January Quilting Update

Once a month I post an update on my quilting/sewing projects. You can find all my quilting/sewing updates here.

Star Quilt
Finished on December 22nd, 2016!

Red, blue, and grey star sampler quilt

The big thing holding this quilt up was that I had quilted the first half then let it sit. This gave everything a little too much time to settle and I ended up with some puckering between the part I had quilted and the part I hadn’t. In December I helped a friend pin a quilt for her husband. Then she returned the favour and helped me unpin the half of this quilt that wasn’t finished, so we could repin it. I was nervous about repinning, but in the end it was the right decision. This was the first quilt I ever quilted (I quilted the first half before the digger quilt), so it has a few foldovers on the back. Luckily it is for my husband who doesn’t mind at all.

Back of star quilt. Pieced modern cross back

I did the last of the quilting in December, and then finished the binding over several days of TV watching before we headed out for our holiday. It now lives in my living room and is frequently snuggled by both my husband and son.

This quilt was started as a Bee quilt in January of 2013. Each of the members of the bee made one of the blocks (I actually didn’t make a single block for this quilt). When I made the label, I included the names of everyone who contributed a block.

Mystery Quilt
This quilt is for a very good friend of mine who is having a child. Until the quilt has been given this one remains a mystery! I don’t even want to include the quilt name, because it would be a bit of a hint as to what to expect. I will say it has a few fun fabrics, and it very bright. The top is finished and I know what fabric I’m using for the backing. I just need to pin baste it and decide on the thread colour I’ll use for the quilting.

Jungle Path Quilt
I’ve cut the short sashing pieces that go between the blocks for each row. I have a sewing date on the 21st where I hope to get each of the rows sewn together. Should have a few pictures of the progress for next month’s update.

Shoo Fly Quilt
No progress since I finished the top. This will be the status of this quilt for a few months, so I won’t include it on monthly updates until I prep it to quilt.

How I use my Bullet Journal

I started bullet journaling in October and it has been several months of figuring out what I like about the system and what doesn’t work for me.

A Weekly Spread
In October I started with the system as described plus I added a weekly spread and skipped daily logging. This meant that at the beginning of the month I had a month calendar page, a month to do list, and a weekly spread. I quickly figured out the weekly spread wasn’t going to work for me. I ran out of space on a few days, and had a few days that I didn’t use all of the space I had allocated. I did really like that I could put to do items onto future days though instead of into the general monthly to do list.

A Weekly to do list
Later in October I tried removing the weekly spread, adding a weekly to do, and adding daily logging. I liked the daily log a lot more than I thought I would. Having the weekly to do list also allowed me to write in things I had to remember for later in the week. After a few days I also decided not to migrate tasks daily. This took up too much time and left me repeating a few tasks for days at a time. Instead I switched to migrating daily tasks when I moved to a new page and could no longer see them at a glance.

Figuring out the right To Do list
In November I tried removing the monthly to do list. I found I was using the weekly one instead of the monthly, so why not toss the monthly! Instead I did a monthly calendar, and used the opposite side to hold goals etc. Then I had a new weekly page spread for each week of the month. It turned out that didn’t work for me either. The weekly and monthly pages all had too much space. It felt very inefficient.

In December I figured out what works for me

  • the six month future calendar.
  • the monthly calendar.
  • on the facing page I put my monthly goals and then start my weekly logs. If the logs run off this page I just move to the next blank page the way I would with daily logging.
  • daily logging, but I only migrate unfinished tasks when I move off that two page spread.
  • I do have a few lists on the go including – books I’ve read, funny things my son says, etc.

In the end the only real change I needed to make was to break the monthly to do list into weekly segments. Who knew such a small change would make such a big difference for me?

In an effort to keep my journal simple and uncluttered I’ve been sure not to include the following:

  • grocery lists. I keep a blank scrap notebook in my midori for this and other notes I don’t want/need to keep.
  • writing notes, ideas, and plotting stuff. I keep a notebook for each novel length project, with the current project’s notebook in my midori.
  • I was very careful in the beginning about what collections I started. I still have fewer than five list pages. Any more and I would struggle to keep track of them.

Do you use a bullet journal or other logging system? Have you ever tried a midori notebook to keep yourself organized?

Stretching my Skills

I recently stumbled across an old post by Piecemeal Quilts discussing the ‘dumbing down of quilting’. For me the important part of the post wasn’t the discussion on what counts as intermediate, but the idea that we should challenge ourselves instead of relying on the same basic skill set.

I’m pretty good at applying this strategy to my writing. I try and write deeper characters, more relaistic dialogue, or to not give the ending away in the first scene. It doesn’t come easily or naturally and it’s often unsuccessful, but I keep trying.

After reading Piecemeal’s post, I realized I couldn’t say the same for my quilting. I haven’t moved beyond squares, half square triangles, and a few rectangles. Those are all important skills. Those skills are all you need to make beautiful quilts, but there are other things I could be working on. I don’t need to expand my skills. I could continue to make beautiful quilts with those shapes. The more I think about it though, the more I want to expand my skills. I want to stretch my quilting self.

