Oct 202017

While I don’t have any cat photos for this Friday, I did complete a small, but useful workshop project. The spandrel (space under the stairs) in my workshop was used by prior owners as storage – for random crap, dirt, and a tangle of spider webs, as far as I can tell. Inspired by how much I loved using my last workshop spandrel for relaxation, I planned on doing something similar in this one.
My past workshop spandrel hammock.
The old hammock.
Me, in my workshop spandrel hammock, a dozen years ago.
Me, 12.5 years ago, reading in my old workshop spandrel hammock.

That spandrel had a lot of space to work with. The whole place had high ceilings, even in the basement, which meant a much larger spandrel area. There was so much space that I had a storage shelf above the hammock and at the foot area, too. My current spandrel is significantly smaller. I can stand up in the highest part, but only if I’m not wearing thick shoes. The hammock idea was out, but I bought a twin sized, foam mattress for it and figured that would be nice. Crawling into a soft, warm, corner of light and pillow filled space to read, sketch, or maybe have a nap. Sounds good, right? Except I kept not getting around to it (three years have passed since the mattress purchase) and finally, only this past month, realized it was because I didn’t want that so much. What I need more of is storage space, not a corner to chill in. The old spandrel hammock gave me a place to “be”, which was in short supply in the living spaces. Our house now has good amounts of living spaces, which is probably the biggest change to the motivation.

Thus, the foam mattress will get a frame (one day, in the years future) and live upstairs (probably) and the spandrel be mostly storage and workspace. Since it is so small, I need to maximize the unusual qualities of the space and the perfect need presented for this: a screen printing frame storage and drying area. After washing out screens it is good to have a spot for drying with free air flow all the way around them. Similarly, once you’ve coated a screen with photo sensitive emulsion, it needs at least an hour of free air drying in a light-free place. Even when they’re dry and safe for use, they need an undisturbed space to be stored in, preferably a space that is out of the way of curious cats and their destructive claws. I mathed up a design last Saturday morning and, using scrap lumber and a half a box of screws, spent the day building these racks. Racks? Brackets? I don’t know exactly what definition they’d fall under, but I’m calling them racks because it is close and the word is short.
Screen printing frame drying and storage racks.
(Do ignore the sloppy spray foam drippy bits that I’ve not trimmed down yet.)
Racks shown with some freshly recovered screens. This small, diagonal space is idea for a few reasons. One, air flow. The rack uprights and cross pieces leave lots of area for air movement around the frames. The photo doesn’t show, but I have a small fan in here to help. Two, I can reach through them to clean the dustbunnies or murder any wayward spiders that haven’t met me yet. Three, there are power wires running way back under there and I would not feel comfortable having them next to storage boxes or such, which means I’d have to protect and enclose them if I wanted to use this spot for traditional storage. Blerg. This works out great. This setup has slots for 22 frames, or 24 if I’m willing to allow the bottom ones to touch the floor. Oh yeah, fourth is that I won’t ever have to get down and crawl into that space to use it (only clean it, seldom) merely bend over slightly to reach the lower, racked frames.

And, for light protection:
Black felt light-blocking curtain.
A simple and cheap black felt curtain. There will be strings and top hooks to roll it up and keep it out of the way when needed, but I haven’t attached those yet. I will put two small hooks at the bottom also, to keep out mildly curious cats. I’ll add a motion activated air bottle for a few months of training to make sure any more-than-mildly-curious cats are discouraged.

Currently, I have ten screen printing frames which I mostly keep in a rotation of exposing, using, storing until I acknowledge I’ll never use them again, recovering them with remover, cleaning, and storing until I need a new screen print. The whole rotation takes years and I only have two or three (oh, I guess have twelve total then) that I intend to keep mostly-permanently. At the slow rate I acquire additional screens, this rack setup should last me for decades yet. Hopefully, until I die or can’t get down the basement stairs anymore. Or until someone comes up with a personal, laser plotter printer for fabric and I rip them out. Yeah, I’ll probably die first.

Now I’m left with the rest of the spandrel which is about 4 x 3 x 5′. That is a lot of valuable workshop space, although I have to leave access for the racks and for some electrical box stuff in the back. It won’t be an easy shelf build, but I will come up with some method of making good use of it. Currently, it holds about half my Lego collection and unused paint and plaster buckets, so it definitely has room for improvement, now that it has a purpose.

I think I’ll be spending a lot of time next year building in and refitting parts of my workshop. It has been a while since I made improvements to it and now that I’m refining some of my creative focus, it is time to get to it.

May 262016

followed by a discussion of my sewing machines

Alright, it seems that time is getting away from me. I have a number of things I’ve failed to share in a timely manner, so I’m really making an effort to catch up now, but in a reasonable manner. I’m going to plow through all the May things I’ve skipped, in order. Yes, I have some things from April and older, but this is my compromise for catch up.

I did a little workshop work a couple weeks back. I still have so much to do! Cabinets, shelves, finishing items like putting on window trim and outlet covers. It is going to take me years to call it “done” since I only make progress once or twice a year. Can’t be helped – I like working in the workshop more than working on the workshop itself.

