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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Planning and sewing on (and a link party)

Getting things done feels good!


The Ongoing Project List:
  1. Hello Block Swap - paused until 2017
  2. 70273 Project - 5 new blocks (see below)
  3. The SK project - no progress
  4. Secret event (January 2017) - no progress
  5. Secret event (February 2017) - no progress
  6. Secret event (August 2017) - no progress
  7. Secret event (Jan-Nov 2017)  - will be announced on Monday!!!
  8. Xmas decorations - no progress
  9. Bullet Journaling into my Quilter's Planner - working on this every day! 
  10. Xmas stockings - 4 done (see below)
  11. En Provence (Bonnie Hunter's mystery QAL) - some four patched done (see below)!
The EverythingElse List:
  1. Splendid Sampler - no progress
  2. Charity Quilts for DC General Homeless Shelter project - no progress
  3. Summer Solstice QAL - no progress
    1. Mirror Mirror Afghan - no progress
    2. Jane T - no progress
    3. the 31000 Xs project - no progress
    4. Spirit cross stitch project - no progress
    5. Alice in Wonderland quilt - no progress
    6. As You Wish -  no progress
    7. Crazy optical illusion - no progress
    8. Memory quilt 2 - no progress
    9. Gyleen's BCP Mystery QAL - no progress
    --
    Working on Xmas presents,  these were supposed to be my last thing to do... except that I miscounted and I need 5 of them, not 4 :) oh well, I will make the last one this weekend!

    I then used a fabric marker (from a past quilty box) to write the name of the recipient on the top of the stocking, which is made with a piece of fleece (from another quilty box) :) 


    --
    Other small Xmas presents are these troll dolls :)


    They are for small kids so I don't think they would care if they look a little weird with the painted faces instead of embroidery :) plus I was in a hurry so I think they are the best I could do given the time constrains ;)

    --
    I received this great block from Rachel for November Hello Block Swap


    PLEASE PLEASE, join the swap for 2017! It is really easy and fun!!

    --
    My progress on clue 1 of En Provence...
    Last week I cut a gazillion (or so I thought) of neutral scrappy squares for my En Provence quilt... yesterday I put them together and apparently I only have 20 four patches!! Oh, well... I think I may start using some strips to speed up the process! 
    In the picture, you can also see my project tracker in my Quilter's Planner :)

    If you are interested in seeing what I did in November in the planner, check out my review in this post!!

    --

    More blocks for the 70273 project.


    --
    How about you? What are YOU up to?
    Link it here and share it with me!!


    Thursday, December 1, 2016

    Bullet Journal - November review (Quilter's Planner)

    My Bullet Journaling experience is getting better and better!!
    Grab a cold or hot beverage... this is a looooong post!! :) :) :)

    For disclaimers about how I personally use the Bullet Journal system, please refer to these previous posts: October review, September review.

    One additional disclaimer is that this month has a loooooot of new content and this is pretty unusual: it's a new month, it's a brand new journal, it's a time of the year with extra activities, special days, etc.
    So don't get intimidated or discouraged if you think you wouldn't be able to do something so big. Read to the end and you will see that despite the high number of pages, I got more done than than ever before!!


    At the end of October I received the Quilter's Planner (on the left) so I decided to end my previous journey in the small notebook and I honored that step with a final doodle on the previous notebook (on the right).

    Few comments on the Quilter's Planner, and the way it was working (and not working) for me.
    1. it is big!! I thought that was a problem since I was used to plan on pages half the size. However I then realized that I can fit twice the number of trackers, doodles, speads on the same page, which has an added bonus of encouraging to complete more things since they are all right in front of me!
    2. it is "heavy". I use this planner at home, so that is not too big of a deal, but I realized it is heavy because it contains a great amount of high quality paper and high quality dividers... however I don't use the dividers (see later for details) so I took the planner apart :)
    3. it has a spiral ring, which makes it "stable" but unchangable (meaning you cannot customize the content)... I changed that, see below
    4. it has a plastic beautiful designed hard cover. I thought I wouldn't like the plastic feel (we all love soft fabric after all), however after using it for a full month, I appreciate how good and clean the plastic looks, even after heavy use!! :)
    Ok... now let me show you some of my pages and shares some of the lessons I learned!!
    Click each picture to see all the details.

    -- DECONSTRUCTED PLANNER --

    As mentioned before, I don't like planners that are static... so I took the planner apart and did the following changes (you can see them in pictures below)
    • I took off the plastic ring spiral, and replaced it with few 1'' Loose Leaf Binder Rings. I distributed them along the side of the page so they will keep the pages together in a stable manner but they will allow me to quickly open them up and move/add/remove pages. This system maked the entire planner a little more wobbly (because the rings are free to move) but not too much, so the advantage of being able to open the rings at any point in the planner really beats the disadvantage of being a little more unstable
    • I took off most of the dividers (I will create a pattern book with them, will share next month) and added just two (Mickey Mouse themed) bookmarks: one on the page of the main tracker, one on the page of the current week. They are small, light, easy to access (as they have different widths) and they can be moved as the time progresses. The second bookmark has an extra function too... but you will have to read more below to see it :).
      I also added two ribbons (from fat quarter bundles) to have even more ways to reach pages without adding bulk or weight. One says "Free Spirit" which seems to be appropriate for my way of approaching life :)
    • I have been playing around with different paper weights: I tried cartboard kind of pages (fine, but too thick), I tried some normal printer paper (too thin) and finally I bought Premium Laser Paper (32 lb) and this is fantastic: nice color, same weight as the other planner's pages, great for all my doodles and colors. The added bonus it that now I am printing my own graph papers, with all kind of motifs (more next month)
    And now that you know how I deconstructed the planner, let's get down to the actual content

    -- INDEX--
    First page is always the index. I number my pages only on the right so I will have multiple spreads and trackers on the same 2 pages (see below). It makes sense to me as the index is just for general reference, it doesn't have to be super precise!
    Because this planner has big pages, I also have empty pages (marked in pencil in my index) and I love that as sometimes I just need to write down a quote or a doodle, and I can just include them within my pages wherever there is space!


