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Project Memory Jars

As last mentioned in my plastic canvas wall hangings update, back in 2019 I’d given myself a pretty ambitious resolution: a challenge to turn 19 “works in progress” into “finished objects”. The first project added to my “19 WIP-to-FO Challenge” was my wall of Project Memory Jars

I’ve had a longstanding tradition of keeping a little length of yarn from each knitted and crocheted project I’ve made (later adding plastic canvas projects as my fiber hobbies crew). It started as keeping a bit of yarn in case there was need for repairs, but other than mending some knitted socks, it didn’t really wind up being a useful hoard item. That said, I have a strong visual memory and it was lovely to look back at the various yarns and remember the projects I’d made. The small colorful scraps would often bring up vivid memories of the gift recipient or technique I’d struggled with or laughter with crafty buddies in a workshop.

Originally these remnants were rolled into a ball and tied on one after another. It made them easy to store but impossible to see all the yarns on the inner layers.

My first “solution” was to make them into something tangible. They’d still have the same memory placeholder and all would be visible. Back in 2012 I eagerly cast on for a crochet granny square and made a few large blocks, intending to one day sew them into a large scrappy blanket.

This worked…fine actually. It was a chaotic mess and I knew I’d love the resulting blanket. The problem was that it would never be finished. I’d be storing a bag of 12″ granny squares for decades because even though I work on 50-100 projects yearly, the amount of triple-crochet stitches I’d be able to get from a few yards of leftover yarn was minimal.

So I thought about it and came up with a different idea. A silly little memory wall that makes no sense to anyone but me, but makes me smile and remember all the projects I put my time, effort, energy and care into.

My project memory jars

The shelves and brackets were extras from my previous job, so luckily I had those already on-hand.

I bought the jars at my local Dollarama in but if you can’t find them near you then these jars paired with these label packs would be a great substitute. Instead of using the white chalk that came with each jar I wrote on their labels with chalk markers.

Now that the wall was ready it was time to fill the jars. Which meant finally getting around to undoing the granny squares. Since it was the first item on my 19-for-19, it made sense to start with that one first.

1. FO Project Jars

What I said: I need to rip out all the individual lengths of yarn (1-10 yards long, each), match them up with what project they were from, and put the separated yarn into jars designated for each year.

What I did: basically exactly that. Only what took one sentence to type took hours to actually do. Frogging the granny squares was easy work, but before I could start I had to look at the center stitches of each block and figure out what project that was from, so I could put the blocks into a chronological order. (Luckily I take detailed project notes and my Ravelry page is mostly up to date!)

Once I’d figured out which blocks went where time-wise, I ripped them back and rolled them back into one big ball as I went, so the newest yarn was on the inside. Once everything was frogged I was able to start with the oldest scraps and begin to sort.

It was slow work but I moved through the yarn, cutting away the knots and putting a few inches of each yarn into the relevant year’s jar. Since the jars aren’t huge I only kept a bit of each and had a colorful pile of spaghetti left over at the end, which I later separated by length.

Anything that was a yard or more I rolled up and added to my mini ends bin, for use as waste yarn, stitch holders and row counters, or random craft projects.

I only undid knots for the cotton scraps because I had plans to re-use those. Every time I got to cotton yarn I added it to this growing ball, which I later turned into 2 scrappy dishcloths for my kitchen, using my own perfect, lay-flat, knitted diagonal garter dishcloth pattern.

I used about half of the scraps to make a smaller cloth with a hanging bit on the end, and then used up all the rest for the 2nd cloth. (The pattern is knit like a diamond so all you need to do to use up every bit of yarn is to find your center…work half the cloth until you hit the center point and then start the decreases to work the remaining half).

With all the jars filled and the extra bits used up, that officially marked the first of my 19 completed WIP-to-FO projects for my challenge, and now I have a silly bit of wall décor that confuses everyone who comes into my home office. I get to look at it and reminisce about all the people I’ve knit for and all the yarn-related creativity that moved between my fingers.

Here’s looking ahead to 2022 and all the projects it will bring.

Happy New Year!

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Decoration Station

A little while ago I finished a long-visualized project to organize my cluttered, messy dining room desk/hutch/thing into something functional for more than merely depositing random stuff into piles.

This past week I had some cake-related projects to complete, and it was the first chance I had to test out whether having everything set up in a clear, organized way would actually make my process smoother and faster than having things a bit all over the place (though I knew where everything was).  (Spoiler alert- it did).  😛

desk after

As a reminder, here’s the new after.  The right side holds assorted kid crafts and home stuff, like batteries and a few tools we use often.  The drawers on that side are Yannick’s, and the middle of the desk holds a caddy with all the kids’ coloring books and drawing papers and markers and pencils and the like.  The rest?  Mine… all mine!  😀

The first thing I did was organize the drawers, because they had been crammed full of the small toys and things the kids get in loot bags, assorted scraps of paper, and other randomness.  Now they’re organized.  The long drawer holds the battery chargers, my tape gun, and little trays with pens and pencils.  The side drawers are organized with the kids’ school papers and saved art, plus a drawer for me to keep some craft stuff upstairs but out of sight.