One of the small bits I accomplished was to put some semi-dead storage shelves in. My treadmill is a good-sized one, and hefty, since I needed it to get me jogging (or walking) through the long Wyoming winters and run for many years. Unfortunately, the size means there is wasted wall space – that is a sin if ever there were one! The space is behind the treadmill, where the main control panel backs to the wall. It leaves a good 16″d x33″w x30″h space under the control panel, in front of the tread – above where the motor is. You don’t see this area when the treadmill is up, but it sits there, undisturbed and not being useful. And let me tell you that doing the morning exercise for an entire winter will give you plenty of time to think about how to reclaim that wasted space.
Shelf by treadmill.
Beautiful! Since this is only seen while the treadmill is down, and you’d have to put the treadmill down to access it, only items of notable value, but limited usage would be appropriate here. This is why I call it semi-dead. My “spare” sewing machine fits this bill and fits part of the space perfectly. You can read later why I have a spare machine, if you care.

Oh, you can see the new catwalk here, too. Now the cats can get to three different windows without touching the floor, or (and more importantly) wrecking my shit on the way.
Shelf by treadmill.
And with the treadmill up. Not even visible. Ugh, my desk is still exactly that messy. I moved a bunch of stuff onto so I could have some workspace to build these shelves, then never cleared it back off. I have too much stuff.

That’s it! A simple and incredibly useful project for me. If you want to read about my spare sewing machine, carry on. Otherwise, I’ll have more new stuff up soon.

My sewing machines

Yes, plural – I have four as of a month ago, used to be just three. But, with only three machines, I’d still get incredulous people who visited my workshop. “Why do you have three sewing machines?!?!” as if I were mad somehow. These are usually sourced from people who don’t sew. What they don’t understand is that it is like asking a painter why they have more than two brushes, or a woodworker why they have a garage full of tools. Simply, they do different things. Here is the breakdown.

1. Gretchen, my Pfaff, which I bought as a showroom-used model 11 years ago) was (until a month ago) my main machine. It is a basic model, there are no fancy stitches or options, no computer chip, all mechanical. I have used the hell out of Gretchen and I am confident she will travel through hell with me for another 11 years and more. The older mechanical Pfaffs are excellent, new computerized ones not so much.

2. Suzy. Before I learned to free motion sew, I eyed with silent envy the computerized machines that would stitch out cute little icons or letters for you. They seemed so shiny! I found Suzy, my spare machine, at Target, on sale, many years ago. It could do the basics plus decorative, flowery, patterns, and multiple alphabets! All for under $200. A quick check of the internet revealed bad news – the machines are worth what you pay for them. Approximately half them were duds, the rest fine. I gambled and won – my Suzy was a keeper. (I call her Suzy because of all the many stitches she’ll do for how cheap she was = Suzy the stitch slut.) Whenever I had to take Gretchen in for regular maintenance or a timing fix (because of the previously mentioned hell I put her through) and needed to sew during that short time, out came Suzy. Plus, Suzy was good for a number of labels, dates, a short poem or two, some decorative work, etc. As well, I do sometimes run multiple machines at a time for involved projects, but that is a subject worthy of a different post.

3. Diva (or sometimes, that fucking Diva of a machine!) is my Sashiko II from Babylock. This was mostly an impulse purchase at a quilt show, but I love the sashiko (hand stitched) look it will produce. In summary, it is an overpriced, under-functioning, one-trick pony that is unreliable. It only does the sashiko stitch, that is all. It has to be significantly readjusted with any thread type change. The timing is too easy to throw off and way too hard to fix. Even the shop I bought it at couldn’t fix it and replaced it with a new one to fend me off when I took it to them. I’ve cursed more at this machine more than any other machine (any, sewing or otherwise) in my life. I’ve envisioned smashing it with a sledge, setting it on fire, and (sometimes) running it over with a truck. It skips, snags, pulls, breaks, and sometimes shreds threads. It is a fickle piece of crap and I don’t suggest ANYONE buy one. If you’re thinking of it, instead hire a local kid to do stitching for you. Even that will be cheaper and more accountable. However, with all that said, I still love that stitching – when it works. Looking at those stitches twangs my creative heartstrings. While I will put Diva away for lengths of time to avoid harm (to both of us), I keep bringing her back out and playing her damn games.

4. (no name – Janome brand) I had to take Gretchen in for some overdue maintenance. [There was so much lint fluff in there it was becoming felt!!] While at the shop, I decided to look around. I’d only the day before on the internet seen some way-fancy free motion machine designed just for that purpose. Of course, it was overpriced and unreliable, so I wasn’t even thinking of going for it, but I did now have a thought in my head that I could stand to look around, a little, if I wanted, no meaning to it. Yes, that did it. The shop was having a remodeling sale and I found my new machine and it came home with me that day. It is … well, almost awesome. As in, I am almost in awe of it. It does all the basics, it does all the fancies, and it will free motion with a mere foot change and a switch flip. This is heaven for me. Plus, I bought the surface extension that fits onto it. I FMQ’d the whole “Black Cat in Rainbow” quilt as the first project on it. It didn’t snag once, it adjusted tension automatically, and it has an auto-thread-cutter. That alone has saved me a lot of time, especially with the 40+ thread changes I did on that quilt. This thing is great. I didn’t exactly plan to buy it, so I have some weird money-splurge guilt for something I didn’t really need, only wanted. It seems I now have a new main machine.

