Spring is Here (finally)

We had a long winter in my neck of the woods. Long enough that my son had a snow day in early April! Now spring is finally here with its rainy days (we are supposed to have rain everyday this week), and on the days of no rain, bike rides, sidewalk chalk, and other outdoor activities abound.

Spring is known for being a time of renewal, decluttering, and cleaning. I have been trying to take some time to think about these things. This winter, I spent a few months in hibernation. Until we had a few sunny days, I didn’t realize how much I had withdrawn from my own life. Apparently it was a rougher winter than I thought. Now that I am feeling present again it is time to get things done.

Years ago I had to simplify my hobbies. I had too many things I wanted to do, and the end result was that I didn’t get much time to do any of them. These days I focus my limited free time on time with my family, sewing, and writing. If I only have time for only a few hobbies, I need to pick the ones that matter most to me. When I sat down and looked at the long list of crafts, hobbies, and other time sinks I enjoyed, theses were the ones that came out on top. I expect they will change over time, but right now my focus is on finding time for each of these things.

For the last month I’ve made a real effort to exercise. As much as I would love to find time for writing and sewing, I know from experience I need to feel good about myself to be motivated to do much of anything. For me, exercise is the key for feeling good about myself (for me! your mileage may vary). Exercise helps me sleep well at night, keeps me strong enough to play with my kid, and allows me to feel productive. Plus it encourages my love of numbers. Now that I have exercise (both cardio and some basic strength) back into my weekly routine it is time to start adding in other things.

This month I want to focus on writing, with a bit of sewing thrown in. I hope to write twice a week for the rest of the month, and get at least two evenings of sewing. I already know what my projects are going to be! I will finish the Jungle Path quilt top, and write a new short story.

What helps you feel motivated? What hobbies are most important to you?

Mystery Quilt – Yellow Coin Baby Quilt

I can finally show you the Mystery quilt! Yesterday this baby quilt was delivered to the Mama-to-be at her shower. Now that the proud parents own it, I can share the quilt with the world. The finished quilt is about 33×39 inches.

Front of yellow coin quilt

I laid out the pattern myself, but kept it nice and simple. The small rectangles are 5×3 inches, the large ones 5×11 inches. For the ‘coin’ fabrics I chose four fabrics I liked, in colours that could work for a boy or girl. My goal for this quilt was to keep it bright and vibrant. From each fabric, I cut two large and five small rectangles. To get the last small rectangle, I used a scrap from a fun print that helped tie together the colours from the other fabrics. The layout was random, except for the little snail below, I knew I wanted him along the bottom.

Close up of yellow coin quilt

When it came time to back the quilt, I selected a fabric from my stash. I wanted a dark fabric that wouldn’t show dirt too easily, but that was still cheerful. This fabric in yellow and black was used in my son’s digger quilt and always gets a lot of compliments, so I went with it. I was a bit worried about how the white quilting thread would look, but I like how it turned out.

back of the baby quilt

For the quilting I did a loopy meandering pattern in white thread. This was my first time doing something other than a basic stipple. I couldn’t find a fabric I liked in my stash for the binding, so I decided to try a scrappy binding made from the four main quilt fabrics. I love it! I want to do a scrappy binding for all my kid quilts now. The label (that I’ve whited out above) includes my name, date, location, and who I’ve gifted it to. I like to keep my labels simple, but I feel they add a nice personal touch.

Edges of the coin quilt

Have you finished a quilt lately? Do you like to follow a quilt pattern or make your own?

2017 Resolutions Update – January

My Goals (resolutions) for the year are:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops
  2. Finish at least three quilts
  3. Write 10k a month
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times
  5. Exercise twice a week
  6. Continue to get more out of the house than comes in
  7. Set up the crafting corner in the study

Some of these are easy to quantify. I’ve set up the numbers below for those:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
  2. Finish at least three quilts – 0/3
  3. Write 10k a month – 0/110,000 (I’m not including Nov in this)
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times – 0/8
  5. Exercise twice a week – 8/96

Can’t say I’m doing too well so far this year. I must strive to do better.

The last two items I can’t track in terms of numbers though. This makes it tough to report in on, but I do want to keep myself accountable. My plan is to include numbers for the first five in each monthly update and then a small paragraph on the last two if appropriate.

