​The paradoxical anxiety and satisfaction of…..button sorting.

The warms

I recently acquired new storage bins, which, as a person who loves putting Things in Containers in an Orderly Fashion, is both delightful and (often) the beginning of Anxious Activity.

I have buttons. Lots of buttons. I love buttons, especially pretty, shiny buttons and oddly shaped buttons and brightly colored buttons. As someone who cannot let a Thing That Might Be Useful Someday (for a definition of “Useful” that includes “in any way” and “Someday” that encompasses “all of known time/space”), I keep all the buttons: buttons I inherited from my Granny, who was a sewist orders of magnitude better than I will ever be; buttons found looking lonely and unloved in thrift stores (I cannot abide lonely buttons); and (perhaps most tellingly) all the spare buttons that come attached to the inside side seams or hang tags of store-boughten clothes.  They all get added to (as Adrian referred to it): my “Notions Store,” where they are appreciated (and occasionally pawed through, as there’s something really satisfying about plunging your hand into a bucket of small things like buttons or beads).

Prior to Thursday my buttons lived in several types of random containers (ick! unsettling!) with only the barest separation of colors, carded buttons, and sizes. This was an unsatisfactory solution, so upon acquisition of a set of multi-drawer-with-movable-dividers craft storage thingies, I set about to bring order to chaos.

With this as a starting point, it was almost inevitable that my anxiety and OCD-ish tendencies would kick in, causing the button-sorting exercise to go awry, but the plan seemed *so* reasonable when I  started [1]: all the yellow, orange, red and pink buttons would go in this one drawer, and I’ll just set the little dividers up so that I have Big Red Buttons, small red buttons, Big Pink buttons …

And just like that I was in the middle of the intersection of anxiety and OCD. Buttons, you see, can be translucent, solid, iridescent or even multi-color.  And when you’re arranging things by color, the difference between a light red iridescent button and a dark pink iridescent button is… miniscule?  Entirely dependent on what other buttons they’re sitting near and how the light is hitting them? (Meaningless? shhhhhhh. Not meaningless. Important. But…tricky.). And so there was Time Spent assessing all the redish and pinkish buttons to determine their true natures.  (ETA: I totally forgot to link to some of the cool info on color sorting that Adrian has — he even wrote a color sorter!)

You see what I mean? The distinction between pink buttons and red ones is fine at best…

I began to get frustrated by the struggle, and especially frustrated by the number of times that I’d mentally declared a particular button pink or red and happily plopped it in the divider with all of its friends, only to discover that it now looked lost, lonely, and quite out of place. So I’d have to fish it out (and they often tried to hide, sinking down and turning sideways, perhaps hoping that I would be unable to pick them out once the light that hit them was tinted by reflection from the other buttons, and they’d turned their skinny side toward me. As you can imagine, this did not fool me…no siree).

At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that the degree to which my OCD-ish tendencies manifest is directly correlated to the amount of stress I’m under.  And, bonus!: my anxiety follows the same formula. Given the state of the world at large these days (war), and the USA (removing what I consider to be a fundamental right to choose what happens to my body and well on the path to go after other, equally fundamental, rights), and my life (several family members are unwell in ways that I can’t fix), my anxiety levels have been running at an all-time-high of late anyway.  

Such a paucity of orange buttons! Must acquire more garments from the 70s clearly.

​But still I persisted. And having sorted less than half of my warmly colored buttons I hit my second snag. For some reason, I had only a very few orange buttons — which I immediately felt guilty about, as if I’d been consciously discriminating against them — but more importantly, which totally threw off my plan for the dividers. No problem. I will revise the divider plan to accommodate my imbalance (I also had a higher-than-normal number of red buttons, though this didn’t surprise me as much, as I love red). 

Not even close to being the same color, amirite?

And so ​I moved dividers (and buttons), and continued on to the Cooler Family of Buttons, which had been given their own drawer (fair, balanced, and even-steven). Upon starting the green-blue-purple sort, I quickly stumbled into issue number three (if you’re keeping count, as you can better believe I was): I couldn’t (in good conscience) put the lime green and chartreuse buttons in with the kelly and forest buttons. In fact, it began to feel like the limey-chartreuse-y buttons were a color family of their own.

This felt unfair to the blue-green and green-blue buttons, which hadn’t been so separated. (I feel I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that (to me) these are two entirely different colors: blue-green also being known as teal, and green-blue also known as turquoise). This, of course, necessitated further divider relocation and button reallocation, though after several trial segregations I decided that the blue-green and green-blue buttons got along well enough that they could share a compartment (while there clearly would have been fights about “who was the real green” had I not separated the limey-chartreuse-y greens from the kellys and hunters. I suspect there may have been some Bad Blood there, the genesis of which was probably when the “real greens” — their term! I value all greens equally — claimed the limey-chartreuse-y greens were just yellow wanna-bes.)  