I still have Gretchen. There is nothing wrong with her, she is as perfect as if I’d bought her yesterday. If I keep her, I should get rid of Suzy, since Gretchen would become the backup and my new Janome can trump Suzy’s fancies with a glance. I am torn about what to do, but I am sure some time will help with the decision. For the time being, anyone who comes into my workshop might still ask, “Why do you have three sewing machines?!” Little will they know I really have four, with one hidden from sight on the new shelf.

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Jul 272015

The desk is all done, the catwalk is installed. I have placed my ‘hutch’ which is a set of steel drawers likely meant for a wood or mechanic workshop, but it lives with me now. You can see the drawers at the top of the below pic. The computer and accessories have been installed and wired up. It is best not to think about how unpleasant wiring computers and peripherals can be – otherwise you might put it off. Ugh. But, it is done now and my subwoofer sounds so much thumpier on my concrete workshop floor. Yesssss!

Now comes the part where I have to sort things into the desk drawers and metal drawers. Part of this is gathering up the miscellaneous items I’ve had strewn about the house while I spent the past couple years in my semi-permanent/ temporary office-area crammed into the library/storage/closet area. I’ve been using whatever spaces I could find or make, so I’m rather scattered, item-wise.
I gathered up all my loose Sharpies from every place. Here they are. These are all my Sharpies not commited to specific kits (only a dozen of those anyhow). After lining them up, they all underwent testing before being sorted into metal drawers with appropriate labels. One item set down. About 20 or so more to go.

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Jul 232015

Desk assembled.
Drawer handles installed.
Computer cabinet vent created.
Cable runs spaced.
Desk top refinished.
Monitor arms and monitors installed. (protective covers still in place)
Monitors above desk.
Cat walk painted and marked.

Might get this area done this week. Hopefully.

 Posted by at 6:52  Comments Off on Desk Progress  Tagged with:
Jul 212015

It is that time of year again. I guess.

I didn’t get the workshop completely done in 2014. Fabric cabinets, sewing top, ironing board, badge press case, and about halfway on the computer desk. The fabric shelf/cabinets could use a touch up of paint here and there, but I’m happily using them and spent a number of spread out days filling them. I’ll show another picture when they’re completely full, which will be soon. The sewing table top you saw and you know I had to rip it all out, since it didn’t work out. Sad. The ironing board you saw, and it has been excellent. I have used it heavily; in fact, I might need to recover it around the end of the year – I didn’t smooth out the corner of the board and the sharpness is wearing through the fabrics where they are brushed past often. I didn’t post about the badge press case, but you can see the boy cats sleeping on it. The desk, well I have no posts or pictures of the desk, which I’ll get into in a minute. So, those five things. Actually, five workshop projects is not bad at all, for a workshop I’m still actively creating in. It was faster and more productive when the room was a raw shell. Any and all progress looks amazing when you’re starting from dirt and rubble. I also did make a metal working station, but I’m going to be taking it out and redesigning that area, so I’m not counting it. Plus, I didn’t photograph it, so you can’t even see what I’m talking about.

For 2015, I have so far done NOTHING on the workshop. Hard to believe, but nothing at all. I even went back and checked the blog in case I forgot something, but no. I’ve made quilts, done lots of crafty things, experimentation projects, many walks, a handful of hikes, no workshop work. Huh. That is all changing now.

The computer desk was one of four projects that had me stuck. I built the body of the desk and the top. That gave me a place to sit with my laptop, and do some painting (art, not furniture) while I built the drawers for the desk. So, I built the drawers. And I hated them. They were stupid and bad. So, I rebuilt the drawers. And I did not like them. They were less stupid and less bad, but they were not good. The second set of drawers lay piled inside the desk body shell for months. Many moons passed and dust gathered. I could not bring myself to rebuild the drawers again. Three tries was more than I could bear for a project I didn’t want to do to begin with. That was project wall number one.

The above-sink wall cabinet was project two I was stuck on. Because of the pipe fuckery that had to happen behind the wall (since the plumber did NOT put the pipes out far enough, as we patiently explained to him, with measurements) there are non-standard studs in that area. I had to essentially create an external support based on the studs that were there. Once that tragedy was complete, I found that the repurposed cabinets I had planned for there were now a teensy bit too protruding due to the support structure. DAMMIT!!!! I really, really like those cabinets, too. They are sentimental to me due to the way Slick and I acquired them. Instead, I tossed up a couple basic shelves to hold the chemicals, soaps, salts, and dyes that I use in that area. The whole thing saddened me and I put coming up with a better solution to the side for a while. Many moons, in fact.

The third progress-defiant project was the wall cabinet area in the middle of the north wall. My sentimental repurposed cabinets wouldn’t fit there and all the other cabinets and cabinet pieces I have hanging around wouldn’t work the way I wanted them to. I wanted half depth glass fronted cabinets and was faced with the conclusion that I was going to have to build them myself. My standard form of construction is to use .75″ MDF and pocket hole joins, which is efficient, fast, cheap and sturdy. It isn’t exactly pretty, and it ends up being quite heavy. While I do have standard studs in this wall area, I was concerned about my creation of significant weight with glass doors on it living above my head at that workstation. Again, I put it off and threw some temporary shelves up to hold things in the meantime. Many moons passed.

The last project block was the spandrel. Last year we had the electrical system to the house upgraded, which included new circuits for the workshop. All the work was done, excepting the actual connection of the circuits to the new, upgraded box, so the new circuits pulled their power from the old, existing circuits and left wires and temporary cabling hanging precariously in the spandrel area. You can’t repair wall holes or build out spandrel finish walls with open wiring hanging around, so the area waited as many moons passed.

