice versa. In the end of November I dropped some things by, but the shop had not yet opened and Laura was kind enough to set things up for me because in the meantime that Fear Experiment thing happened, I collapsed and  have just now returned to the world.

Last week I taught a Wardrobe Revamp class at Local Goods Chicago and I had so much fun. The group of ladies that came were engaging and willing to learn the basics of hand sewing. I'll admit I was a little intimidated because I had a quilt maker in the class and another person who did some machine sewing, but they were open to learning new techniques, which thankfully I was able to teach them. I went home and was so jazzed up I could not fall asleep. I cannot wait to teach another class.

Meandering Design was also a featured artist at Local Goods Chicago. Check out the interview here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Inspiration Friday

Here is a little something beautiful to take you into the weekend. It makes me want to lay in a field and day dream, except for the part where it is a bit too cold and wet in Chicago to do that today. Oh well, soon...

French photographer Laurent Chehere via Colossal

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Start gathering tools

When I moved to my first apartment, my dad asked me if I needed anything for the move.  I told him that a basic tool set would be a great present and that is how it all started.  Since then, I have been adding to and refining my tool collection.  I love tools!  They help me to build my ideas and I let them do their job... it is a win-win situation.
I know that many tools are expensive and from experience, I can say that it does take a while to put together a functional and realistic tool box.  The emphasis definitely set on "realistic."  Let's face it, tools are awesome and it is way too easy to fall in the trap of buying every tool available "just in case you may need it."
For example, if you do not own a car, you do not need a pair of jumper cables.  Yes, they are nifty and carry "magic" (i.e. electricity) from one battery to another but be realistic, is that a tool that you need at home?  The answer as you well know is a big emphatic "NO!"  Save the money and get yourself a tool specific to the projects that you are finishing or about to start.
Most people seem to get their first box of tools with home repairs in mind.  Then, some of us start bit by bit to add project specific tools to the tool box.    What I do is to make sure that when I go to buy a tool it is because I would not be able to finish a project unless I have that specific tool, and because I have already exhausted all other options to work around the need for the tool.
If you are not sure about how to use a tool or if you think that you will not need/use it as often, perhaps a visit to a tool library would be a good thing for you to do first.  For those living in the north west of the United States and in Vancouver (Canada), there are tool libraries in Seattle, PortlandVancouver, and in several other cities.  As for Chicago, the place closest to a tool library which we have read about is the Pumping Station One.  Another option is to ask around.  You may be able to borrow tools from friends, family and others.  Plus, they may be able to teach you how to use those tools.
Now, if you have made up your mind about owning your own tool kit, remember to visit second hand stores for they some times have tools for sale.  Here is a check list that I have compiled to help you start or add to your tool collection.   It includes basic all purpose tools and tools that will start you up on crafts and interesting projects of many sorts.
Remember, butter knives are not screw drivers and neither are tweezers.  Yeah, you may get away with using such poor replacements some times but you cannot get away with it all the time!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Definition of Yes

My friend Christina, who lives her life with the attitude that the glass is not only half full- it is full to the top, started saying yes, only when her gut response was 'Hell Yes'. Which, as far as I am concerned is the proper response to create a life worth living.

Christina's 'Hell Yes' approach to life, and a little bit of serendipity, means she is currently traveling throughout Australia meeting new people, learning new life skills, and having the time of her life. Her post "Never Settle for a life of Mediocracy" is definitely worth a read, especially if you are looking to shake things up a bit in your own life.

I also love that Christina met Diana at a Crave event, which I blogged about, and they both have the spirit to fully embrace life and their epic adventure.

Christina speaking at the Crave event. Photo credit Amy Boyle Photography
Christina sharing her story at the Crave event. Photo Credit amy boyle photography

I will admit that for a moment I thought about not posting this because 'Hell' is not a pretty word, but, you know, life is not pretty and sometimes my language is not pretty either. I can say that checking in with myself and gauging my response means that I am saying yes only to events, meetings, or dates with friends and acquaintances, that propel me forward spiritually, emotionally and physically.

I also need to give credit where credit is due. First to the lovely Christina who brought puppies and unicorns into my life. When she left for Australia she took a bit of sunshine with her. Second my advice was based on something I had read. I am guessing that the incomparable Saya Hillman of Mac 'n Cheese Productions had posted it on her Facebook page. Even if she didn't, her belief in helping others live a Life of Yes! deserves a shout out.Third- Oh and Diana rocks!


Monday, January 7, 2013

A holiday wreath

Photo credit Kandy M. Christensen
I realize the holidays are over, but since I was sick throughout them I didn't get a chance to do this before Christmas. I am trying to pare down and clean some things out. A part of that includes Christmas decorations. I have two tubs of Christmas decorations and a box for the tree. Years ago I started collecting vintage ornaments. I would find them at antique stores and carry them home and hang them lovingly on the tree. Then a couple of years ago I found an antique aluminum Christmas tree. It is so gorgeous in its simplicity that I only hang a few turquoise bulbs on it along with some turquoise garland. It is also draped in a lovely tree skirt I made out of 1950's fabric which is turquoise shot with silver.

Photo credit Kandy M. Christensen
Since I no longer use the ornaments I decided to make them into a wreath. Initially I was going to try to make a frame out of wire hangers, but I did not have any and I got a styrofoam wreath from Joanne's (I feel slightly guilty for this!). The first thing I did was to cover the wreath with a bit of ribbon. Using a glue gun I tacked down the first piece.

Then I continued to wrap the ribbon, which by the way I bought almost 20 years ago for another project I never finished, and I tacked it down with the glue gun every two wraps.

Here is the wreath all wrapped up.
I added a bit of ribbon to hang the wreath on a hook.

I started gluing ornaments to the wreath and filling in empty parts with smaller ornaments. I found that gluing the ornaments to the wreath and then also to each other helped keep it all together. I also left the wreath lying flat so when I hang it there aren't any round bits that keep it from hanging flat.

Here is the final result. It's a bit large, ostentatious and kind of gaudy, but I do adore it. I actually almost ran out of ornaments! 

Here it is hanging on my door. I guess since it is after the New Year I should take it down, but I kind of like coming home to a burst of cheer.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Why is 'Tech' only for men?

When I first saw this post titled, "The Finest in Gentleman's Tech Haberdashery" my first thought was 'I want that'. I mean who wouldn't want a fabulous grey tweed laptop bag. I mean it's tweed for goodness sakes. Then I reread the post and I got angry. I realize that certain things are marketed towards men and certain things towards women. I also realize that in the craft/handcraft world there are not as many options available for people who do not prefer floral skirts, something I am trying to rectify at Meandering Design. I think a large part of my frustration lay in the fact that these were 'tech' items. The stereotype of gender roles, and I am going to admit that those stereotypes color my vision as well, is that men use tech and women, what, don't?!

The main photo accompanying the article could have been taken at my apartment. Mid-century modern-check, streamlined wood furniture-check, grey tweed-check, and antique cameras-check.

Image from Apartment Therapy

I do not mean to pick on Apartment Therapy. In fact I recommend their site and highly recommend the book. I hope to start a discourse on how we represent items. Every single thing in that post is something that I would buy for myself, well, except for the gold plated iPhone. It is time to look at how gender roles and stereotypes function in our society and recognize that women use tech and like tweed.