Nothing New Challenge

Does anyone else start their New Years’ resolutions on their birthday instead of in January? I mean I guess if you were born on January 1st you don’t have to make that choice – and my OCPD heart must say I am jealous of the cleanliness of your annual existence – but the rest of us have to think about what truly constitutes a “new” year for our lives. Does our new start align with the world perception – or in the moment of our own milestone?

 

For me, I usually choose my own birthday as the best point for a resolution or change. Usually on January 1st I forget that I was supposed to find a resolution, then I think of about five things I want to do that I’ve already screwed up in in the first few days of the month, and I think “why bother, I’ve already failed.” If I make my birthday the resolution day, though, then all that “failure” functions as a test run of what I think I want to do without committing to the guilt.

 

In 2018 I spent a lot of time thinking about my impact on the world, as well as what I could do to improve my own day to day life and experience. As the end of my 20s and the destruction of the world looms ever and ever closer it feels imperative to focus my energy more and make wiser choices. I’m by no means ready to jump headfirst into something – the biggest risk I’ve ever taken is deciding to eat an egg one day after expiration – but I feel the need for some sort of change. One of my coworkers gave me an idea of something small I could do that would make a big difference not only in my daily life, but also on my impact on the world. This is an idea that has been floating around the internet for awhile, but I think I can spin it into something uniquely my own – and get more ideas for this lovely neglected blog.

 

The Nothing New Challenge is by no means an original idea. Depending on who you ask, the idea was started by two friends on an island in Wisconsin in July of 2013, or by some smart Aussies in Melbourne around 2011. I think both can be true – it’s not that complex an idea – but I like the Australian website better so I’m going to be citing that here for my info.

 

The basic idea is to not buy anything new. No new jeans, no new bags, no new lamps, no new plastic puppy sculpture you absolutely need for your bedroom corner, nothing. Of course some things don’t work within this schema – you have to buy new food, toiletries, and other essentials – but if you don’t need it, or you can get a version of it second-hand, you can’t buy it new. This doesn’t mean you have to completely avow all possessions – The Australian website has lots of great tips and ideas on how to make this feasible without quickly becoming a complete ascetic, such as swapping clothes with friends, upcycling or recycling things you already have, or using online marketplaces to find local items for sale.

 

This is all part of the “voting with your dollar” idea, and actively helps you cut down on your wasteful consumption and carbon footprint. Plus, if you’ve jumped on the Maire Kondo train like everyone else recently, it will definitely help keep your home simple and full of joy. For me, however, there’s an extra element that I think will help not just my wallet and the creeping guilt of being part of humanity, but also my hobbies and passions. I’m instituting some new rules that basically mean if you can make it (even from new materials), or if you can buy a local craftsperson’s version of it, that’s fair game. I’ll not only be finding new projects to make and write about, but will also be supporting the local maker economy and finding new and cool people to connect with. Taking on this challenge isn’t just self-esteem building, its community building.

 

So with all that exposition out of the way, here are my rules for the Nothing New Challenge:

 

  1. Don’t buy any new commercialized or corporate goods.

 

  1. The only items you can buy new are life necessities like food and toiletries. That being said, processed food or unnecessary toiletry goods are out. Try to make the ethical choice whenever possible with food and personal items, and try to choose small brands with good business practices.

 

  1. If you want something for your home, or a piece of clothing, make it yourself or find it at a local thrift shop or secondhand. The only exception for this, at least for me, is going to be stuff like shoes and bras where a bad purchase can seriously ruin your back, but in those cases strictly follow the one in one out rule – for every new pair of shoes you buy, for example, you have to donate or get rid of one pair you already own. Remember that shipping has a huge carbon footprint, so online shopping is out, even if the items are second-hand. I’m looking at you eBay.

 

  1. You can also buy new items from small local craftspeople and brands. It’s important to support business at the community level and encourage small economy, and I don’t want this challenge to affect that, hence this exception. Plus, if you’re a maker like me, it’s a great way to meet more people in your working community. Items like this tend to be more expensive, so you won’t be able to buy lots of unnecessary junk, plus you’ll begin to amass a collection of beautiful, special items. Talk about sparking joy!

 

  1. Finally, allow yourself one vice, within reason. If Oreo cookies are the only thing that bring you joy on a bad day, giving them up isn’t worth it. We all have something like this, but do try to limit it to the things you know you truly can’t find joy without. Would the organizers of this idea agree with this rule? Probably not. But people are human, and I don’t know about you but I do a lot better at following rules if there’s a little leeway. That way you don’t get that “well I screwed up once, might as well give up entirely” mentality, and you’re more likely to follow through on the whole.