Thus, I was mired, if you will, in the mud of project difficulties. It is now fully summer in Cheyenne and the thought of cutting wood, covered in sawdust and sweat, in the evenings for these remaining projects was like a … well, no. I don’t need a comparison. I simply did NOT want to do that, at all. I’m tired of building, trying to solve these problems, tired of cutting and painting wood, tired of sore muscles and sitting on the floor assembling things with my admittedly excellent drill. Tired of cleaning up workshop sawdust and recovering projects from being moved, stored, moved, stored, dusted off, forgotten, lost, moved, stored, and found again. I don’t want to fucking do it anymore. I want to be a lot more done than I am now. I don’t mind waiting around until I feel like hanging paintings and cat luxuries, but I do mind not having a desk or proper storage.

The solution was Ikea. I went online to their store, picked out some base cabinets with varying drawer sizes, a few glass-fronted wall cabinets, and clicked ORDER NOW. That was it. Well, almost. It took a few days for the items to be shipped from the warehouse, then a few more for a delivery to be scheduled. That happened last weekend, then I spent the rest of the weekend assembling the desk and tossing out the original, desk body shell I built. The new drawers are wonderful. Better than mine, easy. Once I get the desk and the accessory pieces in place (monitor mounts, computer moved, drawer items, cables ran, catwalk installed so the furry monsters don’t climb on my monitors, speakers, keyboard tray, etc. etc.) I can move on to taking down all those temporary shelves, and assembling and hanging wall cabinets. Beautiful, already made and partly assembled glass fronted cabinets just like I wanted. Also, Slick took some time to connect the spandrel wiring, so now I can go forward with enclosing walls, some sound insulation, and all the niceties planned for that area.

Once more, creative work in the workshop has stopped. All my temporary desk items are on the ironing board and my laptop is sitting atop Gretchen’s case. The desk base is done, the desk top has been sanded and refinished (I gave it a vicious scratch a couple weeks back!). The rest of the work for the desk should be complete this week, if I can keep my motivation up. Work is trying very hard to kick my ass lately and next week will be a true trial of my inner reserves. If I can get my desk area done before next week, I can hold that happy knowledge in my head as a source of respite while playing Work.

I hope to have some workshop progress pictures to share soon, if for no other reason than to show myself that I am doing something!

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Sep 182014

Last night went somewhat awry. I voted to watch an extra episode of tv on the sofa, which pushed our evening constitutional out and thus, my workshop time. Bad me. But, I did get my patina tests done, at last, so I am ready to do work in class tonight. I’ll try to grab a photo of the patina samples. Until then, here is a shot of the diorama pendant pieces all cut out.
Diorama pendant in the making.
They still have the paper patterns on them. You can see the copper peeking out on that second piece with the tree. This shot is before filing and sanding the edges. Now that they’re mostly smooth, the pattern papers are in shreds clinging on to the metal for their very existence. They’ll be gone tonight when I work on texture and color. That is why I really wanted to get the patina samples done, so that I could make progress in class. I hate sitting there not being able to work on my project. Last week, I ordered my metal as soon as I got my project approved, but it didn’t arrive until Friday, so my whole class time on Thursday was for experimentation (which is cool, but I’d rather do at home) and for ring making (for the later chain for the pendant, which I’d also rather do at home). The class schedule (with project approval and work times) is laid out poorly and inefficiently. We have limited class time, which means limited access to special tools, which are needed to complete projects. Not good.

Patinas done, I went over to spend a couple minutes on the latest Scrappy Cat while the metal cooled and set. One ear didn’t want to turn out, so I had to fight with it a lot more than I intended and then we had a blowout:
Scrappy Cat in the making
Oops. Easy fix; sorry Cat. Also, don’t worry that the legs are uneven; they’re not attached yet, only laying there. I wanted to see how it looked mostly together. I am really liking the paw shape now that I’m boxing the edges out and the extra batting in the paw pads makes them puff up in a pleasing fashion, like cat paw pads do. It will be tomorrow before I have time to get this fixed up. This is what I get for pushing on and working while I’m tired and overdue for bed!

In case that wasn’t enough, I had one more mishap. As I turned out all the lights, shooed the cats from the workshop, I gathered up the patina chemical bottles to take upstairs for class the next day. In my tiredness, I failed to put the lid on the blue dye-oxide and didn’t notice until it was all over the floor, table, and my arm and hand. UGH! Put everything down (everything I hadn’t dropped already), turn on the lights, shoo away the curious cats who magically reappeared at my sounds of dismay, get washcloths and try to scrub blue out of everything. I was mostly successful, but events like this make me glad for every time during the workshop building that I’ve told myself it was “good enough for a workshop; it isn’t a tea parlor, after all”. Indeed.

I did finally get to sleep around midnight. Today is a day I will have some coffee.

That’s what I’m up to. I need to remember to take more pictures so I can document my progress. I really hope that diorama pendant turns out well. I am fond of my original sketches, so my hopes are high.

