February Craft Goal Success (Mostly)

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I promised to report in about my February Creative Crafting Goals after the month was over.  I talked a little bit about progress in last week’s post, but this will be the full report with photos.

Project #1: Be the Light Cross Stitch

I’d started this project in January, so finishing it was my first goal for February.  I think it turned out pretty awesome all told, and looks great on my wall.

Cross stitch of a jar of fireflies with the words Be the light incorporated in the design.

Project #2: Teal Jeans to Teal Pencil Skirt

This pair of jeans originally belonged to my mother.  When she lost weight, they no longer fit, so she let me have them to do what I would.  I had to take them in at the waist in the conversion process, so there was enough material to make them into a pencil skirt.  I did this largely with basting and trial and error.

Let’s highlight the error:

They turned out pretty good when I got them completely done.  There’s a slit in the back up to the knee so that I can walk in them without being super constricted.  Part of the conversion plan was to preserve the decorative bits on the side seam at the bottom.  I may still do some additional work to add similar embellishments along the hem all the way around or maybe just around the edges of the back slit.  But these are now in wearable condition, so I’m calling them done.

Project #3: Light Blue Jeans to Light Blue & White Skirt

After the experience with the first pair of jeans my mother gave me (this pair was the same brand and size as the teal ones in project #2), I decided to do my more usual conversion style, which is a wider, more flowing skirt, with triangle inlays in the front and back.  I’ve made three or five versions of this adaptation before, so I knew what I needed to make it work beautifully.  So I started by taking out the inner leg seam so I’d have as much material to work with as possible, and then I did the pleats at the back to make the waist fit properly.  This let me bring in the waist while retaining all the belt loops and the original waistband with side elastic.  This worked out better than the darts I did in the other pair.

I decided white would be a good color for the triangular panels, so I ordered some white denim to use for this, as well as enough extra for another project as some point since it was fortuitously at a decent sale price when I ordered.  I think the panels and pleats method turned out much better in the back than the pencil skirt design, and I’m definitely going to be adding some embellishments to this one, but again, since it’s wearable as is, I’m counting the project as complete for the purposes of my February goals.

Project #4: New Dress Shirt

This is a pattern I picked up a while back when there was a really good sale on patterns (I think they were $1 each) but I hadn’t gotten around to making yet.  It’s Butterick B6563 if anyone’s interested.  The goal for this one was to at least make some substantial progress, not necessarily to finish it completely.  Step one was copying the pattern from the flimsy pattern paper onto muslin to make a mockup.  This fabric doesn’t have much stretch, so I could make something that was nicely fitted as my base, and then I could make it with both normal non-stretch fabrics or with slightly stretchy ones.

It took the better part of a Saturday to copy the pattern over and cut it all out because I had to take fairly frequent breaks.  I have the front and back shirt pieces, both collar options, and all three sleeve options.  That should let me test out each sleeve option to make sure the arm holes are right so I have the basic pattern pieces in muslin and the fitting adjustments figured out before I start working with the actual fabrics I want to use.

This process reminded me that cutting out patterns is one of the worst things I can do to my lower back though (hence the frequent breaks).  The best place I have for laying out, transferring, and cutting is my bed.  It’s on risers, so it’s closer to a standard dresser height than a standard desk height, but it’s still not ideal.  I’ve researched cutting tables and while they are expensive, it’s definitely something I want to figure out how to save up for.

Final Thoughts

So that was my February of sewing and needle craft projects.  Overall, I’m pretty proud of myself.  I followed through with my plan and got some substantial progress on things without breaking my streak of writing every day.  I may not have gotten as far on the new dress shirt as I’d wanted, but that’s okay.  I knew that a fourth project was probably ambitious when I set out my goals for the month.  And not getting much further on that one was as much about self-care as it was about sewing.  When I do something to aggravate my back, I need to be extra careful with it for a few days and not do anything else to make it worse.  It took a lot of years of physical therapy and following doctor’s orders to get myself back to a baseline that didn’t involve daily pain, and I don’t want to undo that work.  I love my hobbies, but it’s important to make sure that they don’t detract from my overall wellness, as that defeats the purpose most of the time.

February Fiber Arts

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For those of you who have been around for a while, you may have noticed my interest in making and crafting in addition to writing.  This is mostly centered around sewing related crafts at the moment (altering or adapting clothes, sewing in general, and recently cross-stitch).  One of the groups I belong to online is doing a low-key February creative crafting challenge.  Basically, it’s just us picking a goal for the month and sharing our progress and encouraging each other.  Nothing fancy.

My goal for this is to finish three in-progress items and at least start (hopefully finish) a fourth project.  I’ve been working on my third every cross-stitch project, and I’d like to get that finished this month.  I have two pairs of my mother’s old fancy jeans (by which I mean in pretty colors with embellishments) that I’m turning into a couple skirts for me.  Completing those two conversions is on my list.  And I have a shirt that goes with one of those pairs of jeans that I want to use to make a shirt in my size probably a fairly simple collared shirt style but I don’t know if I’m going to work from a pattern I have or try to create a pattern from a shirt I own that I really like the cut and fit of.