As you can see the blue-green and green-blue buttons seem to be enjoying each other’s company, though I’ll definitely keep an eye on that situation.

And then I hit the Real, Substantive Issue, which nearly sent me into an Orwellian tailspin. You see I love all my buttons, but I’d be a big, fat, lying lier if I didn’t admit that certain buttons make me happy beyond their ability to close a garment in an appropriately matching (or contrasting) fashion. You can probably imagine which these are:

the fabric-covered buttons;
the tiny, pearlized shank buttons;
the buttons made from a thin, wavy sliver of actual shell;
the truly vintage metal buttons that have intricate molded images;
and, of course (insert the singing angels here), the rhinestone-embellished buttons
And better still, their purely rhinestone sistren (I had originally said “brethren” but that seemed wrong).

But suppose I were to find a tiny, royal blue, pearlized shank button?  Where does it go: amongst its other, equally blue buddies, or should it be separated somehow; put into a category with other such “Special” buttons.  You can guess which direction I went: in short order one of the drawers was designated “Specials.”

And then, my friends, came the guilt and indecision: who was I to arbitrarily designate this button as more special than this other button?  And how could I justify this button being included in the Specials, while this other one, which could be described using roughly the same set of adjectives, didn’t.

In the end, the Specials process alone probably took me an hour, but I am OK with that. I arbitrated fairly, and I was willing to admit when a button caught the light just right and way and showed itself to be, in fact, more Special than I’d given it credit for.

And much of the angst and anxiety about the unsettledness of life in general has been worked through, thanks to the microbcosm of making order out of my buttons. My buttons are beautifully sorted and I am (somewhat more) settled.

[1] Aside: any of you who know me or have worked with me are cracking up at this point, probably thinking something along the lines of “Seriously, Gina?! You have a Grand Plan for sorting buttons… shouldn’t that have been a tip-off?”  Ok. Fair enough. But sorting buttons — so I could find them! — did feel like a reasonable thing …at least when I started.


The cool robot kit (minus the cool stickers, which weren’t printed yet :-)

What’s been taking my time for the last couple months?

I make a lot of funny faces in the video.

We have just launched the new Red Hat Co.Lab Robot Kit, ​which I had the good fortune to create with SparkFun, an open source hardware company. The kit, which will be used in Co.Lab workshops Red Hat runs for middle school girls who don’t have access to high-quality STEM education, uses the BBC micro:bit as the brains and is completely open source.

I’ve written the first (of several) activities for the ‘bot and recorded the “helper” video to go along with the activity, and as of today, the robot is *live*!

I’m not nearly done — this is only the first activity! — but I am delighted that my little ‘bot project has been born.

My tutorial, based on the excellent one that SparkFun had created :-)

The tip of the Thank You Iceberg:
* Mel Chernoff, for giving me this job!
* Derek Runberg, who never complained even when I sent him the fifth “just one more quick question” email
* Paula Weigel, who allowed me the opportunity to collaborate on this project;
* Adrian Likins, who helped me get the A/V setup in place (and answered a million questions); and
* C V Britton, who *very* patiently helped me figure out how to explain DC motors in a way that didn’t involve “and then a miracle occurred.”

(PS how lucky am I to have such amazing people in my life?!)

Things I learned today

IMG_1419Things I learned today, while sorting through my Granny’s thread stash:

  • I love knolling (although technically this wasn’t knolling, as I wasn’t arranging everything at 90 degree angles..but they were round things, so some leeway would apply, yes?)
  • I have a peculiar affinity for button thread — every time I find a spool I squee inside. I have no idea why.
  • I desperately want my thread spools to be tidy so it angers me beyond reason when manufacturers don’t put that little slit in for the loose end of the thread to go into.  It’s such a tiny thing! Why wouldn’t they just do it always? (I forgive the wooden spools, but the plastic ones have no excuse!)
  • Very little orange thread, despite much of this coming from the 70s. Though I did hate the orange crayon, I don’t know why Granny had so little.
  • I have such a sense of knowing her through this ritual– so much of her love was expressed through sewing (and cooking)

IMG_1420Also, I have a veritable museum of thread types:

  • American Thread Co.
    • Geneva Glace Finish
    • Star Mercerized (Will Boil) – I am getting the sense that boiling thread was a big deal?
  • Belding Corticelli Pure Silk Buttonhole Twist
  • Brother Embroidery Thread (Made in Japan) — I think this one must have been mine
  • Centennial 100% Spun Polyester Sewing Thread Best Value in 200 Yrs
  • J&P Coats
    • Dual Duty Plus – NEW! Dacron Cotton Wrapped 25¢
    • ​J&P Coats Dual Duty Plus – Mercerized Cotton Covered Polyester 99¢
    • Finesse


  • Coats & Clark
    • Mercerized Sewing – Boilfast (™) 15¢
    • Pure Silk Twist​
    • All Purpose – Dual Duty
    • Super Sheen 15¢
  • Fruit of the Loom Spun Polyester
  • Gütermann
    • 100% Polyester
    • Dekor 100% Viscose
  • Lily
    • Lint-Free
    • Nylon Seaming Size A 25¢
  • Mettler
    • Quilting Cotton Mercerized
    • Metrosene
    • Silk Finish Cotton Sheen
  • IMG_1456Molnlycke Spun Syntet
  • Molnlycke Wrights 100% Polyester (Did someone buy someone else?)
  • Notion
  • Stitch N’ Time Polyester
  • Suisse (™) Symbol of Excellence Long Fiber Polyester 60¢
  • Super-Spun (™) Polyester – The Perfect Thread for All Fabrics 75¢
  • Talon
    • Polyspun Permanent Press
    • PolyPlus 100% Dacron (for permanent press knit stretch)
    • Mercerized Sewing Colorfast 25¢ (and 15¢ – both 125 yards! Price hike!)
  • Trusew 100% Spun Polyester
  • Zayre Dept. 94


Art, Crafts & DIY

Sterling & Peridot TreeIf you’ve come here in search of beautiful handcrafted art, you’re also in luck. It’s a rare day when I don’t feel compelled to make something — jewelry-making, knitting, sewing and photography are most common, though I’ve dipped my toes into a wide variety of other crafts, such as blown glass and manipulated Polaroids.


Something for You! From Me!

Via susan_z (and ovrclokd and others):

The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

  • I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!
  • What I create will be just for you.
  • It’ll be done this year.
  • You have no clue what it’s going to be
  • I reserve the right to do something extremely strange.

The catch? Oh, the catch is that you have to put this in your journal as well. We all can make stuff!

I made an *art*!!

Last Saturday aklikins and I took a “Impressionistic Fingerpainting” class with Allen Montague at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh.  Yes, it was fun!  (I had to get over a little bit of “ew– messy!” and “is this OK/good enough/right?” and “I’m never going to get this out from under my fingernails”1) but once I got over those self-self mental roadblocks it was a blast.

And, joy-of-joys, I’m kind of happy with the result:

Yes, it’s sort of cheating, in a paint-by-numbers, Bob-Ross-Happy-Trees-sort-of-way, *BUT*  for someone (namely me) who has never been pleased with anything that she’s done that started with flat white space and ended up as something to hang on a wall2, it’s AOK.  Good, even.

1 Five days later, there’s still a good bit of relcalcitrant Carbon Black under my primary background-covering thumbnail.
2 Photography, somehow, doesn’t “count” in that it also feels like I cheated in that whatever I took a picture of *was there* …all I did was push a button.  Way crazy and wrong in many ways, of course, from the “provable” (fiddling with settings and whatnot) to the more subjective (did I “see” something that someone else wouldn’t), but that doesn’t keep the inner “you don’t do art, you just make ‘crafts'” critic3 from going on and on.
3 For the record, *I* don’t think that “crafts” are any less “worthy” than “art” (dang, could this post have any more quotes???); however, this is the same inner critic who insists that “thinner is always prettier”…clearly she’s a little bent.


Only in my odd little world…

Remember how I made antlers for my Meep for a Christmas costume?
Remember how I lost an antler?

Someone wrote about finding my antler in a News & Observer article!!!:

Here are a few items the Crabtree Rotary Club found on the side of Glenwood Avenue on Saturday.

  • A business card for a Raleigh police sergeant
  • A bag of rotten celery
  • Reflectors torn up from the roadway
  • A pint-size drinking glass
  • A wrench
  • A reindeer antler from a car-top Christmas decoration
  • Two losing lottery cards
  • Crust from one slice of pizza
  • A pair of sunglasses “


I am sure it is too late to recover the lost antler (though that didn’t stop me from leaving a message from the guy quoted in the article) but GEEZ!  What are the odds?!?