Aug 252014

My enthusiasm for workshop work is waning fast. Currently, I’m trying to complete some of the smaller projects that will have a high payoff in the short term, like a new ironing board. As a sewist, I use a cutting board and ironing board as equally (if not more) often as my sewing machine. The last time I gave attention to my ironing situation was when I made new padding and covers for my small, tabletop ironing board 3.5 years ago. Now that I have built myself a true workshop (albeit still in progress), I felt it was time to have an appropriate ironing surface. I’d planned to make it out of metal, ready for the decades ahead, but it turns out that I have a garage full of MDF scraps. Sure, MDF will warp from heat and swell from water, eventually, but it is free scrap and will last for many years. So, I made a small investment in some cover material and got to work.

Building a new ironing board, size.
A quick shot so you can see the size. This is two layers in. The next photos break down the process and I explain. With a luxurious, large surface like this, I also wanted a tiny, itty-bitty surface to keep next to the sewing machine. Why? Sometimes, you only need to press open a seam quickly before sewing the piece again. With a tiny surface next to the machine, I can use a tiny iron (yet to purchase) or my Clover mini-iron, (as soon as I find what box it is in) which was made for fast seam presses, without getting out of my chair and moving over to the large surface. Efficiency is the goal here.

Building a new ironing board, beginning layers.
Using the itty-bitty ironing board as an example, these are the first layers. That 2×3 will serve as the legs or stand, simply to keep it above the table a little. Then, the MDF base. Both bases are part of the recycled sewing table top project, so they have been painted and sealed heavily. That said, I left the cut edges bare. It will still be fine for many years. Next layer, right against the base is a low-loft cotton batting. At this point I should have put in a layer of Insul-Brite (a metal-laced, heat reflective batting) but quite frankly I forgot all about it. After the batting is a thin layer of white muslin to keep everything in place. A single layer of batting wouldn’t hold up to much stretching and stapling, so the muslin does the structural work for it.

Like that jagged edge there? Yeah, me too. It was done with a pair of hand-me-down shears that have about 1.5 inches of actual cutting edge. One day I might take them apart and see if I can sharpen them, but I don’t have high hopes. This is what you get reduced to when all your supplies are in boxes and your boxes are covered in sawdust. Although, technically, in this case it is sanding dust.

Not shown in the photos is the stage when you attach the legs to the base. You can probably imagine what gluing, clamping, and screwing wood onto wood looks like, though.

Building a new ironing board; stapled back, felt on legs.
Once the batting and muslin was stretched tight and stapled all around, I put strips of felt (more recycling!) on the legged base so it wouldn’t scratch up the sewing table. Truly, I’ve already Scratched The Fuck out of the table, but at least I won’t cause further damage now. The big ironing board, while heavy, is easily slid off the table and under it in case I need more clear table surface.

Building a new ironing board; aluminized cotton covers.
With the underlayers done, (and a quick trip to the hardware store for more staples) I moved on to the semi-permanent cover. Since this is aluminized cotton, it won’t need washing like your average cotton fabric cover would. This stuff is resilient, heat-reflective, and wipes clean. All this means that I simply stapled it as the last layer instead of making a removable cover. Fast and easy. And it looks Damn Sharp! Plus, now I have some scraps that can be the underside of hot pads or oven mitts. Or a weird scarf, because it looks so cool.

The big board takes up a good chunk of table real estate, but it also serves as a work surface itself. You can see my itty bitty ironing board next to it. Twee!

Building a new ironing board; finished and in use.
After all that, I needed the pleasure of actually making something crafty. The new ironing board works wonderfully! Especially for projects that need a lot of pre-sewing assembly and heat, like Scrappy Cats.
Complete success! Yea!

The fabric shelves in the background are starting to slowly fill in. My existing fabric boxes are bigger than the shelves, but the folded fabric does fit up there, as you can see. It is temporary, of course. I just don’t want to spend hours and hours refolding fabric right now. The folded fabric is being shoved onto a shelf any time I need to open a box. New fabric is folded onto its own cardboard bolt center as it comes into the workshop or is pulled out of a box. I’ve decided that even though using centers like this will add bulk to the fabric storage, the payoff in ease of handling is worth it. They keep their shape, are easy to pull down and roll back up. Eventually, all the fabric will look neat and tidy, but not yet.

Yea for more progress. I am about burned out on workshop work, but still have some cabinets to build yet. And those damn desk drawers, which I haven’t even finished cutting yet. Oh well, both those can wait until the fall rolls around and with it, much cooler temperatures so that I don’t have to risk heat exhaustion when cutting wood in the garage.
While I wait, I have some sewing projects lined up, and I start my Metals class tomorrow! Woot! AmyKatt and I are taking it together, so I will have some friendly company while learning cool stuff. I am ridiculously excited.

 Posted by at 7:03  Comments Off on New Ironing Board  Tagged with:
Aug 142014

Our camera evidence revealed that the Cat Culprit was pulling the panels apart and squeezing between them, so I put a filled bucket in front of the hinged panels to try to prevent the break in, but still:
Cat foot prints in sawdust on freshly painted boards.
Some sneaky cat managed to pull the panel open whilst pushing the bucket. Strong kitty.

I have a door on order, but it won’t be in until this weekend or later and then we’ll have to find time to hook up the trailer, get the door, wrangle it down the basement stairs and install the damn thing. And paint it, of course. In the meantime, comment a guess on who the culprit is!

 Posted by at 7:21  Comments Off on Strong, Sneaky Cat  Tagged with:
Aug 122014

Okay, I can finally come up for air now. My massive work project is winding down and hopefully I will soon return to a nominal state. I can breathe, anyway. No more going in early and coming home late.