So that’s my Fiber Arts goal for February.  I’ll probably share an update about what progress I made and some pictures in my post on March 5.  In the meantime, have some pictures of my first two cross-stitch projects and the starting materials for the skirts and shirt.

I hope you’re all finding ways to keep creative this year.

January Writing Progress

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It’s been a very eventful January this year.  A lot is happening that is both hugely impactful, hugely important, and entirely outside my control.  So, I’ve been focusing on what I can control, specifically my writing habits.  We’re twenty-nine days into the year and I haven’t missed a day of writing yet.  That’s a pretty impressive streak, especially when you take into account that I started the year with a writing streak of 77 days, which puts my total streak at 106 days.  Possibly the longest I’ve ever consistently written every day.

Those seventy-seven days in October to December were all spent on one project too.  Well, I say project.  It was my NaNo idea for this year and while it was initially supposed to be one novel, it’s currently looking like three or four in a series I’m calling Relationships and Readings.  I ran into a bit of a wall trying to move forward with it this month though (but after three straight months that’s not unexpected).  I played with a writing prompt for about a week for my daily writing sessions and then I returned to an older set of characters I’ve played with on and off since 2017.

If you’re curious about what I’m working on now, you can check out my A to Z Blogging Challenge posts from 2017 (tagged AtoZ2017).  That year I picked out a single word writing prompt for each letter of the alphabet and decided to try to write a continuous story with it.  It was a really fun writing exercise (one I may try to repeat in the future) and I was quite pleased with the story that came out of it (which I’ve recently been rereading).  I also returned to the characters for a couple Image Prompt responses (#28 and #39).

I’ve spent the last few days trying out a few new scenes and expanding on a few characters and I read back through what I’d written before.  I’m having fun exploring and have a few ideas for turning this into either one longer piece, or a collection of shorter pieces.  While I was having fun with Relationships and Reading and creating the entire fantasy world that surrounds it, I’m a little glad to be returning to one of my modern-day setting fantasies.  Over the years that’s become my favorite type of world building, to layer magic and fantasy elements over our own world.

Regardless of what project I’m working on, I’ve been really proud of myself for keeping my daily writing habit going, especially in such trying and uncertain times.  I hope all of you are making progress toward your goals for the year, be they writing or something else.

2020 Writing Year in Review

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Holidays and other traditional posts have made this a bit later than usual, but I still wanted to take some time to look at my 2020 writing year and see what I accomplished.

I’m actually pretty proud of the work I did in 2020 overall.  I did the Get Your Words Out (GWYO) habit tracking challenge again, and this year I actually made my goal, completing some amount of writing work on 314 out of 365 days.  My goal was 240.

Here are a few fun metrics from the data produced by the spreadsheet GYWO provide for tracking.  I tracked time as well as days which turned out to be quite interesting.

I tracked progress on nine different writing projects, one major sewing project, as well as other sewing, ML work, and my D&D prep work this past year.  It came out to a total of 432.6 hours spent on creative projects.

I spent the most time on my NaNoWriMo project, now a series called Relationships and Readings, with 97.1 hours spent.  (All of that in October, November, and December too!)

I spent 241.9 total hours on writing projects and 66.6 hours on making projects (sewing and the like).

I also apparently spent 121.4 hours on ML related tasks, events, etc in October and November.  (I was tracking this largely out of curiosity.)

This averages out to 6 hours a week or .85 hours (51 minutes) a day spent on creative projects.

None of these numbers are perfect, and they’re likely all underestimations as I’m not always great about tracking, but it gives me an idea of how I spend my creative time over the course of a year.

So what did that all result in?

Among all those hours, I spent 54.6 hours working on book three in the Swords and Shields series.  Toward the end of last year I got book two pretty close to finished.  It still needs a close reading for style, grammar, etc, but the basic structure of the story is settled.  Because of how book two and three relate, I want to release them close together, so I moved on to working on book three this year.  Those hours included some hefty rewriting, a lot of reorganizing, attempts to figure out how to be a plotter, and I’m still not happy with or finished with book three.  I burned myself out a bit on the project though, so I set it aside to work on other things.  I’m hopeful that I can come back to it in 2021 with fresh eyes, fresh perspective, and some new spaces to ask for help untangling the story so that I can make substantial progress on it this year.  Book three was the project I spent the second most time on, which I feel pretty good about.

The fact that I averaged nearly one hour a day also makes me pretty proud, especially with that writing spread across more than 300 days of the year.  I did a good job of prioritizing my creative pursuits this year, and that’s something that I want to continue.  2020 was a very hard year in a lot of ways, and I, like many others, spent time thinking about what matters most to me, and one of those things is my creative pursuits.  Some of my creative pursuits, like sewing and writing, have tangible end-products that I can use or share with the world.  Some, like planning and prepping for a D&D session, don’t have a lasting and tangible product, but that doesn’t make them any less important.  Creativity in my life is very important to me.  Writing gives me so much more than just a completed story.  It gives me space to explore my emotions, practice empathy, and through my writing communities (like NaNo and GWYO) a way to connect with others.

