Category Archives: Making Things

Buy Nothing New Christmas: Final Report for 2013

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Today is the day I start planning and making Christmas presents for next year.When I started making gifts in June last year, I thought I was totally on top of things, but I did not give myself enough time. I found myself at the end of the season frantically buying supplies and completing projects (and adding last minute projects!) and I ran out of time to come up with good ideas that didn’t use anything new.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do a terrible job. I made several gifts out of my stash of supplies. I made a large blanket for my brother that did require yarn purchases, but still met my rules because I started with stash yarn and only had to buy some additional yarn to complete the project. But I could certainly do better.

First, here is the list of projects that did fit my rules:

  • A scarf for my dad made with stash yarn entirely (I didn’t get a picture of this one)
  • My brother’s blanket–all colors started with stash yarn, but I did have to supplement that a bit. However, I did say buying supplies to finish a project would count for my purposesBlanket for David
  • A set of 10 coasters for my mother made entirely out of stash yarncoasters
  • The Christmas tree collage for my aunt, made with supplies I had on hand when I started the challengecollage
  • A set of ceramic plates for my cousin using the plates I finished up from my pottery class last fall (didn’t get a picture of these, either)
  • An ebook for each of my kids to read on their Nooks

And here are the things that didn’t quite meet the challenge:

  • Makeup and nail polish for my daughter
  • Magic cards for my son
  • Munchkin game as a family present
  • Scarves for a couple of my friends–I had my daughter sew them, but I did buy new material rather than upcycling old tshirts as originally intended (again with the no pictures–it was a busy time at the end of the holidays, finishing gifts just in time to give them)

Overall, I think I did pretty well. The majority of the gifts I gave were handmade, and I don’t feel too bad about the ones that were new. Makeup is even sort of meeting the rules, because it is consumable. The games are something I should have made an exception for, in retrospect. Anything that encourages the children to spend time NOT watching TV is a good thing, in my book. And at least the scarves were made by me (because I made the girl that made the scarves, 😉 ).

I do think I could do better next year, though, if I start planning now. If I had started with a better plan for the gifts, I wouldn’t have been adding things at the last minute. I am still at the beginning stages of planning, but I will definitely need to have a plan in place soon. I hesitate to say that it will be a complete plan, because things always change, but I want to have at least a framework by the end of this month.

Am I the only one crazy enough to start thinking about this now?

Goals for 2014

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Goals

This year I am planning to be way more intentional. Less mindless TV and facebook gaming, more making, learning, and blogging. It is so easy to fall into a habit of coming home from work, doing something about dinner and settling in on the couch for some mindless relaxation. I am not entirely opposed to mindless relaxation–sometimes that is so healing–I just don’t want it to be the default mode.

With that in mind, here are some goals for the year. This is sort of a first pass on the goals. I would like to develop a longer, more detailed list, like the 52 Things in 52 weeks at Kincavel Korner, but I am not ready to dive directly into that list.  I am trying to put something quantifiable on each goal, because leaving things too open-ended is just a setup for procrastination, and then I can flesh it out into 52 items.

Learn to use the sewing machine. My mother gave me a basic sewing machine for Christmas in 2012, at my request. Since that time, I went out and bought lots of supplies for sewing and did about 6 inches of stitches just to get a start on learning to use it, but I have not even started making an actual project. Luckily, my daughter knows how to use the machine, and this year she is going to teach it to me. I am going to make at least one thing each month.

Crochet (at least) 10 blankets. This is an easy one–I love making blankets! I completed 12 blankets last year, and I have several that are close to being done just waiting for the last bit of work to complete them. I want to include it in the goals list, though, because it is not totally implausible that I will get distracted by other things and let this slip. For the purpose of this goal, finishing a blanket counts, even if the blanket was started before the year began.

Play more games with my kids. They love playing games, but I often feel too busy to sit down and play. I have been working on this the past month or so, but I want to make sure we keep it up. I’d like to play at least one game per week.

Do more upcycling. I make a lot of things, but I tend to go out and buy new supplies–new yarn, new fabric, new art supplies, etc. I wouldn’t say that I never reuse things, but it is more rare than I would like. I would like to do at least one project per month that reuses something that had another use–making tshirt yarn and crocheting something, making a blanket with old blue jeans, doing something with all those jars and wine bottles that I’ve saved in my basement.

Start an art journal. Technically, I have already started one, but I haven’t done very much at all–maybe 4 entries over the last year. I’d like to do at least one art journal entry per week.

Blog more regularly. I am aiming for three posts per week. This will actually help me with my other goals, as I need to have something to post about!