The past few weekends I was squeezing in some hours working on the workshop. The latest project was a new sewing table top, with a drop in section for my machines and covers over some cool slide-out work sections. It was tough to get it done on only the weekends, but I did it. The workshop is covered in sawdust and paint splatters again, but every piece of this new top was finished.

The table that was, but isn't anymore.
Shiny and pretty. But, it won’t work. I tore it all down, repurposed a few of the pieces and the remaining pieces are in the garage awaiting reincarnation in some other project. It was pretty depressing, I have to say, on this last weekend to have it all together and sit there, faced with the insurmountable problems which I’d thought would be completely surmountable. It did take me a few hours of trials, attempts, reconsiderations and maybe a tiny tear, as well. In the end, it had to come out.

Having an action plan always helps. I tore it out, stashed it away and quickly moved on to the next project before discouragement set in. Now I am working on the computer desk, which should be the last major build of workshop furniture. There are lots of smaller things; custom shelves and cubbies, boxing out the windows, finishing the spandrel retreat, a freakin’ door, new and more lights, etc., but nothing so big that I’d need to clear half my spaces off again. If I get the computer desk done, I think I can let the smaller stuff wait for a while and get some creative projects done again. I get cranky when I can’t sew and create for a length of time.

Thus, painting and building some more! Woot!

Jul 262014

After I finished Scrappy Cat II, I started thinking about my next creative project to dive into. Then I realized I hadn’t really spent the summer working on the workshop as I’d meant to. I got the north wall worktable done, which was quite an effort, but it was one of about seven or eight things that needed work.
So, instead of another project, I packed everything away and got to work.

The north worktable was originally made at standing height. I got a couple bar chairs so I could sit as well as stand, but after using it for almost a year I realized I didn’t like it. For small or multifarious projects that required moving around and different areas of work, it was great. Most of my projects don’t fit those limits though and I found myself standing in one spot, working until my feet started to fall asleep and my blood pooled in my legs – that, or hunched over in the bar chairs, with terrible posture. I stopped using the area through natural avoidance. I finally came to the conclusion that I had to either remodel the entire north wall or give it up to storage. I decided on the remodel. This involved clearing off all the surfaces, removing the countertops, cutting down the base cabinets by about six inches, and reassembling them all. It was a hassle and a mess. Once I cleaned up, I built another base cabinet (the last one planned for the area) and put everything back. This was a great decision, overall. I find myself using the area often, as I’d hoped for originally. It is an excellent space, even with the temporary shelving and piles of tools all over.

This left me with the cutoff sections from the four base cabinets. I was reluctant to throw them away, since I’d made them, knew them to be secure, study and I was sure they had some use. After a week of them sitting around, I knew what that use was. They would become my new fabric storage shelves on the south wall.

Smaller pieces of fabric, say under a yard, don’t need much space to be stored, but when you have hundreds of those smaller pieces, as I do, you need a lot of small footprint storage. These cutoffs, turned sideways, would make perfect, shallow storage with the addition of a few shelves. Since I only had four, I arranged them so I could build the betwixt shelves in place. Sorta a built-in type deal.

Cutoff pieces of base cabinet auditioning for a new life as a fabric cupboard.
Here is the initial test fit layout. You should always make sure that your drawings match real life, if you can.
So, I spent a very sweaty hot evening last weekend cutting the shelves for this project. It took every evening after work to get everything together, filled, sanded, caulk and touch-up painted, but I did finish it on Thursday night. I still have sore muscles.
The almost finished fabric cupboard.
Here is the view of them almost done. I added the top shelf afterwards, but I don’t have a pic of it. I’ll show them again when I get fabric on the shelves. Frankly, that will be a while. I haven’t folded and organized my fabric for years because of the storage and moving and storage and remodeling and.. and .. you get the idea. Any fabric pulled out of boxes has not been folded and restored. Any new fabric has been put in a separate, non-organized box. I’ll have to make some new folding templates anyway; these shelves are a slightly different size than my old fabric storage boxes.
I like that I’ll be able to view pretty much my entire fabric collection once it is stocked here.

Next up for the workshop is the badge station. I’m tired of the badge press machines being covered up and the cats pulling the cover off so they can sleep on it. Once I get it built I’ll take apart, clean and grease the presses and cutters; and then they can live in their safe, enclosed cabinet. The cats can sleep atop the cabinet – it will be more comfortable than the presses, I’m sure.

Badge station and two more, huge, major builds and I’ll be ready for winter. I might make it.

Aug 122013

A week ago, I mentioned I joined a couple swaps on They are small ones, just to get me back in to the swing of making things again. The first swap, due to ship out this week, is for Teesha Moore style patches. These are loose, wonky patches, really just a couple bits of fabric stuffed with a bit of fluff and pulled together with embroidery floss for edging and decoration. I have three of four done right now, but I can’t share my progress yet because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for my partners.
So, here is a link to a Google image search for Teesha Moore patches to give you an idea of what they look like. After the link opens a window, you have to hit enter or the search button to make it go, don’t know why. They are like what most people think of for embroidered patches, but these are done by hand and loose and wild.
After my partners receive theirs, I will show you what I’ve made.

