5

Reviewing craft storage – Recollections Combo Cube

With a craft studio move planned for over the summer, I was given some birthday money to spend on craft storage solutions.  This coincided with a sale at Michael’s on storage items, and I was able to pick up some of the Recollections line of storage cubes.  I was intrigued by their relative cheapness per unit and modularity, but I thought I should test out one or two before envisioning some long-term project to line my entire future studio with these modules.

Here is a brief review of the second cube that I have assembled: 

The Recollections Combo Cube, or 2-shelf with 2 drawer cube

Cost:  Regular price $39.99, ding & dent price $9.99

In the box:  Various panels, assembly hardware (screws, dowels), a drawer pull, and some decorative screw/dowel hole covers.

Some assembly required:  Let me preface this comment by saying that I enjoy assembling, following directions, I build with LEGO even as an adult, and I generally like putting things together.  I found this overall FUN to assemble.  The parts are all labeled, small hardware is in labeled bags, the instructions are very nice and clear, i.e., attach A to B using screws from bag #8.  So easy.  Everything was machined very precisely, I had no adjustments to make.

Drawer pull, screws would not go in easily/straight

The main parts of the cube were easy to assemble, although unlike with the last cube, I did have trouble screwing in the drawer-pulls on this cube.  It felt like those pilot holes were not large enough or something.    I have read a lot of reviews where people were very intimidated by the assembly of this item, or had difficulty with the assembly.  I can only say that I had no major problems with the ones I have worked on.

Quality of materials:  I go on a bit about what MDF is, and how I feel about it in my first post on the Michael’s storage cube line.  The short version is that I would have expected a little damage to the corners anyway due to the nature of MDF materials and the way these products are packaged.  I was pleasantly surprised by the first cube’s relatively good condition, and entirely unsurprised that my “ding and dent” cube had some slightly crushed corners.  I will also say that Recollections customer service was very kind and sent out replacement hardware for me with relatively little effort on my part, since my “ding and dent” cube was missing some screws and such.  And to be clear, I don’t have a problem with some minor dings in my cubes, even if I had bought them at “regular” sale prices, because I expect that these cubes are not going to stay pristine in my working studio space.

The one hardware issue is worth mentioning again – I didn’t even try the strange domed hole covers this time.  I went straight for the little white vinyl stickers as an alternate solution to covering the holes.  This worked just fine, and isn’t terribly noticeable, but again, some people might be disappointed by the look.

Use:  I haven’t put it through it’s paces over time yet, so I will update this later when I see how it holds up.  My expectation with MDF is that if the unit is exposed to any flexion through rough use or moving while full (or disassembly, which I don’t intend), the screws would begin to strip the small particles within the screw holes.  Over time, this would break down the units to a point of unusability, so I plan to be as careful as I reasonably can be when it comes to moving them around and ultimately moving them into the new space.

Drawers just rests inside open area, no stops or tracks

Deep drawers hold Sizzix Bigz dies with ease

With a couple of horizontal shelves, this cube has at last provided me with a place to store some 12×12″ paper pads.  [Update:  this may not be ideal for the paper pads either!  See my note at the bottom of the post.]  Because paper pads are so dense and heavy, I discovered that the Hanging File cube from Recollections is really better for loose 12×12 papers.  Now that I’ve got a couple of these 12×12″ shelves, I might go for the 4-shelf organizer as my next cube purchase to give myself more room for those paper pads.  But I think I better wait until I’ve moved my studio at this point, since I still have a rolling shelf set to build and I’ve largely run out of floor space.  The two drawers are quite spacious and kind of deep.  I think they will work for large dies like the “Bigz” Sizzix dies, of which I have many.  My only concern is that since the drawers are not on rails (they just float in there), I might pull too far for the weight of a heavily-loaded drawer and have an unpleasant experience when they all drop (on my feet, perhaps).  I’ll try to be mindful of it, but I also have a small child “helper”, so who knows what might happen – I’m going to try to keep him away from it..

Two Recollections storage cubes stacked

As part of a storage system:  Now that I have two cubes, I can check out the stacking aspect.  Each cube includes stacking dowels (or caps if you aren’t planning to stack), to make a sturdier tower of cubes.  Don’t take that “tower” idea too far, I think they recommend going no more than 3 cubes high.      was skeptical at first that the four little dowels would really make a sturdy tower, but it does feel really secure.  It took a little maneuvering and patience to get the dowels all lined up just right, it’s a snug fit.  In fact, I suspect that if I tried to unstack them, I’d need a helper and maybe a pair of pliers to get the dowels out.  I don’t feel like it’s going to tip, the sides are all very flush and smooth, and it looks great as one 2-cube tall unit.