Declutter update:
In January we didn’t bring many new items into the house. My husband found a few pieces of clothing and we’ve bought books for my son. We sent out two boxes and a big bag of stuff in January. The setting up of my craft space is still in the get stuff out of the way phase. I need to target the study specifically for decluttering.

Have you made any progress on your New Years Resolutions? Any great decluttering tips that might help me sort out that craft space?

February Goals

In January my goals were:

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

I got zero writing done, so goal number one was just a solid fail. For the quilt I did get some sewing done, but it was piecing the first two rows of my son’s jungle path quilt not quilting the mystery quilt. Overall score for the month is: 2/4 goals completed. 😦 Better luck next month.

My goals for February are:

  1. Write 10k – including at least two 500 word posts
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three bags/boxes/equivalent
  3. Exercise (bike, DDR, or run) 8 times
  4. Quilt the mystery quilt

I was going to include an update on the priorities I set at the beginning of the year, but I have more to say than I want to fit in this post.

How did you do on your goals last month? Are you still keeping track of your ‘New Year’s Resolutions’?

 

Planning Ahead

I’m a planner and an organizer. I like to be prepared, and I like to think ahead. Of course I often don’t have time to plan ahead on everything, and sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out. Maybe a better statement is that I try to plan ahead.

As I have begun completing my first quilts, I’ve been looking ahead to new ones. Currently I have two quilts that need to be moved through the next stage. The first is the Mystery Quilt that needs to be quilted and bound so it is ready before the baby it is intended for is here. The second is my son’s bed quilt that needs to be pieced into the completed top.

My lap quilt top is finished, but until I have time and space to quilt it, it will stay as is. What this all means is that very soon I’ll have space in my quilting to start a new quilt top. Making the blocks and putting them into a finished top is my favourite part of quilting. The quilt tops I’d love to make at some point are:

  1. Pow Wow type quilt for my Mother. She likes the look, and I like that it has a flying geese type piece that would be new to me.
  2. Carpenter’s Wheel big block quilt. I really want to try Y-seams. This one won’t come until after the first though.
  3. A Moonlight Starts quilt. This would be made as an upgrade to the lap quilt I made for my husband. I’ll probably end up making this one sometime after the pow-wow and before the Carpenter’s Wheel. He really wants a quilt made entirely by me.
  4. A wrapped in Red quilt. I wouldn’t do this with Christmas fabrics. It would probably be red and white though. Since this one would be for my bed and much bigger than anything else I’ve made. I would make the top, but I’ll pay someone to do the quilting on it. Who knows when I will get around to this one!

Most likely the lap quilt for mom will be the first I make. It will be fun to pick the fabrics with her, and then make the top. The quilting on it will be a little ways down the road, but she is always very understanding of how long projects take me.

Do you plan a few quilts in advance? What projects are you working on right now?

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.

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?

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?

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?

Trying to Develop a Novel Outline

Last night I was struck by how different my two main hobbies are when it comes to designing and creating the final product. In my case my two hobbies are making a quilt, and writing a novel.

Quilt
When I’m designing a quilt it requires creativity, but is also very straight forward. The pieces need to fit together without any gaps. Since a quilt top is (usually) two dimensional, you can draw it out on a single piece of paper. Once you know what you want it to look like you break it down into pieces. With each piece you know how big the finished piece needs to be. With a bit of math you can easily figure out how big you need to cut a piece of fabric, so it is the size you need in the finished quilt. Deciding on the layout of a quilt might be tough, but once you have the layout the rest is math and time.

Novel
With a novel things aren’t so straight forward, and there is no simple math to get from an idea, to outline, to final written novel.

My idea for NaNo is beginning to take shape. I have the starting characters, the setting, the basic plot, and the technology of the world. I even know how the novel ends. The middle, on the other hand, is giving me a heck of a time. How can it be so hard to get from point A to point B?

One of my goals for this month was to have my NaNo plot set up and ready to go before November 1st. I wanted a detailed outline, so I could hit the ground running on my tenth NaNo. So far I’ve got character descriptions for two of my major characters. I know of at least 9 other characters. I think four of those are going to be minor characters instead of just background folks.

I have the outline ready for the first scene. Then I know how things are going to go until the big get things going twist. So maybe I have the first two chapters outlined? After that it is all tumbleweed and crickets until the big reveal at the end. My notes literally say “insert adventure here” right now.

How do you fill out the middle of your novel? Are you a plotter or a pantser?