In a fit of irony (that is the subtitle of this blog, I swear!) I made the decision to go ahead and finish the workshop. I know I’ll be putting supplies on the credit card, which is never a good idea. But, I want to get everything done before winter comes. It is difficult to use the space now, since everything is spread around in so many boxes. I can’t sort the boxes, since there are no shelves or cupboards to put things in yet. I can’t find a damn thing but my books. Yesterday, Slick and I went to one of our three Big Box home improvement stores (this time, Menard’s since Lowe’s was out of MDF (?!?!)) and got two-thirds of the lumber I will need, loaded up and now home in our garage, waiting to be cut. Slick is kind enough to do the cutting in the garage, then I bring in the pieces and assemble them in the workshop. First up on the list is the badge creation station, then the computer desk. I won’t actually move the computer down there until all the furniture is done and sanded, but I can get the desk built anyway. Here I am joining swaps to get my crafty motivation all fired up, and then I turn around and decide to push through and finish the workshop anyway. Oh well, I can manage a little crafting in between furniture building, I think.
Hopefully this time next week will show not only crafting projects, but more workshop progress. In the meantime, this week I will show you what our Five Cats of Chaos have been up to and an unusual transportation method. Stay tuned!

Jul 222013

Everyone has asked how the workshop is coming along, but I have to admit that it isn’t. I have reached the hold point, unfortunately. I had convinced myself to push through and get it finished, but that was not to be. Simply, I have depleted the money I had set aside for the workshop. I started using the credit card, but quickly realized this was too slippery a slope to the finish line. So, the workshop waits. Turns out that where it is right now is the hold point. I still have the budgeted money for the electrical upgrade for the house and for the new concrete patio and sidewalk, so those are still going to happen. Any monies left over from those works will go to the credit card or straight to supplies for the last bit of workshop. I still need about a thousand dollars for building supplies and maybe two hundred work hours to finish all the big things like the computer desk with fancy drawers, monitor mounts, window trim (x5), wall shelves (x4), cupboards (x4), spandrel enclosure, and a frickin’ door. Then I can enjoy the fun little things like hanging art I have gathered over the years, making pillows for the spandrel, setting up inspirational vignettes to work with. The cozy, nesting stuff.

Since I cannot build the remaining furniture, I decided to do some small, crafty work.
Experimental pieces, both explorations failures.
The Adventure Bunnies look how I want them, but I wanted to experiment with a different way to make the ears. I’ve been mentally sketching up the next creatures and thinking about what fabric shapes would allow me to create the animal pieces I want, thus the trials to make different parts in different ways and places. These are both failures, in the sense that they will not assemble or look the way I was thinking. They are successes, in the sense that I tried some new things and have learned that they will not work and I will have to think of something else.

A number of weeks back (months?) I ordered a roll of paper to lay out on the longest workbench. This has always been one of the things I wanted in the workshop, although the counter is half the length I thought it would be when I planned it back then.
Roll of paper on the workbench.
The paper quality details were sparse on Amazon, the review section and even the manufacturer’s website, but it was cheap enough that I was willing to take a chance. Alas, the paper is thinner than I’d hoped it would be. Fortunately, this is still a good purchase. The paper is thin enough that I can trace out pattern alterations through it, especially against the black counter top for contrast. Also, since it is a lesser quality paper than anything in my sketchbooks (I like nice paper!) and it is merely laying out like table liner with cats sitting on it, I end up sketching out quick ideas on it when I wouldn’t bother to dig out a sketchbook to do so. This has already increased my number of idea sketches. It is too easy to be critical of my work, so anything that helps me circumvent the critic is desirable, even lesser quality paper. Some day I will have my sketchbooks out and in easy reach, but for now, this roll of paper is a convenience. And fun. It is just fun. Once the remaining furniture is built, I will probably install a holder on the end of the workbench to hold the roll, then I can pull fresh paper along the counter whenever I want.

That’s what I’m up to right now. I want to do some small projects next, to get myself back in to making things. It is strange because while I have almost everything in one place (the workshop) it is a hectic thing. Some boxes were packed three years ago when we moved, some were repacked after being opened here before gutting the basement, some were split up once I realized they were going to spend time in the baking-hot/freezing-cold garage, some are small boxes of new, random items I purchased while my regular supplies were stored away. Everything needs organized – except the map drawers. I managed to get those almost entirely sorted and they have temporary labels, so I can find things there. And the books; I sorted them as I pulled them out of boxes and onto shelves, although I think I still have one box with crafty books buried somewhere in the library stacks. Everything else … well, hectic. Plus, the cats are teaching me that I have to change the way I do some things, such as sewing. For example, I have a luxurious, oversized pin cushion I like to leave on the table beside my sewing machines. The Captain likes to pull needles out by their attached threads and pull pins out by their heads. After they hit the ground, they are less fun, so he goes back to the cushion to get more. Oy! I will have to plan a section for that in the future drawers for that table.

So, no. No workshop progress. But, maybe I can start having some projects to share again.

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Jul 212013

I noticed I didn’t have too many cat photos up lately, so I snapped these to remind you all how much of a freaky cat lady I am.
Friday, in the workshop.
Here is Friday. She is unhappy with me because I have spent the last hour telling her she couldn’t do the things she wanted to do, like play with all the cool stuff in the garbage can, hang from the curtains, or sit on the copy stand. Her being over on the shelf instead of on my table is indicative of her pouting.

