Crafting & Art

Some Overdue Office Organization

Let me tell you a tale of a girl who used to be organized, oh…. about four years ago. Since Clara came along, well, it has been a slippery slope. I’ve kept notes to myself in various notebooks, on my phone, on post its, and have scribbled in every square inch of my day planner. I’m almost never sure what I need to do next since there are so many active lists competing for my attention these days. So when John and I were asking ourselves what our home office needs to make it as functional as possible, it was about two seconds before I was pulling a Mary Katherine Gallagher and jumping around and throwing my arms in the air and shouting “command center!”

Yes, my friends, it was even more urgent to this nesting pregnant lady than painting those office walls. Although we realized as we were nailing into them to hang things that it’s sort of an accidentally genius move to hang art before painting because if you make a few bad nail holes you can just spackle them before you paint the whole room, so that’s a nice perk.

We thought this wall was perfect since it would be visible from within the office, but our scribbles would be out of sight from the foyer. And we both agreed that we needed a place to write things that had to be done across multiple categories like “projects”, “house maintenance”, “showhouse/book 2 stuff”, “future post ideas”, “website to-do”, etc. We just knew there had to be a better way than having different lists of each of those things floating around randomly (the website one just fell behind the couch, by the way).

Not only did I dream of having them all in one place in an easy to reference spot for both of us – most of all I dreamed of having a column for “top tasks” so we could lift tasks out of each of those other columns and place in there by order of priority. This will hopefully keep us from bouncing around randomly without really weighing what makes the most sense for us to tackle next.

While we were dreaming, we also wanted a place to work out our upcoming post schedule where we both could see it (so we can see which giveaways are lined up, what posts we’re planning to write up next, etc). We also wanted a smaller spot to jot down what we need to buy/get the next time we’re out (we’re always forgetting random things like new oil-rubbed bronze window locks for the freshly painted office windows).

John and I weighed a ton of options for meeting all of those needs, like: one big dry erase board, one big cork board, using dry erase paint right on the wall, going the chalkboard route, using magnetic paint to hold up small pieces of paper in a grid that we could move and shift, etc. In the end we settled on sort of a hybrid solution. We decided to make two big magnetic frames so we could use smaller dry erase magnets (which we could write on and shift around) to create a multi-column to-do list and a post-planning schedule. We even snuck a “To Buy/Get” list in there on a smaller frame while working in some sweet Clara art, a quote that makes us laugh from our last office, and a favorite family picture.

First we planned the arrangement with some old frames. We continued to shift things around a little after this photo was taken, but you get the idea:

Next we ordered some white dry erase magnets from this site. John found them and I was instantly on board because I love that they’re not small/swallowable magnets (which make my paranoid-mom-heart skip a beat) and also because we can write directly on them and move them around. So placing them in a “projects” column, then moving them to the “top task” column, and even popping them over to our post schedule board if they’re done/shot/written/ready to be scheduled would be nice and simple.

We also hit up Home Depot to see what they had in the “sheets of metal” category. There were some other sheet metal options on an end cap, but we bought a magnet with us just to be sure they were magnetic and they weren’t. Kinda threw us for a loop until we saw these panels hiding in a completely different aisle. And thankfully, these guys were magnetic.

We ended up getting two of them that were big enough to fill our frames (they came in a bunch of different sizes, and thankfully were pretty easy to cut at home with gloves and a metal snip). Here are my supplies all laid out:

First I removed the glass from the frame along with the backing and laid just the wood part of the frame over the sheet metal and used a red sharpie to trace the rectangle that I’d need to cut out.

Then I just slipped on my gloves and started cutting with the metal snip. It took a little while since it makes such small cuts, but it was pretty straightforward and I was left with two metal inserts for my frames in about fifteen minutes.

Here’s one slipped into the frame, with the backing holding it in place. It was pretty exciting to test drive a few of the dry erase magnets up there. #yolo

After I made sure both pieces of metal fit into the frames, John and I chatted about what colors we thought would be nice for the metal and the frames, and decided to draw inspiration from our new desk. And so the idea for a mixture of frames in a soft champagne color, a pearly metallic white, and a flat basic white was born. We had all of these guys in the garage already, so I was ready to rumble.