    -- DAILY CHALLENGES--

    It is fun to participate in daily challenges because they are community efforts that keep you engaged and inspired. There are a billion of these in the bullet journal community, and in previous months I did ZenArtChallenge and RockYourHandwriting. Both have daily prompts to guide you on what to draw/write on. While I enjoyed both, I didn't really feel enthusiastic enough, so I dropped them.

    However I am enthusiastic about quilting! So this month I turned this challenge into a "DoodleAQuiltingDesign" kind of thing instead!


    Each day I took a design from Leah Day's Quilting Design Gallery. I love how this turned out because now I have two pages that I can reference to when I don't know which quilting design to use in my project; they are all there on a single page so I don't have to hunt them down on the web, but if I need extra guidance I know where to find it; I was also able to understand which one are more challenging for me and which one are faster. Doing this every day helps to build muscle memory too. As a fun added bonus I doodle around the empty spaces, to make it a themed spread... because it's November and it's the month before Xmas :) :)

    -- MAIL TRACKER --
    The mailing tracker is good to track if people receive what you send and if you receive what you are supposed to. In this new journal I decided not to divide into months, but just keep writing until the page is full. I also added a little cardboard envelope to hold the receipts from the post office so that if I need a tracking number I know where to find it.


    Having a spread to track what I receive/order makes me also very mindful about my spending. Even if I don't track finances, I can see if I am ordering too many things. I tried to make a little fabric tab too. While it is cute, I don't think it's practical for me, so that won't be used in the future! :)

    -- DEAR SANTA, and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS --


    Here are some fun pages!!

    From the right to the left

    • Through the looking glass is my handwriting practice spread.
      In previous months RockYourHandwriting was an interesting daily challenge to help improve my handwriting. I like my handwriting and I don't think it needs much improvement :) HOWEVER... I read that people that are ambidextrous are more creative, and people with extreme creative minds (like Leonardo da Vinci) wrote mirrored (meaning all letters are flipped). So I wanted to practice these different types of handwriting!! :) :) :)
      I decided not to write personal things (because it requires too much thinking, and I just want to write), so when I heard that France O’Roark Dowell shared some Quilty stories on quiltfiction.com, I decided to copy paragraphs of those! Quilty stories in the Quilter's Planner, it seemed right!! So (from the right to the left) you can see two pages of my daily writing with my non-dominant hand and mirrored style: oh it's ugly, shaky and hard!! But by the end of the month it really improved and I am now able to write quite fast without thinking too much about each letter! Plus Persimmon Moon is quite a nice story, just pop over to the website and get a copy for yourself!!!
    • Dear Santa is the page that helped me tracking the Xmas presents.
      I split the receipient between the ones that are at home (the stockings), the ones that will only receive a card (with handmade decoration, they are listed in the big bag) and the ones that will receive a package. The number of packages is exactly the number of boxes I will need to send out, and each box may have more than one receipient (names are listed in the ribbons in each corner). Each present is listed with three checkboxes, that will be marked as the things get done: one checkbox = present ready, two = present wrapped, three = present in the box and ready to go. The sack with the cards has two lists: the cards that will go in the mailed boxes, and the cards that will go out by themseves. Finally two sections list past presents and gifts that I bought but don't have a recipient.
      While the spread looks kind of chaotic, it really makes sense to me and it is the reason why 95% of the presents are all ready already!! :)

    -- MONTH TRACKER and DOODLE AN ARTIST --

    The November tracker is sparse in some rows, and pretty full in others... I used the triangle design to match the planner cover, and I really love it... some things didn't get done, not even a single time!! Oh well... this is why the Bullet Journal system is great: it helps me reflect on things: one empty row is about reading the "How to think like Da Vinci" book... I have been too busy this month to stop and read that, but I want to finish it eventually so I will just keep the row in the next month tracker.
    Exercise is another row that didn't get a single mark: here I want to get better, but I don't want to stress too much about it, so I changed the row into "Cook and Sweat" for next month, so that I can alternate my "weekly specials" cooking habit and exercise throughout the week and get the exercise done at least few times a week. Let's see how this is going to work! Sometimes all we need is a little mindset change, but it is hard to find what works!! :)


    The "doodle an artist" sections are the ones that I most proud of!! I love the idea and I was looking forward every day to either draw something or find something to draw for the next day. The idea is to pick an artist and then copy some elements from some of her/his pieces (Steal like an Artist). The act of researching their life, reading the story of a painting, trying to extract simple elements that I can sketch just with a pen is very very valuable for me. Considering that I have NO art background, NO art education, I think I copied the different pieces quite well! And it's unbelievable how much the daily practice improved in just a month! It also improved my confidence (in drawing and life) and opened my mind to a world of possibilities.
    This month I picked the work of Keith Haring, who has a very interesting style: not really my cup of tea, but I like to push myself outside my comfort zone. I also doodle things by Tula Pink and by Disney artists, but I included those in other pages (see below). For me it is very important to learn to draw by copying what others are doing and finding my own style!!