Verdict:  I’m actually more excited about this versatile cube now that it’s finished than I was about the uni-tasking hanging file cube.  Time will tell how well they hold up to the usual craft-room adventures, the rearrangement, and so forth.  And time will also tell if those drawers end up causing a problem with heavy paper-cutting dies in them, if I find something lighter to store in their unusual dimensions, or what!  Overall, I still appreciate the quality-for-price ratio of the Recollections storage cube line, I think the look is plain but not distracting, and I think their storage versatility means they deserve a place in my craft room.  I plan to buy at least one more of them.

Update:  A few weeks after assembly, I was working with the dies that were stored in the drawers of this combo-cube and I discovered a problem.  The shelf just above the drawers, currently holding a couple of12x12″ paper pads, was so bowed by weight that after the drawer was removed, I couldn’t put the drawer back because the shelf above the drawers dipped down into the space required by the top edge of the drawer.  Argh!  Now, as soon as I removed the paper, I was able to get the drawer back in, so it’s not permanently warped – yet.  I don’t think this bodes well for my idea of getting a 4-shelf cube for 12×12″ paper pads.  I think the MDF might be too flexible to store such heavy things well.  I’ll have to give it some thought.

13

Reviewing craft storage – Recollections Hanging File Cube

With a craft studio move planned for over the summer, I was given some birthday money to spend on craft storage solutions.  This coincided with a sale at Michael’s on storage items, and I was able to pick up some of the Recollections line of storage cubes.  I was intrigued by their relative cheapness per unit and modularity, but I thought I should test out one or two before envisioning some long-term project to line my entire future studio with these modules.

Here is a brief review of the first that I have assembled: 

The Recollections Hanging File Cube, for 12×12 papers

Cost:  Regular price $44.99, sale price $26.99

In the box:  Various panels, slide rails, rods to hold the hanging files, assembly hardware (screws, dowels), a drawer pull, some decorative screw/dowel hole covers, and 4 hanging file folders.  That last bit was annoying, because I couldn’t find on the box anywhere how many file folders (if any) were included.  The answer, for mine at least, turned out to be 4 included folders.  Maybe the company doesn’t mention it so that they can cheap out later and include just one or something, or maybe they used to include 12 and have already cheaped out!  It’s not unusual for companies to be a little vague on the packaging if they plan to make adjustments to the product over time.

Some assembly required:  Let me preface this comment by saying that I enjoy assembling, following directions, I build with LEGO even as an adult, and I generally like putting things together.  I found this FUN to assemble.   The parts are all labeled, small hardware is in labeled bags, the instructions are very nice and clear, i.e., attach A to B using screws from bag #8.  So easy.  Everything was machined very precisely, I had no adjustments to make.  The cube assembled flawlessly.  I often shop closeouts and thrift stores, and I have picked up another brand of craft storage unit with assembly required that did NOT assemble flawlessly, so let’s say my expectations were not high.  I have read a lot of reviews where people were very intimidated by the assembly of this item, or had difficulty with the assembly.  I can only say that I had no problems with the one I received.

Quality of materials:  When I buy a furniture storage item, I expect to get what I pay for.  But here’s where I may differ from a lot of people:  I expect to pay through the nose for quality.  Chain stores don’t EVER put something on sale for a price that they can’t afford.  Yes, there is such a thing as a loss leader (an item priced at a small loss to the company to get you in the door to hook you for something very profitable), but this isn’t Walmart and we aren’t talking about a hot toy at Christmas.  Michael’s categorically puts storage items on sale often, so if they are putting that category on sale often, it means that they are probably still making a profit even at their frequent sale price.  Therefore, I expect a $27 furniture item to be kind of cheap in quality.  Thus far, I feel the quality is better than I expected.

The panels are made of MDF, which is essentially a nicer kind of particle board (here’s a helpful article on MDF vs particle board vs plywood).  MDF is ultra smooth, pretty sturdy, and holds up laminate pretty well.  The downside is that like any particle board, the boards have just a bit of give to them when struck or under constant pressure (think of a cheap bookshelf with a bowed board under years of heavy book holding).  What this means for the Recollections storage line is that when they pack all those panels into a box, they protect each other a bit, but their corners are a bit vulnerable to the dings and dents of shipping.  Especially because the box doesn’t include much padding.  If your MDF is compressed by a ding, it’s really easy to chip off the laminate covering.

Now I picked up my box at a local store, and was pleasantly surprised when I unboxed it that there were only one or two corners marred by transport to the store, and then only a little bit.  Again, I expect to get what I pay for, this is an unsurprising issue common to MDF, I want this for functionality and looking nice is just a bonus, but I know some people SUPER care about this kind of thing.  So if I super cared about dings, I would be pretty hesitant to have this shipped from the online store – I just don’t think there’s enough padding in the box unless they put a lot of packing in an overbox.  But again, I bought at the nearby store, so I can’t attest to that.