Oz, in the workshop.
Oz is such an easy-going cat. Even when he misbehaves, he’s laid back about it. Oz is agreeable to the other cats in the workshop, not fighting over choice seats, allowing others to play with his toys. I think he’s not used to the room yet – too many strange new rules on the strange new furniture still. But, he is the cat you want to greet you at the door – he runs up, puts his paws on you and purrs.

Moxie, in the workshop.
Once Moxie saw the camera, she wouldn’t play along. She is either nose to lens or completely uncooperative. She likes to sit right beside whatever I’m working on, usually Friday does, too. They are my work cats.

Captain, in the workshop.
The Captain is a terror in the workshop. He is curious about everything and pawing at anything he can reach. Anything unattended gets pushed to the edge and on to the floor for toy auditions. But when he settles down from wrecking things, he curls up in a window or on a chair and snoozes, waking only long enough to purr when I pet him.

Nora, in the workshop.
This is a problem triad I haven’t solved yet. Nora on my drafting chair. She loves this chair. Sometimes she is down here sitting on that chair when everyone else is upstairs. You can tell it is her preferred spot because of the thick layer of cream-colored cat hair covering it. And this is after I cleaned it last night. So much cat hair. The second issue is that she likes to sharpen her claws on the back of the chair. This is all bad and I have to find a way to discourage her. Probably time to bring out the no-scratch spray. We haven’t used that since they were kittens, and they have kept their learned behaviors well. The last problem was that Nora doesn’t want to yield the chair to me. She growls and hisses at me when I want to sit in it, but we had a water bottle intervention and now she acknowledges my claim to the chair. Only the two problems left.

More on the workshop tomorrow when I’m not so tired.

Jul 012013

A large part of me wants to apologize for the raw-flash photos taken late last night, but it was either this or no photos, because I’ll be damned if I was going to get up early to take and process sunlit photos.

A little more done this weekend.
For the bookcase, I sanded the edges, got it mostly leveled and attached into one piece and painted the edges. The hardest part was keeping the cats away. They don’t like the sound of my orbital sander, so whenever they started encroaching I’d run it for a few seconds to fend them off for a while. When it was done, I started loading it up with books that I haven’t seen since I packed them away at The House three years ago. I still have a box or two to go, but I have not uncovered them in the box stack yet. I am only putting craft and art related books on these shelves, so once I hit a box of fiction or other I have to find a place to shuffle it before I can move on. Boxes of books are heavy and I don’t have a lot of available surface or shelf space right now while everything is in flux. It’s okay, they’ve been in boxes for three years; a couple more months won’t hurt them.

An amusing side note about this bookcase. You know I designed it to be a stairway to the window for the cats and that it leaves the spandrel entry spaciously open. What I didn’t see (until the cats showed me) was how it is part of a kitty obstacle course. Apparently, it is quite fun for the cats to depart the bookcase with a leap, run out the door, across the hallway, through the utility room, through the cat door in the spandrel, and up the bookcase stairs in a bracing competition to be Top Cat On The Bookcase. The course does form a tidy circle. Considering how much they like the luxury lounge window area formed by the bookcase top, I think all the windows will have to have additional shelves so that the cats can have more than one prize napping spot. Slick says my next goal should be getting each of the Five Cats of Chaos into each of the five workshop windows at the same time. I do look forward to achieving that.

I brought in the metal barrister bookcases and dusted them off. They were another choice, state Surplus find. I originally thought I’d stack them as they were designed, but they fit individually under the windows nicely, being only an inch off the width. I will likely end up building a shelf above them for better storage space without cat interference, as well as for window luxury lounge creation.
Also, like my red-light, hole in the wall? It amuses me. The hole still needs finishing, but so does other stuff.

This one has a crack in the corner of the glass and I am looking forward to fixing it creatively. These cases are invaluable in their ability to keep the cats from eating my paintbrushes and providing a safe place for more delicate items that can’t survive being batted onto the concrete floor.
Behind this area you can see the newly finished wall. It is no longer an open, raw hole in the otherwise complete room. I was impatient to finish, but finally got through it. The ceiling was a pain, being torn out the way it was. There is a noticeable (to me) edge of refinishing which would generally bother me, but the whole ceiling has that problem, having been reconnected from three separate rooms with different ceiling finishes, plus every old fixture has been ripped out. Each time, I simply remind myself that this is a workshop, not a parlor, and not fret over it. I have plenty to fret over; it isn’t like there is a shortage.
It is so, so, very nice to have that utility sink! I still need to finish the cabinet, apron and shelf there, but I had to wait to get the wall done so I could get another base cabinet in place on the other side of it. I don’t know when I will get it done – it will depend on what I can put together from the lumber pieces I still have left. I’m getting down to the dregs now.

We have a holiday weekend coming up, which means I will have five continuous, non-work days. I have ordered a drafting chair which I hope will arrive by Friday. While it is altogether favorable to have most of my work surfaces at standing height, not having a chair of appropriate height means that I must always stand while working. And I do, I end up moving and I keep moving. But, when I’m going for a few hours, my feet get tired of being stood on and my lower back begins to ache. Having a drafting chair will help break it up. One day, when I’ve broken in the workshop a bit, I will have a solid plan of where to put a cushy, anti-fatigue mat or two.

There’s this week’s workshop update. I hope to get a lot done of this upcoming holiday weekend, which for me will last until next Tuesday when most folks are well back at work, so give that next update a little more time than normal.

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