I hope at the end of next year I can look back at these numbers and compare them to my 2021 numbers and find that I’ve carved out even more time for my creative pursuits and prioritized the joy and fulfillment I get from them.  I already have a pretty good start with more than 16 hours on creative projects this January.

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful New Year so far, and that you’re making progress on your goals for the year like I am.  Keep writing, making, and creating.

December Goals

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NaNoWriMo has officially come to a close.  I now have to remember what normal life is supposed to look like.  (I use the term normal very loosely here.)

Step One:

Continue writing every day.  I only missed one day in October, and I didn’t miss any days in November, so I’m going to write every day of December too and I’m joining an accountability buddies group for writing every day of 2021 in addition to signing up for GYWO again.  I’m looking forward to prioritizing my writing again in a more intentional way.

Step Two:

Get back into my normal routine.  Work during work hours on weekdays, goof off in the evenings, and change up the routine a bit on weekends.  Sunday write-ins will continue to be a thing in my life even if they have been virtual since March.  I’ll add some additional writing time Sunday nights with a writing Twitch stream my friend does.  I might try to set up a regular night for gaming with friends in whatever form that takes.

Step Three:

Goals.

I’d like to try to get enough of the story I’m working on strung together into something with a plot to move forward with the idea as a whole.  There are romance plots, intrigue plots, social tension plots, and maybe an overarching revolution of class structure in society plot, but I need to make sure enough scenes pull on the threads of a given plot to make it work developing.  That’s the part I want to spend time on in December that’s not just about drafting.  I need to do some reorganization and flagging of sections by character and timeline details.  The thing stretches across at least four years now and that’s a bit unwieldy.

I’d also like to work on a few other projects.  I have two sewing projects I’d like to at least start.  One is a pattern I cut out last December that I’d like to finish before the end of the year just so it doesn’t go into a second year.  I also have a project for my mother that’s years late that I should be working on.  Not necessarily in time for Christmas but I need to start working on the silver cloth covers for her various silver things.

I have the family’s collection of slides (the photo kind) and a scanner capable of very nice scans from slides, so I’m working on that and want to at least get the chunk with my sister’s first Christmas done before Christmas.  It’s been fun seeing all the pictures so far, so I’d like to continue chipping away at this project until it’s done (maybe by next Christmas).

What are your December goals?  Any writing, crafting, or productivity you plan to work on this month?

2019 Writing Year in Review

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A lot of writing happened this past year, and a lot of good work toward my writing goals both generally and on specific projects.

I made a Get Your Words Out habit tracking pledge of 240 days for 2019, and missed it by 17.  Considering I’ve gone months without writing in previous years, I think that’s pretty fantastic.  I’ve made the same pledge for 2020, and have confidence I can push through and make it this time. Continue reading

Camp NaNoWriMo Success

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April was a very successful writing month.  My goal for Camp NaNoWriMo was 30 minutes a day of work on some writing project, whether it was new words, editing, rewriting, or planning and world building.  I ended up doing a little bit of everything too.  A secondary goal was to at least do five minutes of work every single day, and I accomplished both goals.  My final count for the month was 1415, 515 above my 900-minute goal, and I didn’t miss a single day.

I worked on a variety of projects.  I did a little bit of drafting new ideas, worked on the edits for book two, and came back to some older fanfic stories to try to finish them off.  I decided to repost some of my fanfic since the original site it was posted to went down a couple years ago.  I think it will be good for my emotional wellbeing to see the reviews that come in, or even just see the view counts going up over time.  Writing is primarily about its value to me personally, but sharing it with others and seeing them enjoy my work is a very close second. Continue reading

2019 Writing Goals: January Progress

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So, today’s blog post is late (but still on Friday!) and I don’t have any good excuses.  I have lots of excuses.  I’ve had a cold, my husband has had a worse cold, I was the Dungeon Master (DM) for my first session of a co-DMed Adventure Guild campaign of Dungeons and Dragons last night, and I’m sure I can think of more.  But none of those are good excuses.  I had time.  I just spent it doing other things.

Most of my January didn’t look like this week has. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo, Process, and December Writing Goals

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I’m very proud of my efforts during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year.  I talked about that last week.  This week, I want to talk about NaNoWriMo in the greater context of my writing process.

Writing is a process.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.  That process also looks different for each and every author.  Some do more planning up front.  Some are like me and Terry Pratchett who said “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”  Some struggle over drafts and relish the chance to edit.  Others (like me) love the drafting process and get bogged down during revisions and edits. Continue reading

New Year, Same Goals

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In January, there’s always a lot of talk about New Year’s Resolutions.  The perennial weight loss goal being one that gets a lot of play in commercials and the media.  I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions, and don’t think I’ve made more than one or two in the past thirty years.

At the beginning of the year, I focus more on what I’m going to continue doing.  What goal that I’m already working on, am I going to focus on this month?  And it’s much more of a monthly check in than it is a New Year’s habit. Continue reading