I forgot to take a pic of the inside of the top middle section, but it’s mainly storage.  I keep the foam trays that veggies come on and use them as palettes, so I’ve got assorted sizes stacked up there, along with a few cookie cutter sets that were too big to fit in my box down below.

Now, onto the rest: the cake decorating supplies!

desk after detail01

Now, I’m a home baker.  I don’t do this professionally, it’s a sweet hobby (ha!) so I can get away with not having a whole kitchen’s worth of supplies.  Most items I’ll replace when they run out, vs keeping extra on-hand, so this amount of space works for me, and I still have room to grow.

I mean… *technically* I can take over the ENTIRE hutch… but let’s not think of that (and worry my husband) right now.

🙂

desk after detail04

The top shelf is where I keep my fondant.  I have, and do, make and use my own MMF, but I also have no problems with store-bought.  I like the taste, myself (except Wilton’s), and I very rarely use it to cover kids’ cakes, because kids don’t really like it, so I use icing for them.  On adult cakes I find that most adults peel the fondant off anyways so the taste isn’t an issue regardless of the brand.  I’ve always got white fondant on-hand, and red and black are the only colors I’d buy pre-mixed, because of the taste and pain in getting those myself.  So on the left is a tub each of black and red.  I’ve never compared, but haven’t noted a taste or texture difference between Satin Ice or Virgin, so I use whichever one is sold where ever I happen to be when I run out.  🙂

I ALWAYS keep the leftovers after I color fondant.  Even the tiniest of scraps can become pupils for eyes or detail on something or other, and even if you think it’s hardened beyond use it’s amazing what 15 seconds in the microwave can do.  The blue-lidded tub holds colored fondant, wrapped up airtight in ziplocks and saran wrap and there’s even another container inside that one holding what’s left of my last batch of MMF.

Finally, the red-lidded container on the very top has a small palette of silver dust, for decorative work.  I hydrate the dust with vodka or vanilla to use it as paint, and then when the alcohol evaporates there’s still dust residue left on the small cup I use.  Rather than waste it I let it dry fully then store, re-wetting with more liquid next time I need it.

The second shelf has my white fondant (and, yes, a small box of Wilton white because I was stranded without access to anything else).  The fondant tub with the post-it label is full of sugar pearls and candy beads and dragees, I’d found a sale at Michael’s and bought assorted colors.  Next to that are a bunch of containers I salvaged by washing out the icing tubs after making cakes in the past.  The top row are from dollar store icing, and are opaque white.  The red-lidded Betty Crocker ones are semi-translucent and the covers seal nicely and they make great food-safe containers.  I wouldn’t quite trust them with my lunch, I’m not sure how well the cover would stay on when tossed in a bag, but definitely reuse them for something!  I used them to sort my small bits that were previously in ziplocks and shoved loose into my toolbox.  They hold things like toothpics, q-tips, the levels for my fondant rolling pins, icing tips, small sets of mini fondant push-cutters, etc.  The 4 at the back are empty, waiting until I need them.desk after detail05

The next shelf down has all my ‘stuff’, the things I use most often when actually *making*.  Okay, I lie.  The purple flower-print box in the center has everything I use most often.  But the rest is stored here too.  🙂  The lower box on the left holds icing tubes.  I make my own icing usually, but I like the premade gel kinds for simulating water (you’ll see that soon in the water mixing cups for a Paint Nite cake I made recently) and I use black gel icing as a transfer medium.  The bin above it has tools like a Wilton fondant cutter and ribbon rollers and cake level markers…

You know, I’ll be honest – I never use that stuff.  Like, ever.  I bought it, so I have it, in case one day… but for anyone starting out decorating, DON’T spend the money on that kind of stuff.  The ribbon rollers… meh.  A cake leveler?  Garbage.  There are a few things I’ve found worth the money, like a fondant roller.  Moving from working on my table with a rolling pin to a gridded mat with a fondant roller was a revelation in ease and speed, and the rolling pin levels (differing thicknesses of elastic bands) are very practical.  But until you see what you need for the kinds of things you’ll be making, don’t bother.  You can cut ribbon shapes with a knife.  I used my kitchen knives for almost everything, from leveling cakes to icing them to cutting out fondant, and only just switched to using a smaller cutter because it came in a set with another tool I needed.

The red flower box has things that didn’t really fit anywhere else at the back, like cupcake stencils, and at the front has some items I reach for regularly, like a measuring tape, dressmaker’s pins, and a pen.

The green box has my icing bottles in assorted sizes, and my caulk-style icing guns.