    I also have a page where I list things that I think I could do montly/weekly and then in the main tracker I just refer to weekly todo or monthly todo. This creates an additional page where I can write other things that are relevant for the month (like Songs! or other notes). As mentioned before, I like having empty spaces as I can come back later and play around with them!!

    --WEEKLY SPREAD--

    I love how I designed this page.
    It's simple, it's cute (at least the latest ones are becoming cuter), it's functional.
    At the beginning of each week, I list few things in the "Quilting and Crafting" section or "Home and Personal" section. I put them in approximate days, but I don't stress about it, because I have the view of the full week, so if I feel that I want to do something on Mon that is listed on Fri (or viceversa) it's all good!!


    In my weekly spread you can see that I included 2 "weekly specials" which are two simple recipes that I want to try! 
    I am not a cooking kind of person... or cleaning kind of person :)
    I don't like cooking (or cleaning) because these are things that require time and love and once they are done they don't last!! :) :) the planner solved the problem in my mind... the planner keeps a permanent reference that the cooking/cleaning happened and that encourages me to do more cooking/cleaning. It is weird, I know, but it works, so who cares!!! :) :)

    You can also see my second bookmark: I build it with top/bottom "tabs" that hold my shopping list! In this way I know where it is and I can add things as time goes by.

    -- FITNESS MANDALA --


    I have been trying to find interesting ways to track my fitness activities (steps for example) and I thought that making a mandala would be visually interesting! :)
    I created circles that represent a certain distance (5000 steps, 10000, 20000) and then in each slice (representing the days) I designed a motif that, repeated 30 times, would create a nice mandala. Of course the incentive is that if I reach 10000 each day the mandala would be nice and full... if not I will see missing chunks!
    This again is a way to help me reflect on myself (not to feel bad about the missing chunks): for example I realized that during the week it's easy for me to reach my 10000 steps goals, but in the weekends or holidays I prefer to stay home. For my wellness, I could just integrate some indoor exercise to compesate for the steps, and this is my plan for next month, but I wouldn't have realized this if I didn't visually see what my patterns are.

    On the left page, you can see my test with washi tape and fabric sticked to the page with double side 0.5'' tape. This works just great and I will use this technique in my quilting pages for swatches!!

    -- SPECIAL EVENTS --


    My Thanksgiving cooking planning (and review) on the right page!
    It really helps writing down everything on a single page, as I made sure that nothing was missing!! :) and again I have a record of what worked and what didn't in terms of dishes, so it's good for future planning.

    On the left the planning for my 2017 QAL. This has not been announced yet (will be announced on Monday) so don't read too closely ;)
    I included it just to show that it is cool sometimes to add some fancy scrapbooking cards and material! I used that card to create more space as I didn't want to add an extra page but I wanted to write few more things on the back of the card! :)

    -- YEAR LONG PROJECTS --

    We all have those giant year long projects that take forever to complete!
    For me the problem is that after the initial enthusiasm they fall on the back of my mind and then I forget about them.
    Having them written (drawn) out on a page, helps me understand where I should focus my attention.


    So in these two pages I included:

    1. The Splendid Sampler tracking, which includes two trackers: the center pyramid just counts how many blocks I made until now, and the numbers on the two corners show which blocks I actually made (since I don't follow the progressive order). Since I made the tracker at the beginning of the month, I added about 10 blocks, so it was a great incentive!!
    2. The 70273 project: I track how many blocks I send out. It is just a little project for me, so I used a small column, but again, since I made the tracker, I added 12 blocks to the group!
    3. I have 3 empty sections to track (over the course of 2017) charity quilts and "black box projects" which are my UFO (stored in a black box :) ).
    4. The Stephen King project is a giant project I started several years ago, where I want to create two blocks for 50 books by SK: one block is the opening line (embroidery) and the other block is the book cover (pp or applique). So the bookcase I drew has 100 books and I colored in the blocks I made. I can immediately see that I miss just abot 10 opening lines, but I am waaaaay behind with the book covers :)
      After I made the tracker, again I added about 12 new blocks.
    To me, the power of these trackers is in the fact that they are all together and they are visually very clear: I can see where I am behind and I am encouraged to complete more on these projects because I want to color my trackers!!!


    The same logic applies to my "Rubity, Scrubity, Sweepity" :) while I would like to be like Merlin, I have to admit that I am not great in cleaning, tidying, sorting, etc. This is why I designed a fun tracker to just list when I do main things around the house (or on myself): things like cleaning the windows, sorting closets, cabinets, dyeing my hair, doctor appointments, cell phone refills, wash the car etc.
    Things that don't really make me happy, but I need to do them because I am an adult :( :( at least I can write them down in a fun and cute tracker with some fun Disney helpers so I don't need to be a super serious and boring adult :) :)


    I am so proud of the drawing around this page!! I sketched all the shapes with pencil but I didn't include any detail. All the details were added with the pen so if a line was wrong I had to live with that!! There are some mistakes and things that I would change, but it helps me get more confident with my pen sketching so I will keep using this approach!!