This year I’ve set a goal of finishing three quilt tops, and three quilts. I want at least one of those quilts to include a new to me skill. I’m planning on a quilt for my mother that includes (kind of) flying geese. I have also bookmarked a quilt that includes diamonds and y-seams. My plan is to tackle the flying geese, which should be fairly straight forward, then move on to the diamonds and y-seams.

At this point I don’t plan to ever move onto curved seams, but I won’t rule it out completely. I want to quilt for many years to come, and over those years I’d like to think my skills will improve and maybe I’ll be ready to jump into something that seems crazy to me today. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I said I wanted to make quilt tops, but not quilt them.

Do you have any skills you’re planning to stretch this year? What writing or quilting projects are you working on?

January Goals

I didn’t really set December goals, so I have nothing to recap this month. I don’t mind. I like the idea of starting fresh for the new year anyway!

My goals for January are:

  1. Write 10k (does not have to be all the same project)
  2. Exercise 8 times (bike or DDR)
  3. Quilt the mystery quilt (more on that in an upcoming post)
  4. Donate three bags/boxes/equivalent

Since I’m trying to stick to my ‘resolutions’ this year, all four of my goals relate to the priorities I set. I really need to refresh my writing spreadsheet for the year, so I’m ready to track my progress each month.

Have you set any goals for this month? Are you sticking to any resolutions you set this year?

New Years Goals (or Resolutions)

I like to set priorities, then goals within those priorities. For some reason this works better for me than trying to set resolutions.

My Priorities this year are:

  • Organizing the house with the top priority being a new crafting space
  • Sewing/Quilting
  • Writing
  • Exercising

My goals within these priorities are:

Organizing the House
The biggest thing on my mind right now is finding a sewing space in the house, and continuing to reduce the amount of clutter and stuff we own. Everytime I visit my mother or inlaws I am reminded that we don’t need as much as we have to get by. We can certainly get by with far less than we have. It will probably even make us happier in the long run. It will certainly make me less anxious.

With that in mind my specific goals are:
– Continue to get more out of the house than comes in, including at birthdays and other special times
– Set up the crafting corner in the study

Sewing/Quilting
I’ve really enjoyed sewing the last few years. I would love to try new sewing projects, but at the same time I’ve felt a real sense of accomplishment from the two quilts I finished. I would love to have several quilts living in my living room and one on each of the beds upstairs (eventually). This year I want to get a start on that goal.

Specific goals:
– Piece at least three quilt tops (this includes already started quilts)
– Finish at least three quilts (this can include any already started quilts)
I actually hope to accomplish more than this, but I don’t want to over commit.

Writing
I don’t always give writing the priority that I should. I enjoy writing new things, and I am learning (slowly) to edit what I’ve written. I was to continue to improve as a writer and that means getting the practice time in. I’m always telling my son he just needs to keep practicing his reading and it will get easier. Time to live by my own words.

Specific Goals:
– Write 10k a month (I was going to go with 3k a week, but my friend is doing this and I like it better)
– Submit to crit group at least eight times

Exercising
I’ll admit the goals I’ve set for this one aren’t enough. I know that, so I’m going to start small and work up through the year. For now my goal is only applicable to Jan and Feb while I find my feet after a far too long hiatus from all exercise.

Specific Goal:
– Exercise twice a week.

Accountability
To keep myself accountable I plan to include how I’m making out on my yearly goals when I do the wrap up of my monthly goals. I hope that the constant reminder will keep these priorities fresh in my mind and prevent me from forgetting about them next month or even next week.

Do you set resolutions each year? Do you ever complete them?

How to fit blogging into my life

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to get out of blogging. I was very good, for most of last year, and posted twice a week on a topic almost always related to writing (once a month I posted about sewing instead). That schedule though quickly became tedious. It turns out that as much as I enjoy writing, I don’t have that much to say about it.

I want to continue blogging. I feel it adds something to my life. The process of coming up with ideas, fleshing them out, and posting them has been good for me. The deadline of my posting schedule has forced me to get at least a little bit of writing each week. It has forced me to write at least twice a week, even if I didn’t really have anything to say.

While looking over my posts from the last year I also realized that I enjoyed writing some flash fiction. I won’t say I’m great at it, but it was a learning experience I’d be happy to delve into again.

This year I want to change things up so I keep the good (writing, deadline adherence, sharing), but remove some of the tediousness (posting about the same stuff over and over). For the next few months this probably means my blog is going to be a strange mix of topics. I’m going to try to stick to quilting, writing, flash fictions, and goal updates etc. I guess we’ll have to see how it goes.

Do you manage to stick to a single blog topic, or do you just around?

2016 in Review

Last year I posted regularly for most of the year. My biggest break was from mid-November until now. Here are a few stats, and a short list of my favourite posts from last year.
Total number of blog posts: 77
Top five posts by views:
  1. NaNoWriMo – How to catch up if you’re behind – this is the only post on this list that wasn’t posted in 2016.
  2. Finding my Priorities – again
  3. April Quilting Update
  4. Fourth is a tie between 500 Words – The Tarot Reading and
  5. Making a Fauxdori

A Countdown of my Five Favourite Posts:

5.) Why did I Read that Book?: A post talking about the reasons why I read the books I read.