First I used clean metal primer on both of the sheets of metal we bought, just because I thought it would be a nice uniform look to spray those to match their frames. We figured with all those white magnets on them, things could get busy, so keeping the frames and backgrounds uniform might be a nice touch.

Next I sprayed the frames themselves. This is the pearl mist going on a few of the frames and one of the primed sheet metal pieces (you can see the champagne mist ones drying in the background). I left these outside to dry so long that a rogue leaf landed in the middle of that smaller frame (thankfully it was completely dry by then).

It took about four thin coats of spray paint to get things nice and even, but in the end it’s a really clean look to have the metal sheets and the frame the same color. I even used a little bit of washi tape on the end of the magnetic headers for each category to set them apart along the top of the board.

Oh office supplies, why are you so adorable?

To make our “To Buy/To Get” board, I used a smaller frame with some slightly metallic linen-like fabric slipped that into the frame behind the glass. A black dry erase marker makes it easy to write on the glass, and we just shoot a picture of the list whenever we’re running out for errands so I can remember everything instead of muttering “where’s that list?” followed by some endless purse-searching.

Here’s a closer shot of the post planning board, which got the pearl paint treatment, and some gold and yellow washi tape along those header and side labels. We don’t usually work very far out for posts (we share a lot of stuff within a week of doing it) but it’s already coming in handy for jotting down future ideas, giveaways that have been scheduled, etc.

So that’s how our little command center came to be. I’d really love to upgrade some of the frames eventually (the one with Clara’s painting in it needs a larger mat for example) but for now I’m feeling around 95% more organized. If only I could fit my massive belly behind the couch to retrieve that old website to-do list…

Might have to send Burger in for it. And by that I mean “somehow convince him the list is made of food so he cares enough to retrieve it.”

How do you guys stay organized? Do you have a big family calendar that hangs in your kitchen? We debated doing a calendar board as well, but like using my planner to write down meetings, appointments, parties, etc – so we thought keeping that in there but all the project/home maintenance/book/showhouse/post stuff on the wall would be a good combination. We’ll have to see how it goes…

Update: For anyone wondering what the octopus print says, where we got it, or where the file cabinet is from, that info is all on the first page of comments for ya.



A Quilt For The Bun

A few years ago I chronicled how my not-nearly-a-seamstress buns were compelled possessed to make a quilt for the bean.

And here I am a few years later (after a tornado of thread and a surprisingly successful sewing machine date) with another homemade quilt – this time for our baby boy on the way.

I don’t think I would have been so into making him a quilt if Clara hadn’t grown so attached to hers. She not only has slept with it pretty much every night since I finished it…

… but she brings it in the car for road trips, and even drags it downstairs to to the sofa for lazy Saturday snuggling.

The sweetest thing about it is that John has told her a few times that mommy sewed it just for her, so every once in a while when she hugs me or kisses me goodnight she leans in and whispers “thank you for my beautiful quilt.” Yup, just typing that made me tear up. She’s the best.

So I wanted to make something for my little man to hopefully love just as much, but I thought it might be fun to try a different method this time. I hedged for a while, not really sure where to begin, and then I saw this awesome hand-stitched quilt and knew it was just the inspiration I was looking for (it’s by Citta Design, but sadly no longer for sale).

I love how charming that sweetly imperfect hand-done stitching is. Each line is irregular enough to clearly not be machine-made, and it feels so full of love thanks to those slightly varied dashes. So I decided to give it a try…

Here’s a list of my materials:

All told, I spent under $10 to make this quilt (and about ten million love-filled man-hours spaced across a weeks’ worth of evenings, but we’ll get to that in a second). While I was pre-washing my quilt fabric (I thought it was best to let it shrink up before I embroidered it), my first step was just to decide what type of stitched pattern I liked best. I debated everything from evenly spaced lines like the ones in the inspiration image to some sort of diagonal or crosshatched design, but in the end, the idea of some simple stripes in varying tones of blue and green won out.