    --
    Two final notes:
    1. you may wonder: is it really possible to spend so much time and effort decorating a planner and still have time to actually do all the things you planned? The answer is in my boyfriend words... he kept asking me "how come all of a sudden you became Marta Stewart with all this cooking, cleaning and organizing?" and he doesn't even see that I am still keeping up with all my quilting projects, I finished the xmas presents and I am also all caught up on all my tv series!! :) :) :) So the point is: either this planner creates extra time in the day... OR... the fact that I am dedicating so much time and effort in writing down the plans, make me very very efficient, intentional and mindful when I am actually doing the different tasks, so they take less time and I can do more, without too much stress!! so my answer to his question was "it's the planner!!! :) :)"
    2. given that I am covering up and redesign every page, why don't I just use a blank journal instead of the Quilter's Planner? Well... even if I don't use the original layout, I still take inspiration from all the extra information they included (blocks every week, quilting designs, tips, patterns, etc.) so I think it's worth using a themed planner rather than a blank journal. Plus I just used it for a month, so I didn't really have the time to look into all the planning pages that I may use in the future. Finally I really like projects that get the community together, so I wanted to give my support to the authors by buying their product and I want to interact with others that are using this great planner!!
    If you have any comment or question, please write below! I will be happy to share my thoughts!!!


    Saturday, November 26, 2016

    Christmas presents almost completed (and a linky party)

    In this past week where most of the time was spent on cooking, tidying, cleaning and eating, I managed to get several things done!!


    The Ongoing Project List:
    1. Hello Block Swap - paused until 2017
    2. The SK project - no progress
    3. Secret event (January 2017) - no progress
    4. Secret event (February 2017) - no progress
    5. Secret event (August 2017) - no progress
    6. Secret event (Jan-Nov 2017)  - no progress
    7. Xmas decorations - 8 started
    8. Bullet Journaling into my Quilter's Planner - working on this every day! 
    9. Pillow covers for Xmas - 8 done (see below)
    10. Xmas stockings - 4 halfway done
    11. En Provence (Bonnie Hunter's mystery QAL) - no progress
    The EverythingElse List:
    1. Splendid Sampler - no progress
    2. Charity Quilts for DC General Homeless Shelter project - no progress
    3. Summer Solstice QAL - no progress
      1. Mirror Mirror Afghan - no progress
      2. 70273 Project - sent them out, no new ones
      3. Jane T - no progress
      4. the 31000 Xs project - no progress
      5. Spirit cross stitch project - no progress
      6. Alice in Wonderland quilt - no progress
      7. As You Wish -  no progress
      8. Crazy optical illusion - no progress
      9. Memory quilt 2 - no progress
      10. Gyleen's BCP Mystery QAL - no progress
      --
      Working on Xmas presents,  most of the people in my list are going to get a pair of pillow cases!


      I struggle finding in my stash the big cuts that this project require! Each pillow case uses approximately 1 yard of fabric, so I have to get creative sometimes. On the good side, I can use up prints and colors that I wouldn't use otherwise and make more space in my stash for new purchases :)

      --
      Another small Xmas present is this fabric box 
      It has the exact size of a weekly pill dispenser, because I think that it is good to be cheerful when you need to take daily medications :)

      I made good progress in several other presents, but they are not quite done yet... however I plan to get them ready by the end of the weekend and this will be the first year that I complete all my presents before december begins!! And all thanks to the Bullet Journal/Quilter planner!! But more on this on December 1st! :)

      --
      How about you? What are YOU up to?
      Link it here and share it with me!!


      Saturday, November 19, 2016

      The most productive week of the year (and a link party)

      After the sadness and numbness of last week, I decided to focus on positive things and projects... and I had the most productive week of the year!!


      The Ongoing Project List:
      1. Hello Block Swap - sent last block of the year (see below)
      2. The SK project - four more blocks done (see below)
      3. Secret event (January 2017) - started stitching (cannot share yet)!
      4. Secret event (February 2017) - one more block ready (cannot share yet)
      5. Secret event (August 2017) - no progress
      6. Secret event (Jan-Nov 2017)  - no progress
      7. Xmas decorations - no progress
      8. Crochet flowers - 4 completed (see below)
      9. Bullet Journaling - working on this every day!
        migrated into my Quilter's Planner!! :)
      10. Pillow covers for Xmas - 2 done (see below)
      11. Xmas stockings - no progress
      12. En Provence (Bonnie Hunter's mystery QAL) - no progress
      The EverythingElse List:
      1. Splendid Sampler - SIX blocks done (see below)
      2. Charity Quilts for DC General Homeless Shelter project - no progress
      3. Summer Solstice QAL - no progress
        1. Mirror Mirror Afghan - no progress
        2. 70273 Project - TWELVE blocks done (see below)
        3. Jane T - no progress
        4. the 31000 Xs project - no progress
        5. Spirit cross stitch project - no progress
        6. Alice in Wonderland quilt - no progress
        7. As You Wish -  no progress
        8. Crazy optical illusion - no progress
        9. Memory quilt 2 - no progress
        10. Gyleen's BCP Mystery QAL - no progress
        --
        Let me start with few project linked to the environment of fear and hate that we live in.
        Have you heard of the Safety Pin movement?
        The safety pin has been used as a symbol of safety and support for those in fear. By wearing a safety pin, you signify that you are an ally, and that those who fear violence are safe with you.
        Safety pins have recently been worn in solidarity in Australia and the UK, and many Americans are beginning to wear them as well, regardless of their political affiliation. This isn't about political parties or who you voted for. This is about loving our neighbors, our communities and anyone who fears or faces oppression.