 

 

Those are the rules I’ll be following, but if you want to do this you should feel free to draft rules that make sense for you. There’s a lot of pressure nowadays to be a perfect citizen – have no carbon footprint, only eat raw vegan foods, cancel anyone who does anything even slightly problematic, include every possible person in every possible event in every possible way, etc etc. And while I think all of this is very important, for a lot of us those goals are unattainable, at least when considered all at once. Choosing not to beat myself up over screwing up a resolution before January 5th has helped me set new guidelines for my goals that have allowed me to do more and actually move forward with most of them. In the same way, if you are able to do even a little bit to improve yourself and your impact, even if you can’t do everything, you are moving in the right direction. Some of us take great leaps, some of us take baby steps, and that’s nothing to feel guilty about, so don’t let other people bring you down for improving at your own pace. You’re a human being, you aren’t Superman, and you’re doing just fine.

 

I hope some of you join me on this journey in your own way, and I’ll be posting ideas for how to use making and clever thrifting to help you on the journey. I might even highlight some local makers and vendors if I can get over the crippling social anxiety.

 

Remember to find your joy today guys, and keep conquering your own windmill.

 

-J-

 

DIY: Custom Variegated Embroidery Thread Using Liquid Dye

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In my last post I talked about how helpful making friendship bracelets has been for re-igniting my creativity after a block. I often find making simple, more “crafty” things that give me great joy easily lead into other concepts that expand my creative arsenal. In this instance the bracelets gave me a great opportunity to explore how the DMC variegated line could work up. I have very quickly become obsessed with working in these threads as they allows you to cheat easily create spontaneous texture and color shifts in your work. I’m not thrilled, however, at the limited range of colors in the DMC line and the one-tone-per-skein approach to variegation. Note: DMC does have a line of multi-color variegated thread as well, but unless your work calls for those specific hues you’re going to find that line limited as well. 

As a result I’ve spent the last few weeks exploring how DMC Cotton thread can be dyed and manipulated to create custom variegated blends with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious solid results. Today I want to share what products I use to make these blends, how I go about doing it, and what you can do to get different effects in the process.

Read on if you’re interested in making your own custom thread colors!

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DIY: Custom Privacy Screen

DIY Custom Privacy Screen

Hey all!

Living in Brooklyn it can be near impossible very difficult to get some privacy. Case in point – while our apartment has a lovely outdoor space both the stairwell and grassy area are shared with our landlord’s family, meaning people are constantly walking back and forth when I am hanging out on my deck. I love my neighbors, but sometimes you just need a little alone time, ya dig?

I thought a privacy screen would work perfect for this, but I didn’t want to buy a nice asian screen at the flea only to have it destroyed by weather. The solution? Make our own with some hearty pine and lacquer it against the weather. The best part? These beautiful plain wood boards are just begging to be painted with whatever your heart desires. Read on to see how the boy and I made the screen, and how I’ve begun to customize it!

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DIY: Couch Arm Tables

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Hello All! It’s been awhile since I posted as a result of a lovely new job. I’m so thrilled to be working full time and managing a pretty kick-ass lifestyle in NYC, but it has dramatically cut into my creative time. I finished a DIY for wooden couch arm tables at the dawn of man several weeks ago, but never got around to posting it. Ah well, better late than never!

I bough an Ikea Kivik couch as part of Operation: Apartment a while back for my new living room specifically because of the large armrests. Having a tiny living space, I needed something that would allow a table without needing side-tables. Having seen many wooden armrest covers all over the place, I figured I could save myself a few hundred bucks and make them myself. You can find other DIYs for the same thing here and here, but the first one requires a fancy saw I don’t have access to as well as brackets that I was afraid would hurt my couch, and the second only uses glue which seems like it might not last as long as I would like. This DIY will allow anyone with a hand saw, a drill, and some time to make an arm table that is sturdy, professional, and lovely.

Read past the jump for supplies and instructions!

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“Crafter” of the Week: Nava Lubelski

Nava Lubelski - Yellow Cloth

Yellow Cloth, 2009, thread on stained tablecloth, 60″ x 50″

With this blog and with my work in general, I’ve continuously tried to show the connection between hand-craft and art. While the impetus and the ultimate goal of the creator can be different, the individual sense of expression and translation of emotion remains the same between the two disciplines. Ultimately it is this quality – the reflection of life’s circumstances into physical works – that leads to things I find appealing and filled with substance. As a result of this, when I find an artist who not only uses traditional craft methods in their work, but also uses their creations as a jumping board for individual exploration, I instantly fall in love with their work. Nava Lubelski is one such artist who has received an impressive amount of recognition, proving that I’m not the only one who values these qualities.

