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Tag: craftytimes

Tangible planning

My new toy, takin’ over the hallway.

Let me tell you about Russian train timetables (because I’m sure you were wondering). All trains run to Moscow time while in Russia. Even though Russia covers something like 9 timezones, all timetables quote Moscow time. But then if you’re on a train that crosses an international border, stops in the next country quote local time.

Now, I’ve thought about this enough for the past who-knows-how-long that I’ve wrapped my head around the concept plenty. However when you start actively trying to plan a trip across Russia that starts on ACTUAL Moscow time and spits you out of the country 5 hours ahead of Moscow time – into Mongolia which is surrounded by bits of Russia and China that are all part of the SAME timezone but a DIFFERENT timezone than Mongolia (also, China is all one timezone even though it pretty much covers about 5, TIMEZONES ARE WEIRD) – ‘getting it’ in theory just doesn’t cut it. I need to draw a picture. Seriously.

I am a visual learner. I’m pretty good with numbers and spatial things and all of that, but I generally have to be able to interact with it to REALLY get it. Like, at the very least I have to do math on paper. (I totally still do long division on a semi-regular basis. HARDCORE.) When I was learning numbers, the New York school system I was in was teaching this thing where you use actual spots on the numbers to help you count and do your math. I STILL see all numbers that way, and I still count on them with the tip of my pen. I think this is fascinating. (Partially because it proves the way you learn a thing in early life definitely matters, and also because when I try to tell people about it most of them have no idea what I’m talking about and have never thought of interacting with a number that way.)

Anyway, the point is, spreadsheets and actual Russian train timetables were mostly just confusing me because I couldn’t LITERALLY MOVE the data. I needed proper real-life interactive, because every time I wanted to change a bit of one leg of the trip, I had to cut and paste things in a spreadsheet or consult a schedule or whatever. It was just making me cranky.

So I decided to do some arts and crafts.

Hooraaaaaay, arts and crafts! (I have never wanted to be a teacher, but I would rock the whole decorating-a-classroom thing.)

Any excuse to play with nice markers. (I have never wanted to be a teacher, but I would rock the whole decorating-a-classroom thing.)

Furthering the quest to use up all my random stuff, I raided my stock of paper and art supplies and made a maaaaassive paper calendar of the time period I intend to travel in. With squares exactly big enough for post-its. Then I bought normal sized post-its AND mini ones so I could use the big ones for locations and the little ones for notes on things like what trains run on what days, timezone reminders, and other movable miscellany. It means that I can make a note of a specific train journey I want to take with an extra note of what days it’s possible to place it on, so when I shift part of the trip or decide I want to stay somewhere longer, I know the places I can move it to without getting, quite literally, stuck in the middle of Siberia by mistake.

This makes my brain very happy. Plus: MAN I love stationery.

Having paper manifestations of dates in front of me immediately made me consider things like, ‘Where might I want to be on Christmas and/or New Year? Do I actually care? How many full days on trains will I have?’ when I hadn’t necessarily thought of those things before. And switching colours when I cross a border makes it super easy to see how long I’m spending in different places at a glance. Anything I lock in by booking or paying for will get added to the base calendar in black paint pen so I know what I have to work around (visa entry dates, the flight home, those sorts of things).

The command centre. Complete with wine.

The command centre. Complete with wine.

Having it all on the wall also makes the whole planning thing seem much more like an event or a thing to do rather than just sitting in front of my computer and doing it in Google Sheets. I can move around and eat snacks and scribble things in different colours. And a physical work-in-progress will continue to remind me to save all the money and get rid of all the things and avoid slacking on all fronts.

Using stuff up

The massive Getting Rid Of Things task has started in earnest, as I’ve found a new home for the bread maker I never use. It’s a pretty amazing piece of kit, but it takes up basically all the working counter space I have (not an exaggeration), therefore I can rarely be bothered to clear the space for its overnight use.

Other large and rarely-used things will follow it out the door in the near future. But while I am all about paring down my belongings to the essentials, I am NOT about getting rid of my stuff that makes my flat a home. The whole de-cluttering fad is just a ridiculous way to make people feel guilty they are actually human beings who like things, be they super interesting conversation stimuli or just dumb shit they like for no reason. HELL if I’m getting rid of the neon dinosaur erasers that converse (and gather dust) atop my full-length mirror. They will follow me to every new place. No one should feel like they have to toss the things they enjoy having sitting around. Homes are made for living in; it should look like you live in yours. So I’m happy to pay storage fees on dinosaurs and nice books and miniature shopping carts.

What's the chat up there, guys?

What’s the chat up there today, guys?

That being said, the massive stash of fabric filling nearly 3 boxes in my closet was not making my home look ‘lived-in’, it was just sitting there doing nothing. Because ‘oh man, I will TOTALLY make something with this’ is a promise that rarely comes to fruition, particularly when you have about a billion project ideas floating around your brain at any one time. Then when I do open the box of things part of projects never to be, it mostly just makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. Ugh.

So when my friend Kristina said a few weeks ago that she was trying to use up her own massive fabric stash, she decided we should try to make quilts out of what we had. Neither of us had ever made a quilt. We were mostly just in awe of the super stylish one our friend Alex made for Kristina and Yann’s wedding gift. Inspiration! So we reserved this weekend for a hardcore quiltathon, during which we would bumble through it while drinking tea, eating snacks, and allowing Yann to more or less wait on us hand and foot. (Thanks, Yann!)

I think when you can make a task like ‘get rid of all my extra stuff’ into an event where you get to make stuff and listen to records and chat and have breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND AMAZING CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES made for you all weekend, it’s generally a win. I’m pretty sure I’d like to get rid of MORE stuff that way.

The other thing that’s nice about it though is not just getting rid of said stuff but consolidating it into something kind of new AND creating an inexpensive weekend-o-activity out of it at the same time (because obviously I’m also trying to save money).

I had considered keeping the quilt when I finish, but I think now I’ll give it as a gift or something. So I’m still getting rid of stuff! But in a much more designer way.

PROGRESS! This is about half sewn, half just laid out. Slightly wonky all around.

PROGRESS! This is about half sewn, half just laid out. Slightly wonky all around.

After about 14 hours of work, neither of us finished our quilts, but after one more day next weekend we should be close if not there. We did get loads done though. And it forced me, indirectly, to root through my sewing toolbox and weed out the unneeded stuff in there as well, so the consolidation is spreading slowly outward. (I had to keep that phrase even after I realised how backwards it is, because it’s probably a good indication of my brain function after staring at fabric and doing various angle and seam allowance calculations all weekend.)

Anyway, the moral of the story is, as Mary Poppins once so pleasingly put it, in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. (And also cookies if you’re lucky.)


PS: You should absolutely check out Kristina’s blog on art, fashion and tech, because she’s an amazing sewer and she’s also doing some rad machine knitting right now. AND Yann’s website, because in addition to cookies, he does all sorts of cool stuff with sound and games.