        For this I made myself a tiny embroideried square (that I attached to my bag with two safety pins) and a bracelet that I wear every day.

        The bracelet is something that helps me as well... it is exactly the size of my wrist so it is a little tight... it is a constant reminder (like a kind hug) that there are people out there that support me and respect me as well... I am in a situation of fear and sadness too, so having this reminder is very very important.

        --
        And we saw situations like this before... where a part of the population believed that only one race, skin color and religion was worthy of living in their country... this resulted in millions of people being killed and many more with immense sufferings.

        This is why this week (and from now on much more consistently) I will make blocks for the 70273 project

        (Jeanne Hewell-Chambers says) "Between January 1940 and August 1941 (before the Holocaust began), 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people – men, women, teens, boys, and girls – were murdered by the Nazis. Though they never even laid eyes on the disabled person they were evaluating, the Nazi doctors read the medical files and, if from the words on the page, the person was deemed “unfit” or an “economic burden on society”, the doctor placed a red X at the bottom of the form. Three doctors were to read each medical file, and when two of them made a red X on the page, the disabled person’s fate was sealed. Most were murdered within 1-2 hours.
        I will commemorate these 70,273 voiceless, powerless people who were so callously and casually murdered by gathering 70,273 blocks of white fabric (representing innocence and the paper the doctors read), each bearing two red X’s (representing one person), and I will stitch them together into quilts."


        I hope you will check out the link and help out. She collected already many blocks and made several quilts, but 70273 is a very big number, so if you can help, you would make a difference!!

        --
        Apparently, even subconsciously, I seem to pick blocks that align with the hot and controversial themes: Stephen King's books called Insomnia (where the Crimson King is a character), a book called Desperation and a book about domestic violence against a woman (Rose Madder). I also completed the cover for "The Dark Tower".

        The patterns will be on Fandom in Stitches eventually... if you need it sooner, just send me an email :)

        --
        I completed the last block for Hello Block Swap of this year (for Rachel).


        --
        Working on Xmas presents, I made these crochet flowers for my mom. She makes some compositions and she can always use some extra flowers. I am using only the cotton I have on hand, so the colors are kind of limited, but that's better than nothing!! :)


        And talking about Xmas presents, I made these two pillow cases


        My goal is to use the fabric I have and I really enjoy be forced to shop my stash and think creatively about what to match. Especially having fabric from Quilty Box is great because it is usually fabric that I wouldn't have bought myself (like the ombre in the cuff) but it works just amazing in certain projects!

        --
        And last, but not least, to try to feel connected to a community of positive and encouraging people, I decided to get back with my Splendid Sampler (with selvages and batiks) journey!
        I made 6 blocks in just 3 days!

        I sneaked in some safety pins in these blocks too :)

        --
        How about you? What are YOU up to?
        Link it here and share it with me!!


        Saturday, November 12, 2016

        Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita...

        I'm sorry, but today I cannot share happy crafty projects...
        I'm numb...
        I am frozen by sadness because
        ... I know that 60,072,551 people believe in rewarding bullying and hatred...
        ... I know that 60,072,551 people believe that the problem of cheating the system is that the system is broken and not that there is a cheater...
        ... I know that 60,072,551 people believe that I shouldn't be allowed to say no to physical violence...
        ... I know that 60,072,551 people believe that I am not worthy because of my gender, skin color, disability, religion or place of birth...
        ... I know that 60,072,551 people believe that money and loud words count more than compassion and inclusiveness...
        ... I know that 60,072,551 people believe that we should blame foreigners and media for the fact that mother nature is trying to make us extinct...
        ... I know that 60,072,551 people support anti-scientific believes.

        I have seen this before...
        in another country... in a much smaller scale...
        it left big wounds that are not healed yet...
        but it was a country that didn't have the control of critical pieces for the entire humanity well-being...

        Here it's hard to see the light...

        But I am optimistic... Dante predicted this...
        The path to heaven begins in hell.
        We have to walk the entire path to the very bottom, there are no shortcuts.

        Just some highlights:
        --
        Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, 
        mi ritrovai in una selva oscura, 
        che la diritta via era smarrita.
        Midway upon the journey of our life, 
        I found myself within a forest dark, 
        for the straightforward pathway had been lost.
        (November 8, 2016)
        --
        Lasciate ogne speranza, o voi che entrate
        All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
        (January 20, 2017)
        --
        Considerate la vostra semenza: 
        fatti non foste a viver come bruti, 
        ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza.
        Consider your origin. 
        You were not formed to live like brutes 
        but to follow virtue and knowledge.
        (Unknown date, 2017-2020)
        --
        "Rise up, " the Master said, "upon thy feet; 
        The way is long, and the road full of evil, 
        "Lèvati sù", disse ’l maestro, "in piede:
        la via è lunga e ’l cammino è malvagio,
        (Unknown date, 2017-2020)

        and only then, once we reached the bottom, seen the worst, experienced all brutalities that Inferno has to offer... only then we may be able to:

        salimmo su`, el primo e io secondo,
        tanto ch'i' vidi de le cose belle
        che porta 'l ciel, per un pertugio tondo.
        E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.