Another small quality issue that I believe will bother some, is the peculiar smooth domed hole covers.  Among the hardware is included plastic hole caps for the external screw holes, but the one end of the cap is designed to slot into the Phillips-head screw head itself.  This is difficult because the screws end up at various heights within their screw holes and can’t necessarily be reached by the plus-shaped end of the hole cap.  To check if I had overtightened, I loosened a few screws to a depth for which the caps could reach the screw, but found that this made the connections between panels a little too wobbly for my taste.  Luckily, they also include little white vinyl stickers as an alternate solution to covering the holes.  This worked just fine, and isn’t terribly noticeable, but again, some people might be disappointed by the look.

Use:  I haven’t put it through it’s paces over time yet, so I will update this later when I see how it holds up.  My expectation with MDF is that if the unit is exposed to any flexion through rough use or moving while full (or disassembly, which I don’t intend), the screws would begin to strip the small particles within the screw holes.  Over time, this would break down the units to a point of unusability, so I plan to be as careful as I reasonably can be when it comes to moving them around and ultimately moving them into the new space.

The drawer pulls out fairly smoothly, not like the action of standard metal office hanging file drawers, but as you would expect for particle board along plastic rails.  The hanging files move around fairly well along the metal rods as long as they are not weighed down too much.  The folders that were included seem to be able to handle the weight of about one 12×12 paper pad each, more than that seemed to distort the hanging folders.  The included folders did not have labels.  Supposedly the Recollections 12×12 Hanging File Folders sold separately do have labels.  The drawer itself does not have a base, so don’t expect to be able to stand your paperpads between folders of loose paper, there is nowhere for them to stand.

Compatibility of file folders:  My only real frustration with this unit so far is that I purchased another brand of 12×12 hanging file folders and they did not fit.  Buy any letter sized or legal hanging file folders anywhere and they should fit your normal drawer but apparently those rules don’t apply to the world of hanging files for 12×12″ paper.  I bought Iris brand, simply because my local Michael’s had them in stock and not the Recollections brand, and they DID NOT FIT.  I don’t know if anyone else sells a compatible folder, but from now on I will buy the specific brand and not fiddle with alternatives.

As part of a storage system:  I haven’t tried any of the others yet, so I will have to update this topic later.  I am excited to see that they include stacking dowels, to make a sturdier tower of cubes.  Don’t take that “tower” idea literally, I think they recommend going no more than 2 or 3 cubes high.

Verdict:  Because I don’t have a good place to store 12×12″ paper, I was most excited about this cube from all of those in the set.  But without more hanging files, I really can’t say if this unit is sturdy enough to hold enough paper pads to be worthwhile for the kind of paper I usually get.  Paper pads are just so dense and heavy.  I think this would be great if you had lots of random sheets of loose paper and you wanted to sort by color, but I suspect that if you are a paper pad stasher, as I seem to be, this might not be the cube you are looking for.  I do like the general quality of the product, and think it might work very well for loose paper.

I will update this post after I’ve picked up more hanging files, and I’ve had more time to live with the Recollections Hanging File Folder cube.

Update 9/17/15:  As far as I can tell, Michael’s no longer sells the 12 x 12 hanging file folders.  The entry is still up on their website, but seems to be permanently “Out of Stock”.  I’ve also had no luck at the local Michael’s stores.  I never returned the Iris brand ones that did not fit, but maybe I can modify those in some way to make them work.  You can be sure I’ll post about it if I come up with a clever solution.

0

Craft space

Some friends of ours are going to be working on setting up a new craft room soon, and they were seeking input from their other crafty friends about what makes a good craft room.  I realized that I hadn’t shared much about my craft space on my blog, and that I should share before it gets transformed.  I’m planning to swap my craft space for my current nursery room, because I think my active toddler is soon going to need more space, and I need to resign myself to the fact that I am not doing enough crafting these days to justify having my own room in our little house.  The move is my idea, so don’t feel sorry for me, I’m pushing myself into it.

And I’m still planning to have craft space, it’s just going to get stuffed into the current ‘nursery’ room, which is about the size of a walk-in closet.  And I’m going to make sure part of it is dedicated office space so my husband has a quiet place to study (some how I had a “my” space in our home, but he never had a “his” space).  But if we do some finishing work to the adjoining walk-up attic, I might have even more storage space to fit all my craft supplies than I do now, even if they will be a bit less accessible.

Here are some of my beloved peg-boards.  I just love having so many tools and material accessible and inspiring.

pegboard and paintbrushes and other tools

Small pegboard near adjustable architect’s drawing table.

I am torn right now between moving the pegboards, or just re-purposing them for some kind of kid-friendly use and installing new pegboards in the new space.  I think I may have done some gluing when I installed them, never imagining a need to remove them unless we moved out.  See the magnetic (top) and metal (bottom) strips on each shelf?  I came up with that clever idea to display/store my steel rule and Movers & Shapers dies.

pegboard and stamping supplies

Large pegboard with upper and lower shelf sit above long narrow work table.