4.) Tracking my Writing Goals: A look at the spreadsheet I use to track my writing and the stats it produces.

3.) June Quilting Update: I finished my first quilt in May for my son’s seventh birthday. It is a digger quilt that my son cuddles with everyday. The finish was a long time coming.

2.) 500 Words – The Tarot Reading: Last year my second favourite post was a 500 word post as well. This one is my favourite of all the flash fiction I’ve posted.

1.) Inside Out – A new way to develop characters?: A post looking at a new way to develop characters. I often still consider my characters in terms of these five traits.

Visitors from around the world. I had visitors from 25 countries last year. The top five were: Canada (my home country, so not a big surprise), the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Highest Activity Month
March was again the most active month on my blog, but this year I had several other months that came close.

What was your favourite post this year, on your own blog or someone else’s blog? Do you track the views on your blog?

Plotter vs. Panster

I’ve talked before about how I don’t have the usual skills for writing. I’m logical and love math, numbers, and statistics. I have a computer science degree, and pick up computer programs quickly. I like quilting in squares and triangles with straight lines and perfect points. Free motion quilting is about as crazy as I get with my sewing machine. And even then I keep it organized and logical in execution. It should come as no surprise that I considered myself a plotter for years.

In 2012 I took a risk and wrote NaNo without a plot. To be honest when I started writing I didn’t even have an idea. I had a single image in my head of a hidden square wooden door in a dark basement. So, I named a character and let her lead the way through her own story.

Since that time I’ve gone back to my plotting ways, or at least that is what I told myself. Then I started really thinking about my story writing style in the context of plotting vs pantsing. Was I ever REALLY a plotter?

My very first NaNo I started writing with a general concept. It was a sort of alternate world to our own. The only real different between the world of this novel and our own world was that women in my world could only have one child before becoming infertile. When I started writing that story I didn’t have much more than the world, main characters, and a vague idea of where I wanted that story to end.

Most years I plot out the first half or so of my novel, decide where I think it should end, and let the middle kind of take on a life of its own to get to that end. I know I’m not (usually) a pantser, not completely. But as I look back at my writing attempts I realize I’m not really a plotter either. I guess like most things there is a grey area and that is where I fall. I’m part panters and part plotter. It feels kind of good to get that out, to sent the record straight.

Are you a plotter or a panster? Do you fall somewhere in between?

NaNoWriMo – Week 1

NaNo tip of the week: If you want to win at NaNo, turn off your inner editor.
The goal of NaNo isn’t to have a great first draft, it’s to get in the habit of writing. So often people try to write, but it isn’t ‘good enough’ so they stop. All of these great stories are waiting to be told, but the person who has them is too scared of doing it wrong. NaNo forces you to write regardless of how good it is. It forces you to get the practice you need to improve. Don’t forget you have as much time as you want after November to edit these words. Right now the goal is to get past the fear of doing it wrong, so you have something to edit later. See my NaNoWriMo tips and tricks for more advice on how to succeed this month.

Don’t worry if you find yourself falling behind, now is the perfect time to get caught up! Check out my How to Catch up if you’re behind post from last year.

My Progress:
Word Graph one week of writingSo far, this year is going well. My plan was to write 2k each week day and 3.5k each weekend day. Saturday was rough, but in the end I made it with some extra words to spare. My biggest challenge right now is a lack of outline. I really need to get moving on the second section of my plot for this year’s novel. I’m almost at the end of what I had plotted out before November started. My writing tends to be faster if I have a decent idea of where I’m going.

Goal for this week:
Keep on track with my word count, and get the next 1/4-1/3 of the novel plotted out.

If you’re doing nano this year, how it is going? Do you have any great tips for new nano writers?

November Goals

In October my goals were:

  1. Get a sewing/writing area set up in the Study. – nope
  2. Finish my NaNo novel outline. – A good start, but nope
  3. Make my travellers notebook. – Done!
  4. Use my bullet journal for the entire month. – Done!

I did manage to get two more boxes of stuff out of the study in the month of October. It wasn’t nearly enough to pull out my current desk and replace it with the new one. The biggest stumbling block in this room is that we often shove stuff in there that we don’t know where else it should go. I think I need to focus on getting some basement stuff cleared out to make room for some of the stuff in this room.

For the novel outline, I have a really good handle on the first third of the novel. I’ve started working toward the second third, but I haven’t written any of it down yet. I think this will be one of those years where I write to the end of what I have and then start scrambling for what comes next. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

My goals for November are:

  1. Win NaNoWriMo for the tenth year.
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three big ticket items in the basement.
  3. Exercise (run or bike) 6 times.
  4. Use my bullet journal for the entire month.

I’m keeping it light and simple this month. Mostly because that first one is going to eat up most of my free time this month as it has in other years. As my husband likes to say, “in November I might as well be a widower”. I don’t think it is actually that bad, but I do see his point. Writing 50k, in a month, on top of your usual life, is kind of a big time sucker.

Have you set any goals for this month? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?