        We mounted up, he first and I the second, 
        Till I beheld through a round aperture 
        Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;
        Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars. 

        I prepared a tracker for the next few years... each day is a square...
        Is it a coincidence that I was stitching the Crimson King's symbol when everything happened? 

        Saturday, November 5, 2016

        A planner took over my week (and a link party)

        I received my Quilter's Planner!! so I spent most of the week to figure out how to make it work for me :)


        The Ongoing Project List:
        1. Hello Block Swap - received Nov partner info and received Oct block (see below)
        2. The SK project - one more block done (see below)
        3. Secret event (January 2017) - started stitching (cannot share yet)!
        4. Secret event (February 2017) - one more block ready (cannot share yet)
        5. Secret event (August 2017) - no progress
        6. Secret event (Jan-Nov 2017)  - no progress
        7. Xmas decorations - no progress
        8. Crochet flowers - 5 completed (see below)
        9. Bullet Journaling - working on this every day!
          migrated into my Quilter's Planner!! :)
        10. Various bags and pouches - no progress
        11. En Provence (Bonnie Hunter's mystery QAL) - no progress
        The EverythingElse List:
        1. Splendid Sampler - no progress
        2. Charity Quilts for DC General Homeless Shelter project - no progress
        3. Summer Solstice QAL - no progress
          1. Mirror Mirror Afghan - no progress
          2. 70273 Project - no progress
          3. Jane T - no progress
          4. the 31000 Xs project - no progress
          5. Spirit cross stitch project - no progress
          6. Alice in Wonderland quilt - no progress
          7. As You Wish -  no progress
          8. Crazy optical illusion - no progress
          9. Memory quilt 2 - no progress
          10. Gyleen's BCP Mystery QAL - no progress
          --
          Let me start with the great block I received from Olivia (the second October partner I had for the Hello Block Swap.


          I am not really sure if we will continue with the swap in 2017...
          For me it has been pretty difficult to manage, because while many people communicate and share a lot, some people just don't seem to be too involved!

          Many people dropped out too and we have less than 15 active members (from the initial 40), so it is becoming impossible to partner up everyone with new people.

          For this reason I ask whoever is interested in keeping the swap alive in 2017 to submit their information in the following form.

          https://goo.gl/forms/ENHIIDTFg4Tn8BA53

          The basic idea for the swap is that I pair you with a different partner every month. You select the block that you want to receive and you make the block that your partner selects (following her/his color request, instructions, etc).
          Easy peasy! ONE 12'' BLOCK A MONTH!
          If I get more than 20 people in the swap, I will start it again on January 1st... otherwise I would have to step down :(

          --
          Working on Xmas presents, I made these crochet flowers for my mom. She makes some compositions and she can always use some extra flowers. I am using only the cotton I have on hand, so the colors are kind of limited, but that's better than nothing!! :)


          --
          Another book cover for my Stephen King collection is ready!
          The pattern will be on Fandom in Stitches eventually... if you need it sooner, just send me an email :)


          --
          Last, but not least, as mentioned above, I received my Quilter's Planner and I am switching to the planner for all my Bullet Journal activities.

          I don't want to comment on how it is going just yet...

          I found out that I really need time to figure out if I like something or not... rush judgments are almost always wrong for me :) for example when I opened the package I started "complaining" about how big the planner is (compared to the journal I was using previously)... after 30 minutes of flipping through the pages and after thinking how I can use it in my own way I start thinking how great is that it is so big :)

          Sometimes we resist changes for no reason other than we don't want to change ourselves... 
          and we don't want to admit that we were wrong...

          So I will share a full review of my first month of experience with the Quilter's Planner on December 1st :)

          --
          How about you? What are YOU up to?
          Link it here and share it with me!!


          Tuesday, November 1, 2016

          Bullet Journal - October review

          It has been a good second month for my Bullet Journaling experience!!

          DISCLAIMER 1: in this post I express my own opinions and my own interpretation of how to use the bullet journal system. It is not necessarily aligned with what the "creator" of the system (Ryder Carroll) describes. If you are interested in the basic original approach go to http://bulletjournal.com/ to find more information.

          DISCLAIMER 2: if you are one of those people that get upset because I don't follow the "official rules", I add fancy decorations, drawings, etc and those are not "bullet point lists", please just stop reading here! :) While I get inspiration from the original system, I want it to work for ME. And yes, maybe I change it so much that I shouldn't call it Bullet Journal... but calling it "a notebook where I list things to do, plan my activities, projects, draw, write, doodle and learn new things" is a little bit too long :) So I stick with the name.
          As Kara (from BoHo Berry) says beautifully (paraphrasing) "I spend some time to make my bullet journal pretty, and that is actually the thing that keeps me coming back to using it, but the reason I use it is because it helps organize my life". So no, the prettiness is not necessary, but how useful is an efficient organizational system that is always stored in a drawer because it is too boring to look at? :)

          Ok... now let me show you some of my pages and shares some of the lessons I learned!!
          Click each picture to see all the details.


          -- MONTH TRACKER, MAILING TRACKER AND SPECIAL EVENTS --




          About the October Tracker...
          It is a little more sparse then the previous month... some things were not done not even a single time!! Oh well... I think that a lot had to do with the "shape" of the cells :) being skinny rectangles, it made me feel that even if I was going to do that activity, the "horizontal progress" was not that much, so why bother! :) is my mind strange? yes it is! I will test this hyphotesis next month, when I will use a different layou :)

          The mailing tracker is really great because it is good to track if people receive what you send and if you receive what you are supposed to.