I just started from the left side of the quilt and hand stitched four different lines of embroidery floss – each one in a different color.

I made sure not to double up my thread (I kept it single like the inspiration quilt, which meant threading the needle like this with a little excess, but not looping it all the way down and knotting it like I do when I sew a button with regular thread).

After completing my first “stripe” (which was comprised of four different stitched lines that went from top to bottom) I used the diamonds on the quilted fabric to roughly space the next stripe about two diamonds away. That way I could keep the spacing somewhat even, although I did some of the stripes 4-stitched-lines wide and some of them 3-wide, just for variety. I really do love how the inspiration quilt is unmistakably done by hand – and it doesn’t hurt that I couldn’t make something look perfectly spaced if I tried.

The diamonds in the embroidery fabric also helped me keep my lines somewhat straight from top to bottom. For example, if I started one hand-stitched line at the peak of a diamond, as I stitched from the bottom of my fabric to the top, I made sure to connect each diamond peak as I went. This kept me from veering off too far to the right or left.

Now let’s talk about the time factor. You know I like to keep it real with you guys, and I’d never say “fast and easy” if something takes forever. Well, the good news is that this quilt is mad cute. The bad news is that it takes forever. I don’t know if I’m slow or just easily distracted by Housewives drama (I did it every night across about a week while sitting on the sofa watching TV), but my average was about 3-4 stripes (made up of either three or four colors) a night, which took about 2 hours.

So all told, this 16-stripe one-yard quilt (well technically there are 57 stripes, but they’re spaced to look like 16 thicker ones) took me around 11 hours in total (including one more hour spent hemming the outside seams with a sewing machine, which actually wasn’t too bad).

Even though it took a while, it wasn’t one of those torturous projects that makes you want to poke your own eyeballs out (that’s painting blue trim or peeling wallpaper, FYI). It’s more like one of those relaxing repetitive motions you can do at night from the sofa, where your butt might be parked anyway. But instead of taking quizzes on Buzzfeed or scrolling around on Instagram, you get to be stitching something while snuggled under a blanket with your chihuahua and feeling pretty dang quaint about it.

As for how I knotted each stripe, I just tied off the top of each one with the thread still on the needle on the top edge of the back of the quilt. And then on the bottom edge I cut the embroidery floss off with about 7″ to spare so I could slip my needle back onto that end and knot it there as well. That left me with a seam full of knots like this along each edge (top and bottom) on the backside of the quilt.

Once I got about a third of the way done with my stripes (working from left to right), I started on the right side and worked from right to left to get about a third of the way done with that side. Then I bounced back and forth doing every other stripe on each side, as I got closer and closer to the middle of the quilt, which allowed me to space everything so it was somewhat symmetrical. It probably would have been just as easy to work from left to right and use that two-diamond spacing, but I might have had to trim off a few inches of the quilt at the end if everything didn’t line up perfectly, and I liked the idea of a square quilt.

Allow me to share this creepy low-lit iPhone pic to demonstrate how I sort of worked in towards the middle.

To hem the edges I broke out the ol’ sewing machine and said a few prayers to the sewing machine gods. I’m paraphrasing, but they were something like “please let me make it through this attempt without throwing this thing out the window or revealing my evil sailor-mouthed alter ego to my sweet husband in the next room.” Then I just folded each edge over in the back, took three deep cleansing breaths, and stitched them in that folded position.

This hid the knots on the top and bottom but there was still not a finished edge along the back hem, so I folded each of them over again and did one more stitch-session with each side for a nice finished look from the back and front. This is the front:

And here’s what it looks like from the back:

Lo and behold, I only broke two needles (that’s not a joke, I really managed to break two needles) but I think it came out really sweet.

Can’t wait to meet this little bun and wrap him up with all sorts of love and quilt-y snuggles.

Right now it’s just chilling in the nursery, waiting for the big arrival.

Is anyone else sewing anything for their kiddos? Friends or relatives? Four-legged babies? Have you ever tried hand-stitching or embroidery? It’s oddly restful. Sort of like hand hypnosis.