The purple box… that’s where the good stuff is.  🙂

Oh- and those boxes by the way?  More repurposed items.  They’re tissue boxes with the tops cut off, and then I used additional cardboard and paper rolls to sort like items together.  Super easy, super cheap (free!) caddy.

desk after detail02

So what’s in this one?  At the back are my brushes, the ones strictly kept for food projects.  I have assorted sizes for everything from broad to detail work.  In the middle is a foam mat for fondant/gumpaste work and a set of food markers (I love these!).  Then there’s a small size fondant roller and a bunch of fondant/gumpaste shaping tools.  These are a recent purchase, most from the dollar store (except the 2 taller ones) and I’m not sure yet how helpful they will be, seeing as I’ve managed the last 8 years without them.  That said, I used to do scuplting with clay, and I know the right tools can make a big difference, so I wanted to give them a try, and the price was great.  The two taller ones are Wilton and were more expensive, I think they were on sale at $6 for the two, but I’ve found them to be a valuable addition.  The wheel has 2 sizes pinwheels for docking and fabric looks (though I achieved the same look recently using a sewing pin) and the capped tool has a needle on one end and a knife at the other, and I found it came in very handy (pun intended) this past weekend when doing some fine letter work with fondant.  The rainbow-lined packs are more food markers, thick ones mostly left for the kids to use, then a 2 pack of my preferred brand in black, and then a bottle of Wilton White icing whitener which I use CONSTANTLY when making my icing ‘paints’.

My favorite kinds of cake toppers are when I can sit down and ‘paint’ something fun, and this caddy will allow me to pull down the one box, and my icing colors, and get to work.  desk after detail03

The lowest shelf isn’t really a shelf, it’s the tablet of the desk itself.  I keep these things here right now, but I might reorganize one day if the kids get more nosy, as the idea of them having free access to the dyes and sharp tools above isn’t one I’m crazy about.  In the meantime, though, the lower tablet has the red-topped pencil case that holds my food-coloring dyes and Wilton pots of icing gels, and in front of them are the box of AmeriColor ones.  Love.  Love love love my icing dyes.

The blue-lidded box holds straws and bamboo skewers for cake support as well as icing/piping bags.  The two jars to the side hold mini and large cupcake liners, and the photo album has all the cakes and cookies I’ve made, a sort of gallery of foodstuffs made for when I visited a local cake guild one night.

Finally, for real this time, the storage bin on the floor under the table holds all my cookie cutters, sorted by shape and theme.

There are a few things not stored here, mainly due to size… my large fondant roller, the cutting mat, my turntables… plus other things I find indispensable for cake decorating, like my dollar store thin mats and saran wrap and parchment paper and scissors.  But the bulk of the stuff is here, and easy to access and find, and I’m really happy having a functional item of furniture.

(I’m also really happy to note that it’s been about 3 weeks since the cleanup was done and the desktop is STILL spotless!)

Who’da thunk?

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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challenge complete

I managed to finish my dining room desk overhaul and whoa what a difference it makes!  A main benefit is supposed to be when I work on my next project… having all my supplies organized and at-hand… but an important EXTRA benefit is that now the desk is clean… which means Yannick no longer tries to avoid looking in the dining room’s general direction.  😉

The before can be seen in my previous post…and here’s the after:

desk after

What a difference, no?  All that space… just waiting for me to pile stuff on it… hehehe


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self-imposed challenge, accepted

So many blog drafts, so little time.  😦 I have so much I want to share and yet keep finding my nights kept busy by more projects that require my hands… which means they can’t be on the keyboard, editing pics and writing up posts.  However, one project is trumping all the others today.

I recently tackled cleaning my office, and have been greatly enjoying the convenience of being able to walk in, immediately grab what I need from it’s appropriate, labeled container, and then leave, without having to trip over supplies or dig through stacks.  Craft stuff lives (mostly) downstairs, but cake stuff hangs out in assorted places in the kitchen and dining room.  When I first started, 7 years ago, a small tupperware sufficed.  Two years ago that tupperware grew into a toolbox, but now, sadly (?) I’ve outgrown that as well.

I always decorate cakes and cookies in my dining room, and quite a few times I’ve looked up at the hutch right in front of me and thought how great it would be to transform it into some kind of giant decorating center.  It’s a convenient space and Yannick and I each have our own ‘sides’, plus it’s where we keep drawing and craft materials for the kids, so converting my side into something useful would make sense.  Plus, until recently, my side was crammed full of books, old magazines and photo albums, none of which had been touched in at least 5 years.

The books were moved somewhere more appropriate and the magazines donated, and the craft supplies that should be moved down to my office were tucked into a Costco box with the intent to (eventually) bring them downstairs.  Since then, with each new food project, I’ve slowly moved assorted containers and supplies up into the now-empty shelves.

Not organized, of course.  THAT would have been to easy.

Well, that’s my plan for today.

messy desk dining room

Organize this space.

And drink coffee.  Lots of coffee.