          The "special events" pages show an example of a very easy to manage day (top) and a crazier event day (bottom). I think they both are great way to remember what worked and what didn't, and the lessons will be forever there for me to refer back to! :)



          --WEEKLY SPREAD--

          I love how I designed this page.
          It's simple, it's cute (at least the latest ones are becoming cuter), it's functional.
          At the beginning of each week, I list few things in the "Quilting and Crafting" section or "Home and Personal" section. I put them in approximate days, but I don't stress about it, because I have the view of the full week, so if I feel that I want to do something on Mon that is listed on Fri (or viceversa) it's all good!!

          The coloring works great, and I can change up the overall design each week. It is just fun and functional! :)

          --CHALLENGES--



          It is fun to participate in daily challenges because they are community efforts that keep you engaged and inspired. There are a billion of these in the bullet journal community, and last month I picked two that made sense to me: ZenArtChallenge and RockYourHandwriting.

          Both have daily prompts to guide you on what to draw/write on.
          While I enjoyed both, I didn't really feel enthusiastic enough for the writing one, so I dropped it.

          For the ZenArtChallenge, I like zentangles but I don't particularly like designs that require a lot of shading or designs of object (flowers, ...). so in Nov I will turn this challenge into a "DoodleAQuiltingDesign" kind of thing instead... we'll see!

          --DOODLES--




          Pages to draw, doodle and have fun with lettering, fonts and no constrains.
          The second one is very free form: just pick 5 words (completely random, long, short, in my own language or any other language) and just "draw" the word in a special font. Not having the constrains of writing long sentences it allowed me to get more creative and wild! The only rule I told myself is to write them all horizontal so they will end up forming a "label cloud" kind of design.

          I didn't really stick with this activity this month either... so I think I won't do it next month. I will add a different writing challenge, so I can practice fun handwriting (like mirrored and writing with my non dominant hand).

          The "doodle an artist" pages are the ones that I most proud of!! I love the idea and I was looking forward every day to either draw something or find something to draw for the next day. The idea is to pick an artist and then copy some elements from some of her/his pieces (Steal like an Artist). The act of researching their life, reading the story of a painting, trying to extract simple elements that I can sketch just with a pen is very very valuable for me. Considering that I have NO art background, NO art education, I think I copied the different pieces quite well! And it's unbelievable how much the daily practice improved in just a month! It also improved my confidence (in drawing and life) and opened my mind to a world of possibilities. YOU SHOULD TRY THIS TOO, especially if you think you don't know how to draw!! just pick a simple clipart and copy that... you will see great improvement if you do it consistently for weeks. Don't try to make it perfect... just keep drawing new things every day and you cannot not improve!! :)

          While I was planning to work on two artists a month, I was so busy that I managed to make only one collection. Well, I will keep doing this in my new journal next month as I have a list of artists I want to explore!

          --

          I am planning to use my Quilter's Planner (that should arrive at the end of the week) as my journal. It should be much bigger than what I have now, so let's see how I will be using the space!!

          Saturday, October 29, 2016

          Slow and steady gift making (and a link party)

          Steadly working on many projects.


          The Ongoing Project List:
          1. Hello Block Swap - paused until next month
          2. The SK project - one more block done (see below)
          3. Secret event (January 2017) - "coloring" completed, ready to start stitch!
          4. Secret event (February 2017) - one more block read (cannot share yet)
          5. Secret event (August 2017) - no progress
          6. Secret event (Jan-Nov 2017)  - worked more on the design!!
          7. Xmas decorations - 4 more done (see below)
          8. Crochet flowers - 4 completed (see below)
          9. Bullet Journaling - working on this every day!
            Waiting to migrate into my Quilter's Planner (it should be here next week... I plan to use it as a "blank canvas", as I am not really into fixed weekly spreads any more) :)
          10. Various bags and pouches - one done! (see below)
          11. En Provence (Bonnie Hunter's mystery QAL) - as usual, I plan to follow along with a smaller version. I love purple so I think this year it will be fun!
          The EverythingElse List:
          1. Splendid Sampler - no progress
          2. Charity Quilts for DC General Homeless Shelter project - no progress
          3. Summer Solstice QAL - no progress
            1. Mirror Mirror Afghan - no progress
            2. 70273 Project - no progress
            3. Jane T - no progress
            4. the 31000 Xs project - no progress
            5. Spirit cross stitch project - no progress
            6. Alice in Wonderland quilt - no progress
            7. As You Wish -  no progress
            8. Crazy optical illusion - no progress
            9. Memory quilt 2 - no progress
            10. Gyleen's BCP Mystery QAL - no progress
            --
            Let me start with the Teal mini swap organized by Beth every year.
            This is what I receveid by my wonderful partner Allene


            --

            Patty (elmstreetquilts) is hosting a fun event (Bag It) to encourage people to share any bag they make for chances to win great prizes and to inspire each other (Bag it, entry page)!!
            I have few bag presents on my list for Xmas so I thought to start it early. 