Get my finances under control. I don’t do bad here, but I spend more than I should, and I have a few debts I would like to get rid of, mostly related to my house and college loans. I pay my bills on time, and I don’t have creditors calling, but I would like to save more and be a bit more careful about what I spend. I don’t have a concrete goal for this one yet, but I want to have a plan by the end of January.

I am deliberately using the term goals rather than resolutions here. I don’t think that resolutions are really serious things. If I were substituting a synonym for resolutions, I would use wishes rather than plans. Goals are a bit more concrete–not quite plans, but a good basis for plans.

Christmas Project Progress

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button tree

People, Christmas is three weeks from today. Three! I need to get serious about what I want to do and what I will be able to do before that happens. It is definitely time for a prioritized list.

First, here are the things I absolutely want to finish before Christmas:

  1. Any pottery I want for giving needs to be ready for firing by this weekend. It may already be too late–December is a busy time for the kiln! At a minimum I want to finish up some of the small medallions I made to make into magnets and complete whatever coil trees I have already built. These things need to be painted with underglaze and fired, then dipped into clear glaze and fired again. Hopefully I can get them done quickly.
  2. Blanket for my brother
  3. Button tree collage for my aunt
  4. Crocheted coasters for my mother

If I get those things done, I will be happy. If I get them done with time to spare, I will do some or all of these things:

  1. Crochet a wreath for my front door
  2. Find the shawl I started last year for a friend and finish it
  3. Make some jewelry
  4. Make homemade lip gloss
  5. Make sugar scrubs

There is a very good chance that my list of finished projects will look nothing like this list, but I like having a plan to start with at least. I feel pretty good about the first priority items, although not entirely certain.

How are your Christmas projects coming?

 

I Made an Electronic Piano!

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Okay, it was just an easy little project that came with the soldering iron, but still, I am pretty pleased with myself. I have been wanting to do more with electronics for awhile now, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I bought a Learn to Solder Kit from Radio Shack the same time that we bought a bunch of Arduino supplies a while back. The boy and I sat down with our goodies, and I quickly became overwhelmed. I know, that is totally wimpy, but it was a lot of information! The kit didn’t include a clamp to hold the board, and for some reason, I found this to be an insurmountable problem. It was probably a combination of not wanting to spend any more money, and my brain being full because we had started with the Arduino, ;).

After a while, though, I remembered that my dad had actually given us a kit with a soldering iron and a glue gun, and sure enough, that kit included clamp. So, today I decided to just dive in and try to complete the project. What’s the worst that could happen? It wouldn’t work? I could deal with that.

Soldering

This was meant to be a joint project with the boy, but just as I was sorting out the resistors, one of the neighborhood boys wandered by in front of our house, and he was out the door. I like it when he plays outside, so I told him to go ahead, but that I was going to go ahead and learn to solder without him.

It took me a bit to make sense of the instructions, since I am so not used to this type of project, but I figured I would just do the best I could and see what happened.

soldering in progress

 My joinings didn’t always look pretty, but they seemed to get the job done, and I got better as I went along.

front of board

It may not look super pretty, but the important thing is that when I had everything in place and plugged in the battery, it worked!

See? The light is on!

See? The light is on!

The boy came home right after I finished this project, and he has been writing songs on it ever since. I find it a bit loud, but as long as he stays in the other room, I am loving hearing him play the piano. I made it from a bunch of little parts with a power tool, ;).

Now I feel ready to start some more complicated projects. You know, just as soon as there is room in the budget to buy more supplies.

Have you done any soldering or electronics projects?

Projects I Have Done and Projects I Have Yet to Do

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Christmas Countdown R & G Dots

Christmas is 34 days away! Time to take stock and kick into high gear on my remaining projects!

Projects completed:

  • 3 crocheted blankets
  • 9 crocheted scarves
  • 6 crocheted stocking ornaments
  • 18 small pottery plates
  • 1 pottery Christmas tree
  • 4 crocheted spa cloths

Projects in progress:

  • Two crocheted makeup bags – crocheting is done, they just need buttons sewn on
  • Button Christmas tree collage
  • Pottery magnets
  • More pottery Christmas trees
  • More pottery plates

Projects I would still like to do:

  • Coffee mug cozies
  • Homemade lip gloss
  • Jewelry-making
  • More ornaments–both stockings and snowflakes
  • One more crocheted blanket
  • Lavender Sea Salt Scrub
  • Finish a shawl I started for last Christmas
  • Crochet some coasters
  • 1 more crocheted scarf

What do you think? Too ambitious? How are your handmade projects coming?

Encouraging Girls to Hack and Make

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I love this idea! I have been looking around at Maker Spaces online, because I love the idea, but it seems like there are a lot of men that go to these spaces and not many women. That makes me a bit nervous, honestly, and I am a grown woman. Young girls must feel even more nervous at the whole idea. DIY Girls is a great idea!