Every three months an email comes around the office asking people to vote for their colleagues in an Employee of the Quarter style thing. It's supposed to be for the people who best reflect the company values. After the votes have been tallied, and the award given, the nomination comments get sent around to the appropriate person. So, last week, I recieved an email which said
‘My vote is for Jane as she is very creative in everything she does’
which absolutely delights me. I am considered as creative within the company. Until the past couple of years I would never have described myself as particularly creative. And yet I am. And to some extent I always was. After all software development is a creative profession. I do think thought that as a result of participating in various crafts over the past 18 months I've begun to express myself in a more creative manner.
Of all the things I could have been recognised for, I doubt any would have made me as happy as being recognised for creativity.
Last week Jez tweeted
I've quite enjoyed reading "Designing Your Day" by @nokiaatwork slideshare.net/NokiaAtWork/smarter-everyday-ebookdesignyourday- Jez Nicholson (@jnicho02) May 10, 2013
Over the last couple of days I've read it as a pdf (it took me a while to work out how to get it in that format) and it was quite nicely put together. I've read, and blogged about, various time management/productivity books/methodolgies before and as a consequence there wasn't much new material in there, although, there was yet another reference to Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow which is about the 5th I've come across in various articles, recommendations etc - looks like I'll just have to read it!
What I really liked though was that the whole idea of productivity was tackled in a more creative manner, using a more design led process and terminology, rather than it being very business language. It also introduced me to this lovely quote from Tim Brown
Think of today as a prototype. What would you change?
which I really like. Well worth the reading time.
In a lovely bit of observational selection bias I read this
one of the company’s main expenses was postage: each programmer would write their code on carbon paper (backup copies were needed in case the original was lost or damaged) and send it through the mail to their client’s punchgirls. The code would be transcribed, the program run and any errors would get posted back to the programmer for correction
in the, well worth a read, article A Woman’s Place about a group of freelance women programmer's in the 1960s/70s/80s yesterday, and then this morning saw this Inside the UK's last carbon paper factory, a lovely video showing the machinery and people working at York Haven, the last one-time carbon manufacturer in the UK.
It had never occurred to me that carbon paper would have been used as a backup for coding, but why not, it was an available "technology", and programs in the 60s were hand written before being made into punched cards.
My new loom arrived in a massive box. Inside it, along with a second heddle, were shuttles, cardboard strips, instructions etc. I'd put all of these things onto a shelf in my craft cupboard (this isn't what it started off being for, but it now, most definitely, is a craft cupboard) but I was a bit concerned about losing some vital part - like the threading hook for instance. As I was also looking for useful projects to make with my sewing machine, a bag to put all the weaving odds and ends in seemed like a good idea. And as it was going to need to be a long bag, it seemed like a good "Get to know your sewing machine" project.
A few years ago someone bought me a sarong. I'd never used it and so had put it into the pile of things to go to the charity shop during a recent sort out. However, when discussing my plans with Richard, he suggested that this might make a good fabric for a drawstring bag. He was right. The bag needed to be long enough to hold a 25" heddle, and wide enough to store an exercise book (where I make my notes). I aimed for 30" x 11" and cut out the two patterned areas from the sarong comfortably, and used my new A3 cutting board, metal ruler and rotary cutter to get some lovely, smooth edged pieces of fabric to work with. I also then cut two 30" x 2" strips for the ties. There is still some of the fabric left as well and it's now in my fabric bag waiting for another project to come along.
I followed this tutorial for the majority of the bag (I didn't really have enough nice fabric to line it), switching to this one for instructions on how to make the fabric ties. Both were really clear and detailed.
I double stitched the edges - first using a zig zag stitch, and then a normal running stitch. Partially to give it extra strength, partially for the extra practice. This all went pretty smoothly. The biggest struggle was wrestling 30 inches of bag to try and sort out the gusset. One side is pretty straight:
but the other is well off centre:
Overall, though, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. The ties could be top-stitched a little more evenly, and the lines around the top of the fabric at the bottom of the drawstring pocket could have been straighter but all in all, not a bad effort. And a great use of fabric that was about to be thrown away too.
It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I got some new toys. Richard bought me an Ashford Rigid Heddle loom (on which more in a later blog post when I've made something on it - but in the meantime you can admire the freshly oiled table surface in the photos - as I had to oil the loom before assembling it I figured I'd sand and oil the table too!). And my Mum bought me a sewing machine (or at least I bought it on her behalf).
I had my first sewing machine experience back in February when my friend nursed me through my fear and helped me make some lavender bags and a crochet hook case. It made me realise that maybe they weren't as scary as I'd thought, and I started considering buying one. I had a look around the internet, and came up with a few options. Then popped in to John Lewis after visiting the Wool House and saw the mini sewing machines. First impressions were that they were really light and transportable, meaning that they could be tucked away when not in use. And they weren't expensive, which mean that even if I didn't get on with it, and it ended up being tucked away in the loft for years, it wasn't a ridiculous amount of money wasted. I had a look online when I got home and found a few reviews that didn't write them off, so I decided to buy one.
Last weekend I plugged it in, and simply tried it out as a sampler, sewing lines of the different stitches. When I got to position J on the dial, a 2 tier zig zag, it didn't do quite what I expected, but I didn't think much more about it. On Wednesday I had a bit of spare time, and so figured I'd start making some lavender bags - these seemed like a good starter project, and I still had some squares left from the charm pack I'd bought as well as some odds and ends left over from other things. But, when I got the machine all set up and ready to go, I couldn't get the machine to sew a straight line. It seemed to be perpetually doing the scallop pattern of position I on the machine. It's like it wouldn't reset it's position. So I called up John Lewis's customer services line, who were helpful and immediately ordered a replacement for delivery. The replacement turned up yesterday, and so last night I made a start on the lavender bags.
In total I've made 9 of them. 6 were sewn last night, 3 today. All were stuffed and finished (by hand) today. I'm really pleased with some of them, moderately pleased with others - the ones I like the least are probably the green squirly ones, and that is more because of the fabric than the sewing. They are destined for my sock drawer. My favourites are the white and purple ones (the purple fabric was left over from lining of the Little Miss Two bag) just because the fabric works so nicely in this format. These are destined for my craft bag - one will go and sit with my finished blackwork items, the other was going to go into my crochet bag, but might go and join the lovely one my friend made me in my fabrics bag. The stripy greens ones are going to Richard (and are, like the last ones I made him, stuffed with rosemary and lavender to make them a bit more manly) and the pinks are going to go to Mum next time I see her. I even managed to get the lines to line up on this pink one which pleased me no end:
The machine behaved itself well. The manual is really good, and has simple step by step instructions (Richard also bought me this excellent book which I've been referring to on and off). I didn't sew myself to the table, or sew my sleeve up or anything similar. The speed of the machine via the foot pedal isn't ridiculously speedy - I'm sure it would be too slow for experienced sewers, but it isn't racing off without me, so I'm pretty comfortable with it.
I'm counting this as my first solo sewing machine success. Hopefully the first of many, but if not, at least I've managed it once and will be able to look back on this with a bit of satisfaction and hopefully encouragement.