            This week I wanted to make a little pencil pouch.
            My sewing helper wanted to make sure I used the cat fabric as appropriate :)


            The pattern is very easy and the only thing I would change is to add a tab on both sides. The second tab is my usual ribbon, but next time I will stitch it within the body of the pouch like the other one, instead of hand stitching it at the end!
            --
            Working on Xmas presents, I made these crochet flowers for my mom. She makes some compositions and she can always use some extra flowers. I am using only the cotton I have on hand, so the colors are kind of limited, but that's better than nothing!! :)


            And speaking about Xmas, I made few more cross stitch decorations to include in holiday cards

            --
            Another book cover for my Stephen King collection is ready!
            The pattern will be on Fandom in Stitches eventually... if you need it sooner, just send me an email :)


            --
            Last, but not least, a very simple and needed object: I had a twist turban towel for about 5 years and I loved it!! It is now in very very very bad conditions :) however all the ones that I found online and in stores now are the terrible microfiber material that feels horrible on my hair!! This is why my original one (made with classical towel material) has been used to death.
            Now... I have been spending so much time and energy trying to find an alternative... why??? it is such as simple shape and I can sew!!! Sometimes I try to convince myself that it would be a "waste" to cut up a perfectly good towel to do this... but seriously isn't it a waste to have many towels that I don't use anyway??? sometimes I am so stubborn :) it took me maybe 15 minutes to stitch up the orange new version!! 

            I have enough towel left to make another one, but I want to test it first to understand if my version needs any improvement (like the orientation of the towel)
            --
            How about you? What are YOU up to?
            Link it here and share it with me!!


            Saturday, October 22, 2016

            The Best Bag Ever (and a link party)

            I have been in the mood of bag and 3D objects making... so satisfying to complete a project in few days and have it ready to use!!


            The Ongoing Project List:
            1. Charity Quilts for DC General Homeless Shelter project - no progress
            2. Summer Solstice QAL - no progress
              1. Mirror Mirror Afghan - no progress
              2. Hello Block Swap - completed two blocks, received one (see below) 
              3. Splendid Sampler - no progress
              4. Secret event (January 2017) - "coloring" continuing
              5. Secret event (February 2017) - no progress
              6. Secret event (August 2017) - no progress
              7. Secret event (Feb-Oct 2017)  - worked more on the design!!
              8. Xmas decorations - no progress
              9. Bullet Journaling - working on this every day!
              10. Various bags and pouches - one done! (see below)
              11. Tote bag - the most amazing bag ever, done! (see below)
              The EverythingElse List:
              1. 70273 Project - no progress
              2. Jane T - no progress
              3. The SK project - no progress
              4. the 31000 Xs project - no progress
              5. Spirit cross stitch project - no progress
              6. Alice in Wonderland quilt - no progress
              7. As You Wish -  no progress
              8. Crazy optical illusion - no progress
              9. Memory quilt 2 - no progress
              10. Gyleen's BCP Mystery QAL - no progress
              --
              Let me start with the Hello block swap blocks for this month.
              Since I am the hostess and we have an odd number of participants, I tend to have 2 partners every month.

              These are the blocks I made for them.

              And this is the block Vicki made for me!

              PLEASE consider joining the swap!! It is so super easy, one block a month, that's it... it allow us to get to know new people, try fun blocks that we wouldn't make for ourselves, learn new things, and so much more!!

              Find all the details on the Hello Block Swap page!!
              --

              Patty (elmstreetquilts) is hosting a fun event (Bag It) to encourage people to share any bag they make for chances to win great prizes and to inspire each other (Bag it, entry page)!!
              I have few bag presents on my list for Xmas so I thought to start it early. 

              This week I needed a small "bag" to put some crochet flowers I will be making for my mom. She makes compositions with these flowers, so I want to help out, but sending just the flowers in a box didn't seem good. So I built my first lined drawstring bag!!!
              I loosely followed that tutorial, but what I love about this simple bag is that you can make it any size, I didn't even measure the pieces, I just cut them to the same size and then followed the tutorial!!


              Another fun thing about the bag is that I used a "Free Spirit" ribbon and a ribbon of label with the writing "Hand Made" to close it up! Such a perfect way to share these messages in an useful way!! :)

              --
              I saved the best for last...
              I saw this Cozy Nest Designs' Seat Belt Market Tote and I fell in love with the look.

              Colors: Aubergine and Liliac, Size: Medium

              I bought the pattern and a kit a while back but I was kind of scared about the material: I thought that seat belt webbing would be very hard to stitch... well... I think it is the easier material to sew that I have ever used!!!!! :) :) :)
              It is way way way easier than the denim that I used last week for some pouches.
              Plus Sarah's patterns are always so easy to follow, detailed and very very clear!! This is not the first bag I make from one of her patterns, and she includes so computer-generated line drawings that show you exactly what she means in her text. I am a quilter, so I don't have much experience (almost zero) with gusset, fully lined zipper pockets within the lining, etc... and I did a great job in my bag (I say it to myself).


              Few more details: the colors are not that great in the picture because the weather is not cooperating :) however it is so luxurious and cool that my boyfriend told me that maybe I shouldn't use it every day because it may attract bad attentions because it looks super expensive and high end! :) :)

              I choose purple and green as my color combination, and I added that little envelope mini pouch (bought somewhere, I don't remember where). That pouch has two purposes: 1) it is cute and it stores some contact info in case it gets lost;  2) as you can see in a picture above, I can slip it in one of the outside pocket and it keeps the ring down and prevents it from bouncing around. So cute and functional!! 

              --
              How about you? What are YOU up to?
              Link it here and share it with me!!


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