Monday, January 27, 2014

The Joy of Simple

This month has really taken me for a ride.  I co-hosted a baby shower, bought a car, had two viral infections, watched my skin deteriorate with the harsh cold weather and my 1-year-old daughter's skin break out in itchy hives, eased her into daycare, and soon-to-be going back to work.  Sure, there are days when I crave change and chaos, especially when life gets monotonous and dull.  But today, as I lay sick with the stomach flu, looking around my apartment scattered with toys and dirty dishes from yesterday, I reminisce on the times when I could rely on a basic schedule of meals and sleep times.

Though, lying on the couch has its benefits.  I've been reading a lot of blogs and reflecting on my own life, as clich√© as that sounds.  I've been thinking about how I want to spend more time playing with my kiddo, eating home cooked meals as a family, working on my hobbies, and visiting close friends and relatives.  I wonder how I can streamline errands and chores to free up time and energy.

I began to flirt with the idea of simplifying my life by eliminating clutter and buying a few things that would make things easier for me.  I studied lifestyle blogs like A Merry Mishap and Elephantine, whose photos and words embrace minimalism and breathe fresh air into my lungs, though I wonder if it's possible that anyone could live so sparsely.  One particular blog post about building the perfect wardrobe won me over, and I started to notice all of the things in my home that I rarely used.  Out with you, useless things that take up space.  In their place I've welcomed storage bins, hooks and shelves, and I'm slowly realizing the value of having things put away.  I can't say my life feels that much lighter or easier just yet, but I have a growing list of changes I want to make, and I remain hopeful.

Canvas storage bin

Sometimes finding the right-sized basket for a specific purpose or space can be tough, which is when I start thinking of how I can make my own.   Sewing a basic canvas storage bin is relatively easy and simple.  In fact, it is so straight-forward, I'm not really going to offer much instruction here, just general steps and tips.  Feel free to add a lining, prints, handles, and/or a wax finish.  (The one pictured above and below is 12.5"L x 10"W x 6.5"H, not lined or waxed, but has a tiny brass dot print, and leather handles.)

What you'll need to make one storage bin:

- heavyweight canvas
- thread to match fabric
- fabric chalk, marker or a pencil
- ruler
- pins

The instructions are simply this: determine desired size, measure fabric, cut panels, sew panels together inside out, turn the bin right side out (pushing corners out), and pin and sew the top hem.

The key to bin making success is getting the measurements right, and cutting and sewing to those specifications.  After measuring and determining what size you want your final bin to be, add the seam on all sides.  I find a 1/2" seam works fine.

Since canvas is a flexible material, it will lack some structure when the bin stands up.  To add structure, you should consider having a rolled-down top (see this photo as an example), if you're not limited by how much fabric you have (like I was, unfortunately).  If making a rolled-down top, add in this extra measurement to the height of your front, back and side panels.

Cut all 5 panels (front, back, 2 sides, bottom) as precisely as possible.  If you're not lining your basket, zigzag stitch or serge all non-selvedge edges to prevent fraying.

When sewing the panels together, I usually sew the 4 panels to the bottom first.  It is important to start and stop your sewing at the seam of the other edge.  So for example, if your seam is 1/2", start and stop your sewing 1/2" in from the edge.  This is so that when you sew up the final side that finishes that corner, the panels match up properly.

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