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DIY Rustic Rope Knotted Coasters

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Hello all! Like the new look? It’s still sort of a work in progress, but I think it’s much more hipster-tastic professional than my old layout.

But today we’re talking coasters. When you’re a kid, coasters seem like such a stupid thing, but then you grow up and plop $200 on a nice table, and suddenly thousands of tiny beads of water are encroaching upon your hard earned cash. Not cute.

We started by making some pallet coasters awhile back, but they came out kinda crummy and fell apart quite quickly. After seeing this knot DIY, however, I figured it was the perfect thing for some rustic coasters. Easy to make and totally gorgeous, you could almost sell these babies at Restoration Hardware. Read on to see how to make them yourself!!

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Operation: Apartment

EDIT 11/3/16: I started this idea awhile back and quickly realized having everything in my apartment be DIY was A: dumb and b: exhausting and surprisingly expensive. As a result this never really became an actual series, but I’ve left this post here for posterity and because it has lots of great links to other folks’ interior DIYs that you might like. 

Hello! I haven’t made a post since the dawn of man November, or right before I started writing my thesis. That, along with the hub-bub of graduating college and starting my life, has made working on blogging kind of a non-essential activity. But now that’s all done, and I’m back!

A bit less than a month ago I moved into a brand new apartment that’s sized less than 500 square feet, a space I also share with my messy and cluttered lovely boyfriend. As many of you city-dwellers are probably aware, small-space living requires not only scaling back your possessions – a tough task for us crafters – but also incredible organization skills. We’ve done a bit already, but the apartment has a long way to go. As a result, I’m starting Operation: Apartment a new series that will include interior decorating, DIY, organization, and lots of pinterest testing. I have a lot planned, but I’m excited to hear everyone’s input as this thing evolves over the next few months. Without further ado, lets get going!!

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DIY: T-Shirt Palooza!!!!!!

T-Shirt Palooza!

So it’s summer time here in the great city of New York, and that means it gets HOT. Like boiling lava sticky yucko hot. It’s hard to look cute when you’re sweating the entire Hudson river out your armpits, but wearing light fabrics like cotton make a HUGE difference.

Enter the lowly t-shirt

The t-shirt is probably the best summer apparel you can find: it’s comfy, it’s light, and it can have anything you want on it. No other clothing item allows you to proclaim your love or hate for stuff so easily. Unfortunately for the fashion forward, it’s often tricky to find t-shirts that work well with the rest of your wardrobe and fit the feminine figure without making you look like a robot or box. Thus, I present to you the ULTIMATE pretty decent guide to t-shirt altering. What I’m showing may be simple, but I can guarantee that it’ll make your t-shirts look like cool Brandy Mellville apparel and not weird torn festival wear. I wanna be comfy in my t-shirt, but classy too! If you agree, read on for tips on cropping, dyeing, designing, and even how to make your favorite comfy sleep T into a cute summer dress!

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DIY: Embroidered Eye Mask

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Hello! I promised more DIY and I am delivering! Part of the reason I’ve been so slow making new posts is that I had to move into a new room in my building. The room is super awesome and has a balcony and everything, but it gets literally the worst morning light known to man. I’ve been woken up at 8am or so every morning as a result, and I’m sick of it on days when I can sleep in. As a result, a face mask was in order.

All the face masks I’ve been able to find commercially are extremely fugly not really my style, so I decided it would be a good project to try out myself. While I’m not the best at sewing, I do kinda rock at embroidery, so I figured I could make a cool mask using basic embroidery techniques. Read on for instructions and patterns, both for the mask and the embroidery!

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“Crafter” of the Week: Linda aka Eponases

Eponases

I’ve obviously been quite a bit lax on my blogging lately, but I have a good excuse.

I’ve been sucked into the vortex of hell by a great beast named. . . .FINALS.

Yup, as a college student this time of year really loves to eat up and spit out any of your non-academic loves which unfortunately includes crafting for me. But as I type I have to say It feels good to be writing again, even if no-one listens. I think as a creator in the internet era it is crucial to write and share about what you do since real inspiration and support comes from our community. Unfortunately, I often find blogs and artists who seem so promising, but who have left the community seemingly forever, leaving us all sadder for it.  Regardless of if they have dissipated, I continue to be amazed by the work of others who continue to be appreciated by the general public, and a wonderful artist that has caught my eye recently is Eponases, otherwise on her blog named simply “Linda.” She is an amazing geek crafter, focusing on needlepoint, from Latvia. Read on to see more of her painstaking work and perhaps be inspired to paint with thread yourself.

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