So, my friend prompted ‘what is important to me in a craft space?’  My answer:

I actually have to start thinking about clearing out and moving my own craft space, as I’m determined to give over that large room to our baby, his toys, and any possible future siblings.  I think we’ll turn the small room+attic into an office/craft space.  It will be good for my husband too, if he starts the PhD program, to have an office space where he can lock himself away when he needs to write.
1.  a) storage (both accessible and long-term), b) work surfaces, c) place for machines or tools that should always be handy for quick work (e.g. sewing machine or grab-and-go types of projects), floor space for spreading out the big projects like quilts or drying sweaters
2.  most of my projects in-progress I throw into clear plastic bags, zippered bags that bedding is sold in or ziplocs.  Non-textile projects get stored in shallow drawers or large paper portfolios
3.  I don’t have a good system for dealing with projects in process, and assimilating new acquisitions quickly.  With very little time to walk into my craft room at all, I find that new things or stray non-current projects or tools from projects I just finished get dumped on my work surfaces just inside the door, and then when I need to whip something up really fast I have no where to do it.  I don’t have a great solution for this, but one half-solution is that I have started having some “random stuff” containers on high shelves, so at least some things can go there out of the way.  But I wish I had a real “stuff to sort” bin right inside my craft-room door.
4.  I have cycled some materials into boxes and into the attic.  There are simply some crafts I don’t need on-hand constantly anymore – e.g. I don’t make wreaths very often, so I don’t need all the florals in my craft room.  I think in my new configuration I will have more easily-accessible space devoted to random catch-all, and shift more stuff like fabric into the attic since I don’t need to access it all the time.
5.  If space were no object I would have picked up some flat map-drawers that were at an architect office sale years ago to store my large paper art (drawings and prints).  We could have got them for a song, but at the time we were in a 1 bedroom apartment.  Right now I don’t have a good place to store fancy scrapbook papers either, so I would get something to solve that problem.  So if time and money were no object, I would get a bunch of cool very craft-specific storage items:  A sewing station, some cool IKEA-compatible scrapbooking storage for stamp pads and paper, more sturdy clear stacking bins for all the miscellaneous fabric and stuff (Staples has a “Really Useful” line that I find very sturdy).
But really, most of my problem these days is time, and keeping dangerous things out of toddler reach.
So my current priorities:
a) fixing the door so it can actually stay shut
b) moving dangerous things to upper shelves
c) add a “stuff to sort” bin or two
6.  I think the things that have worked phenomenally well for me are the following:
a)  pegboard – so much you can do with pegboard, I want more of it, so great for all the crafty little knicknacks and tools, add cups, hooks, clips, it’s wonderful!
b) Having work surfaces far enough apart to run a ball-winder and swift (for knitting).  Ask [friend’s spouse] to measure and make sure she can do it in the configuration.
c) Narrow shelves with cups and boxes for different kinds of tools and supplies
Not sure why the one review is so lousy, I found these to be incredibly hefty for sweater-organizers, I have two in my closet and they keep the dust and bugs away from my precious yarns, yet I still have a nice view of them.  And it makes good use of a closet in a craft room.
e) foam interlocking floor tiles (maybe you already have these?)  Great for blocking sweaters and all kinds of other uses, plus you can pin right into them.  Although your cats will probably scratch them up as they have done to mine, but it doesn’t really inhibit their function too much.
Two things you should consider with the wall space:
1) leave enough room somewhere so that when [friend] creates her spinning wheel, you can rig a clever wall-hanger to put the spinning wheel out of kitty reach.
2) somewhere for a design board or pin-board?  A lot of crafters like to have somewhere to pin inspiring things, or if quilting, a flannel design board to put fabrics and squares together and then step back.  I have a little pin board, but I wish it were in a different spot, and might convert to a flannel board when I move everything.
If you are thinking about craft-room design or organizing, I highly recommend finding issues of Studios by Cloth+Paper+Scissors at the library for inspiration.  It focuses on studios of mixed media artists, so it’s pretty inspiring for people like me who like a lot of different categories of craft.  Of course, some of the fine folks whose studios are featured have their own business space, or a large house, or an out-building in which to come up with the perfect studio.  But some of the storage solutions are inspiring even in small houses such as ours.
Finally, some quick updates on recent knitting projects.
wrist warmers in progress

Sunstreak Wristwarmers from Knitted Mitts and Mittens

fair isle mittens

Evergreen Lake Mittens from Stranded Knitting Craftsy Class

Shawl in progress

Downton Abbey Mystery Knit Along Shawl from Jimmy Beans Wool